ITA Spotlight: Stratosphere Networks
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Steve Melchiorre, CEO, Stratosphere Networks, @StratosphereNet
Stratosphere Networks is a multifaceted Chicago-based IT managed service provider focused on delivering best-in-class technology solutions to businesses across all industries. The Stratosphere team strives every day to empower clients through exceptional service and to be the technology partner that everyone wants to work with.
1. In 25 words or less, what is Stratosphere Networks all about?
We provide exceptional customer service in these categories: Cybersecurity, empowered internal IT (support for in-house IT), trusted advisor services, cloud consulting, and managed IT services.
2. What problem do you solve and how do you solve it better than the competition?
We aim to minimize the occurrence of IT problems or stop them from ever occurring in the first place by providing best-in-class services and solutions related to cybersecurity, IT engineering, automation, unified communications, and more.
When the companies we serve do experience issues, our team works to resolve them as quickly and thoroughly as possible in line with our mission statement, which is to empower our clients through exceptional service.
Additionally, we’re committed to maintaining a team of highly skilled expert techs. We’re focused on finding and training people who fit in well with our team and uphold our vision of being the technology partner that everyone wants to work with.
3. How did you get started?
Stratosphere Networks got its start back in 2002, when I was working alongside Kevin Rubin, our current president and CIO, in sales in the telecom and IT industry. We were frustrated by the lack of quality customer service and the disinterest in investing in long-term relationships with clients that we saw in the industry. Short-term transactional relationships were the norm.
So, we decided to challenge the status quo and build a business that put customer service first.
4. How has your company culture evolved as Stratosphere Networks has grown?
At first, we concentrated more on entertainment-related perks, like rooftop happy hours and a game room. Over the years, we’ve matured as a company and shifted our focus to creating and maintaining an engaging workplace culture that emphasizes teamwork.
A few years ago, we revamped our mission (“To empower our clients through exceptional service”) and vision (“To be the technology partner that everyone wants to work with”). We also re-developed our core values, which are now “Be hungry (self-motivated and diligent), humble, smart (as in emotional intelligence) and accountable.”
This has laid a strong foundation for ongoing cultural improvements. We even have a competition each quarter in which we divide our staff into four groups and each group nominates a colleague who embodies one of the company’s core values. The winners get $500 each, and the overall champion of the quarter receives a plaque and a luncheon in their honor.
Additionally, we encourage professional development with payment for training and certification programs, invest in continuing education for our leadership team, and have encouraged personal growth by signing our team up for ProHabits.
Our efforts to build an empowering company culture have earned us a spot on Crain’s Best Places to Work in Chicago list every year since 2015. We’re committed to constantly striving for improvement, and hopefully our hard work and dedication continues to pay off.
5. What are your primary goals for Stratosphere Networks?
One is to continue to win recognition as one of Crain’s Best Places to Work in Chicago. That award means as much as our clients as it does to us, since many of the businesses we serve rely on our staff to act as their own IT support team.
Another goal that we have is to continue to build our cybersecurity services. IT security and data breach prevention have become paramount for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. We’re working to meet our clients’ growing security needs with a comprehensive portfolio of solutions, including everything from security assessments to network and endpoint managed detection and response to a fully managed security service provider offering.
Additionally, we’ve recently launched and aim to continue developing a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution, which helps internal IT teams become more productive with access to advanced tools and features like the automation of mundane and time-consuming tasks (such as updating and patching multiple devices).
Finally, we’d like to maintain our status as a trusted advisor to businesses seeking IT solutions and support. During the last few years, the portion of our net new business that comes from referrals or clients finding us online – as opposed to cold calls – has grown to nearly 90 percent. One of our goals is to continue providing exceptional advisory services so that our credibility and reputation continue to bring in new business.
6. Where do you see Stratosphere Networks in two years? Five? Ten?
Our aim is to continue growing at a moderate pace. As far as products and services are concerned, it’s very challenging to say specifically what direction we’ll end up taking, as the IT industry constantly changes as new technologies get introduced. Currently, however, cybersecurity is one of our top priorities in terms of research, development and expansion.
7. What’s the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?
As data breaches continue to occur at a high rate, our primary focus is reducing our clients’ cybersecurity risk level and helping them achieve compliance with regulations such as HIPAA.
8. In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?
The main advantage of being based in Chicago is that there’s so much opportunity. We have a broad client base that includes companies that have operated in Chicagoland for a long time, as well as newer start-ups.
On the other hand, the area’s thriving business scene also means there’s plenty of competition. That would be the primary drawback.
9. What motivates your employees to come to work every day?
I would say they show up because of the culture and collaborative energy from our team, as well as the opportunity for advancement and professional and personal growth within our workspace. We give our staff members the chance to develop and learn in areas they might not have explored previously – and, of course, we try to make sure everyone has fun along the way.
10. How does Stratosphere Networks interact with the Chicago community?
We’re committed to giving back to the Chicago community and contributing to the greater good. It’s important for us to remember there’s more to life than just work and material things, so we give our team the opportunity to help others through our community service program. Our staff members get up to two additional days of paid time off for participating in sponsored volunteer activities.
Through our service program, we’ve helped with Meals at Home deliveries and school supply drives and other efforts for the social services organization Lawrence Hall. Our team members have also helped provide low-income Evanston residents with healthy meals through The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University, and we’ve assisted with the construction a home for a family in need through Habitat for Humanity Chicago.
In addition to our volunteering initiatives, we make donations to organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and International Justice Mission. We also sponsor benefits and events hosted by charitable organizations, such as Lawrence Hall, Habitat for Humanity, and GRIN2B Foundation, among others.
Ultimately, enriching the community and showing compassion and kindness to those in need is very important to us.