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April 21, 2014

From Receptionist to Entrepreneur

Miranda Miranda Monahan, CEO of M-Power Tech
When a company has a lot of computer equipment it needs to switch out and data erased, it needs the power of M — Miranda Monahan, that is.

Miranda Monahan, 37, is the CEO of M-Power Tech, the company she founded in Bradenton, Florida, three years ago. And, to think, she started out her IT career as a receptionist.

In 2000, she was just in college, answering the phone for a small IT dot-com company that sold hardware such as desktops, laptops, printers, servers, accessories. The longer she worked there, the more she learned about the products and services the company was selling. “I enjoyed learning about the hardware and every day the director of sales would walk in and I’d ask her, ‘When are you going to hire me on your sales team?’” Monahan figured she could sell product, too — and make a lot more money doing that than just routing calls.
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The sales director made her a deal: If someone called the office looking to buy a product or service, Monahan would be allowed to take on that customer as her own, earning the commission if she closed the sale. Little did this director know she would interview to work for Monahan ten years down the road.

After some sales experience Monahan could update her resume. She applied for a sales job at Hewlett Packard, one of the largest technology companies in the world, and spent six years there in a number of different roles. She was then recruited by ASI System Integration out of New York City, the largest system integrator in the Northeast.

Monahan says her four years at ASI was a defining period of her career. “I was blessed with an amazing executive team who believed in me and constantly pushed me to excel, Because these accomplished executives believed in me, I began to believe in me.”

Company executives saw the trends of industry and saw how good Monahan was at selling services. They quickly promoted her to Director of Asset Disposition Services. She allowed herself to be mentored by her supervisor and the company’s president. “They both had been in IT so long and knew it so well that they gave me knowledge and insight into the technology industry that I would not otherwise have.”

Being able to understand technical products gives a salesperson an advantage over the competition, says Monahan. “Always know your product and services. Customers seek you out when they have a need and most of the time it’s an immediate need. Decision makers have limited time and don’t want to wait through 15 conference calls to discover that they need to talk to another expert. The quicker you can provide the answer the more likely you can close the sale.” Rather than make a customer wait for an answer from an expert, Monahan can answer the question directly — and land the sale before a competitor gets a foot in the door. Plus, just knowing how IT systems work gives her a confidence that the customer can’t help but respond to positively.

After ASI, Monahan built up the confidence to strike out on her own. Even with just six employees, Monahan’s company is a rising force. She quadrupled revenue in 2013 and seems to have hit upon a unique way of doing business that will continue to help it grow.

First, Monahan assesses the value of a company’s old computers. Those computers can be resold, and Monahan knows what the market will offer so she can match that price. In the process of buying and reselling the old equipment, M-PowerTech offers other valuable services to the customers including project management consulting, data recovery and computer recycling services. It’s here that her company is able to add value and turn a profit.

Through partnerships, M-PowerTech can uninstall the old equipment and install the new. They can work with anything from a mouse to a mainframe. M-PowerTech drives home the importance of data destruction due to data breaches that have become commonplace for Fortune 500 companies. “We will go onsite to destroy the data within the confines of the customer’s facility. This eliminates chain of custody issues and the customer can watch to ensure the data is erased.”

Even computer forensic experts can’t reconstruct the data once M-PowerTech erases it for the client, Monahan says. The process is especially helpful to healthcare and financial institutions, as they have strict laws regarding the security of patient data and financial information.

M-PowerTech also successfully dove into the data-recovery market last year and was honored by the 2013 Best of Bradenton Award in Data Recovery Services.

The deals she strikes with customers range from just $500 to over $1 million (the average project is about $10,000). Regardless of the size of the account, “all of our customers are treated the same with the highest standards. I’m very big on customer service, and each customer must be treated like our most important customer.” She must be doing something right. Not only has she never lost a customer due to poor performance, she says, but other companies are actively studying M-PowerTech’s success.

This year the Commonwealth Institute of South Florida named Monahan one of the Top 50 Women-Led Business Leaders in the state.

“So often you think, ‘This is as great as I can be.’ And then God takes you to the next level and you think, ‘OK, maybe I can do better.’ But I’ve learned God’s dreams for me are bigger and better than mine so I let Him lead the way.”

Monahan knew she could sell IT products and services. Once she proved that, she had to prove to herself that she could run her own company. She is doing that now, and she has some words of advice to other women who would like to try their hand in information technology.

“I would strongly encourage women to get their technical certifications and the background and pick as many brains as you can,” she says. “Women are great at sales in the IT industry, and if they have the knowledge behind it, there is no stopping them.”

Her work schedule fits around her home life — not the other way around. “I have never forfeited my family. It’s God first, family second, and then I work.” She admits, she has to train her customers to respect normal business hours and work within her travel schedule, which she restricts to one week a month. “And I make sure that travel never conflicts with birthdays and holidays. I also have an amazing husband who doesn’t mind managing three little girls while I’m gone. I’m very blessed for this as well and don’t know what I’d do without all his support of my career.”

Furthermore, she is emphatic that achieving lofty goals doesn’t have to come at the expense of one’s ethics or morals.

“There will come a time when a woman is asked to fudge that line and forfeit integrity. Never, ever forfeit your morals or integrity to take a step forward because it will undoubtedly take you 12 steps back at some point. So many times I have seen people do things to get the sale, and then lose it all in the end.”

Monahan credits her family, especially her Egyptian father and sister, for teaching her the value of hard work as she grew up. “Things that American kids did I was not allowed to do. It was definitely hard growing up. I thank my dad today for it but at the time it was hard for me to understand. I always saw everyone in my family work hard. Today, I see it as my family gave me an opportunity to learn to work hard and taught me that God blesses hard work.”

Says Monahan: “The greatest advice I can give to anyone in IT is first believe in yourself and than someone else will believe in you, too.”