MSP Advice Project: Article - Leveraging Mentors

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Leveraging Mentors

It's never too soon to leverage mentors. In this video, our Advisors talk about the importance of mentorship and how sharing information has helped them grow. Additionally, they offer tips for those interested in becoming an MSP or starting their own shop.

November 05, 2018


Question: Do you rely on external sources or mentorship?

Bruce Lach: We meet quarterly, we share financials, we share best practices. I've got nine other mentors to keep me focused on being a great MSP. At least 15 years ago, this company, an MSP started this little group called Heartland Technology Group was formed - roundtables and other MSPS – it’s exploded. It's known in the industry and there are dozens, if not more than that, that have groups of 10 to 15 CEOs that meet. In fact, our VP of sales actually facilitated groups in Heartland Technology Group. We kind of outgrew that. Now we're part of a similar group, but it's sponsored by Ingram Micro, one of the big distribution companies in our marketplace. It ranges from $5 million to $20 million in size. We are from Alaska to Gaithersburg, Maryland, and San Francisco to Connecticut. We've got a diverse geography, diverse kind of approaches, but we're all MSPs - all struggling with the same challenges.

Question: What do you see as the next big revenue trend?

Chris Taylor: Security will continue to be one of those big areas. I think more proactive network management is going to continue to grow not only in just a small space that I mentioned, but the customers that have internal staff.  I think they're trying to get internal IT staff focused on day-to-day business and software platforms and making their users better on technology, not necessarily managing their technology. Even the large organizations are going to start leaning more and more on proactive managed service type providers that can help with managing the day-to-day stuff to let their user base focus on making their users more productive on their application suite.

Brent Morris: I think that the industry needs to change to being more proactive as it relates to security. Success developed a security service that I think is imperative for organizations to have, and I think the sooner managed service providers begin to add additional layers to support good security, the better off they'll be.

Question: What advice would you give someone who wants to start an MSP?

I think the transition in our industry from the small vars, small reseller into more of a full service requires people, right? You have to dedicate people to certain functions in the organization, right? When you're a small break fix company - everyone's doing it all. Everyone's wearing all the hats. When you move to more of a proactive managed service model, you need to dedicate resources to certain pieces support pieces of that business. The big thing would be: start to grow your organization from a people perspective; and then dedicate people that are doing certain things every day; and not a one-man-band wearing all the hats. More of delegation of those day-to-day roles because as you become more of a managed service provider, there's things that have to be delegated out and can't be done by everyone. The simple one I can look at was when we separated our field services team from our managed services remote support team. It's a completely separate team. There's not a lot of crossover there, and individuals and it's a dedicated team to that. So, things like that I think are key to helping those organizations that want to get into or continue to grow their managed services - start to dedicate resources around pieces of that business.

Bruce Lach: Make sure you have a little bit of wherewithal in terms of your ability to go without a salary for a while. You're going to either not have the revenue coming in or you're going to want to invest a lot of that money back in. Whether it's buying tools are hiring people. It doesn't mean you have to go without any money, but you're usually last at the table when it comes to getting a paycheck. So, have a little bit of cushion there. The other advice I'd have is you got to work your butt off. I mean, this is not an easy job. Being an entrepreneur is really hard. It's very challenging. Failure rates are high, right? You might fail more. What's the term? Fail your  way to success. If you don't do it the first time, try it again and again and again. You will eventually figure it out. You don't know everything you need to know. Stepping out, being an entrepreneur, be open to that. Take advice from folks who have done it. In fact, find a mentor in the industry. Join an industry group. They will teach you. We'd love to share.

Fred Alonzi: Well, the advice I would give to new MSPs is: number one, they need to have a good idea, a good foundation for a new business. When they step into the MSP marketplace, they're going to have a lot of competition and they need to have a good idea to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. They also need to be able to work hard. Obviously, it'd be a lot of challenges those first few years, especially if you're independent. And then finally, again, they need to be able to sell themselves. They need to be able to ask for the business and you'll find support in many, many places.


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