VNS™ is contacted frequently by vendors asking us to represent them in this region. If, after reading this you think we're a fit, then we'd be happy to speak with you and discuss it further, but to save us both time, it's important that we set expectations about what VNS is and isn't up front. The bottom line is that we are only looking to partner with vendors who have best-of-breed solutions, who are prepared to immediately help drive sales with leads, and who currently have warm leads in our region which you need an experienced, highly qualified partner, to help you close business in now.
We are not interested in taking on new vendors that have the expectation that we'll build the demand for you, or who expect us to immediately start tying up our limited staff resources with webcasts and training, or who just to sign up partners without a very specific intent to have VNS act as your go-to partner in this region to close business now. We must stay focused on selling, and meeting the needs of our customers. But if you have innovative solutions, at a fair price (great margins are not our primary motivator - doing what's best for our customers is), and you have developing unmet demand in our region, and want a strong partner, with an experienced sales team, we may be able to help as your partner.
VNS is a small (~25 employees) regional VAR/MSP serving the Central California (see: www.vns.net/geo) region. Although we are small by the standards of larger metros (ie: LA, Bay Area, etc.), we are the largest VAR/MSP in this region and one of the oldest in this region (established in 1996), and we dominate this market. Our CEO and founder (Daniel Duffy) started VNS after working for Fortune 50 clients in the enterprise and starting 2 other technology companies in this region, including one of the first ISPs to serve Central California. As a customer, he found that he was always frustrated with the lack of professional VAR solutions in the area, because they were either too small/unsophisticated, or they were satellite offices of companies from the Bay Area/LA, who treated Fresno like an ancillary market, perpetually entering and then leaving the market in 3-5 years. So Mr. Duffy decided that he'd build the proverbial "better mousetrap", and the rest is history. Today VNS has become the largest locally-owned VAR/MSP in the region, and we've outlasted many much larger, better funded competitors who've continued to come in and out of the market but never maintain a sustained, focused presence here.
VNS's mission is to dominate this market and serve the unique needs of the Central California market, which is an entirely different animal than those North and South of us, often misunderstood and overlooked by vendors who aren't willing to make the drive to Fresno (thus the opportunity for VNS). However, Fresno is the 5th largest city in the state, with a population of about 1M including outlying cities and our business community is thriving. We do find that many vendors don't want to make the drive to Fresno, and when they do, they roll in with a Bay Area volume perspective, and are usually disappointed to find that things run a bit slower in Fresno and that this region is generally speaking, about 2 years behind the technology curve. But VNS is doing our part to effect change in this area. It's important to understand that the economics and volumes here are that of a tertiary market and vendors that expect us to meet sales quotes that are not geographically adjusted are setting themselves up for disappointment and setting us up for failure. That doesn't mean there's not a huge opportunity here, but it's different and we get it because we've been here for over 20 years so we know the market. And four major IT distributors have distribution centers in Fresno, which makes sourcing easier.
VNS is first and foremost a SERVICE company and we employ over a dozen highly trained, certified and experienced engineers, technicians and installers. We have more certifications than anyone within at least 100 miles (see: www.vns.net/certs) and spend a considerable amount of time and money insuring that our service AND sales people are well-trained and qualified. Our SALES team of over 6 reps is more highly trained than some of the technicians at our competition and we are VERY proud of our team. Aside from the basic "bread and butter" network integration, we have a fully developed MSP service (see: www.vns.net/netcare) and Cisco VOIP (see: www.vns.net/voip) practices.
Product Selection Criteria
Although we are a SERVICE company, we have felt from the beginning that to provide our customers with complete and comprehensive solutions, we needed to directly provide them with products and not count on a 3rd party for this (ie: CDW, Dell Direct, etc.). But everyone knows that to make money (or just break even) selling products, you need to do volume and we do a very healthy volume. We sell several million dollars a year in products but as a service-focused company, it's simply a means to an end for us, so vendors that brag about how many points we can make on what's often a one-time transaction often fall on deaf ears. Margins are important to us, and recurring ones even more so, but what's most important to us is our reputation, and that we align ourselves with only the best-in-class in each product category, we will not recommend a solution to our customers unless we believe in it. To that end, we are a Gold partner with most of our major partners (see: www.vns.net/products) and we are only interested in working with manufacturers that have innovative, market-leading products that either are the market leaders, or that will become the dominant market leaders. So we try to keep an open mind to up-and-comers that we haven't heard of before, but cannot represent everyone that contacts us.
We have also learned that most companies that call on us to represent them and sell their products expect us to do the "heavy lifting" to help them establish a foothold in our marketplace and it's CRITICAL to set this expectation right up front: VNS cannot and will not develop your market FOR you - we can and will HELP you do it and support you if you would like to work with VNS, and we believe that it's a mutually good fit. If we are getting calls for your products/solutions, we will gladly recommend and resell them, but if we are NOT getting calls, we won't necessarily sign up with you and then tell our reps to go out and spend time selling it because they are simply too busy and too focused on the opportunities we already have on deck that require their time and attention, and the training commitments that we have in place to maintain authorizations with our existing vendors require considerable amounts of time that already take away from our core mission of SELLING and SERVICING customers in this region, so our time is at an absolute premium.
