Darren Patoni, President, FullScope IT, spoke with Megan Bozman to discuss networking with peers, earning new clients, and unexpected impacts of the pandemic.
COVID-19 is a Technology Accelerator
“For sure, COVID-19 has been a technology accelerator. It has hurt a lot of businesses, but the reality is it has accelerated technology across all market spaces by at least five years, in my perspective. We didn’t have choices in how to operate and were forced to come up with solutions immediately. In February and March, we saw a 150% increase in workload in our own managed services, simply so we could empower people to work remotely. Some of these organizations previously had no intention of empowering a remote workforce, such as manufacturing and medical.
Managing the Increased Workload
The increased workload has been challenging, but we were fortunate enough to have the resources to respond. FullScope IT has presence in Arizona, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. COVID hit us like a freight train, but it hit different areas at different times, so we were able to move resources around and help people. Our Arizona team had resources when New York was really hurting. Later, numbers increased in Arizona and New York was in a better place. It has been helpful to be able to move resources around, particularly at a time when our competitors were extremely resource constrained.
Many prospective clients I’ve met with in the last two months were ready to sign up with us because their Managed Service Provider (MSP) or incumbent IT provider was overwhelmed and unable to respond to clients’ needs. Some put up with it because it was not a time to make a huge move, but now if they’re not being served, they’re ready to pull the plug on incumbents.
Lax Cybersecurity and Increases in Breaches
If you run an MSP that isn’t scalable, this is a difficult time. Some of our peer MSPs, in the heat of the moment, decided to empower clients by opening up the firewall to allow remote access. And that’s a recipe for disaster. No matter how much I preach, it keeps happening and I get calls asking for help every week. We’re earning new clients this way, but it’s not the way we want to.
I don’t think clients are thinking of this. They’re trying to make payroll and keep people productive and effective. People have their hair on fire as they’re working to keep business running. Many have been unable to sit down face to face for quarterly business reviews. When possible, it’s really helpful to have those virtual CIO reviews with clients and move the needle forward. We can do Zoom at any time to have difficult conversations about security and remote work force empowerment.
I’m so thankful I have an awesome team that cares about our clients. We also have a great leadership team.
Entrepreneurial Ability to Pivot
We serve a number of different verticals, including restaurants, and some have pivoted and continued to function. For example, when a local small-batch brewery was forced to close, they filled their kegs with hand sanitizer and delivered to hospitals. We’ve seen some ingenious innovation and American spirit of entrepreneurs. That’s one amazing thing we’ve seen – the entrepreneurial ability to pivot and rally your organization to see what you can do and serve others around you.
Networking with Peers
I participate in several national MSP peer groups. Every week, we talk about topics like finances, marketing, and how we pivot during COVID. It’s been invaluable to share ideas and see how others are serving customers and handling their struggles. It helps me be a better leader to my organization and come up with solutions for our clients.
Marketing During COVID
FullScope IT has been continuing to market like crazy, even though our competitors aren’t. We know there’s a huge need and an entirely under-served business community that is frustrated.
We’re also networking, even though it’s very different now, being all virtual. There are a lot of people looking to improve IT during this time. The pandemic has forced the conversation. I love that, but it’s very different. We’ve had to reconsider direct mail, since we can’t expect people to be at the office to receive it.
We also offer Weekly Tech Tips, blogs, and videos with helpful information, and we contribute to a virtual leadership trust by writing.
Returning to Offices?
Organizations have proven they can have a productive remote workforce. Traffic is different. I love it this way. Not having to drive is one outcome of tech we were hoping for. I’ve heard as many as 75% of CFOs have said the majority of their workforce isn’t coming back to the office and they’ll be significantly reducing total office space.
Work-Life Balance & Caring for Your Team
Most people had daily routines that were set in stone, and now it’s all mixed together. That has created an uneasiness for many, which is another big challenge. There’s no ‘off switch’ to working from home. Unless you have some strong boundaries, it can cause deep overload and people feeling overburdened at work. We as employers have to recognize that, and there’s no tech solution we can put in place. We must be aware and be understanding to recognize burnout.
At FullScope IT, we’re really listening to our own teams and trying to give as much flexibility as we possibly can in terms of taking care of their families as they work from home. We’re also hiring to make sure they’re not burned out.
About Darren Patoni
Darren Patoni is the President at FullScope IT, a world-class managed services provider, focused on small and medium sized businesses. With offices in Arizona, Maryland, New York, and Virginia, FullScope IT has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Brilliant Companies To Watch” for managed information technology, named one of the Top 500 MSPs in the world from Channel Futures, included on CRN’s Fast Growth 150, as well as Phoenix Business Journal’s Top Computer Consultant Companies List. Darren is an entrepreneur, sought-after speaker, and seasoned business leader. He is extremely passionate about helping small and mid-sized businesses protect themselves with effective Information Technology and cyber security solutions.