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What does success look like in this day and age for an MSP business? Are those moments of legend, those breakthroughs still important in establishing the long-term success of a company? Following a year which has fundamentally changed so many people’s working worlds, the definition of success has ultimately changed with it.

In the MSP world, it’s no different. I founded Stephens IT in 2012; a small website agency, working ad-hoc with just three staff members. In just under 10 years, Stephens IT has gone from completing graphic design and coding for small business websites in Kent, with no additional verticals, to managing a plethora of vertices in the MSP world, with forty-plus staff and a multi-million pound turnover.

Whilst our business model may have changed tenfold over the last few years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the customer orientation of the company. Our customers have always been and will always be our way of measuring success.

What does success look like for MSPs?

One of the things we are most proud of is that we have never lost a customer – our client retention is at 100 percent. This strong customer focus is what I think allows us to stand out. We are consistently looking to create long-term partnerships with our customers, because our success is not based on the value of sales made.

The most important metric to us is how much impact we have on our customers, whether that’s by making things better, faster, or more profitable for them. One of the important questions we are always asking is: Are we helping our customers to see a difference?

I believe that one of the most important steps towards finding your success and inevitably having that breakthrough moment is to understand your customer alpha. What is the big difference that you can provide your customers? Do you have one? As soon as you’re able to figure that out, you’ll find that success is close by.

It also needs to be noted that our successes have varied over the years, but they’ve always remained true to us and have been as a result of working with one of our customer alphas. One of the first notable successful breakthrough moments for us was when we had our first enterprise customer that spent over a million pounds in a year. For a business that used to deem a 5-seat customer to be a win, this was a huge moment for us.

Our second most notable moment came directly from our customers. There was a demand for us to have an office in the US, and instead of thinking how difficult it would be to make that a reality, we thought about how beneficial it would be for our customers if we managed to make that work – so we did it, we opened our first US office in 2019.

Has the pandemic changed the game?

COVID-19 put the entire world into a tailspin, but luckily many industries were able to get themselves back into a steady position. As a business, the pandemic forced us to take a step back and completely re-evaluate what we have been doing and why we’re doing it. It became clear early on that businesses needed MSPs more than ever, and we have thankfully been able to help our customers benefit from this period.

As well as being able to maintain working with customers, in June 2020 we acquired Firefly Resources, all during a time when scaling up seemed almost impossible. This third breakthrough moment allowed us to see first hand that the technology and IT industry has become a leader, and the pandemic has been the catalyst for this.

Whilst we’ve tried to grow and change over the last 12 months, and will continue to do so as we re-energise ourselves over the coming months, like our partners over at Barracuda MSP, our goal is to continue to educate and advise our customers, not just selling products, but partnering with them to make sure they have all their bases covered.

I think it is important to remember, especially now, that if you want to succeed, you need to focus down and get things done. It’s easy to stay manic and over productive, but learning to say no is integral and I wish I had learnt it sooner. Not every request needs a yes, even if you think it does.

Ask yourself: Does the organisation fit you culturally? Do you have the capacity? Do they fit your specialisation? Refine what your MSP business does, do that very well, and you’ll notice that customers will come to you because you’re a specialist.

Scaling your MSP business during a pandemic

So you know what success looks like to you, you’ve evaluated your current standing and you know what your breakthrough moments are to date, now it’s time to scale and create more of those memories for yourself and your business – where do you even begin?

Good people make good workplaces – One of the most important things we did when we decided to scale Stephens IT, was making sure we hired great people. If you have people around you who care as much about things as you do, generally have the same interests and work ethic, it makes things easier and a lot more fun, productive and successful. An amazing piece of advice I was once given was that you and your workforce need to be 150 percent committed to working in this industry. If you’re all willing to work hard, success will come.

The customer is always right – Our customers are the ones who keep us going, so it’s only right that we ensure we go above and beyond for them. We once left a component behind when doing work for a customer in France, so we arranged for an engineer to drive it across in the middle of the night without the customer ever knowing there was an issue.

Teamwork and intelligence win championshipsPartnerships are so important when you want to scale. We have some customers who are now also partners and they have helped contribute to our success. Working with companies like Barracuda MSP also helps give you the credibility you need to scale out, with their referrals to their customers.

As we find ourselves looking towards the post-pandemic future, the opportunity is there for your MSP business to underline to customers and partners that you are here to support them, and in turn, to create a sense of togetherness as we all move forward to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. If you want to join us on this adventure, you can join us at MSP Day, which takes place on May 26, 2021.

Photo: skyNext / Shutterstock

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Tom Stephens

Posted by Tom Stephens

Tom Stephens is the founder of Stephens IT, where he provides managed IT and security services to business clients.

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