MAX 2016 – A chance to learn from some of your leading peers

Pete Roythorne

One of the most powerful things that MAX conferences provide is the opportunity to learn from your peers, and the MSP panel hosted by community manager Nadia Karatsoreos provided just this.

panel.jpgNadia was joined by a panel of special guests, including Marcus Lewis of Capital Support, Andy Hinxman of Keybridge IT, Jonathan McHarg of TMB Systems, Dan Scott of Complete IT and Joao Carlos Guirau of Blocktime Technologia in Brazil.

Here’s an outline of what was discussed and some of the key learnings the panellists shared. 

Nadia: What contributes the most to the success of your business?

Andy Hinxman (AH): Staff. We went down the apprentice route early on and this really helped us grow without investment.

Jonathan McHarg (JM): Staff are certainly important, alongside being dynamic in terms of what we offer to the market.

Marcus Lewis (ML): Good people and management are essential. For us it’s also about exceptional service and communicating with customers.

Joao Carlos Guirau (JCG): Understanding the needs of clients. This allows you to plan.

Dan Scott (DS): Clearly defined objectives, goals and strategies that are communicated throughout the organisation.


Nadia: What are your biggest challenges?

JM: To market the right way. There’s always someone that will undercut you on price. We have to be able to explain why we have chosen the package we offer.

ML: Time is a big challenge. We have to manage perceptions of what customers are going to get and then deliver that. There have to be clear boundaries.

JCG: Price is the biggest challenge. 


Nadia: When you signed you first managed service client, what was first tool deployed?

DS: Us. It’s important to build trust and people are how you do that. From a software perspective though it would have to be an RMM. 

AH: Management agent then Bitdefender. We used to let customer dictate what AV they used, but that became a nightmare to manage.

JM: Same thing. Install the agent on every device. AV and backup are also part of our standard deployment. If customers want to choose their own systems then we have to put caveats in place that we can’t guarantee support.


Audience: How do you prove the value of your team?

ML: We’re high end so demonstrating value is important. We have a fantastic reputation and we add a lot of value through our consultative approach. We’re not aggressive on sales, we let our customers understand there is a requirement for something then it’s up to them. 

JM: Customer service, providing those little added extras like taking the calls at 2am. It’s really about putting customer first.


Audience: What is your tech to account manager ratio?

ML: We are around 75% technical, with 200 clients and eight account managers – our senior account managers have a smaller number of clients as they are focused more on relationships.

AH: We have 70 customers and one account manager in addition to me.


Nadia: What’s your biggest operational challenge?

JM: Taking ownership of problems; even if they’re not within your remit. This often means building strong relations with key suppliers.

DS: Recruitment. Finding the right people is a challenge.

JCG: Same problem around the world – employees. That and understanding what the client needs.

JM: There could be a real opportunity for us to use communities like this to help us fill short-term skills gaps.


Nadia: How does your pricing work?

ML: We don’t publish our pricing models. We have a pretty standard way we price though. We have a similar basic package but offer a number of additional options. We always put extended warranty as an additional line item. We charge per user on service desk, but not on our main offering.

AH: We don’t publish our pricing but we are flexible. Need to get user to understand the value of what we offer, but we operate on a per user model.

JM: We charge based on as availability model. Outside that we charge per user/server. However, the model is getting skewed by the cloud.

DS: We don’t charge per user or computer. We try not to be too rigid and we work with clients to assign service desk and consultancy days, and then create a plan off the back of that which works for them. As they grow the account grows. We do try to price a little differently.

JCG: We charge on a user/device basis, also taking into account how old the environment is. 


Nadia: How long are your contracts?

JM: We have loose contracts and bill on a monthly basis.

ML: Three years. We have very strong managed service agreements. Some of our clients have very complex set ups that require a lot of energy to on-board, so we offset that across the life of the contract. We are starting to build in opt outs as well as SLAs but they are there for comfort of customers as much as anything.

AH: One year contracts. Recruitment won’t commit longer.


Audience: What are your most and least favourite parts of being an MSP?

DS: When you realise a process has slipped or something has been exposed. Bad news is always disappointing. The highlight has to be getting positive feedback and success stories.


Nadia: You’ve just graduated, love technology and want to set up in business, what should you do?

ML: Learn from your peers. Everyone has knowledge you can learn from. Say less, listen more!

AH: Don’t be afraid to go for it. Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can be a good thing.

JM: Focus on the people. Great business is built on great customer service and relationship.

DS: Love what you do and be brilliant at it.

JCG: Behind every piece of technology is a human – see that. More important than any technology.