Alan Crowetz, President and CEO of West Palm Beach-based InfoStream, shares three suggestions he'd apply if he were launching an MSP today:
1. Surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than yourself – Hire the absolute best people, not just in the realm of talent, but also in loyalty, empathy and people who are friendly to clients, big picture people, long term relationship people.
It's really hard to find those – not just talented, but people who really care about clients and are in it for the long haul with them.
Not just the engineers and the help desk, but also all the way down to your office manager and receptionist.
2. Be your client's number one partner – I don't just mean better than all the other vendors and partners, but think outside the box.
You want to be the most trusted employee, to be part of the team, to be included.
One of the best compliments we ever get is from our clients who say: "Look, when we have strategy meetings, even not IT ones, we want you guys there. We see you as a major part of our success in growing the business and a key to our business."
I want to be their most productive and beneficial employee, even though we are technically an outside firm.
Along those lines, we always tell our engineers, never sell anything. Solve problems. Look for ways to make their lives better.
Be in it for the long haul. That means finding solutions and helping them grow and achieve their goals.
3. Learn everything all the time – Be constantly learning and dedicating time to educating yourself in being better.
When I started, clients used to be like the Land Rush of 1893 out West … where there was all this land to grab – meaning clients.
There were a ton of these great clients out there who never had an MSP or an IT firm they worked with. Everyone was in a race to gobble them up, and there wasn't a lot of competition.
But those days are done.
Nowadays, they all have IT people.
So, if you're going to lure them away from somebody, with the competition being much greater, you really need to be better.
That includes learning everything there is to know about everything, not just technically, but learning how to market, learning how to partner with firms, how to communicate, down to accounting and human resource management.
Get good with all those things.
There's so much great information – seminars and journals, such as MSPmentor – where people can learn those skills, and become competitive.
I always say, "Knowledge and wisdom are the ultimate competitive advantage."
A lot of people start MSPs and think they are technically great, really good with the computers, really know how to fix people's problems, are better bakers than the other bakers out there.
But it's more than that these days.
First thing I tell a lot of these guys, "Look, I don't care how great of an IT firm you are. If you're going to be in the MSP market, it's a different thing. It's not reactive. It's proactive."
You need to be better at those strategic reviews, at knowing businesses, at understanding your niche.
If you're in healthcare, you should know healthcare – all the terms, what's going on in that industry, what their pain points are, and what their successes are.
Learn everything about that niche.
And even with your own business, learn how to keep and retain the top employees. Learn how to market and find those clients that you can help more than anyone else can.
Editor’s note: Comments are edited to improve readability.