Sky’s the Limit

“Do something you enjoy, and learn how to be productive in the world. That’s the most important thing.”

Bradley Brodkin started his IT solutions business, HighVail Systems, from his home, converting a challenging situation into a multimillion-dollar company

In 2003, just four months after Bradley Brodkin started, the company he worked for announced it was closing the division he was tasked with rebuilding. As part of the severance, the company made Brodkin an offer: he could continue operating the business as long as he didn’t associate it with the company. Most people would see a mess, but Brodkin saw an opportunity. “I was the only one who understood the business and could see the potential underneath the bloated overhead,” he says. “They were offering to take care of all severance, and I could start fresh.”

Just six weeks later, he closed the original business and launched HighVail, an IT solutions business, with his business partner, Glen MacDonald, a former consultant for the company. “We had customers, and I had 17 years of experience on the resell side, where all the suppliers knew me, so they gave us a chance,” he says.

With just an old PC, a fax machine, a printer, and an Internet connection, the duo recorded revenues of more than $2 million in the first eight months. From there, HighVail has grown steadily to provide integrated IT solutions to dozens of clients—large and small—that involve data storage, online business support, and customized technology solutions.

But Brodkin’s business training didn’t start in the tech world; rather, it began at his family’s clothing store, just north of Montréal. Under his father’s mentorship, Brodkin learned the ropes of running a business. “I was very impressed with my father’s ability to see beyond the norm,” Brodkin says. Early on, he helped the store reach a niche audience as mom-and-pop stores were taking a hit from big-box competitors. “My father saw that I had a knack for the business and started giving me more responsibility,” Brodkin says. And that early sales training defined his ability to see opportunity that continued to serve him well when he landed a job in the tech field.

10

Number of times over HighVail’s revenue has increased since 2003

10

Technical staff, having grown from just a single person

10

Sales staff added since beginning

40+

Clients currently served

“I really got into the industry by fluke,” says Brodkin, who got his feet wet with a job at Computerland almost 30 years ago. “I learned everything I know about the IT business on the job. Technology is something that, if you’re interested in it, you’re going to understand it and be more successful than someone who just sells. I’m not a programmer person, but I am a hands-on person.”

Brodkin recognized that the IT world was evolving due to new technologies. “I saw the transition from the mainframe era to client-server computing and the emergence of Windows on the desktop,” he says. “I also saw the growth of larger, centralized servers hosting multiple systems through virtualization.” The move back to a centralized model helped him focus the next stage of HighVail on the cloud and all the opportunities that it presents. “My dad taught me to look beyond what you can see now to what you can really accomplish by always looking ahead.”

The Toronto-based company is already planning its next move to expand through partnerships. “We’re going to continue to be a provider of technology and IT services,” Brodkin says, “but we’re also going to expand our managed programs to deliver more value to end users and partner with companies to provide enhanced support.” HighVail also plans to grow in the application modernization space through partnerships. This will help customers transform their applications to run more efficiently and at lower risk while leveraging cloud computing.

Ultimately, HighVail’s goal with each customer is to provide “Advice that empowers. Technology that enables.” “I think that the cornerstone of our success is our relentless focus on the customer,” Brodkin says. “It’s been a key from the beginning.”