‘It’s A Balancing Act’: Husband And Wife Team On Growing A Successful MSP
‘We let each other have our own spotlight,’ Erica Martinez-Rose says. ‘He’s been featured and interviewed and I’ve had my moments and we celebrate both of them.’
As a husband and wife team, Matt Rose and Erica Martinez-Rose are finding what works for them and their business and shaping a younger workforce coming in the door.
The couple, co-founders of Orlando, Fla.-based MSP Tech Rage IT, strike a balance in operating the company while working alongside each other. And they have found success doing it.
“I think we’re a rare species in the channel, being a husband and wife team,” Erica, who serves as the company’s CEO, told CRN.
Matt, the company’s chief experience officer, mostly works on the technical side of the business while Erica focuses on the finances. But neither is shy about being the face of the company or both working behind the scenes.
“We let each other have our own spotlight,” Erica said. “He’s been featured and interviewed and I’ve had my moments and we celebrate both of them.”
One challenge they do have is finding the right kind of talent. With seven employees, they had a lot of turnover last year for a variety of reasons and realized they had to fix their hiring process.
“We needed to dig deep and figure out what our problems were,” Erica said. “That was a turning point for us. We started really focusing on the hiring process and since then, we’ve had some all-stars join.”
The couple also focuses on hiring entry-level employees and training them up.
“We stopped focusing so much on their skills and more on their attitude,” she said. “What have they accomplished in their previous lives? It was more soft skills and more entrepreneurial thinking of trying to fix problems and improving things. We can teach you the job, but if you don’t have the want to understand it, I can’t help you.”
And being from the Orlando area, they know they’re competing with major companies, like Disney and Universal.
“They pay like $25 an hour as an intern, and so we have to tell people, ‘If you want to make money, no issues, go there. But if you want to learn a ton, quickly, then come work for us,’” Matt said.
The couple sat down with CRN to talk about their business, what works and how they balance running a successful MSP together.
What is your biggest challenge right now on the business side?
Erica: I think being a husband and wife team, it adds another layer of complexity because you’re not only dealing with business challenges, but personal also. You have to really balance that. I think from a woman-owned business with young children, growing the business and growing a family is definitely a balancing act.
Matt: I think there is that balance because if I want to buy a product, it’s not like I own the company by myself and I’m just going to do it. I need to sell her as my wife as she’s controlling the finances.
What is your take on M&A among MSPs?
Erica: We just walked away from an acquisition we were doing. We were the acquirer. At face value, it seemed definitely attainable. Great opportunity, great seller but that’s kind of like your first date. You only get to talk to them maybe once or twice before you make that proposal, and then it’s like living together before you’re married. Although we’re small, we run a tight ship. We have processes and procedures, HR, compliance and when you see loosey goosey stuff you’re like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to make changes and not rock the boat and cause disruption.’ At that point, it risks on a lot of that investment that you’ve made.
It’s one of those things that once you get behind the curtain you’re like, ‘This is not what we signed up for.’ We disagreed a lot because he’s very optimistic and I am a realist. We don’t veto each other a lot but this was one that we were deadlocked on.
Matt: I’m definitely a visionary, but then I also sometimes have to integrate. I’m the one who was like, ‘Let’s just do it. It’ll work.’
Erica: Again, we’re husband and wife so we’re now risking our livelihood, our children. If I had my own business and this was him, at least I can sustain my business. But it’s one of those things where we have to make decisions as partners in life and business. At this point in time it was a wonderful learning experience. We moved out of the cohabitation just in time.
Have you ever thought about being acquired?
Erica: It depends on the day. There’s days that I’m like, ‘I just don’t have it in me anymore. I need those resources. I need the playbook.’ Then you have a good day and you’re like, ‘No, I’m happy where I’m at right now.’ There are days where I say, ‘I just don’t want to make another decision.’ I like that support system. I think we still have some work to do and grow more where it does make sense where we’ll have value and will bring value to that company.
Matt: That’s one place we differ. I started this as consulting with a buddy of mine who’s doing enterprise consulting and she started by helping me set up my invoices and stuff like that. It started as my business, my baby, and so I have a harder time with the idea of being acquired. But I have struggled because I don’t really want to work for anybody again. It’s come up, but it’s never been a serious thought.
Erica, what is the best and worst part about running an MSP with your husband?
Sometimes if we have a disagreement, whether it’s personally or in business, sometimes it carries on all day. You take it home with you. I think that’s where we have to learn to separate, like we’re employees of our business. We don’t fight in front of the kids or our employees. That’s where it’s hard, you need to separate the partner role and the wife role.
My favorite part is celebrating our successes together.
Matt, what is the best and worst part about running an MSP with your wife?
Where it can be tough is if I had a partner that was a friend or someone I met through business, I think it’s easier sometimes to give feedback or constructive criticism. It’s harder when it’s your wife when you have to say, ‘We got to stop doing that.’ If down the road we had a CFO I could just say, ‘I don’t care if you don’t like it, deal with it.’
The positive is our kids are learning a lot about the business. And Erica also understands now what I do.
Erica: I think that’s helpful. When I was on the outside, I was like, ‘Why are you working? Don’t answer that.’ But now I understand.
What do you want more of from your vendors?
Erica: Sometimes we’ll just hear from the vendors if they’re invoicing us or like sending out a [price] increase email.
Matt: My favorite vendors are ones where I actually have an account manager. I don’t need them to follow up with me every week about a new product. But if I need something they actually respond. I’m not saying they fix everything right away but they’re responsive. I think they’re the ones that gives some level of value that’s not just their products. They also sometimes reach out and use me as a sounding board, and if vendors aren’t doing that then they should start.
What do you want to see more of in the channel?
Erica: Women leadership. I definitely think women leadership should just not be one session or pre-day event. I’d like to see more women speakers. I’ll see pictures and it’s a panel of men. Where’s the diversity there? They’ll be talking DEI and there’s men. There’s that stigma of, ‘You don’t talk tech.’ Well, no, I run a successful business and I hire really good people to do that technical stuff. I think it’s understanding how women can elevate ourselves more.
How are you hiring and working with the younger workforce?
Erica: That’s half our workforce right now. I still think looking for those entrepreneurial people, that’s the mindset we’re really looking for. Fixing the problem and not just complaining about it. It goes back to the hiring process. [With the younger workforce], the maturity level truly is amazing. I hired someone who said she has zero debt, like she paid her car off and I said, ‘You’re going to be good for financing.’
Matt: I was interviewing someone who actually used the term ‘good emotional intelligence.’ That’s an interesting thing. I haven’t heard that, you don’t just hear that but they hear it in school.