Howard: Hello everybody, this is Howard Fox, the producer of the IT Journal Podcast, your source for the latest innovations in technology. I'm very happy today to introduce you to Steven Kroiss, the founder of 79 Ratio. Steven, welcome to IT Journal Podcast.
Steven: Thanks, Howard. Appreciate being here.
Howard: Excellent. So, hopefully your work-week is starting off well and just really excited to kind of learn more about who you are, what 79 Ratio is all about, and how in your world, technology is being used to not only disrupt, hopefully in a good way, the work that you're doing with your clients. So, maybe you can start to share a little bit more information about who you are.
Steven: Yeah, sure. So, I've been in the IT Manage Service Provider space for a number of years now, and I've worked for a couple different companies. It's kind of given me a unique perspective on how they run in general. I've found a lot of inefficiencies with a lot of them that I've worked at, and just ways of dealing with customers or dealing with employees that drove me to start my own business. I saw what they were missing, and I knew what I wanted to bring to the table for clients and how to best serve them. So, that's kind of what my focus was.
Howard: Okay, so when you talk about some of the inefficiencies, not only within the team, the company, for your clients, what are some examples of some of those inefficiencies, and then perhaps shift to how you've addressed those in the work that you're doing now.
Steven: Yeah, sure. So, one of the main things, at least for engineering standpoint, would be Notes. Kind of just keeping tabs on what's going on with people's systems, or what's happening or how to do something. There's nothing worse than trying to reinvent the wheel multiple times for the same issue.
And so go in and document everything properly, and have it so that way the next time that someone calls up or has an issue with something, we know how to fix it. It's not like, oh wow, what is this? I've never heard of this before. You know? And it's something that's happened seven or eight times. We can just go in and get it fixed right away and make sure everything's working. If everything is documented well, then it means that you have a process that you can follow and keep the time low so you're working efficiently and it's not expensive to work on an issue over and over again.
And you can always automate eventually too if you figure that out.
Howard: Sure. Now, when I think of resolving inefficiencies, an example that comes immediately to mind is I just have upgraded my notebook computer, a new Dell computer. Maybe I shouldn't have said that, but apologies to Dell in advance. You know, we often have to call a help desk to get support, and sometimes those calls, the person takes the call, and maybe you get transferred and you find yourself repeating the same thing three or four times. Is that part of the inefficiency that a client would ... or is that just one small example of an inefficiency?
Steven: That's one small example, but that's definitely a good one too. There's sometimes nothing worse than having to relay exactly what you've already relayed over the phone. And sometimes it's impossible to get around that, like if you're talking to someone and you want to relay certain specific information or key points, but that's also something to train clients and customers about too. If you send an email in for something that's not critical or not an emergency situation, then you're gonna have all those details in the email that they provide you. So, it makes it a lot easier on the client and the engineer as well.
So, it's just a matter of building the process for your team and then also building what the desired hopeful outcome is from the client too, and what the expectation is too.
Howard: Do the clients have the patience to do this work up front? And I ask that because sometimes, as a former IT guy myself, I remember going into projects and oftentimes we would either perhaps change the wheel that they were used to running on, and we created this perhaps a new wheel, and we sometimes ran into a roadblock where this is the way we've always done things. And I'm curious how with yours and your team's work, how do you address the organization that says, "Well, this is the way we've always done it," and they kind of roll back on their feet just a little bit and are not willing to maybe change the way they do things. How do you address that?
Steven: Yeah, so it is definitely culture shock sometimes when you're going into a new place and trying to work with them a specific way. Typically, for something like that, you'll start working their way for a little while and throw in your way every once in a while too just to kind of show them, like, oh hey, this does work. We can work more efficiently for you. It's really a matter of teamwork for both you and the customer, it's not just one sided.
There are some companies that they do not want to change, and I mean, that's fine, they've got their own processes and stuff too, but if I can make my way more efficient and make it easier on them, then, you know, that's what I'm gonna try to do.
Howard: Sure. Now, when you go into working with the new client, are there aspects of the engagement that really kind of gets you going, I love doing this, or this is why I do what I do? Versus in my old world, there were things ... I loved being a consultant and a coach, but there are certain things I just didn't want to do or didn't like to do. I had to do them because my supervisor or manager said I had to, but are there some things within the space that you really ... this is what gets you excited?
