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Ep.118 Managed Services Unleashed in 2024 Pt.1/3 With Chad Muckenfuss

May 22, 2024

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Catch this must-see episode as we interview one of our own, Chad Muckenfuss, from the Telarus Sales Engineering team. We kick off the title track of Managed Services Unleashed: Transforming the Business Landscape for 2024! Chad introduces you to his background, methodology, and how he learns. All this is to help you in your discussions with customers regardless of tech stack. Chad touches on cloud, security, and more, along with some key wins that solve major business problems. Listen long enough and you might hear how Chad is the only engineer you know with a farm!!


Welcome to the podcast that’s designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus and this is Next Level BizTech.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back here. We’re on a new track this week. We are talking about manage services unleashed and how it’s going to transform the business landscape in 24. Today on with us, we have Mr. Chad Muckenfuss from Sales Engineering here at Telarus Chad, welcome on, man. Thanks for having me on, Josh. Happy to be here.

Chad, so let’s talk a little bit about your background. I always want to jump into this. You know, you were featured on an episode previously, but tell us a little bit about your background. Remind us how you got into this space, wild space, fun stories, and any blackmail we can use against you. Okay. Well, it has been an interesting journey. I have my degree in telecommunications and new technologies from Temple University in Philadelphia. I am a New Jersey native, still live in the state, and happy to live outside of the Philadelphia area.

Took that degree and went into the automobile business for a little while. You and I touched on that on the last thing. We had a little commonality there in Michawaka, Indiana, and the greater South Bend area. But outside of that, started working in the telecom side. A majority of my career, almost all of my career, has been in the channel for the past 20 plus years. And I’ve had the opportunity to take some local and regional, we used to call C-LEX and grow them into some national players in the mix through the old TSD channel, when it was a little bit more fragmented than it is now. Built some really strong relationships throughout the country in that model, and then continued that up until about six, seven years ago. Started to make the pivot towards the cloud side of things and really wanted to change my career a little bit. Saw some handwriting on the wall, as they say, with regard to how the UC space was spinning out and looking at that being a bit more of a commodity space. That has changed again, where we’re at now with AI, and I’m sure we’ll talk about that later in the podcast, but that has changed again.

I wanted to make a pivot for me personally into the cloud space and started working at a couple of different MSPs that were in the channel and learned that space. All the public cloud aspect of things from Azure and AWS, a little bit in the GCP space, and then moving that into more of where we are now from a private cloud solution offering across the board from a lot of our big suppliers out there. And then leveraging now hybrid cloud, where you have some parts of the cloud in a private cloud and some in the hyperscalers and leveraging those two things together to make that a really strong offering. So continue to learn in that space, adding a lot of knowledge here as well, AI, a privilege of working with a great group of people here on the team and learning a lot about AI and adding that to the mix too. So here we are. Love it. In case you don’t bring this up, I’m going to bring it up right now. Do you have any cool, interesting hobbies that people may or may not know about? Yes. So I am a third generation farmer. I have purchased and live on my family’s farm in Southern New Jersey. And we raise cattle. So I have a little over 40 head of beef cattle, about 20 pigs, soon to be about 250 chickens. I have about 150 right now. I’m adding another hundred this weekend. So about 250 chickens. And yeah, it’s a fun, very dramatically different than what my day job is here. But it’s a lot of fun and great for my kids and family. So very happy to do that. Maybe the next episode comes live from the farm. We’ll see. We’ll play with that. That would be fantastic. We can do it live in the pasture. Yes. Live in the pasture with Chad. I love it. All right. So talk to us about your role, you know, on the engineering team. How do you help partners? What’s, you know, what are you doing on a daily basis? How are you interacting with partners for anybody that hasn’t met you yet? Sure. So my day-to-day is just that. It’s interacting with partners and looking at what their customers’ needs are. So I do everything from being on calls directly with the partner and their customer to do discovery, see what the opportunities are with that specific customer and how they can be uncovered, and then drilling down on some of those. Some of it is post-discovery, and we’re presenting some solutions to the customer and bringing our vast 500-plus and growing group of suppliers to the table and narrowing it down for what’s going to be a best suited fit for that specific application or that situation that the customer needs. And again, it’s really explaining technology in a way that can be understood by the customer because they’re not in our space. So our whole goal from the sales engineering team is to be able to communicate the information in a way that the customer can absorb it and understand it and then figure out what they need to utilize it in their offerings. Love it. All right. Let’s talk about lessons learned here. So either A, something you’ve learned the hard way from a mistake, or B, something you’ve learned from a great mentor. What do you got?

