Transforming your IT infrastructure forms the backbone of the digital transformation. When it’s done right, an eﬀective digital transformation initiative can help organizations modernize legacy processes, organize workﬂows for maximum efficiency and strengthen information security. In short, transformation is about future-proofing your business.
R2i is an IT consulting firm and equipment supplier, and it’s also one of the 5 Best IBM Solution Providers to Watch in 2022, according to The Enterprise World.
We interviewed Benoit Martel, President of R2i, to gain insights about the company’s impressive rise and solutions for the future.
1. Tell us about the company.
R2i specializes in cloud computing (private, public and hybrid), 24/7 managed services, data centre solutions and artiﬁcial intelligence. We’re headquartered in Montreal and have oﬃces in Ottawa and Toronto.
One thing that sets us apart is that we’ve got the most cloud certiﬁcations in Canada: ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, SOC 2 TYPE 2, Ecovadis and TIER III. Our continuous improvement process will make sure your cloud environments always meet the latest security, compliance and maintenance standards.
R2i’s four Canadian-based ISO-certiﬁed data centres offer cloud infrastructure for IBM Power, x86, shared storage and SAP Hana oﬀerings.
2. What were the initial challenges you faced?
As a relatively new player, R2i has come up against a number of challenges, but fortunately we’ve always found ways to overcome them. Some of these issues include:
Convincing large companies to do business with a start-up
Reassuring clients that their sensitive data can be safely stored on our cloud computing solutions
Recruiting qualiﬁed workers with in-demand skills, despite the ongoing labour shortage
Building awareness and trust in a small market and gaining the largest market share of IBM Power systems in the country
Financing our substantial start-up costs
3. Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?
One major factor was achieving IBM Platinum Partner level. In fact, we were the ﬁrst partner in Quebec to earn this top-tier status.
In our first five years of business, R2i successfully ranked among the top three IBM resellers in Quebec and the top ﬁve in Canada. Even though our initial team was made up of just six people, we surpassed established companies with more than 20 years in the field and upwards of 100 employees. We’ve also seen our sales increase dramatically, climbing more than 225% in the last three years, from $11 million in 2018 to $25 million in 2021.
4. How have the company graphs changed since the foundation? Can you share a few statistics?
First year: Our first step was to put together what I consider the best team in Quebec (6 people).
Second and third years: We set up a 24/7 monitoring center, made major investments in internal systems and increased our workforce from 6 to 11 employees.
Fourth year: We made further investments in growing our team and brought the number up to 23 full-timers.
Fifth year: We opened a second location in Montreal and an oﬃce in Ottawa to serve the government sector. At the same time, we hired an HR specialist and another 8 employees.
Sixth year: Despite all the upheaval due to the pandemic, we opened an oﬃce in Toronto and added more people to our Ottawa team to support business growth in the National Capital Region.
Seventh year: Our team has grown to 45 talented people and there are more hires on the horizon.
5. What is driving your company’s success?
R2i has been successful because we have an in-depth understanding of the market and the competition, and also because we’re committed to offering unparalleled customer service. As a company, we made a strategic decision to specialize in the traditional market of large IBM Power Systems enterprise servers for IBM I and AIX, which is something that few of our competitors do. This has allowed us to pick up a good number of customers who weren’t able to get satisfactory service for their needs. The rest has been through word-of-mouth; when you get positive referrals, your client base grows quickly.
6. What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services diﬀerent from those in the market?
R2i is the IT partner of choice for businesses that want to succeed in a digital world. Our clients can count on us to help them make the most of their IT assets hosted on prem, in the cloud or in a hybrid arrangement.
Our goal? We aim to maximize our clients’ productivity by getting them set up with cutting-edge technologies and highly secure cloud computing solutions, and also offering them reliable support services.
Our team is known for their expertise in data centres, cloud infrastructure, managed services and digital transformation.
7. How do you help companies increase business scalability and sustainability?
At R2i, we specialize in high-performance, scalable servers and storage, open environments, software solutions, networks, data centres and ancillary equipment. Our highly skilled team builds architecture so that it can grow to support all IT objectives. We offer clients custom and turnkey infrastructure solutions to help them get the most from their IT services. This means equipping clients with a robust environment that meets their current challenges and future ambitions. R2i also oﬀers a highly ﬂexible cloud that allows businesses to scale on demand and stay agile in a competitive world.
8. How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
Our 24/7 Canadian monitoring center is deﬁnitely a diﬀerentiator from our competitors. We’re proud to oﬀer a bilingual monitoring centre (levels 1 to 3) that gives our customers access to round-the-clock support in English or French, from technicians located in Canada. Our team will make sure your infrastructure is secure and delivers optimal performance at all times.
R2i is also careful about who we partner with. We look for innovative products and comprehensive solutions. But the trust goes both ways. With 250+ certiﬁcations (including 100 IBM certiﬁcations), we’ve earned the conﬁdence of our partners, who know we can successfully deploy their IT solutions.
Adding ISO certiﬁcations a few years ago was a game-changer for R2i, since it boosted our credibility and industry recognition. Today, some of Canada’s largest companies rely on the R2i Cloud to host and manage their critical business applications.
9. Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
I’m passionate about IT and business strategy, and have been working in the field for 25 years. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of aligning IT infrastructure and solutions with business requirements for a wide range of customers, including large multinational companies and smaller businesses. In many ways, I owe my success to my ability to communicate with ease with both technical staﬀ and executives.
Since I have a strong technical background, I can contribute to all project phases, from solution design to architecture, project management, delivery and, more importantly, ongoing support.
Strong customer relationships are important to me and I’m proud of the long-term partnerships I’ve established with many of my clients. I’ve also had the honour of working with companies in all kinds of industries, including retail, banking and insurance, and distribution.
Founding R2i gave me the chance to combine my passion for technology with my passion for business. But, of course, the company is so much more than just me. We’ve got a highly experienced team that shares my drive for excellence and commitment to providing outstanding customer service.
10. What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?
My greatest achievements? Building one of the most reputable IBM Business Partner brands in Canada and becoming the ﬁrst IBM Platinum business partner in Quebec within 2 years of founding the company.
I’m also extremely proud that R2i has earned numerous ISO certiﬁcations for our Cloud Power oﬀering and that we’re able to host some of the largest enterprises in Canada.