The Doyle Report: Building the Ultimate Channel Company Culture
Not long ago, a prominent New York City art gallery went looking for an IT services company that could take over the management of its network, security and data. After a lengthy search, it set its sights on Valiant, a midtown Manhattan MSP with a respected reputation among advertising, fashion and media companies.
“We thought we won them over,” recalls Valiant CEO Thomas Clancy. The technology stack was a fit, the budget, too — everything it seemed.
But the art broker, which would have ranked among Valiant’s largest accounts, developed reservations after viewing the Valiant website and dialing into its company phone system. On the Valiant website, it found some unusual employee profiles. One featured a service manager wearing a gas mask. Another showcased a man wearing a bearskin. Then there was Valiant’s phone greeting, which flippantly said, “Phone trees suck; let’s get through this quickly: Push one for support, two for sales.” These proved too much for the would-be customer, which chose another partner.
Instead of disappointment, Clancy breathed a sigh of relief. Why? Culture. In the aftermath of the rejection, Clancy recognized that his unconventional albeit results-oriented company was not likely to please the appearance-conscious gallery that focused on perceptions as much as network uptime and data continuity.
“At the end of the day, we know that we are professional, and that we do a great job. But we do like to have fun and speak a certain way with a certain level of frankness. If they were a type of art gallery that was a little bit more cravats and dickeys and white shoes and summers in the Hamptons and all that, then they probably weren’t going to be a very good customer [for us],” says Clancy.
Valiant would rather lose business that isn’t a fit than purport to be something it is not, in other words. It is hardly alone.
Scores of successful companies in tech and beyond have recognized that a distinct corporate culture is as important to their bottom line as their people, process or technology. A good culture can protect a business from getting lost, power it through tough times and serve as a “true north” to employees.
The list of those with well-developed cultures includes many technology services companies like yours. On Entrepreneur.com’s list of “Best Company Cultures in 2017,” for example, two of the top 10 organizations showcased are technology services providers. This includes Impact Networking of Lake Forrest, Illinois; and TCG of Washington, D.C.
With more than 350 employees spread over 12 different locations, Impact provides managed IT and cloud services, print services, branding and marketing expertise and business-process optimization. A big supporter of local and national sports teams, it signed a deal in January with AEG Global Partnerships to create the “Impact Sports Bar & Grill” inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It also negotiated a 12-year deal to be the “named” sponsor of the home of the Chicago Dogs baseball team in the Village of Rosemont, Illinois.
“Our one-company, one-goal mentality is more than just a motto. It’s a strategic alignment of organization objectives with a supportive corporate culture,” it says.
Little wonder, thus, that the company has been named by the Chicago Tribune and others as a top organization to work for.
At, TCG, culture is similarly important. Among other things, the company been honored by The Washington Post and the Washington Business Journal as a top employer in the area, and named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a “Small Prime Contractor of the Year.”
“We live and die by our treasured core values, the simple directives promoted by our founder and taught to every TCG employee,” the company proclaims on its website. “Our pledge to all of our customers is that our company will always uphold these values and, if they are ever contravened or compromised by any employee or subcontractor, our CEO will personally take direct action.”
While that might sound extreme, it serves as a beacon for TCG. To many experts, having a true north is as important as developing a brilliant strategy — perhaps even more so. The late management guru Peter Drucker is often credited for saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Whether Drucker actually said the words isn’t the point. What is meaningful is the wisdom of the adage.
Which brings me back to “the Valiant Way.” According to Clancy, it’s a signature approach to IT support and security services that works both for clients and Valiant itself. Valiant’s culture helps shape who the company hires, which vendors its supports and what kind of customers it takes on.
Consider members of the “tribe” that Valiant hires, which includes a lot of self-described nerds, geeks and guitar players. Though Valiant is an equal-opportunity employer that hires techs from every religious, ethnic and educational stripe, its interview process is as much about chemistry as it is capability. While it will always consider an application from an Ivy League grad, it particularly likes those who have worked in food services or the military.
“These people have truly dealt with high-pressure situations. They have dealt with people who are irate, or, in the case of my veterans, people who are armed. That level of high-pressure professionalism makes working at an IT help desk a snap,” he says.
Valiant also likes those who have lives outside the office. When pressed to define his workforce, Clancy says Valiant employs more “alley” than “house” cats.
“Guys who grew up in outsourcing are scruffy, hardscrabble and always looking for a fish bone. In contrast, guys who grew up in enterprise IT tend to be more aloof, take things slower and don’t quite have the hustle that you need on the IT bench,” Clancy says.
Does the approach lead to better results? Absolutely, says Clancy, who notes that Valiant is growing both in size and scale. It’s also getting more profitable, thanks to its work with Paul Dippell’s Service Leadership organization.
Each week, Clancy says he receives as many as 10 offers to buy his company. More often than not, suitors are interested in adopting the Valiant culture as their overall organizational standard. It’s hard to argue with something positive that has produced consistent results since 2002.
Have a unique culture? I’d love to here more about it. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.