Corporate IT in the Spotlight #2: Lekker Food Distributors Ltd

We love nothing more than sitting down with our Aterans and hearing about their dynamic roles and responsibilities, and how they leverage Atera to be more successful at their jobs. This time, we’re speaking to Robert Dick, Technology Manager at Lekker Food Distributors Ltd. Robert lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and has worked at Lekker Food Distributors for more than 5 years. He manages all the technology for the 85-person company, across three physical locations, and has been using Atera since 2020.


Hey Robert! Why don’t we start by hearing a bit about your background, and how you ended up in IT?


I’ve been in IT for more than 45 years, and I’ve bounced back and forth between the corporate side, and being on the MSP side, both as a reseller and in other connected roles. Before Lekker I was a Microsoft Office 365 MVP for a few years, one of the first O365 MVPs in Canada, so it’s been a real mix. Lekker is my final landing though! I take care of all the technology here across our three sites, so desktops, servers, networking, leading the charge on the cloud side – all of that belongs to me.


And when did you start using Atera?


I’ve been using Atera for about 18 months, both at Lekker and also to manage a couple of nonprofits that I volunteer for and manage IT for. The simplest way to explain how I feel about Atera is that it extends my reach. Having all the functionality and abilities of Atera makes my life easier in so many ways. I literally stumbled across Atera, and I was blown away by the trial. During the last 18 months, it’s amazing to see how much the product and its capabilities have grown, and also how the company really responds to its customer base. It’s so nice to speak to a vendor that wants to hear what I have to say, as opposed to so many of the big players who just want to cram products down my throat!


We agree – learning from our Aterans is one of the best parts of Atera!


I also love the overall polish of the product. It’s easy to move around, find things, and make changes. I can see that there is constant tweaking at the back-end to make things more user-friendly. And then there are big additions regularly, like the integration with Chocolatey and the ability to link various RMM tools – that’s really nice.


20 years ago, I remember working for a large company in Vancouver, and we were dipping our toes into the MSP marketplace. It was so much in its infancy – it might not have even been called MSP back then! The tools that were available were both horribly primitive and exceedingly expensive. Even if the functionality had been better at the time, we couldn’t figure out how we could adopt a tool like that and keep our own pricing reasonable. If I’d had something like Atera back then, with the per-technician pricing and all the capabilities – I would have killed for something like that!


As you’ve sat at both sides of the table, how did you find the transition from MSP to Corporate IT?


Broadly speaking I found being an MSP more restrictive. Of course, it depends on who you’re working for, but there is usually a finite set of products and tools that you can work with. You work with what the vendor is offering. If you only have a hammer in your toolkit, you end up using that hammer for everything regardless of the task. Being on the corporate IT side, now my options are wide open. I can go and pick what tool I like, the best technology for the job. As my career went on, I also found it more difficult to handle the nuances of multiple customers and cultures, and I’ve found a certain freedom in being on the corporate IT side. You can focus on one single corporate identity and what their needs are, rather than juggle a large swathe of clients and requirements.


What are the challenges of corporate IT?


It’s really going to depend on where you land. A small business is different from a larger business, and each will have its own feeling. A few years ago I was head of IT at a company that’s since become a global outfit and their perspective at the time was much narrower than I get from the leadership here at Lekker. Our owner is very forward-thinking when it comes to technology. We were already kitted up for mobile working long before the pandemic, so we were in an agile enough place to keep moving when that hit last year. I can take ideas to the owner and if I make the pitch right and I’ve justified the value, he’s very open to new approaches. Of course, as a small company, the other side of the coin is that we’re very budget restricted. There’s a lot of prioritizing and making hard decisions on what we’re going to tackle now, and what needs to sit to the side for the time being.


Can you give us an example?


Cloud technology is a great example here. Lekker was actually a previous customer of mine when I was at my last MSP, and they were one of the first that we moved onto Office 365. We learned a lot of things in the early stages, and we’ve got a lot of bang for our buck out of using 365, but we have to watch the creep of other subscriptions and SaaS products. It can seem very little, just $5 per month per person, but these add up quickly.


What tips would you give someone who was just starting out in internal IT?


Listen more, talk less… to everybody! Certainly, on the MSP side, you’re driven to walk around with a solution to any given problem in your back pocket. As a result, I think lots of times we end up jumping the gun because we’ve got that push to be the fix-it guy behind you. I’ve certainly had to learn to keep my mouth shut and listen to the customer whether that’s an external client as an MSP or an internal customer in corporate IT. I listen to the problem, then I go away and think about it, and this gives a much better outcome.


This is one of the reasons I feel so good about Atera. So many big vendors say that they listen to their customers, but in practice, it doesn’t happen. Usually, behind the scenes, there is a very top-down approach, where they make the decisions and the customers hear about it after the fact. I see that Atera asks their customers the right questions and does a lot of work that’s driven by customer needs rather than just adding product enhancements for their own agenda. It’s really refreshing and I expect it to continue to take Atera far.


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