By Adam Simpson, CEO of Easy Office Phone
Ah, unexpected growth. It’s a wonderful problem for most businesses, but if you were to ask the MSP (managed services providers) and IT providers supporting those companies, the perspective might be a little different. Here are some tips you can follow now to minimize growing pains when your client experiences an unexpected (but welcome) surge of business.
First, seek out services offering instant scalability that you can easily manage on your clients’ behalf. Using cloud-based phone service as an example, you’ll want to have your client on a plan that allows you to add capacity for more phone lines at a moment’s notice. There’s generally no reason you can’t do this directly online, when logged into the account and authenticated as an admin. That should be sufficient — avoid services that require a lengthy order process. At most, for larger or more complex accounts, you may need to contact the sales rep who looks after your client, but the turnaround on the service item addition should still be no more than one business day.
Once you’ve chosen vendors, get a direct line to the contact who can make things happen for you when push comes to shove. This may still be the initial sales rep, but could also be an account manager or someone with a similar title. During a growth surge, no matter how organized you are as an MSP, or how streamlined the provider’s online ordering process is, there will inevitably come that moment when you realize your client needs something unusual that doesn’t “fit the mold ” — and they’ll need it quickly. When that happens (not if), it’s critical to have a relationship with someone in the vendor’s organization who can occasionally bend the rules a bit and sidestep typical process in the interest of client satisfaction.
Infrastructure flexibility is also key. As an experienced MSP, you’re accustomed to a chaotic pace and can move quickly, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the process of expanding physical infrastructure. To the greatest extent possible, look for solutions that minimize or eliminate the need for doing so. The time requirements for new third-party installs can be a serious constraint, and you also don’t want the client to have to consult the financial module of their ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to see if they can afford a new Internet connection. When dealing with growth-oriented companies, make a gentle push toward data solutions that have room to accommodate a realistic future surge in business, without overpaying for current needs. Better yet, aim for data packages that scale up on demand without the need for on-site visits. Internet data services that can be scaled remotely are a great choice. This is possible with a number of technologies, including fiber, Ethernet-over-Cable, and even DSL. Note that you should always confirm availability first, as it can vary based on the client’s physical location.
Security is of course one of the primary considerations when business expands. You already have operating systems to update, third-party software to check, and best practices to nail down throughout the organization. Wouldn’t it be nice to have data security that elegantly accommodates growth? This is actually possible due to managed Internet services that offer private-layer networks and encrypted traffic. They may come with somewhat of a premium, but the improvements in privacy and security will likely be worthwhile to your client, particularly in verticals like legal, medical, and government.
Lastly, here’s a personnel management tip from experience. Ask your client’s decision maker for a direct line of communication either to them or to whoever is designated as “point person” for growth cycles. Deal only with this person when accepting changes and setup requests, which fly in rapid succession in an unplanned growth scenario, and you can avoid having to field requests that come from junior staff without management approval. You’ll have enough to manage without having to undo your hard work.
Adam Simpson is the CEO and co-founder of Easy Office Phone where he oversees the creation of new sales channels including a North American dealer program, plays a leading role in software development, manages the company’s network infrastructure, and builds dedicated teams of sales, support and engineering staff. Easy Office Phone is a provider of hosted PBX service to clients throughout Canada and North America.