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As with anything, there is always a learning curve when you are just starting out. Having spent six years working as a council engineer, in 2006 I decided to take what I’d learned on the front lines and use it to build a business that could offer its clients all the marvels of a full information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, without the burden of what that entails. Et voila — the Primary ICT Support you know today was born.

Since then we’ve grown, changed, and learned daily. What began as a localised “break/fix” operation has evolved into a nationwide business that services thousands of devices across hundreds of clients. My team and I are now in a great place, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t stumbling points, harsh lessons, and the usual growing pains along the way.

So, whether you’re taking your first steps as an MSP or have been in the game for years already, I’d like to share some MSP life lessons I wish somebody had told me all those years ago. Hopefully, they’ll save you a few learning curves along the way.

Slow down

It can be attractive, especially in those early days, to throw yourself into your venture with as much gusto as you can muster up. After all, you have a vision of what your business will be and the quicker you can get there the better, right?

Not quite. In the early days of Primary ICT Support we moved fast and said yes to everything, which bit us exactly where you’d imagine. We were moving too quickly, servicing everything, and never saying no. This is how a service business is born. We learned quickly that if we wanted to grow, we needed to define, control, and articulate to our customers what was and wasn’t included.

In the end we got caught on a lot of things. We needed to evolve our contracts and our processes, whilst learning and appreciating our limitations and the scope of what we wanted to deliver. There’s no shame in taking things slow — especially if you’re new to the MSP world.

Build trust

I brought with me a good understanding of the ICT needs of schools from my time as a council engineer, so we initially operated solely in the education space. Because of this prior knowledge, our clients had a lot of trust in us, which I’m proud to say we nurtured with around the clock service and assurance.

For the education sector (particularly schools that are increasingly seeing their budgets cut), a trustworthy, reliable partner amongst such uncertainty is worth more than their weight in gold. We were extremely flexible back then, and of course IT was a hobby before it was a career, so we did everything we could to deliver. This created trust, which in turn solidified relationships with our clients for years to come.

Say no

Just like it’s easy to throw countless hours at your work, it’s also easy to become a ‘yes’ person. It’s understandable at the beginning to take on every project that comes your way, but it’s never sustainable — and will set a dangerous precedent for your clients.

Now we’re much smarter when it comes to prospective clients. We first assess them by running risk assessments on the state of their network, how that is likely to affect us, and how much it’s going to cost them.

This gives us the opportunity to consider before we commit, and it allows us to discuss fixes, suggestions, and remedies for their network before they partner with us. This keeps their costs and our time down, whilst building that all important trust from the word ‘go.’

Harness new tech

While we should know this better than anyone, it’s still very easy to switch to new systems and possibilities when our heads are down. New technologies can make or break a business. Used correctly, it can be the tool that takes you to the next level. Which is exactly what happened to us.

Back in our “break/fix” days, we had a team of engineers that spent all their time travelling between clients. What’s more, due to the nature of our business, this meant that some clients weren’t having their issues resolved for up to a week after reporting them. It wasn’t the most efficient system, but it worked for where we were in our journey and the size of our customer base.

When one of our clients began to grow quite substantially, we knew our current operation wasn’t up to the task of servicing their increasing number of sites. To help us grow in tandem we deployed Barracuda RMM. This allowed us to service clients immediately, deploy fixes and updates to thousands of machines per day, maximise our existing engineers, save valuable time, money and resources, and grow from a local “break/fix” set up to the nation-wide operation you know today.

Were it not for taking the time to understand and deploy this technology, it would have taken us double the years and manpower to get to where we are today, if at all.

Photo: Karsten Würth / Unsplash

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James Watson

Posted by James Watson

James Watson is the founder and owner of Primary ICT Support Ltd, a UK based managed services provider. He worked for six years as a council engineer before making the move in 2006 to set up Primary ICT Support to use what he’d learnt on the front lines.

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