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Atlas TC Proves that Good Communication Equals Good Business
Steve Bandarra and Patrick Correia

Atlas TC co-owner Steve Bandarra (left) and staff member Patrick Correia say efficiency and communication are two tenets of their company.

When Steve Bandarra and Nate DeLong decided to found Atlas TC, an IT consultancy firm based in Holyoke, they first pledged to do a few things differently than other, similar businesses they’d seen.

There are little signs of that objective scattered throughout the Atlas TC offices; a row of bamboo chutes in their office’s foyer suggests a certain environmental consciousness, bright yellow paint on the walls speaks to the staff’s creativity, and the receptionist is a friendly black lab-boxer mix named Lucy.

It’s a space that, deliberately, says ‘come in, we speak your language,’ and indeed, that’s a major aspect of the Atlas TC business model. Bandarra and DeLong call it “translation services,” noting that they specialize in changing ‘geek’ into English.

Sometimes, translation refers to a specific task, literally breaking down complicated terms for a client into more easily digestible pieces. But in addition, translation is an overriding part of Atlas TC’s culture, which begins with staff members doing their best to talk to clients in a clear, concise way, and to bag the industry jargon that often creates a rift between techies and the rest of the world.

“To a lot of people, the industry terms just sound like gibberish,” said Bandarra. “It’s up to us to help them understand. It’s not their job to make sense of the lingo — it’s ours.”

Another tenet on which Atlas TC (short for Atlas Technology Consulting) has been built is ‘no technology for technology’s sake.’ While Bandarra is a self-confessed ‘techno-junkie’ and DeLong has a long technology background that includes military training, they both agree that not every bell and whistle is applicable to every situation.

“We’ve seen people being sold way more than they needed,” said Bandarra. “It’s OK to be excited about technology; that’s why we do what we do. But that excitement needs to be tempered with an understanding of the specific needs a client has.”

These two major prongs of the original business plan have created a successful spot within the area’s burgeoning IT sector for Bandarra, DeLong, and their staff, which is expected to grow by at least 50% this year. They’ve carved a niche for themselves serving a wide range of clients in various industries, many of which are mid-sized firms that have reached a turning point in terms of growth and, in turn, their technological needs.

“Many of these are companies that have been around for a while, perhaps with a patched-together network that worked fine for a while,” Bandarra said. “They’ve reached a point where they’re ready for something that, essentially, works the way it’s supposed to. In other words, our clients did what they needed to do to get started, and now, they’re ready to grow up and, as the saying goes, ‘go to the next level.’”

Bandarra said it’s exciting to work with businesses at this juncture in their legacies, not only because he sees the ways his team can play an integral role in a company’s growth, but also because in many ways, Atlas TC is at the same transitional spot as its clientele, doing well and ready to turn a corner to head for new avenues.

Words Matter

When he spoke with BusinessWest, Bandarra was joined by Patrick Correia, who has been with the company nearly two years (DeLong was recuperating from minor surgery).

The firm and its staff work on two sides of the same IT coin — one half, led by Bandarra, focuses on business development, while the other, led by DeLong, puts most of its efforts into understanding and introducing new technologies. Correia, who works primarily in customer support on the so-called ‘techie side,’ said he was drawn to the company in large part due to the promises of communication and efficiency its founders made to themselves upon starting the company in 2004.

“I think using buzzwords can be a way of excluding or even controlling people,” he said, “and it’s important to put things on a level that a particular person can understand. That level is different for every client, but it’s what every person needs and deserves.”

Bandarra added that translating complicated and ever-changing technical terms for clients sounds like a small service at first, but it has become one of the bigger drivers for Atlas TC, particularly as it rolls out a host of new offerings this year.

“It reminds our clients that they are in control of their businesses and their destinies — we’re just here to help them,” he said.

Specifically, Atlas TC works with various companies to offer a menu of services that include ‘network therapy,’ designed to give slow computers a jump, and ‘hardware guide’ service, through which staff help clients choose the best systems for their business. The company also offers Web-development services, database creation and maintenance, security enhancements, and complete system builds. Two of its largest areas of concentration today are security and remote access, which often go hand-in-hand.

“People are still realizing they can access files and networks from anywhere,” said Bandarra. “Our job is to bring a mix of access and security to them, and to educate our clients about the realities of the threats out there. No one should be terrified of viruses and hackers — security is a must for everyone, but it’s not that scary if you use best practices, and again, it’s our job to bring those to the table.”

That philosophy also extends to another aspect of the IT consulting model. After Atlas TC staff have translated and educated, they’ll often draft an action plan for a client, which in turn sometimes helps a client secure work or products from other IT firms.

“When a project gets bigger, we’ll sometimes shift to operate in a different capacity,” Bandarra explained, noting, however, that other times, it leads to a much deeper relationship with a company. “We have the ability to work with an IT department or as an IT department, preparing budgets and plans for the next year. Financially, it makes sense for the client because they’re not paying a full-time employee, and at the same time, each of us here has our own individual strength.”

Host with the Most

However, that’s not to say Atlas TC isn’t adding to its own repertoire as well. In 2007, the company began gearing up for a new virtual-hosting service that uses a more-efficient approach to providing and managing space within individual servers.

“Most servers use a lot of power, but using virtual servers is a way to provide the same functionality while consuming less power, and lowering cooling costs,” said Bandarra.

Plus, like Atlas’s computer new computer recycling program, which will reduce electronic waste by appropriately disposing of some units and donating others to area non-profits and educational bodies, Bandarra said a major driver behind adding virtualization to its list of services are the ‘green’ components it creates. “This allows us to be more eco-friendly as well as more customer friendly.”

This technology also only recently became more accessible and affordable to small and medium-sized businesses, added Correia, making its introduction to Atlas TC’s client base that much more important.

“That’s the beauty of being a smaller business,” he said. “We have the agility to stay on top of emerging technology, and to roll things out to our clients when the time is right.”

That attention to timing refers back to Atlas TC’s golden rule of providing necessary technology that helps businesses run more smoothly.

“We maintain the perspective needed to bridge business needs with new technology,” he said. “More than anyone else today, IT professionals like us are in a position to help businesses identify new opportunities.”

I Won the Sandbox

In addition, there’s no shortage of businesses to help, either. Bandarra said Atlas TC does very little formal advertising, relying on its Web site (which has two versions, on written in English and the other in the universal language of IT — ‘geek’) and word of mouth, which is keeping referrals brisk and workloads big.

“So many people out there need our services,” he said. “There’s competition, but there are a lot of clients. The sandbox is huge, and it’s an exciting place to be.”

While Bandarra said he, DeLong, and his staff are looking forward to long careers in that same sandbox, they’re also keeping an eye on new opportunities and developments that will help them, and their clients, open new doors.

Their own front door, in the meantime, is under the watchful eye of a black dog in a bright yellow room.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at

[email protected]