Home » All Start Local Episodes » Handling Tech while Working Remotely with Erik Gudmundson
Erik Gudmundson on Start Local

Podcast published: April 17, 2020

Erik Gudmundson is the VP of Business Development at Pegasus Technologies, a company that provides an IT department to businesses which don’t have their own. As most of the workforce is now at home, Erik provides some great information on how to do that effectively, what to think about, and how to stay safe.

Show Notes

Episode Highlights

What is your advice to businesses who have been blindsided by the need to work remotely?

  • It’s mostly about educating your employees
  • The approach should not be technology first, it should be people first. Tech is just used to accomplished goals.
  • Ask: “What do your people need? What your vendors need?” 

How do you know what your people need?

  • Do regular calls with the staff and vendors to figure it out
  • How do we make a more personal connection when we need to “Call”?
    • Video conferencing can help. This has really taken off. 
    • Prediction: Video Conferencing is here to stay. 
    • This has enabled so much more empathy because we can see who we’re talking to. 
  • What kind of questions would you ask your clients?
    • What do you need to service your clients at the same levels?
  • Problems generally come when there are inappropriately assumed expectations.

How is Pegasus Technology changing the way it works? What about the need to serve clients on-site?

  • Historically there is no substitute for doing on-site work. 
  • The reality is that Pegasus can still do that as an essential business, BUT they don’t want to do it for a random reason. 
  • Taking advantage of tools for first time!
  • “We do not have one particular vertical”
    • Many clients are in food supply chain
      • Much of that is dependent on computers
    • Law offices / Financial Advisors are work from home
  • When it first hit, they were busier than every as people adjusted

What can businesses who have not invested in IT can do to get started?

  • Lots of info on their website / blog
  • Many tools are free / freemium
  • Keep Cyber Security in mind. Massive uptick in attacks.
    • People are distracted and not paying attention. 

Intro:  Hey, everybody. And welcome to another episode of Start Local, a podcast focused on helping businesses in Chester County and the greater Philadelphia area, as we try to navigate through the COVID-19 economy. 

Joe Casabona: My name is Joe Casabona. And I’m here with my co-host, Liam Dempsey. Liam, how are you? 

Liam Dempsey: Joe, Very well. How you doing today, bud?

Joe Casabona: I’m doing very well. Thank you. And today’s guest is Erik Gudmanson. He is the Vice President of business development at Pegasus Technologies. Erik, how are you? 

Erik Gudmundson: I’m doing very well. Thanks, Joe.

Joe Casabona: Thanks for being with us. So today, our topic is going to be around what small businesses can do to be more secure and more productive as they work remotely. But why don’t we start off a little bit with who you are and what you do. 

Erik Gudmundson: Sure, you bet. So my background is Computer Science. Officially, that’s my educational formal training, but I’ve been doing IT services professionally for about 23 years now. For the most part, it’s been in Chester County and the surrounding areas, working at managed services providers, which are basically the IT department for companies and nonprofit organizations that don’t have their own internal IT departments. That means we take everything from (oops, I forget how to double click with my mouse all the way up to) we’ve had a major ransomware incident. We have to migrate firewalls, servers, clouds, whatever the case might be. And everything in between. 

Joe Casabona: Fantastic. So it kind of sounds like you’re an IT department in a box, right? You can go to multiple companies and help them solve their problem. 

Erik Gudmundson: Correct. 

Joe Casabona: Awesome.

Liam Dempsey: Erik, in my experience with IT departments, it’s always plan early, plan early, plan early. And I don’t think it would be too overstating it that nobody really expected the economy with all the lockdowns to happen, and certainly not to happen at this, at such the pace that it has. Certainly, we heard  on the last show from Mike Grigalonis of the CCEDC that a lot of businesses were caught off guard, and understandably.

So knowing that businesses can’t start to plan for this in November of 2019, what is your advice to organizations that can work remotely in terms of the services that they provide for their clients and customers? What should they be doing now if they’re not currently configured to work remotely? What are quick things that they can do to roll that out, to get up and running as quickly as they can? 

