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Bill ­-- the Builder

  • November 01 2002, 1:00am EST

He does not don jeans, a flannel shirt, a tool belt and construction boots in preparation for work each day, nor does he require a hard-hat for site access. This, however, is not to say that William C. Merchantz is unfamiliar with building. In fact, he's an infrastructure expert – both in the structure of his company and its products.

Lakeview Technology is a worldwide leader in infrastructure software for the information enterprise. Since its establishment in 1990, Bill Merchantz, president, CEO and founder, has led the company in its focus on managed availability, multiplatform data replication and clustering solutions – a great position given the reality of today's cost-conscious corporate world. Few companies, if any, are able to afford the revenue lost during downtime.

Lakeview Technology's roots began at Tellabs, a well-known telecom equipment manufacturer. Through a funded development contract with Tellabs came Lakeview's MIMIX software brand. In 1994, Lakeview purchased HIT, a European competitor, to bring a complementary solutions business into its fold. In 1998, Lakeview acquired Praxis International, the developer of the OmniEnterprise solution suite (now OmniReplicator). OmniReplicator added another plank to Lakeview's infrastructure software offerings by automating the distribution, enhancement and transformation of data across either disparate or like computing platforms, thereby making information readily available throughout diverse enterprises.

Building on Merchantz' mandate to provide unparalleled customer service, the company expanded its influence on a global landscape by going to the customer on his or her turf, opening foreign subsidiaries and hiring local employees. In 1994, Lakeview launched Lakeview Technology Europe to offer full support, consulting and solution training to all of Lakeview's European, Middle Eastern and African partners and customers. In 1997, the firm established Lakeview Technology Hong Kong, a satellite that serves the rapidly growing Asian market.

Currently, Merchantz describes Lakeview as an infrastructure software company with two operating software divisions. The first is the OmniReplicator division, which delivers near real-time database replication for data integration purposes. OmniReplicator data-movement software automatically and transparently moves data from where it is to where it needs to be.

The second division of the company is the information availability division that produces MIMIX, the company's flagship product. MIMIX solutions provide high availability and continuous operations on IBM eServer iSeries systems to ensure that applications and data are always available when they are needed – a holistic, preventive solution for today's obligatory high-availability environments. IBM's customers are numerous – the company has shipped approximately 750,000 AS/400 and eServer iSeries systems to customers in 150 countries. On these systems, MIMIX creates and maintains an exact replica of a primary iSeries server's applications, data and objects on one or more secondary iSeries servers. Once an exact replica system is established, MIMIX replicates data and object changes to the backup system in real time, thereby streamlining overall system efficiency while maintaining an exact duplicate of the primary system. In a circumstance of primary system failure due to natural phenomena or hardware problems requiring a high-availability solution, MIMIX quickly and automatically switches operations to the secondary server. For continuous operations needs, MIMIX allows business managers to anticipate planned downtime and outages and initiate a transparent operations switch from the primary system to the backup system, allowing work to continue uninterrupted.

Why did Merchantz choose to build Lakeview to provide these solutions for iSeries customers? His motivation and satisfaction directly relate to his entrepreneurial role with the company.

Merchantz admits to always knowing that he wanted to be an entrepreneur – following in the footsteps of some of the wonderful mentors of his childhood. A Chicago native, his introduction to the economics of the workplace began with a paper route. Next, he was the employee of an entrepreneur who owned a pizza parlor. Then, Merchantz came under the tutelage of Jerry Sharko, owner of Sharko's restaurants in Chicago. Merchantz was also employed by Maury Polk of Polk Brothers, once a popular Chicago-area appliance store, and Henry Lang – the entrepreneur who ran Lang Ice. Merchantz notes, "I've always worked with, for and have become an entrepreneur. It's who I am and it's what I do."

A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Merchantz began his professional career as an application programmer for a division of Federal Mogul Corporation where he gained valuable MRP, financial and sales systems experience. Next, Merchantz was the financial systems manager for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world's leading architectural firms. His experience on the customer side of the computer industry helped shape his deeply held convictions about the importance of total solution management, long-term value propositions and the positive customer experience.

Merchantz also co-founded Whittman-Hart, a highly successful Chicago-based information technology services consultancy focused on the IBM midrange market. Explains Merchantz, "My partner and I built the services side and we were beginning to build the software side. We also had a third business model, which was education and training. It was really very difficult for us to manage three different business models with the partnership structure of Whittman-Hart. I moved out of delivering the technology solutions for our clients into the role of growing the infrastructure for the company."

However, the desire to build software led Merchantz from Whittman-Hart to found Lakeview Technology to deliver infrastructure software to automate and alleviate pain being experienced by IT shops.

William C. Merchantz – President, CEO & Founder of Lakeview Technology

"I like to explain today's information enterprise as companies that have built upon six technologies: servers, storage, the network, the applications, the databases and security." Merchantz continues, "Information is constantly flowing in and out of the network, onto storage, into a database, into an application, into memory on a server, out of memory on a server or through a security checkpoint. At Lakeview, we're helping our customers streamline and simplify the understanding and management of that information at the infrastructure level. Some of that information is so critical that the recovery point for that information is literally the transaction that was flowing through the information enterprise at the moment that it was lost. Some of the information is important on an hourly basis, some once or twice a day and some on a weekly basis. In all the years that we've been focused on this infrastructure space, we've listened to our customers and developed the information availability solution to address the granularity that each customer needs. A breakdown in any part of this system will adversely affect the functioning of the entire system. Organizations today want a seamless and standard interface into that data and that's what we're working toward."

Respected for its groundbreaking technology, solution intelligence and commitment to excellence, Lakeview now delivers infrastructure software solutions in more than 70 countries and 200 business centers worldwide, providing services and support in almost any language through more than 200 full-time employees and a world-class network of skilled, certified business partners. In the last five years, Lakeview Technology Inc. has realized profitable revenue growth of more than 330 percent.

"Even during these tough economic times, we're still growing our revenues and improving our bottom-line profitability," Merchantz reports. "We do have competitors that offer solutions, and I'm sure they have good solutions." However, because of the solid foundation established by Merchantz, he is able to proudly state, "We have great solutions, great software, great services that complement our software, and a great partner channel."

"We continue to look at opportunities to build organically through derivative work – to build, license and make acquisitions to grow those divisions as well as look for other infrastructure software solutions that customers are very interested in us delivering," says Merchantz.

Merchantz does not intend to accomplish such lofty goals by himself. "As CEO, I really believe that my number-one job is to position people to succeed." He continues, "I look for people who really want to grow, and I'm always looking for opportunities to challenge people. If I create an environment where people like what they do, they will do an excellent job and deliver a great experience to the customer. My challenge, therefore, is to create the leadership grooming to take staff and managers up through the ranks to new levels of leadership."

In the company that Merchantz has built, Lakeview employees are able to flourish in a challenging environment and stay focused on customers and their ultimate satisfaction. "Our culture is able to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual to thrive in a team-oriented collaborative environment – a phenomenon we refer to as the personnel paradox. We have a core organization around which concentrations of integrated discipline, called Areas of Excellence, energetically revolve, driving quality and best-of-breed performance. Our partners are carefully chosen because they share our same commitment. It's the people, the unique culture of the company, the core organization, the partners and the solutions that comprise the secret to this company's steady growth and increasing market strength," states Merchantz.

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