Peer power: Insight from other MSPs

Marc Thaler

ORLANDO – Do you ever wonder how your peers built their managed services businesses? What worked for them? Where did they hit road blocks?

Six managed service provider (MSP) business leaders participated in a roundtable discussion during Tuesday’s MAX 2014 U.S. Customer Conference at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. “Hear from your peers: How did we get here?” featured:

  • Steve Thom – President and CEO, Thom Infotech
  • Dennis Blair – President, Blair IT
  • Mike Gallogly – President and CEO, Mi-Tec Computer Solutions
  • Seth Rosenberg – President, Syncretic Software
  • David Alger – Co-owner and CTO, Mobius Works
  • Steve Rutkovitz – CEO, Choice Technologies

Panelists took turns sharing their insight on a variety of subjects. A few of the key topics included:

Keys to success

Rutkovitz made it a priority to shift his business from being reactive to proactive so customers have the most amount of uptime. He also said it was critical to identify and partner with “feeders” in other businesses that can provide referrals.

Thom advised MSPs to “get a grip on your financials. If you don’t know what belongs on the top line, you’ll never know where you’re at. And how do you know you’re getting better?”

How to differentiate between tools you need versus want

How-did-we-get-here

Rosenberg said he searches for “cool vendors” rather than “cool tools.” Building a strong vendor relationship is priority, he said.

Blair said he seeks tools “that help others do their job more than it helps us do ours.” The way he does it? He makes sure his customers have a chance to use the tools, ask questions, and establish a level of comfort.

Gallogly said his company operates based on a specific motto: “We eat our own dog food.”

In other words, his staff uses the tool before rolling it out to clients.

Biggest operations-related challenge

Resisting the urge to micromanage was tough to overcome, Alger said. Until you are willing to “let it go, you’re never going to grow past yourself.”

“I’ll second that,” Gallogly said. He also added that keeping track of jobs is mission-critical. “Dropping the ball” because your company isn’t “working off a process” can be detrimental.

Rosenberg said cash flow was his hurdle: “Sell, bill, collect. You’ve got to do those things really well to help with the cash flow problem.”

Biggest mistake

Looking back, Alger said he should have converted to managed services sooner: “It’s a big leap to make, especially for a one-man shop. But time and materials is going out the window.”

Blair said he chose to hire “a whole bunch of little guys” instead of spending money for a more experienced tech.

Rosenberg kept it very short as well: “I should’ve invested more in sales and marketing.”

When Rutkovitz moved away from the break-fix business, he converted roughly 20 clients to monthly managed services. The hiccup: His company was over-delivering service without charging for it.

“Managed services is great,” he said. “But you have to know the math. It’s a very important part of the puzzle.”