In an industry where executives are normally so quick to trash their competitors, there remains one firm which - by and large - inspires only respect among its peers.
I'm talking about Softcat, a company whose graduate sales model and famous anti-corporate culture so many of its rivals have tried to emulate, and which has lit up the industry with its profitable growth in recent years.
Like a mercurial sports icon the competition can't help but begrudgingly admire, Softcat is the one reseller rivals aren't too proud to admit they look up to. "We're following the Softcat model" has become a well-worn phrase.
If the essence of Softcat could be bottled, we'd all buy some. But what is Softcat's essence, exactly? And what is it about its famous fun and community-based culture and grow-your-own recruitment strategy that has enabled it to boost sales from ￡56m to ￡832m in little over a decade?
That's the mystery we sought to unravel during our access-all-areas visit to Softcat's Marlow HQ. Our tour guide was none other than outgoing CEO Martin Hellawell - the man who has played a larger part than anyone else in developing this unique culture.
But over the last 12 years, the approachable CEO has harnessed that quirky spirit - he lobs chocolates from a huge tub on his desk at top-performing sales staff - while turning Softcat into a highly profitable market leader. Today it is a FTSE250 firm with over 1,200 staff and operating profits of more than ￡50m.
A new chapter in Softcat's history begins on 1 April when Hellawell's successor, Graeme Watt, takes the tiller, and how to grow Softcat further without deviating from the blueprint that has made it successful will be his greatest test.
Elsewhere in , don't miss the round-up of our new Cybersecurity Provider Report on p40, the first of several mini reports we are making available to subscribers of CRN Essential. Our Spotlight feature this week, meanwhile, examines why the Thames Valley seems to be falling out of favour with tech firms. We also examine, on p38, what the recent failings of Carillion and Capita mean for the embattled outsourcing market.
As ever, please get in touch with your feedback via ChannelWeb or Twitter @CRN_UK.
■ Doug Woodburn is editor of CRN
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