What makes a successful managed service provider business? The answer, of course, is that there is no answer, or at least no one answer, because everyone has their own individual models, strategies, and goals.
But there are enough common principles and proven techniques to follow that can help you achieve your career ambitions. It’s also OK if your road to success takes an unexpected turn, especially if you’re the one choosing to make that turn, according to MSP speakers during a session at CompTIA’s Member and Partner Conference in London.
Changing Directions, Keeping Focus
For Adam Morris, founder and head of operations at The MSP Finance Team, success wasn’t ultimately predicated upon a growing bank account, but about building a successful business that helped customers.
“There’s a challenge around thinking that success is associated with having a Ferrari and a big house. I think we need to get away from that. We’re taught that business is about money, profit, drive for EBITDA and growth. We need aspects of that, but it’s about helping others, building a team, helping customers. We often forget about that,” he said.
Morris sold his former MSP company, but only after building a sustainable business with a great team and a corporate culture to match.
For Amanda Stewart, managing director of Illuminate Technology, success for the last 14 years has been measured by building the company she wanted—one that gave her the flexibility to raise a child and develop a team that she loves to work with.
“You don’t get out of bed to go and work somewhere you don’t enjoy. I’ve worked in toxic companies where you dread to go to work. That’s not why we work. We want to enjoy what we do,” she said. “Now, customers have become almost friends and having a culture that everyone believes in and works together to build a business is success.”
Recognize that Class Is Always in Session
For many MSPs, including Stewart and Morris, success can also be measured by how you’ve learned from and move past mistakes that you’ve made.
“A lot of it is embracing a philosophy of learning, and realizing that you can improve,” Morris said. “It’s not something that you change overnight. It’s looking back and mistakes and admitting ‘I didn’t handle that well.’ I lost a great guy, and I could have managed that better. But I was only equipped with what I knew at the time. It was a learning experience.”
Stewart learned that you can’t just state ‘this is our culture’ and it happens. You may not have the right staff to support those ideals, and it may mean hard decisions have to be made in order to progress.
“We’ve all had people that we probably shouldn’t have kept as long as we did. We made a difficult decision [to get rid of an individual] and it changed the company overnight. Everybody flourished,” she said.
Running a Business Is Hard, Look for Help
No one tells you up front that running an MSP business can be hazardous to your health—but finding a way to reduce stress can be critical to your long-term success, said Stewart and Morris.
“My stresses were all about people, the relationships with the team. My stress got low when we had good people fully on board. Hires started to work better, and they really took off. That removed 90% of stress for me,” Morris said. “I found that I could go on holiday for two weeks and never get a phone call. I was very proud of that. That was success to me—building something that could function without me.”
Also recommended, according to Morris: speaking to other MSPs. You’ll learn that many have faced the same issues and can offer great advice on how to overcome almost any issue.
Meanwhile, Stewart said it’s important to communicate regularly with employees—keep them engaged, motivated, and moving forward.
“Be honest, present and open,” she said. “We planning to get t-shirts with taglines of diff points of our culture. Other companies have written their taglines on office. I know someone who would go down and ask someone on their help desk what the company values were. If they got it right, they got an Amazon gift card. There’s a lot we can do. We’re still learning. Every day is a school day for me.”