Two weeks ago we posted the interview with Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up! The interview has inspired many of our clients and readers to think about particular aspects of their business. I’ve personally been experimenting within two of those aspects lately, based on his thoughts: Hyper Specialization and Service Productization. I just wanted to share an update on how we’ve developed what we learned.
We are continuing the “MSP 2.0 bestseller” series in March, as well. No question, one of my all time personal favorite books is Mastering the Rockefeller Habits from Verne Harnish. It helped me to apply the paradigm of “work on your business instead of in your business”. For many MSP leaders this book has been a foundation to building their businesses. He’s followed this with his new book Scaling Up - Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0. I had a chat with him about the required steps for MSPs to stay on top of their business and to start Scaling Up!
Verne is straight to the point, so put on your seat belts and get your notepad open, this is going to be a high-paced trip!
This is a motif that’s had some traffic in the last few weeks in several situations, coming up in conversations about differentiation, going the extra mile, remarkable service, engaging clients, building a brand and the use of stories in this business.
One of our clients told us a story about a fashion design client in Los Angeles with fashion conscious California team members. The office is artistically designed of course, with bricks, standing desks and an open cafeteria with bar tables. Lots of nice, creative radiant people having lattés while working makes this the place where techs are making up reasons to go every day.
He had some work out there and got inspired by the environment to get expressive, so he bought pink cables instead of the boring black ones.
He was just having fun. He didn’t predict the result...
One of the most under-appreciated success factors of an MSP is its capacity to develop services. We’re the purveyors of Managed Services; there are hundreds in the repertoire of any given MSP. This keeps us busy - going from concept to a product that can be sold and delivered is a long road. While product based companies have a process for product development, we service companies too often overlook the value in this powerful business practice, where all our innovation, differentiation, profitability and growth can be formulated in advance.
The trend of fragmentation in services - into verticals, delivery tools, integrations - just multiplies the need for planned process.
The usual development process for MSPs is to do a project - develop something that solves a problem for (and with) a specific client and standardize it later. This can lead to long term future revenue, but without a clear process mixing up service development and the real revenue generating activity of the company will not only kill our internal productivity, but likely our relationship with the client, if everything they see is always in beta testing.
Let’s identify some basics to ensure our process is better than the average and pull ahead of the competition.
One of the most common and largest hurdles for MSPs is difficulty expressing our value proposition properly, and hence differentiating ourselves.
There are two fundamental aspects of our industry responsible. First is the abstract nature of the proposition. The problems we solve are less tangible, like “competitive edge” or “staying ahead of the curve” rather than “keeping the lights on”. The second is the more managerial and higher level services such as solution selection, and team alignment and integration rather than executable defined processes like device management and remote monitoring.
Without a doubt that which is more tangible and more clearly defined is easier to explain, sell and even deliver. We try to answer the question: how we can make our vague and complex services more tangible.
The process below will first identify the different types of services you have, then set up a structure to help manage this process. Then we’re going to demonstrate the practices to enhance different types of less tangible items into a more tangible format. You’ll see how you can actually transform the most difficult to monetize services and make your service portfolio more ready to explain, sell and even deliver.
A few months ago we started sessions of real peer groups, to get people together to discuss real issues, problems and challenges we’re all facing and hopefully to come up with some individual plans that boost the accountability of process execution. From these I’ve compiled a list of topics that are front-of-mind among participants. I can report that the discussions dealt with the problems in a very forward looking manner, with creative solutions and not stuck in status-quo thinking. In my opinion these sessions are giving a unique insight into where the industry is going.
I came across an illuminating infographic in the last week that discusses the different strengths and weaknesses involved in these demographics.
The other day I made some calculation with a client about vCIO services. Fortunately it is very easy to calculate your opportunity in creating a profitable and scalable vCIO service offering.
Last week we went through how we can stop giving out free advice and making consultation a revenue generator. Let’s see that in practice. Our example today is Slack, the latest silicon valley unicorn (1B+ valuation). Slack, in most cases, is a free tool designed to enhance your internal communication. So how can we as IT service providers deliver value and earn revenue with this great tool.
Many MSPs and ITSPs are suffering the challenges of charging for consultation. The IT industry has taught its customers that we sell big expensive boxed packages that come with free consultation, placing the value in the big boxes and none in the advice. There are no big expensive boxes anymore, but still the advice remains free. However a systemic shift is taking shape finally reversing this conundrum. It is about offering low-cost SaaS applications and solutions with high-grade consultation fees, placing more value in the advice rather than the tool.
We are continuing the “MSP 2.0 bestseller” series in January, as well. The pick for this month is Gary Harpst - Six Disciplines of Excellence. Gary has been a part of the IT industry since being the founder of the well known ERP solution Solomon Software that was sold to Great Plains then to Microsoft. After the acquisition he shifted his focus to one question: how to help companies to execute their strategies. He has put together a very solid methodology in a program called “Six Disciplines” and written a book about this topic. This book is in my top 10 business books and has changed my way of thinking. I was privileged to meet him in person and have a long talk about these challenges.
The MSP 2.0 model is catching fire around the world. Many MSPs have already started to design, sell and deliver vCIO services. Adding $2.000 - $4000 of vCIO monthly recurring revenue (MRR) to a current 40 seat $5000 MSP MRR is now doable but requires some preparation. We’re going to take a look at the requirements (which can be easily overlooked) of the delivery to make sure we make it profitable.
Branden Baker, President of Integration Technologies from Hawaii is a modern Tom Selleck. He shares a story about the transformation of his sales approach.
His team had not been able to close any MSP deals for more than a year. But he got involved in the vCIO conversation and after only a few weeks he landed his first monster six-figure deal.
We are starting our "MSP 2.0 bestseller" monthly book review. We want to start strong, so the first book of this series is the new consultative selling holy bible, Same Side Selling. The co-author, Ian Altman, CEO of Grow My Revenue, is a sales visionary, bestselling author, Forbes contributor and keynote speaker.
While speaking with Ian it became clear he knows how to win the hardest battle MSPs have ever faced: commoditization of the IT infrastructure services and the resulting price pressure, shrinking margins, and the lack of differentiation from competition.
Larry Cobrin, CEO/Founder of MSP CFO, has been working on a project to make financials available for MSPs to make better decisions. In my first call with him I knew we needed him to talk about finances! I was fascinated by his insights about clients’ profitability trends, classifying them and taking actions for better profitability.
He shares a lot of hints and tips about different data you need to look into (which are mostly available already in your PSA) for your organization to make better decisions. If you feel you are leaving money on the table check out this interview!