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4 Lessons Mature MSPs Must Take from Scrappy Startups

If you spend more time showing bunt than swinging for a home run, you might have lost your startup swagger.

April 2, 2018

4 Min Read
Startup

By Brad Stoller

Anyone who has worked with technology has likely heard the phrases “fail forward” and “fail fast.” In Silicon Valley, they’re something of a mantra, as startups aggressively build minimum viable products, build up traction and pursue venture-capital funding so that they can keep iterating and growing.

For these companies, iterations and tests are ways to quickly eliminate dead ends and seize profitable opportunities. If a startup spends two years on development before putting the product in front of customers for a test, it risks burning through thousands – if not millions – of dollars of capital, so the better alternative is to experiment early and refine, refine, refine.

An MSP might start this way, with a mind toward innovation and the grit to grow when faced with failure, but even the most innovative companies drift into complacency. Success can make leaders less willing to try new things. Experimenting drops to the bottom of the to-do list. It might be because there are more decision makers to wrangle, or perhaps clients demand too much attention, or perhaps you’re outright afraid to do anything to compromise the position you worked so hard to achieve.

The problem, however, is that when you stop doing the behaviors that drove success and yet still expect the business to grow, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment — at best.

Remember when you were scrappy and bold and would knock on doors and hustle your network and try creative marketing campaigns to get yourself in front of prospects? Why do young businesses tend to behave this way?

Because they see the things their larger competitors aren’t doing. They see their complacency. And in that complacency, they see opportunity.

To continue driving the level of growth that got you to where you are today, you can’t leave behind that willingness to be scrappy and fail forward.

Here’s how you can keep that visionary startup mentality without gambling the business: 

  1. If you try something new, like a marketing strategy or innovative tech, swing for the fences. Give it a reasonable amount of time and the resources to bear fruit. Too often we think about testing a new race car, but in our hesitancy only give it a half-tank of gas. Then we say, “Look, it didn’t go as far as we wanted it to!” and abandon the car altogether. Experiment, and don’t cripple the test from the start.

  2. Work with field-respected experts. Trying a new idea does not have to mean flying blind. You might not be the expert in a certain area, but you can find someone who is. Use expert guidance to cover your blind spots and build bridges over chasms you don’t know how to cross. At some point, you as a leader must recognize that you won’t always have all the answers.

  3. Recognize that failure and waste are different things. An experiment failing is not ideal, but in that failure is the opportunity to learn. Was the target audience wrong? Or if it was the right crowd, did the new idea fail to resonate? Did your team fail to seize the opportunity? Unpacking why something didn’t work can be a valuable source of insight into what you do next with the business.

  4. Strengthen the business you already have. Often, the fear we hear from owners is about wasting budget or putting the stability of the business in jeopardy by trying a new idea. If you are diligent about running your MSP efficiently and maximizing your other metrics – from conversion rates to ticket times to customer total lifetime value – you should have more capital and more freedom to look forward.

If you challenge yourself to be one those rare MSPs that stays aggressive and stays bold, even when you find success and stability, you can rise above your competition to be one of the elite and innovative brands in your space. The only way to get there, however, is to continue to think like an entrepreneur, scouting new horizons and boldly going where you haven’t dared to go before.

Brad is responsible for helping prospective clients to understand PT and its appointment-setting capabilities through a consultative approach.  Before joining The PT Services Group, Brad was a State Farm agency owner, providing insurance and financial services solutions. Over the years, he has been a serial entrepreneur, building and developing businesses in real estate and marketing.

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