Do you feel like you've hit a wall? You try and try, but just can't seem to meet the goals you set for your managed IT services business. Growth is stagnant, revenue is meh, problems are ignored, customer service levels are dwindling. Am I painting enough of a picture? Maybe you're not in as dire straights, but just want some sort of outlet in which you can propose new business ideas and ask questions. Did you know MSPs like you are forming peer groups and gathering to do just that? There's power in numbers!

1. What is a peer group? 

What is a peer group about and what is the significance? A peer group is a board of like-minded advisers comprised of peers who meet to share best practices. They comprise a network of companies similar in size to you (both in employees and revenue) and can relate to your specific line of business. A peer group provides a brain trust and an information-sharing relationship with group members based on real-life best practices. They discuss various topics including how each group member structures their business, how they plan to grow their business, their goals and accomplishments, and their plans for moving forward. Peer group members can be used as sounding boards, can help improve company culture and can help set long- and short-term goals. Best of all, you get access to a full sounding board of like-minded professionals who can give you the confidence that you are headed in the right direction with your business.

The most valuable aspect of a peer group is the feedback — both giving and receiving it. Unlike in business where you have deadlines for which you are held accountable by your clients, peer groups give you the opportunity to provide self-imposed deadlines, to which you and other group members can all hold each other accountable. For instance, when you have your weekly check-in, everyone is expected to report on his or her progress from the goals set out the previous week. Everyone holds each other accountable for action items to be completed. This ensures that everyone is supporting each other to accomplish personal and professional growth.

Another question you might have is, “Why would I want to share all of my trade secrets with my competitors?" This is a genuine concern and one that peer leaders work to avoid. For instance, if you are an MSP located in a small area in Wisconsin, you won’t be grouped with others who might be your direct competitors. However, if it’s a group that’s based in a larger area like New York City or Los Angeles, there really is no threat of competition since there’s no possible way any MSP could dominate all of the business in such a large area. In the case of peer groups that include MSPs based in larger cities, there is the advantage of also sharing local best practices and familiarity. Taking part in online communities is another way to connect with peers who aren’t in your location and aren’t competitors. We recently launched our own private online partner forum, Collaborate.

2. What types of peer groups are available for MSPs in our space?

First, research what’s available for MSPs in the SMB space. Ask vendors and peers for guidance. The industry associations have amicable relationships with the peer groups, and they can also provide feedback based on your needs. They might even have members who can provide testimonials that can help guide your decision.

Once you have gathered a list of specific peer groups, reach out to each one and find out their main benefits, perks and who in your area is enrolled. You could even chat with a few of their current local members. Find out if any peer groups attend some industry events held throughout the year. This is the perfect setting to start a conversation, since the peer group is attending to recruit new MSP members.

When you do decide to join a peer group, find out the specifics of the group’s agreement — what’s in it for both of you. Of course, as an MSP, your goal is to gain something from this and that’s ultimately why you are participating.

3. I’m already a member of an industry association, should I also join a peer group?

The short answer is “yes." There are specific benefits to joining an association, and this, coupled with the benefits of a peer group, can provide you with an even bigger toolbox of resources. Associations provide myriad benefits such as certifications, and access to educational materials and workshops, event discounts, buying power, marketing support and networking opportunities. Both associations and peer groups have a community environment, and by belonging to both, you can take the tools that you’ve been given via your memberships, to help put best practices in place.

Joining a peer group provides valuable results for your business – learning from other MSPs’ successes and failures, ultimately to grow to your business.

4. What are good examples of MSP peer groups?

We have many strategic partnerships, but we've learned a lot about the power of peer-to-peer networking by partnering with HTG Peer Groups, a collection of 25 peer groups, comprised of IT company leaders who meet quarterly to network and share best practices with one another in a non-competitive environment. In fact, one of those quarterly meetings is just around the corner. We'll be attending HTG Q4 2014 Orlando next Tuesday, November 10th through Wednesday , November 12th. 

Additionally, Growth Achievement Partners (GAP) understands the benefits of having a mindshare between other Office Equipement (OE) dealers transitioning to the managed IT services business model. When a member, GAP ensures you're educated by providing channel-specific perspective, field-relevant content and even OE dealer-specific projects to help you meet your MSP business objectives. Make sure you check out their Business Technology Association (BTA)-associated workshops!

So recap: Peer groups enable you to receive feedback from other MSPs that are in your position and likely facing the same business growth challenges. You're not in competition with one another because you're separated by geography. You're more likely to reach your goals, such as annual revenue benchmarks or agents deployed, because you're all held accountable to one another through reoccurring check-ins and progress reports. Need I go on? Still not convinced of the power of peer-to-peer networking and the MSP peer group opportunity? Sound off in the comments below!

Excerpts of the preceding blog post were taken from Ray's guest series on Channel Partners Peer-to-Peer Blog.

Want more from Ray? We've repurposed his blog posts into the following eBook!