Learn about how five technology advisors that landed on the Inc. 5000 achieved their growth.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

August 16, 2023

8 Slides

Hiring is paying off for tech advisors and agents who occupy the latest Inc. 5000 leaderboard.

Channel partners showed up in a big way on America’s most prestigious list of fast-growing private businesses. At least five companies that fit the bill of a technology advisor (agent) landed in the Inc. 5000. North Carolina-based Opkalla in particular, cracked the top 100 with a staggering 7,931% growth rate over the last three years. It’s an auspicious start for the four-year-old company, which recently celebrated its 350th customer.

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Opkalla’s Jim Campbell

“This is something we’ve set our sights on since day one at Opkalla, and it’s amazing to see it come to fruition,” Opkalla managing partner Jim Campbell told Channel Futures. “This is a product of a lot of hard work from our team over the last four years, and we’re excited to continue the momentum supporting our clients, partners and the technology space.”

And the growth rates are also impressive other qualifying technology advisors, some of which have existed for more than a decade and continue to increase their revenue.

Inc. ranked companies based on how much they grew their revenue from 2019-2022. Companies needed to register at least $2 million in revenue last year to qualify for the list.

Tech Advisors Expand Their Teams

Interviews with partner honorees shows a common theme — these companies are agencies, rather than agents. Their teams are expanding, and their leaders are more and more building out company-wide processes rather than relying on their own charisma for customer engagements.

And that breaks the mold often seen in the traditional agent channel. Opex Technologies CEO Courtney Humphrey said he focuses now on running the overall business rather than actually selling in the field. It’s an uncommon shift for an agent, considering that many partners initially worked as sales reps at vendors before putting out a shingle.

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Opex’s Courtney Humphrey

“I feel like I was at the top of the stack when I was a solo guy in corporate America. I could have stayed the path I was on and been very successful, but this path has created value for not only me, but now our team, the business, and most importantly, our clients,” Humphrey told Channel Futures. “It’s about putting the best people around you every day. That’s what I strive to do. I always want to surround myself with people smarter than me, which is a total cliché. But I think I have been very good at doing that.”

Keith Hatley, partner at Cloud Communications Group, said bringing on talent has helped improve the experience for his customers. Hatley said his background in sales helps him establish and build relationships with clients. But Cloud Communications Group has also hired people that have worked on the customer side and possess insider knowledge about technology procurement. That gives the firm more credibility, Hatley said.

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Cloud Communications Group’s Keith Hatley

“Am I a trusted advisor because I say that I am? Or am I a trusted advisor because my client says that I am? I believe the collective investments we’ve made in the people we have on the team – the former CIOs and former CISOs that can truly empathize – allow us to get that distinction and delineation from our customers,” Hatley told Channel Futures.

Many partners say they are looking to grow their teams. One in three (33%) tech advisors indicated in the latest Channel Futures Market Outlook survey that they increased their headcount year-over-year. But they also overwhelmingly identified talent retention and retention as their top challenge.

Humphrey said he has tried to operate with the motto of being willing to take risks to bring on the right people. When they identified a talented person who brought unique value, Opex would “figure out how to make it work,” Humphrey said. Even if the budget looked uncertain.

“When you find great talent, do whatever you can to acquire that talent. You can’t be afraid to take on the risk and the cost associated with it,” Humphrey said. “I have spoken with a number of folks that are afraid to get out of their comfort zone and take these risk, because it is a risk. But that’s what you have to do. You have to cross that line to create real value for your clients and your business.”

For Caliber Solutions and chief revenue officer Richard Blohm, the move from agent to agency also means implementing more processes and structure. Blohm recently moved to Caliber with the goal of helping it run more like a “platform company.”

That’s unusual for the average partner, Blohm said.

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Caliber’s Roger Blohm

“They run like an agent, and then they realize they want to be something bigger. They want to go hire somebody or get bought or buy, and all of a sudden their finances aren’t set up right, and their corporate structure is wrong, Blohm told Channel Futures. “Good companies are looking at themselves and saying, ‘Who can I bring in that can get me prepared for future transactions, whether it’s me buying somebody or being bought by somebody?”

Highlighting the Tech Advisors

Channel partners proliferate throughout the Inc. 5000. Channel Futures in this instance is highlighting the partners that fit the technology advisor (agent) model.

Channel Futures also is including in this recap Telarus (3,600) and Innovative Business Solutions (4,182), which fall into the category of a technology services distributor (TSD). These companies serve as a bridge between tech advisors and the vendors they refer. One could also make the case that Pax8, more traditionally known as a cloud distributor, plays in the TSD arena as well.

Scroll through the images above to see seven technology advisors and services distributors that made the Inc. 5000. Please keep in mind that it is not an exhaustive list.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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