Why you need to lead by example as an MSP Business owner

Richard Tubb

I was recently talking to the owner of an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) business who was bemoaning the fact that his engineers would not log their time properly within the businesses Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool.

“I’ve asked them to log their time, and I’ve even told them to log their time” he explained, exasperated, “but even if they do it for a while, it doesn’t last”.

Lead-by-ExampleWhen I asked the business owner if he logged his own time in the same way he was asking his engineers to, the answer rather sheepishly came back as “No”.

This attitude brings to mind the phrase “Do as I say, not as a I do” a sentiment that rarely, if ever works to move somebody towards a desired action.

Leading by example

To inspire action in others as a business leader you must be seen to be leading by example.

In the case of our MSP business owner, what message was he sending his staff by asking them to consistently log their time in the PSA tool when he didn’t bother to log his own time? Quite simply he was sending a message that the process wasn’t important enough for him to follow, so why should anyone else?

As a former MSP business owner myself, I made sure to log all the time I spent within my business in the same way I asked my engineers to do so. I felt that by doing so I was setting an example to be followed -- or at worst, I was not asking staff to follow a procedure that I didn’t follow myself!

As a business owner, by following the systems and processes you are asking your staff to follow you will also have a good insight into what is working and what could be improved for any process. It’s going to be difficult for you to gain a perspective over the challenges staff face with certain processes if you don’t understand those processes yourself.

First in to the office, last to go home?

Staff will follow your lead, even (or especially!) if you’re setting a poor example.

I worked with one IT Solution Provider where staff morale was an issue. When I asked the staff what they didn’t like about their workplace, they shared that they felt the expectation to work long hours was stressful.

This came as a complete surprise to the business owner who shared with me that he’d never asked any of his staff to work late, to the best of his recall. However, when I enquired to the hours the business owner kept, he fully admitted that he came into the office before anybody else and often worked late to stay on top of work.

The example the business owner was setting -- even without consciously being aware of it -- was that long hours was an expectation. If the boss was seen to be working long hours, his staff made a leap of judgement to believe he would want them to work long hours too.

The situation was helped when the business owner shared with his staff that he would like the company to embrace a culture of life/work balance (with life coming first!) and that meant staff taking regular breaks during the day, and keeping normal working hours. On its own, this statement of the explicit desire for a company culture would not have been enough to sway staff however. “Do as I say and not as I do” applies again. The business owner himself needed to change his outlook on long hours, and sure enough, once he led by example and started taking regular breaks and finishing work at a normal time, his staff started becoming comfortable with the environment and enjoyed work a lot more.


As an IT business owner, are you asking staff to “Do as I say and not do as I do?” or are you leading by example and doing things the way you would like staff to do them?

Whether it be a process you’re asking staff to adhere to, or the culture of a business, the way you behave as a business owner on a day-to-day basis will influence your staff -- for worse or for better!

For more advice on how to succeed when managing employees check out another great article from Richard Tubb!