Sean Ferrel: “You’re only as good as your people”

You’re only as good as your people. Serve them, know them and let things come full circle — no matter who they are in the organization. As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Ferrel of Managed Solution. Sean […]

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You’re only as good as your people. Serve them, know them and let things come full circle — no matter who they are in the organization.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Ferrel of Managed Solution.

Sean founded Managed Solution in 2002 after receiving his degree from the University of San Diego. Sean recognized the need for consultative IT services for small-to-medium and enterprise clients. With little capital, Sean and his dedicated team grew the company organically to success. Within 3 years, the company was recognized as one of San Diego’s 40 fastest growing companies, awarded one of the 40 companies with owners under 40 years old and recognized as the 27th fastest growing IT company in Southern California.

Sean Ferrel had a vision of building a company culture of like-minded individuals, with the number one focus on the people, serving not only businesses but the people within those businesses. Having a team that supports one another, provides the highest level of support for their customers and wants to continuously learn and grow to help the business grow is the driving factor of why he started Managed Solution in 2002. As a natural-born servant leader, helping his clients and mentoring his team drives his energy. Having the mentality of “whatever it takes to get the job done” is the culture Sean built at Managed Solution to see both his team and his clients succeed. He wants his team to think of their role as more than a day to day job, and to really think of how each and every part of his team reflects on the business and impacts other company’s day to day operations.

Sean has a huge heart and enjoys helping people by sharing his innovative ideas and continuing to coach and build the best team that makes a difference by achieving the ultimate customer satisfaction. Sean’s drive to provide value was achieved when he built a company of exemplary service in the IT arena.

Today, Managed Solution is a nationally recognized full-service technology provider with a corporate culture that promotes an unmatched service to support thousands of customers.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I always had a million ideas in my mind about what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. After graduating from USD I had a hard time interviewing because I had a vision for the way I wanted to do things.

When I did finally land a job, my first 6 months working out of college, I met some technical guys in the industry and other people who at the time were looking for technical help. I originally wanted to be a lawyer or an athlete, but I ended up in IT project management. I was still living the “college life” with 4 roommates and that’s when I quit and started Managed Solution. I printed business cards in from my home and walked the streets every day trying to find out what people needed. I walked into buildings and asked how I could help them with their technology. At the time, most organizations had about one server and one computer. After a certain point, I was starting to get some business, and I thought “how do I do this and really make money and a difference”. The mission for me was simple — I wanted to do whatever it took to make my clients happy. I realized at that point I knew I could do whatever it took to run the business. My favorite part was meeting and understanding people, what they wanted and needed, and then bringing that back to our team and figuring out how to make it happen with the right technology tool belt.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

This isn’t really a mistake per se, but definitely something that taught me something about hiring. When I was young and first starting, I hired people at the time because I really liked them, and I thought they were good human beings. I hired my second employee thinking she would run our sales. I remember two weeks into it, she came into my office and said something like, ‘sales means you have to call people?’ I couldn’t help but laugh. Anyway, we started talking about her likes and dislikes and looked at shifting her role. The lesson here is you might have the right people but in the wrong seat (or vice versa). Hiring is all about finding the right people and putting them in the right seat so that they can be most successful and ultimately happy.

I also thought to have a fish tank in the office made you successful so early on, we had a giant fish tank and piranha. One day we came back to the office and found the piranha dead on the floor. He had jumped out of the tank. The lesson there is, fish tanks don’t make you successful.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Jennell Mott, our new COO, without a doubt has been what keeps me wanting to come to work. She has been instrumental in Managed Solution’s success. Jennell has been there 100% of the time and looking out for me and the business since we started — she was the second employee I hired. Being the sole proprietor of the business, it’s really nice to have someone like her. She’s my devil’s advocate, she’s not afraid to speak her mind. It’s like having a sister in a workplace.

Additionally, friend Chris from college was a great influence on me. I always looked up to him and vice versa. He always told me, “I know you’re going to do something great. You’re naturally an entrepreneur and someone who loves helping people.” He was encouraging and believed in me, even if I had a crazy vision or idea. Sometimes you have self-doubt and he was the guy who took that out of the equation for me.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Not only do we deliver a great customer experience, we truly create a user experience. For example, how does a user experience technology? It’s front and center for us. Every application now has a million different features so there’s what we call a consumption gap. Our job is to empower the end-user to leverage all the features of all their apps that they’re using.

