Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In January 2022, we spoke to John Comfort. John developed a passion for IT when serving in the military nearly 3 decades ago. After the military, John obtained his BS in Business at Sonoma State University. During and after college, John has been engaged in IT projects and services for numerous organizations ranging from a single location to over 800 locations with the most challenging industry being Banking. He founded his first outsourced IT service company over two decades ago and eventually went solo until recently due to client interest and feedback in the area. John has an aptitude for solving IT and cybersecurity problems, helping organizations enhance their competitive edge by leveraging technology to improve the efficiency of processes in the business environment. If there were just two strong points that could be assigned to him, it would be root cause analysis (problem solving) and implementing technologies in creative ways to benefit businesses. After designing network security and infrastructure for middle market clients, he broadened his focus to include smaller businesses, guiding them in the protection and accessibility of their vital data.
John is currently President of Linked MSP, a new startup Managed Services Provider with offerings in three key areas: general IT consulting, fully Managed IT Services, and Cybersecurity services. He enjoys spending quality time over a lunch or dinner with clients to get to know them and their needs. ‘Conversation over a meal is always a more relaxing and engaging environment’ he says. Frequently he finds topics come up over meals that have helped solve upcoming technology and non-tech hurdles. On his free time, he would spend time riding dirt bikes in the mountains with his sons. But since they’ve moved on, he spends the extra time with his wife Melissa puzzling or looking for ways they can visit their children more often, or even trying a new restaurant with a nice glass of local wine! Between John & Melissa they have six children.
Tell us about your decision to get into the IT world and your journey to start Linked MSP?
My career began in the US Navy programming small proprietary applications. After finishing my term with the Navy, I entered college on a computer sciences track. During college, I was hired by a large integrator in Los Angeles building servers and migrating systems and is essentially what got me into IT. After moving to Sonoma County in 1997, I started an IT consulting firm (in 2000) providing IT services to the SMB market. In 2009 I left the company to consult independently for customers in a number of sectors including wineries, financial, manufacturing and large estates. In 2017 Linked MSP was formed in response to clients’ requests to contract with them, as it is difficult to find quality service providers with the knowledge, skillset and attention to detail required for today’s challenges.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Finding good employees has been and continues to be the biggest challenge in the IT space. The second most challenging aspect is educating customers to understand that there is a heightened importance of IT and Cybersecurity today compared to what it was even 5 years ago.
What are your short term goals of your career and yourself?
Short term goals are to continue to build Linked MSP and provide IT service excellence.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
Anyone can be good at what they do, but few choose to be excellent.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Stick with computers! (this was in high school, in the late 80’s before I had any interest in computers)
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Work hard, have integrity, take care of your customers through attention to detail and forward thinking.
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
I enjoy riding dirt bikes in the mountains with my sons, noodling around the technical trails that comb through the forest, reading, and puzzling with my wife.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!