Last week we attended the CMIT conference in New Orleans and came away with a ton of great knowledge, statistics and fun stories that we wanted to share with you on MSPradio. This week's guests are Cindy Phillips, Director of Product Management at CMIT and Todd Wolpert, Senior Account Manager at Continuum, both of whom were at the conference last week. 

In this episode, we cover some important takeaways from the conference, including trends in MSP pricing strategies, how cloud technologies are impacting MSPs and how you can implement a scalable business model that allows you to grow your managed services business. Tune in to this week's episode of MSPradio!



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Episode Transcription:

Nate:                       Alright welcome back to another episode of MSP radio. Just a reminder don’t forget to tweet us and follow us if you go to @follow Continuum or use the #MSP radio we will be looking out for what you guys have to say and I am excited to bring you another episode this week.

So last week Continuum actually visited the CM IT conference down in New Orleans with a number of members from our executive team as well, some of our reps down there for the conference. So I thought we could do a nice recap from the conference. I think we had a lot of great takeaways and our people there learned a lot of cool things. So on the line today we have Todd Wolpert who is a senior account manager here at Continuum, he was at the conference, and we are also joined here by Cindy Phillips who is the director of product development at CMIT. She was obviously the conference and she is a member of CMIT so I thought she would be great to feature on the show today. Just to give you guys some background, CMIT is one of the largest managed IT service providers in the country. They have over 130 managed service franchises who support over 8000 small businesses across the country so they are very large, they are very involved in the managed IT community and industry and I felt they would be a great guest to have here on our show so welcome Todd and Cindy to MSP radio.

Cindy:                      Thank you.

Nate:                       I am excited to have you guys. So we are actually going to be playing a clip from our CEO Michael George; he gave the keynote at the event later so I hope all of you listeners stay tuned for that. But I just wanted to start this show just with a quick event recap and adjust any sort of take away from the show so maybe Todd, do you mind taking us often given us a few takeaways that you learned from the event this year?

Todd:                       Yeah me I appreciate that and excited to be on the show today. So as far as the takeaways, I thought it was great to Cindy and myself and Michael George and [02:42 inaudible] we actually sat in on the Pacesetters meetings which is the larger CMIT franchises and pretty strategic within the organization. So we had a chance to sit down with them and understand how they are… The pricing models that they are taking into the market., The cloud strategies acquisitions, so there is a lot of really good conversations going around the Roundtable during the Pacesetters but I think really it was how for me, I think it was how the end hand clients are really purchasing managed services these days. We found out from a lot of the Pacesetters group that some are pricing per device, some are pricing per user. Some are actually going in and pricing just overall environment. So I saw that was a pretty interesting take away.

Nate:                       So Cindy, what were your thoughts on that?

Cindy:                      Well the first thing that I really appreciated with it when Michael George came in, he asked people how much of their businesses were growing and we were able to see some trends between exceptional growth and how people are actually meeting market demand and the really successful franchise partners are the ones that are listening to their clients and listening to what they really want from their IT provider. And some of that is regional but most of it has to do with the fact that our franchise partners are really able to dial in on what customers want and it appears that our clients really want someone to take care of them; to take care of all the technology issues and at that point, it can be very important for our franchise partners to be able to negotiate between their cost and the value they provide to their clients and value sometimes is presented to their clients as a per user price or engagement. And that seems to be a really big take away that our clients were looking for that.

Nate:                       So it sounds like things have really shifted to a per user model than a per device model.

Cindy:                      Yeah, that’s what we are seeing in the field.

Todd:                       Right and it think is a pretty strategic with some of the Pacesetters with how they are aligning the infrastructure and exactly how they are becoming more of that virtual CIO and impacting the actual business to make sure that the IP is in parallel with the strategy of the end client.

