Paul Rouse, president and owner of Rouse Consulting Group, is a midwestern MSP who provides managed services and IT solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses in the Quad Cities corridor. Having clients in areas that aren’t necessarily major metropolitan spots really forces one to look at and approach things differently, according to Rouse.
“When thinking about starting an MSP practice, geography is going to dictate a ton of it,” states Rouse. “Geography dictates your labor pool in a lot of ways, so you must be really cognizant of where they are and what’s available there.”
Geography also dictates whether you can be a generalist or focused on a specific vertical.
We sat down with Paul this week to learn more about the important role geography plays in the MSP game, and the other components he considers vital to success.
1. Have tunnel vision.
What you focus on is critical. Zero in on a consistent set of verticals, products and vendors and stick to them.
“Avoid going with 72 different vendors in order to save a buck,” warns Rouse. “We’ve had a lot of success focusing on just a very small set of vendors. It’s limited, but you’ll go further with a really efficient, honed set of products.”
Otherwise, things get messy and impossible to manage efficiently.
The other element to focus on is verticals. Pick two or three verticals that you excel at. Learn them inside and out and speak their language.
“You have to know a lot more than just how to keep their computer patched or safe from viruses,” says Rouse. “It’s really knowing their business and being able to contribute at a higher level rather than just the core IT elements.”
2. Wake up and smell the security.
No matter the size of your organization or industry, security is a must. No, seriously. It is.
MSP functions are now standard — a basic foundation that everyone expects. So why shouldn’t security be? Actually, having robust security measures in place is slowly but surely gaining speed with companies, gradually becoming top of mind rather than playing second fiddle.
“No matter what, companies must have a very strong security focus,” says Rouse. “Considering today’s threat landscape, they can’t afford not to. This should be one of the first, top-priority elements to be implemented if you’re starting an MSP.”
3. Understand your scale.
This depends on your particular ambitions of course, but if you want to generate value for your company, you need scale to do that.
The first step is to outline a road map. What does success look like? Draw a line with points spanning from day one to you becoming a $5 million company, and then on to $10 million — and beyond. What will it take to get you there?
It’s also key to understand the difference between organic growth and the merger and acquisition side of things, and tailor/figure out your business plan to get to those different levels.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in management information systems and a MBA from the University of Iowa, Dr. Paul D. Rouse went on to earn his DBA with a focus in organizational behavior from St. Ambrose University. In 1997, he started Rouse Consulting Group, Inc., to provide managed services and IT solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses. Paul is married with three children and currently resides in Moline, Illinois.