Erik Gudmundson: Well, I think that the reality from an IT perspective is that IT is a very thankless job. We’re accustomed to just things need to work. There’s no luxury of planning from a business standpoint, often from our perspective, anyway. However, we love planning and we would love to have as much planning as we possibly can. And to that end, we’re often doing a lot of planning before we’ve even been asked to do that planning because we want to be prepared so that when we’re told to execute, we’re ready to go. 

So a lot of businesses, the reality is if they have reasonably good I.T. support, they already have a lot of systems in place, it’s probably just an issue of education where the management and the operations folks within that business needs to know what tools they have at their fingertips, probably what tools they’ve already paid for that maybe they could start leveraging and start using to truly run their business. 

The way I like to approach it is not technology. First, technology is just a tool that’s used to accomplish an organization’s goals. So, you know, if people are thinking about it, we have this new technology, how can we shoehorn it into our operations? I think that’s doomed to fail. I think the reality is need to think about what do your people need? What do your clients need? What do your employees and vendors need? What do your partners need? And you have to be a partner to them and use technology to enhance that partnership. So certainly I’d be happy to get into some more specifics if you like, but from an overall standpoint, you have to have that perspective or else it just won’t work.

Joe Casabona: I think that’s a really great point. I mean, you mentioned that your background is in Computer Science. I also have a degree in Computer Science and one of the things that at least the people I’ve worked with love to do is say this shiny new tool just came out. We should use it. My first question is always, do we need to use it? Do we already have something that’s helping accomplish our goals? 

And so, as we kind of get more into this, how do you figure out what your people need? Is it about talking to them, getting feedback? Should you have already known this before today or before this hit? 

Erik Gudmundson: Well, hopefully people already know that before this, we’re in this pandemic crisis right now. But even if they don’t, now, it’s a great opportunity to learn and find out and deepen those relationships. I would certainly be doing regular calls with my staff. I’d be doing regular calls with my clients and with my vendors to really figure out what their needs are, their wants are, what their challenges are, and how we can help each other.

Now, when I say call, you know, that’s where we can maybe transition to some sort of Technology, right? Because a telephone is not as personal as an in person conversation. So, how do we make that more personal connection so that people are a little more open to sharing what’s truly going on in their head? And so some things that they could use for that certainly would be video conferencing. You know, sometimes video conferencing people are a little bit shy to try it. But I think the video conferencing has really taken off. If you look at some of the new account numbers within some of these video conferencing companies, and they’ve been sort of, you know, gradually going up. But once this pandemic hit, they just skyrocketed. It’s huge exponential growth. And I suspect if I’m gonna make a prediction that video conferencing is probably here to stay, I think that the United States really lagged behind a lot of areas in the world in terms of our resistance to video conferencing. We like to be private and secure and block all that stuff out. But the reality is it just has enabled so much more empathy because it’s not just what you’re hearing. Other people say but it’s your, you can visually see their reaction. And hopefully have a more meaningful dialogue with them as a result.

Liam Dempsey: Yeah, that sounds like the way forward for sure. Talk to me a little bit about the kinds of questions that you would be asking of your clients, you know maybe those who who aren’t up to date with what their needs may be. What should business owners be asking their teams basking their employees? What should the conversation look like to get a better understanding of what the real business process needs are?

Erik Gudmundson: I would start with, you know, what do they need in order to service their clients at the same levels they were previously, or perhaps even better levels because at the end of the day, it’s all about that client relationship and meeting expectations. So much of, I think, problems with telecommuting comes down to inappropriately set or inappropriately assumed expectations. You know, when are people working? How available are they? How quickly can they respond? Things like that. So even if you’re not doing a video conference call every two minutes, which gosh, I hope you’re not because you probably won’t be able to get much of any work done if you’re video chatting all day long and worrying about your virtual backgrounds and things of that nature. But, the reality is there are other tools to, you know, perhaps instant messaging. You know, perhaps more efficient use of email. Perhaps, you know, some more synchronization of files so that it’s not just I saved a file I uploaded or emailed it here. It’s okay. Well, let’s let’s collaborate on this file in real time.

