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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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How to Hire and Retain the Right IT Experts

Posted December 5, 2017by Scott Wittstock

How to Hire and Retain the Right IT Experts

As an IT service provider, one of the biggest challenges we face is hiring and retaining the right IT experts. Empowering our customers with technology is at the core of our business, which means that we must employ a pool of talented people who are knowledgeable on the diverse range of technologies that our customers use. These experts need to be well versed in any network, computer, server, mobile device, cloud and much more.

I’ve barely scratched the surface with these items, but it serves as a reminder just how much we expect out of our IT people. Keep reading to discover my tips on what you should look for when hiring for your MSP business and how you can grow and retain the best IT talent.
 

The IT Hiring Challenge

It’s all too common for us to hire IT people based on their expertise—thinking that technical knowledge is the most desirable trait. Yet here’s a situation I’ve seen time and again: you feel desperate to hire someone that can solve your clients’ technology needs, so you find a technically competent person and hire them at a premium based solely on their skills. Your new hire is smart and can manage your clients’ technology, but you discover as time goes by that they aren’t the right fit for your team. They lack loyalty to your company; they like to make their fellow IT teammates look bad; they exude an attitude of arrogance; they badmouth your company to your clients; they spend time pursuing the latest gadgets instead of spending time learning the technology used in your verticals; they leave projects undone or things untested that require re-addressing.

Now, I’m not saying that all IT experts will have this litany of potential problems. I hold those who are experienced and intelligent in the field of IT in the utmost regard. However, what I am presenting here is a profile of what happens when you try to hire an IT expert, but you focus solely on their perceived expertise. Suddenly you’ve hired an “expert” instead of someone who fits into your organization.

Hiring for Your MSP Business

What exactly should you look for when hiring for your MSP business? If you immediately think of qualifications and experience on a resume, perhaps we need to reframe the question. Instead of seeking to hire the right IT talent, maybe we need to consider how to hire and retain the right people.

Regardless of their talent or role, the person behind the position is the one who needs to both fit into your company and fulfill their position. In my experience, I’ve had the most success with hiring the person who best fits my organization while focusing on growing their talent. Leverage tenured staff as leaders to train for the skills you’d like them to develop. As you do this over time, your new hire will be mentored by individuals who can help them grow their skills in a way that aligns with your business’ overall goals and values.

Understanding Your Hiring Needs

Prior to making any hiring decisions, I think a fundamental step is to have (or create) a solid understanding of who your company is. It may seem like a no brainer—duh, we’re an MSP—but when you stop and consider how your company works, it can help you better identify your needs.

Your company is an aggregate of many components; your employees, the products and services you sell, your relationships with vendors and suppliers, the core values you measure decisions by, and—of course—the identity of your client base. These are just some of the main building blocks that make up your identity, and they can be a random hodgepodge of how your company has evolved over time, or they can be thoughtfully and intentionally built. 

However, intentional growth takes time, fortitude and patience. I’d argue that it’s worth spending the hard work and effort on, as the result becomes a more and more cohesive organization. A company whose mission is aligned with its values, who does business with like-minded organizations, and whose employees fit into the aggregate—both contributing to the company and finding worth and value in their contributions—is a company who can find success in hiring for all roles, including that critical role of IT expert.

Now, these might be great long-term ideals, but what does it mean when you need to hire right now?

I think it means you need to take a look at your core values—identify them if you haven’t already—then measure your potential candidates based on those. Below are a few ideas based on values I’ve seen companies adhere to.

If your company’s core values are:

Then ensure your IT hire can:

Integrity above all

Share references or stories that attest to their openness, honesty and ethics

To promote enthusiastic customers

Provide a database of examples wherein they championed a customer

Teamwork

Produce examples showing how they regularly act as a part of a team whose concerted goal was to benefit someone else

 

I can’t preach to you what your company core values are, and I would caution against a Google search to answer that question. It’s a rigorous exercise to undertake, but it’s well worth the effort. It has long-term benefits that reach beyond the hiring process—it can trickle down into your business’ overall success.

What I can do is leave you with these final thoughts: build your company’s philosophy and identity first, hire according to the best fit based upon aligned values, and lastly, invest in training for and building skill.

 

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Scott Wittstock, RCDD, is the founder and President of Fidelis Inc., a technology service provider in the Seattle area. His professional history began by serving as a US Marine where he was honored with multiple distinctions including; meritorious promotions and Marine of the year. After his military time, he went on to spend 20 years in the telecom industry where he predominantly installed large scale PBXs for enterprise customers and managed operations teams. In 2008 he founded Fidelis as a low voltage and voice communications company which has grown into the IT and MSP space.

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