Jonathan Defez of Optimum Networking Shares His Passion For Managed IT Services
March 7, 2018
Erik Wolf: Hello and welcome to The Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor Podcast. Twice a month 30 of Denver’s smartest business leaders enjoy a fancy breakfast in our sweet executive conference suite high atop Denver University. We share knowledge, we share our connections, and we do business together. And twice a month it’s my privilege to talk with my fellow DEA members on this podcast and we post them for the world to hear at Denverexecutiveassociation.com. My name is Erik Wolf and I’m with the digital marketing agency estound. We serve small and midsize business owners in Denver and around the world with website design and development, Search Engine Optimization, pay-per-click advertising, marketing automation and more. We even do podcasting if you can believe that. And my esteemed guest today is someone who I’ve known for a lot of years, is my friend Jonathan Defez. As Director of Sales and Business Development at Optimum Networking, he primarily works with businesses from 10 to 200 employees who are frustrated, frustrated, maddened with their current IT provider or who are trying to do IT all on their own and need help. Jonathan specializes in client-centered solutions selling (I will not say that five times fast) and truly cares about each and every interaction he has with others. Welcome, Jonathan.
Jonathan Defez: Thank you.
Erik Wolf: So to kick things off would you mind talking a little bit about Optimum Networking and your role there and what you guys do.
Jonathan Defez: Not at all. But first I’d like to really thank you and thank the DEA for this great opportunity and also say myself, what a great organization it has been for Optimum Networking and me personally and professionally.
Erik Wolf: I appreciate that and the DEA appreciates that, but I mostly appreciate you thanking me. So, Optimum?
Jonathan Defez: So Optimum Networking at our core is a support group. Our clients are ranging anywhere from 10 to 15 users up to even 200 or 250 users. Those are pretty much two different categories. So those smaller folks from about 15 to 50 users, they need all means of IT support. So we have a helpdesk that supports their users, we have our tools on their networks and we have onsite engineers that can help with their servers or environments whether they be hosted or on-premise. We also have experts and ownership that guides them in IT so everything from removing IT as an obstacle for them to leveraging IT for their future goals and their plans. What Optimum Networking is not, is just a large IT project company. Some companies out there, some IT companies are just looking and going from project to project. We only do projects for our ongoing clients and so companies that are looking for good partnerships that care about them, that have been established in 1995, we’ve done this for a long time in the Denver and Colorado area. This is what Optimum Networking does in a nutshell.
Erik Wolf: If I can ask a quick question just to get you to define something, quickly, hopefully. There’s a term that you guys use which is an industry term but it’s “Managed Services Provider.” So can you can you explain briefly what that is and why you guys are committed to managed services.
Jonathan Defez: Absolutely that’s a great question and it’s a good differentiation point as a lot of people say they do managed services but ultimately they’re just hourly time and materials. That’s the opposite of managed service. If you are a company that only needs IT a few times a year or a few times of quarter, your just somebody who wants somebody to check in on them, that’s not managed services. That’s calling the IT guy. That’s essentially treating IT like the plumbing. Something goes wrong, quick call the IT guy. Something’s wrong. Managed Services is more of a partnership. When you have a team in place, when you have systems in place and even more importantly, when you have tools in place, you can charge a flat amount. We charge per user, per month, per device, per month and we are all inclusive so that now you don’t have to stress about what your bill is going to be every month. You also know that there is a team out there that are proactively working on making sure your IT is up and running so you don’t even have to worry about it. You don’t have to think about it and you have a team in place that gives you that strategy and planning that I spoke about earlier. All together that creates manage services. But a company cannot do that unless they have tools, unless they have teams, unless they have systems.
Erik Wolf: How did you personally get started in the technology industry.
Jonathan Defez: The technology industry. Well, I was in sales, I’ve been in sales for over 15 years and my original sales job was selling telecom to businesses, that’s voice and data circuits. However, I found that my best referral partners were managed service companies, one in particular and I was referring him so much business that he hired me. It was a small business at the time as well and I watched that company grow. But that company ultimately resembled more the company I mentioned earlier. They were looking for big projects they were looking for big either network or development projects. That wasn’t a fit for me. About seven years ago, I had lunch with the owner of Optimum Networking and I found that he had much more of a partnership approach where I was going to be connecting with clients and really helping them with the day to day needs of their IT so that is how I got started with Optimum and the rest is history.
Erik Wolf: Very cool and Joe, who’s the owner, he’s a great guy.
Johnathan Defez: Correct. Yeah and let me talk a little bit about that. Joe Turnbough and Tracy Huntzinger founded Optimum Networking. Both of them came out of CH2M Hill the engineering firm right. And they decided to sort of as a pact, they’re both ex-military as well. So they met each other at CH2M Hill and decided they were going to take their skills about enterprise IT, but they’re going to bring it to the SMB market. So they made that pact. They both left CH2M Hill and founded Optimum Networking in Joe’s garage and they grew it. As I said that started in 1995 and in about, I think it’s about 2004 is where they bought their buildings that we are right now and three years ago they were joined by a third owner, Brett Ammerman also from CH2M Hill and now the three of them make the ownership. So it’s pretty remarkable that you know for over 23 years, these three men have formed this partnership and this culture that’s Optimum Networking.
