Business owners seem to search for that one special ingredient or that single, unique step that will help them accomplish their greatest goals. Whether that desire is to be richer than Bill Gates or to simply land the largest local employer as a client, their search for that particular “pot of gold” is often a lost cause. Despite know that the road to success typically has a number of twists, turns and detours. Building and tweaking an organization to attain its full potential can be a complicated endeavor, but the rewards for reaching that pinnacle can be well worth the effort.
That’s why successful managed services providers focus so much time and attention on improving their business operations. Not just an occasional investment or by making a quarterly procedural change, but through comprehensive and frequent process reviews and by implementing the latest best practices. They learn to spot and neutralize potential issues before they occur and rethink their methodologies when better ones come along. MSPs must be more adaptable and proactive than typical businesses to stay ahead of the technology curve and provide the type of support their customers really need.
Simply put: much more is expected (and required) of them by their customers and peers, and they usually demand more of themselves than managers of other organizations do. They must ensure their clients’ systems are operational 24/7, with little (if any) room for error. Customers depend on their technical expertise as well as knowledge and skills related to business best practices. It’s not enough for MSPs to be IT savvy: they have to be authorities in virtually everything that makes an organization run and all regulations that can affect their operations.
That level of obligation generates a tremendous value for customers and becomes a huge differentiator for service providers. But gaining the capabilities required to fulfill those responsibilities is definitely not easy. It also takes hard work and strict discipline to master the office operations and other MSP business-critical activities. So how can IT service providers meet all of those obligations and still manage to find time left to build a successful business?
Of course, accomplishing the former makes the latter that much easier, but there are other factors to consider. Based on the lessons learned (and shared) by some of the most successful managed services companies, these 10 Commandments can boost the prospects of new and emerging providers:
Listen and learn from your peers. Validate best practices and new ideas with other MSPs and respected industry veterans, and avoid making the same mistakes they have (especially when details of those errors are freely shared).
Investigate the best options before adding new services or entering new markets. Review industry publications and websites, talk to respected peers and, more importantly, get customer opinions before making major investments or making significant changes to the operation.
Find out which tools are best suited to your clients’ needs. The portfolio should be customer-centric and customizable to meet both the current and future needs of the target audience (and the MSP).
Stagnation kills. Be ready, willing and able to improve the organization to address new issues and take advantage of the latest opportunities.
Are your processes and systems really optimal? Make efficiency a priority in every step of the operation—from customer service to billing and accounts payable. Just trimming 15 minutes of labor from one employee every week will save your company 13 billable hours in a year. Multiply that across a much larger team or increase the size of those efficiencies and the savings really add up!
Are the managed services and cloud tools fully deployed and properly integrated to achieve maximum productivity? Successful MSPs understand how to get most value from their tools and continually look for ways to improve them.
Like automation, partnering is a force multiplier. A myriad of outsource partners, vendors, distributors, industry associations and peers are available to help MSPs add services and enter new markets. For example, contracting with a third-party help desk provider could free up the resources needed to close more contracts or improve customer service.
Are you asking a suitable fee for your services? Rather than adding a target margin to your costs or undercutting a competitor’s bid, determine what your offerings are truly worth to your customers. Before making any changes, MSPs should ensure their pricing model aligns with their future business objectives.
Are you capturing the attention of your prospects or simply relying on them to find you on their own? Savvy business owners embrace marketing. Whether building comprehensive promotional campaigns or advertising through the local media, be sure to generate awareness around your managed services offerings and let prospects know what your team can do to help their business!
Strive to improve all aspects of your MSP business every day. The biggest and best investment most organizations make is in the people who are the face and/or voice of the company. Focus on improving communications and other interpersonal skills needed to improve sales and increase customer satisfaction. Training should be an ongoing process with every managed services organization and, when done well, the dividends can be quite substantial.
Will following each of these steps ensure your MSP business will be wildly successful? Of course not…but with a lot of hard work and the proper focus on your business and its customers, your chances are sure to improve.