We’re only a month away from our SMB Nation 2014 Fall Conference, and I am happy to say that I was able to catch a few moments with one of this year’s speakers. I met with Ben Gower, Managing Director, Perspicuity (pictured), and I asked him, among other things, what his organization does to succeed.
I’ll start with a little background on Perspicuity. This is a UK-based organization focused on Managed Service Consulting, particularly for Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365. I first met Ben at during the Modern Partner Tour, sponsored by Microsoft, Intel and Actiontec, at our Reading, UK tour stop. Read on for my interview:
Harry: So tell me, what was the bookmark for your entry into the computer sector?
Ben: “Haha! I actually come from a farming background in SE England. I started in technology with a major global outsourcing company, and I loved to talk with people, as well as listen, so I quickly moved up the ranks. Then, I went to Xerox in the late 90’s. I did a lot of work in outsourcing on Microsoft contracts.”
Harry: So why choose the Cloud?
Ben: “It’s clear and understandable, and that’s what we built Perspicuity on as well. You know, it makes sense to most IT Pros, and people in general really seem to get it.”
Harry: Great. Let me give you a bit of background about our current situation, and I’ll ask you a question. In the US, we have a very small SMB reseller community, most of whom are coming off the SBS era. This has actually caused an ideological rift between the on-prem SMBs and the Cloud SMBs. Has this been affecting you as well?
Ben: “Not as much. We are very much focused on doing our own thing. Though we were warned about the potential for this conflict, Perspicuity has been just staying focused. To that point, however, we are seeing three types of people: those who love the Cloud, those who are transitioning, but not leading, and those who are staying with their profitable businesses.
Harry: Now, you all have a very interesting business model. Can you tell us, what’s your “Secret Sauce”?
Ben: “Haha, sure. Our secret sauce is that we took time and completely reevaluated what modern Cloud customers want from services. The key change these days is that the IT Pro is moving from the Selling to the Advisory/Educational. So the biggest way to actually gain new revenue is to explain to existing and potential clients the experience they can get. In fact, most cloud customers nowadays are asking, ‘How do I get there?’ more than anything.
Sure, customers will still have concerns about security, but in my view, there are a lot of well-written resources online that you can refer any customers to. Once you’ve told them how to get to a great business tech experience, you work to get them there.
This brings me to another key point, which is that we evaluated the type of staff needed to give the customer that great experience. The truth is that you don’t need a super high level of experience to complete a cloud migration and provide a good experience. The high experience staff should be used for advising. Once the customer is migrated and on our system, we can reach out to them and talk to them about 10 other things we can do to help them. This is not only an interesting model for us, of course, but also for the end-user, who is looking for something new.”
Harry: Yeah, that's very interesting! So let me ask, what’s your employee turnover like, if you are using college upperclassmen, etc.?
Ben: “That’s a good question. In wave one of our program, we had about a 50% turnover after 3 years. Now, we have developed programs to help retain these individuals past the 2-3 year mark, and our turnover is lots lower.”
Harry: Do you provide any kind of Management Consulting?
Ben: “Absolutely. We have SharePoint Devs on staff who are constantly creating new apps for our clients. Also, it’s important to note that when I started out in this industry, we had no Marketing department, the company owners did sales, and everyone else was a techie. Now, I’d say that we are approaching a 50/50 split between Marketing and Technical staff. Our next steps are looking at reselling and customizing packaged products for our clients.
This actually brings me to an interesting point in the Channel today. Most Channel members see that the sole opportunity is Office 365, but it’s not. In fact, that particular portfolio is headed quickly towards maturity, but there are other huge opportunities. Lync Voice comes to mind, and it’s available today.”
Harry: So, how do you get new customers?
Ben: “We do a lot of Lunch and Learns, and Go to Markets with Zynstra and Microsoft. I will admit that, to date, our referral processes aren’t as sophisticated as we’d like them to be, but that’s a major goal for us.
For the SMB Nation Community, I’d suggest that one of the best ways to get new cloud/migration customers is to use their existing list. Just call them and offer new services to existing end users. Depending on the number of clients, this can be very lucrative.”
Harry: Great, and you’re absolutely right. I just have one more major question for you: What tools are you using?
Ben: “The two major solutions are SkyKick and Zynstra, no brainer.”
So there you have it. I want to take time to say a big thank you to Ben for having a great discussion with me! Beyond his work in the IT field, he is a committed husband and father, and he is learning how to kite surf in his spare time. You can listen to Ben Gower speak (and even chat with him) more at our upcoming SMB Nation Fall Conference, September 26-28 in Redmond WA! Registration and agenda information is available at: http://fall2014.smbnation.com.