This interview episode of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering was recorded onsite at the XChange2017 event in Orlando. I had the chance to sit down with a former colleague Eric Martorano, Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Intermedia, a one stop provider of solutions for the business cloud and a premier Microsoft Partner.
Eric is responsible for sales and strategic partnerships across the globe. He brings to this role over 20 years experience in the industry, deep expertise in working closely and strategically with a range of customers and partners, and his passion for customer and partner success.
Martorano has been recognized as a top industry performer, including being named to CRN’s “Top 100 Executives” and “Channel Maverick” lists, among others.
In this interview Eric takes our partner listeners through Intermedia’s unique business cloud value proposition for both customers and partners and if you are a partner trying to determine how to best monetize business cloud offerings in this age of rapid digital transformation, you may find Intermedia’s partner-centric model and business cloud focus very compelling.
As with many of my interviews, I found Eric’s personal story of transformation to be very compelling. His is a story of grit and determination to overcome failure and to reinvent himself, ultimately leading to a highly successful career in technology.
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I hope you enjoy this episode!
Transcript of our interview
Vince Menzione: Eric, welcome to the poscast. You and I have had the opportunity to work closely together for many years at Microsoft and I’m really excited to have you here today to share with our listeners your company’s unique value proposition, how you go to market, what you look for in successful partnerships, and your career journey and personal story.
Eric Martorano: Thank you very much, Vince. Really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you for allowing me to join you here today, and being part of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering.
Vince Menzione: I’m so excited to have you and to tell your story. So let’s just dive in now. Can you tell our listeners about your company, Intermedia? What the company’s value proposition is, the mission, and how it’s evolved over the years.
Eric Martorano: Sure. Well, Intermedia’s a client-oriented one-stop shop for cloud business applications. For customers, we deliver security, scalability, and someone to manage the intricacies of the cloud forum. For partners, we offer these things along with value ads that help them run a profitable cloud business.
Hundreds of competitors offer to spare point solutions, just voice, backup, security, or email. This can likely threaten the workplace efficiency. As businesses deal with multiple unintegrated vendors, support organizations and bills. Intermedia takes a different and better approach by delivering a robust suite of integrated cloud solutions from a single provider.
Vince Menzione: I got to see you present here at the Exchange 2017 event and I really get it. Because you’re taking a lot of the complexity out of the equation. How did the company end up getting focused on these solution sets?
Eric Martorano: While business needs continually evolve, change, the demand for productivity remains constant. We continually build on top of a core technology platform and it really addresses the partner and customer needs. We help customers focus on what matters, and it enables partners to differentiate and run a profitable business.
As customers, partner, and market needs really change, we have the flexibility to pivot right alongside them. As a result, Intermedia serves, now, over 110,000 business and I’m proud to say we have 6,600 solution providers in our channel community, which they’re generating right now about 80% of our revenue.
Vince Menzione: That’s a tremendous scale. Can you tell us how that’s different from, let’s say, Microsoft’s value proposition?
Eric Martorano: Well, support is a component of business that is often overlooked. For us, it’s not just about delivering a one-stop shop of everything you need to do business in the cloud. We also believe strongly in being there for our customers and partners 24×7. This includes delivering enterprise-grade security. A 59 uptime service-level agreement and then JD Power certified support experts to provide everything from free migration and onboarding assistance to quick and easy technical issues and resolutions.
For our channel partners, what this means is helping them maximize profitability with robust support throughout the entire customer life cycle. This includes marketing support to generate leads. It’s includes sales support and training to help close the deal. Onboarding support for a seamless transition and technical support whenever necessary. We also let partners sell under their own brand. Or Intermedia is on a customer-by-customer basis. Partners are always looking for opportunities to drive profitability and Intermedia delivers a solution that allows them to do that.
Vince Menzione: You talked about over 100,000 customers. Can you talk to our listeners about some of your key customers, who they are in the market, and why they selected you?
Eric Martorano: Sure. Yeah, more than 110,000 businesses trust Intermedia, deliver, and manage some of the most critical communication services. Our customers come in all sizes. All industries as well. Whether it’s True Car, NFP, and Johnny Rocket’s, to name a few. However, they all want security, reliability, someone to manage their IT for them. When a public, big data company like Splunk trusts you to keep their information secure, it’s validation that you’re doing the right thing.
So, Intermedia itself, we do have Interprise customers, but we focus a lot farther down into the SMB space, providing Interprise level service to SMBs.
