As the owner of a managed service business, do you understand the importance of leading by example?

In an previous article, I wrote about why your MSP should eat its own dog food. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should literally eat dog food! I used the expression to explain why you should be using your own business as an example of how technology can help a great business run. You’re essentially leading these clients by example.

As well as leading your clients by example, let’s explore why it is so very important to lead your own business by example too!

The problem with “do as I say, not as I do”

One of the common complaints I hear from IT business owners is that their members of staff don’t complete their time sheets.

Business owners often tell me, “if our time sheets aren’t completed correctly, we will struggle to accurately bill our clients.”

As a former MSP owner myself, I understand this frustration all too well. Getting your engineers to complete time sheets can be a struggle. As a former engineer, I wanted to focus on doing the work, not record the time I was spent doing the work!

Yet, recording the time spent with clients is a very important part of running an MSP business. So why can’t the members of staff understand that?

Rather than focus on the staff, I usually respond to this frustration from the owner by asking them a simple question.

“How well do you complete your time sheet?”

The response is usually either a sheepish “Well, I don’t always do it” or sometimes a more bullish “I’m the business owner, I don’t need to do it.”

Therein lies the problem. Whenever we, as business owners, tell our team to do something — but then don’t do that thing ourselves — we’re sending a message that the task is either unimportant or that we are too important to do it. Both are messages you don’t want to send to your team. 

We’re essentially saying to them, “do as I say, not as I do.” That rarely works well.

Instead, we should be leading by example.

How can I lead by example?

In our time sheet scenario, the answer is obvious. Fill in your time sheet!

When I owned my own MSP business, I used to be the first to submit my time sheet via our Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool at the end of every week.

I used to do that quite easily, as I recorded my time spent in real-time. I didn’t wait until the end of every day to fill my time sheet in, I did it as I went along.

In our company, we had a dashboard up on the office wall. The dashboard showed the time that had been spent by every member of staff that day and week. I always made sure my time was displayed accurately and up to date.

Recording my time in this way also gave my team an insight into the activities I took as a business owner every day.

Every employee secretly believes the boss doesn’t work as hard as them. I proved that was the case not by telling my team, but by showing my team because actions speak much louder than words.

The results? Within weeks, everyone in our team was filling in their time sheet. We were able to bill our clients on time and accurately.

Setting an example leads to business growth

The members of your team will look to you for guidance. If you set a good example, they will aspire to match that example.

If you set a poor example, then they will lose faith and cut corners. After all, it can’t be that important if the boss doesn’t do it, right?

Leading by example is a powerful style of leadership. It is much more effective than expecting staff to do as you say, when you don’t do it yourself.

Photo: SewCream / Shutterstock

Richard Tubb

Posted by Richard Tubb

Richard Tubb is a blogger, speaker, and author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the Northeast of England. He provides expert advice to help MSPs grow their IT business, and he has helped the owners of hundreds of MSPs to free up their time, concentrate on doing what is important, and make more money.

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