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MSP Spotlights, News

April 22, 2024 |

Why Culture Means the Most to Waident’s John Ahlberg in Business

The Chicago-based SOC 2 MSP celebrates its 20-year anniversary this year.

John Ahlberg doesn’t only believe that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as the saying goes; he also believes culture eats finances for lunch, and status quo for dinner.

People and culture are passions for the CEO and founder of Chicago-based Waident Technology Solutions. As the SOC 2 MSP celebrates its 20-year anniversary this year, Ahlberg sat down with ChannelPro to discuss how positive MSP culture has been key to Waident’s growth and success.

Falling Into IT

Today, Waident serves as a full-service outsourced IT department for small to midsized businesses, but Ahlberg’s original foray into IT was unexpected and haphazard.

He got his first computer while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at a time when personal computing was a new cultural phenomenon. The technology just clicked for him, he said, so he started doing freelance computer work.

A neighbor in his apartment building had a computer-related business, and Ahlberg stepped in to help while he searched for a full-time, business-focused job.

“One day, [my neighbor] literally hit me in the back of the head and said, ‘You should be in IT management,’” Ahlberg said. He thought that meant computer programming, but his neighbor explained how Ahlberg’s business education, along with his knack for technology and dealing with people were the ultimate trifecta for an IT consultant, he said.

“So, I applied for a job with a law firm, and two weeks later, I was the IT manager of a law firm not knowing what the hell I was doing.”

Clearly, he figured out that job — and more.

Founding Waident

Once he embraced entrepreneurship, Ahlberg shifted his focus to business growth.

“We only had a handful of techs, but we needed someone to manage those people. We needed policies, procedures, we needed a documentation platform,” he said. When revenue grew, he assessed whether a technology or talent need would help meet increased demand.

Having a deliberate set of systems proved valuable when acquisition became a path for growth early on. One such deal came through a friend of a friend, another had been a former customer. By the third acquisition, Waident had a playbook. Only when Ahlberg likes what he sees in a company’s culture does he give his operations and finance teams a green light to scrutinize its books, he explained.

“I look at what it is, what the clients are about, and what do they think like. If it doesn’t fit, I really don’t care. That means your employees and your clients aren’t going to be good for me. Even if the money’s there, it won’t be worth it.”

Embracing the ‘Weird’

Waident’s culture creates a unique environment that new employees and newly acquired companies must fit, he added. “Our culture is all about ‘What do you need? I’ll help.’ Our CIO will literally take help desk tickets. There are no egos.”

It’s also about being a home for those who find themselves outside the norm; the “weird,” as Ahlberg put it. So, job interviews include questions about favorite ice cream flavors, or how weird candidates rate themselves on a scale from one to 10, Ahlberg emphasized.

“If someone is just very serious and shocked about the question, they’re probably not a good fit. But you get the right one who laughs and says, ‘I’m a solid 7 and proud of it.’”

As a result, many employees have “great quirks”, like the former probation officer whose experience and thought process work perfectly for IT, or the technician who was previously trying to be a professional poker player.

The company also has embraced a quirky label borrowed from a prospect who said it sounded like Waident sucked less than competitors. Ahlberg agreed, and the phrase stuck.

“Now that we’re turning 20, it’s our tagline: 20 years of sucking less.”


CEO and Founder, Waident Technology Solutions

  • Founded: 2004
  • Locations: Chicago; Naperville, IL; Brookfield, WI
  • No. of employees: 30
  • Website:
  • Company focus: IT support, cybersecurity, strategy, and secure cloud
  • Recommended book: Interestingly I do not read a lot of business books. I’ve found that often I either cannot relate to them, or I feel I’m already thinking and doing what they are discussing.
  • Favorite part of my job: Helping people. This could be clients, the Waident team, or prospects. That and culture initiatives, like the fun things we do as a company. For example, just after Christmas 2023 I bid and won seven pallets of electronic equipment, which was then distributed to the team. Also to celebrate Waident’s 20th anniversary, we are taking the entire team to an all-inclusive trip to Mexico.
  • Least favorite part: When a client is not happy. If it is not in our control, we still need to manage the situation and communicate. If we failed in some way, then we address the issue quickly and then discuss what can be done to mitigate this in the future. We are constantly challenging how and why we do what we do to make it better.
  • What people would be surprised to know about me: I grew up in the 1980s, and was into punk and new wave music. I went to local concerts almost every weekend. I was not the kid with the mohawk, but some of my friends were.

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