I'm updating my original SMB Consulting Best Practices thesis from the Windows Small Business Server (SBS) era with new deep insights into what it takes to be a professional information technology services provider. I'll impart my thoughts over the next few weeks to help you start the year right as a managed services provider (MSP).
- Gain Trust
- Practice Expectation Management
- Be Willing to Wear Many Hats
- Become a Business Advisor
- Take a Long-Term View
- Act as a Client Advocate
- Mentor Your Clients
- Provide Pro Bono Services
- Live by Referrals
- Always Operate Under NDA
- First, Do No Harm
The above list is a high-level list of do gooder stuff - applicable to nearly any business services provider.
Let's double-click down into (1) Gain Trust.
When you get right down to it, all what we really sell as MSPs is trust. New and existing software solutions are released with incremental improvements. Software feature sets come and go. Technologies shift with the introduction of new products. All this rapid technological change can occur rapidly, sometimes in a matter of months. Because we live in the super-fast world of small and medium technology, appropriately called “Internet time,” you can’t hope to master more than a small fraction of the actual technology being introduced and used. If you think otherwise, you aren’t being honest with yourself.
Given you’re only one product release away from obsolescence and because there’s no sure way to know what features will be included in future technology products one or two releases down the road, I recommend you stake your MSP consulting claim on trust, not technology.
If your efforts are properly directed towards gaining and retaining the trust of your clients, you’ll have the political capital necessary to survive technical mistakes you’re bound to make and weather the learning curve inherent with in new product introductions. In a strong trusting client relationship, I’ve even found that I can bill for much of my research time with a client as I learn how to discover and deploy new product releases. And no, I’m not duping the client, but these clients people trust my judgment and agree some time spent on learning is all fair in the delivery of my professional services.