MSP in the Spotlight #3: MDH Tech

 

MDH Tech’s Quick Facts

 

Headquarters

Dallas, TX

Areas of Operation

Dallas (TX) and Lakeland (FL)

Year founded

2005

Total number of employees

4

Fun Fact

Matt (Founder and CEO) served in the United States Marine Corps

 

Our MSP in the Spotlight series follows our pick of today’s successful MSPs. We learn about how they started out in the industry, and their transformative journey into the companies they are today.

Last time we spoke to BlueRam Technology Solutions. Now we turn our gaze towards the southern states, into the heart of Texas.

Matt Hunn is the Founder and CEO of MDH Technologies, a Computer Support and Managed Services company founded in 2005 and based in the Dallas, Texas. Matt served in the United States Marine Corps, where he received entry level training in IT and communications, as well as an IT certification.

After working for more than 5 years in the civilian workplace, he found himself the manager of a small IT department in Florida. That was when he decided to start MDH Technologies, eventually moving back home to Texas where he was born and raised.

The company now has well over a decade’s worth of experience, and serves customers across two States, in multiple verticals from Healthcare and Dentistry, to Engineering and Aviation. We chatted with Matt about his experience.

Tell us about the start of your company. What prompted your decision to become an MSP?

This was back in 2005- a time in the US where the economy was not doing as well as it is now. When searching for jobs I really wasn’t satisfied with the prospects that were in front of me. One of the issues that I experienced was that at the time I had a lot of experience, I had a certification, but I didn’t have a college degree. The job market made it a real challenge to get a good job in IT. As a certified IT professional with a lot of years’ experience as well as military training, I felt comfortable deciding to do my own thing, and I was willing to take the risk. I was younger then, that’s the time to take risks!

How were the early days of your company?

It was challenging. I liquidated my 401k and moved into a very inexpensive apartment in a bad part of town to save money. I ate a lot of ramen noodles in those days! We started in a one-bedroom apartment with a computer and a cell-phone. Its different for a lot of people, depending on where you get your funding, and what risks you’re willing to take. But essentially back then if I couldn’t do it myself- I couldn’t do it. I had to learn things I didn’t previously have experience with. Although I knew server admin and network admin, I started to pick up new skills in areas like graphic design, and web design.

It took a great level of sacrifice to get started, and it took about a month for me to get our first residual customer. That was kind of our foot in the door that helped to stabilize the business.

How do your clients find you? Or how did you find them?

What we do now is different to what we did in the beginning. Back then, I had such a limited budget and limited access to resources. Much of my day was spent looking for customers. I would attend any business networking meeting I could find. I would pound the pavement. Literally go door to door at businesses, dropping off flyers and business cards. I worked on building a website and tried to start a blog to see if I could get some recognition that way. I did some cold calling. I scraped some contact information from various phone directories on the internet. Every day I would have a goal. If I wasn’t working on IT stuff I wasn’t going to just sit around twiddling my thumbs. I needed to be out there being active, doing something, doing anything to get a customer. I was hungry!

Any idea that I could think of to get a customer I would give it a try. I’ve done silly things over the years. I used to put business cards in the red box where you rent DVDs, so that when you returned a DVD you got a business card. Guerrilla marketing you might call it!

Nothing that would break a law or anything but any kind of innovative idea that I could come up with. If I could get my name, my logo, my contact info in front of somebody – I did it.

Nowadays, we have a little more of a traditional approach. We’ve worked a lot on our website and improving SEO. Of course, we have a better marketing budget, so we can spend money advertising on Facebook and through Google AdWords. There’s a local diner here in Dallas that allows businesses to pay for an advert on the table, we sponsored one of those. I’ll still attend business networking events from time to time. We’re also pretty successful at getting referrals from existing customers. Most of our new customers come in through word of mouth at this point.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? What are you offering that they aren’t?

Dallas is one of the largest cities in the US, and lots of people need IT, but there’s a lot of competition. As well as differentiating by marketing ourselves as a veteran-owned company, we offer a product that we call Built to Suit Cloud. I’m yet to see any other MSP do it, although I’m sure some do.

When Microsoft decided that they were going to deprecate Small Business Server, we were scrambling to work out what to do. A lot of our customers wouldn’t want to go with multiple business servers, as this could easily increase costs. We decided to create our own Cloud for those who didn’t want to host on the Microsoft platform. We would lease space, we would start out small. We call it Built to Suit because if we don’t have what you need we can build that aspect for you and manage it. We’ve been pretty successful doing that.