I got one of each, actually. The one from a mentor of mine and still continues to be, not even in this industry, but a longtime friend and a very successful businessman. His name is John. And John told me, he said, “Integrity and character is what happens when people aren’t looking at you. It’s what you’re doing when people aren’t looking at you that matters.” And that has stuck with me. I want to be able to present not just something that pays the best or not just something that is hot right now. It’s the right solution for the customer. It’s the right deal for the customer. And sometimes it’s accepted and sometimes it isn’t. But again, I want to be able to present from the get-go the right solution, the right offering, and be able to present myself in a manner that is there and ethical and upfront and say, “Here’s the solution that you need and here’s why,” and be able to present that. And that has served me well throughout my career. And I really, really respect John for that. He ingrained that into me early on. And again, I respect that of him. So that’s the one side. On the flip side, some of the things that I’ve learned, the volume of business that comes through this department is insane. You could literally work 24 hours a day if you wanted to, answering emails and calls and all that kind of stuff.

With that, I have learned that I need to make sure that I prioritize and leverage the technology available to me internally to get those answers back in a timely fashion to the partners and to their customers. I will be the first one to say that I’ve stumbled over that and probably will continue to stumble over that. But it’s how that’s addressed and handled and explaining, “Look, I dropped the ball. It’s my fault. I’m sorry. Here we go and move forward.” That usually resonates pretty well with most people just explaining that I missed it. I’m sorry. And here’s the information that you needed. So I have learned that very well. It’s like a freight train, baby. It is a freight train for sure. I love it. I love it. So the title of this track is managed services, right? How we’re really unleashing managed services and why people need that. So your opinion here, I mean, we certainly are seeing just a running up and to the right of the desire for X as a service. Why? Why do businesses need so much help? Is this a talent shortage thing? Is it more than that? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

So I think it’s a combination of things. I think there is definitely a talent shortage in specific areas of tech or the tech stack, however you want to refer to that, meaning we hear it time and time again, but cybersecurity is one that is lacking in trained people to be out there. It’s also lacking in how those roles are being hired for and filled. So I think that plays into a part of it. I also think that the technology is changing so quickly right now that so many people, they’re focused on their business. They’re not focused on what the changes are in technology. And that’s one of the privileges that we have on this team is that we can take the time to look at technology and where it’s changing. And we also have the suppliers coming to us and saying, “Hey, this is changing. Look at this. You need to look at this. This is where this is going.” And having those two-way relationships with the suppliers, meaning we go to them, they come to us and consistently being engaged with them, not only in trainings on a weekly basis, but also one-on-one times that we have in front of them and with them in different events that we participate in and all that. Small business owners don’t have that kind of time to invest in technology. And they rely on the technology advisors. And then those advisors rely on us to bring best-of-breed technology to solve issues for their customers. Yeah, I can’t imagine being in a customer’s shoes, having to manage what’s coming out in the tech stack right now. I just think it’s, for the partners out there, such a great time to be in this as it gets more complex. We just continue to all add more value in that equation. So again, it’s different than it was doing it a few years ago because there’s just so much getting through on that right now. Let’s talk about one of those things that you mentioned. Let’s talk about advancements in tech. You talked a little bit about some of the training and things like that that you do that you’re part of on a weekly basis. But use something like things that have changed rapidly lately. Use something like VMware as an example, right? Give us some color on that, maybe as an example.

VMware is a great one. I have been at the forefront with the team here on a lot of VMware changes. And you had an acquisition of VMware from Broadcom that went from roughly, I think, 4,000, something like that. People with the ability to sell that product and that software

