IT By Design’s Kam Kaila: ‘Your Employees Won’t Leave If You’re A Wonderful Leader’

‘If you’re leading well, your employees aren’t going anywhere. Your employees are not going to leave you if you’re a wonderful leader. It won’t matter how much money others throw at them. It’s the family. It’s the community. It’s the leadership that drives them,’ says IT By Design president Kam Kaila.


Kam Kaila believes everything rises and falls on leadership.

“Talent and retention is one of the largest problems. Everything is really connected if you think about it,” Kaila, president of Marlboro, NJ-based master MSP IT By Design, told CRN. “If you’re talking about profitability, it’s the pace of how we do our service. It’s our people, that’s how we earn our money. You need them to do work faster and cheaper, and if they’re not talented enough to do it you’re just building frustration.”

That’s why the company is launching a multitude of services to help MSPs build and train up their talent to succeed in their businesses.

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[Related: IT By Design’s Sunny Kaila: Train AI Like You Train Your Dog]

At the company’s Build IT Live conference in Orlando, Fla. last week, announcements included Team GPS’ new talent operating system, a Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) model and a leadership licensing program.

The talent operating system is a software tool that includes enhanced strategy and goal capabilities offering performance reviews, employee scorecards and one-on-one meetings.

The BOT model will enable MSPs to add overseas talent that is fully trained by IT By Design. This allows them to scale up profitability and security while using offshore talent to monitor networks 24/7, 365 days a year.

“In this model they’re able to build out a specific-size team with us,” Kaila (pictured) said. “They’re operated under our guidance for two years and then we transfer it over to them.”

The leadership license program is a formalized training program to develop leadership skills within teams through a training curriculum and effective success planning.

Lastly, ITBD launched a marketplace with hand-picked vendor solutions that the company recommends to its MSP partners.

“One of the major challenges MSPs face is that they have too many tools and they don’t know which one is the right tool,” Sunny Kaila, founder and CEO of ITBD, told CRN. “Our purpose is to help them with a tested solution that is right for them. Another challenge is they buy a tool but then they don’t implement it because they don’t have the human capital to do it.”

The master MSP already has big plans for their next conference.

At Build It Live 2024, which will be held in Orlando again, MSPs will have the opportunity to attend a full-day workshop by Patrick Lencione, a favored author who’s written books on business and team management, such as his popular book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”

Marco Prieto, in-house manager at East Hartford, Conn.-based Tab Computer Systems, said he’s looking forward to attending Lencione’s workshop next year as he’s read many of his books, “and I try to model some of the management strategies that we have in the company after him.”

“What I do love about this conference in particular is everything is focused on learning, teaching and education,” he told CRN. “It’s not about selling a product.”

CRN sat down with Kam Kaila to discuss leadership training, why it should be the forefront of every business and what’s to come for ITBD in 2024.

Talk to me about the Build IT Communities corporate coaching.

We had Communities of Practice where one person from your organization signs up and it’s like a peer group. One of the things we’ll be launching now is the talent peer groups where it’s going to be talent focused, based on our talent operating system. But the communities is corporate coaching. That’s where we take the leadership models that we built out and we go into organizations and teach all of their leaders. It’s not enough for an organization to train one person and expect that one person to come back and train others. That person may or may not be a good teacher and may effectively lead others into the practice of leadership. Having the entire leadership team learn together adds value because you can gauge how all of the leaders are doing. They’ll know which leaders are up to snuff and which ones aren’t. The best leadership teams are the ones who lead themselves. Once they see who’s doing well and who’s not leading well, they’ll hold them accountable or go to an owner and say, ‘Hey look, you’ve got to make a decision.’

Why should every leader, or aspiring leader, take this training?

I know the type of leader that I was before I started the practice of leadership to what I am today. There was some great people who came into our organization that aren’t here today because I could not lead them well. Talent and retention is one of the largest problems. Everything is really connected if you think about it. If you’re talking about profitability, it’s the pace of how we do our service. It’s our people, that’s how we earn our money. You need them to do work faster and cheaper, and if they’re not talented enough to do it you’re just building frustration. If you’re not able to manage your KPIs properly, where are the limits? What can they do and what can’t they do? That’s important. Everything is tied back to your ability to lead well. It’s the same with competition. If you’re leading well your employees aren’t going anywhere. Your employees are not going to leave you if you’re a wonderful leader. It won’t matter how much money others throw at them. It’s the family. It’s the community. It’s the leadership that drives them.

