MSP 501 Profile: Business System Solutions Wins Comeback Kid Award
Business System Solutions president Bill Ooms knew it was only a matter of time before a genetic eye disorder would rob him of his eyesight; so, he did what any self-starter with business vision would do — he transformed his financially troubled break-fix IT shop, brought it back to health, and secured himself a position that accommodates his disability.
For Ooms, who started his local IT partner business out of his West Lafayette, Indiana, house in 1995 and built it into a $500,000 business, knew that doing nothing to recreate his company and career was as terrifying as changing it up.
“Having a business education and the pressure of the debt, and more importantly, realizing that with my eyesight I’m not going to be able to do this forever, somewhere around 2012, I started kicking in the marketing and changed [the business model] to become a managed service provider,” Ooms told Channel Futures.
Business System Solutions was a break-fix business for more than a decade, with four – sometimes five – employees, working with local small to medium-size businesses (SMBs). The company started going into debt around 2009, to the tune of $160,000, with $500,000 in revenue. Ooms’ business hit the $500,000 revenue ceiling and stayed there for a number of years.
As Ooms admits, change is hard. It took him four years after joining Robin Robins, the marketing and sales training leader, to take action in his business. But once he made up his mind, he jumped in with both feet.
First, he hired a marketing person, and sent out campaigns. Many were letters with straight-to-the-point messages.
“The first was that we’re raising our rates, and the second was that we need to move you to a managed service plan, or you won’t be our client anymore,” said Ooms. “That was scary.”
Rightly so for a business that never lost a client. The risk-taking and potential for lost revenue was real. Of course, Ooms offered to sit down with every one of his clients to come up with a new plan to move forward.
He lost 80% of his 100 long-term clients. That was tough.
“We had relationships with all of our clients. You’d walk in and they’d want to give you a cup of coffee. It was hard because of the relationship and the level of customer service that we provided all along,” he said.
Customer responses to the business model change ranged from, “Well, we never had to pay that before,” to “You don’t want to help us small guys anymore,” and “You’re charging too much.”
“It was hard to hear some of those things because we believed we were providing the value, and yet, those clients didn’t appreciate or see the need for that value,” said Ooms.
At the same time, Business System Solutions picked up new clients for its monthly recurring revenue MSP business. It was the only IT services firm in the area – the county has about 120,000 people – offering managed services at that time. Since then, a few competitors began offering managed services, but not very well, according to Ooms.
Business System Solutions’ revenue headed north. Since 2013, the company’s revenue has grown 19%, on average, every year. Growth and marketing efforts go hand in hand.
Despite the positive turn in revenue, Ooms still had business challenges, such as taking along all of his employees as he moved from break-fix to managed services.
“In the break-fix model we have to be good firefighters. With managed services we want to avoid fires from starting,” he said.
Today, the longest length of employment for one of Ooms’ employees is five years.
“The biggest stumbling block for us was people,” said Ooms, some of whom didn’t have the same vision for managed services, he added.
Today, he attributes the company’s success to an amazing group of employees — 13, with Ooms’ looking to hire two more.
Another challenge for Ooms is more personal.
“I had the business management background, but I was the IT guy, the expert. As time went along, I realized that I shouldn’t be driving because of my eyesight and it was more difficult going into dark rooms or seeing things under a desk,” he said. “I had to give up my role, delegate my role as the IT expert to my staff.”
Ooms hasn’t driven for a year-and-a-half and doesn’t do IT work anymore. And, oddly enough, the necessary change has helped to grow the company.
“I can work on the business instead of in the business,” he said.
Today, the goal of Business System Solutions is to be fixed-fee for doing all of the IT-related work, or anything that plugs into the network, for a small business. The company supports its customer’s software and hardware vendors, keeps licenses up to date, helps users with any issues that come up during the day, monitors for any software or hardware alerts to be proactive, and alerts clients about changes that need to be made. It also helps clients procure equipment such as replacing PCs on a regular schedule, acts as an adviser, introducing new technologies – such as Office 365 – moving to the cloud, and being the solution provider and adviser on cybersecurity issues.
The client experience has always been central to Business System Solutions. That means finding employees that are ideal team players and fit with the company’s culture, including the focus on customer service.
Part of the employee Wednesday weekly meeting includes reviewing some piece of the Client Bill of Rights document, the 10 Commandments of Great Customer Service, and core values — or mission statement. By the end of the year, these documents are reviewed twice.
“By the time the year is done, a new employee truly understands what we’re all about. We solve people problems more than we solve technology problems,” said Ooms.
Going forward Ooms will continue to grow the business with larger clients; the Office 365 business and cloud business will be introduced to customers as they need server upgrades to get the benefits of new technologies; and the security and compliance business will continue to grow, with a managed security services provider (MSSP) practice not too far away.