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Build a Better MSP - Blog

4 min read

Productized IT Strategy Guidance to clients and prospects

By Denes Purnhauser on Feb 23, 2017

We had a great debate in our Banff Workshop about timing one’s IT Strategy correctly when meeting with new prospects. Some people were adamant the IT Strategy meeting be a requirement to even sending a proposal, while others were more inclined to implementing an IT strategy creation process after the onboarding, after we fix all the client’s technical issues. This is often the case in a workshop, when everybody was right but in conflicting ways. Let's see how to best approach this question.

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5 min read

Systematic service development process

By Denes Purnhauser on Feb 17, 2017

One of the hot topics in the bootcamp was a typical MSP issue - managing client agreements. The problem gets verbalized in different ways: "I have many new services I would like to sell to existing clients" or "I have to re-onboard all of our customers because the agreement is very old" or "I want to increase our prices to reflect the improvements and additional tools we introduced" or "I barely make any money and I need to renegotiate our prices". Sound familiar? We’d like to introduce a systematic approach to solve this problem for now and the future.


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4 min read

My 7 Ah-ha! moments on the first MSP 2.0 boot-camp

By Denes Purnhauser on Feb 9, 2017

We just finished our first ever live 3 day Managed Service Productization boot-camp in Banff, Canada. With 25 participants we worked to crack the code in scaling up the managed services. Jam-packed with real work, the workshop groups created amazing content and generated ideas that have been sparkling. I wanted to capture some of the more intriguing ideas the MSPs came up with.

I’ll be elaborating on these topics in upcoming weeks, since I see each topic as worthy of more than a blog post, but here are the main ideas. These are my personal Ah-ha! moments.

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4 min read

Debate on "All In" vs. "Modular" MSP pricing

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 9, 2016

The Managed Services business was created from the traditional suite of desktop management, backup, network and server support. Most MSPs now are offering various services outside the traditional managed infrastructure scope: application management, additional security or virtual CIO services. This is the evolution of managed services, and the right way, however many MSPs have just reactively added some of these services to stay relevant to their customers and protect the core MSP services. They might call themselves "your IT department." Let's check out why it’s a problem and what to do about it.

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7 min read

6 strategies to make MSP services more tangible

By Denes Purnhauser on Feb 26, 2016

One of the most common and largest hurdles for MSPs is difficulty expressing our value proposition properly, and hence differentiating ourselves.

There are two fundamental aspects of our industry responsible. First is the abstract nature of the proposition. The problems we solve are less tangible, like “competitive edge” or “staying ahead of the curve” rather than “keeping the lights on”. The second is the more managerial and higher level services such as solution selection, and team alignment and integration rather than executable defined processes like device management and remote monitoring. 

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2 min read

Execute your IT Strategy: interview with Gary Harpst

By Denes Purnhauser on Jan 15, 2016

We are continuing the “MSP 2.0 bestseller” series in January, as well. The pick for this month is Gary Harpst - Six Disciplines of Excellence. Gary has been a part of the IT industry since being the founder of the well known ERP solution Solomon Software that was sold to Great Plains then to Microsoft. After the acquisition he shifted his focus to one question: how to help companies to execute their strategies. He has put together a very solid methodology in a program called “Six Disciplines” and written a book about this topic. This book is in my top 10 business books and has changed my way of thinking.  I was privileged to meet him in person and have a long talk about these challenges.

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1 min read

Transform your MSP sales approach

By Denes Purnhauser on Dec 8, 2015

Branden Baker, President of Integration Technologies from Hawaii is a modern Tom Selleck. He shares a story about the transformation of his sales approach.

His team had not been able to close any MSP deals for more than a year. But he got involved in the vCIO conversation and after only a few weeks he landed his first monster six-figure deal.

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1 min read

MSP Financial Intelligence with Larry Cobrin

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 27, 2015

Larry Cobrin, CEO/Founder of MSP CFO, has been working on a project to make financials available for IT managed services provider to make better decisions. In my first call with him I knew we needed him to talk about finances! I was fascinated by his insights about clients’ profitability trends, classifying them and taking actions for better profitability.

