Steve Hall is CEO of District Computers, in Silver Spring, Md. He has over 20 years of experience in small business technology consulting with a specialization in cloud computing and information protection.
Q: What changes have you made in your cloud portfolio this year in response to the work-from-home trend?
A: A lot of the work that we did in 2018 and 2019 prepared us to help our clients in 2020. We were really, really, really strongly pushing and advocating for [Microsoft] Teams and a lot of workspace platforms … So when we reiterated, “Remember that platform we were talking about? Remember those work-from-home things we were talking about?” it was more or less a reminder … They didn’t feel like we were just trying to take advantage of the situation to sell them something new.
We’ve always tried to stay a step ahead … A lot of my peers have had to go in and reeducate their customers, or educate their client base, as to why some of these tools are important. Whereas for us, just staying ahead of the curve really helped.
Q: Are there advantages to standardizing on one cloud platform, or just a few?
A: There are absolutely advantages, but from a management perspective, because it allows us to have to know and learn, and consistently keep learning, fewer platforms … However, you do sometimes miss out on some of the latest bells and whistles with some of the more custom features that may help.
Q: What do you do if a customer wants something that you haven’t standardized on?
A: We look at those and when the customer’s lucrative enough, I’ll be honest, when it makes enough sense for us to take on a new challenge or a new technology, we will absolutely make the adjustment for that customer. If it’s one where it’s going to just be a pain for us, we’re just going to say, “Let’s find another customer or another MSP for them and move on.”
Q: How do you use bundling to increase the profitability of your cloud services?
A: Bundling has been one of our staples since we were transitioning into the cloud many years ago, so that’s pretty much where all our profit comes from. It’s not just the services, because specifically each service we bundle in might add $1.00, maybe $1.50, maybe $2.00, but the management thereof and the uniqueness of our solution, where we’re throwing in [digital] signature management, or we’re throwing in advanced encryption … We actually incorporate about seven different services on top of our core cloud platform that we offer.
Q: What cloud services are currently underutilized among SMBs?
A: I see it all the time when I go into a new prospect, or even some of our customers: They’re not leveraging enough security.
Q: What have you done to educate them about the risks they’re running?
A: We had to shift, obviously, the way that we deliver services this year, just like every other business, or most other businesses. And in lieu of a lot of our site visits, which we still do from time to time in the evenings or away from customer hours, we picked up lunch and learns, virtual happy hours, and tech talks. So that has become probably 30% of our day with different customer environments on recurring schedules, jumping from one virtual meeting to the next.