Rick Thomas, founder and president of Reno, Nev.-based ProTechnical, shares three suggestions he’d apply if he were launching an MSP from scratch today:
1. Get involved in some type of peer group – Join a peer group that is strictly for IT providers, so that they work collaboratively and not competitively.
That typically means having to either have phone calls with other companies out of the area or even flying and meeting quarterly (that's what we do).
Quarterly, we meet with about twelve other companies and that moves across the country to different locations, different venues.
It has really been the biggest advantage for ProTechnical when we finally joined.
Talk about walking into something and going, "wow, I just found out I know nothing," when you think you knew it all.
You can't get that from your employees.
You will never get that from anybody locally, because they are in the same market, competing against you.
It is really an interesting phenomenon when you move out of your area into a different region and you're meeting in a place where there's nobody there in that zone that would be fighting for the business.
Everybody just freely talks about everything, from what they're paying themselves to what they're paying their employees, to what they're getting per seat, to what their vendors are charging them.
All of a sudden, you have this huge advantage to go back, say, to a distributor and say, "Hey, I thought I was getting a good deal. This guy in a like company is getting 70 cents a seat. I'm paying $1.10. What's going on with that?"
You've got bargaining chips and things you just never knew – and processes.
Everybody shares documents, whether they are Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoints or Word files.
That is huge.
With annual dues, having to pay to fly around four times a year, weekly phone calls - it seems like it's a lot.
But in the end, just joining this peer group has advanced us faster than any of the other years we were business.
2. Don't hire just locally, but not internationally – I think I would try to find people from different areas.
The difficulty with that is, if I'm starting an MSP today from the ground up, it's difficult to get someone to relocate from another state to my company, when there's really no history on this company.
People early on will interview us as we're interviewing them because they want to make sure that if they're leaving a job, they are going somewhere that's going to stay in business.
If I already had a track record, I would be looking at professionals anywhere in the country, and really looking at expanding that.
Look who's out there, who's interested in coming to work for a technical company and how you can lure them.
When I say “stay local,” I mean stay within the U.S. borders.
You can hire people working remotely too, and then you can bring them in.
Staying within the U.S. is huge.
We did try the offshore. There are a lot of IT companies that still do this, and MSPs, too.
In the end, any customer-facing technician needs to have a command of English language in America.
I don't care how good someone is in their English in India, in the Philippines, or anywhere else.
There's a way that people think.
There are very bright and sharp people but they are wired differently, probably due to upbringing and culture.
It's not that easy to speak to somebody just because they know English.
You don't get the coding that happens when people are interacting with each other here.
So, that could be a block.
There are many things that globalization works to help us in, but within reason.
3. Be certain that you've completely vetted out your PSA solution – You want to have a PSA that is going to be able to scale with your company.
It needs to be able to integrate with your company.
I've learned over the years, if you give somebody a tool and it's not easy to use, they will not use it, no matter how hard you try to convince them use it because people use what's familiar – what works.
There's a very big PSA out there, the leader – the tool is so cumbersome, that people won't use it effectively.
When you're not using your PSA effectively, you can't report properly and you can't inspect what you expect.
And then you have a problem: You have a machine that you're putting information in and it's not spitting it out the way it's supposed to, or people aren't putting information in that you need.
Definitely spend time to demo and vet out the best PSA because for an MSPs, the PSA is the core – it's our heart.
Without the PSA, I don't care what you have in the system; nothing will work.
It is the core of the business.
Don't try to do it with QuickBooks or the spreadsheet or Outlook.
It's just not going to work.
There are so many PSAs out there now.
Everybody wants to get a piece of the action.
Vet it out, get the one that works.
Everybody's going to have their criteria so I can't say “go with this company.”
What works for me, may not work for someone else.
PSA is very important in running an MSP effectively, efficiently and profitably.
Editor’s note: Comments are edited to improve readability.