4 Lessons From The MSP Trenches On Transforming Failures Into Triumphs

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

Being a business owner will always have ups and downs, wins and losses, good decisions and bad mistakes. But the differentiating factor is how we learn from both the good and the bad to drive ourselves and our business into its next iteration. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from my own failures and how I’m using these insights to help me rebuild my business to be more beneficial for our clients, employees, and community.

Don’t Shy Away From Hard Conversations

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned is that having hard conversations is important (and that they might not even be as hard as you thought they’d be!). When my father and I started I-M Technology in 2003, we chose a lane and stuck to it for the next 11 years. As a result, our growth was fairly stagnant during that time. However, in 2014, my father was planning to retire. We had a conversation about how I wanted to run the business and change things moving forward. It was a sobering conversation. He told me it was never about what he wanted and always about what I wanted—he was just trying to help me launch a successful business.

This was fantastic news. The problem, though, was that because I never asked that question, I always ran my business based on assumptions about what he would or would not like. There were risks I didn’t take and opportunities I didn’t pursue based upon this perceived risk aversion of somebody who was moving toward retirement. Ultimately, I did myself, my dad, and our business a big disservice by not having that conversation sooner.

Stick To The Plan

It was in 2014 that I first got serious about growing the business. I put a proper sales process in place and looked for a consultant to help me grow from around a $1 million MSP to my goal of becoming a $5 million MSP. Unfortunately, this is where I made yet another mistake: not completely following their advice. Instead of listening to the people I’d literally hired to be the experts, I tried to tweak, adjust, and put my own spin on things. It’s almost like you’re going to climb a mountain, and a seasoned mountaineer tells you the way; you follow it for a bit but then veer off to the right.

While my business did grow during this time, I watched other companies grow exponentially more in the same period. And it wasn’t that they had more or less knowledge; it was just the fact that they had executed more successfully.

Fast forward to 2022. I decided I wanted to at least 5x the company, so I hired another consulting firm and asked them to build a framework for me. This time, I included members of leadership and instructed them to keep me accountable and not let me pivot.

Seek High-Value Clients

A major part of why we wanted to expand our business was so that we could continue to service small businesses but at an enterprise level. What I mean by that is, we started looking at how other providers and internal IT departments were servicing their large corporate clients and adapted those processes to our smaller clients. However, we took it one step further. Part of this process of holding ourselves to a higher standard includes going back over and reviewing our existing clientele over the last 18 months. We look at anyone who might be under an older model, and we ask questions like, “If they were a new client today, what would we expect of them? What would we deliver to them? How do their wants and needs align with what we can currently offer them?”

Honestly, we’ve always attracted high-quality clients, but this process has narrowed down who we work with and ensures that we’re only working with companies who can benefit from, and leadership that appreciates, what appropriately implemented technology processes can do for their business. We also realized that we need to have a deeper understanding of how our clients function, building out a client canvas to see how we can serve them better and perhaps offer insight and areas to implement automation and gain efficiencies.

Evaluate, Iterate, And Repeat

I know for a fact that by listening to the experts and executing their strategies, the quality of my business has improved dramatically. But we’re not just invested in cultivating our own growth mindset. We’re doing the same for our customers as well. For example, every year, we send our clients an educational gift—typically a book I’ve found to be most impactful in the past 12 months—which shows we really want our clients to always be looking to level themselves up too. Sometimes it’s an overall organizational change, and sometimes it’s just leadership. You know, how can you be a better leader? Because if our clients are leading better businesses, it’s better for their community, their staff, their clients, and themselves. There’s really no downside to showing up as your best self, which is what we try to do every day at I-M Technology.

Build The Business Of Your Dreams

By making a series of rapid changes to the structure of our business, we’ve not only been able to cultivate a culture where employees are excited, motivated, and accountable at work but where our clients have been all the better for it as well. To the business owners who are worried about taking that risk or jumping to the next step, just do it. Your future self and future business will thank you! Whether it’s having a difficult conversation with your business partner or making the conscious effort to review your relationship with clients or staff, it’s important to be OK with things not working out. Just remember, to get better, you must evaluate, iterate, and repeat to build the business of your dreams.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart Bryan is CEO and president of I-M Technology, a company he founded in 2003 with his father Phil. Stuart has a broad base of knowledge in the areas of networking and computer software and hardware, and he is a coach and mentor of IT company leaders around the English-speaking world. I-MTechnology

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