The Purple Guys are one of the top IT firms in Kansas City. They are constantly making headlines with their community involvement and were recently voted as one of Kansas City’s Best Places to Work.
I met Jason Terry, Managing Partner and CTO, at a Leukemia & Lymphoma event. And as you know, I have a great admiration for companies that help families that are battling cancer. So, I asked Jason to take a few minutes to answer questions pertinent to our economy as it is, right now.
This is a must-read for businesses with insights on IT survival, mistakes to avoid, and tips to stay green. (Read time approximately 11 min.)
Jason C: You have to tell us about your name and why Purple? On your website (www.thepurpleguys.com) it states: “…We think purple is a good color for us. It stands out, it’s unique, and in our opinion, it’s better…”
Jason Terry: We have always liked the color purple. It is a strong color. We used purple at our previous company and brought that with us to Versent. We provide 10 purple shirts to each of our employees. As a result, we credit our clients with the Purple Guys rebranding. Instead of saying “Jason is here” they would say “the Purple Guys are here!” because of our purple shirts. We liked the sound of that and rebranded everything. We take it a little too far… we have purple pens that write in purple, purple staples in our contracts, purple dark Hershey chocolates for client appreciation gifts, purple tape dispensers, purple magnetic thumb tacks, and the list goes on and on.
Jason Terry: We strongly believe that it is required for businesses to give back to the community that supports them. Each quarter, our team does a volunteer effort together to help a not for profit organization. It is a great way to help those in need and there is an added benefit in the teambuilding that occurs. We have done work with Habitat for Humanity, Harvesters, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, CommunityLINC, and Sheffield Place to name a few. Our staff gets a quarterly bonus based on measurable goals and one of those line items is volunteer time. That is how strongly we believe in supporting the community that supports our business.(NOTE FROM JASON C: A bonus based on volunteer time!!! One of Kansas City’s Best Places to Work, indeed!)
Jason C: On your last Habitat project – did any rooms get painted purple?
Jason Terry: Habitat for Humanity provides the materials and volunteers supply the labor. Donating purple paint is a great idea. Our goal is to be able to grow to the point where we can afford to sponsor an entire house, and at that point one of the rooms will definitely need to have purple in it! We did painting at CommunityLINC with a lighter purple, so we have had experience painting rooms purple for others. Oh, and I can guarantee that there are purple walls at our office along with the purple cubes in our call center.
Jason C: Why is community involvement important to an IT firm?
Jason Terry: We think community involvement is important, regardless of the type of business. It is important for an IT firm, specifically, from the perspective that it allows a group of technical people that use computers for their daily work to get out into the world and get their hands dirty. We are in business to help people, so volunteering is just another way for our company to help people in a different capacity.
Jason C: Again, from your website, you say that you believe in the Golden Rule. How do you really apply that in your IT world specifically for your clients?
Jason Terry: The Golden Rule is defined as doing for others as you would like to have done for yourself. The way that we do this in the IT world for our clients is to set up their network and computers using the same best practices that we use to set up our own network and computers. The goal is to get the most efficiency and flexibility possible out of those systems while maintaining security and data integrity. We have an aggressive training program and work hard to stay current with the newest technologies available. Successful implementation of new technology gives us a competitive edge and we use that knowledge for our member companies, sharing that competitive edge.
Jason C: How easy is it for a small business to turn a relationship with The Purple Guys into a strategic advantage?
Jason Terry: It is a straight forward process to leverage The Purple Guys for strategic and competitive advantage. At the start of each new relationship, we do an audit of the existing network and computers. Inevitably, we uncover gaps in the way the network has been set up. These gaps include faulty backups, inconsistent antivirus and spam filtering, inadequate data security, and overdue maintenance that are threats to company data and the ability for the company to process that data to be a profitable entity. There are so many things that we do for our clients, but making sure the basics are done is the first step towards better productivity. Improved productivity for employees and faster access to data is an immediate competitive advantage.