By empowering our users through this experience, we then help them create different experiences within their organizations. It becomes a ripple effect — their cultural experience, their own customers’ experience, and so on. Empowering our users and building trust truly creates a great experience for all. We believe that their success is our success and that’s allowed us to create the best experience possible.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

It sometimes easy to forget as the subject matter expert in your craft, we forget how amazing it is to have that expertise. It’s a gift, and it’s something people look to receive from you. The disconnect comes in when the mentality isn’t right. For example, in our industry (IT), if the mentality is ‘we’re just fixing another piece of tech’ rather than having the mindset of ‘we’re enabling them to do more and to be happy and be successful.’ The latter gives employees a higher purpose than just solving a technical problem. Without shifting your mindset to having a real purpose, that’s when bad customer service comes in to play.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Of course, yes. Without a doubt, competition in our world of delivering services is really around people. If our competitors hire better humans who are smarter and can provide a better experience, that company can get ahead of us. We’re constantly searching and recruiting for the best people to join our team. We want those who see technology as a means to grow. We also want people who carry our core values (integrity, innovation, and teamwork).

Being in the business of technology, the other external pressure comes from the suppliers and keeping up with them — all the new features and functionalities and new technologies in the market that we can use to grow our business as well as our customers’ business. There are so many options now — it’s all about artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based technologies, business intelligence and more. How do we keep up? On top of keeping up with them internally, demand is higher because of everything businesses have the ability to take advantage of — but may not know-how.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We had a large manufacturing customer and the big ask was how do we merge together 100,000 employees within one year to operate efficiently and securely. It was truly about managing the identities of all 100,000 employees. Meaning, who works in what department and has access to which files and applications. We needed to figure out how to do this in a really small window of time and also save the customer money while doing so.

In the end, we put together the right people across many companies into active directory. The immediate reward was a big celebratory event with all the works. Their CIO made a speech about how well-Managed Solution orchestrated and executed this project. We had people across the globe working together. A big wow moment for us. People who never were connected are now connected.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It did. It taught us about a couple of things — a lot of businesses are merging and divesting. We became well known to bring companies together with M&A and it’s led us to many other opportunities.

It was also proof that the people we hire, even working with a company that had 1000 people in IT, we were still having a seat at the table and working side by side, but teaching them and showing them how to move their best effort forward which was incredible. People would ask, ‘don’t they have all the IT people to do what they need to do?’ They do, but we still provide that experience and extra expertise to get them where they really needed to be.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Servant leadership — you’re only as good as your people. Serve them, know them and let things come full circle — no matter who they are in the organization. We have an internal newsletter called the “Happy Our” where our employees can give shout-outs to anyone they’ve worked with who they think did a great job or showcased one of our core values. Every 6–8 weeks when we get together, I read them out loud to the entire company to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. Even the small wins deserve to be celebrated. It really is all about people. If they’re happy and doing a good job, so are you, and more importantly so are your customers.

2. Have the best culture experience — At Managed Solution, we have a ‘we got your back’ attitude. You can make mistakes, own them, learn from them, lean on others and get back to it. We’re really about creating a safe place to work and have a one-team mentality. We still have different departments, but no one is siloed, and that’s something we’ve been working a lot on in the past few years. We truly are one team now — from marketing and sales to service delivery, we’re all working together and helping each other.

3. Treat employees like family. We’re not a family business, but people should be treated like they are family. We’re here to nurture them, help them find purpose, and give them advice — not tell them what to do. We do this by consistently offering training internally and externally for our employees to partake in. We also moved from an annual review to ‘quarterly connects’ where everyone meets with their manager once a quarter to set goals and track progress. By meeting this frequently, it keeps people on the same page. We also do fun events together for team building like lunches, picnics, and other fun activities outside of work.

4. Operate with integrity. Integrity is one of our three core values. You need to find the people who at their core you can trust and who trust you and model that behavior throughout the business. This goes for both employees and clients and partners that we do business with. We’ve gotten much better about determining if a customer is a good fit not only them looking at us, but us looking at them, too. By making hard decisions and walking away from opportunities sometimes when it doesn’t feel right, we’re more successful in the long run

5. Constantly innovate. I believe that a founder’s job is to constantly be thinking and innovating — what is going to be best for its people, the people we serve and the products or services we deliver. As hard as it is to be the person who’s just throwing out shiny objects of things they think they want to do, it’s a good thing because the people who work need to feel like the person at the top is trying to move the needle which ultimately trickles down to them. You need to be willing to be open and willing to change gears and try new things. We encourage this in all employees and have a process for employees to submit new service ideas. Everyone has a voice for ideas and innovation.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

It’s all about trust and empowerment. If you can build trust, it opens so many more doors for everyone involved. When there’s no hidden agenda, there are no underlying sales motives, and it’s all about helping people, you’ll succeed and they’ll talk about you in a positive way. They’ll share your shared story. If you can leave the room feeling like your purpose was served as a human, you can gain that trust and empower your customers to do more. They’re going to talk about it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to eliminate the global footprint and plastics and how it’s affecting our oceans and marine life. That would be my passion to go figure out how to do that. Starting from the human level and recyclables — no water bottles, straws, massive clean up efforts. I want to help people think more intelligently about what they’re doing to the earth. What are we doing already that’s amazing and how do we inspire people with what we’ve done, both good and bad? Start at the end with what we’ve created and work backward to find a solution.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @ManagedSolution


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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