IT by Design – Leveraging LEADERSHIP for SMB Nation MSPs!

Business Speak

Recently we sat down with Kam Kaila, President and Community Officer, IT by Design and we did one of our podcasts!

The high-level topics included:

  • Leadership development and talent management for MSPs
  • Leadership development in the MSP industry
  • Leadership training for the channel
  • Leadership styles, personality, and communication
  • MSP support, software, and team management

Watch and Listen HERE!

Harry Brelsford  00:06

We are here with Kam Kaila. So you are the president, Chief community officer have it by design. And we're really here to talk it leadership development and training. But before we jump into that, what is IT by Design?

Kam Kaila  00:32

So it by design has been around actually, this year, we're celebrating our 20th anniversary. Oh, wow. And so we are basically a talent authority, we help MSPs specifically find talent, whether it's using our dedicated engineering model we're not. So we're a huge network operation center. We also help people retain talent through our employee engagement tool, which is called Team GPS. And then we help people grow up talent through our builded initiatives, including our leadership training program and our annual conference.

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Harry Brelsford  01:10

Okay, great. Yeah, I've heard good things about it. So I got a it's, it's on the must attend list. You said September 18? Through the 20th? Yep. Okay, we'll see you there in Orlando. Um, let's let's talk. What does leadership development evolve?

Kam Kaila  01:27

Oh, leadership development is actually I like to say that it's actually food for your soul. It's not something that you can just do once and be done. It requires consistent feeding, and nutrients. And so it's actually a continual practice. And it requires effort. But it also it's not just a learning practice, where we've taught you something, it's something where that you actually have to practice it on a regular basis in order for it to be effective for you. And so it's food for your soul, or your professional development soul is what I like to call it. Yeah,

Harry Brelsford  02:07

you know, is you're talking and I did a tour to as a tech trainer early in my career. What's your audience in terms of size? Here? Here's my real question. With some of the smaller MSPs. As you know, there's some sole proprietors out there that they kind of run around and take care of their their 12 clients, they're their dozen clients. Are you working with a slightly larger MSP? That's gonna get it? You know, I'm just worried that the small guy may not get it.

Kam Kaila  02:39

Yeah. So on average, our attendees or even for our customers, we're usually working with individuals that, you know, if you use service leadership as the index, it's Oh, no, we're above. As minimum. For us. Most of our customers, usually, you know, we do have customers, again, we have a service and a solution for every size. And depending upon where you are in that dynamic, however, we really do well with the more mature MSPs. And so that's where our staffing product, which is our dedicated engineers, they work as an extension of your team. And so you have to get to a certain stent, you know, size. And I like to say, a certain leadership level, before you can learn to effectively lead people. And then our shared service, which is our network operation center, that doesn't require as much leadership from the MSP. And so that's a much more versatile product where you can just add people in, and we're really managing everyone. So we're not as concerned about leadership. And for us, the biggest thing is retention of team members, you aware, one big community of 600 plus team members today, and we value our people, and we want to make sure that we're working with organizations that understand and value leadership and community and the value of people in in delivering that service.

Harry Brelsford  04:07

Yeah, yeah, you know, there's kind of a fork of the road. I've seen it and growing my own company, my own company who are old anims. And, you know, the, I do believe in retention, right, I back in the day, my longest term employee 17 years. And what I really like about that is it's automatic, right? That you've worked together so long that you just execute. And then I'm aware of other entities and you name many industry, but where they have a lot of churn and burn, and there's this mentality that today's your last day, we'll just go get someone else to start on Monday. But you know, I don't like that because you lose so much institutional knowledge. Does that make sense? Yeah.

Kam Kaila  04:56

100% And I think, you know, recently there's been As you know, everybody's talking about quite quitting. And it's something new Well, no, it's actually not quite new. The MSP industry has actually been known for, you know, we usually used to say that, you know, our L one engineers would last two years and they'd rotate and, and we chalked it up to the industry and that they would burn out? Well, no, it's actually a result of poor leadership. And that's the result. It's not that they're burning out because of the work that they're doing. It's that we're not learning to effectively lead them. Are we doing resiliency training? Are we teaching them how to effectively communicate? Are we ourselves aware of it? And so it's not that our industry has neat or needs to have turnover? It's that our live industry actually needs more leadership development. I actually had a really funny scenario, Harry, it's, it's actually a little horrifying for me. I was at it nation this past year, and I was doing a session I

Harry Brelsford  05:58

was to in the, in the hurricane.

