Unfortunately this is not a cheap cliffhanger title just to grab your attention. You’re reading it on your mobile so I’ll be brief like a bumper sticker: you steal money from your own MSP because you address the symptoms of problems with tactical Bursts of effort. That only generates more work and expends resources to generate tiny bits of unsustainable value. Sure, you feel busy and productive, but you don’t solve the problems in the long run. Sound familiar? Let's take an example and see how to fix it with Smart Goals and an action plan.
We’ll go through this process by analyzing a typical MSP use case: Account Management.
1. Focusing on the symptom instead of the root problems
Say you go to a client meeting that doesn’t go as planned. Maybe the client was not engaged, they did not seem to value your services, they weren’t interested in the next project you offer or were simply looking for a price cut of your services.
You come out feeling "we are no longer relevant", "our competition is stronger", or “we need a better QBR process". These are not the root problems to solve - these are the symptoms.
2. Focusing on a tactical solution
Now you feel you should take action and start browsing the net on how to conduct a better client meeting and become more relevant.
You check out some software applications and spend some time evaluating them, download templates, figure out the best processes and talk to peers about how they do their client meetings.
You land a software package, the team is happy and feel the solution is on the way.
3. Premature scaling:
As you execute the implementation you start to see the big picture and imagine how you’ll be doing 15 QBRs monthly for your 45 clients. The challenge becomes terrifying - the amount of activities and tasks to get done, all the preparation and connecting the dots. You start working on processes, customizing collaterals, and working on the process day and night.
Then time goes by and a handful of meetings is done; the team feels this is way too much effort for too little gain and loses momentum. The team finds another urgent project to work on and suddenly the QBRs fall by the wayside, and client meetings are not delivered.
Does this not describe what’s happening with your MSP? Let's go through this list...
- Why did your vCIO initiatives, IT Strategy Services and monetization of IT consultancy never take off?
- Why can your Technical Account Managers not communicate the increased values to clients and you find clients don’t value your services anymore?
- Why is your team still addressing the noisy clients rather than focusing on the high value clients with opportunities?
- Why can’t you get in front of new prospects and close high-value opportunities in a predictable way?
- Why do you cover the increased costs of IT security services in your MSP package rather than monetizing on IT Security as add-on services?
This is not your fault... this is a common symptom of what’s missing - a strategic approach to make improvements in your company.. Let's try another spin on this story:
1. Analyzing the symptoms but working on the root problems:
You go to that client meeting which did not go as planned. The client wasn’t engaged, didn’t seem to value your services, and were only interested in a price cut and not your next projects.
You go back and think it through and you realize that your service company has no Client Engagement "Department" at all. No foundations, no client segments, no roles, no playbooks defined and clients are generally served in a technical/tactical level but are not managed in a strategic way. Holy smokes, we need to do something.
We need to define the complete Account Management program and create resources to get somebody to run it!
2. Set a Smart Goal for a focused Burst:
We need a Burst of effective effort which will start the process in a low maturity setting and help us generate revenues to make it sustainable, work on the system and fine tune it. The goal, however, is not to get it perfect right away, only to start it and get momentum so you can set the foundation to fix it in the long term.
Set a Smart Goal for the quarter: "Increase Project Revenues by $100k in the next 90 days". We do not say "do a better QBR" or "Structure Account Management". We say something quite specific that we can achieve if we reverse engineer the goal to manageable pieces. Like doing 10 QBRs and landing $10,000 each. Now we can focus on the best course of action to land $10k on each QBR. This is actionable, feasible, and the team can actually get results AND develop the process at the same time.
3. Execute the Burst with the end in mind:
Now we have a plan, so we can work on the details that will generate momentum. We’re going to use the Burst of effort to generate as much value as we can with the limited resources we have. But we’ll focus on revenue generation which will be used to create the resources for the higher maturity operation later.
- We deliver QBRs to 10 clients who have security and infrastructure technology debts.
- We generate project roadmaps focusing on security and infrastructure averaging $10,000.
- We list 5 -10 low-hanging-fruit projects and customize our collaterals to focus on selling only those items to make the process simple enough.
- We run a high-value client meeting that results in agreement on the relevant projects.
- We do not customize, do not try to build a rocket ship and we do not automate... just ship it.
4. Create a machine to grow the momentum:
Now the Burst of effort was intentionally "immature", "simple", "minimum viable" or "beta". Why? Because the goal was not to fix symptoms but to be able to create capacity for delivering the required client engagement activities, introduce the concepts to clients and test the waters before we scale anything. We do not have an integrated approach, things are clumsy internally but the client facing part is optimized.
- We use the projects to get some breathing space and positive cash-flow,
- We refine the process and start customization and automation,
- We build on top of the foundation of QBRs and start conducting them regularly with lower value clients, and
- We introduce new ideas and new outcomes for each new QBR and start adding new tools like plans, budgets, roadmaps and so on.
Creating Smart Goals for a conscious Burst of effort with the end in mind and generating the capacity to put the process to the next level is a way to actually create something sustainable.
Without Smart Goals and the quick Burst, followed by no execution machine our initiatives, all we’ll become is noise makers, never taking off and not generating value within our MSP...like stealing money from ourselves?