One of the flaws with the Cloud model is that some companies require several cloud hosted applications. Maybe there are two or three business apps, as well as email and Microsoft office and storage etc. By the time you look at the total cost of ownership for a cloud solution with each one of your vendors, in many cases it makes sense to do a self-hosted Cloud. We can give customers more horse power. We can offer more CPU, more memory, better disk IO from our own servers than you would get from one of the big guys, because we can afford to sell the hardware aspect at a lower rate. Now our customers have a powerful solution which is centralized and they aren’t paying ten different vendors for ten different things. Their solution is all on one machine, backed up, simplified. We’ve found there are a lot of different ways to sell that, and it seems to make sense for a lot of customers. That really separates us from a lot of MSPs who are simply doing management of other people’s Clouds or management of On-Premise.

It doesn’t work for everyone of course. Sometimes it is best to give customers an Office 365 environment or On-Premise.

We will support whatever is best for the customer, and that also differentiates us. We think of ourselves as vendor-agnostic. We’re not chasing residuals from resellers. We’re doing what’s best for the customer.

What is your pricing model? Break/Fix or Managed Services?

We don’t do any break fix at all any more. It took time to get to this point. Sometimes it was as simple as having a conversation with the customer. When you have a good relationship, you can explain things to them. You can say ‘In order to provide you the level of service you need, we need to be on a managed service model. This will allow me to take on just the number of clients I can support which means when you need me, I’m available.’ Business owners tend to understand that.

With a break/ fix model oftentimes you get a guy who may be here today and gone tomorrow ‘cause he couldn’t support his business. Or he doesn’t return your calls because he needs to have so many customers that his availability is not so good. Once you explain the advantages of it, customers are usually amenable to making that switch.

The fixed cost aspect of that is also pretty marketable. Break/fix is not fixed cost at all. One month it could end up being ridiculous the amount you have to spend because you weren’t doing proactive maintenance. The planning and availability of managed services are all important things for clients.

Looking back at your own beginning – what advice would you give to someone starting out as an MSP?

Do your due diligence. You don’t want to make the decision to start your own business or IT firm and then jump in immediately. Plan things. Put together a good business plan. Make sure you write down your goals and do your research and make sure you have your pricing structure set up properly. Make sure that you invest in tools that are cost-effective – that’s a big one starting out. Not all of the tools that MSPs use have pricing models that are conducive to starting a business.

Actually, that’s one thing I really like about Atera! Your pricing model. Some competitors will prevent your business growth even if you’re doing the right thing and adding customers! As you increase customers you need to buy more agents, which is often done in a block, so you start losing money. If you then lose a customer, you still stuck with that overhead. That’s not good, that’s not helpful.

The other thing I would say is, be a Workaholic. You have to be willing to sacrifice and be willing to work very very hard to get things going. If you do that, you should achieve some level of success.

What is the most useful product or service you’ve bought in the last year for under $100?

We purchased some Security software that only costs $50 per server. It’s an intrusion detection type software that’s been very valuable to us. It also helped us identify a new potential revenue stream for ourselves, as we identified an issue with the software. If you have a lot of servers that you manage, you have to jump into each one individually to make changes. So we’re in development of a product that we’re calling AIP Defence which will be centrally managed. We’re going to be using it to replace that product.

We hope to build in support for Atera with the API’s, and at that point in time you’ll get a phone call from us! We’re really looking forward to launching it, it’s going to help all the Atera users generate additional revenue with a higher level of security.

Branching out in new directions then?

This is the first software product that we’ve developed that we’re going to sell. It will be used on our network exclusively at first, and then the second version will be available to purchase. We want to make sure it performs the way we want it to. But yes! It’s a shift in the business and how we’re doing things. That is something important with a business, and another piece of advice I could give. Be flexible. Identify ways to generate revenue. These could be based on changes that occur with vendors like Microsoft or new service offerings that appear, or new security concerns. Things change so much in IT that you really have to put effort into allowing your business to be flexible in that regard. You can’t be afraid to change things from time to time.

 

We enjoyed hearing Matt’s story and learning about the growth of MDH Technologies. What did you think of the interview, and do you have any questions for Matt? Let us know in the comments!