Welcome to the first blog post for our new “MSP Fast Track” hangout series. "MSPs Tell All: How to Outperform the Competition” was our first hangout in a new series where we will be hosting monthly virtual panels with MSPs and industry experts to discuss topics we have found to be popular among MSPs.
We were fortunate enough to have stellar panelists during "MSPs Tell All: How to Outperform the Competition” where they discussed tips and tricks they believe have played an instrumental role in their success.
Meet Our Panelists
We held the hangout at 11am and 5pm ET that day. Our MSP panelists were:
Doberman Technologies – Ian Richardson, CEO and Founder
LA Creative Technologies – Josh Weiss, President and Founder
Ideal Networks – Lyle Melnychuk, CIO and Managing Partner
Plus, we had Corey Prince and John McCallum from Continuum, engaging with our panelists. The dialog was very lively and informative. Check out some of the highlights of these two hangouts.
What Keeps MSPs Up At Night?
Ian of Doberman shared that Cybersecurity is something that keeps him up at night. He said, “We launched our cybersecurity practice last year and it really has been driving the company's growth forward. Frankly, when having those conversations with our clients, we don't get pushback. We get thanked. Our clients are saying, ‘Hey, thank you for bringing this up. Thank you for educating. Thank you for investing in this because we've been worried too.’”
Then, Josh of LA Creative Technologies added, “What’s kept me up at night for the last decade has been growing my business and the sustainability of my business combined with the fact that my client’s data is going to be safe in the morning—that is the core. Everything else is secondary; they’re relying on us. That’s the one non-negotiable deal breaker: our data better be there tomorrow."
As you can tell here, cybersecurity is a critical story for MSPs to be able to tell and solve for.
What Are the Biggest Hurdles MSPs Have to Overcome to Scale?
Lyle of Ideal Networks talked about the latest shiny object. He said, “There is always something new coming down the pipe. This is our biggest scalability issue—there’s a new great thing! We have to try it out, then you find yourself putting resources and finances into change. And once that’s implemented, then the business model has to change because now you may be more focused on back up. We are now down to a fine-tuned scalability of our business: we know exactly what tools we need. And that is not going to change. You will try to shift to scale, yet need to work really hard to stay the course—and not get pulled to the next greatest thing.”
Josh then explained that there’s an experience gap that needs to be addressed. “I think it's really important for managed service providers to look at their portfolio of technology partners in a way that they can fill those particular gaps. It could be a functional gap, it could be a resource gap, but these are things that really need to be part of the stable because if you don't adapt to this, you will lose the oxygen in the room.”
Ian expressed that in his view in order to scale, “It is critical to have partners who get the fact that if the MSP grows, the backend partners grow as well because we're putting out more product and we're selling more services. That's a key relationship fact that not everyone in the industry has. Continuum is a bit different here on this one because you guys—even though you call yourselves a software company—you're really a services company. And I say that with a smile but it's something that I truly believe that Continuum is a partnership organization and that's been pretty vital for us.”
Of course we love hearing our partners share that Continuum is a good fit for them and, better yet, can help them scale.
Advice From Successful MSPs If You Are Just Starting Out
Our MSPs on the panel have had much success and want to share their learnings so other MSPs can thrive. Josh shared three key suggestions:
- Prioritize working ON your business, not IN your business.
“You need to prioritize working on your business to be able to work ON your business, you have to put it on your calendar. You have to value it.”
- Build a reliable partner ecosystem that works for you.
“Partner and outsource. Really look for the best answer to a solution. You do not have to stay up all night and solve a problem yourself when you have the right resources in place.” Partnering and having an outsource network is key.
“I was a sort of break fix it guy from 2007 until 2012 before I met Continuum. If I had understood what was available in terms of partnership, and a thing that I've learned a lot just from working with Continuum for five years, is how to outsource. And these days I have an entire marketing team that I found on Upwork and I have an executive coach from Sea-Level Operations who has really taught me how to run an MSP and continues to serve as my accountability method. But at the same time, when you find the right partners, they will teach you how to run your business, keep you on track, keep your clients happy.
“Hire Continuum.” (Thank you, Josh!)
Set up a go-to Resource Center for yourself.
If you are just getting started as an MSP, check out:
- Michael Gerber’s “The E Myth” books
- “Traction” book
- Yahoo Managed Services Board
- Nigel Moore and The Tech Tribe
- Carl Palecek
- Feedly – blog reader (build a list of 20-30 sources for MSPs: search for MSP, Continuum, BrightGauge, Nigel Moore, Managed Services Platform, Channel E2E; and build list for security: Krebbs; spend 10 min a day and you will learn a lot.)
Talk About Selling Cybersecurity
Ian shared that in order to sell cybersecurity to his clients, that it is critical to be able to provide some level of assessment or kind of readiness report. This acts as a forcing function for so many good dialogues within clients to showcase where they are now then where they need to be.
Josh added: “I actually have a cybersecurity meeting today that I landed after using Continuum’s cybersecurity assessment!”
We wrapped up the hangouts by asking each of our panelists for the top two takeaways they want to reinforce to the listeners. These included:
Partnership – Scale by building a trusted partner ecosystem. And educate our clients that if they collaborate with us then things can go a lot faster.
Be creative – Engage clients with creative ideas they have not heard before.
Work on adaptability – Adjust in this ever-changing technology environment.
Be honest with your clients and build trust – Be their advisor and consultant. Be invaluable. Be the MSP who sells all the pieces and manages it all for them. (This will allow you to charge more as people’s needs and technology become more and more complex.)
Look at your website – Be sure it represents your brand and the breadth of services you intend it to.
Pilot new areas – Don’t be afraid to try new things. Pilot them. For example, if you want to test a new vertical to get into, pilot it.
Complexity – Come up with the part of the complexity you are really good at. For example, a niche and blog about it. Talk about it at conferences and meetings.
Networking – You never know where your next conversation will be and your opportunity to extend your expertise. IT is not going away. Build a tighter community to help the business world accomplish what they need to do with IT.
I hope you find our first “MSP Fast Track” hangout as valuable as we did. For more specifics on this “MSPs Tell All: How to Outperform the Competition” hangout, tune in to hear it live!
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By Gretchen Hoffman