Recent News

4/9/2018

4 keys to Hiring and Retaining Millennials for IT Support

Recently in an MSP-Ignite Service Managers Peer Group http://www.msp-ignite.com/peer/service-managers/  , the topic of hiring came up, and as I network throughout the industry, hiring quality Techs is a recurring theme.  A few months ago, in Darren Hardy’s training program (https://darrenhardy.com/), he spent considerable time focusing on hiring and managing Millennials.  While I cannot replace or reproduce Darren's message, I hope this article provides the main points as they apply to our IT Support Industry.

Neither Darren Hardy (if I can allow myself to speak for him) or I present this material as disrespectful or manipulative of the Millennial generation.  If you are a Millennial or in sync with them, feel free to move on to spend your valuable time on something else.  Both Darren and I, however, are reaching out to our generation and screaming at the top of our lungs that the old-school way of hiring and managing (not only for Millennials, but people in general) needs to change. 

Here are a few key points on hiring and retaining Millennials from Darren Hardy’s training program and some thoughts on how they apply to IT Support:

In general, Millennials are passionate, collaborative, social, and comfortable with technology.  Most of these are probably already understood (duh), but to the level that they are, these things and how they apply to business is much deeper than surface recognition.  Years ago, I remember a conference speaker saying, "When hiring Millennials, be prepared to teach them business email protocol.  Some of them may have school email accounts, but most will still prefer to text."  I hate to admit it, but today I find that I stay in better contact with co-workers and others by texting than in any other way short of face-to-face communications.  However, I do not text to the person across the table from me in restaurant as we old schoolers swear Millennials do. 

How does this apply to IT Support?  Well, it starts with the job opening description and posting locations.  For the job opening description, you need to start from a Millennial’s perspective.  In other words, talk about how the job will allow them to relieve the pain of end users; how they will be working with a team to resolve complexed problems; and how they will be working directly with Customers communicating before, during, and after they relieve the end user’s pain.  Being a technology company, they will be equipped and have access to the latest technology and advanced training on how to use technology more effectively. 

In a different MSP-Ignite Service Manager Peer Group monthly conference call, a member mentioned they received great results on posting job opening descriptions on Pinterest.  Outside of it being one of the many icons embedded in emails and websites, I had no idea what that was.  (Perhaps this is a definition of “old school.”  I used to embrace old-school even before I was one. Now that I find that I am one, however, I wish I could keep up with these changes faster -- but I digress.)

Passionate: When it comes to managing, it is the same approach:  Remind Millennials and all Employees often, as Jack Welch says, and keep reminding them of how they are benefiting the world by relieving pain one end user at a time.  Rather than reporting on the number of tickets completed today, report on the number of end-user pains relieved today.  What about scrolling the names of the contacts with completed service requests across the dashboard displays in the NOC or Help Desk areas?  Then we will see that we are helping real people, not just fulfilling some statistic?  (All of us love to go to a bank where the teller knows our names, not just our account numbers).

Collaborative: Another conversation from one of the MSP-Ignite Service Managers Peer Group meetings was a situation where the IT Support team was moving to new office space.  The question was, “If employees have great digs, what did they do to make them great?”  Half-height cubes seemed to be the overwhelming best response because it allowed the Techs privacy.  To collaborate, however, they just needed to stand up and talk across the cube wall. Half-height cube walls allowed them to determine the best way to relieve a Customer’s pain.  It was also mentioned in a different conversation that Techs hang on to tickets too long because they are unwilling to admit to management that they are stumped.  Half- height cube walls and love of younger Techs to ask for a gut check or collaboration when stuck also came up. 

Social:  From my experience, managing Techs to contact the Customer before, during if needed, and after each engagement is like pulling teeth.  If there is any reason an IT Support Manager should embrace hiring Millennials, it is this one:  They love to be social.  If we framed it correctly, they would naturally want them to build relationships with Customers by talking with them often.  My gut says Millennials will step up and embrace the expectation.  Recently Continuum https://www.continuum.net/ put out an article indicating that 56% of Customers leave a Managed Service Provider because they do not feel the love (defined as a conversation before, during, and after each engagement, along with updates when not engaged).  HDI in Support Center Analyst training HDI Support Center Analyst training puts the number closer to 80%. Keeping Customers informed is important to reduce churn, and if Millennials give a competitive edge, enough said.

