Fort Worth IT firm continues growth

Betty Dillard Last year shaped up to be a banner year for entrepreneurs Ben Tiblets and Kevin Valadez, co-founders and co-presidents of Consuro Managed Technology, a Fort Worth-based information technologies managed service provider. Consuro offers Windows-based IT services, including desktop management, server and network management, offsite management, data center solutions, consulting and project management, preventive care and asset procurement. The company delivers advanced technological capabilities and 24/7 technical support to businesses of all sizes.

Since its founding in 2008, Consuro has been a Dell Inc.-only hardware partner. Its sister company, Enterhost, a Windows Web hosting company and data center, has been a Dell-only company since its inception 14 years ago. Those years of investment and partnership paid off in December when Consuro snagged the Dell Social Media Partner of the Year Award for Dell’s fiscal year 2014. The award, given by Dell for the first time, honors a Dell partner for leveraging social media for its own business initiatives while also collaborating and engaging with Dell to promote Dell solutions. Consuro was singled out based on its use of Dell PartnerDirect in social media, including an innovative approach to and uptake of campaigns, and completion of Dell social media training. Frank Vitagliano, Dell’s vice president of channel sales, said Consuro understands the power of social media to promote its brand and Dell’s.

“We’ve worked strategically to grow our brand awareness, and we recognized early on that social media is an important channel for these efforts,” Tiblets said. “This award recognized the hard work of our team as well as our commitment to our partnership with Dell.” The Dell award was the icing on the cake for a year of growth and achievements, both of which continue into 2014. In September, Consuro was invited to present at the annual Dell Solutions Summit in Phoenix. For fun, the company brought a swag bag that included a custom T-shirt listing all the top Dell hardware products it sells and implements. Dell’s CEO and founder Michael Dell saw the shirt, ordered one and then sent a snapshot of himself wearing what he dubbed #thegreatestshirtever.

His photo went viral on Dell’s internal social media platform to more than 130,000 Dell employees worldwide, leading to hundreds of shirt orders to Consuro’s team. The upshot? Not only are Dell employees around the globe sporting the shirt but the effort got Consuro’s leadership team an in-person strategy meeting with Dell himself. “It was pretty cool,” Valadez said. Two friends, two companies Valadez and Tiblets have been friends for more than 20 years. They met at Angelo State University, where both majored in international business. It was 1999 and the boom was in full swing. The two friends decided to jump into the Internet frenzy although they lacked a computer education. “We both had aspirations of being entrepreneurs,” Tiblets said. “We heard all these stories about people becoming millionaires and our ears perked up. We didn’t know how it would all work but we had that desire in common to achieve our goal. We decided to take a shot. Our companies have been growing ever since.” The partners took Microsoft certification classes and started slowly and steadily, initially designing websites and building networks until they launched Enterhost in 2000.

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“Our passion is technology,” Valadez said. “We both have international business degrees, not IT degrees, but we’re interested in and passionate about technology. It just felt like an exciting time to try something.” Operating on a limited budget – and doing all the work themselves – they bought two off-the-shelf computers with credit cards, installed a DSL line in an office in Fort Worth and one in Valadez’s home in San Antonio, where he was working full time. Valadez eventually relocated to Fort Worth and he and Tiblets moved their rapidly expanding business into its current location, a 20,000-square-foot data center in the basement of Burnett Plaza in downtown Fort Worth. Today, Enterhost employs 30 people in offices in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and San Angelo. The San Antonio office also serves the greater Austin area. In 2008, with Enterhost serving more of a national market, Tiblets and Valadez decided to start Consuro to serve the local market. They landed their first customer in spring 2009 and hired their first sales person a few months later. “We’ve just been growing from there,” Valadez said. In November, Consuro attained a new level of Microsoft certification, securing gold competencies in hosting, communications, management and virtualization, and devices and deployment; and silver competencies in server platform and midmarket solution provider.

“This quantity and quality of Microsoft competencies signifies our growth the past year,” Tiblets said. “The fact we’ve earned more gold competencies than ever before should symbolize to our customers our commitment to excellence. We challenge our team to be the best in our industry and it shows. Customer service, professionalism, education – certifications to prove we have the experience – these are all things we think make us stand out from our competitors. “That and having a data center. Ninety-five percent of our competitors don’t have a data center like this,” he said. In the last six to eight months, Tiblets and Valadez have conducted a reboot of the services Enterhost offers. In February, Enterhost became one of a handful of companies worldwide to launch a new product, cloud-based Microsoft Lync 2013 Enterprise Voice. The newest Lync platform is offered through Enterhost via a monthly per-user subscription. Tiblets and Valadez said many businesses are interested in the possibilities of cloud-based unified communications Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone and collaboration systems, but are wary of connection, availability, security and cost. Their companies, they say, are evolving alongside the ever-evolving workplace and the technology that supports it.

“Consuro’s been an interesting experience. We’ve learned so much,” Tiblets said. “We’re taking the lessons we’ve learned providing full IT management for small to medium businesses on the Consuro side and changing the way we sell. We’ve added some new products and tweaked other products and have a new way to market to small to medium businesses that need IT. We’ve always felt we have something a little different. This now appeals to a wider audience.” Valadez agreed, adding that their focus is on building new solutions through both companies and on growing both Consuro and Enterhost in their current markets. “We feel like because we have the two companies we’re uniquely positioned to be able to do something the larger cloud hosting companies can’t do. We have specialization with Microsoft. Nobody is doing that,” Valadez said. “It’s a powerful combination.”