This is what happens when expertise and entrepreneurship get together and form a company.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

November 23, 2020

6 Min Read
Best-in-class IT
Shutterstock

Company Name: DLC Technology
Company MSP 501 Rank: 326
Founder & President: Darren Crane
Headquartered: Marlton, NJ
Primary Services:

  • Managed IT services

  • Security

  • Health care, legal and financial compliance

Twitter: @dlctechnology

Crane-Darren_DLC-Technology.jpg

DLC Technology’s Darren Crane

For the past 15 years, DLC Technology has focused on providing SMBs with best-in-class IT solutions and support. Darren Crane, the company’s founder and president, has the soul of an entrepreneur and an extensive background in IT. After more than a decade of working as a consultant for other companies, he had an opportunity to strike out on his own — and hasn’t looked back.

Crane takes delight in providing best-in-class IT and making technology “do things the vendors said was impossible.” DLC focuses on providing clients with technology aligned to their particular business needs. Crane says he wishes vendors would do the same with their partner models.

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

Darren Crane: Vendors have a fundamental misunderstanding of the MSP business model.  Most vendors have a traditional partner or reseller model that they attempt to apply to MSPs. But the model simply does not align with the goals or business strategy of the typical managed service provider.

Vendor partnership models are usually aligned against volumes of sales of their particular widget — be it number of devices sold or under management or number of licenses billed monthly, etc. — with special incentives to sell/buy more and get higher margins, marketing assistance, employee training, etc. They even run specials like “Buy two widgets get a third one free!” and so forth. What these vendors fail to understand is that the average MSP is not out there selling products a la carte!

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.

MSPs focus on finding customers that will be placed under their management for all things technology. Part of that management is a standard stack of solutions developed by the MSP itself. So, for example, if the standard backup and disaster recovery device is from vendor X, then acquiring that new customer will likely result in the purchase of one device from vendor X. If vendor X wants another sale, the MSP needs another new customer.

Vendors need to understand this model intimately and change their partnership model, incentives and goals. A more logical partnership model for an MSP would be one where MSPs are rewarded for things like:

  • Exclusively using that vendor’s products for that area of their stack (track percentage of customers with that product, for example)

  • Maximizing the use of all the vendor’s products throughout the MSP’s existing customer base

In addition, the vendor’s MSP partner model should focus on marketing services and materials that help the MSP get new customers as well as providing good neutral, brandable materials on their products and services. The materials should focus on why their widget is best-in-class and a good fit within the standard technology stack of the MSP.

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

DC: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted us like most MSPs. Customers that had limited remote access capabilities suddenly needed it for all end users, and they realized that their 15-year-old phone system just couldn’t be used remotely. There was a burst of work at the start caused by remote work requirements, but we quickly got everything deployed. Some vendors offered solutions that helped, but having standards and virtualized environments that could be expanded quickly was key.

Initially there were several significant challenges:

  • Would our customers stay in business?

  • Would they continue to pay us?

  • How can we service them safely?

We analyzed our customers and spoke with them all. That allowed us to understand and plan. In some cases, we adjusted or rewrote agreements on the spot to allow our services to flex with the size of the customer’s workforce. In the end, we were just plain lucky that our customers were primarily in health care, legal and other verticals that continued to operate.

As COVID continued we faced additional challenges. How do you:

  • Market in this environment? What do you say on social media?

  • Get new customers when you can’t do networking events and other marketing activities?

  • Continue to have a corporate culture when your staff is always at home and never in-person?

  • Onboard and train our new employees?

Our staff and company culture were and continue to be a constant focus for us. We do…

…daily huddles via video on MS Teams, sent surprise gifts to employees at home and encourage flexible schedules so each person can deal with kids being at home, spouses working from home and other demands on their attention during the traditional workday.  We turned our office into hoteling space, outfitted with clear COVID safety policies, PPE and signage.

We have no plans to return to the office and are managing as if this will continue into the foreseeable future. Every day we continue to think of ways to stay together intellectually and keep team bonds strong, but it is very difficult. Our company culture is critical to our success.  Meanwhile we continue to be nimble and adjust as needed to today’s circumstance. It recently dawned on some of my team that our annual holiday party probably won’t be possible. That was a depressing realization. What exactly could possibly replace that in our socially distanced reality?

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

DC: Owning an IT business was more of an accident than an intentional action! I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I was planning to take time off, and an old client asked me to do some independent consulting. Before I knew it, I had a handful of employees. At that point I decided to dig in, refine the company into an MSP model and plan for the future. It grew from there.

Looking back, I realize now that I was a consultant for more than 12 years before starting this company. I worked for rather large firms and eventually wound up in management. But at the core of my being I worked best and was happiest helping customers realize the true value of their technology and making it do things the vendors said was impossible. This company allows me to do that on a daily basis and in a deliberate, focused way that I rarely see from others in the market.

Working for others could be very stressful. That was especially true when I was part of the management team for an IT consulting company that went public, was acquired and brought private again. But earlier in my career I worked for people that truly helped me grow both personally and professionally. I miss those people every day. While I didn’t create this company to escape any of that, I now realize that I don’t think I could ever go back to a large consulting firm. At this point in my life if my current company role ended, I would look into other entrepreneurial endeavors, possibly in a completely different field.

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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