Are you ready to swim the IT channel? Rafi Razzak, founder and chairman of IT and system integration company Centerprise, has been doing just that for over 30 years. Born in 1949, he started his company with £100,000 back in July 1983, the same year that CD players were introduced to the world and TCP/IP rose to prominence on ARPANET, the military-focused precursor to the internet.

The Basingstoke-based firm is the longest running supplier to the Ministry of Defense, a relationship Razzak has cultivated since 1992. It also counts enterprise giants HP, Dell, Fujitsu, Microsoft and Intel among its partners.

A strong proponent of the channel, Razzak spent five years with IBM and went onto the Professional Association of Clinical Coders (PACC) International to serve as vice president for four years. He recently won a gong for 'personality of the year' at CRN's Channel Awards 2013.

Driving success

TechRadar Pro: What has been driving Centerprise's success all these years?

Raffi Razak: Good leadership of course! (Just joking.) Centerprise has stuck to its vision of providing uncompromised customer service. This approach means we have had, and continue to have healthy customer relationships spanning 20 years plus.

However to achieve this we need loyal, hardworking and committed staff, many of whom have been with us for many years. So, in a nutshell, it's the people and the hard work they put in day in, day out.

Personality check

TRP: Why do you think you won personality of the year?

RR: 2013 was the 30th anniversary of Centerprise being in business. Through these times there have been great highs and bad lows but at Centerprise we are survivors. It's an achievement to be very proud of and I think that this must have played a major part in me winning this award.

I am delighted that it has been recognised by my peers. I have always supported the industry wherever possible including helping found the PCA and supporting the various companies that the Ci Group has invested in.

Past experience

TRP: How did your years at IBM and PACC help you get where you are today?

RR: At IBM I learnt the discipline of managing process and escalation procedures as well as spending months on courses while training as an engineer. At PACC I learnt business development.

However to achieve this we need loyal, hardworking and committed staff, many of whom have been with us for many years. So, in a nutshell, it's the people and the hard work they put in day in, day out.

Changing channel

TRP: What advice can you give to channel sellers in today's climate?

RR: If you have survived through the last few years, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the economic climate is slowly getting better - but you must embrace change.

TRP: How can IT resellers achieve longevity in this day and age?

RR: Sticking to the principles of keeping your customers happy and embracing change should serve you well. At Centerprise we have been through several periods of major change with success.

TRP: Are businesses more or less inclined to sell through the channel than they were 10 years ago?

RR: I think the balance is very similar and that the channel has a positive future.

Looking ahead

TRP: What technology trends are driving sales in the channel right now?

RR: The cloud is an important trend that is changing the shape of hardware and software delivery.