Seasoned MSP Experts Weigh In: Their Best Advice for Newbies
There is a certain level of knowledge and skill that can only be attained with experience. This applies to basically every industry, from serious disciplines like medicine and law to basic skills like writing and public speaking.
It also applies to IT work.
If you’re someone who’s just beginning in the MSP world, you can learn a great deal from MSP experts who’ve gained years of experience in the field. Whether you’re moving on from IT grunt work and starting your own business or looking for ways to grow your already-established company, seasoned professionals will give you the sound advice you won’t find anywhere else.
We spoke with several of these professionals and asked them for tips that MSP start-ups could use. Here’s what they had to say:
What Are Some Expert Tips for MSP Startups?
1. Find a niche.
Many MSPs make the mistake of being extremely broad with their clientele as they’re just starting out. They may do IT for an eye doctor, an interior designer, a local Montessori school, and a trucking company. These are all vastly different industries that require vastly different IT needs.
Finding a niche — for instance, only doing IT for eye doctors and dentists or only for school districts — will not only require you to do less work (because you will become highly attuned to the needs and challenges of that niche, specifically), but you will also look better to your clients in that industry. In short, you’ll be [insert industry here] IT experts, and that’s what your potential clients want.
2. Show that you understand your clients’ industry and business inside and out.
Once you’ve found a niche, learn it well. As you approach potential new clients, learn their particular businesses well also. You need to show your clients that you know what makes their companies tick, and you understand what their goals are, what challenges they face on a daily basis and overall, and what you can do that they cannot do for themselves.
3. Make a firm decision about contracts early on (but don’t be afraid to change down the line).
There are two types of managed service providers: those who force their clients into contracts and those who don’t. The latter usually go month-to-month.
Without a doubt, there are pros and cons to each of these methods. As you start out, you should examine these pros and cons and make a firm decision as you approach new clients. If whatever decision you choose doesn’t work for you, however, feel free to change along the way. Essentially, it needs to be a firm choice either way because it can have a lot of cascading effects as you move ahead.
In terms of the pros and cons, contracts are good because they help you retain customers and ensure consistent revenue. As a drawback, creating contracts requires help from lawyers, and this can be costly and cumbersome.
On the other hand, if you don’t work with contracts, you can’t absolutely ensure your revenue long-term because, technically, your clients could leave at any time. With that being said, if a contracted client really wants to leave, they probably will — even if there is a breach of contract fine. For this reason, many MSPs forgo client contracts altogether.
4. Don’t overpromise.
Especially as you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to overpromise to potential customers. You want to impress them and ensure that they’ll sign with you. While this is understandable, it can screw you up later on when you either have to overwork yourself and your staff to meet the promises you made or not meet the promises you made after all and settle with unhappy customers.
To avoid overpromising, experts recommend always bringing an engineer along to sales meetings. Salespeople are the ones who tend to agree to more than your MSP can provide, so having an actual IT engineer on-hand can keep this kind of talk in check.
5. Never work for free.
Startups in all kinds of industries often make the mistake of working for free when they’re just starting out. In the MSP world, this often happens when IT professionals first strike out on their own to do freelance work. They want some experience and reviews under their belts, so they tell their friend’s parents’ company or another local small business that they’ll do their IT work for free for a few months.
This never turns out well. For starters, it devalues your work. It tells other people that even you don’t think what you do is worth money. Furthermore, if you end up trying to start a paid plan or contract with a company that you once did free work for, that $0 bill is going to be the standard they remember you by. Anything they have to pay for thereafter will be annoying to them, and they’ll miss the days of paying nothing. This will cause them to be persistently unhappy with your work — even if it’s high-quality.
Never Give Up
As a final note — and this applies to all new business people, no matter your industry — never give up. Starting a new business is not easy, and you will inevitably run into snags and make mistakes.
Don’t let that stop you.
Great managed service provider companies are started by people who are passionate about this industry and have a natural knack for it. If this is you, a few hiccups along the way as you start your new endeavor should not hold you back or keep you from pursuing your dreams.