Time and money are something we obviously must protect. Because most new vendors often don't really understand how limited these resources are for a small business (if we had a nickel for every time a vendor said 'it's ONLY this much time/money' without thinking about how they'd feel if they were asked to pay that out of THEIR pockets....), we need to state up front that if the expectation is that we'll invest time filling out forms, exchanging paperwork, and then be expected to immediately invest in costly training (it's costly even if we don't have to pay for it because our time has a value), and not receive sales leads from you, this probably will not be a fit. Our people are all highly trained and we all understand the basics of all technologies we sell, so training is often redundant and unnecessary. We look for vendors who are flexible in this area, and will allow us to only take the training we need to sell and support your solutions, as our schedule permits, and it must be online and free. Paying $5-10K/week to put folks in airplanes and hotels is no longer needed to understand a new technology.
If your solution(s) is/are very unique and solves a need that our customers are clamoring for, once it gains mindshare within the team, it usually will start selling itself. To be fair, every vendor thinks their solutions fit that description but not all do so chances are that if we aren't getting calls for your products, and you're calling on us, you have a new solution or you are a new company and looking to grow market, which means you will need to do the "heavy lifting" of marketing your solutions to gain mindshare.
So what CAN VNS do for you?
Well, aside from being the largest player in our market, with the largest account base of customers, we have the infrastructure to support growth. We have a complete back-office team to handle all of the things that a full-service VAR/MSP needs to handle, a dedicated Sales Manager, Service Dispatcher and Purchaser, and you'll have direct contact to the CEO because we're still not too big to be accessible.
VNS can also provide you continuity in the market, and represent you as a long term partner. Unlike the dozens of Bay Area-based companies who've come and gone from the market over the last 20 years, VNS will be here in another decade. Vendors who've chosen to partner with these larger companies damage their brand, and do their customers a disservice because none of these companies stick around long term. VNS is the proverbial tortoise to these hairs - we're here for the long haul, so that customers aren't having to reinvent relationships every 3-5 years as these satellite offices come and go from the market.
We have a comprehensive back-end CRM system with data on over 25,000 IT/C-level/business owner contacts in this region that is continually maintained by hand and, we have found, always more current and accurate than anything commercially available. So we know our customers and know our market. We have the back-end infrastructure to support e-commerce and a full inside/outside sales team in place so that we can "press the flesh" when you cannot, or if you CAN make it to Fresno, go "four feet in the door" with you.
We do our own marketing including a quarterly Technology Journal that reaches over 6,2500 C-level and IT contacts (see: www.vns.net/techjournal), to maintain visibility in the marketplace and help bring our key vendor partners to our customers. VNS is also expanding, we currently plan to expand until we have local offices in about 15 different valley locations.
We have a fully-developed MSP practice in place and have been doing the "MSP thing" since 1999, long before the term was even coined so we know what we're doing. We have over 3,000 nodes being managed and were ranked #13 nationally by MSP Mentor. We also have a dedicated copper/fiber division and service vans, so we do all of our own physical infrastructure to support the network/application layers.
All of our staff are full-time employees with benefits, we rarely subcontract work or have a need to do so. And we offer unique solutions to our customers that require a high degree of certification and competency. We have established accounts with all of the major distis and dozens of smaller, boutique distributors.
We use CNET Channel online to do all of our quotes, and procurement and we prefer to purchase through our established distributors and do NOT consider buying direct to be a plus because it usually entails setting up new distribution processes and lines of credit and we prefer to leverage those we already have in place. But we will work with vendors who offer unique products direct only if the product is really unique and you simply aren't set up with a disti yet.
So if you have an innovative solution(s), and you either have unmet demand in our region, or you're prepared to drive the demand and need 'feet on the street', we'd be happy to speak with you about representing you in this region but again, to set expectations clearly, would need you to "prime the pump" by providing regionally-appropriate warm leads for us to work and develop until we got the volume to the point where we were driving our own leads. We cannot, and will not invest time or money in sales or technical training for vendor partners who's products we aren't even selling. That's not to say that we're opposed to doing basic sales/tech training if a deal is on deck, but vendors who expect to sign us up and immediately expect us to invest thousands of dollars in training are not a match, we want to spend our time on SELLING and SUPPORTING our customers. If you can provide us with demos and/or NFRs, they certainly help but we don't expect them. If you can provide marketing MDF funds to help gain awareness, that will also be appreciated, but isn't expected until we are selling. Once we are working with you, we can set up links on our site, which, generally speaking, comes in near the top of any Google search for a technology service in our area. We DO however expect to be able to obtain sales and technical training, when needed, online and free; we will not pay vendors to learn to sell and support their products, and we do not wish to work with vendors that treat training as a profit center. It costs us about $5,000-$10,000 per week in total costs to have someone in training, so to pay a vendor on top of that is financially irresponsible, and this isn't something we consider negotiable. If we decide to move forward, we'll want to work together as your partner (not a customer who pays for training).
Thank you for taking time to read this. We hope it was useful and answers most of your questions about VNS. If you have additional questions, feel free to ask, email is usually the best way to reach us.
If you would still like to move forward with a partnership with VNS after reading this, please let us know:
- What your expectations are of us.
- Confirm that you DO have leads and current, un-met customer demand in our market (www.vns.net/geo) that needs immediate, local assistance in helping to close.
- What's required to do, to move forward and start closing these deals with you NOW.
Daniel Duffy, CEO/CIO