When Business Computer Concepts was fired by its largest customer for a competitor with a better offering, it was a wake-up call to provide managed services.
By Marc Gritton
June 30, 2011
I began doing break-fix work in 2001. I had about 35 clients of various sizes, and they called when they had a problem. About a year ago, I started the patching process on the Windows servers at our biggest customer, which had three servers and maybe 30 desktops. The owner called me into his office and shut the door. That’s when I realized it wasn’t going to be a good discussion.
I knew what we did for the company, and his employees knew, but the owner didn’t. One of my competitors had approached the company marketed managed services in a way that made sense to him. Once he decided the competitor could do as good a job as I did by doing it proactively, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. It was one of the most painful business situations I’ve ever been in.
My office was still in my home. I walked in and told my wife that if we didn’t change the way we did business, we wouldn’t have a business. I had seen the acronym MSP in a magazine, so I searched for it on the Web. MSPMentor was the first search result that appeared, and I started reading.
On the site there were several references to a company called PacketTrap that had a remote monitoring and management solution of the same name, so I called them. (PacketTrap was purchased by Quest Software Inc. in 2009.) The sales rep did a good job explaining and showing me the software, but the company’s Acceleration Program sold me, because it helped me understand what an MSP does, how it does it, and how to price and sell the offering. The company gave me a business plan for the managed services part of my business as well as promotional materials with my logo on them—I simply followed the instructions.
Converting existing customers to managed services was fairly easy. I explained that we had done a good job for them in the past, but only after they had a problem. With our new offering, we could save them money by taking care of their IT infrastructure before they had a problem. Pricing was also important: They used to pay for their SonicWall and Trend Micro software yearly, for example, but we would roll that into their monthly payment. Most of our customers are in the construction business, and a set budget for IT costs looking a year ahead really helps their planning.
I bought more PacketTrap licenses than I needed at first, and installed them at some customer sites without charge as a test. After a month or two, we learned the best way to work with the software to get to potential issues before there were problems. I could show customers reports about their computers and servers, and what they could expect in the future. It was a compelling proposition, and about half my existing customers, all but the small ones, converted.
Now whenever we take care of a problem for a customer, we go to the decision maker and say, “I took care of such and such. Is there anything else we can do for you?” Since anyone in the company can call us, we make sure the decision maker knows we were there.
Of the six people in the business, three are family. My wife used to help a few hours a week doing bookkeeping while she stayed home with the kids. Now she’s the office manager. And my son got certified as a trainer and administrator for gloStream Inc.’s electronic medical records and practice management products to support our expansion into the healthcare industry.
In addition to our construction customers, we want to be the outsourced IT department for doctors, as well as help them with electronic medical records, backup and disaster recovery, and, of course, managed services.
Profile: Marc Gritton, Founder and Owner—Business Computer Concepts LLC
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Number of employees: 6
Web site: www.bcconcepts.com
Company focus: The majority of our managed services customers are in the construction industry, which is my background. Now we are expanding to doctors’ offices, to become their outsourced IT provider.
Favorite part of my job: All of the different things I get to do every day—talking to clients, working with our sales rep, and trying to keep everyone motivated. The toughest person to motivate is the office manager, my wife, because she’s the one who motivates me.
Least favorite part: Correcting employees. I’m still a server tech at heart, and would rather be in the server room with a machine that doesn’t talk back or argue with me.
Something people would be surprised to know about me: I played football at the University of Kentucky. In 1977, our team went 10-1, and that record hasn’t been beaten since.