Kam Kaila  06:01

Okay, and I was there and I just session, and I had about 170 people in the room. And it was on quiet quitting, and they had to turn people back. And so in the session, you know, I asked people to raise their hands, I said, How many of you have been with the organization's five years, 10 years and the crowds got their hand up, you know, 15 starts to come down and 20 a few more come down and 25, you know, you've got a spatter on them. And then I said, Okay, out of all of this group, how many of you have actual leadership development training? Three people put up their hand. Yeah, in a room of 170 people that were all leaders, only three had formal leadership education. And so for me, it really, you know, we, we've had this program called our communities of practice, where we've been working to build people's in their people in their professional development and their growth journeys. But then we were only tackling one individual. And it really opened my eyes that we have to tackle the entire corporation, it doesn't make sense for us to just go after one. One person is like leading a dead horse to water, we need to start a corporate training program. And so that's what we did, we actually built out an entire leadership corporate development program that's specific for the MSPs as a result of that, because I like to say that leadership requires a license, you know, you need to you need to get a driver's license in order to drive because you could hurt people, well, you should have a license in order to lead because you could hurt people. If you don't give someone the right training and tools to lead effectively, they truly have people's lives in their hands. And so leadership license is definitely something that I'm passionate about, and making sure that every MSP understands that they should not be just giving their most loyal or their most, the longest running tech role as a leader, they should first invest in the training of that leader.

Harry Brelsford  08:08

Yeah. I have a question. But let me let me frame it up. Okay. So the question is this, then then I'll wrap a little context around it. The question is, how does your team to deliver training for the channel? The context is the, you know, dia, I'm thinking of some of these pop leadership, things I've seen over the years where, you know, you go on a retreat, and you do this trust fall, right? So I'm standing on a stage and I trust my coworkers are gonna catch me. And I lean backwards and I fall and they catch me in their arms. Are you doing the, you know, the red hot stones and you walk barefoot or the trust falls? Or what's your methodology?

Kam Kaila  08:53

So first of all, all of our leadership training programs require a one year commitment. Okay, because leadership is not overnight. It is not done overnight. It is not a one month course and you are done. It is not learning. So one of the things we like to say is that it's actually a competency that we are teaching you, and it has to be actionable items that you can understand. So people can say, Oh, well, I want to be a servant leader. Well, what does a servant leader actually mean? And how are we teaching you those fundamental principles? And then it's spaced recollection and recall, right. And so you've got to, you know, you've got to have the, the homeworks, I like to call them and the quizzes and the testing that happens, you know, when we were in school, the method worked and why? Because we had to remember and if we don't have a reason to remember and practice with our homework, we're probably going to forget it. And usually they say that you're going to lose 70% of your retention within the next day or two. Taking a training and So if you've already lost 70 to 90%, once you've walked out the door, what's going to get me to help you? Remember all of the teachings, it's me sending you activities. It's me asking you to do a homework. It's me asking you to do a quiz. But then there's an accountability around that framework. And then it's not just a one month and we're gone. See you later. No, this is an annual program you have to commit to, because it is that serious, and it does take time for you to really start to make it a habit where it's just instinctive for you. And so that's really important to us. And so no, we don't have hot stones, but we do have a, a method to our madness. You know, our chief learning officer, she has a, she's in the process of completing her PhD and adult learning. And so for her, it's a passion project. But for me, it's a necessity, that the only way this industry will grow is if we invest in our leadership, because that is what is holding us back. We have a lack of leadership in our community. And that's what's needed in order to help all of these MSPs scale.

Harry Brelsford  11:16

Yeah, yeah, exactly. You said the metric words was servant leadership, I'm gonna, I'm gonna tell on myself. I do some writing. And I helped a client, an executive out of Seattle, a CMO in tech. And he wanted to do you know how people want to do the book, right? They want their own book. And so we I helped him we published late last year, that's not servant leadership, that's on servant leadership, I, that's the first time when I was exposed to it. So you said the magic words,

