If you want to grow your MSP, you’ve got to change. It’s really that simple – and complicated.
Here at The 20, we work with hundreds of managed service providers (MSPs) from all over the United States – and some in Canada, too!
These MSPs come to us looking for help. They want to be the best at what they do – delivering managed IT services – and they hear we can help with that. It is in our name, after all: we can help your small to medium-sized MSP reach the top 20% of the managed services industry.
But some of the MSPs that join The 20 grow a lot faster than others. Why is that?
While there’s no single answer to this question, only a number of reasons why some of our MSP members grow faster than others, one reason does seem to loom large above the rest – a trait that we find predicts an MSP’s future success with startling accuracy…
The Ability to Change
Every MSP owner who joins our community is enthusiastic, passionate, ready to grow. But they’re not all equally thrilled about the prospect of making big changes to their respective organizations.
And we do mean big. In almost every single case we encounter – and we’ve worked with a lot of MSPs over the years – “getting to the next level” is largely a matter of making large-scale, foundational shifts.
Is it easy convincing MSPs to make these big changes? Not always. Even though seeing the success our other members is usually enough to convince newer members to go ‘all in’ on our model, there can be some resistance – especially at the outset.
This doesn’t surprise us. Change is hard, and it’s not like we’re asking these MSP owners to try out a different brand of dish soap or a new ringtone. This is their business we’re talking about here, and being asked to change something you care about deeply can be extremely daunting.
But if you really want to grow your MSP and ascend to the top of our large and competitive industry, you’ve got no choice. It’s change and grow, or don’t and don’t.
Time to get more concrete. Let’s consider a specific type of change MSPs must make if they’re aiming for steady, long-term growth.
The Art of Letting Go
Change is hard. Everyone knows that. But why is change so hard? Here’s one answer:
Change is hard because it forces us to step outside of our comfort zones. Thus, the key to change is embracing discomfort.
You’ve probably heard some version of the above a million times. But is that the whole story? Is mastering change really just a matter of learning to embrace discomfort?
We’re not convinced – especially when it comes to change in the MSP space. That’s because as counterintuitive as it may sound:
One of the biggest and most challenging changes most MSPs have to make actually makes life easier and more comfortable.
But how can that be? How can a change be “one of the biggest and most challenging” when it makes things easier?
The answer has to do with scalability. If you run a smaller MSP, you’re likely accustomed to doing everything more or less on your own, juggling multiple roles from sales and customer support to technical operations and administration. This ‘one-person band’ approach can work when you’re small, but it’s not scalable. With the one-person band approach, things fall apart when your MSP starts getting big, preventing it from ever getting really big.
Transitioning to a more scalable model requires a radically different approach: letting go.
If you want to grow a large, successful MSP, you’ve got to hand over parts of your business to others – as well as develop a playbook of documented processes to make sure things go smoothly without your direct oversight.
In our experience, many MSP owners find it incredibly challenging to make this shift and truly let go. And this is in spite of the fact that letting go – and, just as importantly, finding the right people to manage the various parts of your growing business – makes things much, much, much easier on you.
Again, this doesn’t surprise us. When you’re used to doing things one way, doing things another way is going to be tough – even when, paradoxically enough, the new way actually makes things easier! Moreover, it’s easy to fall in love with being busy – to equate feeling stressed out and ‘at capacity’ with doing right by your MSP. You might find yourself thinking, “Hey, I’m barely sleeping, working all the time, and I’m a nervous wreck – surely I’m doing my part to facilitate my MSP’s success!”
But this way of thinking can be dangerous and unproductive, leading to burn-out while also hindering your MSP’s growth (remember, the one-person band model isn’t viable long-term because it’s not scalable).
So find ways let go. Hire, outsource, join peer groups – figure out where you need help, and get it. Because the sooner you can build your trusted team and peer network, the sooner you can experience the sort of business growth you dream about.
We know letting go is hard, so we’re sharing some strategic shifts in mindset that we think might help you loosen your grip on the reins of your MSP business…
Reconceptualize Your Role: From Player to Coach
To help cultivate trust in others and delegate tasks more effectively, you might try thinking differently about your own role within your MSP business. Instead of viewing yourself as the ‘star player,’ try thinking of yourself as the coach – or some other figure whose job is to educate, guide, and bring out the best in others.
Work On (Not In) Your Business
Leaders at truly successful MSPs spend much more time working on their business than in their business. When you delegate daily tasks to your capable team, you can step back and work on your business – see the bigger picture so you can identify opportunities for growth, innovation, and greater overall efficiency. Remember, your primary job as the leader of your MSP isn’t busy work – it’s making your business work.
Glorify Working Smarter, Not Harder
We live in a culture that glorifies ‘the grind,’ but the hustle mindset can be detrimental in the entrepreneurial space, where success isn’t simply a matter of putting in the most hours. Yes, you should work hard, but think carefully about how you work – and how your team works. When your goal is to work as smart as possible – not as hard as possible – delegating to others quickly becomes second nature.
From Head to Paper
When you’re a one-person band, you can get away with keeping your MSP’s business-critical information in your head (although it’s not ideal, and a robust documentation program is something we recommend to every MSP, regardless of its size). Documentation becomes particularly important, however, as your MSP grows. Documenting your MSP’s processes not only allows you to solidify operations, it also allows you to delegate tasks and train new employees more effectively and efficiently. Instead of hovering over your team and directly guiding them, you can be ‘present’ in the form of your stellar documentation.
Consider The 20
What’s the real lesson here? If growing a large and successful MSP requires letting go and making the transition from a one-person band to a bona fide, process-driven, and highly scalable company, does that mean you should create and document your key processes, hire a bunch of people, and just wait for the revenue to start rolling in?
If only things we’re so simple! Hiring a capable team isn’t exactly cheap, and attracting/retaining quality talent is a notoriously difficult task in the MSP space at the moment (according to a recent Kaseya study, hiring is the third biggest business challenge for MSPs, right after “security” and “acquiring new customers”).
If you’re struggling with growth and scalability at your MSP business, but don’t want – or simply can’t afford – to hire your way out of trouble, consider becoming a member of The 20.
When you join The 20, your MSP can be “bigger than it is” – and without necessarily making a single new hire!
Just ask Bill, who joined The 20 and gained access to a world-class marketing department he could never have built through hiring alone.
Or ask Mark, another member who was able to start selling more aggressively, knowing The 20’s 24/7 US-based help desk was there to help him handle larger clients.
Curious to learn more? Visit our website for more member success stories as well as information about The 20 – who we are and how we help small and medium-sized MSPs find success in our fiercely competitive industry.