The ‘Partner Spotlight’ series explores partners operating in the local channel landscape right around the country, from Cape York to Hobart, Byron Bay to Fremantle and beyond. This edition focuses on the Gympie managed services provider (MSP) Productivity.
Having a strong brand identity is paramount to survive and thrive in the IT channel, and this is something that Mark Grogan, founder and chief technology officer at Productivity, has learned all too well over the years.
So, what’s in a name? According to Grogan, quite a lot. When he began thinking about starting his own business, he admits he spent “way too much time” on the name of the business, rather than getting it off the ground.
“We were initially just doing some consulting work for a previous employer and a local private school in the first few weeks, so we just ran with the super creative 'Mark Grogan Technology,'” he said.
However, as the business started to grow, having Grogan’s name gave off the impression it was just him behind the wheel, which made the sales process challenging.
“The names we trialled were absolutely horrendous and out of the Silicon Valley name generator cliché,” he said.
“The end result came at the Microsoft TechEd/Ignite conference in 2017, I think it was, and the theme was making people more productive in Office 365. All I heard for four days was ‘Productivity, Productivity, Productivity’, though perhaps not with the same enthusiasm Steve Balmer would have given.
“The message being conveyed was exactly what we were trying to achieve for our customers using the exact same tech.”
After a chat with an accountant friend, the name was secured and sat on until the business was launched later that year.
Now, the MSP holds strong with six employees, with Grogan’s background in private education pushing the sector up as one of Productivity’s strengths, right from the start.
“Gradually more and more business support has closed the gap with K-12, but I still like to think of it as our largest market and really enjoy working in it," he said.
This is not to say it is its only strength however, as it also services small- to medium-sized businesses up to 500 seats.
Additionally, Grogan said Gympie has a high volume of local manufacturing businesses and has ended up being a larger vertical than he expected it to be.
The business also does not operate on a contract-based model, opting instead for proactive maintenance plans and value-based solutions.
"I really struggle using line of business apps that want annual commitments myself, so we don’t require that of our clients," Grogan said. “It’s a managed service of sorts, but it’s month to month and, generally, 60 to 90 days gets you out if you aren’t happy to continue.
“Some of these agreement terms we have had between four and six years now, so we bet big that our customer service keeps our customers in our agreements and not 36-month terms.
“My accountant likes to remind me that a prospective buyer will always prefer the lock in term, but we have the results in that everyone is still on the journey with us and everyone to date has stayed well beyond what a 12- or 36-month lock in period would keep them for," he added.
Also backing Productivity is its vendor base, with Grogan saying building up these partnerships is something the business has worked “exceptionally hard on”.
“I’ve lived and breathed Microsoft tech for the last two decades, so aligning with Microsoft was critical for me and always has been,” he said. “In late 2015, when we were really a one-man-band with next to no hardware revenue, Emma [Stonefield, Microsoft Surface product manager] from Ingram Micro was able to help us secure a Microsoft Surface Partner status, which was just exceptional at the time.
“We were well under the required threshold at the time, but Ingram backed us, and it’s become our largest hardware vertical and we are exceptionally proud to be part of that program.”
Today, Productvity is a Microsoft Gold Partner and has maintained relationships with HP, Sophos, Mitel, Cirrus, and, most recently, Apple as an Authorised Partner.
“We have found our partnerships to be critical for our business, as in our geographic area,” Grogan continued. “Even extending down to the Sunshine Coast, we don’t see other MSPs emphasising it as strongly and we have found the partnerships resonate well with our clients.
“There is also this fabulous ecosystem in the channel in Australia where partners and disties work really well with you as a value-added reseller and systems integrator.”
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