Every year for over 15 years, TMT has put on a phenomenal MSP industry event that is chock-full of inspirational content, educational sessions and networking that is out of this world. The attendees are “growth-minded CEOs and leaders of MSPs, MSSPs, VARs and IT services CEOs with honest ambition to grow, profit and scale.” Sounds like this is THE event to be at if you are looking for actionable content to grow your MSP business. We checked in with a few MSP CEOs post-event to get their take on the conference and some key takeaways. Read their candid feedback below.
Go Fast, Don’t Die
By Brian Satz, President, CW IT Support
This past week was incredible at Boot Camp. Between the Sharks, the Better Your Best finalists and Nick Vujicic, the paraplegic from Australia with an incredible message of hope and perseverance, there was so much to internalize. If I had to sum it all up in one phrase, I think that Stephen Taylor said it best in his Better Your Best speech – “Go fast, don’t die!”
Stephen’s company, LeadingIT, has been growing at a phenomenal pace over the past couple of years. Much of his growth has been fueled by aggressive acquisitions. He has pushed to do as many as he can get funding for, as quickly as possible. I remember thinking at one point when I was talking with him that he might be moving too fast, and he should probably slow down to avoid crashing and burning. Looking back on it, I realize those were MY limiting beliefs, MY fears speaking.
You see, I’ve come to realize that I have hit an inflection point in my business. Let me explain. When I was first starting my company, I had absolutely NOTHING to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. When you have very few employees, and little to no debt, there is nothing truly at risk. I felt comfortable taking big risks and gambles at that stage – I mean, why not, right? Then things changed. After getting to about $2 million in revenue, I looked around and realized how much everyone was counting on me.
Failure was not an option. I started becoming more conservative with the weight of knowing I am responsible for so many people and their families’ well-being. One wrong move and the business could fall apart, creating a shock wave of consequences. I’ve got business debt, lots of property investments (more debt) and debt from my divorce. I MUST be successful at this point in time and truly NEED the company to work.
However, playing it safe and playing small won’t get the gains I truly want. I also heard it shared at Boot Camp that when you are evaluating risk, you should look at three things: the best possible outcome, the worst possible outcome and the most likely scenario. I think I’ve been focused more on the worst possible outcome, the risk, vs. the upside.
Focusing on risk is critical and shouldn’t be ignored but should be used as an exercise to build contingencies and plan for how to minimize it and continue to push forward. I’ve got to focus on being BOLD, taking risks, taking major initiative and doing big things if I want growth that will surpass 20% annually.
That being said, I did perform an acquisition last year, but it was a pretty small competitor. The loan payment is approximately equal to a small house payment – not that scary. This year, I need to focus on bigger acquisition targets. Stephen also shared something I thought was brilliant – when you buy an MSP, you are not only buying customers, but the team to service them. The acquisition I did last year was so small that I only retained the clients (all the work), and no team to handle them. It created decent growth for us, but onboarding and servicing them was very challenging since we didn’t get staff with the deal.
So this year, post-Boot Camp, I’ve made a few decisions: I’ve decided to double down on marketing, promoting that account manager, hiring a second telemarketer and investing in Robin’s trust-based authority marketing program. I’m also going to look for a larger acquisition target this time, one with a strong staff to add to our overall team. Go fast, don’t die. If things aren’t truly chaotic and barely hanging on, you might be going too slow.
Blast Past Your Business Goals With The Power Of The Community
By Neal Juern, President, Juern Technology
Extraordinary business growth doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum. It is usually the result of iron sharpening iron. Many companies grow slowly, through small, incremental changes that inch them one step closer to their goals each year; they just can’t set very aggressive goals.
Fast growth requires gaining knowledge at a rapid rate, and there is no better place to learn to make those gains than the community. When I say “the community,” I am referring to the larger MSP community that is fostered through several organizations, like ASCII, IT Nation, Connect IT and Technology Marketing Toolkit.
Technology Marketing Toolkit has been very successful at building one of the strongest and largest communities for IT services companies. Their mission is: “To build a community of success-minded entrepreneurs that inspires excellence, encourages collaboration and expands the capacity of all members to achieve great things.”
