In my previous blog I touched briefly on your approach to sales and how it’s partly based on your ambitions for your business. For example, if you want to rapidly build a business to a multimillion dollar turnover in five years, you’ll need a radically different attitude toward sales than if you aim to grow your business steadily over a longer period.
I’ve read a lot of articles about “growing your MSP business” and the techniques around marketing, automation, training, and industry specialization to support that growth. Some business owners say they feel pressure to comply to a fast growth model, and that a “slow burn” approach fails to get the most out of the business. But that’s simply not true.
At Dynacom, with the exception of a somewhat unexpected acquisition some years ago, we’ve always experienced slow and steady growth. We do very little marketing, we don’t have sales people, and our largest clients are ones we’ve grown up with over the past 17 years. This approach works for us because it aligns with our overarching personal and professional goals.
From a personal perspective I‘ve appreciated the ability to grow at a steady and predictable pace. I’ve been able to balance my work and home life whilst moving steadily forward with the business to ensure my family is financially stable. It’s a comparatively low risk strategy, and we’ve never had to raise finance or factor invoices to assist with cashflow.
Of course, a driven business owner could certainly have built a very substantial business during that time frame. But this organic growth fits better with my approach to life. Specializing in one or two industries is often considered a necessity for driving rapid growth. I agree with this—although I’d question the wisdom of placing all your eggs in one basket in this way. For me, the biggest price you pay is a lack of variety.
I love the fact our team knows about 50% of what it takes to run a quarry, or a car parts company, or a planning consultancy. Recognizing that need for variety in my personal ambition feeds into our business’ ambition. It means scaling the business is slower as we choose to spend time understanding what our clients do. But we recognize that and it’s okay with us.
For me this demonstrates perfectly how business ambition is intrinsically linked to a business owner’s personal ambition—and not just in terms of financial performance. I’ve spoken before about how a company adopts the culture of its staff almost by osmosis, and this is also true of how the development of an organization intersects with its ambitions.
As a case in point, nearly three years ago we took on an apprentice. Morgan was no stranger to me personally as his parents lived across the road from us for many years. He’s from “Generation Z” so I had some preconceived ideas of how I saw him fitting into the team. I was right about a few things—the telephone was deemed an instrument of torture, and he enjoyed working from home, nifty gear, and flexible hours.
However, I was wrong about his place within the company—and mine. I originally envisioned passing some of my third line activities off to him, so I could concentrate on business development. But his aptitude for learning new things, increased confidence, and the positive feedback he received from clients meant my initial plan didn’t work out. And thank goodness for that. My business ambition made me lose sight of my personal ambition.
I learned from this experience that I’m simply not ready to move out of the technical side and into full-time management. My current ambition is to balance technical, development, and responsibility for myself, my staff, and our families. I like to think this now applies to our business ambition too.
I believe an alignment of your ambitions is essential. If you haven’t already, why not sit with a piece of paper for five minutes (or your favored paper replacement technology) and write down what your own ambitions are. Don’t think too hard about it, just something off the cuff. Then consider the ambitions for your business. I’d be willing to bet the two are not that different. If they’re markedly different, you may want to consider how you can realign them so your work ambition is consistent with your personal ambition. This can be challenging, especially if you’re a joint business owner—but running a business is difficult enough without conflicting ambition. It’s best to make sure they’re aligned moving forward.
Simon Beckett is the MD of Dynacom IT Support Ltd, a retained IT consultancy and MSP formed in 2003 and based near London Stansted Airport. Dynacom provides services to small businesses in a range of industries all across the UK.
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