Intermix with Integris #140

Helping Small Businesses Now and in the Future

With Sylvia Brookshire
Account Executive at Integris
August 15, 2022

Sylvia Brookshire, Account Executive at Integris, sits down with Anthony to talk about how her background as an immigrant and experience with small businesses from childhood influenced her career path, and how Integris can help small businesses now and in the future.

Check out the transcript below and listen along with the embed, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app.



Anthony DeGraw: Welcome to another episode of The Helpdesk hosted by Integris. I am your host Anthony DeGraw. This is my first one in a while. I’ve handed over the keys to this, but for our special guest today, I wanted to make a comeback. So today I have Sylvia Brookshire. She is an account executive out of our Denver office. So she is on the west coast or what I would consider the west coast. What do you guys call Denver? Is it the Midwest? What is it?

Sylvia Brookshire: Um, well, we call Denver awesome. But no, we’re not the Midwest. No, no. We’re getting to be like the great Western states, yeah, but we’re not really west coast. We’re not really east coast. It’s just kinda, we’re in the middle here and. You know, it’s the wild, wild west.

Anthony DeGraw: I was gonna say a bunch of awesomeness.

Sylvia Brookshire: A bunch of awesomeness. Yeah.

Anthony DeGraw: So Sylvia wanted to come on. She grew up in a small business household and she wanted to come on and discuss how MSPs. Can help small businesses, not only today, but also tomorrow. So with that, Sylvia, I’m gonna hand it over to you. Maybe you wanna just give the audience a little bit of your background, how we got to this point and then we’ll jump into some questions.

Sylvia’s background

Sylvia Brookshire: Sure. So I come from an immigrant background. My parents immigrated from Baghdad, Iraq in 1980. Which at the time was a real socialist kind of dictatorship. And my dad got to the United States and he saw. Just all the greater potential of capitalism which during the eighties, capitalism ring true and Reagan was the president, and my dad absolutely loved it. He loved the idea of, a man could go out with a hundred dollars in his pocket at the start of the week. And if he had that entrepreneurial spirit he’d end up with a thousand by the end of the week. So my parents, like a lot of immigrants who have come to this country own small businesses and that’s the way that I was raised.

And I was raised helping out in those small businesses. So after school or on the weekends, and that really drove home to me that those small businesses, which comprise 32 million of ’em currently in the United States. That’s what’s paying for those ballerina lessons, or that’s what’s paying to put food on the table.

Currently small businesses account for 64% of the job growth in our country. They account for 48.75% of employees. So it just gave me a greater understanding of that being raised in that culture being raised in that, “Hey, can-do spirit, let’s get out there. Let’s build a business, let’s have a vision, let’s see where we can take it.” Anthony, for me, I’ve always enjoyed that. That’s always been, something integral for me.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. I, actually, so I’m gonna ask your question and then afterwards, I’m gonna give you my take on it, ‘cuz I have a similar story from a small business household and working in that, but I wanna, what got you to Integris and into the IT and cybersecurity world? And how does that play directly into what you were just talking about with small businesses?

Sylvia Brookshire: Well, so for small businesses, a lot of times you don’t have the capital to be able to hire that giant IT team, or you don’t have the capital to really do the research on the continuity of the products that you need to keep your business safe.

A lot of people when I’m out there talking to them will say, I don’t think I’ll be targeted by cyber crime or ransomware because I’m just so small, but that’s exactly who these ransomware and these malicious people out there wanna target because they know that you don’t have the resources. So part of what drew me to Integris was the fact that I could bring this high level of service to these people, this high level of security to these small and medium sized businesses without the same kind of cost.

And I just felt like that was a brilliant way of going about it. Like I said, I enjoy helping people in these situations. I enjoy being a part of that. When the job was laid out for me, it really just made sense for what I wanted to do. I enjoy working, but I, I also enjoy the almost servitude of working and helping people in a situation that’s really fulfilling for me.

