Episode #134

MSPs & Georgian History

With Jay Brackman
Solution Advisor at Integris
April 25, 2022

Anthony sits down with Jay Brackman, a Solution Advisor at Integris who has a very interesting career story and a very interesting podcast, Georgia History Guy.

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

Transcript

Introduction

Anthony DeGraw: Welcome to another episode of The Helpdesk hosted by Integris. My name is Anthony DeGraw, and today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jay Brackman. Jay is out of our Atlanta office, Jay, welcome to the show.

Jay Brackman: Thanks Anthony, glad to be here.

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. So Jay and I worked very closely together, so I’m going to ping him on a couple of additional questions outside of the normal ones that we go through.

Career in the MSP space

Anthony DeGraw: But Jay, let’s start at the history of your career in the MSP space. Give us – the audience – a good overview of that.

Jay Brackman: Sure. So I studied history in school and got a master’s in history and I was going to be a professor at a college. So I taught middle school, high school, college, and actually stopped teaching when I was about 30, 20 years ago.

My cousin had bought into a computer service franchise out of Australia, and he needed somebody he trusted to help him with the people side of the business. And I got into the business with him. And it was a smaller franchise at the time. That was just in a few countries, maybe seven or eight countries. And eventually we were in about 27 countries around the world. We had almost 500, a little over 500 offices. We had 258 in the United States. So we grew it for a long time until it got sold – late 2000s, 2007 or 8.

And then I got into another business that was technical and moved away from Atlanta. And when I came back, early 2010s, I actually met someone who ran an MSP. I didn’t think that I had the credentials to work for them, even though I headed my own business and it ends up, I started working for them as an account manager. And then I went into sales for another one and ran sales for them for awhile.

And then I ran an MSP, a smaller MSP for another company down south of Atlanta few years ago. And then finally got back into working for a pure MSP here at Integris. So really happy to be here.

Anthony DeGraw: That’s awesome. It’s phenomenal story. I just, I would love to even dive deeper into the specific, like building out that your cousin calling you like with the Australia opportunity and just like where your mind was on that.

Jay Brackman: You know, first of all, he and I have known each other, our whole lives. He’s just a few months older than me. But I still tell people, this is not a great idea for family to work together. Because you’ve got a lot of other dynamics going on and actually, one of our grandparents died while we were building the business.

But you know, we had some good safeguards in place where, you know, there were the things he was responsible for, there were things I was responsible for. And obviously we added a ton more staff over the years. At first, it was just me and him in this little office. But we just continued to grow. And, it was fun.

When he first asked me, I said, you know, I’m not technical. I can’t do this. He goes, I don’t need you to know anything technical. And it was the same way when I was first in the MSP business, they said, we’ll teach you the technical stuff. We just need somebody who can deal with people.

And so that’s how I got into it.

Anthony DeGraw: That’s super interesting. They told me when I was getting hired, actually the less you know on the technical side, the better. And obviously that played true for you as well.

Jay Brackman: Agreed. You can learn that stuff. It’s really about understanding how to deal with people. That’s the important part of the business.

Current role – Sales at Integris

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. So let’s transition to your active role at Integris. What are you doing now? And specifically in the Atlanta marketplace, what are you seeing?

Jay Brackman: Sure. So, I have a sales role here at the Atlanta office of Integris.

Our company has all types of clients. We support all types of verticals. I’m really trying to focus on ones that I know well, and that I’ve sold at other places. So I’m working on non-profits I’m working on some legal prospects. And then of course I’m looking for connections in businesses that I’ve sold to before.

So I’m talking to all types of different companies. Some of them are retail, a couple are manufacturing. So just trying to build those relationships again and let them know where I am today.

Changes in technology

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. And talk to us a little bit about what you’ve seen change over, let’s call it 10, 15 years of doing this, from the technology perspective, right? Those clients that you had in the past, that you’re now looking at again. What are the key things that keep coming up around technology, cybersecurity, and compliance that you’re now, every time you go back in there, you’re reintroducing a conversation, or you’re educating them more about X, compared to when you initially talked to them, it’s call it 10 years ago.

