Thomas Berard, co-founder of Belgium-based IT solutions provider Happy Monday, tells me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love IT—and these are all IT guys—and everybody else, those who hate IT but need the former group.
The latter are the people Thomas, his co-founder Thomas Cogels, and their team spend every working day helping. Even their name ties into the work they’re doing.
“Everybody hates Mondays,” Thomas explains, “but we wanted to say to our customers, ‘OK, usually you have a bad Monday because your computer won’t start or the servers are too slow or because of a hundred other different things wrong with your software or equipment.’
“We wanted them to know, ‘You won’t have those problems with us. You can always expect everything to work fine on Monday morning.'”
From TV to IT
Both Thomases have had long careers in the IT sector. While Thomas C. had been holding down a steady job as a developer and project manager handling big web-based projects, Thomas B. had a more inauspicious start down the IT path.
“I actually started through the TV sector; I used to be an editor and I learned IT there,” he recalls. “When I originally came up with the idea for Happy Monday, I actually pitched it to Thomas’ brother, who is a good friend of mine. He was busy with other projects at the time but he pointed me in Thomas’ direction.”
When the two Thomases got together, they quickly discovered that they had basically come to the same realization while working for other companies: IT solutions for very small businesses—those with less than 10 people—were largely nonexistent.
“We formed Happy Monday to provide much-needed IT solutions to companies that don’t have any IT support, governance, or infrastructure at all,” Thomas explains.
“We found that, very often, when there are two or three users in a company one day, there will be four or five the next, then two or three again the day after that. These companies need flexibility in their IT overhead, and since they aren’t exactly swimming in cash, we developed a cloud-based solution for reduced and more flexible costs.”
Success in the midst of a crisis
Happy Monday officially started in May 2012, right in the middle of the European debt crisis. Anybody could tell that it wasn’t a very good time to start a business, and the risks taken by the company were quite high. Their gamble paid off, though, and Thomas says he doesn’t regret starting Happy Monday at that time.
One key part of Happy Monday’s successful navigation of such troubled economic waters was that it followed a semi-paradoxical approach to business: the co-founders thought a lot before making any moves, but at the same time, they tried not to overthink everything. They had to learn to trust their instincts.
“The basic rule or idea we had was to get and keep everything as simple and basic as possible,” Thomas says. “We still operate by this principle right now, especially when we turn to our contractors. For example, Microsoft’s mail server works very well, so we stick with Microsoft’s servers.
“We didn’t want to turn IT into rocket science—people don’t like that. So we decided to adapt the company to the tools we wanted to provide to the customers.
“That’s also the idea behind the choice to use WORKetc. We said, ‘let’s adapt ourselves to the tool and not the other way around.’ That’s how we chose our tools: according to what they could do and not according to what we wanted them to look like or whatever.
“For example, our price policy is somewhat based on what WORKetc can do. The subscription model, because WORKetc can handle that, is something we chose to do as well. We try to make ourselves flexible to the product and not the contrary.”
Thomas says that making the decision and following through was easy back then. “We were completely fresh and green and new then, so we could grow the way we wanted to. Now, it would be pretty hard to do, but it’s fine because we like the product.”
Service with a smile
As Thomas explains it, Happy Monday’s services come in three parts.
“The first part of what we do is provide access to a work platform,” he says. “We provide everything that a company needs: email infrastructure, file sharing, machine monitoring, backups, and all that kind of stuff.”
One important aspect of this part of the job is staying aware of the current best apps and software available to small companies. As such, Thomas and his team are constantly looking at the market and watching out for newer, better solutions.
“You never know, in two years the market might be completely different, so we have to learn to anticipate trends as well,” he says. “Since we have a lot of smaller customers, it’s difficult to migrate everyone at the same time. You need to have two or three days lead time so you don’t get caught by surprise.”
The second part is the human factor. All the infrastructure Happy Monday provides needs a decent help desk, at the very least. The company also provides training and consultancy services.
