Why Successful MSPs Hire Within the Channel

Finding the right candidate for your position goes beyond technical skills. Look for an understanding of the business model, a focus on customer service -- and then build a bench.

August 13, 2018

5 Min Read

By John Davenjay

If you’ve gone through the hiring process, you don’t need me to tell you how tedious it can be. More often than not, especially if your team is small, your already-full schedule is further packed with phone, Skype and in-person interviews. Finding the right candidate can take time — but that’s not always a bad thing. After you get the process going, things will become easier, especially when you know what to look for.

Sometimes, a candidate’s work experience is more important than technical skill sets. No matter how good a resume looks, there are more tangible ways to measure if a candidate will succeed in an MSP environment. For starters, ask yourself the following question when reviewing a resume: “Has this candidate worked at an MSP before?”

Hiring someone from within the channel ensures a few things. First, more often than not, you won’t have to spend time explaining how managed services differ from working in other tech environments. Technicians outside of the channel may not be familiar with the MSP model, so finding someone who fully understands how your business functions on a day-to-day basis will make your life easier. 

Second, hiring someone within the channel means your new tech will more than likely have experience with the tools and platforms your business is currently working with. You won’t have to commit resources to getting them up to speed on PSA platforms, RMM tools and BC/DR solutions. Additionally, your new hire will be familiar with the pace at which your business operates.

Finally, a channel hire will be used to the unique demands of the MSP model. For example, an engineer without a history of working with MSPs may not be able to juggle numerous environments for a wide range of clients. More often than not, outside hires work within the boundaries of a single environment, where there’s a division of labor; for example, the server team may be separate from the help desk team. It’s easy to deflect blame when at larger companies. There are few spaces where accountability and transparency are as critical as they are in the MSP industry.

How to Adjust Your Approach When the Pickings Are Slim

When you’re hiring a T2 technician, your goal should be to hire someone with a background in the channel. In fact, I’d recommend following this approach when looking to fill a spot at any level above T2 — though as I previously discussed, you also need to avoid overqualified people. As we all know, however, we don’t live in a perfect world, so even though hiring someone from within the channel is ideal, it isn’t always possible.There will be times when you’ll have to make tough decisions based on the options available. When you’re in this situation, all isn’t lost. You’ll just have to adapt quickly.

For instance, let’s say you’re interviewing someone who hasn’t worked at an MSP before — that’s okay. While you’re speaking with this person, there are ways to extract the information you’ll need to make a decision. Here are some good questions ask to determine if a candidate can handle the demand, pace and workload:

  • How many environments are you supporting now?

  • Are those environments on different Windows domains?

  • Are those environments internal or external end users?

  • How many tickets are you closing per day?

The questions I outlined above will help you, as an MSP owner, assess whether the candidate knows how to support multiple external client infrastructures, use a ticketing system and manage a demanding workload on a daily basis. 

When the options on the table are less than ideal, it’s often best to call an audible and test out what you’ve got in front of you. By the way, if your entry-level technicians are having a hard time adjusting to the pace of working in an MSP model, you may feel like you’re a hypocrite when following my advice. But there is a way to shape your talent effectively.

Teach Your T1s Well

Even junior-level technicians can be successful if you invest in a solid training program that’s designed to funnel, teach, prepare and acclimate T1 technicians to the MSP model. Education is something your management team should be constantly evaluating and investing in. These employees are the future of your business and the industry — ways keep that in mind.

If your training program is effective, instead of having to hire an outsider, you’ll be able to promote from within. It will also help with retention as many employees resign from their positions at MSPs due to lack of investment in their professional development. Your program should include classroom work, hands-on training and mentorship opportunities. Tasks should be given to students in training incrementally (don’t dump everything on them on Day 1). Training should be continually improved upon and refined each time it’s been completed. Don’t be afraid to ask trainees for feedback. It’s how you’ll build your training program to deliver a deep bench of candidates.

At the end of the day, hiring someone with tangible work experience in an MSP environment is always your best bet. It’s what you or your hiring manager should be looking to do when i possible. When your options are limited, you may have to switch gears and look outside of the channel, which could work to your advantage if you can find the right qualities in a candidate. Then again, your search could’ve been entirely avoided if a solid training program had been in place.

Want to learn more? Join me at Channel Partners Evolution for my keynote, where I will share tangible steps for creating a successful, repeatable hiring process that reduces turnover, increases productivity and keeps you sane as you scale.

John Davenjay is the CEO of Bowman Williams. He founded the company in 2009 after running operations and sales for a managed service and VoIP provider based in Washington, D.C. His firsthand experience of sourcing and hiring MSP employees led to the creation of a staffing firm exclusively focused on helping the MSP industry eliminate the common bottleneck of hiring MSP talent. Forbes ranked Bowman Williams #137 in the Best Recruiting Firms in America in 2018 and the firm is a staffing partner for over 300 MSPs around the country.


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