Jay Brackman: Sure. I’ll go back a little bit further, just cause I thought about that in my head when you first asked me but, you know, I remember when Managed Service started. I remember before that, if you were calling your IT person, it was always the reactive thing. “I have a problem. It’s malware, spyware, whatever. Can you clean my computer up?” And we had franchisees even back then, early 2000s, 20 years ago, who were going to people’s houses for 79 bucks and like cleaning up their computer. Some of them didn’t even have any business clients.

Finally, we came to the idea early to mid 2000s. Hey, let businesses pay you ahead of time and then do the work for them that month. And so that was a huge change. Obviously it changed the way people work and the way people got paid. Back then people weren’t thinking about security. Most people had dial up internet.

As you move towards 2010 and after, and you start seeing the attacks that come and especially today, what we see in the cyber world is, the dark web is where a lot of people hang out, unfortunately, and people are looking for tools on there, which you can buy for very cheap.

They’re looking for lists on there, whether it’s credit cards or there’s people they can attack. And cybersecurity is one of the basis of any business they need to focus on. You need to have an accounting system and you need to have some policies in place to hire people but the baseline of your business, you’ve got to have cybersecurity in place.

I would say, even before you start worrying about actually getting support from an IT vendor. If you don’t have some layers of security in place, you’re really in a bad spot. And so today that’s really one of the things we focus on talking to clients and customers.

Anthony DeGraw: You mentioned that, I’ve actually had a decent amount of conversations. Let’s call it in the last two years where we’ve come in and they don’t have a vendor in place right now for support. Exactly what you said. We come in, we show them a roadmap and the gaps that exist and they’re like, “I only have a limited budget. I’d love to engage you with support, but I actually want to put that money towards filling those gaps that you just uncovered for me before I pay you for this support.”

And I actually think it’s a really good strategy and completely agree with it. It’s like it’s way better to get all those baselines in place, which hopefully prevent the issues from coming up and then just going right into a support agreement. And you’re asking a provider to be accountable for an environment that’s not up to standards.

Jay Brackman: No, no doubt. And we even had Nick McCourt who actually works near your office, I believe, helped me with the prospect the other day. And he asked him several pointed questions about they wanted to have a penetration test done.

And when they said no to all of them, it’s not even worth us doing a penetration test yet. We need to put these things in place. We need to put layers of security and then do a gap analysis with a penetration test. Really important. And people don’t think about that today, but still businesses are not thinking about that.

I talked to one yesterday, he was saying I’m not really thinking about cybersecurity and I said you need to start thinking about it.

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah. I, in that case, I would send them that Russia piece that we, [laughs the team wrote up the other day. Right? Like, maybe you want to start now. But I think there’s those people out there that you’re never, they’re never going to move, “It’s not going to affect me. I’m too small” or this, that, or the other.

What separates current providers

Anthony DeGraw: So tell me what do you, because you’ve seen this industry evolve over this period of time. And you’ve seen different angles of it. People doing MSPs, doing different things, maybe not pure bred MSPs. What do you think really separates one provider from the next in 2022?

Jay Brackman: Yeah. Good question. One, definitely is the service and service still has to do with when people have a problem and they call, do you respond? Do you answer the call in a reasonable amount of time? And do you follow through on that ticket till it’s complete?

You’re not going to hear bad things from people if you just communicate with them, you’re friendly to them, you’re empathetic with them, and you follow through. The second part, and it’s probably more important on the sales and our strategic solution side, is the budgeting and planning side.

If a company does not have that in place, if they don’t have a COO or a CTO or even a CFO, who’s looking at that budgeting for IT. They got to have somebody who helps them with it. Because I’m talking to a prospect right now, they spend about $10,000 a month on IT, but they haven’t done any projects in years.

And they’re looking at about a quarter of a million dollars right now on projects. And they say we don’t have the money. And it’s like, well, you should have been spending that money yearly. And they weren’t. And so I think that strategic side is incredibly important.

