In a previous article, I had outlined seven questions to ask be for transitioning to an MSP. In this article I am going to break down one of those questions and bring some clarity to how it helps in transitioning to an MSP business and mindset: “is what you’re currently doing working?
To answer this question, it helps to think in terms of customer satisfaction, getting your time back, owning a business versus being owned by the business, and how this aligns with what you dreamed about when you started the business.
Things Aren’t Working for Mr. Breakfix
Let’s start by paying a visit to our break/fix shop owner: “Bob Breakfix”:
It’s Monday morning and it has been an exhausting weekend due to customer calls ranging from Windows upgrade errors to missing backups and other critical issues. Since Bob owns a break-fix shop with 2-5 employees, this is his life. He has not transitioned to reoccurring revenue streams because he thinks “customer satisfaction” equals the number problems he solves.
What Bob and many others don’t realize is that they are actually holding their customers hostage to their availability. They are never satisfied and support tends to be more reactive, versus proactive.
You know this innately when the phone starts to ring on Monday morning and all the things you fixed on Friday are now broken and there is no automation in place to auto-fix things. In this case you must either send your other burned out techs to do it, or do it yourself.
This is an indication that things aren’t working.
Stagnation is Failure
After 20+ years in the IT industry I have seen and heard all sorts of the day-to-day tribulations of the break-fix business model.
A company I worked for in the past was a break-fix advocate, and they fought me regularly when I wanted to setup SLA (service-level-agreements that were longer than one page), charge more for after-hours calls, educate users on how to use their technology and install remote control agents on customer devices. They saw these things as part of the cultural noise of our generation (it must be 140 characters or less).
They argued that charging more for after-hours calls would scare away business. Remote control tools would be seen as an invasion of people’s privacy. Educating the customer was taboo because an educated client would have no reason to call them.
However, what they don’t realize is most clients are already embracing companies that have these practices like with contracts for internet, cable, smartphones, plumbing, security etc. Failure to embrace these new ways of automating and streamlining their business caused them to fall behind.
Uphappy Clients and Unhappy Techs
When I had to work with companies that had a break-fix mentality, their customers were always angry and could never be satisfied. Clients were always second-guessing our work and challenged my solutions.
I was called at all times of the day to include holidays. I remember one guy threatening to ‘kill me’ because his AOL service was not working. I always had to go on site with impatient users constantly asking me how it was going and when did I think I would be finished. I remember dreading service calls to certain clients. You start to hate the industry, forgetting that this used to be fun.
So, is what you’re doing working?
Does any of this sound familiar?
The Solution is Strategic
I like the way CompTIA recently described a new way of thinking about IT:
“At the most basic level, companies need to consider two separate modes of IT. First is operational IT, which is the kind of IT that has been around since the mainframe days. This mode is more routine, revolving around the setup and maintenance of IT components. The second mode is strategic IT, which creatively considers the many different technology tools available and drives innovative solutions to business problems.”
We should strive to be shepherds of the Strategic IT mode, or at least make it a larger component of our business.
If you keep doing what you have always done, you will continue to get the same results. Some call this the definition of insanity. While the rest of the world operates on an as-a-service economy, you are working 70+ hrs a week, looking down your nose at MSP’s and continuing to work with stubborn home users who want their commodore 64 to run Office 2016. Then you wonder why your business is not growing.
I mean you did get into this to retire someday right? Some of us work to live but it seems the break-fix advocates like living to work.
The final item to check to see if what you’re currently doing is not working, is the overall attitude of your business. If you believe in keeping information from your customers (holding onto passwords, not providing documentation or coaching on basic computer skills, etc) and you don’t regularly communicate with your customers (newsletters, executive summaries, quarterly meetings, etc), then that means you’re living in fear.
A great MSP gives what Patrick Lencioni calls ‘Naked Service’:
“Naked service providers and consultants confront, clients (kindly) with difficult information and perspectives, even if the client might not like hearing it. Naked consultants ask potentially dumb questions, and make potentially dumb suggestions, because if those questions or suggestions ultimately help their client, it is worth the potential embarrassment. They also admit their weaknesses and celebrate their mistakes. Even before landing a client, a naked consultant will demonstrate vulnerability and take risks. They will give away their best ideas and start consulting to the prospective client during a sales call. In fact, they’ll do no real selling at all, foregoing that activity in order to find a way to help a client even if they never actually become one.”
I call this investing in the industry. If more IT Professionals provided this type of service the world would be a different place. Imagine customers who listen to you and consult with you regarding technology during their business planning and budgeting.
What if more of your customers were focused on their business because you took care of their technology and it was a true partnership versus negative emergency requests all the time?
Some of you reading this are saying BWA (but what about…) or “I have tried that and it did not work in my area, it is different…” However, I have seen this work first-hand in almost any situation. I have transitioned home and small business users to service based MSP models successfully in a demographic where everyone said it could not be done.
What it really takes is faithfulness, accountability, and the willingness to learn and grow. I would suggest that without those elements you are absolutely right… you will not be able to do it.
In my next article I’ll discuss answering the question: “What is the current opportunity in your area?”