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Got started 22 years ago, in May 1997 in the heydey of dial-up and ISDN, started GO Concepts, was involved in computers and technology from a sales/real estate development business. The real estate business was purchased by the world’s largest company, but he was no longer happy with the revenue-first focus. Born and raised in the area and is always active in the community. Dan Oliver started working at 14 years old in network administration, worked together in Future Business Leaders of America. Had 7 or 8 owners of an ISP company, but really wanted to build a business. They got together G = Gambill O = Dan Oliver, also brought in a programmer who happened to be a neighbor. Three friends – brought in their families and helped invest in the business — their families are still shareholders today. Two young guys looking for an opportunity, sketched it out on the back of a placemat.
Didn’t start with managed services – started out as an ISP when 56k was brand new, doing website design and hosting and IT consulting. What moved them into the MSP area, Time Warner and now Spectrum made the decision to build their infrastructure in their area, won the bid for the solution and helped design and launch the project. They used Cisco’s DOCSIS scheduler — what is now the standard for cable across the country, they were one of the first people doing this back in the late 1990s. Began R&D and testing with DOCSIS and did the very first real-world testing in John’s basement before taking it to market. They were working closely with Sony and Cisco, 3Com — they were sending field technicians to the Lebanon office of GO Concepts, vendors wanted to see how the products would perform in the real world. They managed everything from help desk to VoIP to support for data and voice side. The service was eventually sold to Cincinnati Bell who retained GO Concepts as their provider even today.
Have their own data center and co-location facility in Lincoln that they still have today. This brought a lot of outsourcing support and consulting, which led to becoming an MSP. Users have 24/7/365 secure access to their data center. They still do a lot of virtual hosting for clients, many of whom are still nervous about the cloud — they offer a private cloud option that is housed in their local data center. This helps people be more comfortable and less of a concern as people start to understand the concept.
In 2018, made a decision to highly specialize in government work for the developmentally disabled – something that many MSPs really struggle with. The driving factors behind deciding to go in this direction.
Pre-2018, they found that they were falling into the trap of trying to be everything for customers — trying to protect the relationship. This led to a lot of one-off projects that required a lot of research and learning that wasn’t something they could use again. Wasn’t a great use of their time or human assets. We were working to make the decision to focus on what they do well and get rid of all the other stuff. Looked for trusted partners who could solve the other problems, and just be the absolute best at what they do – MS, consulting, corporate email. Started stripping off other services, got rid of legacy hosting service, got rid of POP email service — even got rid of customers that were no longer making sense.
Took a tough look at the business, did a rebranding on logo and design. talked to a marketing team – “succeeding in anonymity” – you’re doing well, making money, customers love you…. but people still don’t’ know who you are. You’re terrible at telling people about what you’re doing correctly and successfully. The team they were working with wasn’t specifically an MSP marketing firm and didn’t truly understand how to help them be successful. John was too busy working “in” the business to work “on” the business and marketing side, so they made the decision to get a partner who understood MSPs and could help get the word out.
We always tell clients: focus on what you do best and outsource the IT work to us — so they decided to take their own advice and find a partner to do their marketing and promotions. looked at all the top MSP marketing firms, not worrying about the cost, didn’t worry about the size, who the best were and what they were offering. then they started narrowing it down to the few top firms. Decided to go with the company that they felt was like them: similar in size, similar in focus and the owners worked in and on the business — dedicated and heavily involved. worked with Stuart and Missy and their team. They knew it would be a good partnership because they have access to the owners and thought leaders.
Stuart came to their office for a consultation and after several days of hearing from staff and learning what GO Concepts does, Stuart recommended that they focus on a single vertical. Starting in 2012 Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities was looking to move them from an in-house IT being provided by the county because they weren’t getting the response and current IT that they thought they needed. Won the bid and quickly brought them up to current standards and best practices, helped with HIPAA compliance and more. Moved them to the virtual data center and provided remote access which helped drive up their efficiencies. Really loved working with this group, and made the decision to focus on the developmental disability community. In Ohio alone, there are 88 different boards, plus ancillary organizations. There was some concern that it was such a narrow vertical market – but Dan Oliver was comfortable from the beginning, but John was hesitant. He didn’t want to offend his existing customers, but GO Concepts team was incredibly passionate about helping people supporting the DD community do their job better and improve the lives of individuals. Their tagline is now “Focus on what matters”, our support allows them to focus on what truly matters so they don’t have to worry about IT by providing an all-inclusive service.
