Steal This: 7 Great Ideas from MSP 501 Winners

There are vanguards aplenty among you. Here are some of the ways they are advancing their businesses.

September 11, 2018

8 Min Read
Stealing idea

By T.C. Doyle

Want to get ahead in your market? Or simply differentiate yourself from your competition? Then consider the ways that some of your peers are advancing their businesses. From original intellectual property development to clever marketing, some channel companies are stepping up to stand out.

Develop Your Own IP

IBM Watson Apps. Cybersecurity software. Digital transformation blueprints. These are but a few of the solutions that companies like yours have developed. Make no mistake, home-grown intellectual property (IP) development has come to the channel. Developing IP is not something most partners set out to do. But scores have. Some have developed vertical market solutions. Others have invested in custom builds that connect different business apps or manage networks more seamlessly.

CrushBank, an offshoot of CHIPS Technology Group, a popular New York-area solution provider, has developed a help desk solution that is powered by IBM Watson Technology. It enables “internal help desks, managed service providers (MSP) and enterprises/corporations to create a faster time to resolution, improve customer satisfaction, maintain control of your intellectual property and increase profitability by spending less time searching for answers, and more time finding solutions,” according to the company. Not bad for what was once a regional MSP. In a world of always-on, hyper-connected, is it any surprise that partners are asked for more than before?

Build Your Own Channel

In addition to developing their own IP, many of your peers are developing their own channels. That’s right: They are building robust initiatives to sell their ideas, innovations and services through partners like you.

  • Take Netwise Resources, No. 194 on the 2018 MSP 501 list. The Indianapolis-based IT MSP provides support to businesses nationwide. It also provides mentoring to other members of its parent organization, Visual Edge Technologies, which oversees a number of office and IT technology companies.

  • Or Red Key Solutions, No. 365 on the 2018 MSP 501 list. The White Plains, New York, company not only acquires smaller MSP shops, it also provides guidance and mentoring to those interested in its virtual CIO strategies and best practices.

  • Then there’s Infinit Consulting, which has developed a three-stage approach to digital transformation complete with a unique road map that includes steps for embracing agile development methodologies and IT governance. Infinit’s Digital Transformation approach is packaged in a platform-based solution so that the company can enable other MSP/CSPs to transform themselves into true “Digital Transformation Providers.”

Develop Your Own Dashboard

All business owners think that they have their fingers on the metrics that matter most to their companies. But how true is that? Think about your own organization. Do you or one of your colleagues have a handle on profitability by vendor, customer or employee? The answer is, “probably not.” This means you might be ignoring key metrics that determine success among MSPs, VARs and IT consultants.

Among top providers today, a few key metrics stand out. This includes your Net Promoter score, EBITDA, monthly recurring revenue grow and multiple attach rate. It also includes your ticket close rate, open rate and more. What about standards? If your attach rate is below 1.3, then you’re underperforming. If your incident close rate is below 98 percent, then you’re falling behind. And if your churn rate, a measure of the number of customers that don’t re-up with your company after 12 months of service, is about 5 percent, you’re …

… in trouble.

To run your business, you need a custom dashboard. Limit it to the metrics that matter most to you. Your sales pipeline. Your support ticket close rates. Your bench utilization and customer satisfaction. Whatever the combination, make it yours. That’s what i.t.Now has done. The Salt Lake City managed services provider has developed its own tools and methodologies that automate routine IT tasks. This includes tools for patches, updates, backups and more. Thanks to the effort, i.t.Now has the ability to zero in on the key metrics and indicators that are defining the world of cloud computing.

Say Something That Resonates

Did you know that when you Google the words “Virtual CIO,” more than 15 million responses come back? It’s true. Managed services? That search returns more 378 million listings. Network optimization? It returns 161 million responses. Try it for yourself. The point is simple: Standing out in the VAR and MSP channel takes some advanced thinking and clever ingenuity.

