Q&A | December 6, 2013

How To Get Staff Buy-In For The As-A-Service Model

By Bernadette Wilson, associate editor, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @bernadeditor

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Almost daily, Business Solutions magazine hears from industry experts and from subscribers that to survive in the channel, a business must find a way to build a predictable revenue stream and maximize profitability. For changes in your business to result in success, however, everyone has to support the transition. In the BSM article “3 Prerequisites For Managed Services Success,” Marco LaVecchia, director of North American sales for N-able, says, “If your technicians, sales reps, and COO are not on the same page, the chances of running a successful managed services practice decrease dramatically.”

In a presentation for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions president Jim Roddy said using proven communication and management practices helps foster staff buy-in — whether transitioning to the as-a-Service business model or facing other challenges as a company. 

In his own role as a manager, Roddy ascribes to a number of best practices, including:

  • “Let them know when you know — always.” Don’t withhold information from your employees. This avoids uneasiness with the situation, as well as speculation and gossip.  
  • The 30-second rule. Each time you speak, limit yourself to 30 seconds or less. You won’t overwhelm your employees with too much information, and they’ll be less likely to miss the point. Also use silence to allow time for them to respond.
  • Use analogies that fit.
    • Incorrect: The employee is a basketball fan, so you try to convert the discussion into a basketball analogy.
    • Correct: Relate the changes to a shared work experience between you and them.
  • Combine empathy with aggressiveness. Aggressiveness is not harsh. It is persistence in getting the information you need to make a good decision, clearly communicating your perceptions, and moving forward. Empathy is not sympathy. It is understanding and valuing the individual’s feelings without losing sight of the best interests of your company and the individual.
  • Understand “Comfort Zone vs. Courage Zone”…and avoid the Terror Zone. Don’t catapult employees outside their comfort zones. Help them, guide them, and partner with them to move them forward. Remember, your comfort zone is not always their comfort zone.
  • Delegation. In addition to listing their takeaways, list your part of the plan and acknowledge the tasks that will be combined efforts. 
  • Set Them Up For Future Reference (STUFFR). Identify and understand a potential problem and/or a future course of action and discuss it with the staff in advance. You need to note the staff’s (and your own) exact words and commitment to not failing. There are four steps to STUFFR:
    • Obviate: To anticipate and prevent. Be skeptical of what can go wrong so you can prevent it.
    • Set clear expectations: Be as specific as possible about the situation and the actions to be taken.
    • Recap the conversation: Ensure that you both agree.
    • Write it down! Don’t rely on your memory to capture details of your discussion.
  • Ever-changing priorities. Ensure the team understands that you will need to frequently reprioritize activities to focus on those you learn will provide the biggest opportunity for the company.

Roddy selected the subjects of several BSM articles to illustrate some of these principles as they apply to transitioning to the as-a-Service model.

  • The Real Story Behind Managed Services: “The reason for resistance is that it is a lot of work to put together (monthly customer services data). We don’t have that process automated yet. I tell my people that I need them to think differently. They have to be the catalysts to automate processes like that.” Jason Waldrop, CEO of Connected WorkPlace Solutions.
  • Benchmark Your Managed Services Success: TS TECH published goals as yearlong projects with milestones every 90 days, using paper reminders posted around the office. An internal service board lists all the outstanding tickets associated with TS TECH’s efforts to improve, allowing everyone in the company to see what work remains outstanding.
  • The $1 Million Managed Services Gamble: Greg Bertschmann, president of Harbor Networks, tasked an employee to reorganize the company. “He helped select the hardware and software that was scalable, and he helped us create useful marketing pieces we could share with customers. He was also instrumental in our staffing decisions, helping us ensure we hired people with the right skills and attitudes to support our goals.” Harbor Networks achieved 25 percent sales growth.
  • Sell Managed Services Without Making Break-Fix Exceptions: Corsica Technologies president Dale Walls gets involved with a majority of prospects during the sales process, so he can help his account reps determine whether the prospect is a good fit or not.
  • The Managed Services Model Has Changed – Have You?: “The biggest challenge we ran into during this transition was pushback from some of our team members. We have a very technical group, but we learned that some people are fearful of change, so we made sure to keep in regular contact with the group and reinforce that this was how we were going to run the business. Eventually, we were able to get everyone’s buy-in,” says Bruce Nelson, president of Vertical Solutions.
  • What’s Delaying Your Transition To Managed Services?: “We hired a management coaching firm to help us identify our weak areas and to help us create and roll out a plan to improve. With any change, you have to anticipate there will be some resistance. But, the key is to show your employees why you’re making the changes and to keep in regular communication about your intentions,” says Steve Rutkovitz, CEO of Choice Technologies.

Roddy also warns VARs transitioning to managed services to avoid five common mistakes:

  • Not taking the necessity of buy-in seriously and trying to move forward without it
  • You have the wrong people on your team; and/or you don’t take action with those who refuse to buy in
  • Replacing discussing and partnering with dictating or commanding
  • Placing action before communication
  • Moving too quickly; trying to complete an overhaul instead of instituting gradual change

For more information on change management, Roddy suggests reading:

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