Sandesh Mutha has seen it all. The owner and principal of SSP, a longtime Cisco Premier Partner, got his start as a custom software developer in the 1980s. After specializing in desktop solutions in the 1990s and making the switch to managed services in the 2000s, he is now focused on network and cyber security services.
“I’ve experienced a lot of change across the industry, inside our own organization, and with technology itself,” says Mutha, who offers rare perspective and wisdom for small companies struggling to navigate today’s volatile business environment. “The global pandemic is the fifth major disruption we’ve been through.”
Preceding the current health and economic crisis were two recessions in the 1980s and 1990s, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the subprime mortgage debacle that spurred the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. When asked which event had the greatest impact on SSP’s business, Mutha doesn’t flinch.
“9/11 was the worst by far,” he says. “We lost half of our customers and went 93 days without an order. It was painful.”
It didn’t help that Mutha had purchased the company six months prior, but the adversity helped him prepare for current and forthcoming disruptions. And when the global pandemic materialized in Spring 2020, SSP was ready.
The company had already pushed its applications to the cloud and a colocation data center, due in large part to recurring power outages at its San Francisco office. SSP also deployed virtual desktops two years ago, so its engineers and consultants were comfortable working from home.
“The shelter-in-place order didn’t affect us much because we were already fairly distributed,” Mutha says. “And that was important because our customers needed a lot of help with remote desktops, connectivity, and security when the pandemic hit.”
The solutions SSP already had in place for its customers, including Cisco Meraki and Cisco WebEx, were key enablers of the massive shift to remote work. And they helped many of those customers take advantage of opportunities they may have otherwise missed.
“Opportunity is the intersection of luck and preparedness,” Mutha says. “Those first few weeks were rough, but as a country and a population, we’re pretty resilient.”
Preparing for the next disruption
With nearly four decades of experience and perspective, Mutha has nuggets of wisdom and advice that can help small businesses prepare for the next major disruption.
“Turn inward first and make sure your employees are doing okay. These things have a real impact on mental health, so it’s important to check in,” he says. “Then you can begin to engage outward. Not with product and service pitches, but with genuine help and support. If you take care of people first – your employees, customers, and partners – sales and revenue will follow.”
Small businesses also need to be attentive and adaptive to increasingly dynamic needs and norms.
“What is relevant today can change tomorrow,” Mutha says. “We’ve seen traditional work models and standards get flipped on their head in a matter of weeks. Who knows what we’ll be adjusting to next?”
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