This Q&A appears in CRN's 2020 Rising Stars report, which highlights some of the most dynamic, profitable and fastest-growing resellers, MSPs and consultancies featured in CRN's recently released VAR 350.
The full Rising Stars report can be viewed here (brief registration process required)
Key vendor: Microsoft
VAR 350 ranking: 288
Revenue: £10.1m (+60%)
Net profit margin: 6.6%
Sol-Tec has morphed from a reseller into a public cloud migration specialist. What prompted the shift?
IT companies have to redesign themselves every so often, and we've had four major re-scopes.
Probably the most interesting one was six years ago. Although we were quite a technically led company, we found our margins were being squashed on the resale part of the business. We were struggling to compete against some of the big resellers due to the big vendors doing back-margin deals.
We went to Microsoft and spoke to them about coming out of our private datacentre and going into Azure when Azure was right in incubation, and joined something called the Azure Inner Circle, which was a number of technical people getting together and talking about the prospects of what Azure could do. So we bought an EA from Microsoft, moved our customers from private cloud into public cloud, and then really started to skill up our workforce around Azure.
Over the last five to six years the business has grown massively. We've had to put in a middle management layer as the company grew in people and engineers, and we've put in a recruitment arm to get the skill sets in because we very quickly found that [although] a lot of people say they're experts in Azure [they aren't]. We integrated an academy into the business. And that doesn't just take graduates from universities; it goes all the way through to everybody who works within Sol-Tec.
We've also built an amount of IP over the last few years to help us do the business better, easier and more quickly, but also to make sure the cloud is right for the customer. This way they fully realise the benefits and also sometimes the negatives of moving to the public cloud.
What do you feel you have done differently from your peers to achieve your strong growth and profitability?
Investing in technology and looking at where the world is going tomorrow. The birth and take-off of cloud over the last six years has really set the scene about how the modern partner needs to do business, and look after their customers.
We've modelled ourselves on a particular vendor. We've looked at where and how Microsoft does business, and have very much tried to model ourselves on that and made it very easy for Microsoft to work with us.
Where next for Sol-Tec?
Probably the biggest thing for us is looking at the next phase of what happens once people are in Azure, or in the public cloud. And then make sure we align ourselves to not just moving them there, but modernising them once they're there - looking at support over the environment, at how they can make the most out of the data, and at how the individual user, not just the IT department, is fully brought into the public cloud.
What are your long-term ambitions for the company?
To keep on this path. Whether to get involved in a multi-cloud strategy is something that we will always bear in mind. But at the moment building our Microsoft capabilities are paramount for us.
How evangelical are you about moving workloads to the cloud?
We're born again in the cloud - that's the best way to describe us. We've come from the other side. We've seen the benefits of the cloud. We've also seen that there are certain aspects that don't work for certain areas. Our consultants are looking to give an honest view of whether it works in the cloud. Cloud isn't perfect for everything. It's not always cheaper for everything. It's about sitting with the customer and working out what's best for them financially and from a security perspective.
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