He shares a lot of hints and tips about different data you need to look into (which are mostly available already in your PSA) for your organization to make better decisions. If you feel you are leaving money on the table check out this interview!

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2 min read

MSP 2.0 Podcast

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 27, 2015

We have been producing interviews with MSP Thought Leaders and with our clients for more than a year now. We started this as an ad-hoc practice to usher great MSP 2.0 insights into the community. People seem to be enjoying the free interview format without presentation, special offers and other sales tactics.

Now with over 16 interviews we’ve received a ton of feedback and the message we’re getting most often is to make the content available in a podcast format. Many people like listening to these inspiring talks during their commute, or just in the background.

So we have transferred all videos to a Podcast format and it’s available here.

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1 min read

Closing 11 Virtual CIO contracts in 3 weeks

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 20, 2015

Greg Tanner from Denver is a maverick, no question about it. His “Technology Quarterback™” slogan has become a meme among the MSP 2.0 community. We spoke the other day and I am still speechless. He started crafting this vCIO offering back in June, piece by piece, and started selling it in early October. Since then he’s closed 11 virtual CIO contracts with over 20K MRR! In this video, Greg shares the secrets to these amazing results. Be aware, he has very strong opinions about MSP 2.0. (Even stronger than me - Haha!)

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4 min read

5 ways MSPs can leverage Business Model Canvas 

By Denes Purnhauser on Sep 24, 2015

Business Model Canvas has been a very hot management tool recently. Personally I have created 100+ Business Models over the last couple years for clients and for our companies. One of our companies is even a "Use Case" in the Hungarian edition of the Business Model Generation Book. We have developed different ways for IT managed services providers to use the tool for different reasons. Let's take a look at 5 practical ways to leverage this tool.

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4 min read

Get out of the MSP commoditization trap

By Denes Purnhauser on Jun 12, 2015

One of the more common problems we see IT managed services providers suffer is increasing difficulty with the commoditization of services and differentiation within the industry. There are three factors involved here that we need to understand and manage to solve these problems. 

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5 min read

The 5 Levels of vCIO Operational Maturity

By Denes Purnhauser on Jan 30, 2015

The Operational Maturity segmentation makes a lot of sense when trying to understand where to go with vCIO services and which next possible steps to take.
It demonstrates the current maturity of services in a descriptive way, explains the differences, and provides hints and tips toward the next step.This article demonstrates how to proceed as a virtual CIO with respect to levels of operational maturity.

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2 min read

Build your MSP with the help of virtual CIO services

By Myles Olson on Jan 14, 2015

Colin Knox is a true entrepreneur in the managed services provider industry. He’s been operating a very mature and well-polished boutique managed services provider in Calgary, Canada.

He’s also been recognized by Penton Technology Group in the ‘MSP Mentor 250’ which lists the best of the best managed service provider executives, entrepreneurs, experts, coaches and community leaders.

Colin’s service philosophy involves helping people grow and to that end giving them a chance to learn and develop into virtual CIOs. His business growth focuses on high level services.

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8 min read

12 mistakes most MSPs make with their vCIO services

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 20, 2014

The virtual CIO phenomenon is not new, yet the promises of the role have not been realized across the industry. Some mature IT managed services providers who believe they have a functioning vCIO practice, on closer inspection, still show challenges with delivery, scalability and profitability.

While we could go in depth to identify the root of these problems, instead here we'll highlight the twelve most common mistakes MSPs make with their vCIO. At the end of this article there is a questionnaire where you can measure yourself against other IT companies.

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1 min read

Building up a 45 people rock solid MSP

By Denes Purnhauser on Nov 6, 2014

Build up a rock solid MSP

Chris Day is a Maverick in the MSP world. He is running one of the most advanced and mature IT managed services providers with his partner Sharleen Oborowsky. I had a chance to have a chat with him and to dig deep on how they achieved that success in a short time.

Chris seemed to crack the code on growth: people and execution. He is an avid book reader, community builder, leader, and an authentic down to earth guy.

You can expect: great hints, tips, honesty, bold statements and no nonsense. If you are just a little serious about your MSP it is a must-watch video.