Once we achieve the required basics in network performance, we guide our clients towards network practices and technologies that allow for even greater access to data and improved productivity. Also, we have a valuable network of relationships with other companies in Kansas City and around the country that we bring to the table. We help our member companies by leveraging those relationships, providing competitive advantage beyond their network support needs. From internet providers and VOIP phone solution providers to payroll processing companies, business brokers, succession planning attorneys and hundreds more, our goal is to grow our business effectively by partnering with experts in their field. We pass on the knowledge we gain and our relationships to our member companies so that they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel”. As our clients become more successful, we become more successful.
Jason C: What is your favorite client story? (As in, do you really help your clients make/save money?)
Jason Terry: One of my favorite stories is how our VersentVault backup and disaster recovery solution saved what could have been a week of down time for one of our clients. Our VersentVault is a backup server that physically sits next to the client’s server and does disk based backups every hour, 24/7. The value of having a backup server at the client’s location is that in the event of a failure, we can use our backup server as an interim replacement to the client server while we fix it.
We received an alert on a Saturday afternoon that the hard drive system in the client server was going to fail. We called our primary contact at the client that afternoon and told them that we were going to virtualize their server within our VersentVault server and we proceeded to do that. That process took a couple of hours and the network was effectively running from our VersentVault server. The client server eventually did fail, but nobody was aware of, or impacted by, the problem because our VersentVault was performing as their production server. We worked with their hardware vendor to have them ship replacement parts for the failed server. When the parts arrived, we found that the wrong parts had been shipped due to vendor error, so we had to repeat the process. In the end, the client was running on our VersentVault for 5 business days and none of their employees had any idea because they were able to continue doing their work as usual. Once we got their server repaired, we put it back into production and the VersentVault went back to being the backup server.
The client was so thrilled that they didn’t lose any productivity or see missed opportunity due to a server failure. The majority of our clients have this solution in place and we respond to server hardware failures like this every month or two. It is not a question of IF it will happen, but WHEN will it happen, and if you are a client of The Purple Guys, you won’t have to worry about it. That is a great story to tell and something that we are proud of.
Jason C: What do you guys really do best?
Jason Terry: We get the technology support right or our service wouldn’t be in such high demand. I think the other thing that we do best is forming open and trust based relationship with our clients. At the end of the day, the companies that we work with want someone they can trust to lead them through the maze of Information Technology decisions. That trust is so important because it allows our clients to move forward with our recommendations knowing that we are helping them do what is best for their organization. Doing things the right way requires a budget and sometimes business process changes, both of which can be painful to small and medium sized businesses. Trust and past performance is the glue that allows the Purple Guys and our member companies to move forward and make good decisions together based on their specific needs.
Jason C: Tell us about your favorite new technologies for small businesses? How about for large businesses?
Jason Terry: The new technologies that are our favorites apply to small and large businesses, it is just a matter of volume.
– iPhone – A great phone, contacts, email and calendar device that is easy to use and powerful in features.
– VersentVault – a backup and disaster recovery solution that is an ironclad way to protect your data.
– VersentFilter – a spam filter that lives up stream from your network so that email and virus attachments in emails never even make it to your network.
Jason C: In your most recent newsletter, you mention your successes with some of the online social marketing platforms (i.e. LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter), how important do you think embracing those tools will be in 2009.
Jason Terry: Embracing social marketing tools will be a key success factor for service companies in 2009. I would point to the recent presidential race and how effectively Obama used these tools to connect with a massive audience and deliver his message and positions.
It used to be that having a web site established your credentials as a company worth doing business with. We have more access to data about companies and individuals than ever before through the internet. As a result, having a strong LinkedIn profile has become the next important qualifier to businesses doing research on prospective partners. In other words, if you don’t have a good LinkedIn profile, you may not appear to be as professional or successful as your competition.
LinkedIn is more of a business focused social tool and Facebook is more of a personal, friend and family focused social tool. It is good practice to have separation between business and personal relationships, but often those boundaries blur. I use LinkedIn and Facebook often, and some of my clients are linked to me in Facebook because we have such a good relationship.
