The 'ARN Spotlight' series explores partners operating in the local channel landscape right around the country, from Cape York to Hobart, Byron Bay to Fremantle and beyond. In this edition, we focus on Western Australia and Perth-based managed service provider (MSP) Office Solutions IT.
No matter how well a business performs, it means nothing without adequate growth. This has been a major factor for Office Solutions IT, shaping the MSP through some of its tougher times to result in the standout MSP it is today.
Setting up shop
Office Solutions IT's story begins with its founder and director of business development James Sutherland situated in Melbourne. He moved to Sydney to study, where he met a girl and “followed his heart”, as he put it, to move to Perth in 1989.
Fast forward five years later to 1996 and Office Solutions IT got started up in the back room of a house.
Its managing director, James Sutton, came into the picture in 2007 where he started as a system engineer. He was promoted to technical director in 2011 and then made his way up to the role of MD in 2014.
“We were good at talking to business owners and hearing their problems and then in a short period of time, we found clever young guys like James [Sutton], and that was the kernel that we could bring,” Sutherland said. “We could talk plain English to business owners and improve what they were doing with technologies.”
The decision to open up shop in Perth “was more luck than planning” according to the founder, but the area had what he called a “really strong entrepreneurial culture” – something that resonated within him.
This was also advantageous, as this meant there would be plenty of businesses to provide services for. Today, the MSP provides services not just in Australia but also around the world, including Denver in the US and African countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Sutton says the MSP does a lot of work with not-for-profit organisations and the mining sector, the latter of which goes “hand in hand with being in Perth”.
He claims this sector is particularly exciting to work in, as businesses here “tend to explode – explode in a good way”.
“We might have a mining client and we win them at 10 people for example, and then a year later, they’re at 150 people. That growth that they go through is quite exciting to be part of that journey,” Sutton said.
There has even been, he added, cases of businesses with 50 staff increase up to 1,000.
“You only need to win them at 50, which tends to be a little bit easier and then we can sort of scour them. It's a great story that we can sell to other mining clients,” Sutton said.
“What's very handy for us is it's a very tight knit community so if you do a good job and you come through for them, they talk.”
However, despite being a significant sector for the MSP, he added that there’s never a focus on one particular industry.
“I know this does fly in the face of what Microsoft and other people are telling us but we found that diversification, especially to stay safe through COVID-19, has been really helpful,” Sutton said.
“We've had competitors who have focused on the hospitality industry, and within three months, they're in deep trouble. Whereas because we'd have that diversification, that much larger client base spread amongst different industries, we've been relatively unhurt.
That being said, one of Office Solutions IT’s greatest achievements is its work with mining company Salt Lake Potash, where the MSP was brought in to create a network to accommodate approximately 300 people.
The end result saw it bring in Telstra and resulted in a two way radio, telemetry broadcast systems, in-room TV entertainment systems and high speed internet — all located in the middle of the Australian outback. It wasn’t just a one-off either, as the business also gained work managing the services it implemented.
Another noteworthy success was a project with a not-for-profit, with the initial plan of an infrastructure overhaul. Instead, Office Solutions IT proposed replacing their on-premise file services with the cloud. This resulted in savings of over $100,000 and the project continues to pay for itself, as it laid the groundwork for remote working spurned on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Back to mining, Sutherland referred to a long-time African client they lost only recently. Even though the MSP had the client for eight years, he wasn’t too distraught about losing it.
“What happened is we really improved our tech skills, but the profit wasn't as good as you might have thought. It's one of those lessons where James [Sutton] stepped back and went, 'Maybe they're not so good for the company,'” he recalled.
Another aspect of finding successes for any MSP is finding vendor partners that have solutions that align with your own methods, and one such partner for Office Solutions IT is Microsoft.
In fact, Sutherland claimed that the MSP has kept a keen eye on Microsoft’s offerings for quite a while. Citing a conference that Sutton was attending approximately eight years ago, the pair recounted a phone call afterwards from the MD, claiming he said, “‘Holy shit! The cloud’s coming!’”
To put this into context, this came at the time when Office Solutions IT was doing its own exchange cloud services, and Sutton recommended to put an end to those plans.
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