From the Front Lines: Colorado Success StoriesThis series of interviews with Mead Consulting clients and friends focuses on companies that have succeeded during the recession through disruptive innovation, new business models, or superior execution. The stories are told by the CEOs and business owners themselves. This article was first published on April 19, 2011 in ColoradoBiz magazine or you can read it below.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Colorado success stories: 3t Systems
Down-to-earth customer focus helps company thrive in the cloud
Discussions of cloud computing and Managed IT Services have become the rage. 3t Systems, through its strong commitment to client satisfaction and customer service, has grown dramatically - mostly from word-of mouth referrals - doubling in the last year alone.
Ciaran Dwyer, President and CEO, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland and came to Colorado as Controller of the Irish Dairy Board in 1999. He fell in love with Colorado and in 2001 joined 3t Systems, what was then primarily an IT consulting company. In 2008, he took on responsibility for the Managed Services division becoming CEO in 2009. We recently discussed the explosive growth that 3t Systems is experiencing.
The recession brought some serious issues for many companies, but did it create an opportunity for 3t?
When the bottom hit in 2008, our traditional consulting business flattened out. We decided on a significant change in strategic direction. We had been providing our own blend of ‘high touch' hosting for many years, we provided software as a service for our sister company's clients from our datacenters and we believed that the recession would boost that aspect of our business. Clients realized that they needed to address their aging IT infrastructure and, with the appeal of our fixed monthly fee, the ‘cloud' solution drove a huge increase in that part of our business, so much so that our hosting business has surpassed our IT consulting business.
Who uses your products and services?
Our sweet spot is companies between 50 seats and 1,000 seats with vertical specializations in the healthcare, financial services, and construction industries. In the Front Range, however, we have clients from a broad array of industries and like that diversity. We like the blend of IT consulting and managed services, since the consulting element enables us to maintain a high level of technical proficiency and vendor certifications that are very useful in delivering high quality managed services. It all fits nicely together into what we call IT Co-Sourcing; a partnership approach to IT Outsourcing. Some clients have a strong IT staff but need our pinch hitters for a specific project, while others don't have any dedicated IT people and hand it all over to 3t to be an extension of their team.
What makes you different?
Most of our competitors started as either data center providers or managed services providers. As such they are either operationally efficient or customer-centric, but generally not both. We are somewhat unique in that we have experience with both customer relationships as well as operational excellence. We are totally focused on the user experience. We understand the needs of small and mid-size client organizations. Since many of these companies they have little or no IT resources, they rely on us to take more responsibility and provide them a complete solution. Many times the decision to outsource has been precipitated by a trigger event - an outage, a loss of personnel, or running out of capacity - so these clients need someone to help quickly get them back on track.
What are your biggest challenges?
With the market for managed services growing so fast, by far our biggest challenge is staffing, finding people with the right skills. Virtualization skills are in high demand right now. Since our culture has been to develop people from within, we will need to continue to help train and upgrade skills.
Another challenge is to define where and what we want the next stage of growth to be. We want our growth to be very intentional. We are embarking on a North American strategy which focuses on the healthcare and construction vertical industries, as well as a blend of different mid-size companies within the state of Colorado.
So what really keeps you awake at night - besides your 2-year-old twins?
Managing through the "growth pains" - people, client satisfaction, scale. I think about the current and future competitors and the next ways to further differentiate 3t. Most of all, I think about ways we need to grow in order to continue to be the best at serving the customer.
What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?
An ability to take advantage of an "early-mover" advantage. We need to balance the need to scale quickly with our overriding commitment to maintain high levels of client satisfaction. We have had the benefit of growing to this point without much sales and marketing effort. We need to manage sales and marketing to the next level.
How would you describe your culture?
Fast-paced. We say a year at 3t is like three years at another company. The "3t" in our name stands for truth, trust, and teamwork. We tell clients exactly how it is. If we make a mistake, we own it and fix it.
Comment on the business climate here in Colorado.
Coming from Ireland, I see dramatic advantages here. I love the rugged individualism of the people in Colorado. People have a real entrepreneurial spirit, a glass-is-half-full optimism, and ‘mid-western values' that make this a terrific place to build a company. Everyone says that Ireland is beautiful and green but there is a reason for that. I'll take the 300 days sunshine any day.