One of the most difficult things to learn when growing your MSP business is how to scale yourself. As a business owner you wear many hats. You must be accountant, technician, HR, sales and anything else that requires your attention. If you have never read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, it explains the difference between owning a job and owning a business. This idea is critical to growing a business beyond the 24 hours a day that you can personally spend on it.
I think everyone agrees that you cannot (yet) clone yourself and that we have a limited amount of time each day. Efficiencies can help you get more done and therefore make more money but at some point you become as efficient as you can be. The only way to grow beyond yourself is to add more people.
Beyond the obvious complications of taxation, benefits and payroll, which are outside the scope of this article, the biggest problem when trying to scale a business is how to get your employees to do things the way you do. Most businesses do not do anything different. Bakeries bake, grocery stores sell groceries and MSPs provide managed services. HOW you provide those services is what makes the most difference between you and your competition.
Most likely you have achieved a level of success because of the way in which YOU do all the work in your business. The key to scaling your business is working ON the business rather than IN it all the time. Somehow you must impart your knowledge and processes into your employees to preserve the integrity of how your business runs.
Knowledge comes through documentation and training. To be useful, documentation must be easily gathered, easily searchable and always available. Many PSA tools like a Service Desk include a knowledge base feature for just this purpose. It allows the MSP to create a searchable library of knowledge that is accessible with any web browser. A proper knowledge base provides for the adding of attachments, tagging of articles and most importantly security. This allows you to literally do a brain dump of the information you have collected over the years of servicing your clients. The other way documentation makes it easier for your business to scale is through information collection by your employees. This helps make your technicians “interchangeable” because they can more easily share data about clients.
Processes are the other key to replicating yourself. Once you have downloaded your brain into a reliable repository, the next thing is to make sure that your new minions are doing things exactly as you do. Back in the day, this meant paper forms with checklists. I was a checklist addict before electronic solutions came around. I had one for setting up a new PC, another for doing virus removal and even one for monthly maintenance work. The checklists did not stop there but you get the idea. Now you can setup workflow templates that can be added to a ticket in your PSA so that every job gets done the exact same way. Some of those workflow templates can even have costs attached to certain items or steps in the process. This helps keep everything straight at billing time.
Automation is one of the keys to both documentation and processes. The easier you can make it to collect and access documentation and the less room for error you have in your processes, the more you will be able to successfully replicate your way of doing business.