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Case Study of a Professional Services Company in Maine (Podcast)

Dave Hodgdon, CEO and founder of PCG, talks with John Maher about the work PCG did for a professional services company in Main. He explains why the company reached out to PCG and the outcomes it experienced thanks to PCG’s expertise.

Portsmouth Computer Group · Case Study – Professional Services Company in ME

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dave Hodgdon, CEO and founder of PCG. A Managed Service and Security provider in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about a case study on a professional services company in Maine. Welcome Dave.

Dave Hodgdon: Good morning, John. How are you doing today?

Background of the Client

John: Good, thanks. Dave, tell me a little bit more about this company in Maine and how many employees they have and what are some of the issues that brought them to working with you?

Dave: Sure. They are a landscaping company located in Maine, and they have since done an acquisition in New Hampshire. They have 75 employees. A lot of them, of course, are on the trucks, doing work at various commercial and residential properties. There are about 30 people on the network that we support.

We came into play with them about five or six years ago. Their current managed service provider was not meeting them on the response times and wasn’t giving them the guidance on how to use technology and make money. The employee satisfaction was lacking. They were complaining to the point of contact. They reached out to us and once we met with them, we determined that there were a lot of issues with the existing hardware, and they were quite surprised about that.

The documentation was poor. They really wanted to have a strategic plan in place. They had some goals to grow the business and do acquisitions. And they wanted an IT company that was flexible and was able to work for them especially in their seasonal times. They’re not as busy in the winter, but since we came abroad, they’ve really stepped up their game in the winter time. In the winter, you can be just as busy plowing.

John: Right.

Dave: They wanted to diversify so that they weren’t just seasonal. About 70 to 80% of their revenue was summertime landscaping, and the other was in the winter. But they’ve definitely grown the winter side of the business. It worked out well where they wanted to be, and we’re happy to have that meeting with them and come up with an action plan to make it work.

Developing a Strategy

John: Yes, tell me a little bit more about that plan and the strategy that was involved in it.

Dave: After the initial meeting with the leadership team, we said, “look, let’s get an engineer out here. Let’s confirm exactly what’s going on with the network, get our ducks in a row and come up with what might need to be replaced and identify the vulnerabilities”.

Then, the second part of that was to come up with a managed services plan of what they want to cover. And we did that through our discovery.

Five, six years ago, John, security wasn’t on the radar. It was important to have the firewall, to have the backup, and to have the anti-virus in place. But now, we have to really focus on that element, and besides that, the two big steps are the network assessment to confirm where they are and what was missing, and then, to come up with the right plan to help them on a month to month basis.

The Network Assessment

John: Okay, and tell me a little bit more about that network assessment and what you uncovered when you did that assessment of their network.

Dave: We knew the firewall was one of the things that stood out. It did not meet what they needed for performance, and it was also a little bit outdated for security. The wireless coverage was pretty poor. There was only one access point. It was a pretty good sized building with two floors, and they had a shop out there. The email was on POP accounts, it was not being backed up…. so we knew that they needed a 365 project. It was important for us to come up with a plan on that.

They were in the process of moving their line of business application from the server to the cloud. We wanted to help them with that. Anytime you move to the cloud John, you have to make sure that the internet pipe is right and check if there’s potential backup in place. How will people be using that, not only in the building but outside of that as well.

Tactics to Improve The Network

John: Yes. And then tell me about the tactics that you employed once you did that assessment, you figured out where the issues were, what needed to be fixed. What are some of the tactics that you used to really get them back up to speed?

Dave: Good question. We call it a SOW John, it’s a statement of works. We came up with four specific projects. Once we knew what was up with the server, we wanted to get that stable because they were still using it for their on-premise line of business software. The big one for us was getting the email project in place and getting it from POP to 365 and training them on the 365 platform. Then, we started to use Teams and now OneDrive. We also activated multi-factor authentication.

The wireless assessment was important because they had a couple of conference rooms and a lot of people claimed their cell phone coverage was pretty spotty. They wanted to make sure people in those rooms had access to their notebooks as well as to the other shop.

From there, their desktops are in pretty good shape, but a lot of people wanted more versatility. We started getting a plan to get some of the Surface books in place for the people that were project managers… They’re in the office a lot, but they’re also project managers. They wanted the flexibility of having their notebooks out on the road. And once we onboarded them, we were able to get better insight, and at that point we’re able to deploy some of the security services over time.

I think the average business does not really realize how vulnerable they could be. It’s not that they’re intentionally ignoring security, they’re just not being proactive. No criminals are really looking for a particular landscaping business per se, but bad actors don’t care who the victims are. They’re just trying to get to your data and lock it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s local or in the cloud.

You still need to have some presence in mind. For example, you should do the due diligence of not spending overboard, but many common things such as a password policy are free. Educating your employees and doing a session with your clients is free. Turning on certain services or making sure we have a good backup is not that much money, but just having some common sense is important.

Having a plan is important. Businesses should consider what they are going to do if something happens. We help guide and mentor the leadership as they answer these concerns. What are they going to do? How are they going to deal with the media? What are they going to do with your attorney? Do they have everything lined up for their accountant, their attorney, the FBI, and the Police Department.

A lot of it doesn’t take much, but a company needs to have a plan. Because if a data breach or a cyber attack does happen and you’re not prepared, it can be chaotic. The whole goal is to create a plan of what to do.

Any Business Can Be the Victim of a Cyberattack

John: Right, what you’re saying is like, you don’t have to be a bank or an online retailer or something like that to still be a target for these bad actors?

Dave: Exactly. The reason they’re going after all these other small businesses is that they think they’re not vulnerable so they don’t take steps to protect themselves. Again, the attacks can be very random. The criminals are just looking to open the door, and they can lock the door and encrypt your data and put a fee out there for $25,000 or some other exorbitant amount.

