MSP Advice Project: Article - Starting Out

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Starting Out

Learn how our MSP Advisors started their journeys and how they evolved in a changing market. In this video, our Advisors also discuss their business models and biggest challenges as they were starting out.

November 05, 2018


Question: How did your company get started?

Chris Taylor: Our core management team came from the explosion that happened in the late eighties—so lots of PCs were being sold replacing terminals with PCs, so we wanted to focus on connectivity, and how do we share these PCs… so that's how we started the company back in late 91, early 92—and then we formed it in spring of 92.

Bruce Lach: The founder; his name is Eric, and he was a technician like many folks that started up an MSP 25 years ago. He worked for a big financial services firm. He provided technical support for some of the senior executives here in Minneapolis, and he got a little tired of doing that, so he thought he could jump out and do his own company. And he also thought he would serve executives, but after maybe a couple of years, he decided that wasn't his cup of tea. He really wanted to serve smaller companies. So he started initially, I think serving nonprofits.

Fred Alonzi: Like many entrepreneurs, you earn a certain amount of capital in business, and then you decide it's time for you to be on your own. I wanted to control my own schedule; I wanted to control my own ideas. It was just the perfect time. At that point, I was lucky to have a wife that was supportive of it, and it was just a matter of jumping in with both feet.

Question: Were you always a break/fix model?

Chris Taylor: We started as a traditional break/fix hourly services, reactive services, and then transitioned roughly 12 years ago to a full MSP model. We also still do project and hourly services, but we really lead with a managed service platform and our MSP model.

Jamie Wolbeck: When I started with the organization almost 12 years ago, it was more of a break/fix model. We had a few clients that were on more of what you would consider a traditional managed services model. They might've had an implementation, which included just tools for monitoring and then they would call us when service was needed, but none of that was bundled shortly thereafter. So probably about 11 or 10 years ago, we made a dramatic shift where we kind of said, this is our offering, and we asked organizations to come to us and buy service as well as the tools— and we bundled it together and gave them a kind of help desk on-site, all of that included.

Fred Alonzi: We got into managed services about 10 years ago, and it was really just a big boost to our overall growth and strategy. 15, 20 years ago, I used to drive around in my car, and the trunk was full of network cards and disk drives and monitors because they were always failing—that's all I did, drive around and replace these things. It has gotten so good lately in the last five to eight years, we really just don't have to put much into on-site calls anymore. So that's been a big improvement in our workflow.

Question: What was your biggest challenge starting out?

Chris Taylor: The big challenge is—when you start any company—is finding clients. So our big challenge, we had an idea, we had the concept, we had the deliverable, but we needed someone to sell it to. So that was my role early on—finding those clients that wanted to be the first, then the first 10.

Brent Morris: There were many big challenges as a small business. I think the cashflow was one of the first. It's challenging to make sure you've got enough money to operate the business in an effective way. It's also equally challenging, I think, to find great people to grow a business that you really believe in. And so we were fortunate to have some really, really good people working for us early on who still work for the company today.

Jamie Wolbeck: With our customers. They have certain perceptions of the market and what expectations they might have around what support should look like. Sometimes, we have to break those expectations, and that can be challenging too. So depending on the vertical or depending on the type of organization and the type of leadership within any organization, we're finding ourselves in a position where we have to educate frequently because they just don't really know what the reality looks like. So that's pretty challenging.


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