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See an inch, take a mile

Young entrepreneur builds an IT empire

After years of grinding tickets for password resets and printer malfunctions, Chris Sirianni launched his entrepreneurial journey in 2016. Except it wasn’t his own. “There were three equal owners there,” he says, and after a few years “it became apparent I was the only one who wanted to grow something. I had a vision for it.” He hoped things would work themselves out, but his drive continued to grow. “They were really targeting that ‘lifestyle’ kind of company as opposed to,” he pauses, “an empire.” 

Sirianni parted with his first venture in late 2019 and started small. “I was on my own at first,” he says. “That being said, the first person came on three days later.” By the end of 2020 he’d hired two more people and has brought on two to three more each year since. “We’re already up about thirty percent over last year right now,” he says, “so we’re getting ready to post three more positions . . . we’re almost at capacity here,” he gestures to the leased office space in Penfield. Now, IT Insights’ client list stretches down the East Coast to Florida and as far west as Texas and Oklahoma. But most business is still close to home. “We largely service Buffalo to Syracuse,” he says, “but the thing with this industry now is technology can be done from anywhere.”

In founding IT Insights, Sirianni wanted to move away from a model that he felt was exploiting customers. Over the years he noticed the industry shifting into a buffet style of pricing. “So you pay a flat fee and they take care of everything . . . a huge flat fee,” he adds. “And to me, that just felt very scammy.” Sirianni explains that different companies need different services. Take cybersecurity, for example: “depending on your business, it could literally be nothing. And if they’re paying an exorbitant fee, they’re going to be really pissed about that. Or you’re going to be absolutely inundated, and you’re losing on that contract every month.” Instead, IT Insights works with businesses to figure out their needs and then bills them just for those services. “So, it’s really just keeping things transparent and honest, which has always been my thing. My clients understand what they’re paying for, what they’re getting.” 

As a kid, Sirianni was an introvert, drawn to the isolated nature of working in IT. “Not having to deal with people, just go manage servers, and that’s it,” he says. “And then, very quickly, that all kind of changed.” Although still not quite a center-of-attention partygoer, Sirianni has developed an appreciation of people and enjoys socializing. “What started as not wanting to deal with and be around people, has turned into one of my favorite parts of the job.” He brings this perspective into interviews, looking for personality and people skills in new hires. “Ability to learn, personality, and energy,” he lists. “Because if they can talk to people and learn, I can teach them the tech. That part’s easy. But it’s difficult to teach someone how to interact with people.”

Sirianni’s acquired love for the social side of IT has helped him develop a strong network of mentors and partners. Despite his cautionary tale of three-way co-ownership, he’s designed his role at IT Insights as majority—not sole— owner. “I do value the input of others,” he says, “so I have mentors on the board of directors, and for me it’s good to have a small team of people who can sit and talk through things.” He sees the right company structure as critical to its success and harmony. “Even if it’s my vision driving and guiding it, there are certainly little things I’m not thinking of. But there has to be an understanding that it’s largely going to be the leader’s vision.”

Sirianni sees this group of mentors as a critical component of starting a business—at least for him. “If I’m being honest, I’m kind of just learning it all as I go . . . and the fastest way to learn something new is to talk to someone who knows more than you.” Sirianni never spent much time sitting down to conduct his own research, opting instead to have conversations and gather data from people who have forged their own paths before him. “There are also things that I’ve learned through failure. I mean,” he’s quick to correct, “through opportunity.” 

Part of Sirianni misses the days of taking tickets and working with end users. “It’s not the most glamorous, but it’s got to get done. You can usually get a couple laughs in with the clients, and they certainly appreciate the help,” he says. Becoming an owner brought a new era of client relations—instead of the email passwords and printers, he’s talking with other business owners about their needs and strategies. “One of my favorite parts of this job has always been the higher level conversations with the clients,” he says. “Really helping them understand and develop the governance of IT, the strategy.” But even that’s starting to change. “I only directly interact with four or five customers now,” he laments. “I’ve got the team taking care of the rest of them. But that is one of the pieces I’m going to miss the most.” 

Instead, he’s working with his mentors and partners to follow what he calls his master plan. “My vision is: by the time I’m done here, I want to really take it national. So, I’m spending a lot of time the last couple years building how that looks,” he says. “How we’re going to grow.” Part of that growth is organic, as in naturally acquiring more clients and expanding services offered as a company. The other part is mergers and acquisitions. “So I’ll never be isolated in my own little bubble,” he says. “But my bubble is going to move with other people to somewhere else.”

Sirianni believes the core of entrepreneurial spirit is the ability to see opportunity. “And not limiting yourself to what those opportunities necessarily look like,” he says. “You’ve almost got to be the type of person that sees an inch and takes a mile. Not in a bad way though, as that phrase is generally used,” he stresses. “But if you’re able to tie an opportunity over here with an opportunity over there, now you have three opportunities.” 

“So people and opportunities,” he ponders. “And if you get enough of that woven together, you now have a business.”

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