So there are a lot of tools in the I.T toolbox that people can use. And they’ve been around for a long time. It’s not like these air brand new. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of organizations probably already have these tools within their tool belts. They’re just never bothered to go looking for them. They’ve never had a need. But now, by communicating with with staff, communicating with clients and figuring out what do people need to do their job, you know, it’s time to then say, Okay, what tools do we need? And what tools do we have? And I think there could be a lot of really excellent matches there that have just been waiting to happen. And this is their time to shine.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I, when you said that, it made me think about Google Drive, Google Docs, something that I’m sure we’ve all been using for a long time. But, I’ve heard people in the last few weeks say that they’ve never used it before. This is the first time they’re using it. And it’s just really interesting ’cause it’s been such a core part of what I’ve been doing for years to see that people who actually have the need to collaborate in real time use, use these tools now.

Erik Gudmundson: Yeah. And Google’s not the only player in town for that. Although they were certainly one of the big ones to really, to enter that field. Microsoft Office 365, or whatever it’s now going to be called, because it’s going through some renaming process right now. Terrible timing, by the way, I’m not sure why they’ve picked now to rename everything,  but, you know, they have some really good solutions for that, too. So some people are opposed to google. Some people love google. There’s lots of pros and cons there. 

But the point is there are multiple platforms. They work across different platforms whether you’re on a chromebook or an Apple or a PC or something else. You can still take advantage of that collaboration. You don’t have to be a complete windows shop or an all google shop or an all Apple shop. you can have a very mixed environment and still have everyone being productive and nobody feel like they’re feeling like they’re isolated.

Liam Dempsey: Erik, I want to ask you about how Pegasus Technology is changing the way it works. My understanding of IT, and I am no parts IT consultant, is that, it’s a mixture of remote work and on site work. At some point, you just got to get behind the machine or the server or whatever. Demonstrate the right click in person versusjust logging into the server. How, I guess what I’m wondering is what kind of lessons could you share for other businesses that have a mixture of being able to, or needing to serve their clients on site, as well as doing some remote work, finding that balance, particularly or transitioning in a time when we really can’t just pop into their office. And, you know, move that plug or do that kind of stuff. What have you and your colleagues been doing that might be of value to share with others?

Erik Gudmundson: So historically, I think you’re absolutely right. Sometimes there’s no substitute for just you know, hey drop what you’re doing, drive to a client site. You know, we have a technician hop in a Pegasus truck and we roll the truck over to the client site. And even if it’s just as simple as plugging in a printer, you know, that can make all the difference in the world to making that person’s day, you know, happy and making them satisfied and letting them relax to get their work done and focus on what they really need to work on. The reality is We can still do that because Pegasus is an essential business,  You know, as many classification goes. So we can roll trucks, we can send text to where we need to go, but the reality is we do care about our clients. We care about our staff and we don’t want to roll a truck, you know, for just some sort of random reason. We want it to be a true justification, you know, something that rises to the occasion of it being worth the risk because the reality is the whole risk equation has changed in this pandemic landscape that we all find ourselves in now. 

So we’re doing a lot more remote support. Within our team, one of our core means of collaboration is we always worked in the office. We didn’t really do a lot of work from home, which I think surprises a lot of people in the space. But again, we just felt that to enable that maximum level of collaboration and the superior level of partnership we give to our clients and keeping our teams coordinated. You know, we’d like to rely on in person, you know, face to face communication for a lot of it. Throughout is we’re not doing that now. our office has been closed to the outside world since before this pandemic really took off. We did it, you know, trying to be cautious and trying to protect the health of our team members.

And then eventually we got to a point, you know, pretty early on the process. We said, you know what?  You know, we sent more and more people home to the point where now it’s, you know, everybody’s working from home by default. We do have a very, very small handful of people that are working physically in our office because they would prefer to walk in our office as opposed to their home environments. Their home environments just aren’t conducive to work and their preferences to come into the office. That’s their choice. But the reality is we’re taking advantage of a lot of these same sorts of tools ourselves for the first time. I can’t recall us having a single video conference call before this pandemic started. 

And now, it’s become the new standard where if I’m talking to somebody else within the company, I’m not reaching for my cell phone. I’m opening up Microsoft teams and we’re having an encrypted communication with video chat back and forth with each other. We do a weekly all company call via teams. So it’s kind of fun to see everybody up on the Brady Bunch squares and, you know, making it happen. But, we’ve had a lot of adjustments. We’re still going on site to clients even today. But it’s more for emergencies and critical emergencies where, you know, their business is down unless we were to go on site and help them.

