When Darek Hahn and his partners took over a New Jersey-based managed IT service provider in 2016, he found the people in the company’s operations department sitting pretty comfortably—a little too comfortably for Hahn’s liking.
“If your operations department isn’t at least a little nervous and having issues, then your sales aren’t good enough,” says Hahn. “You should always have challenges keeping up.”
Part of the problem, in Hahn’s estimation, was that the company had won a big contract doing IT support for a global conglomerate back in 2003. Over the following decade-plus, VelocIT, as they would rename the company in 2018, had only shown a total growth of just 3 percent. Hahn had witnessed the complacency first-hand—he had hired them to do tech support for his previous employer in 2008.
“I realized it was a lifestyle company with minimal growth,” says Hahn. “I come out of the start-up culture. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Increase your sales x 7
But just before Hahn and his partners bought the company, they had lost the big global contract. Rather than decrying the loss of a major client, Hahn saw opportunity. As new president and CEO, he emphasized new sales, and in his first year at the helm, VelocIT added seven new clients—not many until one considers that the company’s previous annual record was one.
Due to the sudden increase, Hahn witnessed the operations team struggle to onboard the new customers. Hahn, an avid swimmer and triathlete, realized that he needed to get his company in better shape. In order to get a swimmer’s body ready for the big races, they have to build up strength, skill, and endurance through shorter, less strenuous swims. That’s the logic Hahn decided to apply to VelocIT.
Building sales strength like a swimmer
In 2018, Hahn set out to reorganize and restructure with the goal of not just aiming for bigger, more lucrative contracts, but also smaller potential clients that would help operations and the entire company fine tune its processes—to get in better shape for all challenges that lay ahead. The change in culture also brought a change in name to VelocIT, as Hahn says, “sometimes you need a fresh start all around, including the branding as it tells everyone that we are a new company.”
“Our ideal client is a company of about 50 to 250 people,” says Hahn. “But getting some wins at the smaller level, smaller clients with maybe 10 employees that were relatively easy to onboard and came more frequently, gave the ops team a chance to get better. It also allowed everyone to build confidence.”
Battling decades of minimal-growth culture.
Changing the company to a growth mindset didn’t happen instantaneously. Hahn was battling two decades of minimal-growth culture. He announced to his employees that the goal was to grow. Some staff took to the challenge; other workers didn’t and moved on.
In 2019, VelocIT brought in 23 new clients. Only five of them were of the smaller variety, but Hahn sees this just the next step in the training of his team to reach for bigger clients, the way you build up for the long race. Meanwhile, he’s already seeing improvements in efficiency of operations and in the overall morale of his company. Of course, ever the goal-oriented athlete, Hahn sees room for improvement in everyone—including himself.
“I didn’t do a good enough job of celebrating things,” says Hahn. “As an athlete, that’s in my nature—work hard, play hard. Every little victory gives you a reason to reflect. When you set a goal to do an Olympic-style triathlon, for example, and you complete it, it’s time to celebrate and wonder: ‘Maybe I could do anything.’ It allows you to dream of that next step. The same thing applies to landing a new client: ‘If we can land one that size, maybe we CAN take the next step up!’”