Reflecting back on the recent Continuum Navigate conference (October 2017, Las Vegas), what has stuck with me is how community is still alive. As Mark Twain famously said “…reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I offer two use cases to demonstrate how partners are speaking to partners: one was a speaker and another was an interview.
Josh Weiss (president and founder, L.A. Creative Tech). Weiss delivered “Strategic Thinking: vCIO and Consulting Services for Growth” to a handsome audience where he emphasized the opportunity to enhance MSP offerings by providing strategic consulting and holistic solutions that can scale productivity for clients. In short, Weiss spoke towards thinking outside the server box. It’s a popular speaker’s paradigm as the stark reality of being a “percentage of recurring revenue” sales agent for Microsoft’s Office 365 solution has quickly proven to be an unsustainable business model.
“We’re at a time where business strategy and technology strategy have converged.” Weiss started. “There really is a need to understand how technology is inseparable from business strategy. A former General Electric CEO said at a recent technology conference, ‘IT Pros need to stop being so passive…the role of technology is THE most important function inside a company’ and I believe it.”
Figure 1: Weiss speaking at the recent Continuum Navigate conference in Las Vegas.
Weiss went on to deliver three main points in his speech supporting the above opening.
• Create and sell productized vCIO services that will add value to your current portfolio. Take away real service wireframe overviews you can start delivering straight away.
• Think strategically in order to provide creative solutions and tools that give you a competitive edge. Weiss shared an example of a cost of downtime ROI calculator (several SMB MSP ISVs offer this) where you can show a business is losing something like $10,000/hour when the IT infrastructure is “down.” One caveat – I challenged Weiss about the downtime calculator with respect to recapturing the downtime. That is, if Firm A is down for an hour, can said hour of productivity be recaptured over the course of a year (say 2000+ business hours). It spurred a good audience conversation and one expert shared that, regardless of the ROI downtime calculator is that “we’re talking” as in talking business matters with the client.
• Most important - talk business instead of tech; one of the essential requirements to shift from technician to consultant.
One highlight was how Weiss involved the audience. I drew the short straw and was summoned to the stage (as a small business owner) to participate in a quick exercise with Raj Goel of Brainlink International (acting as the MSP) who asked me “Harry – what things would you like to do less of and would make you happier?” I offered that less time focused on operations and more time focused on business development. Goel asked what is business development to me. The answer is easy: attending conferences, social events at night, and external business meetings. Goel suggested that I needed to read “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss. Not only have I read the book, tolerating a large Ferriss ego between the pages, but I’ve used his methodology in running SMB Nation to free up my time to make outside portfolio investments beyond the SMB MSP tech space, but that’s for another day entirely.
James Harris (President at Xlingshot). Leading by example, Continuum suggested I speak 1:1 with one of its partners. He’s focused on verticals such as not-for-profits. We had a non-agenda, open dialog with no scripted talking points. Harris emphasized his use of Continuum has allowed him to have a high utilization rate. “Use the tool; not babysit the tool” Harris said. a first-time attendee running a 15+ year old MSP practice, Harris shared that he’s used the RMM solutions from Continuum for just over three years.
Community involvement. Harris participates in the MSP community via HTG and ASCII. “I see a lot of benefit from it.” Digging deeper, I discovered Harris is a big participant in the former Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) program with speaking engagements at the Colorado CPA society, etc. Harris has enthusiastically attended the Denver Tech Expo that is promoted by Platte River Networks (another Denver MSP) and it’s go getter David DeCamillis. In other industries those two might consider themselves competitors (which I guess they technically are) but the SMB MSP community still has cooperative mojo and thus my blog theme of partner to partner.
Bottom-line: I concluded that Harris has grown his thriving practice with a commitment to ethics (a lost art). “At Xlingshot, we believe in fair and honest business practices.” Harris concluded.
PS - I have another SolarWinds missive HERE where I interview SMB friend and now SolarWindws executive Greg Lissy!