So, you know, I’ve had some small businesses where, it’s a sophisticated business. Like for example, I had a trucking business. It’s a sophisticated trucking business, but they’re not sophisticated as far as IT goes. And they were definitely starting to get those attacks coming in. So us coming in and being able to help them with their security and their continuity, that actually means something in the world.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Yeah. My end of this story which is similar is I was on the commercial insurance side and your standard policies, your general liability for slips and falls, your property coverage. If you have fires, flood coverage, all this kind of stuff. And I was doing a lot of cybersecurity and in my head over the years of doing it, I didn’t know about the MSP community or really what was available there to small businesses. But once I found out, it resonated with me, took about three years for me to make the switch, but the switch really occurred for me. If if I’m really trying to fight this cybersecurity battle for small medium sized businesses that really need the education and help.

And I think Sylvia, as you mentioned, like the servitude of you really are helping them solve a problem, educate them on where’s the world out today, cuz it’s different than when your father built his business in the 1980s. It’s a different risk.

So in my head it went to I don’t wanna just sell them another insurance policy. Like it’s great if they do need it. If an incident does happen, it will protect them and help cover the cost. But a lot of this battle could be fraught on the front side. If we do the right things up front, the insurance policy is just more of a safety net, if anything does happen.

And once I made that connection, I was like, yeah, it’s time to go from the insurance side and after things happen, to let’s try and prevent the things from happening even in the first place. So I love your journey over to Integris and what that looked like.

Sylvia Brookshire: Yeah, it was an exciting situation for me.

I had never been exposed to the MSP world. You always thought of IT, like that was that nerdy guy that’s down in the basement that every so often I have to call. So getting that exposure into the MSP world, I was like, man, this helps a lot of people. And it helps a lot of people in really critical situations.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. I think a lot of us who came from outside the industry, just think of IT, of like when we were in other businesses like, oh, that’s what they do. And then the MSP world, you’re like, wow. I think the other thing is like, the MSP community has also significantly evolved.

I think initially we were looked at more as a trade when these businesses in the nineties and early 2000s started to form, we were looked more under like a break fix type of agreement, like a plumber, an electrician where, “Hey, when I have a problem, I call them, they bill me hourly and we go on from there.”

And the level of sophistication now with cybersecurity technology the profession has really elevated itself from where it used to be.

Sylvia Brookshire: Yeah, I completely agree with that.

And then we’re able to, in a lot of regards partner with these small to medium sized businesses I think the SBA was saying they define a small business as 500 or less employees. 500 employees seems like a larger business to me, right? But that’s how they define it. And that’s 99.9% of the businesses in the United States, which is crazy to me. And when you really think about it, like when you when you think about, a 50 person business trying to hire for, the type of scope of work that we do as an MSP, the return on investment, when you run the ROI is just phenomenal.

So that’s something that I took into consideration as well.

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah there’s a couple sayings that we like to use. One of ’em is HABU, H A B U, which stands for highest and best use. And I’ll go back to your trucking example is like they know how to run a trucking business. They’ve been doing it probably for 30 years.

They’re experts in that. They’re not experts in hiring IT folks or what to even look for. And then a lot of times they get thrown the question what do you wanna hire?

Do you wanna hire a CIO level individual or an IT manager? That’s gonna set the direction and the strategy, but doesn’t wanna work on the nuts and bolts, or do you hire that lower end, level one level, two individual. That’s gonna work on the nuts and bolts, but isn’t gonna be able to set the direction strategy for you.

So a hundred percent, is like they’re caught in this conundrum, even if they do wanna bring it in. And over my time here at Integris, I’ve seen a big shift of, you used to see onboarded IT professional at around 50 employees. And that number has significantly moved to about 100 to 150 people before you’re seeing these businesses bring in that talent and rather go to the managed services community to get access to it.

Sylvia Brookshire: And then honestly, Anthony, if you think of the cost nowadays, it’s just tough to hire anyways. So whatever that person’s salary is, let’s just for numbers sake, that, that person’s salary is a $100,000. You’re gonna pay 30% more just to the feds, via health insurance, via your taxes. So you’re at $130,000 for that one person.