Vince Menzione: What do you believe are the greatest opportunities for continued growth, and how do you see your business evolving during this rapid age of digital transformation and cloud computing?
Eric Martorano: As I mentioned earlier, Intermedia’s revenue now comes from a full suite of integrated cloud applications, including unified communications, email, backup and file sharing, productivity, security and archiving. Our voice services business continues to grow faster than the market. We’re also seeing rapid growth in areas such as security and compliance with our encryption, email continuity, and archiving solution. An evolving threat landscape is also driving steady growth for our backup and file sharing application for collaboration and quick recovery for unexpected data loss, will be accidental or from a cyber event like ransom wear.
So, while business email continues to serve as an important role, I think that add-on enhancements that deliver incremental value on top will drive the next chapter of our business transformation.
Vince Menzione: You’ve been on board almost a year now, and the business has evolved quickly, I believe, even since you joined the company. What would you say is different today from a customer perspective, than it was three years ago?
Eric Martorano: Great question, Vince. In this world, of digital transformation, we’re seeing customers adopting a greater openness for the cloud. They’re moving into the cloud, or those that have already had a toe in the water are demonstrating a willingness to fully migrate all their critical services to the cloud to take advantage of security and scalability that it offers.
We’re also seeing customers embracing more professional services such as cyber security training. In our recent survey of office workers, we saw that 70% said that they’re organizations regularly communicate with employees about cyber threats as a means of prevention. This growing threat landscape, in interest from businesses, in educating their employee base about these risks, present significant opportunities for the channel. MSPs can provide these comprehensive security training programs to SMBs that likely don’t have the internal resources to do themselves. This is a way they can deliver additional value in a much needed area.
Vince Menzione: Eric, assuming you and I are on an elevator ride and I ask you why I should go with Intermedia, or partner with your organization, what would you say to me?
Eric Martorano: Well, partners are looking for opportunities to drive profitability. They’re looking for increased ways to make money, differentiate, and truly add value to their customers. Intermedia is investing multiple millions of dollars into sales, marketing, support, and head count this year, so that we can better co-sell and co-market with our partner base. These efforts are predominantly in the area of sales enablement, building out our new field sales group and decreasing our rep-partner ratio.
Partners, we want to build you up, engage with you, and help you guide your success. We feel this is so mission critical to maximizing your profitability and growth in the cloud, that we support you across the entire customer life cycle.
Vince Menzione: So, Eric, where do you want to be in the next three to five years?
Eric Martorano: Intermedia is a partner first organization. We believe that the best way to serve the customer is through the channel partner. We build up the trusted advisor that knows each customer’s business intimately. This is how we’ll continue to deliver the hands-on level of service and support as we scale the business. Over time, we expect to see some of our customers organically switch over to working with our partners. We are currently doing 80% of our business in the channel and expect to see this number slide further upward over the next three to five years.
Vince Menzione: What is the ultimate outcome for you and the company?
Eric Martorano: Intermedia was acquired by current private equity sponsor, Madison Dearborn Partners in February 2017. This partnership really provides the resources to further accelerate our growth. MDP supports our broader long held vision of powering the business cloud with consolidating IT services and applications. We remain focused on growing the company and continuing to improve our offering for both partners and customers. There’s so many options on the table for exactly what the future will look like, but it’s a bright one, ripe with opportunity.
Vince Menzione: I want to shift focus here a little bit. You and I have both spent quite a bit of time in the channel. You came from the channel and you have quite a bit of experience building channels and teams. What do you believe makes, or what are the best characteristics, of a great partner?
Eric Martorano: The needs for a great partnership is somewhere to those with a colleague, a successful partner relationship is one where they’re engaged and bought into the opportunity that running a cloud-based business can provide. An open door of communication about both professional and personal motivators and concerns is also important. Every partner is unique and so is every partner relationship. Both sides of the relationship need to trust and be committed to what you’re building together. Today, as I was listening to Don Jager speak on teamwork. That is another critical aspect of what I think partnering should be about: his sixteen characteristics of teamwork. When you talk about a partnership, you really need to take a look at some of those characteristics and make sure you’re in this together and you’re teaming together and you’re fully bought in.
Vince Menzione: So much of what Don has to say about great teams, really applies to great partnerships as well.
Eric Martorano: Absolutely, I agree 100%.
