The summer is coming to an end and life for many of us is about to get busy again. Before we all get swept into the mad rush of the fall “selling season” I wanted to take a moment of pause to provide you with a new perspective that you probably won’t hear elsewhere.
Some of the most hectic days and anxious nights of my career were spent as an MSP. I’ll never forget that feeling when a client goes down, forcing us to throw every resource we have at the problem, only to cause more fires elsewhere in the business. Frankly, it sucked and I still cringe just thinking about it.
The problem with growth as an MSP is that the more clients you service, the more likely this is to happen. And the bigger the clients, the bigger the catastrophes. Sure, you can build an army of technicians to throw at these problems, but growing internal teams of entry-level resources comes with an entirely different slew of issues. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why many MSP leaders are content with slowly collecting referrals over the years and resisting the urge to scale with intent.
I’m here to tell you that this is okay… But I’m also here to tell you that there is another way too. Despite what your vendors, peers, consultants, and internet gurus will tell you, you can optimize your business for “contentment” and still grow at your own pace.
Here are a few ways how:
Block Out The Noise
I have always had a confusing relationship with the IT Channel. While it was inspiring to see everyone come together during COVID, I have slowly watched this “togetherness” wear off and the self-serving dispositions that I remembered as an MSP start to show their heads again. I’m not trying to take a hard stance against vendors as most of them are quite helpful, but what I am saying is that “you are you, and they are them” and you shouldn’t forget that.
It’s also important to remember that the vendors rely on you (the MSP) as their last mile delivery to the end customer. When they give you advice, or recommend ways to operate and grow your business, they are doing so to condition your business to sell more of their product (that’s their job). While this can be valuable, it might not always be what is best for your customer.
This is why it’s important to just listen to what your customers are saying and block out whatever noise is telling you otherwise. Will this make you the highest grossing MSP to ever sign a partnership agreement? No. To be honest, you will probably sell less and for less money. But if your customer is happy and you are happy, does that matter?
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Buy Yourself More Time
Time is the one thing we all wish we had more of and it is often linked directly to “life satisfaction.” In a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that employed people with the highest levels of satisfaction often had more than 2.5 hours of free time per day. As this free time decreased, their overall satisfaction did as well.
I don’t know about you, but 2.5 hours is pretty hard to come by in my household. After picking up my son from school, it’s on to making dinner, bath time, bed time, and then more work. I haven’t allowed myself to have much free time over the years and occasionally I am forced to pay the price.
This leads me to my next point, which is the fact that you are going to have to pay for this time one way or another. Don’t run yourself into the ground and avoid a helping hand for the sake of profitability and growth. Buying yourself more time, either during the workday or at night with family, will always be worth the investment. This might mean that things are done differently than you would prefer, and that your company may not see as much profit on the bottom line, but it will be worth it in the end.
Stick To Your Values
Part of maturing as an MSP and a business operator was learning how to hire the right people. In a technical world surrounded by technical people, it can be really difficult to focus on the thing that matters most (values). I can’t tell you how many times we were blown away by certifications, only to be let down by the “human” underneath them. This was our fault, because we let the guise of technical ability cloud our judgement and our culture suffered as a result.
The reason that values are important is because it’s just about the only thing that is truly “hard-coded” in our brains. Anything else can be taught quite easily, especially when that person has the right attitude and an eagerness to learn. In the end, one of our best hires at our company was someone who never worked in IT and had no certifications to their name. He was a part-time bus driver, but he loved technology and came to work every day excited to try something new.
Finding people that reflect your values extends well beyond the human resources department. This is applicable to any group that you associate with. Whether it’s co-workers, friends, an online community, or even a peer group, it’s important that the people you are spending time with aren’t distorting your view on life. When you are trying to grow a business, you try to surround yourself with other people who have been successful in doing just that. Unfortunately, they don’t require a “morality check” when completing an application for an LLC. Successful people can be toxic too. It’s up to you to know who you are, what you stand for, and to look for those values in other people.
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Grow Your Own Way
I recently put up a LinkedIn poll asking my followers this very simple question; “Which way has historically led you to more success?” While it was a bit of a trick question (and engagement stunt) I still believe in the accuracy of the results. 100% of respondents said that “doing it my own way” was what led to their ultimate success.
If everyone believes this sentiment to be true, then why are we listening to growth experts telling us that “their way” is the best? And even worse, why are we frustrated when it doesn’t work out the way they told us it would? This isn’t to imply that you should avoid expert opinion and the knowledge of your peers, but more so to say that a sole discipleship is never the answer.
In reality, you don’t need to achieve rocketship-like growth to be happy. You just have to keep your momentum moving in a positive direction. To me, this is what growth is all about. It’s about coming up with new ideas, trying new things, and being yourself every step of the way. If you enjoy the process and what you do every day then growth will come naturally because you will never want to stop doing it. So if you really want to start enjoying your life more as an MSP, stop reaching for the moon and just have fun with it.