When Steven Dastoor started Citon Computer as a system builder 27 years ago from a basement apartment with his accomplice Sean Dean, he had no idea that those awful startups would develop into one of the best BPA in the country.
Nearly three decades of providing technology solutions to small and medium-sized businesses yielded results this week with Duluth, Minn. Citon-based $ 300 million ACP CreativIT powerhouse solutions provider.
“It was a long journey,” Dastoor said Tuesday after informing 70 Citon employees of the move. “John and I were two college graduates turning screws in a basement apartment. We were very passionate and very motivated. “
His wife’s uncle was the first system built by Citon, said Dastoor – who became CEO of the company with Dean acting as CFO. “We had no money so he paid for the computer in advance of shaking hands,” Dastoor said.
The two friends had trouble getting that first system to work, but after seeking help from a components distributor who sold them the parts, they discovered that the processor was not properly fitted. “We were men who made things work,” Dastoor said. “We always did what we said we were doing. That was the most important thing. We shook hands. “
Due to manual delivery to customers, the company has a technology force in the Midwest for the company, with offices in Duluth, Brainerd and Eden Prairie in Minnesota as well as Eau Claire, Wis. Dastoor and Dean also take out three joint ventures that are now part of ACP CreativIT: NetTel, a network communications and cabling infrastructure company; TLX Communications, a hosted VoIP provider and NetGuard Security Solutions, a business and home video security solutions company.
In the face of technological shortcomings and security breaches facing customers in an era of rapid digital transformation, customers are increasingly looking for that “one-handed shake” to create a secure and well-managed end-to-end IT environment. supply, Dastoor said. Increasing technology complexity and the ability to better serve customers with the support of a larger company led to the merger with ACP CreativIT, he said.
“Customers are putting all this technology together,” Dastoor said. “What customers have discovered is that the level of breakage cannot continue. It has become too complicated now. So the idea that the customer is looking for is to consolidate the IT infrastructure with a reliable partner who will shape their hands and deliver that measure. It is what the customer really demands and wants. They want what we have developed, which is a technology stack of next generation managed service providers that deal with security at a level that is essential in the world we live in today. “
Citon’s security prowess has, in fact, contributed to its 30 percent growth in sales of managed services over the past several years. “We have all the security elements that next generation BPA needs,” he said. “You need to have a set of security tools and a set of skills that provide the security measures that the customer needs today. But what they need today is different than what they will need tomorrow or next Tuesday. It has to evolve. “
Citon has grown from a business that was 90 percent hardware in the early days to a business that is now 40 percent services with the hope of driving that services business to 50 percent of sales. “I am a big hardware man. Many children born in the cloud do not sell any hardware, but we are passionate about the electrons that contribute to this work, ”he said. “We love that piece of business. I believe that the hardware helps the services and the managed services parts of the business. “
Citon’s technology portfolio includes its own data center and powerful optical transport network.
Dastoor – a member of distributor Ingram Micro’s “Mastermind” peer group and Trust X Alliance’s network of elite solutions providers – said the secret behind the breadth and depth of Citon’s technology portfolio is its willingness to “walk through doors” that open inwards. in the new technology solutions that solve customers’ business problems.
“If we see an opportunity or area that would be good for our customers to invest in, that’s what we do,” he said. “In life, doors open, and it’s up to you to walk through them. I am thankful that we managed to walk through many of them so that things worked out for us. “
Citon’s shift to the power of managed services resulted in a “duplication” of the BPA model and the removal of the portfolio of services, Dastoor said. Aligning that BPA portfolio with a proven sales process was also key. “We set a goal for the whole team,” he said. “We designed a company-wide plan and did it as part of every conversation we had.”
