IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

A Journey of Reinvention

Mad Data IO went from surviving to thriving by embracing change as a growth strategy. By Brian and Mary Hamilton

REINVENTION is not only key to survival in this business, it’s critical to growth and relevancy. You have to be willing to change—your brand, business model, clients, messaging, team, and community. That requires giving up the fear of failure.

That’s something we’re intimately familiar with at Mad Data IO. Since our founding in 2004, we steadily grew revenue—but not profit. By 2017, we were broke, and struggling to meet payroll and buy groceries. Today, we are profitable and expect to hit $2.5 million in revenue this year. We got here by embracing change, sometimes painfully, to build something better.

Branding. Before Google, businesses got found by being at the top of the phone book, so we named our company Agabus. It was a side business until 2008, when we both left our jobs to focus on the company and family. In 2009, we rebranded to Agabus Solutions but the name still didn’t resonate, so in 2016 we became Mid-Atlantic Data and Communications. Straightforward, but it was a mouthful and made for a long URL. Since technology should be simple and make life easier, our rebranding last year to Mad Data IO reflects that. We think this one will stick!

Business model. We started with a break-fix model serving 90% residential customers, and over time have transitioned to commercial customers on managed services contracts, with a vertical focus on manufacturing. It was a rocky path with a humble start: Early on we targeted a handful of businesses—with cupcakes from a local baker. This “marketing campaign” got us past the gatekeepers and we landed those first commercial clients. From there, we used referrals and leveraged relationships. Then in 2018, we were introduced to Robin Robins’ Technology Marketing Toolkit (TMT), and through knowledge gained in that organization, we blew up our model again in 2019, investing in a comprehensive technology stack to monitor and protect our customers against growing cyberthreats. 

Clients. This new model had us taking a hard look at client metrics. First we found other providers for those that weren’t profitable. Next, we did the same for those unwilling to fully protect themselves with our stack. Finally, we “fired” a few that were hyper demanding. It was liberating for our staff, but also financially frightening.

Messaging. Turning our attention to high-value clients willing to pay a premium for our services required a paradigm shift in thinking. Because we had been in survival mode for so long, we had been willing to take any business. Now our marketing efforts, fueled by our deeper involvement with TMT at the Producers Club level, target a more profitable customer base.

Team. Whenever there’s growth, you're going to have to shed team members who won’t help you get to the next level. We encourage and facilitate their growth, but we have had to part ways with several who didn’t share our vision.

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