Fueled by Pivot to Profit, Automated Systems Design commits to overcoming obstacles to managed services success
It was late 2014 when Alpharetta, GA-based Automated Systems Design (ASD) first seriously considered recurring revenue as a business model.
“It sounded great, but we really didn’t understand how to roll it out,” says Abe Fleming, director of sales at ASD. “It was hard to connect the dots in the beginning so that it would make sense for our clients.”
To better understand finance programs, NSCA introduced the company to GreatAmerica, a financial institution that helps NSCA members offer modern and efficient financing options to customers. From those conversations, Fleming realized there were ways to simplify quoting and streamline approaches to help customers consolidate technology expenses.
ASD and GreatAmerica also worked together to develop cobranded material for ASD’s sales team so they could talk confidently to customers about the value of buying technology through monthly payments. Once ASD had a solid managed services offering in place for its customers, the next step was to sell it—and that’s where Fleming says the team got stuck.
“We still struggled a little,” he explains. “You have to do discovery with customers and find out whether the opex model is even possible or of interest.” Some of the company’s sales executives were comfortable with having those conversations; others tended to forget the program was even available.
“It’s easier for reps to say, ‘Here are your projects. Sign here, and we’ll send you a bill.” With monthly payments, it’s, ‘Let me do a credit check. Let’s walk you through how this breaks down. Let me bring my finance partner to the table,’ ” says Mike Castiglione, COO at ASD. “It required constant retraining and extra steps in the process.”
The team kept moving forward—and even landed a handful of deals—but they knew there was still something missing: the nuts and bolts of how to really build a successful program.
Pivot to Profit Makes a Difference
ASD says it was NSCA and the Pivot to Profit conference that finally gave them the information and step-by-step guidance they needed to determine how to best sell managed services from start to finish.
“We go to a lot of different shows, and NSCA’s events always seem to be the most relative to what we’re doing on a daily basis. We always walk away with something good,” says Castiglione. “It gives us a chance to see what other people are doing and benchmark our progress. We use that information to work on the business, not on the jobs we’re doing.”
Pivot to Profit was developed specifically to help integrators learn to “pivot” to discover new growth opportunities and lucrative pathways to increase revenue in today’s environment.
The event has also given ASD lots to consider in terms of creating predictable monthly income and introducing customers to new ways of financing the technology solutions they need.
Pivot to Profit has also helped the company narrow in on the types of customers that might be open to paying monthly for technology. While ASD has focused primarily on new construction, refresh, and remodel projects—where many clients have secured construction loans and the value of monthly payments doesn’t resonate—they’re also looking for clients with a break-fix approach or a new technology initiative that wasn’t planned for or included in the current budget.
“There are still lots of possibilities for managed services to fit within the world of construction, but we also have new paths to consider to get there,” says Fleming.
Even though they’ve attended before, Fleming and Castiglione both say Pivot to Profit is worth attending every year because they learn something new each time. Depending on the topics covered, ASD sometimes rotates staff members based on who may need or want exposure to the content.
As ASD works on refining its managed services program, the conference is an opportunity to refine and refocus its approach. For example: ASD is currently working on a process that will include renewables in service contracts—and the company is relying on resources like Pivot to Profit to help determine the best ways to do this.
“We finance the gear, but we want a percentage of that project as an RMR service agreement that gets passed through GreatAmerica,” says Fleming. “NSCA helps us hammer out some of the backend details on how to make these things happen, especially since we’re still learning.”
This year, Pivot to Profit will focus on helping project-centric companies become managed services providers, detailing the impact of predictable monthly income (and properly recognizing that revenue), and revealing the emerging innovations that could disrupt or enable opportunity—depending on how they’re handled.
“NSCA does a really good job of identifying relevant items to talk about,” says Castiglione. “They also provide a forum where we get to work with similar companies in our industry, have great conversations, and build new potential partnerships. It’s a great way to bring the team together and spend time working on the business instead of in the business.”