President and CEO Jonathan Smith on how the pandemic actually presented opportunities and chances for growth.

Allison Francis

December 23, 2020

8 Min Read
compass pointing to word challenge

Company Name: Xamin
Company MSP 501 Rank: 263
President and CEO: Jonathan Smith
Headquartered: Chicago

Primary Services:

  • Infrastructure

  • Security

  • Data protection

  • Cloud

Twitter: @XaminInc

MSP 501 winner Xamin is no stranger to pivoting, even pre-pandemic. President and CEO Jonathan Smith, a company owner for 20 years, has more than a few insights on the matter. One in particular stands out. 

“The one thing you have to learn as you build and grow a business is that you will spend a large amount of time and effort thinking about the well-being of your company and your employees.”

According to Smith, this should be priority number one.


Xamin’s Jonathan Smith

We sat down with him to chat about pivoting during a pandemic, mergers, and choosing the right strategic partnerships.

Channel Futures: What is one thing you wish vendors would do that they don’t?

Jonathan Smith: At Xamin, we work with a number of vendors (Cisco, Dell, HP, VMware, etc.) and usually purchase products through distribution. Then, we’ll work with their vendor teams through distribution. In our experience, we’ve really enjoyed working with their distribution teams. We’ve been so impressed with the level of customer service we typically receive. In fact, our vendor teams have been really responsive, attentive and dedicated to partnering with our team and learning how we can best work together.

However, vendors often treat small and medium businesses (SMBs) as a “training opportunity” for newer representatives at their company. This can mean a fair amount of turnover, and your account reps can be continually swapped out for new reps. As an SMB, it’s nice to get in a groove with your account rep at the vendor. However, there can be a brief lull in customer service when a new rep is assigned to your team. We’ve actually been pretty lucky though, and are usually assigned a rep who’s very responsive and helpful to our relationship with the vendor. 

The 2020 MSP 501 recognizes the top managed service providers in the world. See the full list. Then check out our brand-new Hot 101 and NextGen 101.

CF: What new opportunities and challenges came with the global COVID-19 pandemic?

JS: As an IT company, the pandemic actually presented us with an opportunity. As shelter-in-place orders went into effect across the country, companies needed help as they quickly deployed their work-from-home strategies. Additionally, executives were looking to implement new, secure solutions to equip their employees with the tools to work from home. Initially, we were busier than usual. While most of our customers had a remote strategy, they needed help scaling up their remote solutions to work for a much larger portion of their employees. But we knew the initial spike in business wouldn’t …

… last forever. What started as an opportunity eventually turned into a challenge. As an economic recession loomed, the competition from larger managed service providers (MSPs) increased. Several of our clients switched to larger competitors that offered more generic solutions with a smaller price tag. 

However, we quickly circled back to new opportunities as we finalized a merger with Mowery & Schoenfeld. I’ve been looking for the right company to partner with for several years now to help build and grow Xamin. This came at the perfect time. It has brought in new opportunities for our team and allows us to work with a whole new market. 

CF: What was the single biggest technology or business decision that drove your company’s growth in 2019-2020? How did it do so?

JS: The biggest technology decision that our leadership team made in 2019 was introducing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and Culture Index into our company. I was introduced to EOS through my entrepreneurial network, EO Chicago chapter, and many of the members in that network started to adopt this strategy. 

At first, I didn’t think it was necessary. But when the opportunity to introduce the operating system into Xamin presented itself, we jumped on it. It ended up being a huge blessing to our company and was the perfect solution that we didn’t even know we needed. The system offered greater accountability, organization, structure and the framework to help connect our company from every position. The system also helped employees get on the same page, acting toward the same goals and the same vision for Xamin. 

After implementing EOS, our leadership team also introduced the Culture Index. This guides organizations to a better company culture and uses real data and measurable solutions to help companies manage, review and hire the right employees for their business. At Xamin, this system helps management in a number of ways. It helps them work better with their teams, hire new employees to fit the culture of our organization as well as communicate with employees and deliver information throughout the company.

It’s an integral part of our company culture. In fact, every year, when our leadership team meets to see what we can do better as a company, communication is always brought up as a critical component for improvement. However, after implementing these systems in 2019, communication wasn’t one of our areas of focus for 2020. Why? EOS and Culture Index have helped us improve our relationships, engagement and communication with employees across every area of the company. It helped me relay the vision of the company to all of our employees and supported a greater understanding of the steps it takes every day (from lower-level employees to management to leadership and beyond) for us to achieve that vision. 

CF: Tell us the story of the biggest pivot you’ve ever had to execute.

JS: One thing you have to learn as you build and grow a business is the amount of time and effort that goes into thinking about the well-being of your company and your employees. As someone who’s owned their own company for 20 years, I’d never advise anyone to run their company as if they were going to sell it one day. But when you are looking to enter into strategic partnerships, choose the one that’s right for your business and your employees. 

Over the years, many opportunities have presented themselves. But, I waited for …

… the right partner — a partner who would understand the unique culture that we’ve built at Xamin. If you’ve seen the news, you know Xamin recently merged with Mowery & Schoenfeld. What people don’t see on the surface is the time and energy that goes into these decisions. 

In fact, for the last three years, I’ve looked for the right capital partner. This process has consumed nearly 30%-40% of my time and thoughts. That’s a lot of time and energy leading up to the moment you find the right partner. While there’s no road map or timeline for growing a business and making the right move during this pivot, I have tried my best to be transparent with my leadership team and our employees. I loop in the leadership team as soon as possible and get their feedback on these decisions. I also meet with employees to discuss their excitement, concerns and answer any questions they may have about this decision. 

CF: Why are you a business owner instead of working for someone else? What is the allure of entrepreneurship to you?

JS: After watching my father build a thriving engineering firm in the midst of a recession, I was inspired to launch Xamin. I did so in 1999, alongside Pete Smothers, who is our chief operating officer. My father was always present when I was growing up. I associated his presence and support with the fact that he was able to have flexibility at work because he owned his own company. I hope one day my girls will be able to feel that way about me as well. 

Additionally, entrepreneurship allows me the opportunity to share challenges and successes with other entrepreneurs. Being on the board of the EO Chicago chapter, I have the opportunity to network with other business owners in my area. We trade stories of our mistakes and accomplishments. These are takeaways that I’ve used to grow my company and help my team members thrive. As I learn from those around me, I am able to better support my team in their growth and success. Building and running Xamin, I’m able to provide my employees more flexibility — flexibility with their families and the opportunity to mature, both professionally and personally.

In our recent ventures with Mowery & Schoenfeld, it was key for Xamin to be able to maintain our company culture and life as normal. The merger would allow our companies to align our brands, goals and visions. At the same time, it would grow our platforms and opportunities for the future.

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About the Author(s)

Allison Francis

Allison Francis is a writer, public relations and marketing communications professional with experience working with clients in industries such as business technology, telecommunications, health care, education, the trade show and meetings industry, travel/tourism, hospitality, consumer packaged goods and food/beverage. She specializes in working with B2B technology companies involved in hyperconverged infrastructure, managed IT services, business process outsourcing, cloud management and customer experience technologies. Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from Drake University. An Iowa native, she resides in Denver, Colorado.

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