Every company has a story. If the company is growing, that story likely includes how they have overcome obstacles and matured past growing pains. What worked in the beginning, when they were looking to build an initial client base, may not have continued to work as they grew. Hard decisions were made. New people entered the mix. And while the company’s core values didn’t change, they grew into new and, hopefully, better ways of living those values out.
If you’re part of a growing company that has been in business for a number of years, a story of change and evolution may resonate with you. That’s why we wanted to share the story of how, since our founding in 2002, we have learned from experience how best to live out our passion for transforming businesses’ IT into engines for growth.
In the Beginning: What Made Affinity Thrive
Affinity, like many tech companies, began in a basement. After serving as a senior systems engineer and database administrator for some of Nashville’s biggest companies, Sean Wright, our Founder and President, left his corporate job to start his own business. His goal was to put his passion for technology and helping others leverage it to use, bringing enterprise-level expertise to businesses of all sizes. He became a one-man IT consultant, network administrator, and support technician for a number of growing companies. He was good at it, and his company (then called 3n1media) began to grow. Soon, the company had a team of systems engineers and network administrators managing the technology of growing companies throughout Greater Nashville.
What made Affinity grow in the beginning was Sean’s experience, approach, and passion. His experience was in managing highly complex systems for profitable companies. His approach was to bring that same mindset to serving as an outsourced IT provider. He didn’t just fix computers; he thought like each client’s CIO (chief information officer), proactively maintained their systems, and helped decision-makers incorporate the right technology into their plans for growth.
And, of course, Sean’s passion was for providing excellent, empathetic, and trustworthy service to his clients. This is how he developed and kept his client set, and how he trained his team and created the culture of excellent service that Affinity’s clients enjoy today.
Growing Pains: Aligning Service Offerings with Core Values
Like many companies, as Affinity continued to grow, we began to experience growing pains. Chief among these was a misalignment of our service offering—how we packaged and billed for our services—and our core mission of serving as a growth engine for our clients.
For years, we billed all services—from consulting to support to project work—by the hour. On the surface, this made sense. Affinity was compensated for our time, and clients “only paid for what they needed.”
The problem was that, while it made for clean, common-sense billing, this model failed to provide our clients with the kind of deeply integrated, proactive IT work that they truly needed, and that was central to our company’s identity. For one thing, it was frustrating for clients to have widely fluctuating IT bills from month to month.
More importantly, though, it made the proactive work required to maintain the health and improve the functioning of systems complicated to perform. When an internal employee goes the extra mile to periodically review and perform maintenance on systems to keep them running optimally, the CEO is likely happy about that. But when a contracted company charging an hourly rate does this, executives are—understandably—less likely to feel warm and fuzzy. We worked hard to build trust with our clients, and on the whole succeeded, but at times maintenance charged at an hourly rate couldn’t help but cause questions. And, more importantly, it made our technicians cautious about spending the time they knew they needed to do the hard work of optimizing systems so that employees spent less time on the phone with tech support, and more time doing the work they needed to generate revenue for their businesses.
All of this meant that the DNA of our company, coming from Sean’s experience and devotion to responsible IT management, did not align with the way we were packaging our services.
A New Chapter: The Complete Care Partnership – Affinity’s Take on Managed Services
We saw that this hourly model could no longer support our mission, so we changed our model. We adopted what the industry calls a “Managed Services” approach. This means that instead of billing hourly, we began charging a flat monthly fee for supporting our clients’ IT. But we went beyond many of the “managed services providers” in our market by also including all the work it takes to not only keep a company’s IT running, but also to improve its efficiency and ensure that it aligns with the company’s plans and goals for growth.
We called our new service offering the Complete Care Partnership. “Complete Care” because this is a complete IT service offering; we take on the work of managing, supporting, maintaining, and planning for the client’s IT. And, more importantly, the word “partnership” shows that this arrangement sets us up to be a true partner to our clients. Gone are the clocks over our technicians’ heads, meaning that our incentives now line up with our mission. To be a profitable company at a flat, monthly rate, we have to think like our clients’ internal staff, reducing their overall IT cost (which includes time lost to issues) by providing sound strategy and proactively working to align their systems with best practices and Affinity’s standards for IT.
In all these ways, this new arrangement aligned our services with our mission and vision. And our clients noticed. Speaking of the Complete Care Partnership model, an executive at a medical device manufacturing company says, “Selecting Affinity was the best decision we’ve ever made. The team is truly your partner and includes us in the decision-making process. They have stepped up to every challenge we’ve thrown at them. They are conscious about what we’re trying to do as a company.”
Conclusion: A Hard Decision That Pays Off for our Clients
Making the change to our Complete Care Partnership—and deciding to stop offering hourly-based service models—was not an easy one. After all, some people do prefer to try to manage their IT spend by contracting with a break/fix provider to simply provide support and projects.
Given our long experience in this industry, we know that this model is ultimately not the best for us or, most importantly, for our clients. Companies competing in today’s marketplace need more than a hired-out helpdesk. They need a team designed to make them as efficient as possible, to reduce the hidden costs associated with suboptimal IT, and to advise them on how to implement the right technology to meet their goals for growth.
If you are intrigued by our story and would like to hear more, or if you’re ready to move to an IT partner optimized to serve as an engine for growth for your company, contact us today.