I’ve been doing a lot of marketing outreach lately, which has resulted in an increase in the frequency of meetings I have been having with prospective new clients.  I really like this aspect of running a managed IT services business.  The opportunity to talk to people about their business and their reliance upon technology to be competitive in a highly competitive landscape never gets old for me.  Each conversation has common IT-related themes but each person I speak with is so different with broadly varied backgrounds, different approaches, different levels of experience, etc. and they all have some kind of interesting back story detailing how they ended up in the seat across from me (or sitting on the other side of a Zoom session!) talking shop.

Just last week I took an in-person appointment with a local construction company, roughly 30’ish endpoints on their network, which represents a reasonable amount of IT “stuff” needing maintenance and attention.  These are typically pretty fruitful leads for me to take a close look at, i.e. businesses that have way too much reliance on IT to wing it but not a big enough employee headcount to justify a full time in-house IT resource unless they are very junior, and even then they are probably paying more than they need to while getting less than 100% coverage.  I arrived all masked up, I signed in and took a pump off their hand sanitizer station, and seconds later I was greeted by my contact, I’m going to call him Joe.  Joe and I said howdy with a virtual elbow bump which is all the rage these days and we headed to his office to talk for a bit.  As our conversation unfolded it quickly became clear to me that this was a different kind of Joe.  Most Joe’s I talk to in 30’ish-endpoint shops have about 20% of their IT bases covered (and some of the uncovered bases make me cringe at the casual attitude towards business risk) but this particular Joe had a ready, sane, defensible and logical answer to every question I put out there.  Q: How’s this network laid out?  A:  I have multiple subnets, one for the user environment, one for the VPN, one for the guest network, etc.  Q:  How about current documentation?  Physical?  Logical?  A:  Here you go (and he hands me an 8.5x11 Visio, full color, with everything clearly laid out, a solid, tight, at-a-glance document, like what I would expect from my employees).

The Q/A went on like that for a few minutes.  This was a rare Joe.  I’m thinking, “man, Joe absolutely digs IT”.  We went to tour his server room - two racks, tight cabling, color coded, labeled, no obsolete junk piled I the corner, pristine, you could eat off the floor.  He was proud of it, and rightly so.  The more I spoke with Joe the more I found myself thinking about my foray into IT nearly 30 years ago.  Everything was so new, there was so much cool stuff to learn and I drank it all in – DOS, Unix, Xenix, Novell, VMS, and eventually Windows – client after client, site after site, 100’s of servers, 1000’s of workstations, so many conversations with so many people to even try to guess, miles of cable, racks upon racks of gear...to be completely Bay Area about it:  what a long, strange (and wonderful) trip it’s been.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  This is where I belong.  My employees are like family to me.  My clients as well.  Some of these clients I literally grew up with.  We still work with some clients where all the original employees are gone, retired, moved on.  But their business is still going strong and the new faces have by now all become old faces…  As I drove home from my meeting I imagined Joe’s future in IT.  With his enthusiasm, aptitude and attitude, I already know Joe will go far.  Will he stick with one company and see them through thick and thin?  That would be a lucky company.  Will he keep learning and absorbing and eventually branch out into the world of managed services to maybe work for or run an MSP and take care of other clients like he is currently taking care of his W-2 gig?  That would be a lucky MSP.  Hmmm…think I’m gonna keep tabs on this particular Joe…