Comfortable with Technology and having the latest toys might not go hand-in-hand.  From what Darren Hardy says and from my own experience, Millennials are so comfortable with technology that they do not even think about it. Offering the latest is not impactful to them because it is a baseline expectation, just like Customers’ expectations that their favorite Technicians should be standing by and waiting for their calls.

I hope this has provided you with a glimpse of how to improve your ability to hire and retain quality IT Technicians.  By no means is this an exhaustive article on the subject.  It is just a high-level overview and something to drive your thinking in new areas as we all wrestle with how to staff an IT Support Center.

Please connect with me on LinkedIn if you are not already connected https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenbuyze/ and follow me at www.SBuyze.com

For more information on MSP-Ignite Service Manager Peer Groups go to 

http://www.msp-ignite.com/peer/service-managers/

Feel free to reach out to Darren Hardy at https://darrenhardy.com/ or at least sign up for Darren Daily at http://dd.darrenhardy.com/

Continuum's website is https://www.continuum.net/

For Information on HDI training go to https://www.thinkhdi.com/education.aspx 

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3/30/2018

Are you ready to move on from your MSP?

Ask an MSP Expert: What steps do I need to take to be ready for MSP retirement?

Q: Within the next five years, I’d like to retire from the MSP business. I know I’m almost ready to hang up my hat, but I’d prefer to sell my business rather than just close my doors on my employees and loyal customers. What should I start considering now to make my retirement dreams a reality?

One of the toughest decisions a managed service provider needs to make is when to leave the IT services business. Whether you’re 30 years into your IT career or you’re simply ready for a change, figuring out what the next step is can be daunting.

To help you decide what to do next, we talked to MSP-Ignite owner and peer group facilitator, Steve Alexander. With his extensive background in the channel, Steve has seen numerous providers transition their business, so they could effectively step away and retire. He shared the following insight on how to develop a five-year plan, how to build your business so it’s attractive for sale, and how networking can play an important role when you’re nearing your retirement. 

Click for more

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3/7/2018

THE NEXT SERVICE MANAGERS GROUP IS FORMING NOW

Last week on a peer group call one of our members responded to a question from another business owner by saying "My Service Manager discussed this on his MSP-Ignite Peer Group call and resolved this issue with input from the group" and yesterday another member stated "My Service Manager is a different person since joining an MSP-Ignite Peer Group and now we are ready to grow substantially". This group is going so well that we're forming another group for Service Managers.

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2/7/2018

MSP-Ignite Peer Group Member ITPartners Achieves CLUB Status with Datto

ITPartners today announced it has achieved exclusive CLUB status with Datto, the leading provider of total data protection and IT business management solutions for technology service providers around the world.

ITPartners has exceeded high standards of performance to qualify for CLUB status in Datto's partner program - a global community of more than 7,000 partners. Datto CLUB status represents the top 0.1 percent of partners worldwide. For their hard work throughout the year, CLUB status will reward the top 11 Datto partners with an all-inclusive trip (with a guest) in March of 2018. ITPartners qualified for CLUB status by being the Top Networking Partner in 2017.

ITPartners has been a Datto partner for only three years and is honored to receive this award. Small and Medium-sized businesses (SMB) are the core focus to ITPartners and choosing a company with a shared mission to that vertical is essential. ITPartners chooses Datto for their core technology stack that caters to the SMB market more than any other competitor in the industry with a keen focus on uptime.

"We are honored and appreciative to accept this award from Datto," said Kevin Damghani, CEO of ITPartners. "While we didn't set out to set any records, we see the immense value of Managed Networking Services and the role it plays for our clients' productivity and security."

"We congratulate ITPartners for their outstanding performance in 2017," said Rob Rae, Vice President of Business Development, Datto. "Datto CLUB recognizes partners in our community that are going above and beyond and achieving great success. We are pleased to award ITPartners CLUB status and look forward to continuing to grow our partnership."