We know the statistics are out there, John. If you can’t operate your business for two, three, or four weeks, there’s a great chance you’re not going to stay in business. And these criminals are going to make it as painful as possible. They’re not going to ask for a million dollar ransom if you don’t have a million in the bank.

But they will watch your activity before they make a move, and they’ll ask for an amount they know you can get but that will probably be painful for you to obtain. They know most people will pay to get their data back.

John: What other tactics were involved in the project?

Dave: I think the big thing was giving them the dedicated network admin, someone they have a relationship with, who would show up weekly. We also had a VCIO visit where we looked at the business’s goals and developed a plan to help them reach their goals with technology. We don’t want a company to spend a single dollar without knowing why it’s beneficial, what it means, and how it can make them money and be more efficient.

In today’s world, you have to protect the data. You have to spend some money today, unfortunately protecting your data. Unlike four or five years ago when you weren’t thinking about that, now it’s an added expense. I explain this to clients by comparing it to when you have insurance on your house or business. For example, if I live near the water, I didn’t have to have flood insurance 10 years ago, but now, I have to. It’s just, when I live near the water, unfortunately it’s expensive. You have to have coverage. And in today’s world, you have to protect your data, and if you don’t, then they’re not going to insure you. And then if you get hacked you’re in trouble.

Outcomes of Working With PCG

John: Yes. How long have you been working with this company now and, and what have been the outcomes and results of the project?

Dave: I’d say maybe six, seven years now. Their network is the good news. We have a plan. We meet twice a year. There are no huge expenses. Curves are constant because we’re always taking those little baby steps and chipping away at IT projects.

I always try to tell a company that if you’ve got 30 employees and the average PC lasts five years, we’ve got to exchange approximately six per year. When you get into that rotation, instead of spending $30,000 at once, you spend $6,000 a year. You just chip away at it.

We know a server firewall can last you six years. We know that certain items have a shorter life and a higher life, but as long as you have a general idea, you can budget for upgrades. We were able to give them the roadmap and the budget.

We can plan more effectively when we know what needs to be replaced or what’s scheduled to be changed each year.

Our job, also, is to make sure the users have a great experience. Giving them the help desk and the response time they need is a big part of that. The ultimate goal for us is not to get tickets. We don’t want them calling us because we want the system to be working flawlessly for them, but if they do call, we want that experience to be good. We want them to be as efficient, as productive as possible.

John: Right.

The Importance of Having a Spare PC

Dave: One of the things we’re always trying to recommend, which helps with any company, is having a spare PC on premise. Just like with your car… if you have a spare on hand, you can get to work while the mechanic deals with the broken vehicle.

During the course of the year, there’s always going to be a few PC issues that you just can’t control. Something’s going to happen. And it’s nice to have a hot spare there.

John: What is a hot spare, you mean it’s already preloaded with all the software that they need, they can just plug that computer in and then get right back to work?

Dave: Exactly. When something goes wrong, you put that in place. Then you repair the other, and it really makes life a lot easier. It takes the pressure off. When a machine is down for one or two or three days, the amount of money and productivity you lose can be significant, but when you have a spare machine in there, you can avoid those losses.

It’s there for a reason. Much like we have a generator, it’s there for a reason. If something happens, let’s put it to use or a new employee comes in, all right, let’s get that. It’s ready to go. Then we’ll get another hot spare ready for you.

John: Right.

Value of a Dedicated Network Administrator

Dave: The other big outcome they love is having a dedicated admin who makes scheduled visits.

To recap, we’ve improved the wireless, and we set up 365. Again, they just did a recent acquisition, and we were able to provide them with the infrastructure to handle that growth. We were able to easily add those people to 365, Teams, and OneDrive, and give them memory mode access.

We also added a firewall at that new location to remote into the primary office. When you have everything ready at the main hub, it makes it very easy to grow John.

That was a good thing. And we’re constantly talking to them in our VCIO meetings about how to have more efficient workflows and what we can do to minimize risks. We’re always talking about security and they’ve embraced it. They’re a great client. They’re very appreciative of what we do. They love having that person on site. They look forward to their meetings, which is important to us. They’ve been a great client, and they’re just happy to be serving the community and their business.

What Happens at VCIO Meetings?

John: When you have those VCIO meetings, do you have any recommendations for companies about what they should bring to the table? Is it just a list of things that they’re looking to do in the next year or… What is it that you’re looking for from them?

Dave: That’s a great question, John. We use a particular service software that helps us with that. We want to engage the leadership team to come to the table, and the process usually starts with thinking about where you want your business to be. For example, we’re at $2 million and we want to be a $5 million company.

Well, how are you going to do that? Who’s your target audience, and how are you planning to do that? What goals do you have and what issues are holding you back?

A big problem I hear from a lot of people is hiring. Hiring people is a problem for all small businesses, right now. I’m also worried about what people are trying to do with data. I’m worried about the remote workforce. Same thing at PCG here John, we’re all in small business together.

We’re able to have conversations with them on their goals, issues, and problems, and how IT can help. As part of that, you might even start talking about how you’re going to drive and support more traffic. It could be their website; it could be talking about their phone systems.

The important thing is just to have that open dialogue with them and then get them to flush out what they want to do. And then we want to tie it back to how technology can help. Once we understand what they really want to do, then we can explain how technology can help. And then from there, they can start seeing how their investment and their time should be spent.

The bottom goal is they want to make money, and if we can help them make it, they’re happy with us.

Contact PCG Today

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Dave. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dave: My pleasure.

John: And for more information, visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call 603-431-4121.