How Techie Gurus Bounced Back From Disaster

  • Company:  Techie Gurus LLC
  • Founded: 2008
  • Headquartered: Sterling Heights, Michigan
  • Geographic Market: Nationwide
  • Top Growth Indicator: New monthly recurring revenue customers
  • YoY Percent of Growth: 25%
  • CEO: Chris Burns

What are the top three metrics you use to measure your business and why?

Our top three metrics are sales conversion, monthly recurring revenue as a percent of total revenue, and profit per customer. One of the things we didn’t do before was track conversion, but we’re trying to do it more as we go forward. We’re also trying to do more with our customers, so we’re focusing on recurring revenue. If a customer isn’t profitable, that makes us take a step back and ask why. We need to make a profit in order to deliver our service, so if a customer isn’t profitable, we need to look deeper into their situation. Maybe we brought them on five years ago, for example, but now we need to change things to make the experience better for both of us. Maybe we’re doing too many service calls because they have old hardware. If that’s the case, we can have a conversation with them about replacing that hardware and tilt the relationship back to favor us.

What is the top lesson you had to learn that allowed you to kick-start your business growth?

I had to learn to let go and focus on building a great team, specifically on letting them sell and supporting their growth. I wouldn’t say I’m a micromanager, but in the past, I wanted to be involved in every single item in the business. I was focusing on the details instead of looking at the business from a strategic perspective. Now, I let people take those responsibilities away from me. I became an overseer, and that has really changed the business in the last few years. That process has included hiring strategically but also delegating. I have some great people here, but I think I just had to get to a level where I was comfortable delegating and trusting they’d do what I would. That has been the hardest part.

What would you say was your single “secret to your success” this past year?

I think the biggest secret to our success was optimizing our focus, looking at the business, and trying to get to version 2.0. I realized at the end of 2018 that we needed to treat 2019 as a transition year. We needed to focus on the business, reimagine things, redevelop our core offer to customers, and remove friction points. Everybody was aware of that mission, but I picked and chose a couple of individuals inside the company who would really help me focus on it. We found that too often we weren’t providing enough services to customers upfront, so we had to go back over and over and ask to add services. It felt like nickel-and-diming, and I think that’s too common in our industry. In response to that, we tried to create offerings for what we knew our customers needed, to get them to a certain comfort level and to explain things in a different way. It really aligned both of our goals together. That was the key for everything: aligning our goals with our customers’ goals.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome this past year related to either reaching that growth or as a result of that growth?

We actually lost one of our biggest customers in the first quarter of last year. They came to us out of nowhere and said they were making a change in direction and were going to go with a bigger, out-of-state IT company. It was a huge blow to our business, and we lost a large chunk of revenue. We had already started our transition at that point, but after that, we accelerated it. Losing them opened our eyes and made us realize we need to get ahead of things, get rid of those friction points, and align our goals because that particular customer wasn’t aligned with us, but we hadn’t focused on that yet.

Who would you say is the most impactful business leader or business thought-leader whose techniques or leadership style you either try to emulate, follow, or are influenced by, and why?

I grew up loving sports, so the most impactful person for me isn’t actually a business leader. I often look at professional football coaches and how they handle their businesses — they’re basically the CEOs of the teams. One coach who really has that mindset is Bill Belichick, the CEO of the New England Patriots. They’ve been winning for 20 years under his leadership. His key is that he delegates to other people, and

he’s always changing the team’s implementation strategy. Every year, that strategy is different because every year is different. With the way the NFL is set up — salary caps, free agency rules, and other things designed to make sure teams can’t be dominant for more than a few years — it seems like you shouldn’t be able to do that, but he does. Twenty years at that level is crazy. It’s almost like how Amazon started as a bookstore, then transitioned into a dominant conglomerate in the marketplace and in cloud space. I’ve tried to take Belichick’s leadership style and implement it into my business by developing new strategies and putting my energy into change because nothing changes faster than IT.

What book would you recommend to other MSPs or SMBs trying to grow their business?

If I could only recommend one book, it would have to be “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman. It changed the way I looked at how my business should be run, specifically when it comes to the people. My biggest takeaway was that I need to have the right person in the right seat. You can have the right people in your business, but if they’re doing the wrong things, it won’t work out. For example, you can’t take someone who wants to be in sales and put them in marketing. If someone is bad with customers, then you shouldn’t send them out to meet with customers. It’s not good for the person or the business. Now when we’re hunting for new people, we look at the seat we’re trying to fill and make sure all of its boxes are ticked. With the last few hires we made, that changed our world. I came across

“Traction” about five years ago, but I revisited it late last year and started implementing those techniques as part of our transition. Another amazing book is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. It really spoke to me because of the rate of change we deal with in IT. You have to be able to embrace it because if you let it eat you alive, you’ll be unhappy professionally and personally. That book helped me see how to do that and helped me work through some personal and business issues when I read it. I’ve been in IT for so long, going on 20 years now, but the industry is totally different as a business owner.

In closing, do you have any specific advice or words of wisdom you would give to other MSPs looking to grow or build a successful exit for their business?

First, I’d say learn to embrace change and use it confidently. Rethink your business and how you deliver to customers. We can all do IT, so at the end of the day, it’s the customer experience we provide that sets us apart. Second, I’d recommend building solutions that are recurring revenue-focused and will not only help your business but also give more value to customers. Too many people give low-level packages to add solutions. The price for the customer starts low, but all of a sudden they look and their spending is out of control. That creates friction between the IT company and the customer that doesn’t end well. Remembering that is what really changed us in the last few years. We started to align more with our customers, and they got it. Our conversion rates are up, and everything has changed. Our new packages are more expensive, but the way I explain it is that we’re doing this because there is a certain level of service we need to provide, and we’ve built our packages around that.

MSP Success Magazine is a print and digital publication dedicated to helping the CEOs and owners of managed IT services businesses build strong, profitable, growth-oriented businesses. Written and published by Robin Robins, founder of Technology Marketing Toolkit, this magazine is uniquely focused on the topics of marketing, client-acquisition, sales, profitability, leadership and personal development.



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