When I’m asked by IT business owners what I see as the biggest hurdle to growth in many Managed Service Provider (MSP) businesses, my answer often surprises them. The biggest challenge is often not sales and marketing, nor is it hiring the right people for the business – although these are both important. No, the biggest single challenge to growth is very often preventing the business owner from letting his or her ego get in the way.
What do I mean by this outrageous statement? Surely there are no business owners who purposefully sabotage their own businesses success and then feel good about it?
Well, certainly these business owners don’t do it consciously. But they do let their ego get in the way of business growth, all the same.
For many of us who run businesses, there are certainly tasks that we either feel comfortable doing – despite the fact these tasks aren’t the best use of our time – or, more commonly, there are tasks that we believe that *nobody* else can do as effectively as us. Even if that isn’t true.
For instance, I recently consulted with an IT business whose business growth had slowed. They wanted my input into why this might be.
Within a few hours of investigating, I immediately highlighted one practice that was indicative of the business owner sabotaging his businesses growth. Client billing for the entire business – and thus cash-flow – was bottle-necked by the business owner insisting on checking every client invoice before they were sent out.
When I enquired why this was, the business owner told me that it “had” to be that way as only he was capable of understanding the nuances of client agreements and as a business they didn’t want to run the risk of invoicing clients for incorrect amounts.
While I understand the logic here, the reality was that the business owner was kidding himself that he was the only person who could achieve this task. Certainly, it may take some time to build up an operations playbook of the convoluted invoicing system within this particular MSP business, but it certainly wasn’t impossible and it definitely wasn’t a job only the business owner could undertake.
After some persuasion, the business owner agreed to start to delegate the task. Slowly, but surely, his time was freed up to work on the business rather than in it. With the business owners valuable time freed up for higher value work, the business started to grow again.
Every very successful IT Solution Provider and MSP I have ever come across had a leader who understood one thing: that instead of trying to do everything within their business, if they focused on the core one or two things that they do well and surrounded themselves with people who did BETTER at the other things needed to grow their business, the business would flourish.
I’ve seen numerous examples of businesses that had the potential to grow, but the business owner wouldn’t put his/her ego to one side and accept that somebody else could do other jobs as well as, or better than them. Subsequently the owner tried to do everything, and everything suffered as a result.
When I was the owner of my own MSP, growth really started to happen for us when I realised that if I concentrated on my core skills – the two things that I was good at and enjoyed – and let other more talented people do the other things in the business, we could all grow the business a lot faster.
I didn’t feel any less of a successful leader for surrounding myself with good, talented people. In fact, I was able to grow as an individual more as I wasn’t trying to do everything on a day-to-day basis.
As an IT business owner, which tasks or regular activities are you undertaking within your business that could be delegated effectively?
Are you hanging on to any jobs that you believe only you could do, when in reality, if you put your ego to one side, another capable individual could do instead?
It takes a real leader to embrace self-awareness in this way and to stand to one side and let somebody else take responsibility for these jobs, allowing you to focus on something else that has perhaps been neglected as a result.
Uncomfortable as it is, it is worth taking a look at your own business and being honest – are you letting ego get in the way of growing your MSP?