Vince Menzione: I agree. There’s so much there: the shared vision, the adaptability, the common purpose. There’s just so many great nuggets from Don that apply to this partnership world.
Have you seen situations, you co-partner ecosystems at Intermedia, what do you look for and what challenges do you believe partners face today?
Eric Martorano: There’s a belief that if a partner gets into selling cloud applications that they will automatically have a successful business. This is common with partners selling Office 365, for example. They enter the cloud but aren’t profitable. And it’s because they are just, typically, reselling Office 365. They’ve just applied their business model that they’ve always ran off on top of a cloud service. They were a reseller before and now and they are a reseller of a cloud solution.
Partners really need to find ways of integrating value adds for the customer. That’s where Intermedia jumps in with our robust suite of cloud applications and, particularly, our private label model that enables solution providers to strengthen and differentiate their offering. It goes beyond just the resell model, but it becomes truly value add. As our friend Chris [inaudible 00:13:33] of Champion spoke, yesterday as well: it’s time for the solution provider to be the tip of that spear. They have to go out and own the customer. Intermedia, and the business model that we have set up with our partners allows them to do that.
Vince Menzione: I agree and I believe that it’s a great model for the partners, that you get to own, have the skin in the game and own the relationship of the customer and not just be a pass through for a technology giant.
Eric Martorano: Absolutely.
Vince Menzione: Going back to being in the channel for so long, you’ve seen situations where the partner just didn’t get it right, right, working with your organization, whether it be here, working at Intermedia, even in your days at Microsoft. What is something you wished you had said to them then, to get them on the right path to success? Was it an attitude, a business principle or focus? What would you tell them now if you could?
Eric Martorano: Another great question, Vince. These partners are usually those that let themselves become paralyzed by fear and are resistant due to uncertainty. They get hung up on thinking that digital transformation is going to cost them a significant amount of money. It’s really about education. I’d tell these partners and prospects to be an active participant and a proactive listener to learn about the opportunity that’s in front of them. Vendors need to be working with partners to really help them make this transition as well. Having a growth mindset and being willing to trust a little bit is critical to everyone’s success.
Vince Menzione: I see that so often, this whole idea of making the transformation and the commitment is just so hard for some of these organizations. There’s the financial aspects, they have to change their monetization models, they have to change their compensation models many times. That resistance, that being stuck in the mud and not moving forward, I get it.
Let’s talk about the common myths that partners might have about working with Intermedia. What do you see out there?
Eric Martorano: Yeah, that’s something that Mark [inaudible 00:15:35], our Vice President of Cloud Solutions, spoke a little about in our Keynote today.
Myth number one, I think channel partners new to working with us can find a prospect of where to start can be a little bit overwhelming. While we’d love for partners to jump right in and start selling all thirty of our cloud solutions, we understand that it can be more comfortable for partners to start having conversations with us in the areas that their business, where they’re already positioned. So, partners will often look at Intermedia as a data company or a voice company, one or the other. They’ll feel like it’s hard to break into the other bucket. It’s our opportunity and challenge to dispel this myth and communicate to them about everything that we do. In either scenario, Intermedia is super flexible in the ways that we can get a partner started selling with us. Every partner situation is unique. It’s our job, Intermedia’s job, to support our partners through their digital transformation so that they can expand the ways they work with us as they feel more comfortable.
Then I’d say, myth number two, another more general myth, is that partners can’t make money selling things like Office 365. Office 365 is a commodity product. I don’t think anybody will argue that. An overwhelming majority of the partners are selling it and 70% of those partners express feeling margin pressure doing so. That was a study done by MSP [inaudible 00:17:05] 501, in 2016. It’s not surprising, given that they simply cannot be successful purely reselling Office 365. Whether partners sell Office 365 through Intermedia or source it elsewhere, we help them add incremental profitability and value to that offering through an integrated suite of solutions such as backup, continuity, security, and cloud voice services that they can sell in their own name.
Vince Menzione: One place to go, one throat to choke?
Eric Martorano: Absolutely.
Vince Menzione: What’s one thing that isn’t taught that you believe is true to successfully partnering with Intermedia?
Eric Martorano: Partners, they must be able to really adapt to the changing needs of their customers and offer additional services that not only support their customers’ growth, but their own growth as well. So, digital transformation is evolving, is an evolving need that will require flexibility.
Vince Menzione: Any other advice you have for partners wishing to work with you or your organization?
