MSPs: Eight Rules for CEO Success

MSPs: Eight Rules for CEO Success

Here's a riddle: There are thousands of MSPs. Most of them focus on similar business models -- remote management services for a predictable monthly fee. But why are a few hundred MSPs far more successful than thousands of also-ran MSPs? The answer, I suspect, often involves the corner office, and a CEO's management style.

Inc. Magazine recently published a list of eight tips on how to become a more successful CEO. Generally speaking, I think the tips apply to MSPs as well. And I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing the list and adding my own opinions. So here we go.

1. Don't Over Schedule Yourself: I'm often amazed when I dial a top MSP and the CEO says he has time to talk that day. No doubt, I'm often guilty of over-scheduling myself and mismanaging my schedule. But that's why I'm not a small business CEO. Nor do I aspire to be one.

The key point here: Don't get locked up in meetings all day. Generally speaking, I have a daily phone call with my business partner (Nine Lives Media Inc. CEO Amy Katz), and another daily call with our blog team. Chances are, we can cover all business issues in those two meetings, rather than scheduling multiple one-off calls that fill our day with distractions.

2. Immerse Yourself in Data: Or as masterIT CEO J. Michael Drake often tells me -- "measure everything." For MSPmentor and its sister sites, that means tracking daily web page views, site registrations, community growth, and so on. I used to track those metrics on a monthly basis. Then on a weekly basis. Now, I find that it makes sense to check the metrics (briefly) daily so that we can spot issues in near real-time.

For MSPs, measuring your performance means standardizing on a PSA (professional services automation) platform to help track sales pipelines, response times, profitability and other variables. Generally speaking, there are about 80,000 to 120,000 resellers in North America. And according to my best estimate, I think the top PSA platforms have fewer than 5,000 customers. Translation: Much of the channel isn't using PSA software to track their business performance. Huge mistake.

3. Manage By Walking Around: During a phone call last week, a former Nortel employee shared the following observation: "One of the reasons Nortel went bankrupt was because most of our top our executives had never met our customers."

Managing by walking around involves checking in with your staff and seeing them in action. Take the extra step; join your staff on sales calls. Put your face in front of the customer. Don't talk. Listen.

4. Go On An Email Diet: I try to reply to all emails in a timely manner. Lately, I'm failing because email volumes continue to skyrocket. But there are ways to cope. Internally, we use Google Docs to keep a running list of daily action items. This cuts down greatly on email notes containing status updates and action items.

5. Maintain a Personal Touch: This is similar to item 3. But here are some unique examples: Answer your own phone. Mingle -- extensively -- at conferences. Stay on the road to raise your visibility. Write hand-written notes to your customers.

6. Understand How People Cope With Stress: They say great coaches treat individual players somewhat differently from each other. Sure, you need one general set of rules for your employees. But each employee responds to stressful situations -- proposal deadlines, sales quotas, etc. -- in differently ways. Plan and manage accordingly.

7. Read Everything With Your Business In Mind: I recently read an article about a cook who was launching online educational videos. I leveraged some of the viral video ideas from the article in our own business. Spend more time reading Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur and other business-driven magazines, and apply vertical market lessons in your own business.

8. Hire People You Trust and Let Them Do Their Jobs: I love that tip. It comes word-for-word from Inc. magazine. But frankly, I saw it in action more than a decade ago when I worked at CMP Media and then Ziff Davis Media. At the time, both media companies game me the freedom to just do my job.

In some ways, times have changed. During recessions, some businesses second-guess their employees because money is tight and every dollar counts. But don't give in to micro management. Hire the best and let them do their jobs. Or part ways with sub-par talent fast.

How Do You Stand Out?

Ultimately, your future as a successful MSP involves three differentiators: Sales and marketing prowess. Plus, the ability of your CEO. If you believe in your CEO, stick around. If not, move on.

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