Blog | November 15, 2013

Make 2014 A Banner Year. Here's How.

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By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

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Before you know it, we’ll be ringing in the new year. You might be one of those ambitious people who make resolutions to better yourself personally. If so, kudos to you! But, have you ever considered a resolution to improve your business?

This year, I attended more trade shows and conferences than ever before in my career. While the travel took its toll on my yard work (or lack thereof) back home, I feel like my VAR/MSP IQ jumped exponentially. I was fortunate enough to interview IT leaders on both the vendor and solutions provider sides of the channel, and, in doing so, I picked up a lot of proven best practices.

Before I go on, I should point out that many of these best practices aren’t original or mind-blowing concepts. It doesn’t matter. Just as you’d reflect on whether getting to the gym more would have a positive impact on your personal health, consider how each of these might improve your company.

Plan, Constantly Measure
Leading managed services providers (MSPs), more than in any other technology industry, are intimately close to a variety of business metrics. This goes way beyond simply knowing at what point they pass break even and move into profitability. They know, per customer, what their profit margin is. They know which of their employees are most profitable and which are least. They have dashboards that show, in real time, a variety of business metrics.

They build extensive business plans, and not just for the current year. They have plans for the next three months to the next five years. They check in quarterly to make sure those plans are on track. A good plan is necessary to help you make good decisions.

I’ve talked to some VARs who have zero insight into their business, for any number of reasons. Here’s the thing: No reason is good enough. Make the time to install systems to better understand your profitability and performance.

Build Processes And Automate
A key to profitability is automation. You might already be doing this to a small extent by limiting the vendors you carry and the solutions you sell. In doing so, you’ve given your team a standard solutions set to learn, and they can be more efficient. Leading solutions providers take automation to the extreme. They document everything, establish internal processes, and train employees. They then use automation tools to achieve extreme efficiencies.

If you aren’t using PSA (professional services automation) or RMM (remote monitoring and management) software, you’re missing out on a way to give your profitability a significant boost. Why roll a truck when something goes wrong with a customer’s IT when you can proactively monitor your customer and remotely fix problems? Leave patch management, updating antivirus, backing up servers, and defragging hard drives to the RMM software, and free up your valuable techs for more important jobs. Automatically bill customers for these services using the PSA software. With RMM (and related services) and integrated PSA, you’ll be shocked how much you can do for customers with almost no headcount cost on your part.

Admit You Don’t Know It All
I’m constantly amazed at how the MSP community has embraced industry peer groups. Despite being in the same industry, many are more than happy to openly share the most intimate details of their business with one another. Why? Because the information sharing is a two-way street, and there doesn’t seem to be a formula for some aspects of sales, marketing, hiring, and compensation.

If you don’t attend any trade shows, I encourage you to attend one in 2014. If you need help finding the best one for your company, I’m happy to point out some good ones. If you don’t participate in peer groups, I strongly recommend it. In fact, of all the advice I’ve given here, peer group participation is the most important as far as I’m concerned. Participating in a good peer group will naturally lead to all the other things I’ve mentioned.

Everyone knows what’s required to look like a bodybuilding champion, but the reality is that only a small percentage of people walk around so fit, due to a lack of time, motivation, or interest. The same goes for your business. Some of the best practices just mentioned might seem like common sense to you — you might know what you have to do — but unless you make the time, have the motivation, and are interested in incorporating such best practices into your business, you might find yourself at the end of 2014 having missed out on your share of growth and prosperity.

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