IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Flying Solo

Being intentional about tools, clients, and finances gives ByteWize and its clients the freedom to focus on priorities and profits. By Lori Hardtke

BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL “solopreneur” requires leveraging our community and vendor partners, choosing the right clients and the right tools, and keeping a sharp focus on margins over millions.

From the get-go, I never wanted to have full-time employees to manage. With one 1099 tech working a few hours a week for me, I grew ByteWize’s client base across seven states. Today, I manage my Arizona-based business remotely from Hawaii, achieving consistent margins of 60-65%. Most important, I have a work-life balance that prioritizes health and well being.

I decided to start my own business in 2008, after working as a systems administrator and IT manager, plus helping small businesses on the side. This was right around the time the managed services model was emerging and it made so much sense to me, because it never felt right to make money when someone’s technology was broken. It makes more sense to keep clients’ systems running and proactively avoid problems while guiding them in their purchase decisions. I decided to dive right into the MSP world.

The strength of this community was my first lesson. I hired business coach and managed services pioneer Karl Palachuk to help me get started. His knowledge, and the knowledge shared by other IT channel luminaries like Erick Simpson, Gary Pica, Amy Luby, and more, provided me with a strong foundation.

Being part of a community enables me to learn and share best practices and stay on top of the latest trends and vendor offerings. Through my involvement with peer groups, including my accountability group with the Robin Robins Producers Club, I have access to more raw talent than I could ever hire. I treat my MSP peers as my business partners, and we sit in on each other’s client meetings if needed.

These resources, along with my vendor partners, allow me to present myself as a bigger company, effectively acting as an IT broker. In addition, I stress to prospects that when they sign with me, they get me.

At the same time, I deliberately seek the “perfect client” that fits my solo capabilities. The profile is a business that operates Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with 30 or fewer computers to manage. They must value technology and be happy for ByteWize to manage all aspects of their IT. I avoid retail clients because of their operating hours (nights and weekends) and tend to stay away from selling hardware.

Choosing the right vendor partners is key. I look for ones that don’t have a tiered purchasing program and don’t require contracts or charge cancellation fees. I prefer they only sell to the channel and don’t list pricing on their website. Most important, they must provide good support without an extra fee. And the products must deliver ROI.

For instance, some MSPs think a Meraki firewall is expensive, but so is a Tier 3 tech. I can drop ship the device to a client and work with them over Zoom from Hawaii to set it up. If a client needs advanced support, I get on the phone with Meraki and it’s all included.

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