Small Business, Big Mission: The Wilson Group adds IT services to its product mix

Derrick Wilson, president and CEO of The Wilson Group, was recently interviewed by the Pittsburgh Business Times for an article on how company’s new manage IT division supports an emerging work-from-home market. 

When employees across the region were sent home to work remotely at the beginning of the pandemic last year, their offices went dark, including thousands of copiers.

That created a challenge for Derrick Wilson, president and CEO of The Wilson Group LLC. While his company was diversified, offering a wide range of workflow solutions to organizations in western Pennsylvania, a significant portion of his business comes from the sale of copiers and recurring revenue that results from those sales.

“From a copier sales standpoint, we’re down at least 20%,” he said. “And the recurring revenue stream from the copiers isn’t happening.”

And even though the economy is opening back up and many expect workers to soon be returning to the office, Wilson believes the perception of remote work has changed and will become more widely accepted, having a long-term impact on his business.

“People aren’t going to be back in the office like they were before, and as a business owner I have to make sure I still have that continued recurring revenue stream that I’m losing because people are home and they’re not making copies,” he said.

So at the height of the pandemic, Wilson decided to pivot, starting an IT management division at his company. He hired a director of managed IT and a network analyst to do the work.

It’s a move that fits seamlessly with his existing core business and the trend of companies allowing more employees to work from home. It’s also a service his customers have already been asking him to add.

“It makes sense for us because we are already on the customer’s network to a certain degree with the copiers and the computers we sell,” he said. “It’s going well in a really short period of time.”

Among the IT management services he offers are security, HIPAA compliance and vulnerability assessments, all of which are in great demand, especially with employees working from home, according to Wilson.

“With all the fraudulent things going on these days with computers, these are services the companies need,” Wilson said. “It’s a natural segue for me. If I have a current customer that has been happy with all the different services that we provided from post to post, it just makes sense for them to add the managed IT service we offer.”

The creation of the new division has paid off for The Wilson Group. Even with the large drop off in copier sales and the evaporation of the recurring revenue that came with those sales, revenue was up 2% between 2019 and 2020. And revenue for the first quarter of this year was $3.5 million, tracking ahead of budget.

Wilson believes that offering a full suite of services for workflow solutions puts his company in a better position to challenge his competition, including large manufacturers such as Xerox Holdings Corp., Minolta Co. Ltd. and Ricoh. Locally, those companies have purchased nearly all of the independent companies selling workflow solutions, according to Wilson, leaving his as the only large, independently owned company selling workflow solutions in the region.

“Those large companies bought out all the local competitors,” he said. “I’m the only one left. In sales, if you eliminate the competition, your chances to win are that much better. Bringing in new business that adds to my monthly number is a great way to go after that competition.”

Designated as an essential business during the pandemic, no employees at The Wilson Group were sent home to work remotely and none were laid off. Wilson continued to hire new employees during the pandemic, including for the IT management division and a vice president of sales.

Wilson has remained bullish on his company’s prospects throughout the pandemic, but he’s hesitant forecasting what the future will hold for the company he started in 2012.

“It’s hard for me to forecast long-range goals when we’re in these times right now,” he said. “We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, let alone three to six months or five years from now. My goal is to continue to grow and be the best business partner we can be for our customers.”