IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

PROFILE: Going All In

How a MSP bootstrapper migrated from rudimentary managed services to fully automated systems. By Kiev Brownlee By ChannelPro

How a MSP bootstrapper migrated from rudimentary managed services to fully automated systems.

By Kiev Brownlee

Like many of my peers, I first began investigating managed services about four years ago. The more I studied the matter, though, the more I came to a somewhat surprising realization: I was already providing managed services to my customers. I just didn’t know it.

PROFILE: Going All InYou see, I’d been charging my clients a flat monthly fee to do remote preventive maintenance on their servers and PCs for three years by then. It was a great deal for my customers, because they wound up suffering fewer breakdowns, and it provided me with a nice source of recurring revenue. Little did I know that a business model I had pretty much stumbled across on my own would someday be known as “managed services.”

There was, however, one big issue that kept me from truly being a managed service provider: Instead of using remote monitoring and management software to streamline administrative processes, I was doing everything by hand.

It was a pretty inefficient arrangement that ate up a lot of my time. So I made the jump to becoming a full-blown MSP by adopting an RMM solution and a third-party help desk service. It was a decision that really helped me take my business to the next level. Suddenly, I could manage an end point even more effectively than before but in a fraction of the time—while collecting the same monthly fee.

As a result, my margins skyrocketed and I dramatically grew my customer base without having to hire a bunch of new full-time employees. In fact, within just a few quick years I went from supporting roughly 100 nodes to supporting over 400, pretty much all by myself.

VALUABLE LESSONS
Still, there are a few things I might handle differently if I were to become an MSP all over again. For starters, I probably wouldn’t make as big a deal about it to my existing clients. After all, I was already serving them remotely and charging them monthly, so the only thing changing from their perspective was the new help desk number they were supposed to call if something went wrong.

Talking to them about “managed services” probably just confused them more than anything else. If I had it to do over, I’d just tell them that I was adding a valuable new help desk service at no additional cost, and leave it at that.

I also wouldn’t give clients the option of declining the help desk. Some of my customers didn’t want to use that service, and early on I often accommodated them. After a while, though, handling their inquiries myself became a drag on productivity and profitability. These days, I pretty much require everyone to use the help desk even if it means losing a client or two on occasion.

One other lesson I’ve learned over the years: “Out of sight, out of mind” is as true in the IT industry as it is elsewhere. If you use a help desk service as we do, you can easily go months without talking to some of your customers. Over time they may start to forget just what it is you do for them. That’s why I’m careful to find a reason to speak with my clients regularly, whether it’s a casual phone call or a more formal quarterly business review.

You just can’t keep a business relationship strong without that kind of ongoing personal contact.

A GREAT PARTNER
As it happens, building strong relationships is something the folks at Zenith Infotech know all about. They’ve been my RMM and help desk provider ever since I officially became an MSP, and I can’t imagine working with anyone else.

I initially chose Zenith because they offered a complete range of top-flight services, and because their pay-as-you-go pricing model was the fairest and simplest in the industry. I’ve since come to appreciate what great partners they are too. Lots of vendors shower you with offers when you’re evaluating them.

After you become a customer, though, they start charging you for things like training. Zenith makes training available to its customers at no cost, along with a wide range of marketing materials, sales presentations, and more.

I also love their technology. In addition to using their server and desktop management services and their help desk, I’ve recently begun offering their Backup and Disaster Recovery solution. It’s an excellent product at a great price point that solves an urgent need for my customers. Plus, it’s helping me collect an entirely new revenue stream. Better protection for my clients, more money for me—what’s not to like about that? 

Zenith Infotech Inc.NEXT STEPS
To learn more about partnering with Zenith Infotech, visit www.zenithinfotech.com and click "Partner Programs."

KIEV BROWNLEE is president and CEO of Chicago-based KB Consulting Services Inc.

 

>> READ OTHER ZENITH INFOTECH STORIES

About the Author

ChannelPro SMB Magazine
SUBSCRIBE FREE!

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.