Erik Wolf: That’s awesome. And it’s a very cool company. Absolutely. So being that you have such a great company that you work with, with awesome ownership and awesome experts and awesome clients, I’m sure that you have a fantastic hero story where you guys just stepped in and really helped somebody out of a jam.
Jonathan Defez: You bet Erik. This is actually a crazy one and I’m going to say ahead of time that this is a true story and it’s going to sound pretty incredible to folks. But we have a client right now. So just imagine. Imagine you are the owner of a 150 person engineering firm. You come to your office on a Monday morning and you find out that seven of your key executives including your IT manager have resigned and are starting a rival firm. What do you do? It just so happened that the owner of this company knew Joe Turnbough in another professional organization. He called Joe in a panic. Within three hours we had engineers deployed. We had usernames, passwords, and admin privileges changed. Within three days we had a network diagram in place with all the documentation. Within a week we had a managed service plan proposed and accepted. This company, this engineering firm never missed a beat production wise as a result of this, essentially almost a cou. And if they had not known Optimum Networking, this former I.T. manager could have done severe damage to the company.
Erik Wolf: That’s that absolutely does sound like something you made up but I believe you. Seeing that you guys do a deal with some pretty wild and unbelievable things, what’s something that most people just wouldn’t know or expect about the IT business.
Jonathan Defez: Well I think what a lot of people, as I mentioned earlier I think some people believe that IT is just there as a backdrop and you only notice it when it doesn’t work.
Erik Wolf: That’s the way it is usually.
Jonathan Defez: Right. That is the way it is usually and there’s so much that goes into proactive work and preventative work so that it does just work and I don’t think people appreciate that on a certain level. Both the importance of having the tools and the preventative maintenance in place to make sure things are working, as well as just knowing they have a reliable expert to reach out to in a convenient manner as Optimum is set up to do. So that’s one element. But the second element is I’m not sure people recognize, as I mentioned earlier, how much IT can be a tool to reach business goals. So that your IT manager, in this case, your expert from Optimum Networking can and should sit in the room when you’re doing business strategy and planning going forward in terms of: do you want more employees to be working from home and how does that look? Do you want employees to be more productive and how can you make that happen? Different types of processing and different types of data and hosting opportunities and voice systems and collaboration and team and documents. There’s there are so many different elements of IT that help drive business that I think that people just don’t know what they don’t know.
Erik Wolf: I think that’s a very astute observation because it is one of those things that a lot of people don’t want to deal with. It’s like having the lights on for a lot of folks and it is potentially a lot more strategic than that. So to change gears just a little tiny bit I mentioned at the beginning that this is supposed to be a trusted advisor podcast. So as my trusted advisor, would you mind giving me a quick tip for someone who is looking to hire an IT company or a managed services provider or something that would help with the hiring decision
Jonathan Defez: Absolutely. It’s a great question. I would say.
Erik Wolf: I know I wrote the question.
Jonathan Defez: You wrote the question. So it has to be great. Greatness begets greatness.
Erik Wolf: That’s right.
Jonathan Defez: Absolutely. So the first thing you need to do as with any large decision is doing a needs assessment. As I mentioned before if you don’t see a need to call an IT person very often, a managed service plan may not be a good fit for you. But if you stop and look at your organization and either yourself or a key employee is spending you know more than an hour or two a week either trying to manage the IT, trying to fix the IT, or just stressing out and worrying about IT, if you’re losing any sleep at all, that would be one trigger to look at a managed service provider. If you have a managed service provider, take a hard look at things like response time, at expertise. If you know that you get the smart guy sometimes and he fixes the problem and then sometimes you find somebody that fumbles and isn’t able to fix the problem in the first try, that is also an indication. Keep in mind the type of company you have. I find that some companies out there that are managed service providers, it’s sort of like the “3 Bears” syndrome. If they’re too small, they may take on a smaller client and then they take a larger client on and that smaller client no longer gets the “A” team if you will and their service level is severely affected. If you deal with too large of a company, really they’re just going after project to project, as I mentioned before and even if you’re 20 to 50 person company you also don’t get there a game you need to look for that right fit company with the right culture that you know can be a good fit for your organization.
Erik Wolf: Jonathan thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate you. We appreciate your expertise. You are a “Mensch” and we enjoy it so thank you for being here. And thanks for everyone listening to the DEA Trusted Advisor Podcast. We will see you next time.
Jonathan Defez: Thank you, Erik. That’s a very high praise.