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CEOCFO Magazine, PO Box 340
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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Steve Alexander, Associate Editor
Bud Wayne, Marketing
& Production Manager
Christy Rivers -
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – September 13, 2021
CEOCFO: Mr. McKewon, what was the original vision behind Xceptional? What is your focus today?
Mr. McKewon: Xceptional was founded in 2007. It was born out of a company that I had formed with another executive, who left the industry. Our original name was Xceptional Networks. We launched the company as a value-
Today the company is called Xceptional, and XceptionalNetworks is essentially the original practice we launched the company with: a LAN, WAN, Wi-
CEOCFO: Was it a deliberate strategy to be involved in so many areas or was it more opportunistic?
Mr. McKewon: Initially, we were focused on being a value-
Since then, it has been a strategic move, from a corporate standpoint, to not focus on the hunting aspect of being a Value Added Reseller. We wanted to get away from having to find the next project to close, to design and build the next project and then live off the profits of that until we found the next one. We were focused on how to build a sustainable business that we can more easily grow, scale, and manage, not only on the human capital side, but also financially. Therefore, recurring contracts and engaging with our customers in one-
CEOCFO: What types of companies are typically turning to Xceptional? What size, geography, or industry?
Mr. McKewon: We are fortunate to have developed a diverse set of customers within a dozen of industries, over the last 15+ years, and that diversity has expanded via the launch of our managed services practice. Our managed services customers range from a two-
CEOCFO: When a customer is using Xceptional as their managed services provider, what is different? Why would they want to go with you rather than someone else? What do you provide, what do you understand, on a very basic level, that makes the company something a cut above?
Mr. McKewon: It is a great question and a very difficult one to answer articulately and to create differentiation. One difference is the Xceptional experience. The Xceptional experience essentially means that in a pre-
There are various reasons why customers will sign on, and when they do the Xceptional experience continues, where we perform routine quarterly business reviews lead by the sales team, but with input from the whole entire organization, so as to bring to bear what is working, what is not working, what strategic initiatives the client has, what goals they have, etc. We look at our key performance indicators and customer feedback. Then we also evaluate cyber security risk and make recommendations to shore that up. Therefore, it is a fully engaged, fully cooperative environment, where we are hoping that we create that Xceptional experience for the customer.
CEOCFO: What have you learned from customer feedback over the years?
Mr. McKewon: That is a great question. In a nutshell, me personally and the business, I think it is being willing to accept critical feedback and take it onboard and make changes. For the younger CEO or less experienced CEO or less experienced customer service person that is difficult. Entrepreneurs sometimes have too high of a pride of authorship, pride of ownership and are resistant to that feedback. Over the years it has been a learning lesson for me and for our other executives, and in fact for the whole team, to embrace the feedback.
Critical and constructive feedback is the way we improve. We love to see high marks in our customer satisfaction surveys, but we do not learn much from the high marks. It is much better to get feedback on what is not quite working right or where we need to improve, because that feedback allows us to act on it and allows us to make improvements and allows us to streamline, to help create that Xceptional experience for our client.
CEOCFO: Your site explains the unique company culture that attracts, trains, and retains the highest level of employees. What is different about working at Xceptional?
Mr. McKewon: We have been committed to building an environment where no matter what job you take, there are opportunities for advancement. Our current CFO started as our receptionist/bookkeeper. She worked her way up to CFO/COO. I think that is one of the greatest stories that I can tell as far as what makes this a great place to work. We are growing. We do not take anyone for granted. We coach, we support, and nothing makes me happier than to see one’s career grow. We have folks that have grown internally, as I was mentioning before with our CFO/COO Danielle. We have also had folks that have grown internally and then decided to go on to other bigger, better things. That is fine!
I am very happy to see an engineer sprout his or her wings and take what they have learned here and apply it elsewhere. Many times, they come back, to be employed here again. It happened five or six times where engineers thought they wanted to make a change, moved on and then came back. We have also had many former employees go on to work elsewhere, but then turn back to us and ask us to serve them as a managed services or a VAR. We foster goodwill. We foster teamwork. It is truly an exceptional place to work.
