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Running a managed service provider business these days requires a leader to be quick, flexible, and ready to scale programs up and down to meet market demands -- qualities not unlike the technologies and services MSPs are now offering customers.
These solution providers are trying to succeed in a market undergoing breathtaking changes, as cloud computing compels them to transform their business from installing legacy systems to providing hosted services.
As a result, new partnerships need to be made, new technologies mastered and new services developed, all while keeping the day-to-day business running.
In addition, solution providers are being snapped up as a consolidation craze is sweeping the industry. Large MSPs are seeing a clear field to expand their customer base and geographic reach through acquisitions of smaller companies. Smaller solution providers are easy prey, but at least the payout can be good.
In this market, Paul Hilbert, co-founder and owner of Network Doctor, has his hands full.
Hilbert, along with partners David Birk and Rafi Moskowitz, started the Englewood, N.J., company 10 years ago in Hilbert's basement. The partners started offering in-home installations and repair services, much like Geek Squad, which they initially imitated.
The company has evolved to provide hourly services, time-block services and, most recently, recurring revenue services. Since 2009, Network Doctor has offered cloud services over VPNs hosted in its own data center.
The company has expanded its services to become a full-service MSP, supporting technology partners such as Microsoft, Google, Citrix, VMware, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco. Network Doctor now employs 35 people and in 2012 saw revenue reach $5 million.
Hilbert is now betting that the cloud will change everything, and he plans to ride that to success.
But as the cloud is disrupting business models, Hilbert is disrupting his own business. He's constantly scaling up his company's services to offer new applications as well as hosting services, in addition to his traditional duties.
The result is steady growth but incredible demands to juggle his clients' needs with rapidly changing technologies. On any given day, Hilbert is performing a score of duties to keep his company ahead of the curve.
CRN followed Hilbert for three months to see how he was managing his business challenges. Hilbert showed he is at once a technologist brimming with new ideas, but also a businessman constantly tending to his growing flock of customers.
What follows is an up-close account of Hilbert's activities.