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Are managed service providers spending too much time debating their next steps and not enough time taking those same steps?

According to a panel discussion at the recent Toronto stop of Level Platforms’ 2012 roadshow, the answer is probably yes. On that panel, a group of successful managed service providers urged their peers to have the courage to make it happen.

“There’s always something in your business that you’re thinking about, but aren’t doing yet,” said Matt Adkins, managing partner at Toledo, Ohio-based Vanguard Technologies. “Don’t spend five years trying to figure out how to do it perfectly. Just do it.”

That “something” might be as transformational as making that first step from project-based VAR to managed service provider, or an additional step along that path – say, full realizing the potential of a professional services automation or remote monitoring and management package, or adding new outsourcing partners, like a managed help desk or NOC service.

“Get it out there, put it out there, make your best first shot and tweak it as you,” Adkins said. “If you wait until its perfect, you’ll never it out there and you’ll never make any money on it.”

Fellow panelist Scott Kendall, president of Toronto-based Outhouse IT, echoed Adkins’ comments. It’s a subject he knows all too well – his organization was the relative newcomer to the world of managed services on the platform, and it’s a change he now wishes he’d made earlier.

The problem, he feels, is that technical people – the kind of folks who typically make up the leadership of IT solution providers – “tend to want to research the heck out of anything” before finally taking the plunge. But ultimately, most would be better suited by taking that step.

Ted Garner, CEO of Brampton, Ontario-based IT Weapons, shared the story of knowing when it was time to leave behind his own technical roots and focus on being “the business guy” for his company. For Garner, that meant going from being on top of all aspects of  technology, to being able to communicate the company’s value proposition and its expertise. It’s a switch that many organizations struggle to make, Garner said.

“They hold back on that because it’s too scary to let go of their technical roots. But I make more money talking about how smart my team is, than I did by being smart myself,” he said.

It’s a subtle difference, but a significant one, and one that more MSP management would benefit from taking. Garner’s advice for making it happen: Read business books, go to groups like Toastmasters to develop public speaking and networking skills, and always keep an eye on ways to sell better than your current methods. “That’s way more important than the report I drop in front of somebody,” he said.

Adkins advised member that innovating in their business doesn’t have to be innovation writ large. This is an area where “new to you” is as good as “brand new,” and he admitted that “90 per cent of what we do in our business that’s successful is stolen from others.”

But in order to steal idea, one must be willing to share one’s own good ideas for others to steal. Adkins counseled members at event like the Level Platforms roadshow to talk to others and exchange ideas, get into peer groups and make friends in the community. It’s especially important to meet people from outside your own region, because those are not in direct competition on a regular basis can be more giving with their own best ideas and more open with their own results and expectations.

Finally, Adkins suggested that MSPs should set deadlines on a calendar for a task that’s not day-to-day crucial, but are necessary to evolve and grow the business. Whether it’s signing up a new type of service, or implementing a new PSA or RMM solution, decide to have it done two, four or six months from today. And then… like the ads say, “Just do it.”

In my next blog post here at MSP Help Desk, I’ll continue the MSP’s Advice to MSPs theme, reflecting one panelist’s blunt assessment that MSP need to “brand the snot out of everything.”