Like all of the VARs/MSPS we cover in Business Solutions magazine, Tom Fox, CEO of Technology Experts Corp. was on a roll when we covered his company in our Aug. 2009 issue cover story. And, like so many of us, Fox felt the negative impact of the economy and even had to deal with a couple of additional setbacks, which he shared with me recently in his usual straightforward manner.
How has your business fared since we last spoke with you?
Fox: We started to see a slowdown in new opportunities around the middle of 2010. Sales in 2010 were down 6.1% from the previous year. The first half of 2011 was also significantly below our previous year, but toward third quarter it was as if someone opened up a faucet. We finished out 2011 about 9% ahead of 2009 numbers. 2012 is starting out very strong.
What has contributed most to your success since we last spoke?
Fox: I’d honestly say our success has been mixed. We were significantly impacted by the slow down of the economy, and we’re just now starting to see the recovery that other parts of the country have been talking about. Our largest area of growth at the moment is in the medical sector. EMR (electronic medical records) and practice management implementations are driving a significant amount of (temporary) hardware revenue as doctors attempt to upgrade their systems and take advantage of the federal incentives to automate their practices. This has been the best springboard to move our time and materials or block time medical clients to managed services — once their practice is entirely reliant on their IT systems, it’s very hard for them to deny the importance of managed, proactive care. Just like an HMO (health maintenance organization)!
Are there any new technologies/solutions you're offering which are impacting your business?
Fox: I wouldn’t say that we’ve “verticalized” on the medical field, but it has definitely been a growth area for us. Backup and disaster recovery (BDR) is becoming a more significant part of our practice. We are finally starting to see some interest from clients in cloud solutions, but so far it’s a tiny part of what we’re doing
Speak to any failings you've experienced since we last spoke.
Fox: We experienced some personnel issues in 2010 that were disastrous for the company, and we are still cleaning up from it. Suffice it to say that I made a very poor hiring decision (I’d even say stupid), and an even poorer management (stupider!) decision in delegating the day to day management of the service operations to this person. We’ve lost clients, and had some very expensive remediation work to do as result. We’re past it now, but cleaning it up was a primary focus for me for most of 2011. It took nearly all my time and attention — attention that could and should have been spent cultivating new client opportunities. I think that now that’s behind us, the growth we’re seeing is a result of my correctly focused energy!
Are there any other tips/tactics that you think are worth mentioning that are contributing to your success?
Fox: It’s standard business 101, but definitely mind your own store. It’s fine to delegate operationally, but for smaller sized companies particularly, the owner has to be on top of what the manager(s) are doing, and still be interacting with the clients as often as possible. Perhaps not in a technical role, but in QBRs (quarterly business reviews), monthly follow ups, etc. It’s critical that the client understands their relationship is with the company and the owner, and not with individual employees.