Cindy:                      Yeah. I would agree with that Todd and I would also say one of the big things about how we are positioning ourselves for future growth is that our clients are leading us in a direction where we understand that they want a managed ecosystem. And that’s really what we are seeking to provide for them is someone who can intelligently help and navigate the issue of what do you put in the cloud, how do you manage the data that is strung across different frontlines of business applications and bring that all back into the business in a way that makes sense and protect that data. So again we are finding that our franchise partners are having great success when they realize that their primary mission is to defend the network and protect the data for their clients.

Todd:                       Right, right and I thought it was a really interesting, everybody talks about the cloud and being strategic. We are finding out that a lot of the environments and specific line of business applications; it’s more of a hybrid environment. I don’t really think that whoever truly; maybe in some environments a smaller percentage but most of the environments out there I believe especially in the SMB market will always end up being a hybrid environment with some applications in the cloud and you are also going to have that local network infrastructure. So how do they; the end client and the franchises, how do they franchise make sure that that they prepare their end clients for that migration strategy.

Cindy:                      Right. One of the things that was really controversial was this idea of mobile device management. Todd do you remember when we discussed that at the meeting? How there were people who were saying, “Nobody wants it.” But then when we look at what’s really going on in the market place, folks really do need it. And so there is sort of this gap between what people at knowledge that they need and what it takes to actually get there. So I am expecting that we are going to see some tremendous movement when it comes to mobile device management and this concept of doing it lightly and only taking care of things through [07:26 inaudible] directory. I believe that’s going to change in the next 12 to 18 months.

Todd:                       Right. I think if you look at the numbers and as far as market space right through [07:14 inaudible] environments they all talk about just the explosion off additional device and I think that’s really flows into the reason I think they are seeing a lot more direction around the per user pricing because everybody now has three, 3 ½ , possibly you’re going to end up seeing four plus devices with phone, PC, laptop and tablet. So I think that that making sure that all of those key environments are managed and it is a cohesive environment.

Cindy:                      Yeah, I agree. And the other thing that we are seeing is that we are seeing that when people are using these multiple devices, they are not segregating their data by device. So in other words, they want to be able to get their email whether they are on a smart phone or their tablet or on their laptop and they want to be able to view things, different documents or attachments no matter what device they are on and I think that’s one of the big key takeaways for us at CMIT solutions. It’s yes, you might be using a tablet for a different job function or role but to the access to the data that something that people really want independent of device.

Nate:                       Right, right. And obviously when the end client calls in, it doesn’t matter whether or not they need help on the device or the laptop or the desktop, you are going to support them holistically. So I think that falls into all of the discussions that the Pacesetters had with us.

Cindy:                      Yeah, and that really leads us to this idea of the managed ecosystem for CMIT and really when you think about it, it’s natural for you to just say, “Hey, what’s in it for me? How do I make this work for me?” And that’s what the CMIT managed ecosystem is all about. And at the core of that managed ecosystem, is our really strong relationship with Continuum and we are just so happy that we’ve got a partner with the breadth and strength that Continuum brings to the table because that is really one of our competitive advantages in the marketplace.

Todd:                       Excellent.

Nate:                       That sounds like there is some great discussions there you guys, you are making my job easy. I don’t have to say much and you gave us a great run-through of the event. So I mean it really sounds like there… And there is so much going on in the marketplace between cloud and all these different devices and I think to your point that you mentioned earlier Cindy that as a small business owner, I really need someone who I can trust and consult with on these issues, not just someone is going to fix my environments or help me connect to the Wi-Fi kind of thing.

Cindy:                      Yeah, exactly. What the real issue is for the small business owner is answering the question: Which cloud do I choose? What applications do I really need? And how do I bring this into my business in a way that keeps everything and everyone running? And when you take the time out to try to pick a new piece of technology, we are all really familiar with that learning curve where you have that did of productivity as you bring the new application in and then get your team up and running with the new tool. And what we really strive to do is to help our clients manage that learning curve so that they are able to move their business forward and not be just sort of dive down into that trough and stay there at the bottom of the learning curve. So having a guide, someone to help you climb that way up, someone who has looked at applications before; that’s really what we are all about at CMIT, helping you pick the best.