I think that’s something that Integris brings to the table. Here in Atlanta, we’ve got a great strategic solutions team. These people are business leaders and IT leaders. And so they’re looking down from the 30,000 foot view and they see things that people don’t see when they’re in the weeds. So that’s a huge differentiator, I believe.

Anthony DeGraw: Couldn’t agree more with you. I mean, when you have those types of conversations, you almost have to approach it like, I’m sorry, I’m the one telling you this, or Integris is the one telling you this. Because if, in your example of the 250,000, based on the size of them, if you invested X per year, every year, you wouldn’t get this one lump sum that I’m coming to the table and showing you. That’s dramatic. And we’ve seen that. And it doesn’t have to be that large of a number either. Some businesses, $25,000 that they haven’t updated their systems in five to 10 years that if it was equally distributed and planned for, it’s a more palatable number.

Jay Brackman: Sure. And people in any business as to look at this, there is an amount you pay for support, whether you have an internal IT team, or you have an external IT team.

If you have an internal team you’re paying for their salaries, you’re paying for their medical, you’re paying for their 401k match. You’re paying for the computers, everything.

You’re paying for an external team, you pay a monthly fee, whatever that fee is, unless your numbers change. But that’s just part of it. I still use the same analogy. There’s the technology curve and you don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of that curve, but you want to be on the curve and the people who are below that curve. They’re just sitting in wait for a cybersecurity problem or another kind of breach or another kind of failure that puts the business in jeopardy.

And so it, it costs money. It costs money to pay for support every year. It costs money to upgrade some of your systems every year.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Absolutely. And any closing thoughts on the MSP, the tech, the cybersecurity side before I get into a topic that I want to touch on with you, which is outside of work and outside of the industry?

Jay Brackman: Well, I think the one thing I was talking to a person in New York yesterday, who on Long Island who owns an IT company and he’s an old friend of mine and I think people always wonder, you know, what’s next in IT? I mean, are we still always going to need IT people, you know, helping us? And I believe no matter how far we go in technology, even if things get more simple, more simplistic.

And may perhaps maybe if your phone is your actually your computer and you’re not having to type into something, it doesn’t matter. You’re still going to have the majority of the people who cannot fix technology. Technology is going to matter always, and they’re going to need somebody to fix it.

It’s not going to be throw away. I don’t see anything being disposable yet. The key today, I think we’re seeing is we have to get on top of cybersecurity. If we don’t, we’re going to have more and more breaches. We’re going to more and more problems. Cyber insurance is obviously part of that mix.

But it still doesn’t matter, if we build new ways for technology to evolve. Those are new ways for the cyber actors to get in there and to corrupt us. So we’re always going to have to be vigilant on that side.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. I think one of the key things that I always learned was with the move or the shift to the cloud, and people are like, I think the same conversation came up. MSPs or IT service providers or whatever you want to call yourselves, they’re going to go completely extinct because everything’s going to move to the cloud. And then what happened? We’re in the cloud state. And the problems just shifted.

Now, the problem isn’t in your closet down the hall, it’s in the cloud, which is a server location somewhere else. They still have to be maintained. They still have to be updated. They still have to be protected. And you still have to think through the strategy, how to connect into them, all that stuff.

None of those things went away. The problems just transitioned from where they were to, the new solution that’s out there. And it got rid of some old problem. But it also created some new ones. And I think that’s constantly going to be the evolution of IT and the cyber and whatnot.

Jay Brackman: For sure.

The cloud has been around forever. I got a Yahoo email account in 1994. That was the cloud, you know, we didn’t call it that then. But you’re right. You could say, I want to move to the cloud. I want to move all my apps to the cloud, move our servers to the cloud. That’s great.

You’re still going to have somebody to manage it. It’s not automatic. You don’t just move it to the cloud and just set it and forget it. And that’s not what it is.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. All right.

Georgia History Guy podcast

Anthony DeGraw: We’re going to shift gears a little bit and we’re going to go to the personal side of Jay.

So talk to us about the podcast. What do you got going on? How did you come up with it? How was it created? Give us the background.