The BPA sales charge included quarterly kick-off sales that focused sharply on transforming BPA, Dastoor said, which will now help drive the overall growth of managed services for the entire CreativIT ACP. “It was a 20-mile march [the term coined by ‘Great By Choice’ author and business management expert Jim Collins],” he said. “We have consistently conveyed the MSP’s message. That’s what really made a difference. “
In a presentation to his employees on the ACP CreativIT marketplace, Dastoor focused on the huge opportunity ahead for the Citon team. “It was about growth – how we will grow in 2022,” he said. “I told them we could grow organically that is difficult to do, grow by seeking acquisitions or a partnership. I told them that the best way forward for all of us together is to partner and merge with ACP CreativIT. “
ACP CreativIT Chief Executive Scott Dunsire said the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed – it provides additional management services for muscle and customer relations in the Midwest. “This builds on our already strong position in the Midwest with new technical talent with in-depth expertise in sourcing and managing small and medium sized businesses,” he said. “Ultimately this agreement enables us to compete for greater and better opportunities in the markets we serve.”
In addition to the employee presentation on the benefits of the merger, Datoor and his team made over 100 customer calls, more than 50 vendor calls and sent emails to 3,400 companies. “Talking to customers was a lot of fun,” he said. “They were happy for us, and they were excited about what this means for them in the future: purchasing power, relationships, access to new technologies. That was great because we have friendships with these people. It’s not just a business relationship. “
Under the merger, Dastoor and Dean will join ACP CreativIT with all 70 Citon employees with the expectation of adding additional employees at each Citon location.
“We have great people, they are the people who make this company our success,” said Dastoor, who will continue as CEO of Citon and sit on the ACP CreativIT board of directors. “Why destroy the one thing that makes a company successful? This was greatly appreciated by the CreativIT ACP. It must be in the right fitting. We did not want to be where we would have private equity come in and [Dean] and I would be gone within a year. We have a runway left. We want to stay in business. ”
CreativIT ACP Camera Corner Connection Point CEO Rick Chernick, who has known the founders of Citon for 20 years, played a key role in bringing Citon into the CreativIT ACP folder.
Chernick, who decided to merge with Arlington Computer Products in 2018 to create the CreativIT ACP, advised Dastoor on the benefits of the merger. That is no small matter in light of Chernick’s decision to merge his Wis. – based Green Bay family business with deep civil, community and philanthropic roots founded by his father 69 years ago.
“We’re so like [Chernick] and Camera Corner Connecting Point,” Datoor said. “It simply came to our notice then. They are Midwestern people with Midwest values caring for Midwest customers. They broke the mold with Rick. I really respect him. I would not have gone through this if it were not for him. It is a force of nature. He loves the people. He understood the elements of our successful company. We saw a better future because of it. IT’s my hero. ”
Datoor says he could not be “excited” about that future given the strength of ACP CreativIT, Camera Corner Connecting Point and Citon. “ACP was great because of this whole experience,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. They did everything they could and went out of their way to make sure they were transparent, open and honest and enjoyed the whole experience. They have a process to make these markets that everyone wins. They have figured out how to blend and refined it into fine art. It’s all about shaking hands. ”
Datoor said there was never a need for reliable technology advisors like ACP CreativIT, Camera Corner Connecting Point and Citon. “The reliance on IT is ever increasing,” he said. “IT departments no longer charge it. They cannot meet the needs of modern business. Those requirements that may include compliance, protected information, security, firewalls, servers, end-user devices, are just too much to handle in one small IT department. Together as a society we will need to partner more. IT is in place for that partnership. Caring for technology for customers is a huge responsibility and an honor for us. ”
That responsibility goes back to Citon’s mission statement: “We believe that leverage technology safely and responsibly enables individuals and organizations to succeed.”
“We believe in that mission statement and live it day by day,” Datoor said. “Being part of the ACP CreativIT means that we will be able to achieve more together and collaborate with people who are just as smart and smart as we are to provide solutions for our customers.”
As Dastoor sees it, the ACP CreativIT merger kicks off another great episode. “It’s a whole new day,” he said. “My job is clear: I am going to be here working for our customers and our people every day. This is how we nurture our heritage as a business. ”