And that one person who is a human being, who goes on vacation, who gets sick, who might not necessarily see all the things that we see. 400 technicians and engineers nationwide. We have this huge scope of people that we can go to and say, “Hey, have you ever seen this? How can I utilize you for whatever I have going on? How can I utilize your expertise?” This is just one lonely person out there trying to handle your environment for you. Now the nice thing about what we’ve been doing as well is not only, do we have these, managed service options where we’re in there and we’re helping you with everything, we’re partnering with you, but then we can also partner with these IT teams that are out there as well and say, Hey.

Do you just want our tools? Here are our tools. Our tools have this like deep level of continuity. And then we have that 24 7, security alert system. And then that IT department can go home, that IT department can go on vacation and everything’s still running correctly in your environment.

Anthony DeGraw: And those folks definitely wanna be able to take a vacation every once in a while and not feel like the whole thing is gonna come crashing down on them.

Challenges SMBs face

Anthony DeGraw: So I wanted to ask you outside of obviously the hiring challenges of even bringing somebody like that in, what are some of the other challenges you’re seeing face these small and medium sized businesses around, the world that we live in every day.

Sylvia Brookshire: So I think we’re in a brand new world. With COVID, I think we had 31% of small businesses during COVID were rendered completely non operational.

So a lot of these businesses had to turn to online sources, so they had to look at, Hey, how’s our online doing? What are we, how are we trying to get this product to the customer? Via the pandemic. So a lot of places have changed how they’ve done business, I think. So we’re seeing a lot of that.

The other thing that, really sparked during the pandemic, I think is just a spike in ransomware, in malware. It’s been incredible how much deviant activity has been going on in those regards. And I think. Even Joe Biden came out and said, Hey, we have to just have like standard security out there for everybody, because we are just getting attacked at this rate that is consistent and constant.

And all these small businesses are, It can put you in a really bad spot. Those are the two things that I think are really challenging for small businesses right now, along with the hiring. So I think that’s the trifecta there.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Yeah. One example of that is we had a small windows and door manufacturer. Now I wanna say, 30 to 50 folks, been in business for a little while. Luckily or unluckily, I don’t know how you wanna define the situation, but the owner of that business watched his friend get two ransomware attacks back to back. One in which he wrote a check for $25,000, the criminals waited six months, and then they did it again and charged him another $25,000. So overall he is, $50,000 in the hole to keep his business up and running.

The owner of this window door manufacturer, basically put his hands in the air and said, look, I’ve never invested in any of this kind of stuff. But I would rather write you guys a $30,000 check today to get me up to speed than to give criminals the 50 grand and still be at zero with no environment in place.

Yeah. So luckily he learned through another example, it wasn’t himself, but those are sometimes the stories, unfortunately, that are being, that are motivating some of these SMB owners to actually make a difference in their environment.

Sylvia Brookshire: Well, not just that. I think a lot of states have enacted legislation that if you do have a breach, like I know in the state of Colorado right now, if you do have a breach that affects 500 Coloradans. You do need to report it to the Attorney General.

Once the state gets involved, of course, this gets reported out to all your customers, that there was this breach of information. And for me, like I said, growing up in that small business environment, your customers are everything. And you, first of all, don’t wanna think of losing their information in those regards.

And second of all, you don’t want that to affect your business. Cuz I think generally when people know an institution or a company lost their information. They tend to be hesitant about doing business with them again, which is understandable.

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah, absolutely. The reputation hit is that unknown factor of, you know, you’re gonna lose some people. It’s not gonna be good PR that you have to tell your customers that but putting a dollar amount associated with that is usually pretty difficult, but there’s a lot of pain and emotion attached with Without going out into the news or the public or whatever the case may be. I usually try and tell ’em it’s about, I use the Equifax data Breach as the best example of that.