Nate:                       Yeah, definitely, definitely. So another piece of news from the conference I wanted to touch on was Larry Carigan who won the CMIT franchise of the year award. So how do you guys think you were so successful this past year and it resulted in him winning this award?

Cindy:                      So Larry Carigan, just to be clear, he actually won the Continuum managed service award okay. Shirley Peterson was actually our franchise of the year and both of those folks did an outstanding job of leveraging our partnership with Continuum but Larry is really a special case. Larry made a decision early on when he decided to run his business that he was going to leverage all of the force multipliers if you will, that Continuum brings to the table. So for example, Larry is an expert on how to get his clients come to the Continuum service desk and he’s optimized the workflows within his back office operation to leverage that excellent and outstanding service that he gets from the Continuum service desk. And the reason it is so important to Larry is because he had a client that managed by the numbers and with Continuum service desk, you are able to get statistics on how many seconds until the phone is answered, what is the percentage call resolution, how many minutes was the clients was on the phone before the problem was resolved. And by Larry managing those metrics, he is able to identify trends and things to help his clients run more efficiently. And he also leverages the Tech advantage program to help work get done in a more timely manner. And he uses his on-site technical staff to basically service project managers and to make sure the work continues to flow. So because Larry has utilized everything that Continuum brings to the table, he is able to handle a tremendous workload with a thick number of resources and a very small stuff inside his own business. And you better believe, Larry is managing my favorite metric of all which number [13:44 managed beeps] per in-house technician. And he’s just done an outstanding job of extending his reach and really being there for his clients.

Nate:                       Right. And I think from the conversations that I have had with Larry, I mean he went into the franchise and understanding the secret of the CMIT programs and how to work with Continuum and from the get-go, his business model was to always allow his Continuum to take those level I, level II and level III issues off of his technician’s plates because they are very high enterprise level technicians and again, aligning himself with the business and not diving down deep into the little tasks or daily tasks; password resets or printer issues. His technicians are out working on the business problems. I thought that was pretty significant for him to go in and have that mindset from the beginning.

                                    The other pretty cool thing or couple of statistics regarding Larry was that he was the fastest CMIT franchise to 1 million and then also he was on pace to double his business this year.

Cindy:                      Right.

Nate:                       So those are some pretty significant… And to get to 1 million and double from 1 million is pretty significant in this type of industry so congratulations to Larry.

Cindy:                      One of the things that we really emphasize with our franchise partners is this concept of the highest and best use of all resources inside our system. And Larry is an example of the kind of growth that you can achieve when you really commit yourself to that principle. So when Larry went out and hired staff, he made it a point to hire people who would work on the higher-level business problems and on the architecture type problems. I don’t even know if it is fair to say that Larry hired level III technicians or if he may be hired someone who was more like a systems engineer. But it’s that kind of stuff that he brought to the table and then he has always kept this guiding principle of the highest and best use of all resources in the system. And he is on pace to move as the fastest member in months to 2 million as well so not only did he get to 1 million faster, but he is on pace to clip 2 million faster than anyone else as well.

Nate:                       Well. Those are some great statistics.

Cindy:                      Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing and the other thing that Larry has done this with, is he has done it with a lot of grace and a lot of attention to detail coupled with ease. So when you look at Larry, he looks like a guy who has got a well understood, well oiled machine and for me, I predicted 2 million will not be the top of his business but he will also move beyond that.

Nate:                       Yeah, that’s great. I mean it sounds like he is really found a business model and stuck to it and get his business in a very scalable way of that allows him to focus on growing it, not just get bogged down on by these minor tasks that you mentioned.

Cindy:                      I would say Larry is one of those people that clearly understood what his endgame was before he started and he took every step to help him achieve that goal.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. So we are going to take a quick commercial break here. Stay tuned everyone who is listening. We are going to come a segment from our CEO, from Michael George’s keynote at the CMIT conference but still ahead, more recap from Cindy and Todd and I will see you guys in a minute.

