ITP stacking sales success

This award stuff is getting to be a habit for Paul Hager and Information Technology Professionals, a provider of managed IT services and strategy for small and mid-sized businesses. First, Hager was chosen for an In Business Executive of the Year award, and now the company he leads has been selected as a Dane County Small Business Award winner. The first, Hager notes, is considered an individual award but it’s really a team honor. The second definitely is “all enterprise.”

This particular enterprise has been on a roll. Hager, the company’s owner and CEO, had high honors streaming in before these recognitions, most notably four consecutive spots on the Inc. 5000 list of fast-growing companies. When you have increased sales by 134 percent over the past five years, such recognition comes in bunches, and Hager credits his workforce’s ability to address the growing trend of business clients outsourcing their information technology operations.

This success is a key factor in Information Technology Professionals earning a 2019 Dane County Small Business Award. ITP and five other Dane County Small Business Award winners will be honored during the annual Dane County Small Business awards celebration on Tuesday, July 16, starting at 4 p.m. in the Overture Center’s upstairs Promenade Hall and Lobby.

Growing in all directions

In addition to strong revenue growth, ITP has achieved 31 percent growth in net income, and its workforce has grown considerably, as well. ITP consistently sees manufacturers and other types of employers come to the realization that they are not really information technology companies, even though technology is vital to what they do, and deciding instead to focus on their core business. ITP doesn’t try to be all things to all clients, but it does serve the vertical markets in which it has deep expertise. As a result, its associates understand client businesses a lot faster.

“More and more, as businesses look at their own growth, they look at areas where they aren’t experts and where they are experts,” Hager explains. “So, we have expertise where they don’t have expertise, and we want them to have repeatable success.”

The IT consultancy also wants employees to have repeatable success, and with its impressive sales, profit, and workforce growth, the 50-person firm also tries to be different when it comes to employee benefits. One prominent example is its parental leave plan, which in some respects goes beyond what state and federal law requires. Eligible employees may take off up to 12 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child, and there also is a compensation benefit based on tenure for up to an additional three weeks of PTO.

The plan provides longer leave than Wisconsin’s Family Medical Leave Act and the same amount as the corresponding federal law. In a company with growing billable hours, it helps to have some scale, but Hager notes that ITP is a technology company. If the business didn’t give its employees the flexibility to work creatively and remotely, it would betray its own mission. “To not support an employee going through a major transition in their life just doesn’t make sense with how we support our employees,” states Hager. “It’s not congruent with our strategy or our internal voice. So, that was something that was important to us to invest in that’s relatively new.”

Asked if the company is trying to get ahead of potential changes that are in the wind or whether he simply views such a leave policy as a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting workers, Hager engages in some frank talk. “The United States is one of the least supportive of leave when you look at all the countries,” he states. “Even what we’re doing here is not what you see in Europe. It’s still not the best policy out there, and that’s partially based on the fact that we’re a consulting practice, so our revenue is hiked by one of those people with billable hours, and so that’s my only struggle. I would love to be able to be where they [Europeans] are, but we’re certainly where [U.S.] law is and we’re above and beyond that.”

He cited the company’s approach to hiring military veterans as an example of how ITP approaches recruiting and retention. “We have some service members on our team that are still active duty, then they have one month off a year, but they are active Army reserves. All we’re required to do is give them their job when they come back, but we go above and beyond that and make sure they are appropriately paid, either from the government or from us. So, they don’t get a bonus for leaving to do their service, but we want to make sure they are made whole. Either there is a financial incentive to work at ITP when you’re in the service or for giving their time in support of our country.

“It just follows our culture — that and the parental leave — and follows that we need to treat our people well if we expect them to treat our customers well.”

As far as ITP’s entire benefit package, management knows that employees are most excited about the company when they first accept a job offer, so it’s important to capitalize on that feeling early on. People get a welcome package and the company makes sure that it knows a few fun things about new workers and they know a few fun things about the company. “We’ve carefully created our culture, so it’s something that is not in the employee handbook but instead is all the other stuff you would need to know about working at ITP,” he explains. “So, when people come in on their first day, not only are they greeted with their stuff ready — laptop computer, phone, giftbag with swag — but people really think they’ve already worked with us in the couple of weeks leading up to their employment.

“It’s about starting it there and following it all the way through with something like good leave policies, or PTO, or beer in the fridge at the end of the day. You have to start early and make it a total experience for employees to make it feel like it’s genuine.”

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In the community, ITP serves as a strategic partner for Wisconsin-based nonprofit organizations, including Easter Seals and Special Olympics, and help them with their IT needs. The firm provides managed IT services at a reduced, nonprofit rate, offers “gratis” project management support, and staffers frequently volunteer for these organizations.

ITP and five other Dane County Small Business Award winners will be honored during the annual Dane County Small Business awards celebration on Tuesday, July 16, starting at 4 p.m. in the Overture Center’s upstairs Promenade Hall and Lobby.

“For a nonprofit, that doesn’t mean that they are buying the most expensive, fast hard drives of the world. That doesn’t mean that they run on old, old equipment that’s used and handed down. That’s not the answer, either. It’s striking that right balance and being their strategic partner, and sometimes that means we help them get grants, so they get funding or even equipment through us.”

Beyond buy in

Given that his business peers, including past Small Business Award winners, were involved in choosing the new 2019 winners, Hager calls the award an accomplishment for the entire business. “It goes to show, when we talk about things like growth and community involvement, that it’s not one or two people, that everybody in the organization is buying into their community and to ITP’s message that we need to be good stewards of the communities that we’re in and the communities we’re serving.”

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