After a nearly two-year break, Jason Caras has returned to IT Authorities as CEO.
Caras came back to day-to-day operations at the Tampa-based company with a mission — to shake up the managed services industry. Managed services is the practice of outsourcing some information technology processes and functions to improve operations and cut expenses.
“Somebody is dreaming of disrupting our business,” Caras said. “Let it be us.”
IT Authorities now provides unlimited 24-hour-a-day support, both onsite and remotely, anywhere in the country for a flat fee that covers all devices and with month-to-month contracts.
Blocking and tackling
Caras co-founded IT Authorities with Jason Pollner in 2006. The company is a six-time honoree on the Inc. 500 list, including in 2018 when it ranked No. 1,165 with 2017 revenue of $20.6 million. Last year’s revenue was $34 million, Caras said. The company is completely bootstrapped with no outside investors.
Two years ago, Caras and Pollner stepped aside as co-CEOs and brought in Phil LaForge as CEO.
“I took two years off and I really needed it. The roller coaster of being an entrepreneur takes its toll,” Caras said.
LaForge previously had led several high-growth cloud and IT services companies. Caras and Pollner moved into new roles as co-chairs of the IT Authorities board of directors.
At the same time, the company was in the midst of its largest project ever, working for independent bottler Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited. The project included a refresh of more than 10,000 devices, covering 6,500 employees in five time zones speaking two languages. IT Authorities had 400 people in the field, contract workers and its own employees.
When the project ended, the company let the contractors go. The work was finite and the layoffs were planned, but they took a toll, Caras said.
“Even if it was a finite job, when friends are leaving, it affects the culture,” Caras said.
Caras was bored with his semi-retirement, and said it was hard to watch the company from the sidelines. “It was a mutually agreeable time for me to come back with Phil,” Caras said.
He returned as CEO about eight weeks ago, more ambitious than when he launched the company and with a different approach.
“The next phase of this company involves some essentials, blocking and tackling, which I do well, meaning culture … So it was time for that, and time for a CEO who was more sales-focused,” Caras said.
He said he came back as a different CEO.
“I hyper-communicate to my people now. Instead of waiting for company meetings, I created a video channel in our Microsoft stream so I can broadcast messages. I like to thank my employees every week,” he said. “The other thing I had to get better at was delegating … I have very smart and well-paid people who are capable of doing the job I once did and doing it better.”
Pollner remains on the board and oversees the chief financial officer and chief operating officer, but is not involved in day-to-day operations.
IT Authorities continues to serve as managed services provider for Coke Canada, but is unlikely to take on similar “big bang” projects. Instead it will focus on bread-and-butter managed services — an area where its revenue has grown consistently.
“What we’re pursuing is managed services for small to medium-sized businesses in the Tampa Bay area. That’s what keeps the lights on,” Caras said. “We’re also pursuing larger deals and we do have several in the hopper.”
Under the new business model, there’s no more “nickel-and-diming” customers with restrictions on times of service or devices, Caras said. Instead of long-term contracts, the company has to earn its business with a contract renewal each month.
That puts the emphasis on excellent service. Customer service staff is up about 200 percent, and a 1 percent or 2 percent rate of bad customer surveys isn’t acceptable at all, he said.
“It’s risky, but I think that’s where the industry should go on behalf of the customer,” Caras said.
Caras said he has five top priorities in running IT Authorities:
- Employee satisfaction
- Customer satisfaction
- The sales pipeline
“The profitability will be there if the previous four are there,” he said.