From Sole Proprietorship To Global Solution Provider: What MSPs Need To Do To Evolve


The hardest part of building a business from a one-person shop to a large solution provider organization? Changing from the top down.

Founders have a very different role at the start of their companies than they do once they hit critical mass, said Michael France, COO of Taylor Business Group, an executive coaching firm that focuses on IT solution providers. The role of the CEO has to evolve along with the business. Owners need the right sales and marketing teams in place, and they need to know when to walk away from vendors or clients that they may have outgrown.

"Run your business as if you're going to sell it tomorrow," France told an audience of MSPs at The Channel Company's NexGen 2018 Conference & Expo on Sunday.

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Evolution will happen whether a business leader recognizes it or not, and as the company grows and gains traction, it's important that CEOs move on from having a primary sales and marketing role into the role of an evangelist, France said.

"The owner is leading the sales charge in the beginning, but in the long-term, sales shouldn't be tied to the business owner. That’s what you are building on," he said. "It's important to get people to convey the culture and essence of who you are, so spend time on that process. They can only learn that from you," he told MSPs.

John Riley, co-owner of SACTECH, a solution provider that focuses on compliance-as-as-service solutions, agreed that the hardest part of growing his company has been evolving his sales and marketing strategies.

"Taking the owner out of that piece and training people to manage that to move forward is critical, but it's difficult," he said.

Evolving the sales process can also mean personnel changes, which can sometimes mean replacing staff that the company may have outgrown.

"You are going to have to replace some people that helped you start the business," France said. "You have to build out the right people to help take you to the next level, and that can be hard."

Solution providers can also start to outgrow certain customers, too, SACTECH's Riley said.

SACTECH, a 17-year-old company, started to outgrow some of its clients. Rather than make the choice between some of its customers and others, Riley and his business partner sold off the MSP portion of SACTECH two years ago to focus the business on compliance.

Evolution requires solution provider owners to take a step back and evaluate the processes their growing company has in place once their sales organization is driving revenue. "If you're bringing in money but your backlogged on onboarding, you might not be able to provide project services to your customers," he said. "As you grow your business, you have to document how you want it to run. Invest in the right tools that will automate things for you to help you reach that next level."

Perhaps most important to keep in mind as a company grows is culture. Culture is all about how employees are treated, France said. While money is always a factor, people will want to work for a passionate company that communicates regularly with its staff.

"In this environment, your talent can get swooped away in a second," France said. "Retention has to do with how you treat employees. If they believe in the vision that you articulate, and you keep that communication open, your company's culture will be the prevailing factor."