And certainly we’re using a lot of personal protective equipment to make sure that they stay safe and that we stay safe.  But, we need to get the job done because we’re essential. 

Joe Casabona: To that end, I, without kind of giving away too much information about your own clients, what kind of on call service calls are you doing? And, like, versus kind of remote,  and I guess another way to word that is, how many of your clients are still on site versus moving to remote?  

Erik Gudmundson: We do not have one particular vertical that we focus on. We have several verticals that we support. So many of our clients are in food supply chain stuff. So Chester County has a lot of agriculture in it, whether it’s a dairy, whether it’s a mushroom farm. But the point is there. It’s something that is supplying the rest of the food chains that we can all, you know, stay well fed during this pandemic. Those organizations still need to keep on rolling along. They’ve had a lot of changes in their clientele, you know, based on their demand and how they’re distributing product, but they need to distribute that product. And the reality is, that is all 100 percent dependent on computers. You may not think of like you trace a mushroom growing to need a computer to function. But the reality is it does not just for, you know, yielding the most product, but also from a traceability standpoint, because if somebody gets sick from something that they ate, we need to be able to trace back you know precisely which room did that particular mushroom come from or which cow, you know, originated that milk or which cow, you know, something like that. So we have a lot of those kind of clients that are still going, you know, in-person facilities. A lot of clients have shifted remotely whether they’re say like law offices that are working remotely.

Now, financial advisors, a lot of people are very very upset and concerned about what’s going on with their money in their retirement. They still want to be able to talk to people about it. So they’re calling our clients that are financial advisors and they’re all working from home. I don’t think they’ve seen their office for a month now, you know. And we have other clients, I can think of some hair salons, for example where it’s a chain of hair salons, you know, they’re all normally integrated and electronically talking amongst themselves and each other so that they, the management can see the numbers at all the firms at a glance. But the reality is they’re all shut now. Those businesses are for the most part, shut down because hair salons are closed. They’re not considered an essential business. So we have a mix depending on our clients and their individual needs. Some of them, their individual needs have changed a little bit. You know, some of them might have had some remote staff or no remote staff, and now they’ve sent as many people as they can to be remote. So some of those firms, they’re using remote technology for the first time at these kinds of widespread levels. And they need a lot of handholding with that. I can tell you when this pandemic started, if we look at our service request history, it hit some really high numbers in the first few weeks of the pandemic. So, you know, as many companies were struggling and everybody was in shock and things were really sort of shut down out of paralysis. We were busier than ever because people were sort of adjusting to this new reality. 

We’ve seen over the last couple weeks, though, people are the kind of service requests we’re getting, levels are still a little bit high. But the reality is most of the type of work is more in tune with, you know, people wanting to do new things or people wanting to engage in things that they don’t work. They’re not working quite the way they expect something like that. You know, how do I do this better as opposed to, Hey, I want to set up remote access for the first time. 

Liam Dempsey: Thank you. That was really helpful in depth answer. And I just want to thank you, just briefly for a little bit of levity with the bradybrunch squares. That’s hilarious. I love that. That is awesome. Thank you. Thank you for for allowing us to laugh a little bit at a time of stress. 

One last question for you. You’ve talked a lot about preparation in clients who are already begun the digital transformation process, or maybe they’re already down the road. For those organizations that hadn’t been there, and this is probably smaller firms, but those that hadn’t been there, where do they start now? What’s the first step for them? You know, I could see it being get in touch with an I. T. Consultant. But I imagine you folks are still kind of busy and not to say that you don’t want new business, but you might not be able to help as many small organizations get off the ground as you’d like to be able to do. So where would they start? What would be some first steps on that? Appreciate you don’t know anything about these imaginary businesses, but you know just general guidelines, please.

