Whether it's politics, entertainment or IT services, 10 years can deliver a lifetime of change. A few examples: Rewind to 2007. George W. Bush was president, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, and the final Harry Potter installment hit bookshelves.
That same year, Dave Cava and Jacob Cane (photo above, left to right) launched Proactive Technologies -- an MSP focused on specialized niches within the financial services sector. As Proactive prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary on May 10, the company is looking back on the journey so far -- while also preparing for the opportunities ahead.
“When we started on our own we didn’t have any clients or employees. We didn’t have anything,” Cava, COO, tells ChannelE2E.
Cava and Cane both worked for Business Technology Partners a decade ago when they decided to branch off and start their own company. (Cane currently serves as the Proactive's president.) Cava says the pair left the firm suddenly, but soon discovered many people wanted to work with them. Soon they had more clients than they knew what to do with. “We had a lot of what I like to call the good problems,” he jokes.
The Proactive team wasn’t focused on any particular vertical in those early days. But Cava says they had good contacts -- particularly in New York's financial services sector. “It didn’t take long for us to figure out that’s where most of our revenue was coming from,” Cava says.
Finding A Niche
Focusing on alternative investment firms (example: hedge funds) helped Proactive create a strong brand, says Cava. And a strong brand can demand higher prices for high-value services. “That’s our niche,” he says.
As the company began to engage with financial services customers, people asked how Proactive would perform if the economy took a downturn. But, Cava asserts, the shape of the economy has no bearing on Proactive's bottom line. “The good thing about hedge funds is, if they’re well managed, they’re profitable whether the economy is going up or down,” he says.
While many MSPs focus on specific IT platforms and cloud services, Proactive built its reputation by providing services for clients' specific needs. “We’ve had a motto for a long time that says ‘We support people, not computers,’” says Cava.
In a way, that means Proactive was obsessed with user experiences (UX) and customer experiences (CX) long before UX and CX became vogue terms.
Looking Back To Look Ahead
Initially, the young company didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a financial services IT firm at first, asserts Cava. But Proactive eventually embraced the focus -- especially when many general-purpose MSPs struggled to move into the financial services sector.
Still, those first few months of business were rocky. “We didn’t know we'd make it out of the first year,” concedes Cava. Fast forward to present day and the company has grown to 42 employees about $7.3 million in annual revenue.
So, what will the next 10 years bring for Proactive? “I don’t know if we ever look that far ahead,” Cava says. “It’s like climbing a mountain when there’s a series of peaks. You get to the top of one and see the next.”
Still, there are goals. Cava envisions Proactive reaching the $10 million annual revenue milestone roughly two or three years down the road.
According to Cava, sales remain strong compared to other MSPs. Most of their business comes from referrals, even if they are untraditional sources. “We’re not doing a lot of shaking the bushes,” he jokes.
Much of their work comes from industry contacts, and those relationships are built slowly and are based wholly on trust. It’s a formula that’s worked for Proactive.
Now, as they look back on what they’ve built, Cava is introspective. “The secret ingredient really is people," he says. "Technology just happens to be the thing we’re using all day long. But really, it’s about our employees and clients. Not forgetting that is why we’re still here and doing well.”