About ITPartners

Located in Grand Rapids, MI, ITPartners started with a mission to change the way SMBs approach their IT. With flat cost and all-inclusive model, as well as a core focus on "What would IT look like if it were fun?" mentality, we have allowed our partners to run their outsourced IT through ITPartners as a seamless extension of their team. Visit www.ITPartners.com for more information.

About Datto

At Datto, our mission is to empower the world's small and medium-sized businesses with the best in enterprise-level technology. We do it by equipping our unique community of Managed Service Provider partners with the right products, tools, and knowledge to allow each and every customer to succeed. It's an approach that's made us the largest MSP centric tech company in the industry. We're proud to be based right where we started, in Norwalk, CT, with offices worldwide. Visit www.datto.com for more information.

Contact:

Jonathan Highman
616-828-1010

SOURCE: ITPartners

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1/31/2018

Channel Chat: How joining a peer group can help you find MSP success

Owning an MSP can be lonely. Most of the people you talk to on a regular basis, whether they’re your spouse, your friends, or even other local business owners that you know, don’t understand what it’s like to run an IT services business or the types of challenges you face. That’s one reason why many MSP business owners turn to peer groups for help making their MSP more successful.

Steve Alexander has seen the power of peer groups firsthand. With more than 25 years of experience managing, building, and eventually selling two MSPs, Steve now facilitates business advisory peer groups for IT service providers through his company MSP-Ignite. We sat down and talked to Steve to get his insights on the benefits of peer groups and how MSPs can get the most out of their participation.

Q&A with Steve Alexander of MSP-Ignite

Why should IT service providers consider joining a peer group?

Click for full article

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8/23/2017

Don’t Be Afraid to Raise Your Prices

Most business owners look to efficiency to eke out more profit. If they want to improve their business and make more money they might install a new software platform designed to remove manual effort thereby getting more from the same number of employees. They might re-organize their processes to better and more efficiently get the same work load done. This is great, these are all things you should be doing in your business on a regular basis. However there are also times when you just need to raise your prices. As a matter of fact, your clients expect you to. Unless you have trained them otherwise of course. Many people are terrified of charging more for the same service. They are afraid customers will balk and go elsewhere, or they are afraid that they will be seen as trying to make more money at the expense of the little guy.

However many times real costs increase and cannot be fully offset by better technology or more efficient processes. After all, your staff’s salaries, rent, taxes, insurance and most other costs rise each year. Sometimes you’re profit is truly shrinking. In these cases you need to look at the areas that are contributing to this increase and charge more there. For example, if your on-site customers are driving up your costs then maybe you should up your drive time fee or your first hour rate. If on the other hand your managed print customers are cutting into your profits, you may need to adjust only your managed print contracts. But make no mistake, you can’t be gun shy to increase your prices or your rates. It is often easiest to do it at the beginning of a new year. In fact, you could even send out an advance notice letting your customers know your rates will be going up and if they want to get any last minute work or blocks of time, you will be happy to honor the old rate as long as they commit before the year ends.

Some other things to consider are “green contracts” that have small yearly increases each year. Large sophisticated clients will actually be concerned if you don’t have built in yearly increases in your agreements. If you build in a 3-5% increase on a regular basis you will not have to go through the internal debate about larger increases. The key is to stop thinking of your services as cost savings and start thinking of the value that you provide your clients. Without financial stability how long will you be able to provide such value.

At the end of the day you can’t charge the same prices you did in 2005 and if you smartly push your price up it is likely the only thing you will see is more profits at the end of the year.

Contact MSP-Ignite today to find out more about how you can start to fuel growth by tapping the resources of other IT leaders. Visit us at www.msp-ignite.com or call us at 888.972.0236 or email us at msp@MSP-Ignite.com to get started today.

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6/13/2017

Positioning Your Company to be Acquired

You’ve decided you want out.  The rat race is killing you, but you don’t want all the hard work you’ve done building a successful IT company to go to waste.  You need to be able to sell the company and actually retire on what you sell it for.  In short, you need to sell your company in the best possible way to get the most out of it you can.  There is a way you can sell your company to give you the greatest possible selling price, but it takes time.
 
The very first thing you need to do is realize that you must position your company correctly in order to maximize its value.  That means you may not be able to retire quite as quickly as you would like.  It could take a year or two to properly get your company where it needs to be in order to attract the largest offers.  The good news is that it’s possible you may have already done several of these things so it could go faster than you think.
 
