If I Were Launching an MSP Now | Dan Polk
Dan Polk, owner and president of Bismarck, N.D.-based Silicon Plains, shares three suggestions he’d apply if he were launching an MSP from scratch today:
1. Join peer groups – If we were to take another look at what was most important for us, even just to refocus on what we are doing now, peer groups ultimately became important to the success because of the "you don't know what you don't know" factor.
So often, when we had an opportunity to leapfrog a competitor, it's become really clear how much this industry likes to help other people in the same industry.
With the MSP market maturing pretty rapidly, the answers are out there.
None of us for a second should believe that if we're starting an MSP, or just restarting ourselves, trying to figure out what we want to do in the coming years, that somehow we're inventing the wheel.
The answers are out there.
There's plenty of money to be made by using the systems, the processes, and the solutions that have been built by others.
And they are happy to share them through peer groups.
It really helps to work with other business leaders so that you can understand your business as well as you understand yourself.
That's where the power of the peer group comes in, especially if you're new or smaller.
2. Develop a sales focus – Selling keeps businesses alive.
It keeps them growing.
I think it's easy to believe – especially with smaller MSPs where there's still a very strong technical component in the leadership – that you're in the business to fix things.
While being asked that question, a lot of people might say "I'm in business to be in business."
I don't know that everyone truly thinks about why they're really in business, with a business hat.
I think it's a tough thing to do.
Customers of ours in this industry want advice, counsel, efficiency, and trouble-free solutions.
We can't deliver these things if we think that somehow we're the kingpin in the solution, like a technician is prone to do.
So, if we were to go back and say how we would leap frog ourselves, it'd be that we'd just go out there and use what's out there, build our solution set that we think fits best with our customers and our demographic and whom we want, and do it in the most predictable, efficient way possible.
That starts with only selling what we can predict.
Take advantage of mature products with real market strategies behind them.
It makes it so that you can harness the power of industry relationships, and it gets you out of that repair mode and starts you focused on margins and partnerships with vendors.
This is an everybody-wins scenario.
Over the course of time, what's changed and grown in the way that I see things is how much advantage you can have by understanding that sales focus in the beginning.
Make no mistake: the sales side of things is hard work.
There's no silver bullet.
It takes time, focus and workflow, just like any other part of the business.
I think it's easy to believe that somehow, especially if you're new in this industry, that finding the right sales person is some sort of high-level fix to your sales process, and that's just not true.
You do need to find good sales people, but you have to have a good process behind it.
That starts with understanding that if you want to grow, and you want to grow quickly, and you want to stay alive as a company, you've got to be sales-focused.
3. Consider your exit strategy from the start – Every business owner needs to understand themselves and that starts with the end in mind.
Why we start something isn't always what carries us through.
When we understand that, exit strategy becomes kind of a guiding force in every decision you make.
For example, if you own a lifestyle business, maybe you're drawing what the company makes out of the company on a regular basis, and following trends in the industry more closely might be more important for you.
So, as you're looking at what's coming, what's around the corner, what's next and what's new, you might say, "this is what's going to help me be sustainable over the very long term – staying on the cutting edge of these things."
If the idea is to sell, then producing predictable growth using tried and true solutions that have been around for a while may be a better choice.
Knowing that exit strategy helps guide every choice.
This helps you stay on top of the value-driven decision-making.
The only way to know if it builds value is if you know how it is all going to wrap up for the leadership – for the owners.
And, eventually, it absolutely does for everyone.
Editor’s note: Comments are edited to improve readability.