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How ConnectWise Helped an ‘Accidental Entrepreneur’ Take His Business to the Next Level
Eagle Consulting Group
These days, lots of people have a so-called ‘side hustle.’ Airline pilots are no exception.
“I had no real intention of ever running a company,” said Alan Cruce, Founder and Executive Vice President of Eagle Consulting Group, LLC. “I was a pilot in Alaska, and most pilots have something on the side. As a pilot, any little thing, a health issue or rough spot, can cost you your career. I wanted to make sure I had a standby gig.”
Eagle Consulting Group, LLC, an Alaska-based MSP, started out as a one-man shop run by an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ who quickly became so busy he was turning customers away.
ConnectWise Manage®, ConnectWise Automate®, and ConnectWise ScreenConnect™ allowed the company to automate systems, keep track of time, and work remotely as the business scaled.
Thanks to ConnectWise, Eagle Consulting Group has been able to take on hundreds more clients and seamlessly navigate its explosive growth.
“There’s no other way to say it: ConnectWise has definitely contributed to the success of Eagle Consulting Group.”
Alan Cruce, Founder and Executive Vice President of Eagle Consulting Group, LLC
That’s how the self-described ‘accidental entrepreneur’ ended up founding Eagle Consulting Group in 2004. Today, the company provides IT services to more than 500 end users across Alaska and just closed a big deal to triple that in 2020. But back in 2004, Cruce had one client—a friend who owned a small construction company.
Cruce was hired to help out with bookkeeping. But after he helped the company get onto a new server and set up with QuickBooks®, word got around.
“Someone found out and called me saying they’d been trying to get QuickBooks working on their system for a year, and could I come and help them,” Cruce said. “I went in and got it set up in about 30 minutes.”
Cruce soon realized that when it comes to tech, there’s a real talent gap up north, where the economy revolves around the oil and gas industry.
“Anyone you talk to here will tell you it’s close to impossible to find qualified IT help in Alaska,” he said.
All of a sudden, Cruce was the go-to guy to help people with tech issues. As word-of-mouth grew, he realized he was enjoying the IT work even more than bookkeeping.
Turning a Side Job Into a Lucrative Business
When the airline he flew for went out of business in 2014, Cruce decided to make his living doing IT.
“It wasn’t a side job or a hobby anymore—I had to put food on the table,” he said. “I’d built a network of customers without ever advertising my services, so I knew I could make a living doing IT work.”
Fortunately, Cruce had already implemented systems that would help him track jobs, work remotely, and support his business’s growth. In 2013, he’d transitioned to ConnectWise after the popular management software he’d previously relied on failed him one too many times.
“When I moved over to ConnectWise Automate, it was a world of difference,” Cruce said. “Right out of the box, ConnectWise Automate solved a tremendous number of problems for my business. It was user-friendly, and it was powerful.”
In addition to ConnectWise Automate, Cruce adopted ConnectWise Manage and ConnectWise ScreenConnect. He credits these tools for streamlining the initial growth of his business.
“About six months after I had ConnectWise Automate online and was comfortable using it, I was actually able to take on two additional clients,” Cruce said. “It made life much easier for a one-man shop.”
As soon as Cruce went full time, Eagle Consulting doubled its consumer base. Soon Cruce was so busy he was turning clients away.
Harnessing the Power of ConnectWise Manage
It took Cruce a little while to familiarize himself with all the capabilities of ConnectWise Manage—but once he did, his efforts paid off in spades.
“For two years, I used ConnectWise Manage as a fancy timekeeper,” Cruce admitted. “I didn’t really have the time to sit down and figure out the email connectors and ticketing system. So I was using it, but I was maybe using 2% of its potential.”
After Cruce’s airline folded and he was able to dedicate more time to his business, he got serious about digging in and fine-tuning his use of ConnectWise Manage. The virtual admin feature proved particularly useful.
“When I got ConnectWise Manage working to where I could literally click on all my clients, click to create invoices, then click over to email and send all of those invoices, that was a major turning point for my business,” Cruce said. “It used to take me hours to create invoices. With ConnectWise Manage, it takes minutes.”
Cruce says people often ask him how he keeps everything running so smoothly. When they do, he tells them to sign up for ConnectWise Manage and the virtual admin.
“Investing the time to integrate the virtual admin is the biggest bang-for-your-buck I’ve gotten from ConnectWise,” he said.
Not Leaving Anything on the Table
Another way ConnectWise Manage has paid off for Cruce and Eagle Consulting Group is by making sure every hour that’s worked is a billable hour.
“Before, when someone would call me for help, I never started a timer or looked at the clock,” Cruce said. “I’d think, ‘I’m going to get this taken care of in 30 seconds.’ Then 30 minutes later, we’re still working on the issue. I can’t remember what time we started and figure it’s not worth filling out a ticket. I was leaving a lot of money on the table.”
Cruce estimates that he was giving away 30 to 40 hours of his time each month before integrating the ConnectWise Manage ticketing system. Today, it’s easy for Cruce or any of his employees to open up a ticket and start tracking time the second a call comes in.
“In my office, ConnectWise Manage is always on one screen,” Cruce said. “If someone calls, I click on the plus sign and I’ve got a ticket created within a matter of seconds.”
Cruce now charges overtime and premium rates when clients call after hours. While some managed services providers (MSPs) are afraid to do this in case their clients object, Cruce hasn’t had any complaints. Clients understand his time is valuable.
“If you’re not charging for your time because you’re afraid clients will get upset,” he said, “you’re just throwing money away.”
Working Remotely and Growing Exponentially
One of the challenges of running an MSP in Alaska is the sheer size of the state. But with ConnectWise ScreenConnect and ConnectWise’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) software, Cruce is able to do everything right from his office, which has revolutionized his business.
“The speed is incredible,” he said. “If someone’s having problems, I can be on their screen in seconds helping them out. I remote in with ConnectWise Control—just right click and boom, I’m on their screen with them.”
The ability to offer on-demand remote issue resolution has been instrumental in Eagle Consulting Group’s rapid growth. Recently, the company took on hundreds of new clients from a telecommunications firm that no longer wanted to do IT.
“We’re looking at explosive growth,” Cruce said. “We have recently signed a hospital, an insurance company—and now a telecom deal that has the potential to bring on 1,500 endpoint users. This would increase the number of endpoints we are handling fivefold.”
ConnectWise has also made it possible for Eagle Consulting Group to recruit talent from outside Alaska, which has proven increasingly necessary as the company scales.
“We just hired a guy in Colorado,” Cruce said. “We set him up on ConnectWise Manage and ConnectWise Automate and he works remotely. He’s a server guru—a great help desk tech.”
For Cruce, who recently sold Eagle Consulting Group and stepped into the role of Executive Vice President, it’s been quite a journey. He’s grateful that he partnered with ConnectWise as early as he did.
“It used to take me hours to create invoices. With ConnectWise Manage, it takes minutes.”
Alan Cruce, Founder and Executive Vice President of Eagle Consulting Group, LLC
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