Thomas drives one very important point home: just because you’re dealing with small businesses doesn’t mean you don’t give them the same level of support that you would give a big client. In fact, you have to be quicker than ever, since one non-working computer or software in a tiny company could lead to a disaster.
“If you have a company with a ten-thousand-person workforce, one person not working is not that bad. When one user’s computer isn’t working in a three-user company, that’s an entire third of their workforce unable to do their job,” he explains.
Happy Monday also provides hardware, which forms the third part of its services. Profits-wise, this part isn’t very interesting, as Thomas puts it.
“In terms of revenue, we don’t make as much money off this part as we do from the two other parts, but it’s a value-added service that we offer our customers,” he says. “It definitely helps us keep our customers happy.”
Doing everything on one app
These happy customers have translated to a lot of business for Happy Monday. Since its clientele is made up of very small businesses, its projects usually aren’t very big. It does have a lot of them, though. To help ease the process of putting smiles on clients’ faces, Thomas and his team use WORKetc.
“When we have a new customer, we need to be able to get them started quickly on our new platform,” he explains. “To accomplish this, there are a thousand different small things we have to do, and each of them has to be done properly and in the right order. It’s like building a car; you don’t start the final painting until the body shell is complete.
“That’s where we use WORKetc’s projects module as a sort of to-do list. We built one template, and every time we have a similar project we just duplicate the template. We use it to check that nothing is forgotten, everything is done properly, and everything is done in the correct order. We also use the projects module to assign specific tasks to the right people.”
Happy Monday is now getting a lot of mileage out of WORKetc’s projects module, but Thomas says that when he first found WORKetc, he wasn’t even looking for a CRM or project management system. All he wanted was something that would help him with his invoices.
“Actually, what we were looking for when we found WORKetc was an invoicing system,” he says. “I do our invoices myself, and I always make sure to check every line on every invoice to see if everything is correct. Even just one mistake could be disastrous both for us and for our client.
“We send out about 40 invoices every month, each of which has anywhere from 20 to 40 lines. The meticulous checking used to take two or three days on an Excel sheet. Now, I still go through every single line, but it takes me only one hour using WORKetc.”
“That’s how we came across the WORKetc platform. Very quickly, we became interested in the CRM and ticketing modules. We initially didn’t feel like we needed the project management parts, but now we use it quite often. We use everything now.”
And when he says everything, he means everything.
“We only use WORKetc for everything,” Thomas explains. “We know we can connect it to other apps, but why bother? It’s already in WORKetc so why pay more, why make it more complex? We want to keep things simple for our customers, so we want to keep things simple for us as well.”
Bringing humanity to IT
Keeping things simple is just one part of the formula for Happy Monday’s success. The other is a healthy dose of humanity—something that Thomas believes is an essential part of the IT business.
“The benefits technology can bring are huge and tremendously useful, but most of the people we deal with are not at all familiar with it,” he says. “They’re usually just not too into that side of things.
“And even if they are into it, computers can still be a bit intimidating. It’s not something that you learn from nothing. You need to be coached, trained, advised—and that’s why you need someone human next to you.
“People like to talk to people. When they need help, they like to have someone listen and talk to them in a human manner. When they ask, they like to get answers immediately. They don’t like to wait one week, reply, then wait again another week.
“When you provide IT solutions, you definitely need to have a decent help desk. You have to be able to answer quickly and politely. Talking to your help desk must be an enjoyable experience.
“It’s one of the things I like most about WORKetc. When I talk to someone in support, I know it’s not a machine answering but a real person. I always feel like they really try to come up with a solution for me.
“The idea behind that is that WORKetc is basically a machine. It’s just ones and zeros on a server somewhere. But the experience feels very human and so enjoyable, and that’s exactly the same experience that we at Happy Monday provide to our customers.”
- Keep things simple, both for your clients and for yourself.
- Be careful and deliberate but don’t overthink your business decisions.
- Always try to make customer service a happy experience.