down to 10% of that now that has the accessibility to it. And there’s different levels of that. Costs to the consumer can range anywhere from at a minimum 50% to 100% cost increase, all the way up to 800% cost increase, depending on what type of licenses they have and how they purchase them and what the applications are that they’re running. So VMware, what we’re seeing is that now, to the point that we just talked about, the customer is just catching up to the changes in this technology. They’re beginning to get their renewal licensing. They’re beginning to see pricing changes, dramatic pricing changes, and they have no understanding of what’s happening. So what we’ve been able to do is take our group of suppliers that focus in the VMware space and be able to leverage them and utilize them to not only keep us at the forefront of what’s happening with this pricing, what the different packages are now, all the changes, but also be able to leverage significant changes if the customer wants a forklift upgrade. I’m done with VMware. I can’t afford to renew it. I need another option. We have those suppliers lined up and we have spent time learning what those alternatives are to the VMware space as well. So again, being able to direct the customer for what their needs are and then what they want after that. So we address needs and then wants and put a package together for them to leverage that. I’m in a situation right now, very large opportunity. It’s global. It’s with a large Nutanix shop and they have some VMware as well. And we’re doing a whole custom solution leveraging both aspects of that to be able to give them a progressive path to change as well as a full DR setup for them that will be able to be almost an active solution for them. Yeah, it’s crazy to see what you and the team and Mike and I’m on and everybody, it’s such a team effort in putting all this together, but in the end, we’re able to get into these conversations and help everybody make heads or tails of it. Do I want to stay in Nutanix? Do I want to stay VMware? Do I have 16 cores? Do I have less than 16 cores? Is my cost 40%? Is my cost, and just crunching all of that. Can somebody help me with a migration? Do I have to do that myself? Where’s their competencies? It’s wild just to see how fast this evolves and we have no choice but to stay on top of it. So kudos to you and the team to just keeping that dialed in, constant moving parts on that one. Yeah, and it is teamwork, because what I bring to the table is very different than what Aman or Coby or Mike Kowalski or the rest of the team that’s involved in these different aspects. And we approach it in a team atmosphere, because again, all of us have varied backgrounds. All of us are coming at it from a different viewpoint. And that’s what makes it successful as a team is because we are looking at it differently. And we bring all those different perspectives to the customer ultimately and can share how that solution is going to work best for them. So walk us through then. All right, so we’ve got all of these, this world of managed service providers here, we’ve got OEMs all over the place, we’ve got customers with different needs, we’ve got people at different buying cycles, this piece of hardware might be depreciated, I might have a little bit of spend in this cloud, or maybe I’ve got to commit here, blah, blah, blah. How do you, how do you help? And how do you help these guys make a selection? Right? What is what does Chad do in this equation?

So what Chad does in this equation is, again, we have a discovery call with the customer, we have a situation where we have to be able to bring solutions to the customer that are going to make sense. It’s not a one size fits all. So when we discuss situations where managed services, well, what does that mean to that customer? Does it mean that they need help desk for all of their employees to call into and be able to do all of that? Is it a situation where they have to be able to, you know, they want to manage all of the help desk side of it internally, but they want level two, level three help with the core network, or provisioning laptops, or getting laptops and cell phones. I mean, it just goes and goes and goes for what that solution looks like from a managed situation. So what we do is we look at again, on that discovery call, what’s the size of the customer? Who in our supplier base is going to be able to handle that? Is it an SMB? Is it mid market? Is it enterprise? And then we typically bring multiple solutions to the table and let the customer decide on their side of what is going to be a best fit for them. So again, if you’ve got the five person mom and pop store that needs, you know, everything from I need to be able to source my computers, I need help when my Excel spreadsheet doesn’t open. And I need, you know, somebody to stop by once a month just to make sure everything’s going okay. We know where to take that in the supplier side of things versus a, Hey, we’ve got 25,000 employees globally. We have an IT team of 120 people to handle that. And, you know, we’re pretty good. We just need to, we need help managing our core network at a level two, level three type of solution. And it’s Cisco, or it’s extreme networks, or it’s HP, you know, whatever, whatever the core is, we have suppliers that come to the table. And the key is listening to the customer, hearing what they’re where they’re where they need help and how we can bring that help to them. So let’s get to this myth buster section here. I need a better sound effect for this because I don’t have one yet. But so this idea, you know, years ago, when customers would say, No, I don’t want anybody to manage that, I’m going to do it myself. I’ve got a team, I got Timmy and it he’s great. Why would I ever need that versus now, we’ve got a trend, you know, kind of going this other way towards the managed services and needing help. What’s that? I mean, help me dispel this myth, right? Where customers just, if they don’t see value in, you know, outsourcing some of that, having that manage, talk, talk to how you dispel that myth.