TMT just had their 2023 Sales and Marketing Boot Camp in Nashville, and it was evident by the more than 1,200 attendees that their community is bigger and better than ever. One of the highlights of Boot Camp is the Better Your Best contest. The top five companies that made the most improvements in revenue, net profit and MRR from the previous year (2022 in this case) compete by giving a speech, and one winner is chosen. This year, three of the Sharks from Shark Tank were judges – Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and Daymond John. Fred Voccola, the CEO of Kaseya, was also a guest judge.
And the winner is…Adam Spencer with 911 IT.
Over a year earlier, Adam and his wife, Rachel, came and sat down at a table in a hotel bar with David Javaheri and me, and asked a ton of questions. I was there soaking up as much wisdom as I could from David about everything he had done to become the 2022 BYB winner and everything he was doing to take his company to the next level.
David and I shared with Adam and Rachel some of the decisions that we made to grow our businesses, including the risks we had taken. They seemed eager to try something new. Then Adam and Rachel did something very rare. They believed it! They believed in themselves! They took massive action! They WON!
This absolutely demonstrates the power of the community. Sometimes all we need is a shift in our thinking or the belief that we can achieve something that someone else we know has achieved. Adam and Rachel deserve all the credit for their record growth in 2022 – they absolutely killed it! Congratulations!
During the event, you gotta eat, so I sat down for breakfast with Eric and Lisa Shorr. I asked them, “When you think about the TMT community, what comes to mind?” I like what Eric said: “You wanna know that you are going through some of the same things as other people. There is this incredible culture of sharing.” Lisa also said, “I like that we can commiserate with our peers and cheer each other on.”
I have learned the hard way that bringing my business woes to non-business owners is a bad idea, and you are likely to get some really bad advice. What Eric and Lisa wisely said here is that the community is that safe place where you can do that and in turn actually leave encouraged and ready for the next challenge. That is the power of the community!
My friend Tom Glover knows the power of the community from his experience helping to grow a very successful MSP, as well as coaching other MSP owners. Tom told me about one of the owners he coaches, Richard Reiffer, and how Richard took a TMT marketing campaign and changed it to include a lottery ticket stuck right to the top of the letter. They were having good success calling those companies and saying, “Did you get my letter with the lottery ticket?” Richard shares his campaign with anyone who asks for it. That is the power of the community!
Greater perspective, renewed passion and more knowledge, all gained from the community. These are just three of the many things gained in community that will help you blast past your business goals.
I like this quote from Coretta Scott King (the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.): “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
I have observed through all of my interactions with the community that compassion and generosity are guiding principles that the most successful embrace. They share their experiences to help others believe they can achieve great things. They inspire their peers to push past the stuff that sucks. They give freely the knowledge that is working for them so others can share in their success. That is the power of the community.
All of this has inspired me to embrace my local MSP community. I am reaching out to local competitors to create an alliance. If you want to know more, catch me at an event – I am happy to tell you how it goes. Get involved, be engaged, give without any thought of return and blast past your business goals with the power of the community.
Are You Leaving Money On The Table Pricing Projects?
By Lisa Shorr, VP, Secure Future Tech Solutions
I attend each trade show with the same question: “What are one or two nuggets I am going to learn to bring back to my MSP?”
Trade shows are like a brand-new box of Godiva assorted chocolates: you lift the cover and are presented with a delicious array of new vendors, educational sessions, trends and – the best part – meeting new peers. With eyes scanning the shiny, decadent options and taste buds dancing with delight, you maneuver your hand to pluck that first bite, but how do you select just one?
Attending trade shows, we are presented an abundance of ideas, resources and tools to grow our businesses. Try to implement everything and you accomplish nothing except a tummy ache. It’s better to savor each bite by selecting one or two strategies that you can do well.
Eric and I arrived at Boot Camp in the middle of breakout sessions. Instead of entering late, we decided to grab a quick lunch at the Mexican restaurant around the corner. Walking in at the same time was TMT’s Expert in Residence, Paul Cissel. As if Paul was a celebrity, I squealed, “You don’t know us, but we know you from TMT!” To which he replied, “Great, let’s have lunch together.”