  1. Make sure all your recurring revenue is properly documented and setup as a contract.  Signed, contractual recurring revenue is worth more money than standard issue month to month recurring revenue with no contract.  Hopefully you already have this, BUT if you don’t you might need to spend the next year or two converting your client base to a contractual model.  This will help get you more money when you ready to sell the business.
  2. Make your Contracts Green! Build automatic price increases into your Contracts. Increases of 3% - 5% yearly are easy to get buy-in on if you simply make it part of your new agreements at renewal time. Some clients may question this policy but what else do they sign up for that does not increase? 
  3. Be really strong at at least one thing. Whether you are strong at a vertical market, an expert at some third party business application or have fantastic Standard Operating Procedures that are well documented and diligently followed it will help increase the overall value of your company.
  4. Make sure your name is visible in your market when you are getting ready to sell.  If no one ever hears your name on TV or the radio or online then you seem like you don’t exist.  However, if your name is visible in the marketplace and you are known then there is a likelihood that your name recognition could give you more value if you sell.  Sometimes people buy a company NOT because it’s a well-run company that is profitable BUT because they have a recognized name in the market and people covet that, especially if they are from out of town. Goodwill = Value.
  5. Come up with a compensation plan or some kind of reward to incentivize your staff to stay for at least a period of time after any acquisition.  Your new buyer will value a company that has a good staff that will stay on after a merger more highly than if the staff bolts the very first week.

While your market share, profitability and sales make up the biggest portion of what your company will be valued at, there are definitely other factors to consider and if you do your homework, you can make those intangibles as good as they can be thus driving up the price people are willing to pay for your company.  So when you start nearing your exit, start planning right to position your company to be acquired.  Your wallet will thank you.

Contact MSP-Ignite today to find out more about how you can start to fuel growth by tapping the resources of other IT leaders. Visit us at www.msp-ignite.com or call us at 888.972.0236 or email us at msp@MSP-Ignite.com to get started today.

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5/11/2017

I Just Bought a Company. Now What?

Well, you went out and did it.  You acquired another IT company.  Now you are thinking, “what do I do now?”  Do you simply become the owner of another IT company and run it as a stand-alone?  Do you merge the two companies so there is only one company and all the identity of the one you just bought goes away?  Did you really only buy the company for its customers or did they have some Intellectual property or some other assets that you really wanted?  So many companies spend their time trying to actually get the deal closed that they don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about what they are going to do once the acquisition is complete.
 
Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all answer as there are many factors to consider.  Is the company you bought bigger or smaller than you?  Are they profitable?  Hurting?  Losing customers or growing?  Are they geographically close or farther away?  Is their company culture similar or very different?  Do they have the same mix of products and services?  Do they sell the same or competing solution sets?  But even with all these questions answered, there are some common things that any acquirer should do once they own a new business.
 
Take it slow. Everyone from your new customers and employees to your existing staff are fearing the worst. Let everyone know that the goal is to improve and grow and that you are going to take some time to understand the intricacies of what you have and have no plans to make changes. Give yourself a 90 day window with no changes and it will pay dividends for years to come.
 

Contact MSP-Ignite today to find out more about how you can start to fuel growth by tapping the resources of other IT leaders. Visit us at www.msp-ignite.com or call us at 888.972.0236 or email us at msp@MSP-Ignite.com to get started today.

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4/5/2017

Maintaining company culture with the expansion of remote workers

Most everyone prefers to hire a local, skilled person to work in the office.  But it can be very hard to find all the types of skills you need that way.  Sometimes you find a great candidate but they live 2 hours away.  So you hire them as a remote worker.  Often you find that this new remote worker produces more output than your in office staff.  Everything is great.  Now when that next job opening comes up you don’t hesitate at all to hire another remote worker.  Pretty soon you may find yourself with a significant remote workforce.  Which is great, except for one thing.  How do you extend your great company culture to these remote workers?  How do you make them truly feel like a part of your company and not just hired guns working on their own?