Nate:                       Alright, welcome back to MSP radio. I am your host Nate Teplow and we are talking here today about the CMIT conference which took place last week in New Orleans. We had a few reps down there and some of our [18:01 A team] there and we thought it was a great conference, we had a lot of great takeaways. And we are here with Todd Wolpert who is a senior accountant manager at Continuum who was at the conference and Cindy Phillips, the director of product management at CMIT, who was also at the conference.

                                    So Cindy just during the commercial break we were talking about the CRN magazine’s 100 women of the channel award and there were some exciting news out of CMIT, do you mind running through some of that for me?

Cindy:                      Yeah. Not a problem Nate. It was amazing! On the night of our banquet during the banquet, all these phones were going off and it turns out that ladies in our audience that were franchise partners were getting notifications that they had been listed CRN news Top 100 Women of The Channel. We had six franchise partners within CMIT that made that list. And so it was just really amazing to have part of our franchise network recognized for their big hard work and their service to their clients and six out of 100, that’s really a statement about CMIT solutions and what a great precedents for women business owners and it’s just great that we are able to deliver that kind of service; not only to small businesses but also women who own small businesses as well. So that was big news for us.

Nate:                       Yeah, definitely. That is exciting stuff.

Todd:                       I would agree.

Nate:                       Go ahead Todd.

Todd:                       Yeah, I was going to say that’s excellence. I have worked with the majority of the six finalists in the top 100 and they are wonderful people to work with. So congratulations to all of them!

Nate:                       Yeah, that’s great, that’s great. So another piece of the conference I wanted to recap was this story time session that Continuum took part in and Todd, you are telling me an interesting story about Linda Cooper-Smith who is one of our partners here and her story from the story time. Do you mind recapping that for us?

Todd:                       Yeah, absolutely! So I think it might be a good idea for us to kind of recap the idea behind story time and what that actually meant during the convention. And I had worked with Cindy leading up to convention on the background and what we wanted or what CMIT home office was looking for story time to develop. So maybe let Cindy talk about that real quick and then I can talk about how Linda Cooper-Smith stories kind of flow into that process for story time.

Nate:                       Yeah, great.

Cindy:                      Okay so story time was really this organic theme that happened at convention. We had planned for folks to tell stories but what happened when we were at convention took it to a whole new level.

So here is the idea; so it is the beginning of time, men and women have sat around the fire and told stories; stories of their challenges, their victories, things that have happened. And the idea is that in sharing these stories, we learn from one another and every good story has this small kernel of universal truth. So in every good story you’ve got a hero, you have a villain, you have a hero’s journey and as I am fond of saying, you find the Dragon, you slay the dragon, you save the village and then you wipe the blood from the blade and put the sword back into the scabbard and go off to find another village to save.

And the villages, those are our clients. So what is it exactly that we are doing for our clients that intertwines our lives so much and what kind of help do we really bring to people? And so our franchise partners came forward with their favorite partners and told these stories. And an amazing thing happened in the circle while we were telling the stories; other people would stand up and add their own moment of truth to story time. One of the most compelling stories we had was from Linda Cooper-Smith, one of the CRN Women of the Channel. And Linda shared and strategy that she had for how she has taken her business to a whole new level and Todd, can you tell us what she did?

Todd:                       Yeah. Thanks Cindy for the background. So why we were in the Pacesetters meetings, we were talking with Linda Cooper-Smith. So we brought up our Tech Advantage program and for those that aren’t familiar with our Tech Advantage program, it is the ability for our Continuums network operations center, our advanced technical services team, to do project-based work. And project work-based work can be as simple as a desktop project, which would be an install or uninstall of an application or an antivirus solution to network remediation all the way to office 365 migrations and also directory migrations so.

