Porter Makes Employee-To-Consultant Migration
November 11, 2013 Dan Burger
Career goals have always been in the back of Justin Porter’s mind. He’s an IBM midrange guy with broad IT knowledge, a business degree, and literally a field of dreams.
Some of you may recognize his name. Porter is an active member of the IBM i community, is the youngest member on the COMMON board of directors, and is one of the volunteers who helped organize and fuel the Young i Professionals organization. Recently he began his own consulting business called Integrity First Technology Services.
If you know Porter, you know the name of his company is more than just a marketing slogan.
“I’m looking for clients that realize they have a business problem and they think it can be solved with IT, but they don’t know how to do it,” Porter says. “I enjoy building a relationship with a client. I have seen companies that have bought IT products without understanding exactly how the product would help the business. I like being the guy who can help solve problems in ways that are good for the business.”
Growing up on a family farm in California’s Central Valley, Porter says his parents were responsible for engendering the “be your own boss” inclination. His entrepreneurial spirit took root when he was in college.
“It was sort of abysmal,” he says of that first experience. “I didn’t understand what I had gotten myself into and I didn’t make any money doing it. But it was also a huge success because it taught me a ton about what not to do. After more education and experience, I’m much better prepared now.”
Porter’s biggest client is Westside Produce, which happens to be the company he worked for during the past 10 years.
“I sat down with the owners of Westside Produce and we looked to the future. They knew from past discussions that I eventually wanted to be out on my own. We were just looking for when the time would be right for both of us. They were now comfortable working with me on a contract basis and me working remotely.”
Since starting up his consulting business, Porter has added six clients from the greater Fresno area. Each one is a small business in a small town. His services include business website design, redesign, and strategies to increase traffic; enhancing email and upgrading email servers; providing regulatory compliance assistance; and implementing encryption technology.
These are not IBM i shops. But over time Porter sees himself gaining business in the IBM i community. He also believes there are companies that are Windows and Linux shops with investments in software that doesn’t do what they want it to do. What Westside Produce was able to do with an IBM i proved to him that the i provided advantages that other food industry companies did not.
“I see an opportunity to show those companies the business value of i,” he says. “We did things at Westside that no one else in the industry was doing. And Westside was a relatively small company.”
The idea of managed services allowing companies to offload IT to a service provider, which is getting a lot of attention lately, worries Porter.
“While the upfront cost is cheaper, over time I think people are going to find some pieces of managed services that make sense,” Porter says. Dealing with a hardware upgrade, for instance, might make sense because it is more cost effective to have someone else do that work rather than in-house staff. But I think if you diminish or lose an IT staff, you lose the people who really understand how the business runs, how the people work, and how the business processes are affected by change. I think if it goes too far, it’s a dangerous step. However, where managed services can keep IT running smoother and increase productivity, they pay for themselves.”
The services Porter offers include: enterprise software design and development, documentation and training; network security design, including VPN access, network design and encryption; server installation and configuration, including Hyper-V environments and exchange server, IBM i on Power server management; desktop monitoring, support and training; and website design and search engine optimization implementation.
One of the lessons Porter carries with him is from his experience as IT director at Westside Produce, a small company that placed a high value on the ability of technology to increase productivity. The company saw that IT could strategically make a difference in business over the long run.
But the most important tenet that Porter keeps in mind is business advice given to him by his father, who grew and sold produce. He told Justin, “You have to be honest and you have to be up front. That’s how you do good business.”