It is ironic that innovation is prevalent in technology but not in technology services. Technology is always changing, yet the services around it actually detract from that change rather than encourage it. When it became evident that cloud services is the direction in which the IT industry is going, a large percentage of service providers panicked because it didn’t fit their business model. They were leading their clients against what was happening in the industry, and it had everything to do with how to survive without needing to reinvent themselves. That’s a fear-based mentality.
There’s a way to connect the innovation and energy of the technology market with a profitable business model. We do it by making people the tools of service innovation rather than relying on just systems and processes. We call it thinking upside down, starting with what the client is trying to achieve rather than what business model is convenient for us as a service company.
The Hard Way = The Right Way
I was 20 when we started Greystone as a break-fix business, but quickly realized there was benefit in being the kind of organization that would question the standard way of doing things. What I was hearing was that people felt that the best they could hope for was a tolerable IT experience. I wanted to get to the bottom of how we could do things differently, so that the process was impactful and supportive of where our clients wanted to take their businesses.
I realized we weren’t going to hit the bull’s-eye on day one, which led to a deliberately developmental organization. We’re always learning and making adjustments. As beneficial as that has been to growth, it’s also been a survival mechanism.
It’s easy to set up business in a traditional way with a help desk and tiers of services. But that’s structured toward the ease of the IT service provider. There’s a huge blue ocean of opportunity if you’re willing to embrace the discomfort of not doing things the simple way.
So we abandoned the idea of escalating service tickets through tiers. Instead, tickets come in at the highest level of people, and move downward to the rest of the team. If you’re having engine trouble you wouldn’t take your car to the guy who changes your oil, who has to give it to the next qualified guy above him if he can’t fix it, and so on. In this scenario the best case is it takes forever to get your car fixed; the worst case is someone makes the problem worse.
By working through the system backward, we get an understanding of what has an impact on our clients so we can determine how we need to structure our organization. That model of bringing people through the process backward needs a different process and culture. We get excited about doing things the hard way but the right way.
Another game-changer for us was the implementation of the service coordinator process. MSPs
are big fans of automation, which is important, but systems don’t report on the human element. The primary job of our service coordinator team is to manage our automated ticket system. If something urgent comes in we can take human action and circumvent the process. It’s a lifeline for our clients.
We were told that as we grew we’d have to change our model to stay profitable. The reality is that as we’ve grown our profitability has increased, because we got better at what we were doing and at sharing risks with clients. We grew to the critical mass we needed to accomplish our service mission, both organically and through acquisition of a Denver IT service provider last year and more recently a Fort Collins-based mobile app developer.
Growth itself is not our goal, and in 2014 our leadership team removed it as specific measure of success. By not making guaranteed profitability our number one goal, and instead focusing on having a deeper impact on our clients and their businesses, both culturally and financially, the growth opportunities have continued to increase naturally.
As a result of these deeper impacts, our average growth rate over 11 years has been 40 percent a year. I think if we had that as a top-lying goal we would have sacrificed the service mentality we have. Upside-down thinking is why our company is right-side up.
Greystone Technology Group Inc.
Location HQ Denver, with offices in Boulder and Fort Collins, Colo.
Number of Employees 57
Company focus To create the deepest impact possible providing tech-based services by rethinking the traditional mentality
Favorite part of my job Time spent creating with my team, drawing on the white board and thinking through service models that are outside of the box
Least favorite part How hard it is to find people who have the right mentality and attitude to get onboard with what we’re doing
What people would be surprised to know about me I’ve spent my whole life in the technology world but I know nothing about video games, and I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was 30.