The Thoughtful Entrepreneur: Cloud Transformation with Western Computer’s Ryan Pollyniak

March 13, 2024

Josh Elledge (00:05):

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Ryan Pollyniak (02:20):

Thanks Josh for having me.

Josh Elledge (02:22):

Well, Ryan, share with us who Western Computer is and what you do.

Ryan Pollyniak (02:27):

Absolutely. So Western Computer is a Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM implementation partner. What that means is we take all the great tools that Microsoft creates for businesses and implement them for companies within the context of those individual business needs. Microsoft doesn't go to that level where they work with individual companies to understand their needs and implement train go live. That's what Western Computer does. We work with companies to bring those solutions into their businesses.

Josh Elledge (02:57):

Yeah, well, here's the million dollar question. What is the difference between having a platform like Microsoft Dynamics 365 and using it at the typical way that sometimes a lot of organizations will use a platform like that versus if you really will just say, trick it out and really customize it and have it match your operational requirements? What's the difference there?

Ryan Pollyniak (03:26):

Yeah, great question. So Microsoft Dynamics, of course, has got a robust feature set, but every business is different. So the granular differences with what one company might need versus what another might need, that's going to be handled by your implementation partner. So when you go into a project, it really needs to start with understanding those business requirements for your particular company. And then you used a key buzzword there, customization. Customization has long been kind of taboo in the ERP and the business systems space. Microsoft does offer tools to now get the specific functionality that you need without having to write code, without needing developers. They have no code platforms and AI is really taken off there as well. Oh yeah. Quite a few different ways to get specific business requirements solved, even if you don't necessarily meet the mold, the out of the box mold that Microsoft delivers.

Josh Elledge (04:20):

Yeah, just for a second, just to make sure that this is relevant for everybody. There may be some folks that, like me, I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about or working with personally, cloud, ERP or Microsoft. Again, the platform itself, dynamics 365. Could you just for a moment, talk to an eighth grade class of aspiring students and maybe just kind of give them a simple explanation of this world, what this is and kind of where it fits in within organizations?

Ryan Pollyniak (04:55):

Yeah, absolutely. I could do that because I have three little girls and they ask me all the time so I can explain it. We help businesses buy their inventory, sell their inventory plan for the future and count their money. It's accounting, it's inventory management, it's running a more efficient business and gaining insights because putting data into a system that's only half the equation management decision makers, ownership needs access to that information in a digestible format where data could be presented and decisions could be made very quickly. So I think that helping businesses do what they already do more efficiently is essentially what implementing an ERP system is all about.

Josh Elledge (05:42):

Yeah, and you had mentioned a couple of things that are really evolving. I think again, a while back, everything was just like, listen, you got to go to the cloud. Everything is cloud-based. Can you maybe just again, share a bit of a, and we will talk about AI here, I would imagine, but just quick history lesson over the past five years of the major trends and where we are today and what are the most important headlines that ERP users should be paying attention to?

Ryan Pollyniak (06:11):

Absolutely. And so the number one item that pops up with the cloud and that's changed over the last five years, seven years is aversion to putting data in the cloud. So previously ownership of organizations was a little bit cautious and tentative putting their data up in the cloud because who has my data? I need to protect it. Data is everything for organizations. So whether that be making sure that you don't lose access to it or making sure that you're not ransomware, cyber attack, I mean, this is what CEOs and business owners think about every day. So where that used to be a point of contention with the cloud, now ownership and management has come around to the reality, which is that migrating a business system like your ERP to the cloud and letting a company like Microsoft handle cybersecurity is a far better way to protect data than having a server in your back office. And so that change has happened where executives now want to go to the cloud in order to protect their data because no matter how good your IT company is or your internal IT department with firewalls and cybersecurity, they're not Microsoft and they're not going to be able to take it to that level where Microsoft guarantees even uptime reliability, 99.9%. So I think that's the major shift from being afraid of putting things into the cloud now to being afraid of having things on premise on a server that's changed significantly.

Josh Elledge (07:42):

Yeah, and tell me about what you see around AI that really either excites you, intrigues you or otherwise has gotten your attention.

