MSP 501 Lifetime Achievement Winner Paul Cronin Helps Others SucceedMSP 501 Lifetime Achievement Winner Paul Cronin Helps Others Succeed
Know your purpose, says our Lifetime Achievement award winner.
October 12, 2020
Paul Cronin is a people person. By that, I mean that he believes in them. Believing in their abilities and believing in their capacity to learn and grow. Cronin’s work title on his LinkedIn account says it all – CEO Leading the Great People at Apogee IT Services.
Cronin’s ability to see the potential in people, combined with business savvy and building business expertise, has made for an exciting and unexpected journey in IT services. It’s clear why he is the recipient of the 2020 MSP 501 Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an executive who has demonstrated commitment, perseverance, creativity and ingenuity over their entire career.
Apogee IT Services’ Paul Cronin
“The things I talk about as my success factors are manufacturing talent and having a client advisory board,” Cronin told Channel Futures.
Running leadership training sessions, he also knows the importance of having purpose in what you do.
“My purpose is to positively impact the success of others. That’s how I’ve always looked at my opportunity to lead anyone. Whether it’s a client whose network we’ve made so awesome that they get promoted from director to a CIO, or whether it’s an employee who went from the help desk [level] 1 to leading the help desk.”
In order to help others succeed, Cronin keeps learning as well, constantly expanding his own four walls. He’s been a member of numerous boards including CompTIA, Channel Partners and the Education Advisory Board of the PSA Security Network. He’s also participated in the IT Careers Foundation and the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), which represents the commercial low-voltage and electronic systems industry.
It’s About the Culture
Today, Cronin runs venture-owned Apogee IT Services, with offices in Boston, Toronto and Pittsburgh. His focus is to better align the cultures of three acquired MSPs and another that may be in the works.
“You can’t deliver the ultimate client experience without cultural engagement and shared vision,” he said.
Bringing on new companies was something Cronin did before, both at Data Comm Systems and Atrion, where he spent about 15 years. Cronin joined Atrion in 2002 to help build a managed services business for the company. As senior vice president and partner, he helped grow the business from $9 million to $156 million, before Carousel Industries acquired it in 2016.
While at Atrion, he implemented a training and talent acquisition program, similar to the one he started at Data Comm Systems, an IT services company. He worked at Data Comm for 15 years, starting in 1984. Dimension Data acquired that company.
“Just like I was fortunate enough to take a 10-week IT training class, I always believed that I can train the right person in technology,” he said. “At Data Comm it was a giant success. I brought in waiters, teachers, salesman, lots of people — and we had a good development program. It was our secret sauce.”
These soft-skill people got technical training and mentored learning.
“That’s how a small company could stand at the table of a [customer] company like L.L. Bean. Our people were extraordinary. Back then, soft skills were important; you did presentations and were always watched.”
Building Managed Services
Cronin’s early field service technician experience landed him at Data Comm Systems, where he joined the family-owned business as a partner and built out a services organization that attracted big name customers.
“Although we were a regional company, we were able to develop a good offering for these bigger companies. They didn’t know what managed services were. But we were able to go in and have some compelling conversations,” said the MSP 501 award winner.
The managed services business caught on for Data Comm. The firm expanded outside of New England, to New Jersey, Georgia and California. Then Dimension Data came knocking.
At this point, Data Comm’s managed services business was …
… vibrant; it was a big Cisco partner and had big-name customers with global locations.
“We were a $34 million company at that point, and more than 25% of revenue came from managed services,” said Cronin.
He joined Dimension Data as vice president of North America. The company bought six more small IT service providers.
“We wrapped all of them into our managed services offering and built a U.S. NOC,” said Cronin.
After a few years, he move on to Atrion. There, his mission to build a managed services practice. He also became an adjunct professor at Johnson & Wales University teaching technology, help desk concepts, call center management and so on.
Client as Teacher
In the 1990s, Cronin says he was fortunate to have a client advisory board.
“They helped define what they wanted and needed. They didn’t know how to do it, but they knew what their challenges were,” he said. “I listened. And we were able to build something that leapfrogged other people’s approach to put more people onsite.”
One of the first things on his to-do list at Atrion was to put together a client advisory board.
“It’s about listening to the customer and then creating,” said Cronin. He met with the client group met regularly.
2020 MSP 501 award winner Cronin has seen witnessed the evolution of technology and has had a hand in building multiple IT service organizations.
“Today, you have to be the orchestrator of success. The underlying thing below people doing their jobs is the applications running on the infrastructure that supports it. We must make sure they’re always operational and at peak performance. So it’s about security, connectivity, management of user experience and business continuity planning. It’s about us being the customer’s fourth adviser — there’s legal, financial and insurance. And we’re about business, technology, enablement and making sure the customer gets the most out of their investment,” said Cronin.
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