Steven: Yeah, I think the big one for me anyway is when I'm onboarding a client. Typically, we'll go through and we've got a lot of key points that we want to hit on to make sure that we have all the documentation possible to be able to serve them best, and when we're going through it, they get surprised at some of the questions that we ask, just because we need some details from them, and it's surprising in a good way. It's not just, "Why do you need that?" But they're kind of surprised at the level of service that we're willing to go and deliver to them compared to with anything else that they've had previously.
So, that really makes me excited because they immediately see the value in working with us, that we're really truly there to help them. It's not just, you know, hey, we're here to collect a paycheck or something like that. We do care. That's why we're doing what we do.
Howard: You know, I would love to hear more about some of those stories about those client experiences, but before we do, can you elaborate more on who your ideal clients are, perhaps the size, the industry, the makeup so to speak? What's your sweet spot?
Steven: Yeah, sure. So, unlike a lot of IT companies, we have no problems working with one person all the way up to a couple hundred people. So, small and medium-sized businesses. And one of our kind of target audiences is nonprofits. We really like working with them. They have the same IT needs as everyone else, in fact probably more because a lot of the equipment that they deal with is donated or hand me downs from other companies, and so they've got a lot of issues and we're there as an IT company to fix them. So, yeah, we really like working with them. It's a lot of fun seeing what they go through and how to make their life better and easier to work on, and ironing out a lot of the inefficiencies that they have too so that they can work better for whoever it is that they're serving.
Howard: I think I've worked with a couple of the IT companies, not the IT companies, the nonprofits that you were kind of alluding to, the hand-me downs, and it's certainly a cultural change from their perspective because they're not used to working in technology in some respects, or how it can really add additional value because they're always short on funds, looking for ways to save money or raise money, but they don't sometimes think that if we update our technology or how we manage it, well this is actually gonna help us do all those things.
Are there some examples you could share, Steven, of the clients that have come to you, and maybe you could share why did they come to you. They could have gone anywhere, they came to you. You sat down with them, they felt comfortable, but what was their pain and then how did you help them overcome the issues they were facing?
Steven: Yeah, sure. So, one of them, just the nonprofit that I was actually thinking of too here, one of them was a board member of that nonprofit, and he was doing all the IT for the company, or for the nonprofit, and he was sick of doing the IT and didn't want to do it anymore on his own time, and he wanted to get a company in there that's gonna take care of them and make sure that everything's working properly.
So, when I did sit down with the client and kind of go over what it is that we're offering and how we're gonna do it, they were really excited and kind of shocked at the level of service we could provide them. So, that was very nice and exciting to see someone interested in taking up that value proposition.
Howard: I think I work or volunteer at that nonprofit. It's a story I've heard quite a bit. Any other examples of the work that you've been doing? Now, we are in the Chicagoland area. I'm in downtown Chicago, you're out in the suburbs. Is there a limit that's in place due to geography, or can you just ... you can pretty much do anything anywhere?
Steven: Yeah, anything anywhere. As long as the company has access to a solid internet connection, we can support anywhere in the Continental U.S., overseas, wherever. It doesn't matter. I mean, most IT help desks work remotely anyway, so you wouldn't even know the service difference from working at a desk in an office somewhere or whatever. But it also depends on what the client's looking for as well too.
If they're looking for me to staff someone on site, then yeah, it's probably gonna be a little different than if I'm just providing help desk services or something like that.
Howard: Sure. Now, as you described this example with the individual came to you and said, "I just don't want to manage this technology anymore. I need help. I want to take this off my plate." I would imagine there's probably an aha moment when that individual's like total happiness when that occurred. Are there some other examples that you can provide, share, where you got the aha moment, or your associates got the aha moment, like this is why we do what we do here. Anything you could share like that?
Steven: Yeah, sure. So, I'm trying to think of a good one here for you. I know for me, it's been kind of ... especially since I haven't been around super-duper long on my own here, but kind of getting out there and having my employees be really happy at the job that they're doing, that was absolutely huge for me. I've kind of got my head buried in moving forward and keeping things going here, but then when I take a second to step back and see, oh hey, you know, people are actually enjoying their job, they want to come to work every day.
Like I said, I've worked for a couple companies that the environment's not exactly great to be in, or it's very difficult to deal with other staff or upper management. And there's that phrase, "You don't quit a job, you quit a manager," and unfortunately that's been pretty relevant in my previous work history.
