By Raymond Vrabel, Director, Technical Account Management, Continuum Managed IT Services
Part 5 of a monthly blog series examining tips on how MSPs can work to break “bad” business habits that they might unknowingly fall into as a result of just wanting to get things done.
In the previous installment of “Breaking Bad,” I discussed “How to Choose the Right Vendor Relationships.” In this month’s blog, I offer tips and advice on how to provide a mid-year assessment on the health and wealth of your business. A mid-year physical or check-up helps you and your staff avoid scrambling at the last minute at the end of the year. December will be here before we know it, so here are a few tips to help you get started now:
1.) What have you done and where are you going? This is about your mission statement and company vision. Take a look at what you have accomplished during the first half of this year, and compare that with the goals you set at the beginning of the year. If you don’t have clear goals in place, then create a list as a baseline now (and then every January going forward), so you can determine if you are hitting all of your marks – and if your business is progressing to where you want it to be. You should do this with a clear mind, when you have a chance to step outside of your day-to-day operations. If you are in a partnership, you should establish these goals separately, then work together and adjust as needed. This allows you and your partner to understand each other’s perspective around where the business is going and where it should be.
Next, with your staff, examine which action items have been completed and what still needs to happen. Take the time to discuss the specific items that were set out for completion by mid-year, and why you might not have reached those goals. If you have reached the majority of your mid-year goals, then congratulations! However, if you still have a few important action items remaining, don’t get discouraged, as it’s better to tackle them head on than to fester and let things fall to the wayside until December.
2.) Client Check-In: If you haven’t already done so, check in with your clients and see how they are doing. This means more than just revisiting their services agreements and contracts. Give them a call, or if it is logistically possible, plan a face-to-face visit. With all of the technology that we are accustomed to, we sometimes forget the importance of an in-person meeting. With an in-person meeting, the client feels important, as they are being treated as an individual, not just a services agreement.
Spend time with your clients to see what their needs are and if they are taking advantage of all of the latest business technologies. I talk more in-depth about this in a previous Breaking Bad blog, “How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?” This is important so that everyone is in tune with goals and expectations, and that both you and your customers are on point with each other. Don’t be hesitant to adjust goals and focus on changes should the need arise. These are necessary conversations that should happen on a regular basis.
3.) Manager/Employee Expectations: It’s important to check in with your customers at mid-year, but this same practice is true for your employees. Establish a mid-year employee review process so that goals and expectations can be managed, and everyone is in tune with what still needs to be accomplished. Similar to how you interact with your customers, arrange for a face-to-face meeting, even if you have techs who are remote, so that you can spend time addressing any open issues or projects. If an employee is falling short on expected goals, find out why this is happening, rather than waiting until the end of the year for a knee-jerk reaction that could lead to unfavorable circumstances or a negative financial impact. This also helps with employee retention, as mentioned in an earlier post in this series.
4.) Taxes and Accounting Matters: Mid-year is a time to look at your balance sheet, quarterly taxes, expenses and department budgets. Don’t spend the last two weeks of December trying to figure out budgets and taxes when everyone is winding down for year-end. Start forecasting now, and account for new hires, extra expenses, travel, new equipment purchases, tax increases, etc., now and going forward for the remainder of the year. Don’t get caught off-guard by unexpected expenses at year-end. Review all product and services offerings and re-evaluate vendor contracts. Spend time now with your team to pinpoint any potential problems in these areas, and take action. Now is the best time to identify and fix any current issues and to take action to get closer to your goals by year-end.
Bottom line: Follow these mid-year business steps and you’ll likely be more organized for the remainder of the year – and more likely to meet your 2014 business goals. It takes time, but time invested in your customers and staff pays off when it comes to the health and wealth of your business.
Raymond Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives. He manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team which supports more than 3,300 partners worldwide. Vrabel has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in managed IT services, disaster recovery and cloud solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @rayvrabel.