Sometimes in life, knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do.
Early on, Jason Horne knew what he didn’t want to do. He saw and did it all while working in building maintenance in his early 20s. Most of the imagery isn’t pretty: Vomit in the stairwell after someone’s night out boozing. Clogged, overflowing toilets. Apartments that doubled as rat residences.
“You can think of the most disgusting jobs imaginable in a commercial building, and I did them. I knew I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life,” Jason says.
What Jason didn’t realize at the time was that he was already `working in managed services and would continue to work
in managed services. (“Managed services” is a relatively new term used to describe the “catch-all” IT work that a company provides to a client, from managing their networks to beefing up cyber security.)
“Basically what the building maintenance company was doing was managed services, just for commercial buildings, not for computers,” Jason says.
So, if locks needed changing, they changed them. If there was an electrical problem, they fixed it. Jason’s job in commercial building managed services would help prepare him for IT managed services. Still, it would take some time for the pieces to fall into place.
Career options were limited in this sparse corner of Northeast Indiana, where Fort Wayne, population 265,000, serves as the area metropolis.
So, urged by a friend, Jason enrolled in a Microsoft boot camp, and in his spare time, he worked on learning the ins and outs of IT. He earned his certification, but there wasn’t much use for it in the building maintenance business, where broken heaters and faulty refrigerators ruled the day. Jason put his newly minted certification on his résumé and posted it online. And, like magic, a company in a small Indiana town e-mailed Jason looking for tech help. They had seen his résumé.
For a while, Jason had his dream job. The commercial building nightmares were a thing of the past. He was working in the emerging industry known today as managed services. But as technology changed, the company Jason was working for didn’t. They struggled to keep up with changing hardware and software solutions. Eventually, the company found itself on shaky ground with finances. Jason’s paycheck became more sporadic. The time had come to make
a move. But it wasn’t clear what the move would be.
“I can’t do this anymore. I am moving on,” Jason told his supervisor. But his supervisor was also feeling uneasy about where the company was going. It turns out the supervisor wanted out too.
So, in a Fort Wayne sports bar where the city’s beloved Komets played on the screen above the
beer taps and bowls of peanuts, Jason and his colleague mapped out a new future.
“At that point, no one knew about managed services. No one talked about it,” Jason says. But his supervisor had a tranche of documents he put together that outlined maintenance schedules for clients, and services that needed to be performed, essentially a template for how an MSP should operate. The supervisor had shown it to the company owner but was waved off. Now the would-be MSP blueprint was getting a second life.
“These are great,” Jason told the supervisor as he looked through the documents.
So, in the sports bar that night, where patrons sampled cold beer and cheered on the Cubs and Komets, a vision for what would become Preferred IT emerged.
“I had no experience in cold calling,” Jason remembers. He networked with IT companies all over the US, ConnectWise and other peer groups, and saw MSPs in far smaller cities and towns earning seven figures a year. The needs were so great that backwater geography was not a barrier if one had the talent and know-how.
Jason’s earlier job in building maintenance, it turns out, had prepared him well for Preferred IT.
“That job taught me how to be self-reliant,” Jason says, recalling going into the office at 7:00 a.m., getting a stack of work orders and then getting to work.
“In some ways, it was like being my own boss.” Now Jason Horne is his own boss. He has been for 16 years now, as Preferred IT grew in Northeast Indiana.
Eventually, he bought out his partner, who moved on to other ventures, and Jason is now the sole owner of Preferred IT.
As Preferred IT inches toward two decades in business, Jason reflects upon the changes. He says the most significant change in the industry is customers’ attitude toward tech. Now they understand the risks of not having certain technologies, so, in that sense, it is an easier sell. This very risk assessment is really where Preferred IT shines and this makes it stand out from the rest of the Fort Wayne MSP crowd.
“I won’t give someone a proposal without performing a risk assessment first, and I’ve lost deals because of that, but I won’t do it,” Jason says. That stands in contrast to some MSPs who toss out a quote to have to backpedal later. In addition to robust risk assessment, Preferred IT offers a suite of other strong services that separate it from the MSP pack: 24/7 service, data backup and recovery, cloud computing and a help desk to shepherd clients through any issues.
While some businesses wilted under the weight of the Covid pandemic, tech companies – Preferred IT included – actually saw their fortunes rise as companies sought out more solutions to keep their remote workforce’s cyber-environment safe and office networks running.
“The biggest issue during the pandemic was struggling with end users who don’t understand connectivity and trying to explain our troubleshooting methods,” Jason says.
He says 2020 saw more calls than ever for their services, but cultivating new clients was tricky because few people could meet in person and on-site visits were significantly curtailed. This made Jason’s preferred route of risk assessment – an office visit – almost impossible. He utilizes Gary Pica’s TruMethods Risk Assessment, goes into an alignment process with a potential client and comes up with a risk score based on 300 questions.
This helps Jason and Preferred IT give a truly tailored quote to a potential client. Preferred’s deliberate approach has helped it rack up awards and recognition. It was named a Datto Partner Hall of Fame inductee in 2012 and a Top 10 IT company in Indiana, and Jason was recently certified in managing risk from Harvard University.
When Jason was a child, he dreamt of one day being a wildlife preservation officer, but he has no regrets about landing in IT instead.
“When I grew up, we scraped up change for gas money; we were lucky to have a new pair of shoes for school. So I have been extremely fortunate as an adult,” Jason says. He’s traveled a lot and met peers from all over the world.
Jason and his wife, Amy, who does the bookkeeping at Preferred IT, have been married for 20 years. They have two daughters and a son. Family dog Sully often joins the family at work. When Jason isn’t working, he loves to coach his children’s sports teams. And when the whole family gets free time, they head to the outdoors for hunting, hiking and riding bikes.
For more information on Preferred IT Group visit https://www.preferreditgroup.com/.