November 05, 2018
How do you handle when clients don't want to move away from legacy services?
Chris Taylor: We try to ease them into the conversation. I mean, there're organizations that just don't like change, but I think with technology, you have no choice but to change. So we try to take baby steps with some of those that are not as comfortable moving pieces of their business to the cloud. We'll point out some areas that they've probably already been doing in the cloud for many years that they didn't understand, where cloud services were not labeled as services back in the day. So just make them more comfortable, ease them into it, and start with pieces of their technology that they can really get their arms around and understand more.
Bruce Lach: You know, it's really interesting. So we divide the technology stack into—it sounds a little weird—but we call it above the line and below the line. Below the line is the utilities—the boxes and the wires and things. And above the line is your line of business apps, your collaboration, your business intelligence… and first of all, we separate out the stuff that's driven by cost; the below-the-line stuff—so we can have the business-value-driven activity above the line, and we just start separating the technology from the business need. So instead, having a technical discussion around say, a legacy system that doesn't serve the need. Again, let's talk about what goodness looks like from a business standpoint and then show the gaps in how they're being ill- served by that legacy application, if that makes sense. And then it's less of a technical question and more of a, “what is the business trying to achieve?” And now let's see how well your current infrastructure technology they're serving is identify gaps, and then look for solutions that will fill those gaps.
Fred Alonzi: Number one, again, is going back to the communication skills. It's giving them the strategies and giving them the rationale to move forward and typically in service as you're building a long-term relationship. So we never try and make a short-term gain. Just try and sell a solution. We want to consult with our customers and show them a technology plan. Here's where you should be in the next five years. And so there's never any revolutionary costs, the construct is kind of evolutionary for them. And that's part of just being a good managed services partner—is kind of steering the boat for them, showing them what direction they have to go; we can show them that the longer they hold onto their old technology, it’s actually more expensive. It will become for service and support reasons. So I think again, if you're managing that relationship and looking at the long-term, I think again, you'll just work on that technology plan with those clients and make sure that you're always at the level of technology they need to be.
Question: Do you have any advice for new MSPs starting out who want to grow their business?
Chris Taylor: I think the big challenge there has become, when you can do so much of what we do remotely or with tools to make sure you keep that personal touch with the clients, because I think sometimes out of sight, out of mind, they can forget that you're doing great work for them and you've got these great tools and great people behind the scenes that are doing great things with their technology. But if they don't see it and feel it, I think that's challenging. I think sometimes they think, oh, I don't think we need any more of building around it, so good, and we don't see you while they don't understand everything that's going on in the background. So just continue to be in the relationship, be in front, be out at the client site, have that interaction with them. I think that is probably the biggest piece that our industry, from an MSP view, has struggled with.
Bruce Lach: There're really two. The first one is focus. I mean, when you get into technology, it's hard to be focused because there's so many avenues and so much cool, shiny things to chase. Figure out what you're good at and why you're good at it, who you're good at it for, the why, the who, the where. Figure those things out and stay focused as you grow your business. Because if you don't, you know you're gonna dissipate what limited resources you have, and the other is understand cash flow at any size of business. Growth really consumes cash and a lot of folks just starting out don't understand the implication of that. They think any growth is good growth, but you can outstrip your ability to fund the growth, whether it's hiring new people or having the capacity to buy the equipment on behalf of your clients, whether you, you know, you do it through a platform as a service or you're just passing the paper through. Cash is king at any size of the business. If you're short of cash, it's the only thing that matters. If you have plenty of cash in theory, you don't need to worry about it, but always keep an eye on it.
Fred Alonzi: Well, 25 years ago is a long time. It was a much different environment at that time… really, it was just finding other support avenues. That's why I say today for anyone jumping into MSP, you need to be afraid because you have so many sources of information available to you on the web. We didn't have that 25 years ago. So the biggest fear I had back then was when a customer asked me a question that I couldn't answer, what was I going to do? So find the right references, right? Find the right resources, do your homework. That was all really important back then. I think nowadays, again, you just have more places to go for that information.