Schooled by a Client

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A big part of my job is meeting with the executives of our clients.  We update each other on our businesses, challenges, wins, losses, and most importantly our wish lists.  Things that we wish we had to help our businesses grow and ideally become more profitable (and happier).  Recently, I met with the CEO of one of our Managed Services clients (of about a year).  Half of his team are lawyers.  Their business is in ensuring his industry gets paid for their talents (best I can do without giving them away).  Anyway, it was a great chat, one of those discussions where I know we are an excellent fit – a positive vibe for sure. During our lunch meeting, I shared that in the early days of providing Managed Services for new mid sized and larger clients, we can have some friction with an internal IT team.  This is a natural thing – it can be interpreted that we are cutting their grass. I explained that in every scenario, it takes 12 to 18 months to prove that we are not there to take away anyone’s job and we are there to help evolve a client’s IT strategy which inevitably gets the IT folks promoted to much more managerial or directorial positions in the company’s business.  My wish is that we could turn that year and a half into a few months.

What he said was an Aha! moment for me.  He said you need to reach the execs with a relatable story.  He agreed that there was friction in our relationship and that we were getting to that position of trust within his IT group (remember we are at about 1 year with them).  He said if he knew better what to expect he could have spent some time ensuring his team that no one was getting outsourced and that they were critical to the business’ future.  I loved getting this c-level gold from him.  So, I asked him if our roles were reversed and we could go back a year, what story would he have told me.

His words were the Aha! I needed:

Ted, your company is mostly lawyers.  Your business is legal wrangling.  You have an inhouse team of lawyers that know your business.  No outsider can replace them.  They are experts in the law & and YOUR business.  But they are super busy and they are NOT experts in going to trial.  So, you partner with an outside law firm that specializes in trials.  Your team and that outsource trial team work together to ensure your business is successful.  This has been working for you for decades.  It is your success formula.  Now, what I am proposing is to be your trial-team.  IT Weapons design, build, and run complex IT systems for many companies like yours – in your industry and in others.  We are experts at the core infrastructure IT stuff.  We are not experts in the (many) custom Law applications your business must use – but your team is.  What I am proposing is that my experts will provide & take care of the entire infrastructure, beit administration, backups, security, compliance, MS Office, VMWare, Citrix, Printers, Network, laptops & Desktops – all that stuff.  Your team will focus on the applications that make you money.  They will make sure your money-making users are fully trained and optimally outfitted to do their jobs.  They will increase your revenue.  My team will focus on keeping your costs predictable and systems stable.  Now Ted, there is one thing that will make this whole solution work best.  If you could make sure your team knows this is not a hatchet exercise.  We are not replacing them – we are adding horsepower – we are creating one extended team – just like your lawyers work with your outside trial lawyers.  Sound good?

Hey, I’ll buy that!  …and this was such a great learning experience for me.  Much appreciated, anonymous CEO!

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