Have You Thought About Exiting Your MSP? What Are Your Plans for YOUR Future?

Ask yourself: Do I want to always be running the daily operations of my company? Who can I trust to take the reins if I step aside? Surround yourself with people who want to be leaders, who show that they care about what you've built and will treat it with respect. That's your exit strategy.

Stuart Crawford, Consultant

November 4, 2014

4 Min Read
Have You Thought About Exiting Your MSP? What Are Your Plans for YOUR Future?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Yeah yeah, that sounds like it’s the tired lead-in to a pep talk about “vision” or something, but seriously think about it for a moment. Do you plan to be in the same position you are now? If you’re already the CEO of an MSP, is there any room for you to grow yourself?

Colin Knox over at XCEL Professional Services knows that there is. Recently XCEL announced that they’ve hired Rob Hay, former co-founder and President at IT Matters, to serve as the new President of XCEL. What’s Colin doing? Looking to his future by starting to focus on his other project, Passportal, an MSP password management business.

Now, you might look at where Rob Hay worked before, IT Matters, and say, “Gee Stuart, that’s a familiar name.Full disclosure: Rob and I worked together at IT Matters and after I left, Rob and our other partner Tony Mah successfully merged with ES Williams. We started the company back in 2001 and grew it to about 34 employees and $5.5M in revenue before I exited first in Dec 2008.

So both Rob and I know exactly what it’s like to step aside from a company that you helped grow from the ground up. For me, it was about moving on to focus on what I was really passionate about – the marketing. For Colin Knox, it’s a strategic choice.

“I am removing myself from the daily operations of XCEL to focus full-time on Passportal and drive that company to its true potential,” Colin told me. “Considering options of corporate sale or succession, I decided on succession due to my confidence in what we have built at XCEL and knowing that my investment in the company will continue to grow for many years thanks to our dedicated and skilled team.”

So Colin didn’t want to just sell off the company he’d built, but he also needed to hand the reins over to someone who he could trust to take care of it. Enter Rob.

“Rob is an experienced leader through numerous IT firms,” said Colin. “Working with him in the past, I have experienced firsthand his calm demeanour, ability to coach and elevate team members, and business acumen.”

High praise. But I know firsthand that Rob has earned every word. I know he’s excited to step in and do what he can to take XCEL to the next level.

“XCEL is at a point where they're very successful, but to get to next level is going to require planning and strategy,” said Rob. “That’s what I’m bringing in the President role. [Colin has] the ability to take what you have now and understand where you want to be in the future. The strategy part is how you get there.”

Colin’s bringing in someone who is comfortable with driving XCEL towards future success and isn’t afraid of the work that will entail. And he gets to focus on the other company he’s begun to nurture. It’s win-win for everyone involved.

So, you might be asking now, “Stuart, why should I care?”

Beyond the fact that this is a great success story for our industry, it’s something that any maturing company can learn from. When you’re reading this, you should be asking yourself:

  1. Do I want to always be running the daily operations of my company?

  2. Who can I trust to take the reins if I step aside?

I certainly don’t intend to keep barrelling away 5 years from now at the same work I’m doing today. I love my company and I love what I do, but I want to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour at some point. That’s why I surround myself with people who want to be leaders, who show that they care about what I’ve built and will treat it with respect. That’s why Colin did the same thing and maintained ties with people he knew he could trust.

“I think the main thing other MSP owners could learn is that a sale is not the only way to exit your MSP,” said Colin. “When looking at an exit, or even why you are building a business in the first place, you need to consider if you are doing it for the challenge or to get a big pay-out someday. With me, I was looking to build something great and sustainable. This has allowed me to continue earning money from the business I’ve built and give me immediate flexibility to work on new exciting challenges and opportunities – rather than having the golden hand-cuffs of a committed contract transition of a year or more.”

Where do you want to be in 5 years? Maybe you should start thinking about it.

Ulistic provides marketing services to managed services providers. The Ulistic team acts as part of your team, engaging and working with your MSP each day to assist in providing the foundation for stratospheric success. Learn more at Ulistic.com.

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About the Author(s)

Stuart Crawford

Consultant, Ulistic

Stuart Crawford is Creative Director and MSP Marketing Coach with Williamsville, NY and Burlington, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.

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