Client Spotlight: Grand Victoria Foundation


Mary Kay Francel works in operations as Grand Victoria Foundation’s finance and administration director, and she has been with the organization for over 16 years. She loves numbers, problem solving and creating a positive environment where people want to work.

Coincidentally, one of the most prevalent problems she needed to solve was also instrumental in helping her staff enjoy working at the foundation. She needed to get their IT streamlined with a forward-thinking, proactive and process-driven managed services provider (MSP).

Grand Victoria has always utilized MSPs, but the overarching theme with these providers was their break/fix approach.

“No planning, no forethought and everything was reactive,” Francel said.

She explained that she had to approach their previous MSPs about next steps instead of the other way around. Furthermore, she was burdened with the responsibility to stay on top of Windows updates, warranties and up-and-coming technologies that could help their business run more efficiently – responsibilities that should have fallen on the foundation’s MSP.

Oftentimes, the computers in the office just didn’t work. Staff would arrive in the morning and receive error messages. And each time a new employee started, she had to re-explain details that their MSP should already have been aware of. This included what programs to load, how to configure their email and the permissions and access information.

“It would have been nice for them to be more proactive and know what each department required,” she said.

The Grand Victoria Foundation has its primary office location in Chicago, but employees do work remotely from home and their Elgin secondary office. Before Entara, she said the secondary office never ran smoothly.

“It was always a struggle to remotely connect and have the same working environment as when we’re physically in the Chicago office,” Francel said. “It always affected our culture and the morale in the office.”

Staff repeatedly experienced  the same computer issues for days at a time, and when they called the MSP help desk, they’d get a new person each time.

“It got to the point that when I called, I’d ask to talk to one of two engineers, because it would just be easier not to have to explain the issue over and over again,” Francel said.

These frustrations led to meeting with Entara (then YJT Solutions) to discuss the possibility of a new IT provider. After that initial meeting, Francel said she could see Entara was a different kind of MSP and that made the decision to switch providers an easy one.

“In my over 16 years working at the foundation, my recommendation to move our managed services to Entara was one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. Bar none. And I’ve made thousands of decisions while I’ve been there,” she said. “I knew it would make an impact on the foundation, but it’s even better than what I expected.”

Onboarding Process

Upon the initial switch to Entara, dramatic differences were immediately apparent – starting with the onboarding experience.  At the time, Grand Victoria had a recent new hire, and Francel said the Entara engineer arrived at their offices prepared with a multi-page checklist and ready to get to work.

“I didn’t have to answer every little question because the template had already been made,” she said.

Francel mentioned to the engineer that she wasn’t used to this streamlined process, and the engineer responded by telling her, “We want to make sure we don’t miss anything – do it once and do it right!”

“It’s clear Entara has onboarding down to a science,” Francel shared.

The foundation’s two most recent hires even went to her office, unsolicited, to tell her how they had never worked at a company where everything worked on day one. As a result of Entara’s strategically planned and prepared onboarding process, these new employees were able to begin work immediately with confidence as opposed to the stress that often accompanies a problematic and chaotic onboarding experience.

“To me, that means everything’s working really well, and I don’t need to worry about the details,” Francel said.

Vendor Management

Another benefit of working with Entara, she said, is vendor management. Unlike situations with their former MSPs, she no longer needed to keep track of vendor contact information for circumstances where there was an issue.

“When we moved to Entara, it was recommended that Entara would be the contact so they can be the first to be notified with any issues and get it resolved quickly,” she said. “It just makes life so much easier not being the primary point person and coordinating those relationships.”

The prevalent issues they experienced with their previous MSPs have been resolved. She said there are no longer problems associated with VPNs working from the secondary office location or for employees working at home.  If issues do arise, they are addressed in a timely manner.

“If an IT issue comes up, any one of the Entara engineers assigned to our account can help us quickly.  And onboarding is seamless,” she said.

Managed Services for Non-Profit Organizations

Because Francel has had such a positive experience working with Entara, she often recommends the Chicago-based IT managed services provider to other non-profit organizations. As with any recommendation for this type of service, the follow-up question regarding cost of service comes up, but she said she’s always prepared with her response.

“They are more than what we paid before with our prior MSPs, but you get what you pay for,” Francel said she tells her recommendees.

Part of what clients pay for with Entara includes a dedicated account manager that checks in regularly and hosts quarterly business reviews. In addition, Entara employs a dedicated team in its command center that knows about each client’s business and current equipment. This knowledge and preparedness is possible because everything is documented and process-driven – paramount for efficiently tackling sensitive issues, like cyber threats and security.

“Something I’ve learned in partnering with Entara is that it’s worth spending money on the right products and projects that you [Entara] recommend – I know the professional services team has taken into consideration our needs, wishes, capabilities and budget when making recommendations.”

As for the answer to what the bottom line is when it comes to partnering with Entara, Francel put it simply:

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. With Entara we have happier employees.”

Grand Victoria Foundation is an independent, private non-profit that helps ensure a strong, livable, equitable Illinois where all residents have an opportunity to thrive. Since its inception in 1996, the organization has awarded over $184 million in grants to help provide solutions to improve the quality of life in Illinois.

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