MSP Owners Wear Too Many Hats! Shed Some To Focus On Business Growth

The MSP Success Thought Leaders Program invites leaders in the small business IT/MSP industryto share their insights and advice with MSP Success readers.

Running an MSP can be hectic and stressful, no matter your size or stage of growth. One thing I’ve struggled with over the years is wearing too many hats and not recognizing when I could shed one to focus on business growth.

In the early days of building my MSP, CW IT Support, I was our first technician (hat #1). I taught myself how to work on servers and networks. As we grew, I had to learn how to hire, recruit, and train others (hats #2, 3, and 4), plus deal with billing and customer service issues (hat #5). Then I had to build systems and processes (add on another hat). I was a jack of all trades, the wearer of all hats. I worked incredibly long hours and was the glue that held it all together—a badge my ego wore proudly but a burden I couldn’t sustain.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

The alarm rings. It’s 4:30 a.m. I shower, get some coffee, and start working on quotes. Then I head into the office at 7:30 a.m. to get the techs moving on critical tickets.

But wait, there’s a client emergency. Their server is downbetter jump on it!

I get that fixed and make it back to the office, just in time to talk a client off the ledge from wanting to cancel or reduce their rate.

By lunchtime, I’ve got a team member who needs to talk with me because they’re stressed about issues at home and it’s affecting their work.

Oops, I can’t forget monthly billing! Oh yeah, and let’s make sure there is enough money in the bank for payroll on Friday. Better start calling people to pay up, and make sure those quotes get out the door and get approved.

Finally, I get home at 7 p.m. after everyone has already eaten dinner, try to spend an hour with the kids before bed, then finish up notes from the projects I closed and plan the next day. Maybe, just maybe, I find a few minutes to talk to my wife before bed.

Start The ‘Shedding’ Process

We’ve all been there. But living like this isn’t sustainable. For me, the breaking point was when I realized I barely knew my children and my marriage was falling apart. Even when I was home, I wasn’t present. It was time to shed some hats.

First, I hired a tech. This was huge because I didn’t have to be the ONLY one to put out fires. However, once I started to hire other technicians, new problems cropped up. HR issues, management issues, cash flow issues, etc. (pile on the hats).

I was still clinging to my technician hat, however. Sales were growing, but it was because I was the technician on-site putting out fires, spotting opportunities for system improvements, building quotes, and selling managed services.

Eventually, I hired someone to help with billing and administrative tasks to allow me to spend more time in the field, along with training and selling. At around the $1M revenue point, though, the technician hat got to be too tight, restricting our growth.

That’s when I promoted one of my techs to service manager, responsible for our hiring decisions, tech training, and client escalations.

Put On Different Hats To Lead The Business

This is also around the time that I hired a business coach to learn how to be a leader and a business owner, a hat I was more than willing to put on. The more I learned about how to lead and manage, the more I realized that I could get a lot more done through others. I was the bottleneck. I had to get out of the way and take off the damn hats I clung to!

So I FIRED MYSELF! I tossed that tech hat FOR GOOD to focus on management, leadership, and anything related to growing the business (that’s right, sales and marketing!). We grew so much faster at this stage because I had more freedom to focus on things that can move the needle.

And grow we did! I donned the sales hat next. We had the systems, people, and processes in place, so it was the right season for me to wear it. Little did I know what 10-gallon hat that would turn out to be. I was sales manager, along with outside sales, account manager, sales engineer, visionary, chief marketer, you name it! We grew from $2M to $3M in revenue with just me and one outside salesperson/account manager.

At this point, I toyed with the idea of hiring another sales manager or bringing on another outside salesperson, but the numbers didn’t make sense. Plus, I love closing deals, I’m good at it, and it provides high value to the organization. So I looked inward to see what else I was doing that either didn’t bring me joy or kept me from selling. The next obvious choice was a Technical Account Manager to keep me out of the urgent quoting and TBR cycle that clients needed.

Wear Hats Until They No Longer Fit

Over time, I set a goal to simply focus on all things that grow the company and hire other people to do everything else! I’m now keeping an eye on marketing, but I have staff doing much of the marketing work, from dialers to a marketing manager. I have another salesperson, but he works mostly on qualifying prospects and bringing them close to closing, then I bring the deal across the finish line.

Currently we are a team of 20 strong and we have a $3.5M run rate. We are building a company that can grow past $5M with the structure in place. My focus is almost entirely on business growth and development, as well as managing our managers.

So, what’s the next hat I can shed? The ultimate goal is to build a business that runs without me!

My challenge to you as an owner of an MSP is to consider taking off some hats.

Being diligent about what hats I wear and how I’m spending my time has been critical to my business growth and evolution. As my role in the company continues to evolve and change, I’ll try on new hats, and that’s OK! I’ll wear the hat until it no longer fits and gift it to someone else who wears it better.

To learn more about CW IT Support, go here.

Brian Satz is president of CW IT Support, an MSP based in Wilmington, North Carolina, that focuses on providing cybersecurity solutions and outsourced IT to municipalities in the Carolinas.



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