Understanding the metrics behind your business is what will keep you afloat amongst your competition. That’s a lesson Eric Rieger, president of WEBIT Services, learned more than 20 years ago, when he began his entrepreneurial journey as an IT provider.
In 1996, Eric established his business to assist small businesses with business technology across the state of Illinois. Today, the IT provider is serving professional service businesses with 10-15 workstations. With the help of the TruMethods team, WEBIT Services has grown and thrived within its market.
I recently caught up with Eric this summer to learn more about how the IT provider role has evolved over the years, what challenges his company has been struggling with and how TruMethods has helped him and his company find success over the years.
How have you seen the IT provider role evolve over the years?
The IT provider role has really become a strategic partnership. In the early days of my career, the majority of the service providers were doing time and materials work. There wasn't a lot of focus on making things better, just react, fix and move on to the next problem. Today, I see two types of IT Service Providers. The first type are the ones who have become a commodity. They all sound the same, look the same and talk about their tools and "stuff.” They are in a race to the bottom from a price and profit standpoint, and we all know how that turns out. The second type of provider has become hyper-specialized in that the message they put out from a marketing and sales perspective focuses on what success looks like from the client perspective. That means you have to know your client's business and being a jack of all trades really puts you at a disadvantage when you come up against a competitor that really understands and is making a positive impact on the clients business. For us, we have really focused a lot of our attention on security and compliance and then narrowed it down to more specifics with how that relates and impacts our core clients. We have an ideal client profile, and we can speak to their needs a lot better than a generalist can because we understand how their business operates and what the risks and challenges are. It makes for a true partnership.
What are some of the top challenges you’re having in the market today?
Our biggest challenge is the war for talent, by far. There isn't enough to go around and we have been really focused on what makes us a unique company to work for. We are an open-book company, so that means we are transparent with our financials, and we teach our team members financial literacy. That's important for two reasons. First, it helps us become a more efficient company. When we go through our Picanomics with the team, they aren't just looking at data, they are able to connect the dots and understand the levers that drive our business and profitability. Secondly, it helps them better understand the impact of a reactive technology environment to our client's bottom line. They aren't just technicians and engineers fixing problems and designing solutions based on their technical training. They can pull it all together in the big picture, which helps us deliver better results for our clients. We are also on a journey to become an employee-owned business. That in and of itself is a huge competitive advantage when searching for talent. People have a chance at ownership here which means we get talent that thinks and acts like owners because they have the opportunity to become one. It's a night and day difference from years past when we just looked for the smartest techs.
How have clients evolved over the years?
I think clients have become more educated when it comes to managed services. Most of the prospects we talk to have had at least one if not more engagements with an outsourced IT provider. They've also experienced a lot of pain so we have to be educators on the drivers of success and help them understand why a previous engagement didn't work. I personally have evolved over the years (with the help of Gary, Jim and the entire TruMethods system) to become an educator and consultant rather than a salesperson. It's really made a huge difference in not only the type of clients we've been able to attract but the success rates we've had. I think our CSAT (customer satisfaction) score right now is over 98% on a rolling 90 day basis and that's been driven by our commitment to standards improvement and frequently meeting and communicating with our clients on their needs and goals for their businesses. That wasn't happening in the early days and I think the clients being a lot more education has helped evolve that process and the results.
How long have you been a TruMethods member? How has the company helped you find success?
We were actually client number one for the Formula Won program. I met Gary at a presentation he was giving in Tennessee to kick things off, and I signed up immediately afterwards. I would need to write a novel to discuss all the ways Gary and everyone at TruMethods has changed my life, my company and our overall success. We had nothing good going for us when we started other than a desire to be better. The framework of TruMethods is an amazing foundation to build off of but the real power is in the community and the people who help support it. My life has been forever changed because of this and I can honestly say that if we hadn't signed up for membership, with all the changes that have gone on in our industry over the past 10 years, we would not have survived as a company. I am a completely different person now, and TruMethods has helped me grow both personally and professionally. I cannot thank everyone enough for the love and support we have all been given over the years. I consider them part of my family now.
What advice would you give to an IT provider just starting out?
Know your numbers. In order to thrive in this demanding business you have to be able to understand the levers that move your business and drive success for your clients. You can't give away your time or service and it's not about generating revenue. You really have to understand the business drivers, first in your own business, then in your clients business in order to be successful. I would also say that you absolutely must become disciplined around planning and sales. If you don't have a plan, don't be surprised when you struggle. We learned this lesson the hard way. Lastly, this business is all about relationships. Beginning with the sales process and all the way through to a successful implementation, you are building and nurturing relationships and don't ever forget that.