Diversifying during the pandemic resulted in growth and success for A.D. Solutions.
Husband-and-wife team Natalia Lizarazo and Moody Hamdan were moments away from making the biggest financial decision any young couple makes. They were “ninety-eight percent there” in the process of buying a home when they realized they had two options. Purchase the house or take the money and found their own company, A.D. Solutions. Natalia had been working in the corporate world, and Moody had experience in the copier industry. With their prior business experience, they saw an opportunity.
That was in 2009. Today, what was once a four-employee business in an 800 square-foot office is now almost a forty-person operation in 12,000 square feet with customers across the United States and abroad and multiple acquisitions on the horizon.
Above: A.D. Solutions co-owners Natalia Lizarazo and Moody Hamdan.
“We started at a crazy time,” said Natalia. “It was the recession, and so many competitors were closing out. We just came in and did things a little different. Offices were still trying to run their business. I knew a home could come and go at any time, but this was going to be forever, our roots.”
“Now we have clients in Europe, we have clients in India, we have clients in Sweden,” added Moody. “From a market grab standpoint, we started in Orlando, we moved up to Jacksonville a few years ago, and we did an acquisition last year in Melbourne. We plan on doing two more acquisitions this year to expand down to Tampa and another market.”
Natalia and Moody credit their rise to the white-glove service and client friendly programs A.D. Solutions provides like a fixed rate for the first three years with no charges for overages. This customer service advantage is strengthened by their collaborative relationship with Sharp, their manufacturer partner.
“Sharp is very strategic in our partnership,” said Moody. “They value their dealers more than what we’ve experienced with others in the past. It’s easy to support a dealership when things are good, but you know you have a solid partnership when they stick with you and are consistently supportive even through the challenging times.”
The pandemic is about as challenging a time as could be imagined, but with Sharp’s support and an eye toward new growth opportunities, A.D. Solutions emerged from the past year stronger than ever.
Above: A.D. Solutions’ Orlando showroom with the Sharp products prominently displayed.
“2020 was actually our biggest year,” said Moody. “With the pandemic, we’ve had to diversify our product portfolio. We opened up a product brand called Onyx by partnering with a company overseas that manufactures PCs, temperature scanners, tracking cameras and conference room cameras, and that helped us increase revenue. We provide the warranty and the support. The biggest success of the last twelve months has been the addition of the Onyx brand. They’re part of our long-term play.”
A.D. Solutions believes many of the new technologies businesses incorporated into their work processes because of the pandemic are here to stay.
“Take doctors now with tele-med, they’ve discovered that now they’re able to reach more patients, which makes more money using technology,” said Natalia. “It depends on the industry, and we’ll be ready for it either way. That’s what has set us apart, recognizing what industry needs what at the time. When Polaris (Sharp’s light-production machine) came around, just a few dealers sold it to specific businesses, and I think our success was we realized it was not just the marketing companies or the architectural companies that could benefit from a machine like that.”
About 12 months ago, A.D. Solutions branched out into managed network services. This segment of the business is still taking shape. Part of the plan to grow this segment of the business includes acquisitions.
“We feel that there’s a lot of revenue left that we’re not touching, and that’s one of the reasons why we launched it in the last year,” stated Moody. “Acquiring the IT company would allow us to offer those programs to our existing clients a lot faster, by fast-tracking our way through the certification process. There are basic certifications that we have, and then there’s advanced engineering that takes months and years to accomplish.”
PPE products and temperature scanners also played a part in A.D. Solutions’ 2020 growth.
“A lot of clients are now putting them into their new facilities,” added Moody. “It’s a standard thing to say, ‘hey, it’s safe here.’ You have a temperature scanner that won’t open the door unless [the person has] a certain temperature.”
Above: The lobby of A.D. Solutions’ Orlando headquarters.
Natalia and Moody are comfortable making the investment to diversify their product offerings with PPE and assistive technology especially because many companies in the U.S. have received money from the government to make these purchases for their business. A.D. Solutions sees its foray into PPE and related products as a prime example of how new technologies are becoming the norm at workplaces.
“First it was by necessity and then, ‘this is easier than I thought,’” said Natalia about customers’ reactions to the new product offerings. “People who were hesitant to get into whatever the option was before, now they’re more comfortable. Practice makes perfect.”
“When we came into the industry that was such a huge time for technology changing,” said Natalia. “The first iPhone had just come out. You think about the changes, from AOL with ‘You’ve Got Mail!’ to just email on your phone. We went in at a time when technology needed to catch on with the needs of the new generations coming in, so we were able to combine Moody’s knowledge on not just the copiers themselves, but the IT. All of that just became one huge compliment to each other.”
Sharp’s Aquos Boards exemplify the way companies quickly embrace new technologies today. A product that didn’t exist a few years ago is now being rapidly adopted by A.D. Solutions’ clients and well on its way to becoming indispensable.
“Aquos Boards over the last three years have been very successful,” said Moody. “It’s something that we discuss every time we talk to a customer.”
He added that the Aquos Boards are as important as MFPs, particularly in medical offices and financial firms. Initially, Aquos Boards were specific to construction companies and architectural firms, but now it’s almost like a big iPad, according to Moody.
“We sell it in a sense of, ‘hey, you don’t need a conference room board, you’re just connecting wirelessly to a touchscreen,’” he said.
The pandemic incentivized even the more old-school holdouts to increase their comfort with technology, and once clients reach that point, they don’t turn back. A.D. Solutions has seen a change even in its most traditional-minded clients, such as school districts.
“It’s just a turning point with that. Before, whenever we brought in a new copy machine that had a nice color LCD screen, it would take them weeks and months to get used to it,” laughed Moody. “Now they’re experts. On Aquos boards, they just jump right into it. It’s great.”
Clients who were apprehensive about adopting a new software solution now find that remote work, with its many obstacles and productivity sinks due to communication delays, is a big motivator to try new things. Sharp’s Synappx application contributes to that smart-home approach to the office, allowing for remote management of tasks like printing and scanning documents or running meetings.
“Getting customers to move to that is less challenging than it was a year ago,” acknowledged Moody. “We see people wanting to explore that type of option given that people are doing more remote work and need to reduce the amount of time they take to set up a meeting.”
“It’s kind of a meet-you-halfway thing,” explained Natalia. “The user has definitely become more versatile and more ready to use the technologies and do more. Also, technology has made things easier for even the home user. Those of us who had to work from home, we were able to do it in an easy way.”
It’s quite a feat to come out of one of the most challenging years in recent history, in a position of strength and poised to grow even further, but A.D. Solutions credits its people.
“Our staff was so incredible,” emphasized Natalia. “Our focus was not just on ourselves, being able to continue our business, but we were responsible for almost 40 employees and their families.”
Some employees have been with the dealership for nearly 10 years, and the goal was to ensure that everyone would still be together after the pandemic was over.
“That drove us tremendously,” said Natalia.
That employee-oriented culture is what allies A.D. Solutions with Sharp.
“One of the things that we value are the people,” said Moody about his primary technology supplier. “They are relatable and realistic. From field services support to President Mike Marusic, Sharp continues to be instrumental to our growth and integral to our success. Our RSM, Mitch Cooper is resolute in his advocacy and support. Mitch is one of our fiercest supporters and is always available to discuss and strategize on growth and planning initiatives. I can’t say enough about how much Mitch means to us. Many manufacturers in the industry don’t know what it takes for dealers to succeed. Sharp does.”
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