Finding the Soul of your MSP
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 11 April 2018 04:13 PM
Third Tier is not an MSP and this article is not about us. We exist to help MSPs and IT professionals in general. It is about another business I own that is an MSP and I hope that it helps.
Every vendor we deal with tells us that we need to find our unique value proposition. I own an MSP in Oakland County, Michigan. There are over 2,000 IT businesses in my County. How am I supposed to be unique from that many others? It is a question that I struggled with for many years. I knew that I was unique but I didn’t know how to express it. If you are struggling with those same issues, then this article is for you.
It’s not as difficult as you might think to find your unique value proposition because you already are unique. All you need to do is identify your uniqueness, embrace it and then put it front and center in your messaging. So how do you identify your uniqueness?
You may not be aware of what makes you unique or what has brought you to this point so I recommend starting from the beginning.
I’m going to tell you the story of the beginning of my business and point out along the way where it indicates a point that eventually turns into the unique value proposition that we offer today.
In the nascent beginnings of my business I was essentially working two jobs. One as a systems engineer for a software company that had me travelling 3 weeks a month, flying into places around the Country to bail out the local systems engineer from a messed up deployment of our software and restoring the customers faith in our company. I had to fix both the technical issue and the customer dissatisfaction issue. It was grueling, and I wasn’t happy travelling that much. It was always my experience that they better you become in IT the more travel you end up doing. Meanwhile, being a person that wants to help others, I ended up with a collection of small business clients that I was helping on the side. They accumulated over time as referrals from the individuals I was helping at the school districts I interacted with during my day job. I was asked if I could help their uncle, cousin, wife, husband with an IT problem at their small business and of course I said, sure. I would talk them through it over the phone from the airport, stop by after hours or on weekends and I would witness just how lousy their current situation was. I offered advice and implemented changes. They came to trust me. This unexpectedly turned into me being their primary IT support person.
Lesson 1 in my uniqueness is that I like to help people
I got hooked on working with small businesses because I was impressed with the passion that many of them had for the work they were doing. I felt that passion in myself and for my chosen career. A had a drive that can only come from within and makes you want to keep going, doing more and more because you simply love it. These small business owners had that too. They had no problem accommodating my crazy schedule, meeting me afterhours and on weekends because they loved their business and wanted to make it better. And I wanted to make it better for them too. I found a synergy that couldn’t be denied.
Lesson 2 in my uniqueness is that small business owners think like me and I like them
Lesson 3 I have a need for a certain baseline of security in my life
Sacrificing money for a long time I hired a few technical people to help me in the business as it grew. This worked for me because I’m not a money motivated person. I had my motivation serviced by the excitement of learning and teaching as it turns out. After becoming an MVP I found myself offered opportunities to speak at conferences and contribute to books. I also had started a technical blog. I found that my passion now included learning and teaching too. This was really an expansion of wanting to help that I identified in myself earlier.
Lesson 4 I love to learn. I love to help and I love to teach
We all need to be learning and growing in our technical expertise all the time. My staff needed to be people with a passion for technology and a love of small business. We needed to have that one-on-one relationship with our clients. That I expected my new staff to be like me is the thing that forms the personality of a business. Small businesses are an extension of the owner.
Lesson 5 We need to be part of our clients’ team and our relationship with the client is the #1 thing
Finding your strengths
I found the strengths in my business by looking at our origin story from before day one until the personality of the business became clear.
The interesting thing about our strengths is that none of them speak directly to technical expertise. And yet under lying all them is an assumed competency. I can’t stand it when I don’t know everything about a product or solution and I expect my staff to be experts. I need to dig in deep and become the expert. So that love to learn needs to be expressed more definitively as a strength
• We need to be experts in each of the technologies that we offer to our clients
I read once that if you put 10,000 hours, which takes about 10 years to accomplish that you will the #1 expert in that thing. 10 years into Harbor Computer Services we won a big award from Microsoft; Small Business Partner of the Year. It was confirmation that we were doing the right thing. This occurred at the height of the 2008-2010 economic depression and all of our clients kept us on, even as they all laid off 20-25% of the employees. It was a double whammy of acknowledgement that we’d accomplished our reason for being which was to do great things for small businesses.
I’ve also heard that if you read one article about a thing, say Office 365, for example that after only 18 months you will be one of the world experts in that topic. I have adopted this philosophy in learning too and my staff trains together for 4 hours each week toward this end.
Building your solutions around your unique value
Many businesses have tag lines and I’m a big fan of them. It tells you something right off the bat about that business and it’s a great conversation starter. Before I successfully defined my unique value proposition I struggled with creating a tagline. For many years we simply use Small Business Specialists. We used that phrase before, during and after Microsoft’s appropriation of phrase. While it communicated our market focus it didn’t communicate our uniqueness. However, once I sat down to think through the above narrative of our origin story a new tagline, the conversation starter, the thing that brings us to providing technical support and solutions to small businesses in the first place became evident.
We care about your business
It’s not fancy or complex or trendy. But it conveys trust, relationship and our reason for wanting to work with our clients. This phrase speaks to the small business market. Small businesses run on relationships and trust.
This is how I found the soul of my MSP.
About Third Tier
Established in 2008, Third Tier only works for IT Professionals by providing them with access to advanced support services. No one can know it all these days, so we give IT pros a place to go to get the hands on support they need in areas they normally don’t work in or problems they’ve never encountered. We also work on projects, fix their accounting practices and do many, many migrations and other installations. Our staff covers a wide range of technologies.