I was recently asked by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) owner what the one thing is that would help him build a successful IT Solution Provider business.
I think this particular business owner was expecting me to share a book that he should read, a piece of software he should buy, or a sales technique he should have implemented within his business. Instead, I told the MSP owner that he should start attending peer group events.
You see, I attribute attending local user group events and MSP conferences as the single biggest factor in my personal journey towards growing a successful MSP business.
Peer groups can help new business owners
When I started my journey as an IT business owner, I was your typical one-man-band technician. I was very good at fixing computers. As a result, I became a man in demand, but I realized very quickly that while I was an excellent technician, I was a poor business owner. I knew very little about accounting and finance, or about hiring and firing staff.
I needed to learn how to automate routine technical tasks within my business and invest in tools. Then the questions started: which software should I buy? Which vendors offered the best products? What pitfalls did I need to avoid?
By chance, one of my friendly local competitors told me about a local user group. It was a group of fellow IT business owners who met monthly to exchange ideas, best practices, and the latest research in the field of Managed Services.
I went to the group, and quickly got educated on how to run a managed service business. My peers shared with me which vendors to work with, and which to avoid. They gave me advice on where to look for answers, and how to deal with clients.
Those peers helped me go from owning a job as a technician to owning an IT business. Since then, I’ve encouraged IT business owners across the world to seek out peer groups, so that they can accelerate their learning too.
But why would anyone want to educate their competition?
Collaboration – there are enough customers for everyone!
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “A rising tide lifts all boats” then you’ll understand that sharing what you’ve learned helps everyone, including your own business.
While it’s true that many IT businesses are insular and secretive for fear of giving away their “trade secrets,” many more IT businesses understand that if they give advice, they receive advice — and in turn it accelerates their own business growth.
I made enough mistakes in growing my own IT business as it was! By listening to my peers, I managed to learn from their experiences and avoid many more time-consuming and costly errors. This advice really made a difference to my bottom line and enabled me to make astute business decisions.
I also found that by building relationships with my peers, we ended up helping each other plug gaps in our respective skill sets. While I might be a whizz with Cisco networking equipment, I had little or no knowledge of Linux or Microsoft SharePoint. So, I teamed up with my peers who had knowledge in these specialty areas, to the benefit of both of us.
The real winner here was our clients, who benefited from a vast network of expertise that far surpassed one individual IT company’s knowledge. My own clients had faith I could confidently service their requirements. By building relationships with other IT businesses, I became a more trusted business advisor to my own clients.
Where to find an MSP peer group
If you’re new to the idea of MSP peer groups, then you’ll probably be surprised to find one close to you, whichever part of the world you are in.
I maintain a list of User Groups for UK Managed Service Providers on my own website, and non-profit IT organisations such as CompTIA have peer communities all across the world. Even if you live in a geographic area that doesn’t have a local user group, you have options.
You could join an online community such as The Tech Tribe, which was founded by former MSP owner, Nigel Moore. It’s a community that isn’t bound by geography — just a common desire by community members to grow their MSP business.
You could even start your own group! Why not reach out to some fellow IT businesses locally and see if they want to get together? You may be surprised that you’re not the only IT business owner who is feeling as though they’d appreciate someone to talk to about their challenges.
Peer groups can help make your life easier
Running a Managed Service Provider business is difficult enough when you try to do it alone. By seeking out a peer group, you can accelerate your business growth by sharing advice with other IT businesses.
My own MSP business journey was massively accelerated by attending peer groups, and since selling my business, I highly encourage others to seek out peer groups for themselves.
As the old saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
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