Business View Magazine profiles Cal Net,an L.A. and Anaheim-based provider of outsourced IT, cloud, security services, and unified communications.
Cal Net is a leading provider of infrastructure support, cloud and security services for small and mid-market businesses in the Los Angeles and Orange County area. Its clients include hundreds of companies and organizations in the following sectors: Education, Entertainment, Financial Services, Healthcare, Hotel and Hospitality, Legal, Manufacturing, Nonprofit, Professional Services, Legal, Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Manufacturing, Wholesale/Distribution, Banking/Credit Unions, and Government. Through its implementation and support services, Cal Net tackles the complexities of partially and fully outsourced IT and voice systems implementation and support services with both onsite and remote delivery models.
Luca Jacobellis, Cal Net’s President, narrates the story of the company’s founding 20 years ago by Zack Shuler: “Zack started off as a PC salesman at Circuit City,” Jacobellis begins. “People would buy their Packard-Bell PCs and say, ‘This is the first computer I ever had; can you help me set it up?’ After being asked this time after time, Zach decided there was a real business opportunity, made some business cards, distributed them to his friends selling PC’s, and the first rendition of Cal Net was born. Within 18 months, he had 500 customers.
In 1997, Zack was visiting one of his clients on a regular basis, setting up equipment, repairing hardware and providing support. While this client didn’t have the need for a person to service them 40 hours a week, their need was constant and from this relationship, Zack and Cal Net acquired their first official, recurring, business customer.
Within a few years, Schuler was servicing approximately 700 home clients who would call on occasion – maybe once a year or sometimes even less. At the same time, Schuler was starting to build momentum with a few more substantial business clients who needed support on a much more regular basis. He decided this is where he needed to focus his efforts and he spent much of his time from 1998-2001 growing this client base. In 2001, the business reached a turning point when Zack declared, “We no longer service home clients, we are all business,” according to, now President, Luca Jacobellis.
Today, Cal Net has replaced those former residential customers with an equal number of business clients throughout the L.A. and Orange County region, as well as parts of San Bernardino and Ventura Counties. According to Jacobellis, about 400 of them are “managed customers.” “We have an ongoing, monthly relationship with them in some form,” he states.
When asked how Cal Net differentiates itself from its competitors in the Managed Service Provider (MSP) industry, Jacobellis replies, “First and foremost is the combination of the depth and breadth of our team’s expertise and our service-first approach.” From the very beginning, Zack, himself, was a highly trained technical expert and would make the time to visit each client to make sure Cal Net was providing the customer with the highest quality of work and service.
Building on this foundation, Cal Net’s hiring process for the company’s engineers is extremely rigorous and once they make it through this process, they are all hired as full-time W-2 employees, not contractors. Therefore, in visiting a client today, “we have a formidable army of very skilled technical people who work directly with our clients on a day-to-day basis,” Jacobellis says. “Because we are set up this way, our clients are working with highly trained experts who care about their work, are trained to operate on a service-first methodology, and are charged with building a long-lasting relationship with each customer.”
“Another important factor that sets us apart from the rest is our Technology Management team, or what the industry calls ‘vCIOs,’” Jacobellis continues. A vCIO, or virtual Chief Information Officer, is a contractor, or company, that serves as an organization’s Chief Information Officer. “There are many other providers out there who claim to offer a vCIO,” he says. “But it has been our experience that the resource these other providers promise is often a top-tier executive, someone who is already managing many other high priority tasks for the provider. In other words, they currently wear 13 other hats within their own business, so they are not able to truly dedicate much time as a virtual CIO. Cal Net actually has an entire team of people dedicated to fulfilling this vCIO role. This team includes a dedicated leader, a business unit director, and 6-8 additional resources allocated to this role. This entire team works together to provide the strategic execution of the promised, virtual CIO. Over the last 20 years, we have worked very hard at perfecting our craft, these methodologies, and processes. This is what makes Cal Net stand head and shoulders above most MSP’s.”
Cal Net’s expertise in its field has been well-recognized by its vendor partners as well as by the local and industry press. Cal Net has been named a “Dell Security Partner of the Year for 2015,” and a “Southwest Region Partner of the Year” by Microsoft for three years in a row (2013-2015). The San Fernando Valley Business Journal recently put it on its “Top 50 Fastest Growing Private Company” list in 2015, and it was named “IT Service Partner of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal. In addition, Cal Net has been designated as one of the top 50 managed services providers in North America by the prestigious MSPmentor “Top 501 Managed Services Provider” list. It’s also a CRN “MSP Elite 150” list member, and a seven-time Inc. 5000 honoree.
Last year, the company acquired several enterprises, including a document management practice, and it has integrated this into the private cloud infrastructure it had already built for its clients in the accounting and legal fields. Jacobellis believes that, in the years to come, the company will continue to keep up its rapid pace of growth. “I think, in 2020, Cal Net will look quite a bit different,” he says. “We will continue to grow by adding new logos to our roster, and are looking for additional acquisition opportunities.”
Jacobellis also envisions Cal Net extending its geographical footprint. “We see ourselves being in a few additional states. Our intention is to be a dominant player in this space in the southwest U.S.,” he states. “Today, we will close out the year with $25-26 million in revenue. In 2020, I would imagine we’re somewhere between 50 and 100. Today, we’re at 120 people; I’d imagine we’re well into the 200s of employees by then.”
Of course, continuing this pattern of rapid growth means bringing in new business and new customers. Jacobellis is confident that Cal Net’s reputation and high regard among its present clients will continue to be a strong driving force in acquiring new clients. “We get more of our business from referrals than any other singular source,” he claims. “We have made a concerted effort to double down on our relationships with our vendor partners – they are the fastest growing segment of our lead base – whether it’s the Microsofts, Dells, HPs, or EMCs of the world. Cultivating our relationships with those folks has proved to be our most effective net-new lead source channel.”
While Jacobellis was not present at the company’s beginning, he was an early hire and has since been at its helm for the past 15 years. He is quick to ascribe all of Cal Net’s success to the culture of the organization and its dedication to both its employees and its customers.
“At the end of the day,” he says, “if we’re not doing a good job, by both of those constituents, we don’t have a business. In good times and hard times, as long as you can stay true to such guiding principles, you really have an organization of people that is dedicated to doing their absolute best. And the work that these people do every day impacts our customers and the lives of an enormous number of people in ways that may not be so measurable, but that are nonetheless, real.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Cal Net Technology Group
WHAT: Southern California’s premier IT services provider
WHERE: Chatsworth, California