Businesses may not be asleep at the wheel when it comes to Information Technology (IT), but ever-changing industry requirements and practices may be keeping them unaware of potential technology alignment pitfalls.

Samuel Soper, executive director of SMB Group, an Eau Claire business-information technology consulting company, is a career systems process engineer whose vision for helping community business is transforming the way health care and financial services companies leverage and align their IT.

In addition to helping them respond to and fix IT-related issues, Soper helps Eau Claire area businesses identify the underlying fault lines within their company and empower them to take action while reducing cost and increasing return.

It was the late 1990s when one of Soper’s first clients understood that their IT pain points were only symptoms bubbling up from a much deeper problem. His client had a fault line.

“I feel like we’re finally sweeping away the sand and uncovering a pyramid of potential issues,” lamented the company’s general manager.

That lesson was formative for Soper. Following his work with that client, he knew that his consulting practice had to evolve, and fast. “Consulting Evolved TM” is now SMB’s motto and a driving force behind how they approach and work with area businesses.

“Businesses in the Chippewa Valley today are taking planning very seriously. In many cases, it’s the difference between surviving and thriving. It’s our role to help them build, remodel, or evolve their business-IT environment into one that is affordable and manageable for years to come,” Soper says.

“It’s not always a glamorous job to be the bearer of potential costs, but we typically uncover cost savings that exist within current budgets and re-aligned them toward other technologies. It is truly rewarding to lower future operating expenses, while increasing capabilities and efficiencies, particularly in the areas of IT services and support.“

SMB Group’s customers find that quickly correcting IT-related issues is SMB Group’s forte.

“Speed is key. Our organization is built to serve critical industries throughout rural America, industries that are typically small and medium businesses that end up dealing with big business-related issues and costs.”

Businesses today operate in an economy where thousands of community banks, tens of thousands of area healthcare providers, and millions of Main Street businesses must contend with many of the same day-to-day challenges that big businesses face with far fewer resources.

“The government expects no less of them because they have fewer people and smaller budgets. Even though they are local, and arguably less risky, they are held accountable to the same regulatory requirements the big guys are.”

SMB Group strives to help their fellow Midwesterners have a better quality of life by spending less time worrying about business IT and more time to invest in family, hobbies, and fun. The company tagline is “Where Technology and Quality of Life Go Hand-in-Hand.”

“We listen to what our customers need and what they want. Needs and wants are two different things that are many times both accommodated through design. What small to medium businesses need is cost efficiency and what they want is quality of life.”

Soper emphasizes the inefficiency present in most consulting firms, pressing the case for SMB Group’s Consulting Evolved TM approach to a business-IT alignment.

Soper said, “Many IT consulting organizations can custom build anything a client needs to fix their problems, but building is costly. We’ve invested a ton of time and years of experience into researching the best COTS solutions that fit our critical industries.“

COTS is an acronym for “Commercial Off the Shelf." A COTS approach comes from Soper’s previous years in the military and working for the Department of Defense (DoD) where the job demanded efficient and manageable solutions that could be rapidly deployed. SMB Group’s approach to business-IT alignment enables them to meet the long-term IT needs of businesses that have less money to spend.

“Business is similar today to what it was yesterday, but conducting business today is nothing like yesterday. The pace of change today is more rapid than we ever imagined. By implementing Information Systems longevity plans, we help small and medium businesses become and remain globally competitive.“

It’s SMB Group’s short-term and long-term savings savvy that lets them fulfill their mission of moving small and medium sized businesses from surviving to thriving.

“Everything we do in SMB Group is aimed at lessening waste, creating more efficient processes, and reducing errors. We simply take the time and provide the expertise to align this philosophy with each organization’s people and processes.“

Specifically, SMB Group offers diverse services such as emerging, strategic, and tactical technology planning. It’s their mission to reduce each customer’s overall risk of conducting business and enhance the time they spend generating revenue.

SMB Group’s primary foci are office and business application selection, IT infrastructure design and management, telecommunications and networking, collaboration environments, onsite and offsite data storage, and voice and data communications. They provide foundations for business security through threat management, detection, prevention, and incident management. They also offer data center hosted services, co-location, 24/7 helpdesk support and business continuity planning and implementation.

In short, SMB Group helps their clients afford conducting business in 2013 and beyond.

If you’re conducting business as business was conducted yesterday, you might not be cognizant of inefficiencies to which you’ve acclimated to over time. One of Soper’s favorite business analogies involves a chair and a stool.

“If one leg of a four-legged chair is shorter than the others, it will wobble and you’ll know something is wrong. This doesn’t happen with a three-legged stool. If one leg of your three-legged stool is slightly off it won’t wobble, but you will never be sitting level. You may not even realize it! Compensating by sitting differently may make you think you’re level, but you’re not, and pretty soon your back will hurt, and after a bit longer your shoulders and neck will hurt, too.”

Soper says the three legs of a business stool are people, processes, and technology. They have to be in alignment in order for a business to remain healthy. SMB Group examines the foundation of a business to ensure those three legs are balanced.

“We help businesses succeed. We look ahead to potential business-IT roadblocks and redesign IT environments so our customers don’t hit that roadblock. If that roadblock can’t be avoided, we adjust accordingly to brace for the impact and keep our clients in the marketplace doing business.“

It’s reassuring to know that SMB Group has the backs of small and mid-sized businesses in northwestern Wisconsin, but the market for SMB Group’s services are not limited to the Chippewa Valley and adjacent areas.

As business continues to expand, SMB Group is staged to serve much of rural America nationwide. The needs are there; the vast majority of businesses have limited resources to find available, affordable, and manageable technologies in order to achieve the lowest possible cost of ownership and the highest return on their technology investments.

“I’ve been engineering and servicing critical information systems since 1982,” Soper says. “However, before founding SMB Group, I primarily fixed issues that had already occurred, some of which continued to reoccur. In 1990, my DoD position permitted me to address the fault lines instead of treating the symptoms and predictively, my annual operating expenses went down!

“In 2007, I founded SMB Group with the sole mission of providing the healthcare and financial services sectors in our area with expert technology consulting and risk management. In 2012, we evolved into a force of highly qualified business and technology professionals to address the essential and comprehensive needs of critical industries.”

It’s clear that regulatory and technology concerns will always be around, but with a company like SMB Group in your corner, you’ll be able to leave those concerns to the expert team at SMB and get home in time for family dinner.

SMB Group can be reached at (715) 838-4001 and is on the web at