Eric Martorano: I’d say, give us some time to show you how we can help you build a profitable, successful cloud business. I want to go deeper with our partners. These deeper relationships can’t be built with just one call every month. We want partners to be more invested with building a business with us. We’re attending about forty events this year, in total, like Exchange, where we’re at today because getting on the front lines is one of the many ways that we’ll achieve this face-time and an opportunity for us to continue to prove to our partners we are fully committed to being successful with the channel community.
Vince Menzione: Sounds like it and sounds like a great opportunity for partners.
As you might know, from listening to other episodes, I’m fascinated by how people got to this particular spot in life and want to focus on the personal-professional journey. You have a really interesting story. Could you take our listeners through it?
Eric Martorano: Sure. Interesting indeed. I think we all have our own interesting stories.
Vince Menzione: I’ve got to know you for many years, so I’ve got to hear some of these stories.
Eric Martorano: Yeah. I’ve been in technology for, gosh, twenty four years. Prior to that … A little bit about me, when I was 18 and I started college, I actually started my own company. I started a small business. I had these luxury buses that took senior citizens from Los Angeles to Vegas. It was a blast. I had so much fun. I started this thing, bootstrapped it and got it up to north of $7,000,000 in revenue in a couple of years, fifty employees.
Vince Menzione: Wow.
Eric Martorano: The best part of it though, I gotta tell you was driving up on the weekend and calling Bingo on the buses and serving donuts and coffee to the senior citizens.
But anyways, back when I was two and a half years into the company, almost three years, I don’t know if you recall, the Northridge Earthquake hit. Unfortunately, it crippled my business. It was an awakening for me. I was a young kid trying to break into this entrepreneurial world and there was a lot that I learned about how to manage a business. I learned a lot about cashflow.
Vince Menzione: Cash is king.
Eric Martorano: Cash, yeah. Unfortunately, I would say, although it was one of the darkest times that I had, I had to declare bankruptcy, and shut down the company, it was also something that made me who I am today. I remember as I closed everything down and from thinking I had it all to thinking I had nothing, I could’ve at that time just given up, but instead I fought through. I had $25 to my name, I remember right after everything was done, I remember picking up the yellow page and started dialing for jobs. I got to this company called Ambertech Systems International that was in Camarillo, California. I pitched why they should hire me. It was a local bar focused on Nobel networking, but also focused on selling printers and focused on selling everything else.
Vince Menzione: Yep.
Eric Martorano: I took a 100% commissioned job doing telesales. I put myself through college, put myself through grad school. That’s how I started my career. After that, I’ve been in technology ever since and it’s been twenty-four years.
Vince Menzione: So that’s how you got into technology.
Eric Martorano: That is, yeah.
Vince Menzione: That’s an amazing story. Basically picked up the Yellow Pages and you didn’t get past the As, right?
Eric Martorano: No.
Vince Menzione: Yeah, Amber Technology.
Eric Martorano: I was going to school. I thought I was going to be a lawyer, and then when I was going through this bachelors degree and working with technology, I found a love for technology and a love for business. I totally switched my degree and my focus.
Vince Menzione: What’s the most fun aspect of the job for you?
Eric Martorano: I think what I enjoy the most is the relationships. I like working with people, working with the channel. There is nothing more fun than being out there and co-selling with partners and building marketing plans and strategies. Just going at it with the community. It’s a blast. I enjoy it so much.
Vince Menzione: That’s great. I would call you a classic connector, because I’m a connector as well. I think we both love that aspect.
What was the best piece of advice that someone gave you when you took this role or when you just got started?
Eric Martorano: As I think about it now, it was just be patient. You’re there for a reason, they hired you for a reason, be patient, but also be true to yourself. Be true to Intermedia and their channel organization. Don’t change who you are. They hired you for a reason, for who you are. Bring that. You’ve been successful in your career. Just continue to do what you do.
Vince Menzione: Yeah. Your background screams channel and it screams SMB channel in a big way too because you came from that space. We didn’t talk about all the companies, but I happen to know that you spent a lot of time in that disty world, driving the disty business at Microsoft. So yeah, it screams that.
Why do you think you’re good at what you do?
Eric Martorano: Why do I think I’m good at what I do? Wow.
