Managed Care Provider

Servidio’s mantra is prevent, protect, and maintain

by Phyl Newbeck

servidio0118Mike Servidio launched Technology Consultants Inc. in 1986, initially to serve architects and engineers. Now, his South Burlington company works with multiple businesses and nonprofits.

For over three decades Michael Servidio has owned Technology Consultants Inc. The South Burlington company provides IT support for businesses across Vermont and beyond.

Computers are a far cry from Servidio’s initial career goal, which was medicine. This led him, starting in 1976 at age 16, to volunteer for Vergennes Rescue, Middlebury Rescue, and Town Line First Response in Bridport.

Things changed when his brother brought home the original Apple computer. “That was when you actually had to put them together yourself,” he recalls of the device that changed his life. Servidio graduated from Middlebury High School, but that institution didn’t get any computers until 1978, the year he graduated. The first computer he personally owned was an Atari 400.

Servidio spent the first nine years of his life in Queens, New York. When his parents decided to move to Vermont to be closer to family, they gave notice, but Servidio’s mother’s boss didn’t want to let her go. She was the head secretary at E.J. Korvette, a large department store, and each time she told her boss she was moving, he gave her a raise. Finally, after three raises, he realized she was serious about heading north.

Once established in Middlebury, Servidio’s father started a plumbing and heating company while his mother took care of the household. “It was a Norman Rockwell childhood,” he recalls. After graduation, he worked for Vermont Structural Steel, but a year later he followed his sister, Judi, to Denver.

There he worked in plumbing and heating but briefly flirted with other career aspirations, serving as an assistant manager for a men’s clothing store in Littleton while studying for the Series 7 test to become a stock broker. Deciding against that path, he returned to plumbing but credits the course with helping him understand the relationship aspect of sales and how to deal with individuals on a one-on-one basis.

He met his future wife, Marian Mickey, in Colorado in 1980. They married in ’81, their first daughter, Dominique, was born in ’83, and they moved back to Vermont the following year. Their second daughter, Bianca, came along in 1988.

Marian owns Park Place Management in South Burlington, which Servidio describes as one of the larger property management firms in the state. “My wife is a strong influence on my business direction and culture,” he says “since she has had a business of her own for over 20 years.”

Servidio’s return to Vermont was precipitated in part by his brother, Richard’s, opening of a structural engineering firm. “I knew about drafting and construction,” he says “and that’s what introduced me to computers.”

Two years later, in 1986, he took a leap of faith and started Technology Consultants, Inc. “I wasn’t scared,” he says. “My brother and I were on the forefront of desktop computers. We were the first in the state to buy a desktop computer-aided-design (CAD) system. From that point on, I was fully immersed in computers.”

Servidio wasn’t bothered by his lack of a college education and believes there were pros and cons to not having a degree. “In some ways it was a hindrance, because a lot of people wouldn’t take me seriously,” he says, “but the plus was that I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have anyone telling me I didn’t have the qualifications and couldn’t start a business so I never looked at it that way.”

Initially, Servidio worked from an office on Bank Street in Burlington, then, in a collaboration with McAuliffe, an office products business, had space in its offices. Leaving there, he operated from his home in Colchester for a while, eventually leasing his own place at 600 Financial Plaza. He incorporated in 1997 working from space at Bayside in Colchester, and roughly 15 years ago, he moved the company to Commerce Avenue in South Burlington.

Thanks to his proficiency with CAD, Servidio initially concentrated on providing assistance to architects and engineers. But when the economy stumbled in 1991 he almost lost his business, as those companies were unable to afford his services.

“That’s when I learned not to put all my eggs in one basket,” he says. Now his goal is to help businesses become profitable through automation with a focus on consulting, followed by managed services and then sales.

Servidio likes to visit each of his clients personally, but most of the company’s work is done remotely. The focus of the business has changed from putting out fires to preventing them. “In the past five years,” he says “we’ve concentrated on proactive service. We’re always on someone’s machine protecting it and maintaining it so it doesn’t break, so there are very few problems.”

Being a Managed Service Provider, or MSP, has become a popular enterprise. Technology Consultants has roughly 17 competitors in Chittenden County alone. He doesn’t mind having competitors. “Many of them are my friends,” he says, “and some of them are very nice people and very good at what they do.”

Looking to upgrade its aging system, the Vermont Bar Association chose Technology Consultants because of its focus on prevention.

“They listened to our needs and spent a lot of time explaining our options,” says Lisa Maxfield, chief financial officer. “Now they manage our work stations and server and monitor the system 24/7.” The association lists Technology Consultants on its member benefits page and Maxfield says she has recommended the company to several Vermont law firms.

Servidio’s official title is CEO/president. His staff consists of two other consultants, a bookkeeper, and a sales rep, although he depends on 600 certified technicians, “under a service envelope,” he says, “and 28 dedicated help desk people who work for my clients. We automate ourselves.”

Six months ago, he acquired the distribution rights for a Canadian product called LaxsonGPS, and is opening a San Diego office to expand its sales and distribution. He considers the purchase in sync with the company’s role as consultants.

“Our goal is to help companies grow with automation,” he says. “In addition to computers, we deal with phone systems, security systems, and digital printing.”

For Allen Ostroy, chief operating officer of Green Mountain Concert Services, the size of Technology Consultants was a plus. “We had a very poor experience with another company,” he recalls, “but Mike’s team is big enough to handle our problems and small enough to give amazing customer service.”

Green Mountain Concerts operates in multiple states and needs full-time access to its server. “We had problems with our server going down,” says Ostroy, “but they came on board and fixed it right away. They made some suggestions and we haven’t had any major issues since.”

A typical day at the office has Servidio’s two consultants arriving at 8 a.m. to look at potential issues in their clients’ networks and answer questions from the previous day. After a brief morning meeting, they spend the day providing support to clients while Servidio deals with marketing and management, plus in-person visits.

Each technician wears a uniform and a badge, a policy Servidio instituted after a competitor pretended to be a Technology Consultants employee to gain access to a client’s computer system.

Although most of the company’s clients are in Vermont, there are others in Maine, South Carolina, and Canada. Some of the Vermont clients are part of large businesses based in Europe.

The Servidios now live in Milton and work fills much of his time. “I don’t have any hobbies,” he says, “We either visit our friends in Florida or we go to Disney.”

Returning to business, he expresses concern about incorrect IT information’s being promoted and fears that some businesses are being damaged without realizing it.

“I’m very tempted to push the state to enact some sort of regulation to protect businesses,” he says “because we’ve come across situations where IT people have given dangerous product advice and we’ve had to correct problems that should never have happened. People like the person who installed their computer, but he or she doesn’t necessarily understand the system or how to service it after it has been installed.”

Servidio’s business model has changed from selling to consulting and now managing services. “I wanted to make a company that focused solely on the well-being and profitability of our clients,” he says. “That’s why we believe a good IT firm should be a consulting firm first.”

IT is a constantly changing field but Servidio makes sure he stays current, in part by attending conferences including those that are designed for the industries he works with. To help promote the company, he attends nine expos each year ranging from those sponsored by the Vermont Bar Association to medical conferences, CPA groups, and the Vermont Business Expo.

“The industry changes and you have to keep on it,” he says. He admits he’s not one to jump on the newest ideas. “I don’t do things on the bleeding edge of IT,” he says. “That’s not good for business. We do mainstream IT and we do it for a reason.”

Servidio likens a computer system to a car. “You wouldn’t expect to drive a car and not change the oil or have checkups,” he says. “A computer system is the same. Our goal is to get them to run better and save our clients money. It’s an investment. You maintain your car every 3,000 miles and that’s what we do with your system.” •