- Company: Foster MSP
- Founded: 2014
- Headquartered: Chandler, AZ
- Geographic Market: National/International
- Co-Founder: Darin Pauls
One word sums up Darin Pauls perfectly: authentic.
The co-founder and CEO of Foster MSP was practically driven into starting his own IT services business because of the lack of accountability of so many IT “professionals” he had to rely on. Darin’s IT career started when he showed a natural knack for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software while working as a certified public accountant. With an aptitude for solving problems and dealing with the complex software, Darin’s firm began sending him out to implement ERP systems to fix the year 2000 (Y2K) problem. After Y2K, at the starting proliferation of e-commerce, the systems were selling like crazy. But there was a low percentage of success largely due to the sales tactics of resellers, which focused on winning deals on price instead of honestly assessing the project and being straight with the client regarding the true cost and effort of implementation. “As consultants for these companies, we’d look at a project and say , ‘There’s not enough budget, and what you sold them is not going to do what you told them it was going to do,’” Darin said. “We’d try and make the best of it, but there were so many failures and unhappy clients. It was horrible.” Worse yet? Darin knew it would be even more difficult for clients to sustain the expensive system without help.
Earning Clients’ Trust Leads To Growth
In 2005, fed up with companies overselling and underdelivering, Darin launched his own company, Beratung, LLC, to help underserved customers burned and abandoned by these “drive-by” implementations. After spending anywhere from six weeks to two years with clients, helping clean up what clients had been sold by other companies, Darin earned trust and a reputation for resolving costly problems. This resulted in clients calling on him to extend their systems, software development, and business intelligence. But Darin was still running into the same old problem of IT teams underserving infrastructure of the ERP systems. “At first, we started advising our clients’ IT teams, whether outsource or in-house, on how to properly size and support the critical infrastructure of the ERP system,” Darin said. Clients continued to seek out his advice on IT matters unrelated to the ERP system. “One day, one of our largest clients said, ‘The people we’re paying don’t know a fraction of what you know about this. Can we just hire you to take over all our IT?’”
With a background as a CIO/CFO, Darin knew he could do it. “I took a small company that was doing about $300,000 a year with 25 employees and grew it to close to $25 million in about 14 months. I built the IT infrastructure and all the automation and the team to run it. So, I had the experience.” From there, Beratung mushroomed into a full IT services firm and hasn’t looked back.
Innovation + Client Satisfaction
Eight months later, Darin brought in two long-time colleagues, Bryan Hinkle and J.R. Ramos, to create a new firm, Foster MSP, LLC, which focuses on business consulting and full IT services.
Quickly leading the field in client satisfaction and value, his phenomenal double-digit growth demonstrated the positive impact and need for what they were doing. Now the only thing restricting them was keeping up with the demand. “Our barrier to growth is getting the right people who not only follow our core values, but also have the specific talents, skills, and experience to support what makes us unique and keeps our clients loyal,” Darin said.
“We’re not practitioners of slapping in technology or quick fixes. I’d rather stay small and true to our core values than be fast growing but sloppy. What fuels our success is the ability to take a client’s business bottlenecks and problems they haven’t identified (or solved) and either resolve them or be the one who figures out how to get a solution implemented when everything else has failed. We deliver technology that actually drives business outcomes, and it’s a rare person who can pull that off.”
Unmatched by competitors, clients flock to Foster MSP because of their exceptional consistency in delivery. Using extremely regimented project planning, risk mitigation, documentation, and more, they work with clients on cost benefit, showing value and finding measurable results to detail that they have a positive impact on a client’s bottom line.
Why You Want An IT Firm That Will Tell You ‘No’
One of the biggest traps for executives is not fully understanding IT. “Unfortunately, most CEOs and executive teams are forced to rely on limited information and analysis when making big, costly decisions about IT initiatives,” Darin said. “And too many IT service providers are reluctant to say ‘no’ to a big, exciting project, especially with a big, fat con tract attached to it. This makes for a lot of failed projects, missed deadlines, out-of-control costs, and unhappy people.” From his early experience, Darin knew this was not how he wanted to run his company.
He recently turned down a half-million-dollar project when a client wanted to roll out a solution he knew wouldn’t provide enough value to justify the cost. “We’re not going to expend their financial resources unless it makes sense, and we know there’s a high probability of success for them,” Darin said. “We talked the client out of it because it was the wrong thing to do.”
Rolling out an ERP system or IT project that clients genuinely love requires a lot of time, patience, and research on the front end — and that’s where most of these projects derail. “You must understand their business almost better than they do in many respects,” Darin explained. “You also need to know how to fit software into their business, so it changes the business for the better, but doesn’t handcuff it, slow it down, or make it less efficient. It must grow with the business and allow them to function better than they ever anticipated. It must make the business more efficient with more access to data, information, and intelligence, ultimately resulting in higher, sustainable profits.”
In the end, projects come in on time, on budget, and meet or exceed expectations because Foster MSP empowers clients to own their system so they can maintain the majority of it and grow with it on their own. “We focus on adoption because that’s where the value comes,” Darin added. These customized solutions routinely reward clients, allowing them to grow and scale without adding costly human capital or expensive and inefficient systems.
For example, his first client from 2006, still with him today, has grown to nearly 3,000 employees worldwide. Another 10-year client, Massage Envy, with only 87 locations when they signed on with Darin, is now a household name with over 1,100 locations. While clients have included well-known organizations such as the government of Antigua, Saint Louis Zoo, and European Wax Center, Darin’s favorite companies are small- to mid-sized companies that can grow and scale when given the right solution.
Making A Real Impact
Today Darin, and his team at Foster MSP, are the guys people come to with challenging projects from a complexity and risk standpoint. But what he is most proud of are the compliments he gets from happy clients.
“I had one CFO tell me, ‘I tell people all the time, new employees and executives, that one of the best days of this company was the day you walked through the door,’” Darin said. “That’s what drives us and keeps me grounded. And every time a client says something like that, we work even harder to exceed expectations.”