September 15, 2023
I’ve had the good fortune of speaking with thousands of managed service providers over the past decade. One of the questions I love to ask them is: “How did you get here?”
The answer is typically the same: “Well, our first customer was a lawyer who referred us to their lawyer friends, and it grew from there. So now, we have a niche serving law firms.”
That’s what I like to call an “emerging growth strategy.”
Emerging growth strategies are great in the early stages of a company, where you can remain nimble enough to adjust as more data becomes available. Some of the most significant innovations of our time arose from an emerging strategy — penicillin, the microwave oven, pacemakers, and Post-it Notes.
An emerging growth strategy is what got you here. However, it’s not what will get you there — to that next level of success.
To get there, MSPs need to turn their successful emerging growth strategies into a bigger, more centralized growth mindset equipped with a north star or guiding principle that embodies the purpose, values and long-term vision that drives decision-making, actions and cohesion amidst rapidly changing circumstances.
Rate of Change
The reality is innovation isn’t slowing down. Change is getting faster and faster. MSPs need to adapt to the rate of change or risk failure.
One of my favorite quotes is by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch: “Strategy is not a lengthy action plan. It is the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances.”
The ability to adapt is essential in the ever-evolving IT and business landscape. No matter how well-crafted your plans or strategies may be, circumstances inevitably change. In these moments of flux, the true power of a central idea – a growth mindset – lies in its capacity to evolve and transform alongside the rate of change.
Think about it, when a global pandemic upended our lives and created so much uncertainty, the MSP was a pillar of certainty. MSPs were the support behind the frontline heroes, and immediately adapted to the circumstances and guided their clients through the murky waters of instant mobilization and digital transformation.
MSPs quickly pivoted and met the uncertainty with innovation, confidence, and true leadership to tackle the unknown and bring calm to uncharted waters. They had to be the certainty amidst the chaos and not only embrace change but be the change.
Finding Opportunity to Grow
It’s a challenging time for the IT industry, particularly for MSPs. The cooling economy, layoffs in the tech sector, the IT talent shortage, increased security issues and constant regulatory changes have created increased uncertainty.
But that uncertainty is where the opportunity lies, where a central idea thrives, and here’s why:
Change is happening at an unprecedented pace for everyone – lawyers, financial institutions, health care companies – and, as a result, SMEs need more resources and expertise to keep up with the rate of change.
This breakneck change gives MSPs the opportunity to meet the challenge, speed up and be the certainty once again. If the change going on outside your SME customer’s four walls – automation, cloud migration, regulation, etc. – is faster than the change that’s going on inside their four walls, therein lies an MSP’s blue ocean opportunity to be that technologist and IT and business advisor.
An SME’s headwind is an MSP’s tailwind. It’s an opportunity to help customers deal with the rate of change by bridging the gap, being at the forefront of technology trends and leveraging their expertise to provide customized IT solutions.
Whether implementing cloud computing, optimizing cybersecurity measures, integrating automation tools or providing compliance guidance, MSPs can equip SMEs with the tools required to thrive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Look at the industry headwinds around you to build your emerging growth strategy, mindset and ideas. Specialize, automate, standardize, establish solid systems and procedures, and become a healthier business.
With the rapidly changing landscape, how are MSPs going to pivot along with it? Think strategically. It might come from a merger or acquisition, or from hiring a key employee. It might come from talking to someone about how they price, package and optimize their tech stack.
Innovation isn’t slowing down. Change is constant, and it’s getting faster. The world’s getting smaller and your role as an MSP is getting bigger and more valuable each day. Capitalize on your emerging growth strategy, then refine it with a growth mindset and central ideas you own. Be the certainty that helps your SME customers deal with the rate of change at scale and they’ll grow stronger with you as their trusted advisor.
John Pagliuca is president and CEO of N-able. His 20-plus years of leadership experience include serving as president of SolarWinds MSP, CFO of LogicNow, and VP of finance and operations of GFI Software. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @Nable on X.
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