NEWS: Global Mentoring Solutions is now part of the Sherweb family. Click here to read more about the acquisition.

Improve Your Success with an Enhanced Business Focus
How’s your concentration? With the typical pressures and complexities of running a managed services business, many owners fail to ask that question often enough. It’s far too easy to let meetings and appointments overtake their calendars, with short-term objectives and daily activities getting most of the attention. Tactical operations, while an important part of a business’ success, often consume all the company’s resources—including the time required to create a strategic plan.

A short-term focus often has a negative effect on long-term objectives, which can get lost in the day-to-day decisions needed to keep the business running. It’s a situation many teens encounter when first learning to drive: if their eyes are focused one or two car-lengths ahead, they may fail to slow for the curve (and 100-foot cliff) ahead. By keeping their attention focused as far down the road, they can make the adjustments needed to safely get to their destination. The driver’s peripheral vision catches movement and issues closer to the vehicle, allowing them to make course corrections or stop when the situation warrants it (such as a duck crossing the road or another driver failing to yield).

The same principle can be applied to an MSP business. After carefully crafting their long-term objectives, each owner has to be laser-focused on their attainment. They may delegate some day-to-day responsibilities to subordinates or partners, who, in effect, can become their “peripheral vision.” Weekly or monthly staff meetings should include a review of the company’s long-term goals and how the activities designed to get them there are progressing. When the timeline or goals aren’t going according to plan, the management team can make course corrections to ensure their eventual success.

Karl Palachuk espouses this philosophy well, introducing IT channel professionals to his concept “Focus, Relax, Succeed.” For those unfamiliar with his legacy of contributions to the tech industry, he’s been a tremendous advocate for MSPs and the indirect channel model, founding several businesses to foster the success of our community. He’s successfully “walked the walk” as a pioneer in managed services, and uses his years of experience to help others overcome the obstacles they encounter. His mantra suggests that individuals are more apt to realize their goals if they can focus on their objectives (both personal and professional) and lower their stress levels. For MSPs, his points are spot on: a calm and cool business owner is more capable of concentrating and achieving their goals.

So how can you improve your focus on the important aspects of running a business? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Create a daily plan: Whether you develop a “tick sheet” or more detailed plan, a simple list with the top priorities tasks written on a pad next to your computer will help you start your day with a focus.
  2. Go offline: schedule a weekly (or daily) time to shut down email, mobile devices (including smartphones), Facebook and other distractions to focus on strategic planning and brainstorming. Shut the office door or ask co-workers to handle issues and visitors during this time.
  3. Get energized: being well-rested and properly fit makes it easier to concentrate. Lifestyle changes may be required to accommodate an exercise routine or additional sleep (as much as possible).
  4. Inspire creativity: Engage in activities that block out workplace stressors and allow you to maintain focus. Listen to relaxing (typically instrumental-only) music or use noise cancelling headphones to improve concentration.
  5. Go offsite: If possible, consider working outside the office, in a café, library or other relaxing environment. An occasional change of location can do a lot to inspire creativity.
  6. Delegate and outsource: Unburden yourself of activities that can be easily handled by subordinates or outsourced. Managers should frequently assess the tasks that distract them from their overall goals and assign those duties to others with the skills and capacity to complete them. By outsourcing service activities such as
    24/7 support calls, the organization can better focus its resources on long-term goal attainment.
  7. Be done with the day: know when the time is right to walk away from work to clear your mind. While it’s not always possible for a small business owner to shut down completely, pick a day or two each week to participate in extracurricular activities. Engage in a sport or take your wife and/or kids to a movie—just find something that diverts your attention away from the day-to-day stressors of running an MSP business.

No matter what you do improve your focus on business goal attainment, make sure it’s working. Some get discouraged or even distracted by activities meant to help them relax (think video game or gambling addictions). Discuss your challenges with peers and engage in discussions with other business owners to find successful alternatives. Either way, every MSP should frequently to test their resolve and ability to “keep their eye on the prize.” They may be able to survive without that focus, but the quality of their lives may suffer significantly.