I think managed services is is key for any size business. And I think, you know, the people that say, Oh, I can’t afford that, or I, you know, I pay my wife’s brother in law to come in, you know, to handle the IT services. It’s, if you have a company that can manage it, it takes that completely off of the customer’s plate. If you have a fully managed solution at that point, then they don’t have to worry about it. And the cost to even to bring in, you know, your sister’s brother in law’s friend that does it, it far supersedes that. Because of the quality of work, you have people that know what they’re doing. You’ve got, you know, typically 24, 7, 365 eyes on the equipment, and a fully managed solution at regardless of what level you’re looking at. Is it just a firewall? Is it SD-WAN? Is it a fully managed network? Is it a fully managed IT help desk? All of those things bring so much savings ultimately to the table for the customer, because now you’re not having to employ someone to do that, whether it be part time or full time, you’re not having to worry about coverage on nights and weekends. And what happens if something happens at 3am? Is Bobby still going to wake up and go into the office to fix that? Or is he going to wait till 7am to do it? All of those things are removed. And really what it comes down to is the customer can sleep at night knowing that it’s handled, and knowing that it’s handled properly by certified people that know the products inside and out and can take care of that and take that off their plate for a cost that typically is less than having, you know, direct employees dealing with those situations. So I gotta go back. I was trying to run the family tree genetics in my head if we’re approaching the IT guy. If it’s the IT guy’s wife’s brother-in-law, is it always the IT guy’s brother? I guess it could be. Yeah, you’re right. I was trying to do math. I wasn’t doing the lineage. No, but it’s true. We see that stuff all the time, right? I’ve been using this platform. I’ve been using this person and it’s been sort of working. And I think when, you know, team members like yourself come in and go, “Well, what about this? What are you doing for that? What are you doing for this?” How is that being? Oh, you know, you realize it’s a workload, it’s a priority, it’s a skill set. It certainly opens up doors. So I love that point.

Let’s walk through an example here. Talk to me. Managed X. X could be cloud, security, network. Just walk us through what was the tech stack before? What was the business problem? And then kind of what did it become after? So I have a great example of that. That was a nice win. We had a law firm with about almost 40 sites. They had managed firewalls at each site that was being managed in-house. It was almost a 2000 person, a 2000 employee law firm. And again, almost 40 sites across 30 plus states. And the two people couldn’t keep up with all of the firewall policies. It was a Cisco, Cisco ASA’s firewalls in place and they’re trying to manage it. They’re trying to do it. And they’re spending so much time pushing policies and rebooting and physically going out to do things that all of their ticketing on the internal side of what they also were responsible for from a help desk standpoint and software and everything else that they were losing. They were just getting buried essentially under all of it. So the firewalls went to the back burner and focused on the trouble tickets. And what we were able to do is we removed all of the firewalls. We brought in a fully managed SaaS-y solution to them and took it all off of their plate. Now they have full access now in a single pane of glass to see what’s going on at every single site. We eliminated the need for the VPNs because we dropped the client on all of the SaaS-y client on all of the endpoints out there. And it has just resolved all of the backlog of issues that now that IT team, still two people, can focus on what they need to focus on. They take a deep breath because they know all of the other stuff is being handled properly. And if there’s an issue, it pops up for them to be able to take notice and bring resolution to if necessary. And I think that to me is one of the perfect applications of what we do and how going from, “Hey, tell me about what’s going on from a discovery call all the way through to implementation and post-implementation,” and the IT guy still reaches out and is being like, “Hey, you guys saved my butt. I loved it. This is great. I’m so thankful that we made this choice and move forward with this managed SaaS-y solution.” Robert Leonard (00.00.00) – Love it. Love it. Good example. Okay. Final couple questions here. So if I’m a partner, I’m listening to this, you got me excited about maybe I haven’t touched on this. Maybe I’ve sold security solutions or maybe I’ve sold kind of other solutions before. What’s your favorite discovery question track? If a partner says, “Chad, I’m going in. I’m going to have this meeting. I think we’ve got a customer that’s a great prime for this.” What’s Chad’s questions here? Chad Moses (00.00.00) – My questions are starting out, just tell me where your technology pain points are. Tell me what you’re struggling with from the technology side in your company right now. And that usually is a very broad door opener, but it leads you down a path of these are the things that are nagging that customer. And usually what that also brings to the table is, “Well, this is me telling you about some of my struggles, but you know who really needs to be on this call is,” and they bring up someone else’s name. Now, the person I may be talking to is a CIO. They may be a director. They may be whatever title. Typically, that other person that they want to bring in is up the chain a little bit further. And they bring that individual in in a subsequent call, and then the conversation is then really opened up. So you have two people, they’re sharing their pain points in the technology stack that they have. And that could be everything from ERP to customer management tools all the way through to, “You know what? I got to reboot my computer every morning when I come in because I don’t know why. And my IT guy can’t tell me why.” I mean, it runs the gamut of everything that’s going on in there. And it even trickles into phones. And, “Hey, you know what? We’ve had this phone system for 30 years, and I just got a letter from NEC saying that they’re not going to support this any longer for on-prem. Can you help me with that too?” What I like to lead with in a very general opening is our swim lanes. Our swim lanes of technology is a wonderful slide to share. It’s very wordy, but when people see it and then they grasp the idea of, “Oh, that touches everything in my company. How can I… And you guys do all of this, and I can leverage you to help me find the right solutions for all of this,” then our TAs and everybody else out there, the partners love that because they went in for one specific thing. It may have been phones. It may have been cloud. It may have been something that opened the door for them. And now it’s wide open for them to look at. There’s so many different opportunities now. We’ve engaged that customer, and they’ve shared all their pains and struggles with technology. Yeah, I think that becomes the inevitable, “Wow, you helped me on this really complicated project. What else can you do for me?” “Ah, hey, let me show you. Let me show you what this… I have a huge ecosystem that everything plays in, and are you working on any of these projects?” Now, and geez, at a minimum, that becomes something you come back and talk to about six, nine months, right? Put that in your contact them later when something, you know, XYZ technology changes, and I think it opens up the door for a lot of conversations later there.

