Handy pointers for growing your business

Marc Thaler

ORLANDO – Pains are typically associated with growing, and Jim Hunton said he experienced his share in the early days of building his managed services business.

“My presentation is on a lot of the things I didn’t do right,” Hunton, the founder and owner of Arizona-based Onsite Technical Services, said at the start of his MAX 2014 U.S. Customer Conference session, which offered advice for growing from a one-person shop.

“A lot of businesses fail in the first five years,” he added at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. “A lot of us are good techs; that’s what inspires us to start our own business. But it requires more knowledge to help grow beyond yourself. It can be difficult if not done in a controlled, thought-process manner.”

Self-analysis, Hunton said, is priceless. He encourages managed service providers (MSPs) to ask and answer three key questions that can help determine whether they are truly ready to grow:

  • What are your current pain points? Ask yourself, “What happens if …” and complete the thought. Can you easily address the issues?
  • What are your concerns? Managing finances and nurturing client relationships are among the challenges, which also include administrative responsibilities.
  • Are you ready to add a second person? “How are they going to perform if all the information is in my head?” Hunton said.

If you are comfortable with your answers to those initial questions, Hunton said it’s important to apply these seemingly obvious but perhaps overlooked pointers:

Manage your time – Prioritize the aspects of your job and do away with tasks that are not part of your core business.

Multi-Person-Organization

Time, as the adage goes, is money.

Organize – Use solutions that will give you clear visibility into your business operations. Hunton said he created a SharePoint site in 2007 and documented everything.

“It took some time,” he said. “Before that, we were really struggling. I had all this information in my brain. And I remembered everything. But when you have another employee, their effectiveness is really reduced by the amount of information you have that they don’t.”

Talk, talk, talk – Communication is essential.

Measure – Do you know how many hours are billed to jobs versus time spent on administrative duties? Hunton said relying on metrics that work for your business – and keep you up-to-date on its health – is critical. Otherwise, it can be tough to know if you’re hitting your numbers.

Know yourself – Understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

Test and evaluate – As you identify potential candidates, conduct background and credit checks. Hunton, who is looking to hire a fifth full-time tech, said he conducts “DISC” tests that measure the behavioral traits for dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness.

Bottom line: Do your due diligence.

Network – The most valuable insight and advice often comes from MSPs whose experiences are similar.

Last but certainly not least, determine the type of tech you need. Hiring a low-level candidate with limited experience is unlikely to save you money. You’ll pay in the time that’s required to teach, which takes you away from revenue-generating jobs.

“It takes quite a bit of time to understand where they’re at,” Hunton said.