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Does your MSP see other IT businesses as rivals to compete against, or allies to collaborate with?

I recently polled a large amount of MSPs from geographic areas including the UK, USA, Australia, Europe, and South Africa. I asked them what their number one challenge in business was, and some of the responses I received included:

  • When is the right time to employ that extra technical guy?
  • With the cost of tech talent so high, I’m struggling to fill both technical and managerial roles.
  • I am struggling with growing my team.

There’s a lot of angst around recruitment and it’s easy to see why. It’s a painful, expensive, and time-consuming activity. But it’s necessary, right?

Yes, you definitely need to recruit new staff to grow your business — but you can mitigate the need for recruitment by using the strategy we’re talking about today.

You can extend your team. You can bring in specialist knowledge. You can add a lot of resources by building strategic alliances.

What is an MSP strategic alliance?

What are strategic alliances, really? In simple terms, a strategic alliance allows you to buddy up with another IT company to deliver services and solutions that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

You might create a strategic alliance to:

  • Bring in external specialist skills
  • Add an additional resource to your team
  • Build a holiday or sickness cover
  • Extend your geographical coverage
  • Offer your client’s 24×7 coverage

Let’s look at an example of a strategic alliance in action.

Strategic alliances for specialist skills

One of the biggest mistakes I see MSPs making is trying to “be all things” to all clients.

As an MSP, you should be focusing on your core competency of maintaining and updating your client’s IT infrastructure. If a client asks you to design their website — you shouldn’t be tempted to say “yes” for fear of losing that client. You aren’t a web designer. While you can probably wire a client’s office up for Ethernet, is that *really* the best use of your time and experience?

I’ve seen numerous examples of MSPs straying outside their core competencies and accepting work they shouldn’t be delivering. The end result is always frustration — for both the MSP and the client.

I totally understand why MSPs do this. They fear that if a client approaches them for some type of IT work outside their core competency, and they say no, then the client will look elsewhere. What if you were able to offer the solution to the client by utilising a strategic alliance?

Some examples of specialist skills I see MSPs buddying up with other IT companies to offer their clients include:

  • VoIP deployments
  • SharePoint migrations
  • Linux support
  • Data Cabling
  • Web Design
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Complex Wi-Fi deployments

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that your MSP business should invest time and resources to become specialists in these skills too. Just don’t fall into the trap of saying yes to a client and not having the skills to deliver a project yourself. That’s where building strategic alliances prove successful.

Strategic alliances for geographic coverage

Many of the MSPs I work with often focus on serving the clients within a specific geographical area, close to their own office. Occasionally, they are referred to a new client outside that geographical area. They may even have an existing client open an office in a different part of the country or the world!

Rather than try to serve that remote office on their own, these MSPs build strategic alliances with other IT companies that can service the remote office’s needs on a case-by-case basis. For many tasks, remote support tools allow clients to be anywhere in the world and receive assistance. But what if the client needs new hardware installed, or a technician on the ground to troubleshoot an issue?

Building strategic alliances with other IT companies — even other MSPs — allows you to have a technician on the ground when you need to.

Strategic alliances to manage overall workload

By building strategic alliances, you can add the additional resource, specialist skills, and geographical coverage your clients might require.

In the current skills crisis, where recruiting good quality employees is a costly and time-consuming affair, strategic alliances also allow you to mitigate (and in some cases eliminate) the need for recruitment. The most progressive MSPs I have either worked with or observed, all use strategic alliances with other IT businesses to extend their reach, their resources and their offerings to clients.

Photo: Raw Pixel / Unsplash

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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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