CEOCFO: How have you helped your customers, both older and newer, navigate the last couple of years?
Mr. McKewon: It has been challenging, but early on we focused on our client’s goals and mostly assisted clients with the work from home transition. Before the pandemic started, mobile workforce and telecommuting were all “nice to haves.” It was sometimes a major effort to build the business case around these technologies and to communicate the return on investment for those kinds of initiatives.
The pandemic got rid of the need to illustrate the business case and the return on investment for these types of initiatives. It was self-
Not only do we deal with the transition of being able to enable these companies, these clients, to send their workers home, but also help them secure that solution and help them create better practices, better policies and procedures around that, to make sure that their data is secure, that their infrastructure is secure. It has been a major part of the focus over the last two years.
CEOCFO: What is your plan for growing the managed services side of the business?
Mr. McKewon: We recently added Mr. Mark Dallmeier, as our Vice President of Sales and Marketing. His directives, from senior management and the board, are to enable this company for organic hyper-
Then later in the client journey, we are introducing new innovative products that are easy to understand and consume in order to meet the market where they are at, with those products. An example of that is we recently developed a new product that is more inclusive, XceptionalCare Complete. It has more “as a service” included that was not included in our previous products. That came about because we saw clients who needed all of these things and an a la carte solution was not getting the job done. Because we are nimble, able to read the market, can interpret what the clients are asking us, and we learn from our losses and wins, we can tailor solutions or create innovative new solutions that are purpose built to incorporate the lessons that we have learned from previous engagements.
CEOCFO: What is the key to getting a potential client to understand the difference as often on paper it seems subtle between one MSP and another?
Mr. Dallmeier: This is a challenge for the entire industry. We did a lot of market research and we surveyed prospects and clients to get a handle on this. Here is the reality: There is a lot of commoditization in the industry. Customers recognize that. When you go to conferences and you walk the conference halls and you go from vendor table to vendor table, the majority of the vendors say they all do the same thing. To your point, customers are trying to understand what differentiates you from another organization. In my experience, and in my approach to helping organizations like Xceptional, is to capture the voice of the customer. This is critical if you expect to establish mind share and market share. With clients, it is really about slowing down long enough to interview prospective clients, prospective customers, to interview customers and to capture the voice of the customer. Therefore, it is taking the time to learn about the customer, the prospects’ business, their goals and objectives, what is happening within the industry and then aligning your offerings, your value proposition and your capability in a very consultative and collaborative way, to the needs of the business and the needs of the client or the perspective client’s employees.
As you go through that process, that is its own journey. You are on this journey of working to capture the voice of the customer, to understand where they are at in their journey, what questions they have, what some of the unique needs and requirements are of their business, their employees, their customers, and their operations, and then instead of providing a one-
We want the opportunity to learn about a customer’s business and their unique needs and their goals and objectives and we want to figure out a way to help them to eliminate or reduce the technical debt that they have. Maybe they have older technologies, maybe legacy technologies that are holding the business back or not working too well. Maybe they are trying to figure out how to go to the cloud, or how to secure and how to protect their organization going forward against ransomware or against cyber-
Mr. McKewon: I would further that too, and I would say that in every new customer interaction I have, I have three goals. Obviously, we want them to buy from us. If they do not buy from us, I want them to wish they could buy from us. The third goal is, if they cannot buy from us or did not buy from us, I want them to come back and buy from us in the future. If I can get one of those three goals accomplished, then we will have done what we set out to do. We will have met the customers’ needs and created an imprint in their brains and in their minds, so that next time they are in the market or next time they have a budget to spend, we are top of mind. The only way you do that is by putting them first.
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“Because we are nimble, able to read the market, can interpret what the clients are asking us, and we learn from our losses and wins, we can tailor solutions or create innovative new solutions that are purpose built to incorporate the lessons that we have learned from previous engagements.”