To stand out in his U.K. market, IT Lab CEO Peter Sweetbaum, penned a white paper that outlined his thought leadership and market differentiation. In “The Adaptive Technology Model,” Sweetbaum identifies the benefits of using an interchangeable portfolio of web-delivered apps and services. In particular, he outlines how the technological shift toward an app- and SaaS-centric service model changes the way IT services are sold, managed and maximized.

Then there’s Bob Coppedge, owner and CEO of Simplex-IT of Stow, Ohio. An industry veteran, Coppedge penned a book that captures his thought leadership. In “A CEO’s Survival Guide to Information Technology,” Coppedge says he wrote the book out of the frustration he experienced when talking about the challenges and problems that business owners have with IT.

“We IT folks have a reputation of being condescendingly arrogant, overbearing, and aloof with understanding the full atmosphere of the business,” he writes. If you’re a would-be customer, that kind of thought leadership resonates. It also tallies up new sales.

Grind It Out

What’s the key to profitability? New customers? Sales of emerging technologies? Recurring revenue? While all of these contribute to improved business results, there’s another side to the story of prosperity. It’s called operational efficiency and it’s not something everyone does well. One reason? The rapidly changing competitive landscape.

In a recent study produced by the trade association CompTIA, researchers found that nearly half of channel companies believe operating a channel business has become more complex than just two years ago. The key reasons are expansions into new business lines and models, the introduction of emerging technologies into their portfolios and new demands from customers, according to CompTIA. No wonder only 20 percent of surveyed firms consider their operations to be “very efficient.”

To combat this, some companies have set out to master the day-to-day grind. In fact, “grinding it out” has become a passion of some. Take Beyond Computer Solutions. Almost every client that signed on with the Atlanta-area company is still with it today. Through the years, Beyond has provided a superior level of service through the eras of break/fix, managed services, hosted Exchange and cloud. By constantly refining its processes, it continuously …

… exceeds customer expectations.

Embrace Something New

One measure of a healthy company is the percent of revenue that it generates from new business initiatives. In general, a healthy business generates roughly 20-30 percent of its revenue from activities that are less than 36 months old. Does that apply to you? If not, then you might be falling behind. This is especially true today when product life cycles are shorter and waves of disruptive innovations come from the blue. To combat this, scores of companies strive to change. That’s right: They willfully add something new to their businesses in order to stay current.

New York-based Computer Resources of America has been in business for more than 25 years. From humble beginnings as a printer repair company, it has grown into a highly respected managed services provider, cloud services broker and technology consultant. In 2017, it was recognized by Microsoft as the Azure Partner of the Year. Today, the company is advising clients on everything from blockchain to artificial intelligence. And it’s making deep inroads into health care, real estate and other vertical markets. Throughout its tenure, Computer Resources of America has managed to stay hungry, keep moving and try new things.

Not every new thing companies try, of course, succeeds. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Innosight thought leaders Scott Anthony, David S. Duncan and Pontus M.A. Siren conclude the following: “A new growth effort might, for instance, involve targeting a new customer set, working on an unproven technology, interacting with new partners, and trying out a new revenue model. If the probability that each of those four areas work out as planned is individually, 80 percent, the overall chances of success are just 40 percent.” While that might sound like a good reason to sit still, it isn’t. Change is as natural as it is inevitable.

Love the Family

A lot of organizations boast that they treat their workers “like family.” But some really mean it.

Take 360IT Partners of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Company founder Martin Joseph was so grateful to several of his employees that he gifted a percent of ownership in the company to them. As a result, his core team has stuck together and helped to build the company into one of the most successful MSP organizations in the area.

Then there’s Intrust IT. The company’s employees not only work together, they also vacation together. The Cincinnati IT Support has a company-owned lake house where employees and their families get away and spend some down time. If that sounds a tad too close for comfort for you, then note the results that close cohesion produces. Take customer service. Intrust IT is so proud of its record of customer service that it posts its satisfaction score on its website on a monthly basis. The trust and confidence that company owners have in their staff enables Intrust IT to offer a $1 million guarantee “that no ransomware attack will go undetected and cause irreparable damage.” You cannot take that kind of risk if your payroll is chock full of 9-5 workers. But you can when your employees treat the company, and its customers, like family.

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