Innovative Thinkers

IT Innovation
It’s no secret that the hallmark of the complex modern information technology (IT) industry is innovation. Progressive, creative and fast-paced change is sought-after, expected and demanded on today’s information super highway.
Overland Park-based Stallard Technologies, Inc., (STI) a six-year-old Internet retailing operation that purchases off-leased IT inventory from companies around the country, is a vibrant part of that cutting-edge approach to business. STI specializes in buying and selling new and pre-owned Dell servers, workstations and storage solutions and ships 40 – 60 orders worldwide each day from their pristine, climate-controlled warehouse. In fact, STI is the country’s single largest owner of pre-owned Dell equipment.
The brainchild of James Stallard, STI is on the fast-track for providing customers with cost-effective alternatives for servers and workstations customized to their exact specifications. Each unit that leaves Stallard’s warehouse goes through a 20-inspection and diagnostic check by one of four on-staff Dell-certified technicians and has a one-year warranty, available three-year warranties and on-site repair and maintenance services.
“I started my business because I saw a gaping hole,” says Stallard. “Growing up around computers–my dad was a professor at the University of Georgia in Computer Applied Sciences–I was familiar with technology-based industry.”
Stallard began purchasing personal computers at an inexpensive price, reconfiguring and reselling them. When he sold through his third batch on an emerging Internet retail site called eBay, the young entrepreneur knew he had found a burgeoning niche market.
“I think I sold five of those computers on e-Bay while I was sleeping one night,” says Stallard. “I decided to get serious about selling pre-owned and refurbished equipment at extremely reasonable prices.”
Stallard started the business in his father’s-in-law garage and then moved to a warehouse which STI quickly outgrew. He moved to another space and in 2006 relocated STI to 20,000 square-feet building on a half-acre in south Johnson County. STI has 25 employees, more than 1,200 parts on premise and utilizes a special design packaging for shipping equipment from coast-to-coast and far-flung locations like Afghanistan, Vietnam, Australia and Germany and high-profile organizations such as NASA. 
The benefit to consumers clamoring for STI’s type of service is a large, well-chosen inventory of IT hardware at a staggering 40 – 60 percent savings over new equipment. In addition to saving a chunk of precious change, the pre-owned equipment registers high on the eco-meter by helping the recycling chain and reducing a company’s ultimate carbon footprint.
STI, one of the largest among the top 10 purveyors of pre-owned equipment in the country, operates on many metrics that qualifies the company’s integrity, customer service and value, including selection, savings and support. STI negotiates discounts with vendors each week and passes along those cost savings to customers. The processors, RAM memory and hard drives are removed and inventoried; each hard drive is data wiped and checked for functionality. STI even offers a convenient on-line customization program for customers to choose specifications for their own needs, offering flexibility.
“Our sales are up 17 percent over last year’s,” says Phil Poje, chief marketing officer for STI. “In this challenged economy we help clients stretch their IT budgets without sacrificing quality and service.”
Jeff Palmer, STI’s vice president and COO, says sometimes it’s a paradigm shift for businesses to buy pre-owned equipment. 
“Once people experience the quality of a refurbished unit they’re sold,” he says. “We tell customers that realistically when they purchase a new server most problems they’ll experience will be within the first 30 days. STI’s pre-owned equipment has already been tested live in a controlled environment.”
Approximately 10 percent of STI’s customer base is in the greater Kansas City area and includes accounts like Church of the Resurrection and the DeSoto School District. In the case of the school, STI was able to purchase 320 laptops and workstations from vendors and pass along those cost savings to the district while providing students with A-class equipment.
STI is a recognized innovator in many ways, including hiring. They have a so-called SWAT team of Blue Valley students that reports to work after school and helps expedite shipping. Poje says it’s been a great experience for both STI and the kids.
“They’re paid, get hands-on training in a business and help us achieve our goals,” says Poje. “We have a pool of students, plus a waiting list of 15 kids eager to work.”
STI’s Go Green Save Green initiative was launched two years ago and focuses on educating customers on the many advantages of using refurbished, enterprise-level, high-performing equipment designed to handle demanding business applications.
“We communicate to our client base and prospects that buying from STI not only helps their bottom line, it helps save energy,” says Palmer.
Stallard says STI’s commitment to excellence starts with well-developed vendor relationships and continues through to a customer’s order.
“We follow every order through shipping and delivery to ensure that an STI experience not only meets but surpasses a customer’s expectation,” says Stallard.
And that, perhaps, is at the core of STI’s innovative business–the acknowledgement that the buck starts and stops with the customer. Stallard, Poje and Palmer work with the STI staff every day to help companies make educated decisions that enable them to get the most for IT budgets, while fostering a go-green attitude.

words: Kimberly Stern
photo: Paul Versluis