Top newsmaker #2: Brent Allison, CEO, Long View Systems

Brent Allison is number 2 on CDN’s 2019 Top 25 Newsmakers. Check out our other winners here.

Brent Allison celebrated his one-year anniversary as CEO at Calgary-based solution provider Long View Systems Feb. 12, but there was no champagne to toast the occasion, says Kent MacDonald, senior vice-president of business development at Long View, just iced tea and coke.

That’s not to say that Allison isn’t worth toasting.

Brent Allison CEO Long View Systems headshot
Brent Allison started his role as CEO of Long View Systems on Feb. 12, 2018.

“He’s created a lot of momentum,” MacDonald said. “Our growth was about 19 per cent last year.”

And it’s not that Long View doesn’t celebrate its 1,150 employees. In fact, it just celebrated the firms’ 20th anniversary, and champagne was poured for the four people that have been there since the beginning. One of those people is Don Bialik, the founder and CEO until Allison took over the role at the beginning of 2018. It was Bialik who started Long View with the goal not of being acquired in a multi-million dollar transaction, or hitting a big IPO, but of creating a company that would last a century. A place where employees would work for their entire careers without regrets.

Now Allison, an outsider who’d previously been the senior vice-president of business futures at Telus Corp., would be taking over as CEO.

The questions around a brand new leader

“When a new leader was coming in place, there was some angst honestly,” recalls MacDonald. Certain questions were on the minds of Long View employees – “How long will it take for Brent to come into the culture and understand it? Will he do anything to drastically change the culture?”

As described by MacDonald, Long View’s culture is one of compassion and integrity. People are helpful and kind to each other. Fortunately, Allison clicked with the culture and those questions were assuaged. One of the first things Allison said to the company is that if he runs into a Long View employee on the street, he’d hope that they would feel like running across that street to give him a hug rather than crossing the street to get away from him.

“He’s fit right in,” MacDonald said. “Just last week people came up to me and said how pumped they were that he understands the culture.”

Racking up awards in 2018

Long View’s success in 2018 is a testament to that, as it was given top accolades by multiple vendors. In June, it was named Microsoft’s Partner of the Year for 2018, ranked as the fastest growing Canadian licensing service provider with 36 per cent year-over-year growth and ranked number one for cloud service provider market share in Canada.

Long View has always been a Microsoft partner, MacDonald says. The vendor makes sense for Long View’s mid-size enterprise clients that run Microsoft shops and are familiar with the software, able to journey into the cloud world on Azure and Office 365. Inspired by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s commitment to helping customers succeed in digital transformation, it set a goal three years ago to be named the Canadian Partner of the Year. So winning it was another cause for celebration.

“That’s when we really did drink champagne,” he says.

In August, NetApp named Long View its Growth Partner of the Year for overall revenue, year-over-year growth, key account wins, and participation in regional partnership activities.

The solutions provider also received top billing from Citrix, winning its 2018 Canadian Partner of the Year award for driving net new opportunities and sales. One of Long View’s specialties has been implementing Citrix on Azure, MacDonald says, and the company has a long technical history of working with the platform. The vendor is important to Long View’s OneCloud solution, which helps clients manage their storage in a hybrid cloud model. For those workloads that just don’t migrate to the cloud, NetApp can provision local resources.

Don Bialk founder of Long View headshot
Don Bialik founded Long View Systems in 1999 with a vision to create a 100-year firm.

Finally, it was named one of Canada’s Best Managed companies, a platinum member of the Deloitte program for seven years running. MacDonald says the time to go through the audit and review required for the program is worthwhile because Deloitte provides guidance and feedback, and a benchmark against other top firms in Canada.

Allison’s story as a top 25 newsmaker isn’t one of a turnaround, where he came into an organization and found success against the odds. Rather, it’s one where he nimbly grasped the baton passed to him by Bialik and kept running just as fast.

“He talks about the founder’s mentality and keeping the founder’s mentality,” MacDonald says, a reference to the 2016 book by Chris Zook and James Allen. “Companies tend to lose it as they grow. It’s about treating the business as your own business.”

If Allison and the rest of Long View can do that for another 80 years to meet Bialik’s 100-year goal, it’d be worth a toast. With real champagne for this one.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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