All right, final thought here. So, technology is moving fast. No surprise. Let’s look out 12, 18 months. Where do you see this going? I mean, we’re talking about managed services. We’re talking about just, “That’s the future,” but what’s your perspective? Is anything going to change in this? Is it going to increase? Or is there other things that we’re not thinking about yet? Final thoughts? Final thoughts are AI, AI, AI. We don’t know where it’s going to go. We don’t know what. It’s going to touch everything. It really is. I’m working with CoPilot right now. I have AI leveraged on Zoom meetings. We talk about it and present on it. It will literally, and very, very quickly, touch pretty much all aspects of technology in the next 18 months period. I’m not even going to say two years because I think it’s going to be quicker than that. The amount of things that it’s changing is dramatic. I don’t think we even realize what it’s going to be six months from now, let alone a year from now. But again, being on the forefront of that and working on a team that is devoted to learning that and getting certifications in that is great because it helps having those conversations. Everybody hears about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, you’re an employee, whatever. Everybody’s hearing about AI and they want to talk about it and they want to understand what it is and how it applies to them and their business and what they do day to day. Will they even have a job a year and a half from now in some instances? The reality is yes, they will, but it’s going to change the landscape and the technology sector dramatically, just like the internet did. I feel like that’s the next major bubble that’s happening. In the meantime, I think the big things that are out there are still a pivot to cloud. There’s still a lot of movement from on-prem situations to cloud-based, whether it be private or public cloud, where there’s been servers in closets and we see it more and more often as companies are selling out and merging in with others that, “Oh yeah, we have a couple of servers in the back that maintain all of our data on our customers.”

I don’t know what they do or how long they’ve been there, but I guess we need to figure that out. That kind of stuff happens every single day and figuring out a plan to help that customer migrate that data off-site, get it into a secure cloud offering is really good too. I think those two things from a cloud migration and AI are really, really hot button issues and we’re happy to take on those conversations as they come along. Love it. Chad, that wraps us up for today, man. Really appreciate you coming on. Lots of knowledge, lots of strategy, lots of tips and tricks. Thanks so much for coming on, man. Appreciate being on. Thanks again.

All right, everybody. That wraps us up for this week. As always, do not forget, wherever you’re listening, Spotify, Apple Music, anywhere, go like, go subscribe so you get those that drop every Wednesday so you can stay on this continued education track. We love putting this content out there for you. It’s going to wrap us up for today. I’m your host, Josh Lopresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus This has been Managed Services Unleashed, transforming business for 24. Chad Muckenfuss, Sales Engineering at Telarus Next Level BizTech has been a production of Telarus Studio 19. Please visit Telarus.com for more information.