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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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News & Articles

January 2, 2024 | Ian Alexander

How MSPs Can Leverage Mental Models to Grow Their Business and Create Balance

This little-known tool can MSPs balance client demands with business growth in mind.

The pressure never seems to ease in the fast-paced world of MSPs.

Clients depend on MSPs to keep their systems running smoothly, from the dreaded 2 a.m. server crash to a CEO’s laptop malfunctioning during a holiday weekend. It’s a high-stakes game and any downtime can be catastrophic.

MSPs often find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of firefighting, leaving little time to focus on growing their own businesses.

So how can MSPs balance client demands with business growth in mind? The answer lies in a powerful, yet little-known tool: mental models.

Ian Alexander of Syncro

Ian Alexander

What Are Mental Models?

Mental models are a framework that can help MSPs simplify and understand the intricate workings of the world around them.

Mental models are a tool that enables us to form connections, identify patterns, and make better decisions.

Think of mental models like a map that guides you through challenges and opportunities. Mental models can provide a consistent protocol for achieving positive change.

To really grasp the concept, let’s review six different types of mental models:

  • Upstream/downstream thinking: This means focusing on prevention, rather than reaction. Instead of waiting for systems to fail and then fixing them, MSPs can proactively identify potential issues and address them before they become critical. For example, think of the difference between preventive healthcare and treating illnesses. Regular check-ups are an example of preventive healthcare, whereas treating illnesses is an example of downstream thinking because it addresses the problem after it has already occurred.
  • Theory of constraints: This model identifies bottlenecks or constraints within a system, and focuses on improving those areas to increase overall efficiency. This means identifying the weakest link in the IT infrastructure and working to strengthen it. By doing so, MSPs can optimize their clients’ systems and provide more reliable services.
  • Leverage points: These are places in a system where small changes can lead to significant outcomes. Identifying these points can be a game-changer for MSPs. By pinpointing areas where minor adjustments can yield substantial improvements, MSPs can make their operations more efficient and effective.
  • Iceberg model: This model distinguishes between visible and hidden aspects of a problem. Often, the root causes of IT issues are hidden beneath the surface, masked by superficial symptoms. By using this model, MSPs can dive deep into the underlying causes of problems and address them more effectively.
  • Seeing the front: This model encourages MSPs to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, much like how a chess player thinks several moves ahead. This proactive approach can help MSPs adapt to changing client needs and technology trends.
  • Design thinking: This model is a problem-solving approach that focuses on understanding the user’s perspective, generating creative solutions, and iterating to improve outcomes continually. By applying this mental model, MSPs can develop tailored solutions that meet their clients’ specific needs which enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.

To put these into practice, MSPs should set aside time – even if it is just an hour once a month – to think through these concepts, determine how they apply to their business, and then create an action plan for putting them to work. While these concepts may seem ambiguous at first, the best way to get clarity is to simply start, even if you can only dedicate small chunks at a time – it will pay dividends in the long run.

Benefits and Challenges

Once you’ve set aside time to practice implementing mental models on a regular basis, some of the benefits include improved decision-making, enhanced problem-solving, and a more structured approach to growth. MSPs can leverage these models to assess what needs to change and how to implement those changes. This creates space for MSPs to have a dedicated focus on driving revenue and can help them achieve their goals while maintaining a high level of service quality.

However, there are also challenges or potential pitfalls. Mental models often require a cultural mindset shift and there is always the possibility of misapplication. Common mistakes include oversimplification, misinterpretation, and overreliance on a single model. To avoid this, MSPs should strive for a balanced and nuanced approach. Begin by selecting a few relevant models and gradually integrate them into decision-making processes. Seek training and mentorship to develop a deep understanding of these models and how to apply them effectively.

It’s crucial for MSPs to understand both the advantages and challenges of mental models to make the most of them.

Mental Models Open the Door to More Success

Whether the goal is to increase revenue, acquire more clients, or reduce the frequency of “fires,” the use of mental models can pave the way for a successful MSP business.

As MSPs leverage these cognitive tools, they will find themselves better equipped to handle the demands of their clients while building a thriving and sustainable business. In the end, it’s not just about extinguishing fires, it’s about igniting the flames of success.

Ian Alexander is channel chief of Syncro.

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