Something we often hear from new clients is that they should have looked for a large IT provider sooner instead of using the same “IT guy” for years without question. (For this interview, we’re referring to the “IT guy” as a male or female break/fix contractor, single in-house IT person, or a small 2-3 person outsourced firm.) Many clients say they don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to technology and they didn’t realize how much of an impact changing IT support providers would have on their business.
With that in mind, we decided to pick the brains of David Bourgeois and Patrick Leonard, and ask them what are the signs that a business has outgrown their IT guy?
Q1 – What is a telltale sign that an IT guy may be in over his head?
- David: It takes him days to solve simple issues because he’s too busy handling other issues. Then those small issues build-up and he has to fix the same problems over and over again because he can’t take the time to be proactive and projects get started quickly, but never finished.
- Patrick: Yes, we’ve seen numerous prospects with great hardware sitting in boxes for months waiting for their IT guy to come install it. Another sign is him not being available on weekends due to family commitments; larger companies have redundancy and processes to prevent this from affecting you. I’d say the biggest sign is always being reactive and putting out fires. It’s better to prevent fires than being able to put them out.
Q2 – What challenges do businesses face when they’ve outgrown their IT team?
- Patrick: IT guys can become anchors that hold businesses back from scaling because employees don’t have the tools they need to do their jobs and the company is using small company solutions when they are triple the size they used to be a few years ago.
- David: Your IT guy seems to always be chasing his tail and it takes days to hear back about issues. The scariest part is that your network is vulnerable because an IT guy is too busy to be proactive or to stay current on modern best practices.
Q3 – Why are executives reluctant to leave a solo IT professional and go to a larger MSP?
- Patrick: No one likes to fire someone and many IT guys have a personal connection with the owner and they’ve been working with the business for years. But you can’t let one person hold back your entire company. They need to grow as you grow. If your company has tripled in the last five years as ours has, then you need to see what vendors are also scaling up and replace the stagnant ones.
- David: Some executives like the control of having a person at their beck and call. A break/fix IT guy creates the false image of a superhero because he is always fixing problems, but those problems cause employees to lose productivity so the goal should be preventing the problems instead of just being able to fix them. Also, most times we can solve problems remotely, which resolves the problem faster without affecting the employee’s productivity.
Perceived cost is another misleading reason why people stay with a solo IT guy because they assume a company will cost more. Looking only at hourly rates, an IT firm may be higher than solo IT professionals, but firms have the tools, systems, and expertise to get most jobs done 3x faster so a difference of $75/hour and $125/hour is mute. Plus, IT firms can deliver stronger ROI by automating updates to prevent problems, remotely correct issues, and being a high-level business consultant as well.
Q4 – What are the benefits or ROI of using an MSP (Managed Services Provider)?
- David: Stability, scalability, diverse knowledge, and experience, especially with business operations. Each of these advantages alone will give a company a better ROI on your IT investment.
- Patrick: Proactive mindset versus being reactive is reassuring for executives, especially ones driving high growth. Just being proactive with how you replace your equipment, using Life Cycle Management practices, can save medium-sized companies thousands of dollars a year. MSPs have experts that you can leverage versus relying on a jack-of-all-trades for everything.
Q5 – What should executives look for in an IT firm?
- David: Now this is a good question! Executives should look for a company that has a few skins on the wall with companies similar in size and business type to theirs (especially references). They should look for a firm trying to assist them with solving their IT business needs in a manner that helps them grow their business. Someone who will take time to learn the business, and then can grow with the business such as a company that is more than a 5-person shop. An IT company that is good at supporting companies their size, and likes to support companies that size.
- Patrick: Look for an IT firm that understands your business, how you operate, where you make your money. IT professionals need to understand the need and ROI of uptime – it can cost a professional services firms like an engineering firm thousands of dollars an hour when the network isn’t running because dozens of employees stop earning the company $150/hour.
And always ask for a reference that has been with the company a long time and a new client – call the references and ask the first one, “Why did you stay with that IT firm all these years?” Ask the second reference, “Why did you switch to this IT firm and how is the onboarding process?”
Q6 – Any closing thoughts?
- David: Look at the ROI, both hard and soft costs today and 3 years from now.
- Patrick: Find a firm that you like, one that understands your business and is scaling up like you.