Ryan Pollyniak (07:55):

Yeah, absolutely. If I had to say it in one word, it would be the unknown with ai because it's so exciting. It's such a buzzword, and you ask most people, what are you going to do with it? I don't know, but I need it now. And so Microsoft has done a great job of concrete use cases with AI predicting cashflow, streamlining supply chain gathering insights from your data in terms of reporting. And so when I say the unknown, while companies like Microsoft have done a great job of starting with this, and Microsoft has invested in open AI and they've got copilot for dynamics and copilot for Office 365 with concrete use cases, we're just starting to unfold this. So the future is wide open with AI because we're still bleeding edge, we're still uncovering what's possible and building out the technology. So it's so exciting to see what's already been done, but I think what's most exciting is what's to come. So positioning yourself with a company who's well suited to help take advantage of that is super important from a strategic standpoint.

Josh Elledge (09:02):

It really, really is. When you're working with an organization, what does that typically look like? What does engagement look like? What are the, I guess, describe kind your core services. A lot of folks that find this podcast maybe are doing research on the topic or research on you. So here we go. If they're evaluating you or they've looked at Western Computer, help me understand what it looks like when you work with a client.

Ryan Pollyniak (09:31):

Absolutely. So the first thing we want to do is get to know what the client needs and understand, can we help? It's not always the case that we can, right? Everybody has different needs. Everybody has different reasons that they've reached out. So understanding where a company is not just from a requirement standpoint in terms of I need the software to do X, Y, and Z, but where is that company from a strategic standpoint, what's your growth strategy look like? Is it organic? Is it going to be via acquisition or are you planning to be acquired? Have you been recently acquired by a PE firm? Is that pending? Right? All of these things go into a strategy when it comes to a business solution business system, rather than just what does the software do? Does it meet what I need? So getting to know a prospective customer and the good partners out there, Western computers, no exception.

We'll absolutely tell a company what you need is not in our real house. It's not what we do best. We like to stay in our lane and do what's great. We recommend you go X, Y, or Z path. And then others we're going to say, you know what? This is exactly something that we can excel at and that we can help you with and that we're comfortable providing real value for you. So understanding the needs on a granular level, but also on a strategic level and making sure, first of all, that we can meet those needs, and then positioning the right Microsoft pieces, proposing that, and then seeing that from the execution standpoint is in general what our engagements look like.

Josh Elledge (10:57):

Yeah, Western Computer has been around for get this nearly 38 years, and in fact, your founder and CEO has been the same at the helm. That is some longevity, Tom Baros. But tell me a bit about, again, Western computer in the industry. So what differentiates you maybe from other solutions providers? What's led to your longevity and your success? And then to add more into this question, what's the future look like? So basically tell us the whole life of Western computer.

Ryan Pollyniak (11:40):

Yeah, no problem. And Tom did start the company in 19 87, 2 employees out in Southern California, hence the name Western Computer. Since then, we've grown exponentially and we're a national company, Canadian entity, customers and employees all over the country. So I'd say the number one thing that helped us become who we are is that we very early on adopted a remote workplace. And so for 15 years, Western computers, employees have been remote. And the critical part of that in our business is recruitment. We want to bring in, there's a finite set of Microsoft Dynamics consultants out there, and we want to bring in the top talent. Well, we want to let you live in New Hampshire or Idaho or Georgia or wherever you live and not say, well, if you want to work for Western computer, you need to come to Oxnard, California. As beautiful as Oxnard is, we want to bring those people in, let them stay at home, let them have some geographic coverage and proximity to some of our customers.

So going forward, Western Computer was actually acquired this year, and it's not always evident with everybody because really it's a company called Evergreen Services Group, phenomenal company. They bought Western Computer. They have a buy and hold approach to acquisitions, similar to like a Berkshire Hathaway where Warren Buffett and his team will buy a company and grow it. And so Evergreen Services Group has infused capital and removed blockers, but they've let Western Computer be Western computer. They looked at us as a leader in the dynamics industry and kind of the rock upon which to build an even bigger, better Dynamics partner. So going forward, we've got that backing. We've got a phenomenal relationship with Microsoft who brings us companies who are looking for Dynamics, who brings us companies who have had some kind of issue with the product that they need another set of eyes on.

Maybe they didn't get the service they needed somewhere else. So our relationship with Microsoft, our backing from Evergreen Services Group and our talent, I mean, look, that's where it's at guys. Western Computer's a great name, but it's all about the people that deliver the services. It's about the consulting team and who specifically is going to be doing the work for you. Western only has senior resources. We don't hire junior consultants straight out of college and train them up. And the only reason for that is we want to make sure that we're putting experienced people on our projects who can help customers understand best practices and strategy and leverage lessons that they've learned over the years. So our people, our relationship with Microsoft and our backing from Evergreen Services Group, these are the most important things.

