Focusing on service over sales propels technology firm

CEO Sonny Clark said Advanced Network Solutions has shifted its business model since it was founded in 1997.

Information technology equipment service and maintenance often falls by the wayside in a down economy.

But by creating a new pricing and delivery model, Advanced Network Solutions has expanded its coverage area even as competitors are forced out of the market.

The 12-year-old company provides technology infrastructure services, keeping networks and other information systems up and running.

When the company was founded, workers’ time was divided between providing products as well as maintenance and repair. Over time, Advanced has phased out its sales side and focused more on service and how it can be delivered more efficiently for both the company and the client.

“We have moved away from hourly services and established a fixed-fee service structure,” said Sonny Clark, president and CEO. “We proactively take care of the clients’ networks, monitoring them all the time so that we can be aware of problems before something happens.”

The benefits, Clark said, are twofold: The client has a fixed monthly payment and knows what services are being performed and can be requested, while Advanced can schedule technicians and other maintenance personnel in advance rather than having to scramble for emergency service calls.

And it’s paying off. Advanced posted revenue of $4.8 million in 2008 and is looking to top $6 million in 2009, according to Clark.

The 22-employee company also opened its first satellite office in Memphis, with further expansion in the long-term plan. In addition to creating a fixed-price platform, Advanced has moved into new markets, such as banking and health care. Both are robust industry sectors in Nashville, so Clark has been able to build a solid book of business through word of mouth.

“By working with the various operations of banks and health care systems, we’ve gotten some very specific knowledge of those industries,” he said. “When we go in, we don’t have to learn their business, and that experience is a service we can provide on top of the maintenance and other system work we’ll be doing for them.”

From the client’s perspective, that kind of know-how is indeed quite valuable, said Terry Sutton, chief operating officer of Beacon Technologies, a low-voltage provider of network voice and data cabling, security and other services to local and regional educational, health care and government entities.

“The quality of their service and the skills their techs have was very important to us,” said Sutton, who began contracting with Advanced in June. “Because they know our systems, their techs were able to fit in and become one of the team very quickly. And the fixed-fee was a major consideration to bring them in, because it allows us to budget for this area of our business much better.”

Lessons Learned

Toughest Business Decision: After months of consideration, we decided to purchase a building for our business. After leasing space for 10 years, we really wanted to make an investment in our community the way it has supported and invested in us.
Best Business Decision: In 1999, Keith Maune became a partner in Advanced Network Solutions. Acting as the chief technical officer and lead engineer, he has been instrumental in designing some of the great solutions that keep our clients’ infrastructure running well.
Greatest Business Challenge: Staying knowledgeable in a rapidly changing environment.
Business Philosophy: Treat employees and clients the way you’d want to be treated.
Greatest Frustration: Hearing that it can’t be done. In technology we are always facing new challenges, and people can perceive something to be impossible just because it hasn’t been done before. I encourage people to take a step back, be creative, and we always find a solution.
Where do you see the company in five years? We would like to continue to grow to other strategic cities. We recently opened an office in Memphis and would like to continue to expand in the Southeast.
— Sonny Clark


Advanced Network Solutions

Address: 105 Broadway, Nashville 37201
Phone: (615) 277-0500
Revenue: $4.8 million
Employees: 22
What they do: Provide networking, infrastructure and technology services.



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