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Are you familiar with the phrase “Eat your own dog food?” I’ve sometimes heard it also referred to (more nicely!) as “Drink your own champagne”.

It refers to the idea that you shouldn’t sell a product or solution to somebody if you’re not using it yourself. Why should you ask your clients to use something that you aren’t using yourself?

An example of an MSP *not* eating its own dog food

I recently visited an MSP for a meeting. The business owner very kindly gave me a tour of their offices, including a trip into their comms room. Housing all manner of technology — including racks of servers, network switches, routers and cabling — the comms room was an impressive reflection on how technology has helped a small business grow.

Unfortunately, it was also two other things: unsecured and untidy. 

The comms room itself was easily accessible by any member of staff who could simply walk in to via an unlocked door. The racks housing the comms equipment was also insecure, as none of the racks were locked away from prying fingers.

Then, there was the cabling. If I’m were to be kind, I’d call it functional. The reality is, it was a spaghetti-like mess of multi-colored cables strewn between cabinets in no discernible order.

Later, the business owner and I sat down and discussed some of their challenges in sales and marketing. “Many of the small businesses we deal with do not treat IT seriously,” he told me. “They ignore security advice and simply do what is most convenient”.

It made me wonder, maybe these customers are taking cues from the MSP’s comms room security measures?

Do as I say, not as I do

Far too many expect clients to do as we say, not as we do. We stress security concerns to our clients, telling them to make sure their IT equipment is secure, yet our own comms room is unsecured and untidy. This is where more IT businesses need to eat their own dog food.

In the case of our unnamed MSP, they sell equipment and networking solutions to clients. They want those clients to have secure environments with well maintained, functioning network equipment. As a result, they need to reflect this ideal in their internal practices.

Their comms room shouldn’t be functional — it should be a showcase of what an ideal comms room looks like. Somewhere that can be used as a sales enabler. Somewhere that clients can be brought for a tour to demonstrate to them what a good comms environment is.

Can you eat your own dog food?

How could your own business eat its own dog food? For instance, if you are selling security solutions to client’s, then you must use them yourself.

To provide some examples::

  • If you tell your clients to use 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) for secure logins to cloud-based systems, then use 2FA internally.
  • If you sell Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to your clients, then actively use CRM for your own sales process.
  • If you deploy structured Ethernet cabling at your client sites, make sure your own offices Ethernet is documented and tidy.

Look around your business and determine if you are asking clients to do anything you are not doing yourself. If you are simply asking them to do as you say, not as you do, then don’t expect to receive the same degree of respect as your competitors who ARE eating their own dog food.

Talk the talk AND walk the walk

To raise the bar of professionalism within the IT industry, we must do more than just talking about best practice — we must actually do it. Our clients won’t take our advice seriously if we don’t follow that advice ourselves. 

The validity of solutions and services we sell to a client will ring hollow if we aren’t using those solutions and services ourselves. We must eat our own dog food and be seen doing so.

Photo: Javier Brosch / Shutterstock

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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.

One Comment

  1. This sadly reminds me of a hosting provider I used to work for called Loud-n-Clear. The owner was always procrastinating to clients (or anyone who would listen) how they should manage security, what software to use and what an expert in security he was, and how secure his hosting was.

    This couldn’t have been any further from the truth.

    All the web servers were completely insecure, any site could access all the files of any other site. He had been oblivious to this for years until I pointed it out.

    The firewall was full of rules allowing unrestricted access to ex-customers and ex-employees and other IP’s who we had no idea who they belonged to.

    The switches had out of date firmware with vulnerabilities. The main router/switch was so out of date, it did not even have enough internal memory to cope with the size of the packets and regularly crashed. The crazy thing was that this I got this fixed by upgrading the module which only cost about £50

    The firewall was completely out of date and EOL by several years.

    The server room was something out of a nightmare, the cabling was so messy that it was impossible to trace a cable from one end to the other, unused cables were just left hanging out and DC engineers simply refused to touch anything.

    When there were not enough power sockets, a cable splitter was used so that 1 power cable was used for 2 servers. This method was also used to power servers that had 2 x redundant power supplies.

    If a PSU failed in a server, they rarely had a spare, so would just use a desktop PSU from pc world and shove that into a 1U rack server, and leave the case open with the PSU sticking out the top, taking up 3-4u of space.

    When clients cancelled servers, they were never removed, they were just left connected and switched on, using up power until they died. The Windows OS would, as a result, become years out of date, and create a security issue, especially when the server still had a live IP.

    At least 2/3 of the racks and servers were not actually needed and were full of outdated and unused equipment.

    This is only touching on all the problems, I could go on for pages, the companies accounts/billing was in just as bad a state as the datacenter.

    Why did customers even stay you may ask? Well most were oblivious to the issues, but it is because it was cheap. Many customers were getting services for free. They were not being charged for their hosting, servers, rack space, domain names, etc.
    Customers could just invoice invoices and never pay them and nothing would happen.


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