Erik Gudmundson: Well, sure. No, that makes sense. To give you some some background, our typical clients range from about 15 people that are using computers up to about 800 people that are using computers. And everyone in between certainly we do have exceptions to that but normally the driving thread that unites all of our clients is they need computers, they need information technology working well or else their businesses can’t function. They can’t say I’m going to put my computer aside and go do paper filing for a few days so that that wouldn’t function. They’re dead in the water if their computers are down for more than 10 minutes. 

But that said, you know, the economy is made up of all different sizes of businesses, not just the one size of business that we fit. So we’ve been trying to load as much information as we can onto our blog on our website just to be a resource out there for anybody that needs that assistance. So there are certainly some very specific things on our blog, on our website about how to work efficiently remotely. Different tools that are available out there. Many of them are free or they’re a freemium type model where maybe there’s like a base level that’s available at no charge. And if they want to start using it for an extended period of time or an extended amount of data, then there is a monthly feed that starts to kick in. 

But, Pegasus isn’t typically collecting revenue from those things. It’s just, hey, these are some tools that are out there. We need the economy to function like go to it. We’re here as a resource if you need us. The one thing, though, to answer your question that a small business needs to focus on right now and need some help with, and they may not even be aware that they need some help with it and need some attention on it, is cyber security. 

We’re seeing a massive uptick in criminal activity that’s going on right now.  The reality is everyone’s under attack, whether they’re an individual, small business, large business. The reality is the workforce and people in general are chaotic right now. They’re distracted. They’re not paying attention. And so phishing emails and other cyber security attacks like ransomware infections are just absolutely out of control at the moment. And people can’t lose sight of that’s sort of basic cyber security training. We’ve had some clients say, well, we don’t want to think about education and training right now that we normally do because we have other things going on. So It’s like, no, you have to think about cyber security right now. You can’t let it go.

Joe Casabona: Wow. That’s something, that’s interesting and something that didn’t really cross my mind though. I did see a message going around to not accept calls from people of saying people from the IRS about their stimulus money, because the IRS does not call you. And that was just something that I wouldn’t have thought of until it was put in front of me there. So, that’s a really interesting thing to think about. 

Erik Gudmundson: Particularly when you think about all the government programs that are out right now designed to help small business and people are putting out lots of sensitive information, social security numbers, bank account numbers, routing numbers, all this stuff out there. And there’s really serious opportunity for it to go to the wrong place. Or if you to receive a phishing email that says, Hey, we received your application, but we need you to enter this additional verification information or we need some whatever. And people are falling for it left and right, unfortunately.

And it’s pretty easy to happen because these criminals are very, very sophisticated. And the reality is a lot of these government application websites and things were thrown up very, very quickly to get the money out as fast as possible. And so they may not look as professional people aren’t used to doing that, so they don’t really know what to expect. So it’s pretty easy for a criminal to jump in there and take advantage of people at this time of need.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a, I think a great way to end this. And Erik, thank you so much for your time. If people want to learn more, where can they find you?

Erik Gudmundson: The easiest way is go to our website, [pegasustechnologies.com] and we have offices in Kennett Square. Wayne and media, we serve a Southeastern PA and Northern Delaware. But there’s a lot of other managed services providers all doing similar things to us. We try to be more personal about it.  But, you know, it is here as a resource and a tool to help you run your business in this time. 

Joe Casabona: Fantastic. Well, thank you very much. And thank you for listening to Start Local.

Again, I’m Joe Casabona. And  I’m here with my co-host, Liam. Liam, you want to play us out? 

Liam Dempsey: Yeah, absolutely. Erik, just another, another thank you. Really appreciate your time. I know you’re busy, but lending your experience to the local Chester County area businesses means a lot to me and to Joe. So, thank you very much,and we’ll see you soon. 

Erik Gudmundson: Oh, my pleasure, Liam. Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Joe. 

Joe Casabona: Thanks so much to Erik for joining us this week. I thought it was particularly eye opening the stuff that he said about different collaboration tools and the conversation we had around that because it’s really eye opening for people who have been working from home or working remotely for years versus people who are thrown into this world. And I think Erik provides some really good perspective on that. So thanks to him for joining us this week. 

If you want to get more information or the show notes, you can head over to [startlocal.co/002]. If you liked this episode be sure to give us a rating and review on Apple podcast. It really helps people discover the show.

 And until next time, stay safe out there.

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