Most businesses have to reach a certain size before they can set up their own IT department. Choose Networks works to change that.
“It’s like they outsource their entire IT to us,” Choose president Chris Hoose said.
Hoose, who started Choose Networks as a one-man operation in 2001, today heads up a company with 36 employees. Choose is a finalist for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Small Business Award in Tier 3 – companies with 21 to 100 employees – along with McCurdy Auction and Axiom Health Services.
Choose offers managed IT services for a monthly fee to small- and medium-sized businesses in about a 50-mile radius of Wichita. Clients range from businesses with three technology users up to 200.
Hoose said the idea is to operate much like an in-house IT person or department. “We have a support desk. (Clients) call in and get stuff resolved remotely, or we dispatch a technician that goes on site to fix problems. We also do central services, which is managing backup and security and anti-virus and ransomware protection. And our project team does server and work installation and wireless infrastructure.”
Each client has a Choose employee who’s responsible “for all the proactive stuff that needs to take place,” as well as a “virtual” chief information officer – actually a real person working remotely – to consult on any new technology needs.
The company sells technology, but only to clients.
Hoose started Choose after working for Via Christi Health and Nortel Networks, a large Canadian telecom company that tanked in the early 2000s.
“When I started I thought I’d be a one-man consulting company forever,” Hoose said. “All of a sudden I had more business than I could do. I don’t know if I ever thought it would get this big.”
Hoose “started off taking any job that would pay us,” but in 2012 began shifting to working only on a monthly retainer, branding that line of business “Sentinel Services.” Choose grew as computers “became the lifeblood of most small business,” Hoose said. “They couldn’t exist without them.”
His clients “look at IT as an investment, not an expense.” Those clients also appreciate that Choose’s service includes vendor management, Hoose said. “Whoever their service is with — Cox (Communications) or a copier vendor — we own all of the problems. We work with those vendors. We don’t get this finger-pointing thing going. We just own that vendor relationship.”
A little less than 20 percent of Choose’s business is generated by an audio-visual department launched in 2012 to connect video surveillance cameras to clients’ networks. That line of business was started because “if it’s going to touch our network, we better maintain it and know what it’s about,” Hoose said.
Choose Audio Visual also installs alarm systems, lighting and MVAC automation and AV set-ups for businesses and high-end residences.
Hoose said his company “really started growing in mid 2015” and has doubled in size since that time. “We still have our very first employee and three of our first four employees still work for us,” he said. “Our first two clients are still clients. Those are things we’re very proud of.”
Two years ago, the company bought a building with about 20,000 square feet of space at St. Francis and Third streets. Hoose is the majority owner, while COO Nicklas Herrera, technology director Matt Lee and Jamie Weidman, who started the AV department, have small shares.
Hoose believes the company can continue to grow while focusing just on the Wichita area, since there are so many small and medium-sized businesses supporting a relatively few number of larger ones.
The key, he said, is delivering “an exceptional user experience. It’s not about the technology we sell or the expertise we have. It’s the experience our end user has.”
Address: 401 N. St. Francis
Owner: Chris Hoose