It’s a massive company in terms of Equifax, but when they reported their data Breach, I think it was within six weeks of them reporting it. Their stock took a 20% hit. And I obviously, for them, that’s billions of dollars and that doesn’t resonate well with SMB owners, but I say, just use that 20% number.

If you’re a 5 million business, 20 percent’s a million bucks, if you’re a million dollar business, 20% is 200,000, whatever the case may be. But that gave the first time I saw like some sort of value associated with the reputational risk that folks will take from data breaches, ransomware attacks and things like that.

What an MSP like Integris brings to the table

Anthony DeGraw: I wanted to touch real quick, what does a premier MSP like Integris bring to the table to help solve these challenges that we’ve talked about?

Sylvia Brookshire: So the way that I always describe it to a lot of my clients is, I go back to the good old days of the IT department in the basement, right?

So you’re working for this big company, whoever it might be, they make widgets. And you have this IT department that handles everything. Nobody sees them. Cause they’re always down in the basement. They’re the renegades. But they handle everything. So kinda soup to nuts.

We get all those employees, onboarded, offboarded. We make sure they have everything that they need to work. If an employees out and about. And they happen to forget their laptop in the airport. No worries. You call us. So we’re like a true partner. Everything about what we do is like being a true partner. Like I said, think of that IT department in the basement that handles everything, we don’t really see or hear from them, but they’re top notch IT department and they have everything.

And the neat thing about that is that, you might be a business of 20 and you wouldn’t have even thought to hire this, gorgeous IT department with the best of the best in the country. But now you have it at a fraction of the price. So that’s the way that I always describe it to people.

And I think some of the things that people really appreciate are the smaller things, right? So we have our SOC, we have all the tools, we have all that continuity going to where we get your environment lockdown and we have it just ticking away. And if there’s an issue, you’re calling into our helpdesk or you’re emailing into our helpdesk and you don’t even have to think about it, but something like the littler things that I appreciate.

And then I think a lot of my clients appreciate is you’re not calling vendors anymore. So that internet’s out, you’re calling us and we’re calling that company. You’re not dealing with the inventory of your hardware anymore. We’re handling that for you. You have someone on our team that works directly with you in our vCIO, who sits there and goes, let’s sit down and talk about a budget for the next five years for your IT needs. Let’s go ahead and strategize what we think your disaster recovery should be.

So that if something happens, we’re ready to go, we’re ready to roll. So I think that, that’s the thing that, we bring to the table to these companies to where they’re like, here, and we just take it from them and we own it. And then we’re their partners in that. I think that’s what makes us premier.

And I think that’s what a lot of clients, when I give my presentation to ’em and I start talking about the little things they get very like, “you can do that? You can do that?” It builds that and they get very excited for that relationship.

And in truth, if their company grows, obviously we grow with them, so it’s very symbiotic and if we’re all working the right way, the same way together, we fit in, we make them grow. We grow in return and it’s the way the business should be done.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Everything you say just hits the nail on the head. I mean, we’re looking for long term partnerships, right? I make the comment of you don’t change IT providers like you change your car insurance every six months. It’s a big lift to make that move. It’s a big partnership to understand how each other works and how your business operates and how we can best serve you.

So if we’re knocking outta the park, as Sylvia explained, that’s a long term partnership and we want to grow with you. We wanna celebrate your successes. We wanna celebrate those awards and the new office buildouts and the growth of your team. That’s, to me, that’s what it’s all about. And as we started this conversation, making sure those small businesses that Sylvia and myself came from are protected and they can continue to do the missions that they’re set out to do. So we can pay for the dance recitals and the karate classes and the soccer clubs, doesn’t matter where you are in the United States. So Sylvia, I wanna thank you so much for coming on The Helpdesk and sharing your wisdom and knowledge with the audience.

Sylvia Brookshire: Thank you, Anthony. It was a pleasure.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Good stuff, Sylvia. I’ll see you.

Sylvia Brookshire: Have a good day.

Anthony DeGraw: Bye.

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