Kam Kaila  11:49

well, and then there's different types of leadership and each person is you have to understand what your style of leadership is, and what resonates with your people. But then, based on your leadership style, you also need to understand that there's a certain type of people you shouldn't be bringing into your team. And there's a certain type of people you should not be bringing into your team. Because they will impact your ability to lead. And it's just, it's personalities as well. And understanding, you know, I am a high achiever, right, I like to get things done, and I have a high in a fast paced team. And, and we go and so for us, if I was to get someone who didn't move at the pace that I was moving at, I would not be a good leader for them. And it's not that I'm a bad person. It's that the way that I lead, and the you know, I don't like to micromanage. I believe that people, and everybody has their KPIs, and everybody's on a mission, and we build together and, and so I have a style versus someone else's style. And then our service team, for example, they they want to know all the details, and they get in the weeds. And so for them, it's important, they aren't managing those KPIs. So it's understanding also your personality, and the type of person you are, that impacts the way that you lead as well. And so I think there's an understanding about that, that's really important that people don't really connect the dots with

Harry Brelsford  13:23

Yeah, no, I agree. And it again, just speaking for myself, it's, is I built my own company, SMB, nation. That was one of my challenges until I hired around myself, right. I'm better as an entrepreneur, wild eyed tech said out there trying to cut deals. And I hired people who had more of an operational mindset. And then, you know, with all due respect that we took off, you know, it made a difference.

Kam Kaila  13:53

People that complement you, right, and that complement your skill sets. And I, we always say that we want to hire people that are smarter than us. Right? They need to be able to manage us as entrepreneurs, right. And so when we're looking in the room, and I always references in John Maxwell, who is my leadership guru, and I have John Maxwell certified again, I take a lot of effort. He is a mentor. And if you have one book of his that, you know, again, I've read many of them and he is my mentor, but everybody communicates but to connect. If there's one book that I could have you read, it's that because that impacts the way that you see people and you react to people. And there is an art form in communication, and I think many leaders don't understand that art form. And that is probably communication is probably one of the largest gaps that I'm seeing in the art industry. Yeah.

Harry Brelsford  14:57

Hey, before we run, give me one or two points. And what other ways does it design support MSPs? Give me Give me a couple points.

Kam Kaila  15:05

So we do dedicated engineering staff, which is our you know, that's our flagship product, it's where we're, you know, it's ready to go engineering talent, you know, you need someone today, come speak to us, we'll have a bunch of engineers ready to go. You find the person you like the best in, you can start them as early as the next day. And they're our employee, they're not yours. And so we're the employer of record. And it's an easy way for you to manage and scale your MSP without bringing on additional employee overhead. Our second, you know, product is obviously our network operation center, we are a 24 by seven, network, Operation Center, but we're also SOC two compliant, and we provide helpdesk support. So those are definitely our, you know, those are what really started us in the MSP arena. But then recently, we've also built out our own SAS product, which is called a team GPS. So we took all of the learnings of how to effectively manage people, and we put it into our own software product, we built it for ourselves, how are we effectively managing and engaging our team members, and so we put ICD scorecards in there, we put best practices in, so we built out this tool that not only manages your, your know, your CSAT, to see how the engineers are doing, but it also helps you engage and motivate your employees and, and when you do their performance review, it's all built into the system. And when you do the review you you see the whole employee, you don't just see hey, these are your scorecard to in the last quarter, you're gonna see what shout out they gave what shadows people gave to them, or Where were your customers shout outs. And so you see more than just what have you done for me lately. And so we there's an entire methodology behind how we built out team GPS. But it's a science built on us, you know, again, we are in three continents. Now, we've been great places to work certified for the past three years in a row. And so teams UPS is a passion project, and then obviously build it, I would love for your listeners to come to build it. It is my passion project, where we give away templates, tools and processes to help MSPs you mentioned those smaller MSPs you know, we are firefighters often we we go to conferences, and we come back but you know, we have these great ideas, but now you don't have the time to implement them. And so what we've done is we've actually built out a workbook. And in the workbook, you're going to get a template and eat every session is a class where you're actually going through and learning about this template, for example, we did stock options for your you know, for your leadership layer last year. And so I had Kevin Blake and Arlen Sorensen going through and teaching people how to use the stock option plan and then at the end of the event, we gave them an editable version of it. So now all you have to do is you've got the template you just got to make the changes based on your organization. And so that's what we love to do is we love to give our mantra is sharing is caring. So that's my baby is build it live

Harry Brelsford  18:15

All right, well hey, let's let's let's not you know, let's not wait a minute to get you back another day to continue this conversation. I sure thank you for your time and look forward to meeting you personally roughly mid September in Orlando at your it by design events.

Kam Kaila  18:31

Thank you so much, Harry. It was an absolute pleasure and I look forward to hopefully seeing you and the listeners at the event.