MSP 501 Profile: Digital Boardwalk's Triumph over the Great Recession

This week in our ongoing series of MSP 501 winner profiles, we shine a spotlight on No. 386, Digital Boardwalk.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

July 5, 2019

6 Min Read
Business Victory

Company Name:  Digital Boardwalk
MSP 501 Rank: 386
CEO: Tim Shoop
Location: Pensacola, FL
Primary Services:

Twitter: @Digiwalk

In 2007, Digital Boardwalk’s CEO, Tim Shoop, was struggling to keep his eight-year-old IT business, New Vision Computers, above water. The U.S. veteran was a quarter-million dollars in debt and faced a tough decision: Close his doors and walk away from entrepreneurship, or double down in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The Channel Futures MSP 501 is the IT channel’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive annual survey and rankings. Now in its 12th year, the 501 has become the gold standard in recognizing the top managed service providers on the planet. We are proud to showcase our 2019 MSP 501 winners in profiles to be published throughout the year.


Digital Boardwalk’s Tim Shoop

Shoop was close to taking the first route. Like many small business owners in the late aughts, he felt like a failure. Then he remembered some wise words from Thomas Edison: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Defying his mounting debt and the legions of well-meaning people warning him he was making a mistake, Shoop founded Digital Boardwalk in 2008. The gamble paid off.

“Instead of quitting, I did what a real entrepreneur would do,” remembers Shoop. “I took more risks. I spent more money. I researched. I built something new. I failed more times than I succeeded, but I never stopped trying.

As long as I am here, you will always see something new from me.”

Here, Shoop talks about how Digital Boardwalk has differentiated itself from other MSPs to climb to the top of the industry, where the MSP’s biggest growth areas are for 2019 and the one thing he wishes vendors would do that they don’t.

Channel Futures: In a market that sometimes seems so crowded there’s no elbow room, how does Digital Boardwalk stand out from its competitors?

Tim Shoop: For the first several years of our business we focused our efforts on addressing the primary issues that were plaguing industry including slow response times and poor customer service. As we evolved and created a consistent customer service model, we shifted our focus to faster resolution times. We found that most of our competitors were offering quick response times, yet customers were still complaining about the experience. It turns out that the competition was quick to respond to customer requests but would take days or weeks to solve the problem. After changing our focus, we discovered that customers cared less about the actual response to the request and more about how long it took us to complete it.

We spent close to one year making several significant changes to our company structure that would foster growth, development and teamwork. These changes, among other HR improvements, resulted in an average resolution time of less than two hours. This industry-leading resolution time is not only attracting new clients from our competition but also enticing other MSPs who are unhappy with their current outsourced help desk. What’s more, we have been able to make all these changes without having to …

… increase our customer pricing.

Our ongoing focus on the customer experience by way of our automation, proactive business processes, and award-winning team of engineers continues to set us apart from the competition as a true leader in our industry.

CF: Look into your crystal ball. What do you see as your biggest opportunities in the next year or so?

TS: Cybersecurity continues to be a big growth opportunity for us. Although many competitors are beginning to offer out-of-the-box cybersecurity solutions, our human-driven approach and proprietary NIST 800-171 compliance management platform are attracting industries with serious cybersecurity regulations and compliance requirements. Not only has the wave of media attention driven many customers to question their cybersecurity posture and capabilities of their current provider, but third-party vendors are also beginning to require more-stringent cybersecurity policies of their partners, forcing businesses to finally take action.

We also see managed IT services in general to be a big growth area for us in the near future. We are finally past the point where businesses are questioning the efficacy of managed IT (as opposed to break-fix) and are now demanding it. This is allowing us to focus our conversations on the business outcomes of our services rather than educating prospects on the managed IT model. As the industry completes this shift, we’re also finding a number of break-fix shops forced into the managed IT model that don’t wish to take on the burden of building out that new business practice. We’ve found recent success partnering with those shops to help them get a managed IT practice off the ground quickly in a mutually beneficial relationship.

CF: To all the vendors out there reading up on the 501, what’s the one thing you want to tell them to do that they aren’t currently doing?

TS: These days, practically any individual consultant, break-fix shop, or IT provider can sign up with the big RMM, backup and cybersecurity vendors and launch an MSP practice. When each of these vendors captures the majority of their respective market, the result is countless MSP competitors all using the same platforms with no clear competitive advantage to the end user. This creates a significant challenge for established MSPs to compete against startup MSPs that are selling based on the advertised capabilities, even though their business is not yet mature enough to deliver on all those promises.

We wish vendors would create certification and performance programs that would recognize and distinguish operationally mature MSPs from the startup MSPs that use the same tools. Regardless of platform, the tools that MSPs leverage to deliver their services all require customization, training, best practices, operational procedures and more to truly utilize the platform to its full potential for the end client. If mature MSPs had a credential they could market to prospects during the sales process, it could help customers make informed business decisions about the capabilities and investment the MSP has put into their service offering. We also wish this credential would correlate to reduced pricing received from the vendor, which would help to eliminate severe market price undercutting and devaluation perpetrated by the startup MSPs. This pricing model would be based on more factors than just sales volume alone.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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