From Family Team to IT Powerhouse

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Justin White started working in information technology part time when he was in college.

Today, he and his mother, Michelle White, operate Advanced Technology Partners, an IT firm that continues to grow.

The Whites founded ATP in 2018 with Brian and Alex Benyo, with a mission of catering to the needs of local businesses.

“I brought him in to do inventory and clean up the room and whatever,” Michelle says, laughing. She recalls the impetus for hiring her son. “It blossomed into him becoming a programmer for The Brilex Group.”

At the time, Michelle was managing the IT department at Brilex Industries, custom-programming to integrate all of its systems and putting its accounting, estimating and engineering software into effect.

After graduating from college and becoming full-time at Brilex, Justin began to consider starting his own IT firm. He discussed the idea with the Benyos and his mother. Together they launched Advanced Technology Partners.

“We decided there was a need in the area,” Michelle says.

Justin White and Michelle White.

ATP provides managed IT services and sells and configures hardware and software. “The goal was to take on the needs of the Brilex Group. But then we also wanted to help the rest of these companies,” Justin says.

The firm began with four employees, three of whom were from the original group that worked at Brilex, with Justin focused on building ATP’s client base. “Going out and trying to sell yourself on something you don’t have any customers for is tough,” he says.

In spring 2019, ATP was approached to buy the assets of another IT firm, Directed Technologies in Poland, which had been owned and operated by Fred and Rose Seitz for 30 years. The acquisition added another employee to ATP and significantly expanded its client list. “We went from maybe 10 clients to 100 clients,” Justin says.

“It still gives me goosebumps when I think about that acquisition,” Michelle recalls. “Rose and I were friends and colleagues. It was kind of meant to be, and we could give them that peace of mind that their clients were going to be taken care of.”

Today, ATP boasts a team of nine professionals and continues to grow, serving a diverse range of industries including manufacturing, health care, professional services, construction and nonprofit organizations.

The Whites say ATP is not just about providing IT solutions; it’s about forging lasting partnerships and being a part of their clients’ journeys toward success.

“We don’t just want to be the person somebody calls when they have a broken computer,” Justin says. “We want to be the department that sits down and has meetings with people and talks about how you can use the technology to advance your business.”

Enertech Electrical, based in Lowellville, has been doing just that since hiring ATP over five years ago, says Dominic Donofrio, business development manager.

Enertech is an electrical contractor that builds and services commercial buildings, such as schools and wastewater treatment plants, in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“The big difference for us when we switched from our previous provider was that the customer service was 1,000 times better. They jumped when we needed them to jump,” Donofrio says.

ATP manages all of Enertech’s Microsoft products, servers, computers and security. And it services all of its field technology. Donofrio says he always consults ATP before buying any new piece of hardware or software to ensure it will work with its infrastructure.

“They became so intimate with our business that it made them servicing us that much easier. It doesn’t matter who I get on the phone, they know who Enertech is. They know how we’re set up and they’re able to jump right in and help us as soon as we pick up the phone,” Donofrio says.

The Whites say cybersecurity is the biggest concern in the IT industry and what they spend the most time on. “Generally speaking, I don’t think anybody is putting enough emphasis on cybersecurity,” Justin says.

“There are still people who don’t think they need a lock on the door and that they’re immune,” Michelle adds.

As artificial intelligence starts to permeate all facets of IT, one new tool businesses are starting to leverage is Microsoft Co-pilot, an open AI engine that runs in Microsoft. “This tool is really cool because it learns from your data internally. It doesn’t send that data outside,” Justin says.

AI is also being used to help companies better guard themselves against cyberattacks. But bad actors are employing it to understand the systems that defend against such threats and to develop more sophisticated attack mechanisms.

The heightened focus on cybersecurity has led many businesses to consult with ATP to ensure compliance with their insurance carriers and regulatory organizations. “People are concerned about their supply chain, so they enforce compliance requirements down the line. That’s a big thing we’re seeing,” Justin says.

Currently, the Whites are looking for a new employee to help them offer CMMC certification to area manufacturers. Michelle has experience with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification through her work with Brilex.

“The manufacturing companies who want to do work for the Department of Defense will need that certification, and there aren’t too many companies that offer that service,” she says.

The Whites say they plan to grow the business beyond the Mahoning Valley.

“Some of our growth plans could involve regional growth,” Justin says. “We do a lot of support remotely, so having one person out there to support 25 clients isn’t unrealistic.”

As for navigating the challenges of a family business, the Whites say there are two keys: The first is to keep your home and work life separate.

“At the dinner table I’m son, and at the conference table I’m business partner,” Justin says. “Trying to get that down is the challenge, but after 11 years we’re pretty much there.  We both have the love of the business. That helps keep us on track because in the end, we’re looking for the same goal.”

Family Business is Sponsored by HD Davis CPAs and White Glove Payroll.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.