ServIT's Third Business Transition Drives Triple-Digit Growth

While a lot of channel companies are going through a radical business reinvention to a managed services model, very few have reinvented themselves more than once.

ServIT, a Kennesaw, Ga.-based managed service provider, opened its doors 24 years ago as an IBM third-party hardware maintenance provider. However, in the late 1990s, the company saw the industry changing and adopted a VAR model, focusing on IBM Power systems.

While ServIT still does a lot of business in those two areas, and has actually seen a bump in those businesses, the company is in the midst of its third transition to what President Allen Brooks called an "all-inclusive, full-service MSP." That's when the "story really becomes cool," he said.

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Five years ago, ServIT placed a big bet on managed services, building two data centers, one in Atlanta and the other in Indiana. Within two weeks of opening the hosting centers, the company was at capacity, Brooks said, and decided to invest millions more to beef up infrastructure to handle disaster recovery, backup, remote management and more.

Since then, business has been booming, Brooks said. In the past three years, ServIT has grown more than 426 percent. The growth isn't on track to slow down anytime soon, with Brooks predicting the company will double its managed services business in the next year if it closes half of the contracts in the sales pipeline.

The "secret sauce" of ServIT's success has been its philosophy of being an "executive-level managed service provider," Brooks said, which means the company will do as much or as little of a client's IT needs as they want. That requires offering a wide range of technologies so customers can request whatever they need, he said, including cloud computing, business continuity, backup and recovery, a fully functioning NOC help desk and more.

Beyond the technology, Brooks said ServIT focuses on what he said is "absolute overservice," where the company's more than 70 technicians are all eight- to 10-year industry veterans who show up to clients "in ties and ... on time" and high-end project managers help make sure the customer's voice is heard. The average ticket response before remediation is seven minutes, he said.

"The philosophy is this; it's real simple: We will do as much or as little of your IT as you want, but we will make sure to give you more value," Brooks said. "That's our model."

While Brooks said all of the technology offerings are cool, the real differentiator is the company's CIO report, which is a 186-page document that ServIT gives to clients outlining institutional knowledge and identified gaps in IT. The report breaks down business process, facilities, security, communication, disaster recovery, performance and more to give the client a picture of where they stand and what investments would be best to make down the road. The report takes more than 30 man-hours to complete for each client, Brooks said, and has a "big shock and awe factor when you pull it out."

"This is not data; this is insight into their business," Brooks said.

All of the features are built into a fixed-price agreement that is agreed upon with each customer, Brooks said.

While ServIT offers a wide range of vendors to satisfy clients' requests and needs, keeping up with all those technologies isn't easy, Brooks said.

"It's a challenge; I'll be 100 percent honest," he said. However, the profitability on the approach is "amazing," with a record profit year in 2013 and a "great" year in 2014 despite spending millions on investments.

"It is a challenge because we are still trying to figure out how to calculate all the value-add. That is still very much in design. But, what I do know, the business ... as an entity is very profitable."

The biggest challenge is keeping up with the company's growth, Brooks said. The company has already hired six high-end tech professionals in the past three weeks and has paid what Brooks called a "stupid tax" with investments in tools and processes that didn't end up paying off.

"Our problem is keeping the standard that we've decided upon and balancing the growth. That's the problem," Brooks said.

Brooks said ServIT approaches the problem by "pushing to be change agents" and "innovators." He said a "continual improvement board" meets every morning for the past three years to check systems and, more importantly, look at ways to innovate and prevent problems.

"I'm still not saying that we're perfect or out of the woods, but I will say that we came a long, long way," Brooks said.