I knew he’d be filling my box of chocolates with nuggets of knowledge! My favorite chocolate was on pricing projects. Eric and I have been pricing projects the same way for years. You too? Yet each time we analyze our reports, many of them show up in the red! Why?
In between bites of taco salad and crunches of tortilla chips, we analyzed the variables that go into project pricing. Here are three insights I learned that I WILL be implementing:
- Don’t quote projects as a “flat rate.” Instead, quote as time and materials. Even with our best estimates, projects can, and often do, run into issues that take more time than anticipated. Set clear expectations with our clients about time estimates, with the up-front agreement that overages will be invoiced separately.
- Include project management time in my quote. Don’t throw chocolates at me for this one! We never considered this very important, time-consuming component. It takes billable time to manage all aspects of a project, from scheduling the install to managing resources and materials to communicating with the client. You should add time into your proposals to cover this expense.
- Don’t discount onboarding. Our mindset was “I’ll keep this low to get the deal.” Is this your mindset? Going forward, Paul suggested it’s best practice to bill at least one to two times MRR as your onboarding fee. Charging proper onboarding fees means you are allocating enough money to cover the resources and time needed to ensure your onboarding is profitable and successful. It also helps to find those clients who value your time, expertise and technology.
Are your projects profitable? Do you even spend time analyzing this?
I had a hunch that I would learn a bunch while at lunch with Paul Cissel. (Do I sound like Dave Rendall, our rhyming MC?) I suspect these insights will pack a punch to your profitability too.
My 9th Time Attending Boot Camp, But It Was Like Attending For The First Time
By Stuart Bryan, CEO, I-M Technology
Wow. That’s really all I can say about this year’s TMT Boot Camp. It felt grown-up in a way that it hadn’t before. It wasn’t the flashiness, it wasn’t the numbers – it was the execution and cohesiveness.
Robin and team put on one of the most impactful events I’ve ever attended over the last 20 years of attending IT vendor/peer/training conferences. There were underlying themes that tied it all together and an army of TMT team members who took care of requests politely, efficiently and professionally.
The vendor hall looked fantastic and was bustling with professional displays and vendor teams who were engaged and obviously as impressed as I was. The theme of “Raiders of the Big Profits” (an Indiana Jones theme) had been picked up by vendors and the TMT team alike. It was fun and larger than life.
For those of you who don’t know, Boot Camp is where TMT has some of their top-performing clients from the previous calendar year present what they did to achieve success. The results they achieve are always amazing, but some years the results aren’t necessarily easily replicated. This year was different. I personally know all but one of the Better Your Best finalists. I was in an Accountability Group for almost 10 years with Stephen, have known Konrad for close to 14 years, am in an Accountability Group with Tommy and was the Accelerator coach for Jay.
Each of these entrepreneurs (including eventual winner Adam Spencer) executed on the information they’ve received from their peers and their mentors and the great training and speakers that TMT has brought together over the years to make Producers Club (and the ascension program leading to it) the class act of the MSP peer group industry, in my opinion.
My Producers Club Accountability Group, NOISE, decided to mix it up this year and roll back the clock to before we rented an off-site house and had our own accountability meetings during Boot Camp. We’d come in early and stay late for workshop days. We’d go to breakfasts, lunches and dinners by ourselves and build relationships and engage in topic discussions. This year we leaned into the networking more than ever by splitting up and having individual agendas.
It was great to catch up with friends and colleagues, some of whom are vendors, and others who are in the trenches fighting the good fight with me. I hit every after-party and meal with my fellow Boot Camp attendees. I had meaningful conversations about business and life, struggles and victories. I loved it. I didn’t spend a lot of time making new friends, but it was certainly great to catch up with old ones.
As a side benefit, I got to hear from three of the Sharks, who broke down the business models of the BYB finalists. I heard from Nick Vujicic about overcoming adversity and connecting our hearts and minds. I witnessed the power of authority/celebrity marketing and of just putting in the work.
The underlying message – the theme – that tied it all together for me was this: We need to change our thinking, put aside our limiting beliefs, think bigger and put the work in without making excuses.