Lifeboat Distribution is on an expansion path in Canada, looking to grow here in the near future, but still stresses quality over quantity with its partnerships.
“We’re a really strongly relationship driven company,” said Dan Jamieson, vice-president and general manager of the distributor. “We work with a wide scope and range of resellers,” he said including systems integrators and VARs who focus on both software and hardware.
Lifeboat has 5500 reseller partners across North America, with about 500 in Canada and some solution providers as well. Lifeboat currently has five employees in its Mississauga, Ont. Office, with about another 60 employees spread across its headquarters in Shrewsbury, NJ and an office in the Netherlands.
“We’ve looked at possibly expanding to the west (in Canada),” he said, but right now, Lifeboat has no plans to open another office here. Instead, it plans to focus on targeting the right resellers. “We work hard to customize our partnerships with both our vendors and our resellers,” Jamieson said. “We’re also very thoughtful about the type of resellers we work with.”
The company will also be looking to add more vendor partners to its portfolio in the near future. In Canada, the distributor is partnered with software companies such as Corel Corp., Quest Software and Acronis Inc. among others.
“The driving force behind us is we try to provide extraordinary customer service regardless of the size of your business,” he said. Lifeboat alsodifferentiates from other distributors by focusing on software, he said, especially security and virtualization products. “For Lifeboat, it’s our primary concern. They’re great companies in their own right, but they’re very hardware-centric.”
“When we go to market, we have different focuses on different parts of the channel,” Jamieson said. The distributor has various “worldviews” that it uses, so when a channel partner wants to tap into a market, it can more easily build a solution. Lifeboat’s worldviews are meant to allow partners to see which product and solutions complement each other to cross-sell and up sell, according to Jamieson.
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“We have all the technological capabilities of all the major broad line distributors,” he said. “We’ve created our own innovative and unique electronic licence key allocation and stocking system,” he added. “We’re able to get our electronic licenses out in a matter of a couple of hours.”
That improved the distributor’s service level agreement with its partners. “What we really endeavour to do here is become a true extension of the vendors,” Jamieson said. “We really work hard to answer those questions as if we were the vendor.”
Softchoice Corp. (TSX: SO) has been a Lifeboat partner in Canada for several years, but has seen significant growth in the last few through its Lifeboat partnership, said John Dumo, a senior manager with the company’s fulfillment and technology deployment services division in Toronto. He attributes this to the build-up of virtualization and data centre. “Those are pretty meaty topics right now,” and Lifeboat’s speciality in that area helps.
“We’ve seen some significant growth to the tune of about 60 per cent,” Dumo said. “I think it’s their access to their partners and being able to bring those partners into a conversation,” that helps Lifeboat differentiate. “You’ve got access to the right people. Lifeboat would be more than happy to come in with their partners to help articulate what a solution could look like for an end user.”
“They’ve got good investments around electronic tools,” Dumo said. “When you’re not managing the transactions, it allows you to hone in and focus on what adds value to the customers.”
The relationship extends beyond business as well, Dumo said. “We like to work with people who share our values and our focus,” he said. Currently, Softchoice and Lifeboat are in the early stages of a bridge-the-gap sort of program to help people who may not ordinarily have access to technology gain it.
“It’s less about what they offer but more about how they work with us,” Dumo said. “They don’t try to be all things to everybody. They try to be very focused and specialized.”