Remote workers are here to stay and will increase every year for the foreseeable future.  So what you need to do is formulate a plan that will maximize the upside of remote workers while minimizing any potential downside.  Today we want to focus on the potential downside of having two corporate cultures slowly emerge in your business.  One that all the office workers experience and the other that all the remote workers experience.  The goal is to incorporate remote workers in such a way that they don’t feel different or detached, rather are simply working from another location.  Out of sight, out of mind can be one hurdle to overcome.  No one means to treat people like that, it just happens.  There are strategies to deal with this type of issue, such as:

  • Face Time – Use communication tools that include video for company meetings as well as one on one conversations.
  • Encourage Instant Messaging – “Water Cooler” chats are an important part of any office environment. Use technology to create a virtual water cooler for your staff.
  • Bring remote workers in on a regular basis. Quarterly visits to work at the home office for a week will make everyone feel like they are part of the team.

Another issue that often crops up is not being in the loop on the internal personal celebrations, company lunches and the like. While remote workers do have benefits that those in the office don’t it is important to include them in some of the office perks on occasion. Have a pizza delivered to their home, send them a Starbucks Gift card or just encourage them to go grab their lunch before logging into a company lunch and learn so they feel like they are truly joining in. Lastly, it can be a great idea to pair up an office worker with a remote worker to work on an internal project together.  This fosters teamwork between both so they each get to learn about the other person.  As remote workers make genuine friendships this will allow the culture of the company to extent outward.

Contact MSP-Ignite today to find out more about how you can start to fuel growth by tapping the resources of other IT leaders. Visit us at www.msp-ignite.com or call us at 888.972.0236 or email us at msp@MSP-Ignite.com to get started today.

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3/13/2017

5 Ways to Get Technicians to Track Time Accurately

Getting technicians to track their time can be an ongoing battle. Even though everyone understands why it’s critical, when it comes to making it happen things get sloppy.  The only way to keep growing and ensure you’re meeting and exceeding customer expectations is  to make sure contracts are being fulfilled on time and that technicians are allocated the correct amount of hours to complete projects. No matter the size of your team, providing the right guidance and an easy-to-use system to successfully track time and productivity can make a world of difference with your service delivery goals. 

Here are five tips for getting your technicians to track everything.

1. Change the focus.  A PSA, like Autotask, lets you accurately track and manage your resources and get projects queued up and completed on time and on spec. As leaders, we are constantly challenged to get the most out of our invaluable tools so we focus on tracking time. After all, time is money and our PSA is designed to track it. While this is true, tracking time sometimes makes us feel like we are punching a clock on a factory floor. So why not change the focus from punching a clock to ensuring we are quickly and accurately keeping colleagues and customers informed of the status of open tasks? Isn’t this what is really important? By doing so, your customer experience will improve, your staff will feel better about what they are doing and thanks to the magic of applications like Autotask, your time will be tracked and you will be able to tell where the profits are coming from.

2. Help staff set goals. Work closely with your team to set realistic, manageable goals that are going to meet your client’s expectations. If your team doesn’t know what needs their time and attention, it’s up to you to help them understand how to successfully allocate and prioritize their time so they’re maximizing productivity while delighting your clients. 

3. Don’t get caught in the ‘I am so busy, where do I start?’ madness. There are two kinds of busy: drinking from a fire hose because you haven’t made task prioritization a company imperative and a healthy, manageable backlog of projects that are queued up with the right technician assigned and the right amount of time allotted to deliver what you’ve promised.  What kind do you think works best for your business? Psst… it’s not the first kind. 

4. Reward customer satisfaction. When your customers are happy, your business hums along. You build long-term relationships, you become indispensable and you have the time to think strategically about how to help your clients benefit from innovative technology solutions that you can recommend. It’s a no-brainer to reward those technicians that are making that possible by responding to client needs quickly. 

5. Lead, don’t tell. Running around telling your staff that time tracking is a must and we HAVE to do it and then not doing it yourself or letting it fall by the wayside when things get too busy is not going to help your business long-term. Be the one leading the charge, show your technicians how you’re keeping track of your time and productivity and give them something to aspire to and emulate.

Original article posted here:  http://www.autotask.com/blog/details/autotask-blog/2017/02/10/5-ways-to-get-technicians-to-track-time-accurately

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