Josh Elledge (14:12):

Yeah, your website,, and then Ryan, your role and your customer facing, but maybe could talk about where you fit in or how you work with clients.

Ryan Pollyniak (14:25):

Absolutely. So yeah, and Western, we still have that name. Even though we're national, because we have built that name up to have such a good reputation in the industry, we haven't wanted to rebrand because we don't sell computers anymore like we did in the eighties and the early nineties. And we're not just Western anymore. But nonetheless, the names days. So my role is working with companies who are looking to make a transformation, a business systems transformation specifically to the cloud. And so commonly those companies will evaluate multiple offerings. There could be SAP, Oracle, you take your pick of some of the other vendors out there, and then Microsoft Dynamics is one of them. So it's a very complex thing to navigate. You need guidance, you need a Sherpa, so to speak, which is probably the best way to describe myself in terms of helping the client navigate through what are the proper Microsoft applications, what's the proper strategy?

What have you seen other customers do? So I've been working with Microsoft Dynamics for about 15 years now. Been with Western Computer for nine years in May, it'll be. And so listening and helping a customer to navigate the process, first of all, which dynamic CRP application is best, which modules might be best? How can we phase this in and get your core business needs met first and have some of the nice to have stuff done later? Because there's a tendency to kind of try to pile everything into one project where we want to take our time and help a customer be successful and kind of walk, crawl, run. So my role is being at the center of the wheel there. When I talk to a prospective Microsoft Dynamics client, I stay involved throughout the entire cycle of that evaluation. I'll pull in consultants, I'll pull in solution architects, we'll deliver demos.

We'll go through an exhaustive, detailed process to create estimates for what the project's going to take and make sure that it's scoped properly and that it's going to meet the strategic initiatives of that client. And then I maintained that oversight and advocacy throughout the project, throughout the implementation project. So they've got one person kind of there throughout the process to say, well, here's what we talked about. Here's what we're delivering. Of course, we're going to bring in a project team, project manager, functional consultants, developers, technical architects. I won't be leading that from a granular standpoint, but I will be there to make sure that we deliver on what we talked about during the evaluation process. And that's our mantra. It's happy referenceable customers for life.

Josh Elledge (16:57):

Ryan Pak, again, you are cloud transformation. Executive Western is a website. When somebody goes there, what would you recommend they click on? What do they do?

Ryan Pollyniak (17:08):

Well, that's a great question. I love our customer success stories, right? Because these are companies who we've helped, who have documented where they were, what they needed done, how we helped them, and they've spent a lot of money with us and been happy to sing our praises after the fact, right? So customer success stories, we have a phenomenal set of online resources, recorded webinars, accounting, finance, inventory management, e-commerce, take your pick. And then there's also a way to sign up so that you are notified of webinars going forward. We have consultants weekly, how-tos, trainings, strategy, what's Microsoft doing with the product, et cetera. So getting involved in watching those webinars, reading our customer success stories, and then engage with the chat. If you have a question. There are live people on the other end of it. So we have chat on our website. You go to the website, a little thing pops up. It says, Hey, how can I help you? Admittedly, that is a bot, but as soon as you reply, it's going to one of your live Microsoft Dynamics experts. It could be me, could be somebody else. So browse the website, engage with the chat, check out the webinars, sign up for the webinars, read the customer success stories. Tremendous amount of very valuable information on our website.

Josh Elledge (18:19):

Yeah, western Again, Ryan, you're the Cloud Transformation executive there. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ryan Pollyniak (18:26):

Yes, sir, Josh, thanks for having me.

Josh Elledge (18:33):

Thanks for listening to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my If you're a listener, I'd love to shout out your business to our whole audience for free. You can do that by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or join our listener Facebook group. Just search for the Thoughtful Entrepreneur in Facebook. I'd love, even if you just stopped by to say hi, I'd love to meet you. We believe that every person has a message that can positively impact the world. We love our community who listens and shares our program every day. Together we are empowering one another as thoughtful entrepreneurs. Hit subscribe so that tomorrow morning, that's right, seven days a week, you are going to be inspired and motivated to succeed. I promise to bring positivity and inspiration to you for around 15 minutes each day. Thanks for listening, and thank you for being a part of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Movement.

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