Again, I see my employees are excited to get up and go to work in the morning. They're not dreading it. They're not late 'cause they don't want to come in kind of thing, you know? So, I think that was a big one for me, and it's like, okay cool, I'm doing something right here, so just on my side anyway, it makes me really happy to see people excited to be going to work.
Howard: That's fantastic. As a coach, we should be enjoying our jobs as a place we enjoy being, not we have to do it. I'm curious within the manage service space, are there disruptions coming down the pipe, whether it's a year away, five, 10 years away? What's coming down the pipe that you see?
Steven: Yeah, so one thing that's pretty difficult, at least to kind of get ahead in some aspects is compliance. That's always a big one because we don't know what's going to happen with that until it kind of comes out. And then you have to scramble to make sure that all of your clients are in compliance, or at least are interested in trying to be compliant, because I know that's always a challenge too is trying to get clients to recognize the negative effects of not following compliance rules and regulations.
So, that's always a big one, especially with all that kind of going into effect now, and people are starting to get really targeted and hit with that. And then there's always like the viruses and malware and all that fun stuff too that's always changing, so that's always difficult. But I do see a lot more automation getting in place to try to either take care of certain issues ... a lot of things are moving to the cloud too, so I don't know, it takes the load off of the localized plate, if you will. It's not everything in an office anymore. A lot of things are happening offsite, and you're just accessing them.
So, I see that definitely happening a lot more and more.
Howard: Great. You mentioned the nonprofit space and that's your sweet spot. Are there any other industries, areas that you see evolving into, or is the nonprofit, is that where you see concentrating most of yours and your team's attention?
Steven: That's a lot of my attention. The other guys that I have working for me, like the sales staff, they do a lot with manufacturing, lawyer's offices, doctor's offices, architectural firms, anyone that's essentially got an office environment or computers that need to be managed in general. So, they're pretty agnostic. They're pretty open to working with new clients.
Howard: Okay, so as long as it's a small – mid-size business where there's an IT managed service need, you know, 79 Ratio is open to that, but it sounds then like the nonprofit space is more your passion area.
Steven: Yes. Absolutely, yeah.
Steven: It's nice to see the effect that you have on it. When we go into a nonprofit typically that hasn't had IT staff or IT really in any aspect, and you go in and clean up their environment, they work more efficiently, and about nine times out of 10 you end up seeing them hire on additional employees because the workload ends up becoming higher because they're working a lot more efficiently.
So, you really see that growth that normal companies can afford to usually take care of to kind of get that built properly, but a lot of nonprofits can't. So I really appreciate that. I think that's really neat to see, personally anyway.
Howard: Well, I know from the experience with my local nonprofit that I work with that they would definitely benefit from an organization like 79 Ratio. Sometimes we talk about, you know, what was your first job or what was your worst job. Rather than going down that path, you know, maybe perhaps going down what I would call a strength-based path, if you were to go back to some of your early managers, supervisors, and ... I mean, Steven, you're the founder of a company that's small, but very successful, you're growing. If you could go back to some of the folks you used to work for, reported to, what would you say to them now? What would you say?
Steven: Honest, I know what I'm doing. No, ooh, that's a good question. I think given my experience now I'd kind of have a better idea, but just in ... Wow, yeah, that's a good question. I don't know, I'd have to think about that one for a little while.
Howard: Well I'll tell you what, we can go back to this, the standby questions if you like. That's okay. I didn't mean to put you on the spot there.
Steve No, that's fine.
Howard: While you're kind of thinking about that in the back of your head, even in the technology space, there's websites, there's journals, and we even hope for the IT Journal Podcast site to be a source for new, innovative technology what's going on in our world. Where are the places you go to, to stay at the top of your game, whether it's a website, a podcast, maybe you've read a book, an article. Where do you go to stay at the top of your game, even to help your staff stay at the top of their game?
Steven: Yeah, I just, I pay attention to news articles, so I'm a big avid user of Google in many aspects. And since it can kind of see what I look up anyway, you know, it gives me a really good news feed to kind of follow. So I always kind of try to keep up with that, and stay relevant with what's going on in the world, and then deal with different providers or resources that the company can utilize to be able to either offset or just work against or with whatever it is that's happening. So, if there's new malware out, then I gotta find a good solution to be able to combat that, you know?
Howard: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, do you and your team, do you go to conferences where you're learning the latest and greatest, or some user conferences or maybe industry conferences?
