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," he says. "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?'"
The strategy has built InfoSystems into a $45 million-a-year, platinum supplier for IBM. Hales is 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 wanted to expand its service into the U.S. market, so Hales agreed last year to start a joint venture with APSU for the American market and become one of its 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' Hickory Valley Road facility, where InfoSytems employs its own 45 workers.
"We continue to make significant investments in our company at a time when many other IT companies are not," Hales says. "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 InfoSytems.
"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 says. "If we have outstanding customer satisfaction, then the bottom line will follow."