I was having lunch today with a guy who runs a web/software development business for hire in our town. He was explaining how he was growing tired of it and was considering other things.
I was digging for more information to see if I could help him and it turns out he was tired of the constant strain, hunting for new work, tired of having fixed costs and highly variable revenue.
It reminded me a lot of when I stepped out of corporate IT in 2000 and thought I’d set up a small IT company providing IT support to small businesses in my area. Sound familiar?
In any event, I went off and did it. It was hard but we did well enough. One key worry was ‘how can I build and protect my reputation when I don’t know what was going on with customer’s equipment?’ I realised I was always on the back foot.
So, I looked to see if anybody else had software I could use. I couldn’t find anything suitable, so I worked on cobbling together various systems. I realised that others might need this facility and worked in my spare time for six months. Eventually I sought help from a more experienced business person. We worked together on this for a year or so and it became clear that there definitely was a need. But we had a problem – my skills/experience weren’t particularly relevant to bring this to market. We really needed, but couldn’t afford, developers – which I certainly wasn’t.
So I went back to being an IT Guy and by the by, we were right. There was a need, as in time this software became GFI MAX Remote Management.
Back to being an IT guy. I stuck mostly to monthly support contracts. I tried to match my fixed costs with recurring revenue (either firm or almost firm). And if other projects/sales came along that was icing on my cake.
I packaged services, marketed our capability, sold these arrangements and ensured our technical guys delivered our promises in a friendly yet professional manner. I tried various ways of removing costs and gaining efficiencies. I tried to be more pro-active to reduce the effort involved in providing these contracts. And I tried to build longer term and more strategic relationships with customers to ensure any new equipment, projects, etc went through my company.
I realise I might have been a Managed Services Provider – except this was way back in 2004 before I’d even heard of the term. In time, our company became one of the fastest growing and most well-reputed IT Support Companies in our country. In 2009, I decided it was time for something else, took some time off and ended up working at GFI on GFI MAX.
Anyway, back to the guy at lunch – I told him how I scaled my IT Services business and watched as the light went on in his head. He realised he has to package and sell more recurring revenue services that he can deliver profitably and use this to augment his other more lucrative services.
So, today in GFI, I spend my time creating packaged IT services, creating sample marketing material, creating sales material, creating implementation material (contracts, SLA’s, implementation considerations), etc for break fix IT services companies who are running themselves ragged and are keen to move to a recurring revenue model, but don’t know the way. Thus evolved GFI MAX Building Blocks.