A conversation with John Watkins, inRsite IT Solutions
In this Reader Spotlight, inRsite IT Solutions Vice President and COO John Watkins shares a little about himself, his company, and the state of the channel.
Summarize your background/professional experience.
Watkins: My career in IT started with working at a low voltage company, where I would pull cat5/6, coax, and fiber cable for commercial networks. Towards the end of my time with the company I was managing projects of my own for clients including Target, Walmart, and RadioShack.
During college it became a challenge to leave for weeks at a time for LV projects, so I took a position at a newly opened PC repair shop as the senior tech and manager. While the store was forced to close due to a series of unforeseen events, the owner put me in contact with the owner of a larger PC repair store in the area, inRsite Computers.
I worked at inRsite as the senior tech and worked my way up to store manager, where I was able to help steer the company away from the dying PC repair business and toward the fast-growing world of Managed Services. Shortly thereafter we made the decision to close the repair stores and fully commit to our MSP offerings, leading to the award-winning company we have today!
What is one interesting/humorous/entertaining fact about you?
Watkins: Some people find the fact that I have IT in my blood is pretty interesting. My grandfather was an executive at GTE back in the day, before starting his own telecommunications company, Watkins Communications. My uncle is the VP of a telcom company that specializes in hospital systems and my dad is the Senior Telephony Engineer at a large Casino/Resort. Some of my earliest computer-related memories include are of exploring the server racks at Watkins Communications as a kid, helping my dad work on the business grade PBX system we had at home, and I knew how to punch down 110 and 66 blocks before I entered high school.
What verticals do you serve and what services and technologies do you sell?
Watkins: We serve all verticals but have a focus on businesses in the manufacturing/industrial sector. We offer the standard MSP services such as RMM, Security, O365, Enduser Support, and VoIP Solutions but also include services that help our clients grow their businesses. For example, we work with our clients to create and optimize their internal processes by leveraging new technologies and automation.
What vendor partners do you work with?
Watkins: Dell, Sophos, Duo, Veeam, VMware, Microsoft, Big Leaf, and Rapid Fire Tools.
What is the best sales opportunity on your 12-to-18-month horizon?
Watkins: SDWAN is growing in popularity and we've started selling more SDWAN solutions powered by Big Leaf, especially to our VoIP clients. We also have a few proof-of-concept Industrial IoT deployments going on at the moment and are very excited to move forward with those on a large scale. While IOT presents a significant security risk if implemented hastily, the possible applications for the technology are endless.
What is the most difficult aspect of leading an IT service provision company?
Watkins: While there are many challenges, I would have to say staffing technical roles is the most difficult.
Finding qualified techs that know what they're talking about is hard enough, but then add in the need for top notch soft skills and the fast-paced environment of an MSP that also requires great multitasking ability, and your talent pool gets a lot smaller.
How are you attacking that challenge?
Watkins: We hire experienced engineers and pay them properly. Once their hired we focus on retention by investing back in them with training, conferences and labs. Additionally, we make it easier for them to focus on their technical duties by not requiring that they submit a minimum number of billable hours.
In the context of running your business, what apps/tools/utilities could you not live without?
Watkins: Connectwise PSA, Automate RMM, and Screenconnect are the big ones for me. Slack is a great tool for collaboration and alerting, Brightgauge is helpful to quickly identify issues or areas where we can improve and Uptime Robot is a great monitoring and alerting tool.
On the flip side of that, what would you be happy to do without?
Watkins: There isn’t much in our toolbox that we don’t use on a daily basis. We try and keep our internal stack as thin as possible by re-evaluating tools and applications every quarter, and those that don’t provide enough value to our engineers or clients are removed.