Two Traits All Top MSPs Must Have In Common

Two Traits All Top MSPs Must Have In Common

Are there any common traits among top managed services providers? Or, let me pose the question a different way: Are there any common traits among top small business owners and entrepreneurs? I mulled those questions while I read Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. The more I thought about it, the more I realized most insanely successful entrepreneurs have two things in common.

Let's start with Gladwell's own analysis. He openly wonders why Bill Joy (of Java, Unix and Sun Microsystems fame) and Bill Gates (yes, that guy) became so wildly successful. Was it because of their high IQ's? Or was it something different?

Gladwell concludes the following:

  • First, greatness in anything requires talent combined with 10,000 hours of practice.
  • Second, you need a series of lucky or fortunate breaks, often based on your surroundings, to get those 10,000 hours of practice.
I suspect those two rules apply to the best MSPs.

Lessons to Live By

Skeptical, consider the following examples from Gladwell:
  • Bill Joy: By pure coincidence, Bill Joy was attending the University of Michigan the year the computer center opened. It was one of the first centers in the world to have a time sharing computer. Before time sharing systems, it was basically impossible for individuals to get substantial hours of programming practice. Joy didn't really have an interest in computing until he stumbled onto the time sharing system. Right place. Right time. Right talent. Right work ethic. By the time he was in his early 20s, Joy was likely among a handful of programmers worldwide who had logged 10,000 hours of programming practice, Gladwell asserts.
  • The Beatles: The Fab Four got 10,000 hours of stage practice through a lucky break playing gigs in Hamburg. During one tour, The Beatles played 106 nights, five or more hours a night, in 1962. They crafted their expertise in relative obscurity (in Hamburg and elsewhere) before stepping onto the Ed Sullivan show and becoming "overnight" sensations.
  • Bobby Fischer: To become a chess grandmaster, it takes roughly 10 years and 10,000 hours of practice, though Bobby Fischer reached the elite level in 9 years.
  • Music Masters: To become a world-class violin soloist, the best of the best practice more than anyone else -- six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age 12, sixteen hours a week by age 14, and more than 30 hours a week by age 20.
  • Bill Gates: Sure, he's smart. But multiple right place, right time breaks gave Gates 10,000 hours of programming practice before most people had seen a computer. Gladwell notes: Gates' parents sent him to an exclusive high school that actually had a time-sharing terminal in 1968 -- a rare offering in that day. Opportunity two involved local mothers covering computing fees for Gates and other students. Opportunity three involved a local company needing some outside coding expertise (which Gates delivered). Opportunity four involved another company requiring payroll software work. Opportunity five involved Gates living within walking distance of the University of Washington. Opportunity 6 involved the university offering free computer time between 3:00 a.m.and 6:00 a.m. And the list goes on.

What this Means to MSPs?

Basically, you need (A) talent and series of fortunate breaks that gives you the opportunity to get (B) 10,000 hours of practice in your chosen field.

My point:
  1. We have to stop thinking about certain MSPs as overnight successes; and
  2. We need to stop thinking about the managed services market as a shortcut to profits and recurring revenue.
A few cases in point:
  • How many hours did Gary Pica put in before he successfully sold his managed services company to mindSHIFT? What type of professional network did Pica build to help trigger a company sale?
  • How many hours did Mike Cooch and his team put in before Everon Technology Services landed on the Inc. 5000? What type of professional network did Cooch build to launch Kutenda and other related businesses?
  • How many hours and R&D dollars did MSP software providers put in before they gained some traction in the RMM and PSA markets?
Of course, hard work isn't enough. You need the talent and the lucky breaks. In the weeks ahead, I'll be asking MSPs to share their stories involving "right place, right time" good fortune, lucky breaks and stellar timing. But I'll be sure to ask how many hours of hard work were associated with those "lucky" breaks.

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