Staples Network Services: Not Another Geek Squad

First things first: Yes, Staples -- the office supply store with red storefronts and the easy button -- operates a managed services business. Instead of countering Best Buy's Geek Squad, Staples Network Services provides outsourced IT solutions to SMBs with between 10 and 250 employees. I spoke to Jim Lippie, president of Staples Network Services, about the history of the company and the future of managed services, among other things. Here are some perspectives.

Lippie quit consulting in 2003 to join Thrive Networks as director of business development, and rose to become their CEO in 2005. His reign as CEO proved somewhat short-lived: In 2006, Staples bought Thrive and rebranded the company into Staples Network Services Provided by Thrive. Lippie was named president, and now the company employs 90 of what he calls the "best people with the best competencies." An important distinction here is that they report to Staples Delivery, which handles business-to-business office sales, not the retail store division.

While he says that Staples Network Services has definitely felt the pinch of the economy, the company is doing better than most, and that September and October were very strong months. While Lippie says that they have been seeing the results of the trend towards maintenance rather than replacement amongst their clients, it hasn't meant much to Staples Network Services on the whole one way or the other: they only resell equipment to clients as a convenience, not as a major part of their business model. All the same, Lippie says, it can be tricky to maintain an overtaxed piece of hardware.

"Computers and servers don't realize we're in a recession," he says.

Of course, Staples Network Services faces plenty of competition. As Lippie tells it, products from companies like N-able and Kaseya enable smaller managed services providers to compete for ever-bigger clients. Staples Network Services' edge here, he says, is that high technology doesn't make for high experience.

"We have, over the years, built a very robust customer service operation," Lippie says.

I must admit: It's somewhat difficult to measure Staples Network Services' overall performance since the company doesn't disclose financial information. But as MSPmentor expands our content efforts for 2010, we'll be keeping a closer eye on the the organization's performance.

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