Six channel entrepreneurs who quit to pursue their passions

Doug Woodburn
clock • 12 min read
Six channel entrepreneurs who quit to pursue their passions

Is jacking it all in to follow a dream worth it? CRN catches up with six former channel bosses to find out....

Exclusive Networks' founder and CEO confirmed in an interview this week with CRN sister title Channel Partner Insight  that he is leaving the distributor after nearly two decades to pursue a "new career" in classic car racing.

But Olivier Breittmayer is not the first industry boss to exit stage left from the IT industry to follow their dream.

We catch up with six prominent executives that have jacked in IT sales to pursue new passions ranging from brewing beer and running gyms, to selling medicinal cannabis.

‘The fitness industry is very similar to the MSP industry'

Name: Paul Tomlinson

Best known in the channel for…Founder of MSP Mirus IT

Where is he now? Co-founder at Fierce Gym

What was the trigger for you leaving the IT industry and starting Fierce Gym?

I felt Mirus was at a point where we needed to consider external investment to grow, but at the same time I wasn't certain I was the right person to lead the business as it grew. We knew and respected IT Lab (now Content and Cloud) so it felt like a natural fit and the most logical step for the business. My wife and I had always wanted to open a gym in Milton Keynes as we knew there was an opportunity to do something different - the deal with IT Lab enabled that to happen.

How is your new venture doing, and what's been the highlight so far in your new career?

It's just gone 12 months since the sale but four months since I left the business. Due to the global pandemic gyms were not allowed to open until late July so it's very early days but I'm really enjoying the challenges a new industry brings. The biggest highlight was opening the doors on day one with my wife to 400-plus eager members who hadn't been in a gym for months. We've now grown the member base to 800 and keep seeing new faces all the time. Added to that awesome first day we've also seen two unofficial world records broken at the gym and the energy that brings to the gym floor is incredible (it almost matches the CRN awards night 😊).

Is the idea of pursuing your passion all it's cracked up to be?

I've always enjoyed the IT channel and working with the team at Mirus so a lot of the time I didn't see it as a ‘job' as such (we had a lot of fun!) but switching to focusing on something you've enjoyed alongside your main career is definitely fun. If I'm honest it's harder work than I imagined it would be! I thought after serving 20 years in the IT channel I'd being relaxing now, but I'm working similar hours for less financial reward (for now!)

Would you ever go back (to the IT channel)?

Once the new business is settled I'd like to return to the IT channel in an advisory capacity. The fitness industry is very similar to the MSP industry: it's all about recurring revenue, the customer journey, providing excellent service, having metrics you measure yourself by. I think with all the similarities between the two and the experience I have over 20-plus years I might be able to help some of the smaller MSPs in the channel see the results we saw at Mirus.

On the next page, meet the former channel bosses whose new passion is cheese...

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