Before we discuss how Kokua Technologies disrupted the managed service provider industry, let’s take a look at why we’re here.
The rise of technology and its impact on humanity has been evolving since the first industrial revolution in the 18th century. It started with steam engines, telephones, and lightbulbs, and advanced to Industry 4.0, where the internet, virtual reality and artificial intelligence forged a new path.
However, all these innovations manifested for one sole purpose: to help humanity.
It’s the very ethos Jeff Platt founded Kokua Technologies on. In fact, the word ‘Kokua’ comes from Hawaii and embodies a holistic helping spirit. Perhaps that’s why, over the last three years, the company has seen an impressive growth trajectory. Servicing over 500 business clients doesn’t happen overnight, and reaching those heights was a feat of perseverance, relationship management, and innovation.
Kokua Technologies is born
If you’re an IT managed service provider, you have access to a 300-billion-dollar industry. It’s a financially viable market, but an extremely competitive one. Consequently, some may assume founding a managed service provider in 2012 is a little late in the game, but Kokua Technologies is actually a relaunch of Jeff Platt’s original company, Graphical Interface, which he founded in 1989.
Thankfully, with thirty-one years of experience in the industry, Platt’s expertise speaks for itself. His passion for computers stems from high school, where he considered them his toys. For that reason, he was the guy people went to if they had an issue in the computer lab and needed help. He loved explaining to people how they worked and aimed to simplify solutions without patronizing them.
This journey of self-discovery is what led to Platt setting up his first managed service provider, Graphical Interface, which was a mostly break-fix company. Then, after almost two decades of success in an oversaturated market, he wanted to stand out from other, similar, managed service offers. As a result, he harnessed Kokua – the Hawaiian word for help – in his company name, manifesto, and approach.
Nurturing relationships as a managed service provider is essential
Jeff Platt’s holistic offer isn’t limited to technology. It encompasses whatever Kokua can do for its customers. Platt often goes over and above. He’ll visit people who need more hands-on help in understanding their information technology – particularly elderly people and veterans who are at home and struggling to use their computer. So, while he trusts his staff to manage the corporate side of things, Platt finds satisfaction supporting people face to face. In fact, a World War II marine even gave him a picture of him and his friends on an aircraft carrier. All because Platt helped the veteran stay in contact with his old comrades and friends via his computer. This goes to show that, for some, technology is a lifeline.
It’s unusual for CEOs to have such a hands-on approach. However, it’s merely further proof of how and why Platt lives and breathes his industry. It’s not just a job, it’s a purpose.
His approach clearly works, evidenced by the fact the company’s progress is largely down to word-of-mouth referrals. By genuinely caring, having fun, and building trust, Kokua Technologies has enjoyed exponential growth.
A different kind of marketing strategy
Referrals and word of mouth are great ways to grow organically; however, every evolving business benefits from a robust marketing strategy. That said, Platt works differently to a lot of other company executives. He doesn’t focus on the bottom line and pushes a marketing strategy that focuses on educating potential prospects and clients – not selling to them.
That said, Platt’s organic growth is one of his biggest selling points. Currently, Kokua Technologies’ hardware is installed in twenty-seven states, which shows how well respected they are. Based in New Jersey, with an office in Ocala, Florida, Platt has landed contracts just by talking to people on other floors. If anyone is having computer issues, Jeff Platt is their go-to guy. And that’s because he offers managed service solutions that work. Having a high level of know-how, intuitiveness, and technical expertise comes from experience. And sharing that knowledge instead of over-capitalizing on it is a rare and refreshing business approach.
Expertise breeds loyalty
Perhaps personal passion, relationship building, and a holistic approach are the key ingredients for Kokua’s success? Platt certainly has an innate knowledge of computer technology, a personable approach, and a helpful spirit, which has likely contributed to his company becoming the successful managed service provider it is today. Yet, reaching the next level is a whole new challenge.
Marketers understand how expertise breeds loyalty. However, relationship building is at the heart of all prosperous companies, while your UVP (unique value proposition) is what sets you apart from the competition. Kokua’s UVP is their holistic approach to helpfulness, and that helpfulness is delivered through the medium of education. Help people to help themselves and you’ve already laid the best foundation for a relationship: trust.
A new way of running a managed service provider
The internet and evolving technology give Kokua and other managed service providers the ability to put boots on the ground and take over infrastructures anywhere in the world. Regardless, Kokua’s approach remains relationship-based. Platt understands how his clients want everything to work without having to worry about it. Above all, they want to see the tangible value, and they don’t want to be taken advantage of financially.
That’s why Kokua offers several options. Instead of one fixed monthly price, customers can opt for a one-off project. If they don’t have their own internal IT to do the larger jobs, Kokua will offer to fulfil that role. Then, upon completion, they’ll hand the project back to the client. This friendlier and less ‘hard sell’ approach offers flexibility, scalability and the choice of commitment. Building a proposal that serves a need – without overselling – is a surefire way to build trust. As a result, this business acumen demonstrates a level of expertise and integrity, which are both excellent building blocks for customer relationship management.
That said, there’s a downside to underselling services. Economic buyers have a key interest in your experience. If your rate is much lower than your competitors, they doubt your abilities and quality of work. That’s why Platt focuses on fair prices. Customers look for reasonable offers, whether it’s for an hour’s work or a monthly managed service.
Customer relationships underpin Kokua’s business strategy
Kokua’s business strategy is simple. It’s not about the volume of work, it’s about the valuable, long-term relationships with customers. Their target market is small to medium enterprises. And especially businesses who don’t believe high quality IT support – the kind they receive from Platt and his team – exists. Platt likes finding people who’ve been taken advantage of and offering them a better solution. Not only is it rewarding, but it also fulfils his ethos of helpfulness above all else.
As evidence, consider how Platt worked with a four-person law firm in Philadelphia. Nobody else wanted to work with them because they were ‘too small.’ However, the founder owned several commercial real estate properties, which Kokua completed work for in a symbiotic bid to land further work in the future. This proves that treating people well opens doors to untapped markets and greater opportunities.
Scaling up a managed service provider
So, what does the future hold for Kokua?
According to Jeff Platt, the aim is to focus on need. Who needs their services? Is Kokua serving existing accounts effectively? Are there expansion opportunities?
By hiring more staff and reviewing the hours his existing staff are clocking up, he can ensure his employees enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Working 40-60 hours a week isn’t good for people, and it’s certainly not good for business. Also, staff loyalty is important, and Platt considers his staff people who work with him, not for him. He welcomes feedback and is open to changing how he runs his business to accommodate a happier and more productive workforce.
Alongside a happy internal team, scaling up requires three key metrics:
- Understanding the kind of customer Kokua wants to support;
- Being fearless in their approach; and
- Saying no to opportunities that don’t serve the company’s longer-term goals.
In other words, go where people need help in understanding their technology. Make it work and easy to manage themselves. And build relationships by doing a good job. Only caring about the bottom line means the focus is on making money and not offering quality support. There’s a distinct difference, and in a world that’s increasingly digital, bringing that level of humility and humanity to your managed service provider is essential.