As many of you know in December 2016 we sold Atrion, a $156 million integrator, and I planned to retire. However, I found out I wasn’t ready for the sunset quite yet. I continued my active engagement with organizations like PSA Security, NSCA, CompTIA and Channel Partners. I was also able to spend time consulting with some amazing leaders. 

And then in 2018 I got the call. I was asked to take over the helm of an IT managed service provider (MSP). I accepted the role at this MSP, which serves the sub-150 employee size businesses. At Atrion we were originally focused on the mid-market serving 250 employees and up. Then in order for us to address the needs of our clients who have under 150 employees we started Atrion SMB. 

Both parts of the business delivered managed services to their respective client base, although the platform requirements were different. However, there was one thing that both companies needed help with and that was recruiting the right talent.

What we noticed is that the technical skills were different and both types were equally in demand. So we followed the traditional path of recruiting experienced technical staff and we had marginal success. That is when we decided to try something different. We put our focus on those who were still in college. We also focused on people who had graduated college and worked in a professional business environment, but were unhappy. The more professional business experience they had, the better the candidate.

What we believed is that we could educate most of the people on learning the technology if they possessed ambition, an aptitude to learn and the right attitude. What we found is that the candidates with the business experience brought with them some very valuable skills that a lot of technical people didn’t possess — a client business understanding. For example, we served regional banks and credit unions. We hired a bank teller and also a lending officer. The financial background with the developed technical skills made these candidates great client-facing consultants that could immediately identify with the client and talk about technology in a way that resonated with them. This allowed us to quickly build credibility with the client.

Another area of focus for us was the private education market. We hired a teacher who brought the understanding of how schools educate youth today. This person could talk about the applications that were being used in the classroom and the way technology was being used to drive the learning process. 

The business relevancy that came from the new hires combined with a focused technical training program allowed us to incubate talent and create a blended business consultant. 

Here are some of the areas that we focused on to become a manufacturer of talent:

  • We applied to become adjunct professors and offered to speak in front of students to share real life experiences. We identified the best talent and offered them part-time jobs and created internship roles that aligned with the curriculum needs.
  • We focused on assessing our current employees’ college backgrounds in order to identify alumni networks that could be used to attract other graduates. 
  • We recruited business professionals with the commitment to train and develop employees. We stayed away from the titles of engineer and technician. We put the focus on consulting and business enablement.
  • We advertised broadly for talent, emphasizing the opportunity to be educated in technology no matter what their current job.
  • We created a roadmap for technology training and used our own staff as educators, combined with organizations like CompTIA, New Horizon, Global Knowledge and others. 
  • We created a certification track for measuring success.

I found out when I took over the helm of the new company that they have the same problem recruiting talent as I did two years ago. I have already begun the focus on finding talent and it is having an immediate impact. Open up your search and look for talent and not just experience and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. 


Connect with me on LinkedIn or attend one of my sessions at: Channel Partners Evolution, CompTIA’s ChannelCon, NSCA’s Pivot to Profit and ConnectWise Events and I would be happy to share more experiences.