Since Clay Hales started InfoSystems in Chattanooga in 1994 with eight other employees from the computer division of the former A&A Business Machines, the 60-year-old business owner says he has always tried to focus on his employees and customers.
"Our secret has been building the type of culture in our business where our employees go so far overboard to take care of our customers that we get and keep customers even as they grow and change," Hales said. "We continually ask, 'What can we do that adds the most value to my customers and how can we help our customers not just met their goals, but exceed their goals?' Once we determine that we build the computer solutions to meet their needs."
The strategy has built InfoSystems from an initial $900,000-a-year business when it began 24 years ago into a $45 million-a-year, platinum supplier for IBM today. From its headquarters on Hickory Valley Road just off I-75, InfoSystems serves more than a thousand customers, ranging from small and mid-sized companies in Chattanooga and other Southeastern markets to some major national clients such as Deloitte Touche.
The company does everything from selling software or hardware equipment to serving as a data processing consultant and even operating entire systems for clients by providing all of the computerized backup, storage and maintenance services for the customer.
InfoSystem represents a variety of product lines, but it remains primarily an IBM distributor. The success of the firm has helped Hales to be named a member of IBM's Global Business Partner Advisory Council, where he regularly meets with top IBM business partners and executives.
It's also where he met the head of APSU from the United Kingdom, another executive on the IBM advisory board whose business has developed a pioneering failover data protection system. The British firm provides cloud solutions and automated monitoring and management tools primarily to businesses using the IBM i family of operating systems, which includes AS/400.
APSU was eager to expand its service into the U.S. market a couple of years ago when Hales agreed to join with APSU to start a joint venture to help APSU expand into the American market by using InfoSystem's distribution channels.
APSU now has about 15 employees in Chattanooga to help grow the new venture in a network operations center in the first floor of InfoSystems' Chattanooga facility, where InfoSystems employs its own 45 workers.
APSU, a managed service provider, was created in 2011 following a merger between Apex Computers International Ltd, an IBM mid-market infrastructure business, and AssurIT, an IBM managed services company.
APSU's service portfolio also includes technical consultancy, procurement, managed services, in-store and on-line retail solutions, cloud hosting and physical co-location.
"Info Systems is a perfect fit for us," said Simon McAuley, vice president of cloud solutions for APSU. "We are a stand alone business in the United States, but we have retained all of the IT from all of the businesses (that have formed APSU). InfoSystems is able to provide us with the logistics and facilities to provide a network operations center and expertise around the IBM power platform, as well as their own sales force to help us find our own opportunities."
The company's move to the United States followed IBM signing a contract with APSU in 2016 for the company to provide its disaster recovery services to IBM i platform customers in the U.S.
Working in conjunction with IBM, APSU provides a fully managed high-availability service known as DRaaSi (Disaster Recovery as a service for IBM i), under a worldwide agreement with IBM.
InfoSystems uses a number of co-location data centers to backup and support its operations.
"We continue to make significant investments in our company at a time when many other IT companies are not," Hales said. "We're working to create the type of Cloud solution that gives our customers more control over their data and lower risk of failure, while other IT companies are focusing on pushing customers to the public Cloud where they have limited control over data and no control over failures."
Such investments early in the company's history helped InfoSystems to be named one of the fastest growing privately-held companies of its type in the country for three consecutive years. Today, Hales' two sons, Keith and Brent, have both joined his company, which remains among the top 3 percent of IBM channel distributors for customer retention.
Scott Davis, a former IBM sales manager who joined InfoSystems four years ago to head sales operations, says finding ways to help implement new technologies, data handling and storage systems is key to the success of InfoSystems.
"We try to go out and help people find better solutions and when you do that they buy from you and keep buying from you," Davis said. "If we have outstanding customer satisfaction, then the bottom line will follow."
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340