Henry Fleches and Gerard Amaro were football teammates at Dade Christian High School in Miami Lakes, Florida. Two years older than Fleches, the two friends stayed in touch after Amaro moved on to college, but injuries drove him to leave college football behind and ring up his old friend. “I don’t remember, but he says I told him back then that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start a business,” Fleches says. Both of them worked in sales at the time, but it was after Fleches attended Miami Dade College to study IT that they decided to start developing their dream. “We trusted each other, we both had the work ethic, and we felt we could pull it off,” Fleches says.
In 1995, they formed United Data Technologies (UDT), offering computer sales and local area network (LAN) support. Today, UDT is a $70 million-revenue company, and Hewlett-Packard’s fourth-largest independent US partner. With LANs a thing of the past, UDT provides services such as instructional-grade architecture, cloud transformation, data-center virtualization, collaboration, next-generation information architecture, securing borderless networks, and social-media analytics.
The lessons they learned early on were invaluable. At first, Fleches says, “Business was good, but hard to grow because clients trusted us; they didn’t want a staff person they didn’t know, they wanted us.” So, they expanded into something more scalable: product sales, and began marketing components, such as printers and networking equipment to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
By 1998, however, they started to realize the high volatility in Latin American and Caribbean currencies. “We weren’t big enough to weather that storm, so we leaned toward making our business more domestic,” Fleches says. They began querying customers to determine their next move. “We learned that the public sector was thirsty for service,” he says. “They wanted a high-touch customer-care model and we saw that as an area where we could drive value.”
It turned out to be a solid strategy for the company. At that time, their competitors were moving away from the public sector and going after the commercial market, leaving a void in that space. Then in 2009, UDT, which by then had three locations in Florida and 110 employees, found that budgets in the public sector were shrinking, leaving UDT with a secure, solid practice, but not a lot of growth opportunity. Keeping their public-sector business firmly in tact, they turned to the commercial sector as their competitors were shifting their attention back to the public sector because of the security it offered, again leaving a gap and—an opportunity—in the commercial market. Today, 35 percent of UDT’s business comes from the commercial market, compared with 7 percent in 2009. Some of UDT’s largest clients include Miami Dade County Public Schools, Hillsborough County Public Schools, the State of Florida, and the Florida Marlins.
As the company moves forward, its owners increasingly look toward health care and larger enterprise accounts, including financial services and service providers, for growth opportunities. In addition to services, UDT provides thought leadership, consulting with clients on whether they should move to the cloud or hire a “data scientist,” and train him or her in understanding how to maximize value from social-media analytics.
Much of their insight comes from conversations with their partners. “We sit on an advisory council for tech firms such as HP, Cisco, Intel, and Promethean,” Fleches says. “We hear about the technology of the future and can bring that knowledge and information back to our clients.” Conversely, “we’re an advocate for our customers with our manufacturing partners, as well. If something isn’t working as well as it could, or if customers need something that isn’t available, we tell them, ‘You’ve got this great device, but nobody’s using it for these reasons. If you did this, you would increase sales.’”
In September 2011, Fleches was asked to serve as the Hispanic Business Enterprise chairperson for the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (USHCC) 32nd Annual National Convention and Business Expo. “I was honored to participate and be an advocate on behalf of 3 million Hispanic-owned enterprises,” Fleches says. “The USHCC does a great job of representing Hispanic businesses.” As the Hispanic population continues to increase as a percentage of the population, it will become even more important for Hispanic leaders to participate in organizations such as the USHCC, Fleches says. Future growth plans for UDT include continued expansion into the health-care and enterprise sectors, as well as joint ventures and possible acquisition opportunities.
Get to know all of Hispanic Executive‘s “Best Of 2012” Recipients here.