This is a very personal mission to the GO Concepts family. They set up ITforDD.com that is 100% focused on that community, working on becoming the thought leader in the DD community, helping with everything possible around technology. All social media includes providing good content within the community. Found that the community was much larger than simply the 80 county boards — also includes private providers, agencies that they work with, transportation companies, Easter seals — plus all the vendors that service that sell into that space. Forming partnerships with vendors that are in alignment. Turns out, that the world of DD vertical is much larger, and you’re getting greater exposure than expected. Heavily involved in statewide organizations, able to speak and give presentations on security awareness training and cybersecurity, HIPAA compliance — try to help them in every aspect of their organization when it comes to IT.
Tough decision but a good decision to maintain a single vertical for the business.
What would you say to an MSP that is worried about moving into a particular vertical: “Can’t be too small, can’t be too large” companies, it’s a risk/reward situation. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and are willing to put in the work and the time and have great people around you – just go for it. The reward was definitely worth the risk for GO Concepts. They are able to streamline their operations and focus what they’re doing from an operational standpoint to fulfill the needs of DD customers, understand the software companies they work with, know their challenges… at a core they understand their mission, goals, pain points. That doesn’t mean the orgs are all the same, but at the basic level they are very similar which allows them to quickly onboard people.
From a marketing standpoint, can really tailor their marketing – can say they are the premier provider for county boards, private providers and agencies. the service is tailored to their needs – solutions defined exactly for them. they pitch the specialization and that they are the experts because that’s all they do. Makes GO Concepts the best choice for organizations, decision is often made to go with the team that “gets me”.
benefits from an operational, marketing and process standpoint. makes it easier to bring on new employees because you’re not trying to make them a general surgeon — they can be shown exactly what they will be doing, so anyone can support any customer, no matter what it is — it’s truly a team effort. customers get to know their entire team, and customers appreciate the personal knowledge.
Being in a single vertical allows you to really focus. Plus, clients are spreading the word for them because they get to know the individuals — by doing community outreach so people know who you are.
Focus on preventing fires from ever happening, instead of putting out fires. Can come in and work with a co-managed IT scenario when internal IT people are available, but can also support DD organizations with fully outsourced IT with the goal of improving efficiency so they can bring in more dollars to their organization to really move the organization forward instead of being focused on the issue of the day. Different counties and different customers have various relationships
because of their involvement in the space that they’re targeting. if you’re so broad, you can’t get deep enough to make an impact. When your focus is extremely broad, it’s difficult to determine where to spend your marketing dollars, so GO Concepts spends their dollars on causes that are important to their customers and to the potential customers that they have. When clients have fundraisers such as 5k races, with giveaway items, dollars and by actually running in the races. Go to conferences that they attend, provide things that they can take back to their organization that doesn’t cost them anything — things that can benefit them from an awareness standpoint. For one of the groups, put the ITforDD.com logo on lanyards for a specific event. Not going to sponsor an event because it’s something that GO Concepts is personally into. Instead, they look for ways to find what is important to our customers, so it’s important for GO Concepts…especially because they are passionate about the vertical.
Streamlines and lets them be the best at what they do because they are so incredibly focused on the DD community. “Our goal is that our customer never calls us and never has us come on site”. John knows it will never happen because it encourages the team to be perfect — strive to be the best and most reliable service. They automate and monitor everything they can, be proactive as possible and do things remotely so it doesn’t impact the customer, then they know the customer will be happy. They want IT to simply “work” and be a trusted partner — making it so good that no one ever has to call them for support, trying to do their best every day. Stuart’s goal is to inspire people and change their mindset on what it takes to make it successful. Ulistic is similar in that they always try to focus on what is best for their customers — the MSPs. Claim your complimentary website review today with Stuart Crawford, CEO and Founder of Ulistic, by filling out this simple online form. Learn how Ulistic has been able to help hundreds of MSPs unlock the right focus for their business and create sustainable growth through proactive marketing and support.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.