IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Taking the Strategic Road

Red Box Business Solutions carved an auto dealership niche by helping customers drive toward a profitable future. By Seana Fippin

WHETHER IT’S LAYING CABLE and low-voltage wire or providing full-service managed IT, Red Box Business Solutions approaches every project and IT solution from the context of how it fits within the overall business goals and objectives of our customers. Along with implementing and managing networks, servers, firewalls, switches, and phone systems, we help our customers use technology strategically to rev up their operations and consequently their business.

When my husband and business partner Brett and I started this business, one of our earliest customers was a Toyota dealership that has grown considerably over the 30 years it’s been in business. At the time, the model was break-fix, but for all intents and purposes we were Dublin Toyota’s managed IT department. When they moved to a new, larger campus, we created the project plan to grow their technology infrastructure.

When this dealership got to the point where it would be more cost-effective to have a full-time on-site IT person, we had that conversation with the CFO and helped the dealership get somebody in place. For roadmapping or anything strategic or out of scope for the IT person, we remain the dealership’s trusted adviser.

Through our work with that dealership and then others, we established a reputation for a high level of service, pride in our work, thoughtful technology spending, and a knack for growing business. Our automotive dealership client list swelled organically, and that vertical focus represents a significant percentage of our business today. 

Avoiding Potential Potholes

For MSPs interested in developing a vertical expertise in auto dealerships, there are several challenges to keep in mind:

Pace. Business moves fast at auto dealerships, both daily with customers, and internally with operations, often due to high employee turnover. Dealerships face demands from their manufacturers as well. Ultimately, this rapid pace impacts all the technology in the dealership through constant adds, moves, changes, updates, and security.

Prioritizing. Another major challenge is convincing decision makers about the importance of strategic and thoughtful decisions when it comes to their technology needs. Often this industry overlooks how a smart up-front investment could greatly impact the long-term success of the business.

Uptime. Auto dealers demand high uptime. We support Dublin Toyota’s entire voice infrastructure and network. If they go down and our failovers are not in place or working, or the battery backup doesn’t come up like it’s supposed to, the dealership would face a loss of business.

Line of business applications. While you don’t have to become an expert, you do need to learn the fundamentals of dealership management systems from the leading players like Reynolds & Reynolds, Dealertrack, and CDK Global, because you’ll be integrating them with the network and operations. We provide guidance to C-level executives about what works best with their technology stack and why, and what will help them most with the bottom line.

Back to the Future

Staying on top of trends is also important. Auto dealerships, for instance, are starting to launch business development centers, and we’ve already implemented several for our customers. This entails integrating the call center technology, data, line of business applications, and network, and then training sales support staff on the new system.

An emerging trend is the move toward cloud, the Internet of Things, and connected cars, which we are preparing for now. Industrial IoT is also a good fit for HVAC customers, our other vertical focus, but there are security vulnerabilities and other issues to consider. Sales professionals at dealerships want the sizzle of new products that will entice their clients and grow their business, but as their trusted adviser we are doing our due diligence so we can be prudent and thoughtful about what we’re putting in place and how we’re doing it. Our goal, as always, is to take a strategic view that will help them drive toward growth.

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