How is ITBD’s corporate coaching different than other training in the space?

I don’t think anybody else has formalized leadership training and I don’t think it is a consistent class that you have to take every single month. The minimum is at least one year. You have to commit to this for at least a year. It’s for vendors too. Every leader should have a formalized leadership coaching program. For example, there’s resiliency training. Our industry does not teach resilience. This is why we have a two-year turnover in our people. We say it’s because they’re burned out, but it’s because we don’t teach them to be resilient. We have to teach the leaders to be resilient first and then the leaders have to continuously be teaching others to be resilient.

What kind of leaders do you think the channel needs more of in this space?

We need better transactional and we need more transformational. You need to have transactional, that’s the foundation. There are a lot of people that aren’t managed well. That’s why I’m doing skip levels where I ask an employee how their leader is doing. That’s my checks and balances. I can see if my leader is doing justice by our organization. Is that person leading well? You can’t do skip levels with everybody, but that’s why in Team GPS you can see all of the recorded one-on-ones because everything’s documented. If you have a concern about a manager, you can go in and look at all the one-on-ones and see if there are any consistencies. It gives you clarity and visibility into how you’re doing in your role.

You mentioned transformational leaders as well. Why is that important?

It’s probably the reason we lose so many people and why people come into our industry and leave our industry. It’s not because they burn out, it’s because nobody is leading them well enough that they see the vision beyond. They need to be able to come in from different industries and stay, not move out completely and just be a blip on the radar. Why are we a training ground for corporate America? That’s what’s happening right now. We’re taking the bare minimums. We’re teaching them everything and then we lose them to Chase Bank or something because we don’t have enough transformational leaders. There’s not enough vision. They don’t see growth. [Employees] don’t see where are they going. What’s that mission and do they have a future here? We have to be able to show them the vision and that what they do matters, and [right now] we’re not doing that well enough.

What's the biggest mistake executives can make when it comes to leadership?

Not having a formalized thought process. A leader may think someone else is a natural-born leader because everybody loves them when really he’s probably the popular guy at work and nobody wants to say anything.

What can we expect from IT By Design over the next year?

Definitely our talent operating peer groups. Those will be coming out with something new. It’ll be a peer group format but for people who are leading people. The BOT model will grow and Team GPS will continue to get stronger and stronger. The peer groups are going to be focused on how to manage talent, how to be a leader and how to lead talent. It’s going to be focused around the talent operating system that we’re developing. These are the tools that you need to use in order to effectively manage and lead people, and it’s going to be a collaborative environment. At the same time, there’s going to be structure around the talent operating system model.

The BOT model will have a seat cost. There’s complete transfer transparency in this model, but then we’ll lead these individuals themselves. All of the leadership requirements will be put on to the MSP in that model. But it’s great for platform companies who want to scale quickly and have a strong leadership team themselves. It will also work well for the ones that don’t have strong leadership capabilities internally. They’re probably better off with the traditional model where there’s leadership support.

Tell me more about the marketplace IT By Design is launching.

One of my biggest things was people were always asking us, ‘Who do you use? What kind of solutions is IT By Design using? Help us out.’ We don’t have the time to go and vet everybody against each other because it takes time and effort. And we’re probably not as technically savvy as we need to be to know what’s the good, the bad and the ugly. We always say we don’t want to be picking favorites but it is more picking the people that are doing the best of what they do right now. So it’s looking at solutions independently, not because they’re on our line card as we’re not selling them. We’re making strong recommendations on solutions that we use, that we value and we want people to know that. Through the marketplace we can send our partners to that vendor and they will get the IT By Design rate.

The big thing here is that the vendors have to provide us with training so that all of our engineers are fully trained on the solution. That training will actually end up going into our Build IT University 2.0., with a complete LMS (learning management system), which we’re relaunching by early 2024. The first version was more of a library. The 2.0 version will be actual online courses with IT By Design’s training curriculum.

Tell me about some of the trainings that will be offered.

It’s the training that we do for all of our engineers as well our leadership license series. It’s both soft skills and technical skills. We have a very rigorous training program that we put everybody through so we have a standard solution stack. Every vendor that is in the marketplace will be up there. Plus there’s multiple different ways that you can learn. It’ll be adaptable to the best way that you learn.