The Western Australian IT consultancy shares its service-led attitude
The ‘ARN 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. In this edition, we focus on Western Australia and Myaree-based IT consultancy Catalytic IT.
While making dollars and cents is important for any business, sometimes at the detriment of all else, Catalytic IT keeps its major focus on its sense of service for its clients.
Rick Goody (Catalytic IT)
The consultancy opened its doors in Western Australia back in 2013 with just two employees — founders Rick Goody and Matthew Healey. Previously, the pair worked at a managed service provider (MSP) that went under and was snapped up by a larger company. According to Goody, he and Healey weren’t happy with the situation, so they decided to leave and set up their own consultancy in Western Australia.
Fast-forward to today, and while Healey has moved on from the business, the consultancy now has Michael Lester and Esteban Vidal on board as directors, coming to a total of 13 full-time staff.
Lester came into the business a year after it was established in 2014, but he also worked at the same previous MSP. However, he was there for just over a year before jumping ship to Catalytic IT.
According to Goody, that previous MSP went under and left a hole in the market, particularly in the education space.
The larger company that bought out the smaller MSP turned its attention to its larger clients and gave up its smaller ones in the process. As a result, Catalytic IT was set up to focus on those smaller clients and educational institutions.
In fact, the education sector is a vertical that the consultancy finds itself to be particularly successful in, with Catalytic IT having engagements with some of its current long-term education customers — including Corpus Christi, Kennedy Baptist College and Infant Jesus School — before the business was even established.
The consultancy also has worked with Catholic Education Western Australia as part of its digital transformation, working both inside the organisation on key projects and with some of the schools that it consists of.
In addition, the small business and medical sectors are other noteworthy verticals for Catalytic IT, as well as working on projects where it acts as an independent party managing other MSPs.
On the technical side, Catalytic IT’s focus is on wireless, security and Apple solutions, which Goody said was borne out of the consultancy’s focus on nurturing its employees’ passions.
He claimed the strategy was similar to one that Google previously held, where employees have their own time and funding to focus on something that could be “the next big thing”.
“We’ve allowed them and funded them to go off and train and spend time to allow them to then drive the business. So, we’re not always driven by what we want to do,” Goody said.
One of Goody’s specific focuses is on Apple, with the consultancy integrating the vendor’s tech within enterprise networks and handling mobile device management. Meanwhile, Catalytic IT’s wireless focus stemmed from Lester.
In addition to Apple, the consultancy has also partnered with Microsoft, with both relationships forming from the very start of the business. Jamf, an Apple device management provider, is another significant vendor for the consultancy — it was the provider’s first partner in Western Australia, as well as its only current integrator headquartered in the state.
Jamf tech has featured prominently in some of Catalytic IT’s own solutions, including the implementation of its own hosted Jamf solution to provide Apple product management service Jamf Pro to schools that would not have been able to afford it. The consultancy also hosted this solution before Jamf even had a hosting solution.
Despite the partnerships however, Catalytic IT doesn’t tend to align too closely with any particular vendor and tries to spread the focus among multiple vendors.
Because of the consultancy’s attention on managing MSPs for other customers, this tends to see service prioritised over sales.
“We’re not sales focused, we’re service focused,” Goody said. “Pick another IT company, they have a team of salespeople, and their job is to sell the product and then their engineers are tasked to go and install it. Salespeople are generally tasked on, these days, getting the cheapest price. And they will generally go in with something that’s not optimal product.
“We come from a different approach where we’ll always recommend what’s best as a total cost solution rather than trying to get in the door. Even if we don’t make the sale as well, we partner with other companies that we get quotes through.
“I think it’s a challenge that a lot of vendors have with us that we can meet their technical standards and we can get through everything that we need to do and become certified. What we don’t do is meet their sales targets, which is generally why we’re never seen as gold or platinum partners. But if you took those sales targets out, I can almost guarantee we would be gold, platinum for every vendor that we work with based on getting our team certified.”
The combination of all of Catalytic IT’s business decisions has paid off, with the its revenue growing, on average, 25 per cent year-on-year since its inception, as well as noting a 40 per cent growth in revenue during the last financial year.
“We’re not off to the moon in terms of our growth rate, but we are growing very solidly in a sustained responsible manner,” Lester said.
Keeping it in the family
But like with any business, generating that level of growth didn’t come easy. In this case, the challenges have come from on employees moving on from the business — something Lester compared to losing a member of a family.
The most noteworthy departures for Goody included that of Healey and an employee in the business’ operations team, both of which had a profound impact on the business.
Those departures, he added, provided Catalytic IT’s employees with an opportunity to grow. For example, Goody said the consultancy’s current operations employee “stepped up and she exceeded all expectations”.
“It’s been remarkable when and how well the company has actually gone from what we thought was going to be a downturn in how it was seen within the staff, but it has actually become very positive,” he said.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a problem to many businesses but, for the most part, it hasn’t bothered Catalytic IT or its clients too much, which has come down to Lester’s strategic planning — something Goody spoke highly of.
“Corpus Christi predates us as a business, but it was Mike that actually started this process and put in a five-year strategy of how they can transform their IT. We continue to do this, and it’s how we engage generally with new business and new clients — trying to give them that five-year, three-year plan,” he said.
These plans have managed to weather the pandemic, as Goody mentioned how the strategies have tried to account for any potential disruption. In saying that, there was a shift on Catalytic IT’s part to providing that support remotely.
“I don’t think we were really slowed down at all. It actually, in some ways, allowed us to be more flexible,” he said. “A lot of our support, we actually provide in person through IT consulting, where it’s a three-hour visit, or a seven-hour visit. When COVID hit and everything was locked down, we made a decision as a company just to still provide that, but remote.
“With that, we got to engage with more end users and provide better support, because they’re also at home and the systems that we had in place already allowed us to do that. I don’t think many of our many of our clients were impacted as people thought they would.”
The only issues the consultancy did face however were logistical, which included dealing with couriers to get devices to homes.
Moving through the new year ahead, Goody wants to try and continue the way the business has always operated — by looking into the latest technologies and certifications.
“I don’t think we plan on making any wholesale changes in anything we do. And we believe for our client set, and our staff, we’ve got it right. I just want to keep on doing better,” he said.
Lester, being the strategist he is, added that the consultancy has a three-year strategic plan in place, which includes growth in headcount and vertical types.
Another area Catalytic IT is moving into is managed services, with it recently launching an offering in the space that Lester believes has longevity for the consultancy.
“The challenge for us was always, ‘How do we deliver managed services in a way that’s not faceless?’” Lester asked.
“Our strength is our people, so why would we go and deliver a managed services offering that’s based around being faceless and not delivering some of the benefits that you have from engaging with the people or with a personal organisation?”
“We think we found a way to deliver managed services in a in a way that plays to our strengths and delivers the combination of strategy as well as support as well as peace of mind. So, we see that as an area that’s going to grow for us over the coming years.”
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