Parasol Alliance Brings Strategy to an Unlikely Vertical
Born from a severe lack of IT services dedicated to the senior-living industry, Redmann has gone where few have dared to go and has, in many ways, transformed the sector.
Redmann got her start in the assisted living/retirement community industry over a decade ago. Working her way up from the help desk to managing business systems, Redmann learned the ins and out of the senior-living industry, implementing vital systems, processes and strategies and building teams.
Eventually, she reached a peak. She realized that she needed to move on, to expand and grow. But where, and how?
Having worked in senior living for nine years, she realized there was a huge need for IT services specific to that industry — a need that wasn’t being met.
“I realized that I had to address and fill this gap, and so I decided to start a company that did exactly that,” recalls Redmann. “But I had no idea how to do it. Where to start, how to go about things, [and so on].”
Through different connections, Redmann met the vice president at a company called Chicago Methodist Senior Services, who introduced her to their CEO. The company was unhappy with its current provider, so it was totally on board with Redmann’s idea. Their plan of action? Find a few providers or senior retirement communities, ask them to invest in the company, and in exchange, use the company’s services. Everybody wins.
From there, it was all about networking (it’s all about who you know, you know?). Redmann attended conferences and events, and was introduced to key folks all over the broader industry. Before long, she had about 15 companies that were interested in investing/becoming part of the new company, five of which actually agreed to go ahead and commit.
“Each of the companies had different situations, so there were some things to navigate right at the beginning,” says Redmann. “Some had in-house services; some were using another vendor and were reluctant to make a switch, so we made clear that as owners and investors in the company, it was necessary to move over to our services. That was the only way we were going to be successful.”
And thus, Parasol Alliance was born. After those first clients were established, the new business was soon humming along and functioning as a “normal” managed-services company with normal clients.
The gripes of the companies that gravitated toward Redmann’s solution ranged from a lack of strategy and proactive planning to poor budget management.
“You can’t just throw money into a budget and hope nothing breaks,” says Redmann. “This effectively thwarts future productivity.”
From those conversations, she came up with this idea that the company still uses today — to create a strategic plan for each client upfront. The strategic plan consists of Redmann doing one-on-one interviews with key people in the organization to understand the business side, and then generating a three-year road map.
“I ask the perspective clients things like, ‘What are the workarounds you’re doing? What are your strategic objectives? What are you looking for the technology to help you solve? What are the systems you’d like to see? How are technology decisions made? What do you see as a risk? — and so on,” says Redmann. “Then we do a full hardware and software analysis, looking at their business systems, generate a current state analysis assessment and give them a three year road map. Finally, we give them a proposal based on the projects and the road map.”
From that point on, Redmann and her team take over IT and are a true partner to the client.
So, what’s different about Parasol Alliance’s approach? They don’t host or resell anything — a concept foreign to most MSPs. They are the IT department, so they handle and manage all. Redmann stresses that this approach, while unconventional, is the only way she can imagine doing things.
“We’re helping our clients do what’s best for them and it’s not going through us.”
An interesting concept indeed, following a setup that really doesn’t offer separate payouts or benefits. No maximizing what they can sell. In Redmann’s words, “a true partner.”
“I always say it’s a good thing nobody told me how to run an MSP because apparently I’m doing it all wrong,” laughs Redmann. “I talk to other MSPs and channel providers, and they don’t even know how to deal with us in come cases. So far I have not met another MSP doing things the way we do from a client-partnership perspective. I truly believe we are doing some very innovative things with the way we approach the entire MSP outlook and partnership.”