Microsoft partner taps Frank Clegg to lead expansion

A modest-sized Ontario solution provider is hoping to leap to a national player with the help of former Microsoft Canada president Frank Clegg.

Navantis Inc. of Toronto, a Microsoft Gold partner, said Monday that Clegg has become chairman and a director of the 100-person firm. 

It ranked 72nd in Computer Dealer News’ Top 100 Solution Providers in 2004, with revenues of less than $15 million.

But company president Jason Martin said Clegg’s experience with Microsoft and his industry knowledge will help Navantis grow into a national VAR and keep its revenues growing at 30 per cent a year.

“When Frank announced (in December, 2004) he was stepping away from Microsoft Canada we approached him and suggested he leverage his experience and help us grow for our next quantum leap,” said Martin.

Their talks intensified at the end of the summer, he said. While officially Clegg began working for the company this week, Martin said “he’s been working closely with us for the past two months.” 

The news is a surprise, because Clegg said he was only taking a leave of absence to spend more time with his family and would be back with Microsoft in September.

But Clegg said going back would have meant taking a posting outside North America, which his family opposed. Clegg’s roots here include a farm near the city.

In considering other offers, he also realized he didn’t want day-to-day operational responsibility for a company.So when the principals of Navantis approached he listened.

“I’ve known Jason and John (Kvasnic, the CEO) pretty well since they started Navantis. They – I should say we – have a very strong team, and a very good customer base. And I think there’s an opportunity to help us grow to the next level in terms of sophistication and go-to-market, the complex solutions we’re going to build.”

He dismissed a suggestion that having three presidents in two years will be hard on Microsoft Canada staff, saying he knows incoming president Phil Sorgen well. “This transition will be very smooth.”

Clegg was replaced by David Hemler, who had his own December surprise for Microsoft, announcing last week that he is leaving the Canadian division because his father-in-law is in ill health. Hemler’s family lives in Minnesota, where he’d been Microsoft’s regional vice-president of mid-market solutions and partners. In a written statement announcing his move Hemler said he will stay with Microsoft.

“Frank has an enormous amount of experience in working with companies in Canada and in the technology sector, not just with Microsoft but with IBM,” said Martin. “What we’re focused on is extending our company into a national firm. This is an opportunity for us to get some large-scale leadership, really good experience and some depth to help us grow and service customers with new service offerings and capitalizing on the things we’ve been very good at.” 

While Navantis is also an IBM and Oracle partner, Martin estimated that 85 per cent of the seven-year-old company’s business is Microsoft-related. “We bet the company on Microsoft many years ago and it’s paid off quite well,” he said. That strategy will continue.

“Right now we operate pretty much in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and we take opportunistic work outside –- we have some customers in Montreal, in Calgary —- but we’ve nevery actively gone after that national market before. So what you’re going to see from us over the next three years is new offerings, new messaging around some of the verticals we service in government, corporate and financial services and you’re going to see us move into more nationally-focused jobs.”

That could mean either opening offices in other provinces or buying or merging with other VARs, he said. “That’s one of the things Frank’s going to help us with, is understanding the challenges around that,” said Martin. However, while Navantis has customers in the U.S., he’s not thinking of opening an office there.

He noted that as part of the strategy the company has already opened a 40-person branch in Sri Lanka, where IT workers do programming and quality assurance testing of work while the Toronto office is closed for the night.

Asked if he could have attained his company’s goals without Clegg, Martin said the new chairman is “an integral part of our growth plans. Going national, certainly Frank’s got a great sense of vision, people know who he is, and Frank’s seen growth, especially watching Microsoft Canada grow. So I think he’s going to be a real asset for us in achieving that growth.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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