Relationship is what drives business. Social networking sites improve relationships through better communication. It is a reasonable conclusion that using social networking sites will improve your business through better communication.
Jason C: What is your favorite social marketing website or author? Why?
Jason Terry: My favorite social networking site is LinkedIn. It is hard to keep track of hundreds of relationships and this site allows me to be more effective in nurturing my relationships. I like the fact that I can see a picture of the person (as long as they have uploaded a profile picture) and see what they are doing lately as they update their “current status” All of this information and communication makes me confident that I am more in touch with my clients, prospects and referral partners than ever before.
Jason C: What should businesses (small and large) be doing with their IT in this 2009 economy?
Businesses should be doing the same thing this year with IT as they should be doing every year. They need to make sure they are getting the most for their IT budget as possible. In past years, when cash flow was good, it seemed that companies didn’t pay as much attention to the return on their IT investment as long as things were working. Now that money is tighter and jobs are getting cut, businesses are paying more attention to return on investment across the board. For companies in the 10-200 employee range, there is an incredible opportunity to save tens of thousands of dollars per year by outsourcing their network support to a reputable company. The Purple Guys are a great choice. It is a great conversation when we can talk about spending less and getting more through outsourcing.
I also think this year is a perfect opportunity for companies to retool by implementing new technologies that give them a competitive advantage. The economy will recover. The companies that manage to a budget and position themselves properly with staff, technology and process, will come out on the other side ready to grab market share and grow quickly.
Jason C: Biggest mistakes to avoid in 2009?
Jason Terry: Be prudent in your decisions but don’t buy in to the doom and gloom that the media is shouting at you every day. People are still doing business and growing their companies. Hard work, taking care of your employees, following advice from experts, and sharing best practices with peers will allow you to get through these interesting times and come out stronger on the other side.
Jason C: How can Versent help in 2009?
Jason Terry: We can help in so many ways. I would want to ask a couple of questions to steer me in a direction before I start giving advice. Give me (Jason Terry) a call at 816-221-3900 x107. We can spend 30 minutes to an hour together and you will walk away with at least one useful tip or suggestion that you can put into practice to help your company move in a positive direction.
Jason C: What is your favorite personal electronic gadget?
Jason Terry: The iPhone, and the following applications:
Pandora – Find new music that is similar to artists you already like.
Shazaam – Figure out what the song playing over the speakers where you are at is.
Showtimes – Grabs the nearest movie theater and shows playing with one click.
Tanzen – Puzzle game to pass the time when you have a couple of extra minutes.
Mobile Google Maps – Access to lots of info while on the go.
Facebook Mobile – Stay in touch with everyone, including mobile picture uploads.
Jason C: The Purple Guys and Green – do you have any tips for IT/technology recycling.
Jason Terry: Whenever possible, go paperless. It would be easy to generate lots of printed paper in our daily business. We store as much as possible electronically for many reasons, including security and remote access. We have gone as far as paperless checks for our employees with our payroll provider to save on the waste of printed check stubs.
There are not for profit companies in the KC area that will come to your office to pick up your old computers. They will make sure they are disposed of properly or rebuilt for use by those in need. I recommend removing the hard drives containing business information before donating them.
Jason C: Do you want to offer some business predictions for 2009?
Jason Terry: Things are going to get interesting. 2009 will be a year where companies that are being managed well will grab market share from the companies that aren’t. The Purple Guys will be in the “growth” column because our service model makes even more sense in an economy where businesses are trying to save money and see a return on their investment.
Jason C: Last words?
Jason Terry: It feels like I have written a short novel in this written interview with Cell for Cells. J I appreciate our relationship with Jason Clements and Cell for Cells and applaud the good work they are doing. Best wishes to everyone reading for a profitable and rewarding 2009.
Jason Terry, Managing Partner and CTO, The Purple Guys, 816-221-3900 x107