I can always be better, I’ll tell you that. I look at the legacy you leave behind. You can always point to getting your revenue numbers, achieving everything, all your goals you have set out for the year, and looking at your score card. Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate to be successful in those areas throughout my entire career. I don’t think I’ve missed a number throughout my twenty-four years of being in this industry. But I think one of the key areas that I look at is the legacy that you leave behind. When you move on, does the business continue to succeed with the people that you’ve left it to. For example, take a look at when I left Microsoft and handed over a lot of my responsibilities to those that worked in my organization. To see them continuously flourish and be successful is truly rewarding and it’s a testament to saying what success is.
Vince Menzione: Yes. It’s the great hires that you make, the people that you bring along on the journey, and you cultivate. You help build them up in their career as well.
What advice would you give to someone you were mentoring or someone who wished to work in your organization?
Eric Martorano: As my good friend, Don Jager, says know your why. It’s what lights your fire and motivates you from within. You need to know what drives you personally on your own journey to greatness. Without the why, even the most driven people can truly get lost along the way.
Vince Menzione: What pursuits or obsessions do you explore when you’re not working?
Eric Martorano: Spending time with family is probably the most important, is absolutely, I should say, the most important thing to me. I’m unbelievably involved in the lives of my three boys, possibly to their chagrin. I love coaching sports with my two youngest. Sports allow me to teach a lot of life lessons and really spill over into all aspects of your personal and professional life. Not only do you get to do that with your own boys, but you get to do that with other youth as well.
Vince Menzione: Who is one of your role models, either directly or indirectly, and what advice or attributes did you learn from them?
Eric Martorano: That is an easy one. I would absolutely say my dad instilled the importance of values in me at an early age, showing me how to apply that to every area of life. He was a strong leader. He taught me to raise my family with integrity, honesty, and to truly instill values and lessons that would benefit my kids later in life.
In business, he was a self-starter. He never gave up regardless of the obstacles he caught. He really taught me to be thoughtful in every approach, to take calculated risks, understanding the potential outcomes. These are lessons that are easily transferred to business. In the heart and the core, we are truly one family.
Vince Menzione: Do you have a quote you live your life by or you think of often?
Eric Martorano: My dad used to say to me, “There’s no such thing as luck. Success is a result of when preparation meets opportunity.”
Vince Menzione: “Success is a result of when preparation meets opportunity.” I like that. We’re gonna make sure we put that in our show notes. What advice would you give to your thirty-year-old self?
Eric Martorano: Remember that it’s okay to fall. It’s absolutely okay to fall. It’s about how you get up that truly matters. Without falling, you never really learn from the mistakes, so that we can truly grow into our full potential. The key though, is to learn from it. So, it’s okay to fall, as long as you learn from it and grow from it. Fall forward.
Vince Menzione: I like that. “It’s okay to fall.”
If you had a personal billboard, and this is a metaphor, actually, say if you had a personal billboard, is it the 405 in Seattle? What’s your road? What’s your main road?
Eric Martorano: I travel on the 90.
Vince Menzione: The 90? Okay, so this personal billboard is on the 90. What would it say on it?
Eric Martorano: Make a difference on your journey of greatness.
Vince Menzione: That reminds me of another quote by John Wooden, “Make each day your masterpiece.” But I like making a difference. I like that, it’s awesome.
Is there one book that you’ve read or gifted often that you’d recommend to our listeners and why?
Eric Martorano: This is an easy one. It’s a book by somebody we’ve been talking about a lot today. It’s my dear friend Don Jager. Great Teams. For years, I’ve been truly fascinated by the habits of sustainably successful teams. Don Jager’s insight, truly, in studying those teams, provides us all with a strong foundation for our own teams’ success. As leaders, we have an opportunity to learn from the best and take lessons from great teams to heart. That’s what others who win are doing.
Vince Menzione: That’s great advice. And that’s a great book. Don has distilled this wisdom right from personal greatness to team greatness and what makes a great teammate, with his latest book Teammate. Some great nuggets of advice.
Eric, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. So great to spend some time with you here at the event and to have you on the podcast and for our listeners to hear your story, both your business story at Intermedia. The great work you do with building a partner ecosystem. And you personal and professional journey. Thank you so much.
Eric Martorano: Thank you and thank you so much for all you do for the channel community, for our vendors. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate you stepping out on this journey to greatness yourself.
Vince Menzione: I’m very excited by, and as you know my biggest passions are disruptive technology and partnerships, so this is so great to be here with a kindred soul in the same venue. So thank you so much, Eric.
Eric Martorano: Appreciate it.