Jay Brackman: We’ve got the second most amount of counties in our state to Texas. We have 159 counties. Texas has 252. They’re a lot larger than we are, but I’ve been to almost all of them. I’ve been to 155, I think, and traveled all over our state. I love our state. We have mountains in our state where you can ski. We have coastline where you can go down to the beach. It’s the largest state east of the Mississippi. I’ve been all around the world and I’ve been to different places. I’ve been to 49 states, but you know, I love Georgia.

So, I love the history of our state. We were one of the original 13 colonies. So I had taught Georgia history before and I decided, Hey, I’ll start this during the pandemic, I’ll start this podcast called the Georgia History Guy. And I’ll just put out things about people, places, and events that I think are interesting that maybe some people don’t know about.

I started doing that, and I thought I don’t know if people are listening to this. And then I had actually people who found it and they said, oh, please do more. So I’ve actually got several in the bank that are already recorded and I’m going to start releasing them here in the next couple of weeks.

So I’m trying to get caught up where I’m doing basically one a week, one every two weeks. So 25, 40 something a year, hopefully. And just tell stories that I think are interesting about our state and hopefully help people who live in our state who don’t know much about it, or maybe just moved here. Or if it’s people who want to come to Georgia and see something interesting, they can listen to the podcast.

I try to keep them about 15 minutes. And they also, at the very end, they’ll have something about, some food place to eat or someplace to stay nearby. So at least when people decide to go there, they’re like what do I do when I get there? Well, I could stay at this state park or I could go eat at this barbecue joint or something.

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. So once again, what was the name of it?

Jay Brackman: Georgia History Guy podcast. So you can find it on Apple or Spotify or whatever.

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. We’ll make sure we link to it in the show notes so everybody can get that.

And can you give us a taste of one of the episodes, one of the regions, what’s the topic of conversation that people should expect or maybe you got excited about to record, or you are excited about recording in the near future here?

Jay Brackman: Yeah I did one not long ago on Providence Canyon.

So Georgia has what we call Georgia’s little Grand Canyon and it wasn’t formed the same way the Grand Canyon was formed by a river, like the Colorado River. It was actually formed by erosion over in west Georgia, but it literally is a canyon, a beautiful canyon where you can hike. It’s in a very rural part of Stewart County, which is one of our smaller counties in Georgia.

It’s right near the Chattahoochee river, south of Columbus. So it’s a little over two hours from Atlanta. But anybody could go there for the day and hike around and see some things. There’s a lot of other historic sites right nearby. But Providence Canyon is a fascinating place.

And it’s fascinating. Cause most places you see that are like that have been worn down. The rock has been worn down by some type of river. And this has nothing to do with river. It’s just a erosion. It’s poor farming methods really is what it was, during the 19th century into the 20th century, but beautiful place. Providence Canyon.

Anthony DeGraw: You remember the place that you recommended to eat or go check out why you were there?

Jay Brackman: Yeah, there’s several barbecue places. If you’re coming back up 280, from there going towards Columbus, there’s a place called Mike and Ed’s, which is an old barbecue place in Columbus that I like, or if you cross over, I’m losing the name of the hot dog place. It’s in Phoenix City, but it’s been on several TV shows, but it’s an old hot dog place in downtown Phoenix City. That’s also really good.

That’s awesome.

I don’t recommend, I don’t recommend healthy places. It’s always –

Anthony DeGraw: Lettuce and salads are not on, not going to be on the recommended list.

Jay Brackman: At all. You can bring that in your own, bring that in your own cooler. If you want to.

Anthony DeGraw: Well, Jay, I want to thank you for jumping on The Helpdesk today with us on our, like our Friday afternoon special spot. Great to bring it on. I want to point everybody in the direction, checking out Jay’s podcasts that he does in his free time.

Especially if you’re out of the Georgia area or you want to go visit, I’ll definitely be downloading it on Apple and put it in the library on my podcasts list there, Jay, thank you for your time today.

Jay Brackman: You’re welcome. Thanks Anthony. See you, man.

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