How Cofounders Drew Lydecker and Ian Kieninger are revolutionizing tech and the value of the trusted advisor model at AVANT
By Will Grant
Photos by Sheila Barabad Sarmiento
Videos by Cass Davis
Design by Anastasia Andronachi
It’s the biggest industry you’ve never heard of. “If you don’t know what a trusted advisor is, it’s time for you to learn,” says Ian Kieninger, cofounder of AVANT.
Technology is changing faster than ever, fueling an increasing list of options for companies to choose from. With this rise of new and lesser-known technology brands, companies are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding which options are best for their future technology needs.
This is where trusted advisors help you navigate the confusion.
Trusted advisors are brand-agnostic partners who go above and beyond being just a vendor. Their role is to find, source, and help implement the best solution for their clients—not the best solution that one company has to offer.
A key enabler of these trusted advisors and the movement is AVANT, the go-to platform that supports these efforts in solving the technology business needs of its customers. Trusted advisors receive access to intensive analytics, research, and engineering teams that deliver unbiased information and recommendations about cutting-edge IT solutions.
AVANT also helps vendors find success by sharing a deeper understanding of products and the right ecosystem for those products to thrive.
“We are the ones empowering the trusted advisors to help their clients make better decisions for their future,” says Drew Lydecker, cofounder and president of AVANT. “We’re the ones helping our vendors position how their products are sold to market. We’re the engine.”
Like Lydecker, Kieninger knows a thing or two about closing a deal. He recalls recruiting Lydecker away from AT&T to CDW, where they would ultimately get the idea for AVANT, as “the best sale I ever made.”
The pair initially met at AT&T while battling for sales supremacy, which led to building their friendship. Kieninger was primed to take a new role outside the company. He’d given notice, but the offer letter for his new role was sent to the wrong location three times.
This lapse gave AT&T enough time to realize what it was potentially losing. By the time the offer letter showed up, Kieninger was willing to stay with a new promotion and extended responsibility.
Staying with AT&T led to Kieninger taking on CDW, one of his biggest accounts. This led to CDW bringing over Kieninger, who in turn brought Lydecker with him. The pair built one of the largest trusted advisor practices and helped make CDW one of the biggest trusted advisors of all time—within just a few years.
But they saw a bigger opportunity as technology began transitioning to the cloud and companies like CDW didn’t have great partners or resources to aid this transition. Kieninger and Lydecker knew they could better serve their clients by connecting them with a wider range of technology options.
And thus AVANT was born—with a little entrepreneurial luck.
“I’m not sure any of this would have happened if they hadn’t screwed up sending that letter,” Kieninger says.
“Where would I be?” Lydecker injects, laughing. “Can you imagine the anxiety I have right now knowing my future depended on a letter getting lost?”
For his cover shoot, Drew Lydecker visited our Chicago office, which shares space with a boutique gym. Lydecker—a boxing enthusiast—took a break to demonstrate his skills to our photo team.
Creating Its Own Space
In 2009, Kieninger and Lydecker took the entrepreneurial leap and cofounded AVANT along with Executive Vice President of Global Sales Jennifer Gallego and Executive Vice President of Strategic Partners Erin Christianson.
And in the past fourteen years AVANT found great success in disrupting the technology marketplace and enabling the trusted advisor movement. One in five Fortune 5000 companies have already partnered through AVANT’s trusted advisors to evolve their IT technology.
Case in point: AVANT’s partnership with Zoom. “We had been lobbying Zoom for such a long time because we saw the value,” Kieninger says.
It was a massive announcement, but it’s the timing of the deal that underlines AVANT’s status as always ahead of the game. The press release announcing the partnership was issued on March 9, 2020—the same week a majority of the American workforce was sent home for what was supposed to be a week or two.
Within two years of the partnership, AVANT was named Zoom’s global partner of the year.
“That deal combined with the timing was like putting rocket boosters on a rocket ship,” Lydecker notes. “We knew they were the next big thing, and eventually they recognized that we were, too.”
Zoom is just one of the hundreds of technology companies that AVANT represents through the trusted advisor movement. Many of those technology companies also recognize AVANT as their number one partner.
EVP of Strategic Partners
Trusted Advisor Is the Future
The trusted advisor movement is having its moment, no doubt spurred on by AVANT’s incredible success. AVANT provides critical information for its network of thousands of trusted advisors as to where data centers and fiber-optic cables are located, and critical information about the latest and greatest tech innovations.
That’s all before its near limitless number of vendor partners that essentially create a viable business model for any up-and-coming trusted advisor business overnight.
“Our success is dependent on their success,” Kieninger explains. “Why wouldn’t we want to create the best platform, the best information, and the best resources for trusted advisors to become essential to any business that wants to get ahead of their competition?”
“If you’re a company that’s not leveraging a trusted advisor, you are letting your company down,” Lydecker adds bluntly. “If you’re an IT staff that’s running the same ten-year playbook, you could be terminally ill and you don’t even know it.”
Trusted advisors play a critical role in navigating the confusing world of technology decision-making, whether its telemedicine, sales interactions, or the ability to tie the salesforce into a larger system and autogenerate information with human interaction. AVANT is already there.
“This,” Lydecker says, “is the great awakening.”
In your own words, why is the trusted advisor movement the future?
Because the demand hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s grown stronger. The trusted advisor of today is far more sophisticated than the trusted advisor of ten to fifteen years ago, and now many are providing business advisory services outside of traditional vendor recommendations and support. AVANT is committed to winning together with our trusted advisors and have taken steps to ensure our sales team is in alignment with the needs of our partners, regardless of where they are on their journey. This has meant staying ahead of evolving technology and taking advantage of the “as-a-service” movement to drive growth and success.
— Jennifer Gallego
EVP of Global Sales
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