Sometimes you need to just get in the game with the tools you have
The very first street bike I ever rode was given to me by a nice older gentleman named Lester. He was from my church. My wife and I were broke at the time, despite each of us working full-time jobs, and we had just bought a fixer-upper house to flip. Not to mention the daycare expense for our three-year-old son at home. So, Lester asked me to come by and check out the bike. When I told him it was great, he threw me the keys and said, “It’s yours. No charge, my blessing to you.”
A year later, I spent $800 on gear. The good kind. The best. That’s kind of a problem for me. I want the best (in a reasonable fashion). Sometimes that has served me well. At others, well, maybe not as much.
Which makes me ask the question: Is the gear the thing that gets the job done?
How many of us went to a conference and came back to our team with some new tool that was going to “transform” our business (and finances)? The owner of an MSP once stated in a training I attended that his team had created a special service board named C-Gull, where he was required to enter any new ideas, products, vendors or services before discussing implementation. It was named that because he’d dump a bunch of stuff on the team while circling overhead at 30,000 feet thinking about all the things that could be done.
How many times do we as owners suffer from a case of SNO Blindness? That Shiny New Object glitters so beautifully in the sunlight of the possible, but if we’re not careful we can drive our business into tool-induced poverty and inaction. It never makes sense to purchase tools until we’re ready to implement (and have enough buy-in so we can cover the costs without needing the dreaded ramp).
There is also real risk of tool fatigue on the part of our team. I know from experience.
By July 2022 I had identified the new cyber security tool stack we’d be implementing at my MSP. I knew that our RMM would not communicate with the new tool stack. It couldn’t. So, we changed our full cyber stack and our RMM. And our contracts. And the way our PSA was configured. And our remote access tools. And our sales process and MAP tool. And how our quoting tool worked. And for good measure, we attempted a QuickBooks Desktop to QBO migration. All in six months. It was brutal and was such a distraction. And it took 12 months, and the QBO one isn’t done yet.
We grew 30% last year but started this year off slow, growth hampered by all the distractions in front of our leadership team and living rent-free in my head. Am I glad we did this overhaul? I am, but it was too much too soon. I could have done it in sprints, staggered over a couple of years, and not experienced as much pain or distraction. We should have grown 60%. That was the cost. We started this year behind, and with the slow start, we have a lot of catching up to do. Less can be more at times.
A couple of friends of mine have made little changes to their companies’ tools over time but haven’t ever enacted radical shifts. As a result, their teams perform well with tools they know inside and out. Frankly, they punch above their weight due to that knowledge and familiarity. It’s like muscle memory at this point. They know how to do the things, and the tools work well and drive ticket counts down.
I had good, valid reasons to do what I did. It just wasn’t all necessary. Some of it was want, not need.
A coach of mine once said he’d inquire of his vendors where they were going and what was coming down the pike on the product road map. If it was something he was considering adding from another vendor, he’d wait and see what the current vendor brought to market. That drove deep relationships with his vendors and kept his costs lower (and eliminated or at least substantially minimized switching costs). That meant he could charge less than some of his competitors and had better gross service margins and was more profitable than his competitors, who charged higher rates. His team had fewer tickets, was more efficient and had fewer portals to navigate. That wins contracts and makes them very sticky too.
Perfect is the enemy of done.
We’ve likely all heard or read that before, but it’s so true. If we wait for the best tool or fully understanding all aspects of the solution, product or service, that might very well keep us from implementing it in a timely fashion or at all.
It’s about the skill and action, not about the gear. I took a racing license course at Lime Rock Park a few years ago and the instructor in front had little trouble staying ahead of each of us students in race-prepped Mustang GTs while he was driving a rental Honda Accord with better tires but standard everything else. A Stradivarius in the hands of a novice sounds just as bad as a yard sale fiddle. In the hands of a master of Itzhak Perlman’s caliber, the fiddle sounds more beautiful than it ever has and, to the average listener, indistinguishable from a Stradivarius.
We need to be honest with ourselves. Are we trying to be a cookie-cutter IT business where we all use the same tools as we slowly become homogenized? I think not. Be okay with offering something different. Be okay with not using the same tools. There are times when the Excel sheet is mightier than the fancy QBR tool. It’s about having the discipline to faithfully and habitually use the tools we have and do the things we need to in order to establish those patterns and become educated consumers who understand the problem and what the solution has to contain to solve it.
We need to understand and be able to prove the ROI before we move forward. We should possibly survey our clients to see who is asking for it and what percentage of our clients will not just raise their hands, but back it up with their wallets. That should probably be better than 50% to make the training and implementation worth it. Then we need to ask how much deviation and variety we want across our client base.
Let’s not waste thousands of dollars and dozens of payroll dollars on tools and ideas that don’t really move in the direction we want and lack real ROI. Let’s get into the game and play it. Imagine a football game where a guy suits up and then just stands on the field. That would be crazy. They are called football players because they play the game. Business owners do this all the time. They get the tools and then don’t implement, becoming owners of the dreaded shelfware.
Or worse still, they seek out the perfect, the amazing, delaying the time that they can start doing the things, possibly missing that moment where they could have jumped in just right for the maximum outcome. Sometimes they saddle themselves with the perfect software to discover that its beauty hides behind an insanely complex engine requiring constant tending and tweaking like some old steam-powered locomotive from the 1800s. The KISS principle goes right out the window in a puff of coal-laced smoke.
So, I ask you—have you bought too much gear? Sometimes it’s better to just buy a simple helmet and get in the game.
Get The Top 5 Trends MSPs Are Using Right Now To Leap Frog Their Competition And Land New Highly Profitable Clients Like Never Before At Our Next Generation MSP Tour. Register For Free!