                                    So Linda has been really on the forefront working and putting… I think she has over 200 projects already in the system with us. And she had shared with us that she actually incentivizes her technicians to utilize the Tech Advantage program so they are not working after hours, they are not working overtime, they are home enjoying their personal life. And they have become more of a project manager and or a.k.a. manager of the system rather than getting into the nuts and bolts. And so that’s really been very beneficial for her because as Michael George always talks about labor arbitrage is, she is able to allow her technicians to again, same thing with Larry Carigan, focus on more on the business aspects and working with the client rather than actually going in and doing work and having their head in the computers in the server room. So I thought that was a really great little piece of background. And while we were in the story time session, some other people were very interested in [24:01 PEAK], they are interested in how Linda was being so successful with that. So it was a great story time for us to really sit down and learn how other people are interpreting the services that Continuum is offering.

Linda:                      Yeah, one of the things about CMIT storytelling is that it leverages the key strength of our system in that we have collaborative learning going on between all of our franchise owners and that collaborative learning extends into the best way that we can be utilizing the resources from Continuum.

Nate:                       Yeah, that’s great. It’s a very interesting story and is an interesting concept that Linda is actually incentivizing her technicians to do hand off work. Is that kind of out of the nature of technicians, of actually giving their work to somebody else?

Todd:                       Yeah. I would definitely agree that technicians, even on our side, technicians all around us at Continuum and it’s just their nature to want to hold on and really be that successful and solve that issue with whatever is happening. So for her to have the technicians that are willing to offload… And I think that all comes back to the whole business picture right?

If you are able to utilize the resources that are available to you and we are doing these projects like office 365 on a regular basis rather than your technicians or our partners technicians sitting there watching progress bars go by, it’s so much easier for us to sit there and manage it because we go through this on a regular basis. So something our technicians to see on a regular basis might be completely foreign to one of our partner’s or franchised technicians singing for the first time.

Todd:                       Yeah, yeah definitely, definitely. Alright so I think we’re going to wrap up here. We’re actually going to play a quick clip from Michael George’s keynote that’s going to last about five minutes. I wanted to give all of our listeners some insight into what Michael George had to say. I know that we have referenced his keynote a few times during this episode. But I just wanted to thank Cindy and Todd for joining me today; you guys are great and it was awesome to hear what you guys heard at the conference and learned there. So thanks for joining me.

Recording:           “If you look at the dynamics, the labor dynamics and this is a great example of how service operates within your location right? The problem is you have a fixed amount of people and with that, a fixed amount of [27:29 assets]; you might have just four people, I’m going to use that as an example. And guess what, if someone does not show up for work one day, you are down 25% of your resource. And then people come in at 8 o’clock in the morning and they leave at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, they do that Monday through Friday. IT is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week business. Number one and number two is if you look at it, it’s very episodic; it does not cooperate, it does not go wrong when you have people show up completely to deal with it. That happens all the time! So you’ve got four people on your payroll but the problem is that you need nine people from 8 AM till 2 PM on Monday but by Wednesday, you only need two people because all this stuff is down. And anything that is above that, above your capacity, you are providing poor customer service; so you need nine now you have four. And anything where you only need two and anything that is below the line, you end up with bad economics. This is a fundamental challenge we are trying to supply local labor to this issue. And the whole thing about the cloud, people have talked about it; Amazon and everything else, we have said this before and this was one of the great sayings of the speaker of the house [28:51 Tip O’Neill ] used to be saying that, “All politics are local.” Well we say, “All IT is local.” Companies still want somebody to care about them. They want somebody; they want somebody to care about them. And so there is a incredibly value for you to provide a local service to be there across the divide on a local basis.”

Nate:                       Alright. I hope you all enjoyed that quick segment from Michael George’s keynote at the CMIT conference. I hoped you all enjoy our recap from the CMIT conference this week. We had Todd and Cindy here talking about what they learned and some of the trends in the marketplace from the conference. So hope you all enjoyed that.

Don’t forget to tweet us at follow Continuum or use the hash tag MSP radio. Also don’t forget to visit our we’ve got a ton of great content to there and also another recap from the conference. If you want to read more, go to

Thank you all for tuning in to MSP radio. Hope you enjoyed the episode and look forward to seeing you all next week!