Steven: You know, actually very rarely. I know conferences are typically where they're gonna unveil a lot of things and stuff too, but most of those items don't come out right when the conference is, it's gonna come out a little bit afterwards, and so you'll end up getting a lot of information anyway. So, it's kind of hard to justify sending someone halfway across the U.S. to a conference or for something that's gonna come out in a newsletter in a week or two.
I see resources being much better spent by just talking to people that you're already dealing with, so current suppliers or current ... I guess it would still be suppliers too, but of different software's or different packages and stuff too, just to kind of know what's going on, just 'cause there is so much movement in there. By the time you're done with that one conference, you know, there's been three other conferences that have new additional things out there too. So, I want to make sure to get a good, broad spectrum, not just a very narrow focus. And from the conferences that I used to go to, working for other IT companies, it was all great and dandy for like a month or two, and then something else would come out. Like I said, it's really hard to justify the cost to go to some of these conferences. Just travel alone in the first place, and then you have such a narrow focus too. It's just, it's not worth it, personally.
Howard: So find a good source of information you can rely on, whether it's the articles or conversations. You know, when we do our podcast, one of the kind of activities we like to do towards the end of the podcast, we call it Insight To Go. Is there insight that you would like to share with our listeners about the work you're doing? You know, maybe you heard a quote or you read a book, you read an article, like wow, this is really good stuff. Anything that you'd like to share?
Steven: Yeah. So, this is gonna sound kinda weird and kinda out there, but I've been paying a lot of attention to NASA and the different prioritized companies that are getting ready to kind of make life multi-planetary. That really, I think, sets the stage for a lot of what it is that we're gonna be seeing in the coming future here. There's gonna be a lot of standards put in place, there's gonna be a lot of different processes put in place too. So, we're not gonna be able to just ship materials out there willy-nilly to wherever it is that we have people living, and it's gonna be the same thing. IT support's still gonna be there, it's still gonna be a big thing too, but it's gonna be hard to take a call when you have a delay of six to eight minutes going to another planet. So, you're gonna have to iron those things out, and it's got to be consistent too.
So, I'm just trying to think of things that we're all gonna end up facing in the next 50, trying to be generous, years here, and just trying to stay ahead of the game. It's all things that are gonna happen, it's just a matter of when.
Howard: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, stay ahead of the game. That is kind of what one of the mantras of IT is not get caught by surprises, be aware of the regulations, but to stay ahead of the game to know how can we help the company do its work better, but also how can we help our pool of clients continue to do their work better. Because if 79 Ratio is able to stay ahead of the game, you're gonna be the go-to company for manage services.
Steven, I truly appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today on IT Journal. If individuals or organizations want to learn more about you and your work, what's the best way to get to know you?
Steven: Yeah, sure. So we're on all the social media platforms, but probably the best way that you can access all of those would be our website, 79 Ratio.com, and that's the number seven, nine, and then ratio.com.
Howard: I appreciate that. You know, it dawned on me, there was one more question. How did you get the name 79 Ratio? Where'd that come from?
Steven: Sure, so I'm kind of a math nerd, so 79 is the atomic number for gold, and so golden ratio, and it also describes the symbol that we have for our logo. So, it's a cog shell spiral on there, and it's the color gold.
Howard: Excellent. Well, I have no doubt that 79 Ratio is gonna have a line on where that gold is, and I hope you and your team continue to Mine that gold. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us here on the IT Journal, and folks, there you have it. Steven Kroiss, founder of 79 Ratio, so if you are in need of a managed services for your IT infrastructure, these are the guys you want to visit.
For the IT Journal Podcast, this is Howard Fox. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing today, go out and have a phenomenal day.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
Steven Kroiss is the Founder of 79 Ratio. Steve and his team specialize in providing quality and affordable Managed Technology Services for small businesses and nonprofits. You can contact Steve and his team at https://79ratio.com.
Howard Fox is the President of Fox Coaching, Inc. and the Publisher of the ITJournal and SuccessInSight Podcasts. Howard is inspired by great leaders, no matter where they are in the organization or on their personal and professional development journey. Howard works with Business Owners and their teams to learn to lead and to work and thrive together. Howard invites you to visit him at https://foxcoaching.com.
Randy Ford is the Founder of First Story Strategies. For more than two decades, Randy has been using storytelling as the basis for his work as a communications strategist, writer, editor, journalist, political strategist, media relations professional and events specialist. Randy invites you to visit him at https://firststorystrategies.com.