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Don't Sell Microsoft Office 365: Sell Your BrandDon't Sell Microsoft Office 365: Sell Your Brand

While there may be a lot of noise in today's cloud space, it shouldn't worry MSPs, especially if they sell customers their brand, not their products.

CJ Arlotta

March 26, 2014

2 Min Read
PACE CEO Shael D Risman says MSPs are fooling themselves if they don39t believe in building relationships with customers
PACE CEO Shael D. Risman says MSPs are fooling themselves if they don't believe in building relationships with customers.

While there may be a lot of noise in today’s cloud space, it shouldn’t worry MSPs, especially if they sell customers their brand, not their products, one Toronto-based MSP told MSPmentor.

“It’s all about selling the relationship,” said PACE Technical Services Inc. founding CEO Shael D. Risman.

Risman and his partner, Michael Sugrue, started PACE in 2004, shortly after leaving a break/fix IT company. The break/fix model was fairly popular in Canada at the time, and there were very few, if any, MSPs for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Risman said.

“We figured there was a niche for SMBs,” he said. “We left the company we were with, and we tried to find that sweet spot.”

Pitching the MSP model to customers wasn’t easy, and Risman and his team ran into a lot of dead ends. “It was such a foreign concept,” he said. “Most people could not get their head wrapped around it.”

But PACE evolved over time. No longer does the MSP sell services to customers. Instead, the company pitches its brand and experience. “That’s what we’re all about,” Risman said.

For example, PACE, a Microsoft (MSFT) partner, will be able to outlive Office 365. “As a partner, it’s distressing and disappointing to see the direction that Office 365 will eventually go,” he said.

In his opinion, Office will be gone in the next few years. Once Microsoft moves customers onto 365, the tech giant will no longer need partners to push its cloud-based office suite. Risman believes that Microsoft will then remove partners from the process, taking their customers. “No one in the channel is really fooled by it,” he said.

“The only way you’re going to make yourself rise above in this industry is by establishing your brand and your way of delivering it, and your service experience to the client,” he said.

PACE has dedicated relationship mangers who can assist customers with business inquiries, he said. Risman said this commitment to customers led to a 95 percent customer retention rate last year.

“We’re taking all of these different pieces, and we’re building it into this relationship, so that it isn’t disaposable, so that walking away from PACE would reduce their business productivity at the day, regardless of what tools they may be using.”

Risman said PACE associates itself with well-respected leaders in the MSP community like Jim Lippie, president of independenceIT; Gary Pica, president of TruMethods; and Arnie Bellini CEO of ConnectWise.

“We started out with the relationship of the client, and that is still the most important thing that we do.”

Follow CJ Arlotta on Twitter @cjarlotta and Google+ for further updates on the story above.

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About the Author(s)

CJ Arlotta

Associate Editor, Nine Lives Media, a division of Penton Media

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