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Sorensen Sells HTS, Will Maintain Voice in the Channel

Arlin Sorensen is getting out of the IT services and managed services provider business, for the most part, but he will remain a major force in the channel through his peer-to-peer and consulting projects.

Sorensen last week sold Heartland Technology Solutions, the company he started in 1985 on his family farm in Iowa, to another firm in Iowa -- WesTel Systems, a Remsen-based telecom and computer services company. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, moves 57 HTS employees, almost all of them, into WesTel. The rest, including Sorensen and a handful of key executives, will mostly serve in advisory roles for about a year while focusing on the other companies in the Heartland group.

Sorensen
Arlin Sorensen

Despite Sorensen's many contacts in tech through his advocacy of the P2P model, Sorensen said in an interview that this home-state deal actually involved people he hadn't met. WesTel was looking to diversify its business, and a broker in Des Moines connected the companies. "We started talking about three months ago or so and it just fell into place in a big hurry," Sorensen said.

It was an opportunity Sorensen and his company had been thoroughly prepared for. Through his Heartland Tech Groups, he's advocated for years that computer industry-pioneer owners put succession plans in place for their companies (see RCP's November 2009 feature "Passing the Torch," which includes sage advice from Arlin on the topic.) He'd stepped back from day-to-day management of HTS in 2009 when he promoted Connie Arentson, former vice president of professional services, to HTS president.

There's a different feel to being on the sell side of a transaction than the buy side, said Sorensen, who has been part of seven mergers and acquisitions. "When you're on the buy side, you're the driver, the pusher, you're the guys trying to get it together and make it all fit," he said. Being on the sell side required more patience than anything else, he added.

Sorensen's remaining companies are HTG, with its peer groups that include more than 300 MSPs and VARs; Heartland Leadership Group; HTS Ag, a new spinoff of precision agricultural solutions; and Varvid. In all, he'll still have 40 employees and a $2 million payroll.

"It's been 27 years. It's bittersweet. The good news is I'm not kidding myself that I'm going to go sit on a beach and retire. I've still got four companies to run. I'm excited about the opportunity to actually focus on some of these more startup organizations that have been taking the backseat the last couple of years," Sorensen said. "I'm not leaving the industry. I'm still doing HTC and the Peer Groups, but it won't be as an IT business owner. Overall, I'll still be hanging around the same people and doing the same things."

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 08, 2013


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