Featured Article in Business Solutions Magazine: October 2015. Digital Edition: September 2015
By Jay McCall, Photo By Tim Schermerhorn
One of the biggest conundrums in the IT channel is summed up in the following two statements: To be successful you need to be a total solutions provider, aka a “onestop shop.” Another school of thought says that if you really want to differentiate yourself, you need to become an expert in one technology or niche area of IT, such as security or IT infrastructure. Managed services provider (MSP) and cloud services provider (CSP) iQ Solutions Group (iQSG) has come up with a solution that combines the best of both paradigms, complemented by their mainstay premise-based IT solutions portfolio of UCC and data center solutions. And the fact that it’s projecting another year of 30 percent revenue growth suggests it’s on to something big.
Success Starts With The Right Team
Prior to starting iQSG in 2012, founding partners Mark Nield and Tom Richardson agreed that developing expertise among their salespeople, technicians, and engineers was going to be a top priority. At the same time they knew that trying to extend solutions and services to enterprise-class clientele would require them to invest in multiple IT disciplines (e.g., UCC, network infrastructure, security, cloud, and mobility), a significant investment to be made in both people and capital resources. Knowing, too, that their customers would prefer to work with as few IT solutions providers as possible, their strategy included hiring employees with specialized experience and forming strategic partnerships.
iQSG’s plan entailed working more closely with its IT vendors and taking advantage of training, certification, and sales assistance opportunities. Rather than trying to manage a dozen different relationships, it worked with value-added distributor ScanSource Communications to streamline the process (see sidebar on page 32 to learn more about iQSG’s relationship with ScanSource Communications).
“Establishing relationships with our primary vendors [see company profile for examples] has opened up opportunities for us to expand our business offerings, allowing us to leverage complementary services,” says Richardson. “It also has afforded us the opportunity to operate and support our customers nationally, and in some instances globally. For example, for some of the dynamic projects we have been privileged to undertake, our team may handle the architectural design of the solution, while a strategic partner like ScanSource may assist with the professional services and implementation of our design.”
Nield concurs and adds, “It’s because of our strategic relationships that we’re able to go after global midsize and enterprise business opportunities and differentiate against our competitors. Additionally, we are able to be selective with the specialized partners that we align ourselves with to deliver a solution to our customers, as we identify top industry talent to assist us with implementing complex solutions. Many of our competitors have a hard time adapting to new technology and business changes because they’re so mired in legacy technologies and business practices, which gives us an even bigger advantage.”
The adage “Our people are our greatest asset” may be nothing more than a marketing line for some IT solutions providers, but it isn’t for iQSG. Nield and Richardson have learned a couple of important lessons in this area over the past couple of years. “Our corporate headquarters in Westerville, OH, is located in a very competitive area that’s growing faster than most other cities,” says Nield. “The job market is competitive, and it’s difficult to find quality people with passion, drive, and a desire for excellence. We have been fortunate to refine and expand our team over the past few years, finding the right mix of individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit to complement our culture.”
Make It Easier To Do Business With Your Company
With the advances in business process platforms and technology today coupled with the myriad of onpremise, hybrid, and cloud solutions and services options, there are lots of choices MSPs and end users need to weigh before preparing to transact from a business perspective. Nield and Richardson were proud to share that from their company’s inception, one of their first objectives was to identify a backoffice financial, MSP, and CRM platform to build their business on.
“These tools have helped us streamline our financials, sales, operations, and services,” says Nield. “Our quoting tool, for example, is integrated with Scan- Source Communications’ inventory, which enables our salespeople to quickly build proposals that reflect the most up-to-date pricing, put the quote in a nice HTML template, email it to a manager for review and e-signature approval, and get the quote to the customer — all in a very short period.”
Nield and Richardson acknowledge that being able to implement a PSA (professional services automation) and quoting tool from the very beginning is another advantage iQSG has had over larger competitors. “Oftentimes, companies that have been around for more than 10 years are so heavily invested in their legacy CRM, billing, and accounting apps that it becomes too daunting to upgrade to the latest cloud-enabled operational tools,” says Richardson.
Avoid Common UCC Pitfalls
The majority of iQSG’s competitors specialize in one side of IT: the data networking side or the communications (e.g., voice and video over IP) side. Even within the data networking side, it’s common to find solutions providers specializing in only storage or security. But iQSG’s offerings cover the gamut of voice, video, data networking, and data center solutions and services.
“We feel that it’s shortsighted to only sell a small component of what a customer needs,” says Richardson. “It’s not unusual to find, for example, an IP telephony provider that only sells VoIP phone systems, and they lack experience and knowledge of their customer’s network environments. The LAN, WAN, and WLAN play key roles in the overall quality of a VoIP phone system. Our networking expertise helps us discover, for instance, that a customer may need to upgrade its network to ensure quality calls during peak network usage periods.”
iQSG believes telephony-only resellers miss out on services contracts, also. “We always complement our UCC sales with a managed services offer,” says Nield. “We can remotely monitor and manage our customers’ phone systems the same way we do with computers and servers. In fact, we’ll oftentimes discover and repair issues before they’re even aware there was a problem.”
Selling comprehensive IT and UCC solutions has another benefit that can’t be overlooked — pricing. “When we sell a UCC solution, it is critical to fully understand the customers’ business and goals. We often uncover other problems contributing to the issue at hand. Because we offer cross-platform solutions, we can improve our position, remain competitive, and provide a better overall experience for our customers,” says Richardson. “And, we can even offer training if that’s something the customer is interested in — either through one of our badged employees or our distributor partner, which serves as an extension of our business.”
Whether you subscribe to iQSG’s philosophy or not, it’s hard to argue with the results they’re seeing. Since its inception in 2012, the company has expanded its geographical footprint further into Ohio, as well as into the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and most recently into North and South Carolina. Its workforce is expected to reach 20 employees by year’s end, and it’s projecting another year of 30 percent revenue growth over the previous year.