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4 min read

Our first book: MSP 2.0 - The Managed Service Revolution

By Denes Purnhauser on Oct 15, 2014

I have to admit we haven't done a lot of blogging lately and there hasn't been a lot of new content, sorry. We do have an excuse: we have completed a book about the MSP 2.0 business model.

We got your awesome feedback on our content- thanks - including the observations that our ideas were all in little pieces, lacking real connection. We needed a more comprehensive and linear format to digest this new concept, and thought that the best way to do so was to write a book. Have a look at what we have to offer in this format, and how you can become a contributing part of the story.

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3 min read

How does the current definition of "IT" hurt your MSP business?

By Denes Purnhauser on Sep 9, 2014

There was a State of IT Budget Report - a microscopic view of North America IT spending in 2014 from Spiceworks (RMM tool) during the weekend. It was all about analysing IT expenditures based on a 450 sample size "IT Pro" survey.It was a good report, well-thought out and executed, but there was something bothersome to me that wasn’t the fault of Spiceworks: the general industry definition of scope of IT, and because this is the industry definition, it’s usually our clients’ as well.

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5 min read

Monetizing Client Apps and SaaS Solutions the Smart Way

By Denes Purnhauser on Sep 7, 2014

If you’re like me, you’re often evangelizing cool applications, services, and vendors to your clients. You have a cool feature on your Todo application, or you were able to integrate your CRM with LinkedIn, or you just collaborated with your team with an awesome project management tool. We spread the idea because we are advisors by nature. The question is how can we capitalize on this habit? How do we create service offerings around SaaS-based applications?

I hope you have read our monster blog article about the business model changes of the MSP. In this model there is an item called "Marketplace" in the partnership section, there are revenue streams called "Marketplace Commission" and "3rd Party project management," and there is an activity called "Resell Vendors, Applications."

The idea here is quite a common practice among IT managed services providers - finding a problem on the client side and helping them with an application. After deploying, manage the usage, subscription, and processes of the application. IT companies are mostly infrastructure providers, so they do these types of activities but in an ad-hoc way. What’s new here is the proactivity and a defined structure for these types of services.

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1 min read

Practice-building or Business-building Discussion

By Denes Purnhauser on Sep 4, 2014

James Vickery, a very progressive MSP CEO, had a couple of thought provoking questions. We’ve created a short talk to cover the issues he was curious about.

The main issues we are talking about:

  • Scalability of the consulting type businesses
  • The capacity of an average MSP 2.0 vCIO
  • Training and retaining high profile Virtual CIOs
  • Managing, motivating and keeping vCIOs
  • Building the practice for ourselves or building a business
  • Transitioning to the MSP 2.0 business model
  • Importance of checking the current and future business model
  • Importance of very consciously developing services

Check the audio file for the 20 minute talk here:

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1 min read

Webinar Takeaways on Selling IT Security and Compliance

By Denes Purnhauser on Aug 15, 2014

It was a really engaging talk with Steve Rutkovitz CEO of Choice Technologies. He is a very successful MSP practitioner specializing in IT Security and Compliance.

We were talking about MSP challenges, strategies, MSP sales processes, IT security and compliance opportunities and partnerships, and I learned the following:

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15 min read

The MSP 2.0 service offering in the 7C IT Management Framework

By Denes Purnhauser on Jul 27, 2014

We have been talking about the MSP 1.0 and MSP 2.0 business models recently. Now we are moving to the delivery side. What needs to be true to be able to say we do MSP 2.0?

The theories behind the business models are distinct from those behind the actual delivery. The MSP 2.0 model could be overwhelming as we’ve observed that changing the value proposition and solving the clients' IT management challenges means we must make numerous significant changes in our business approach.

We’ve developed the 7C IT Management Framework to solve this exact problem. It comprises a full suite of processes to enhance the IT management of clients in the 20-300 seat segment.
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18 min read

Cracking the code of the future of MSPs

By Denes Purnhauser on Jul 17, 2014

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a fundamental change in the MSP industry, and the subject may seem overwhelmingly complex. The change taking place is quite evident, but what’s inside the tornado? What is the force behind this change happening?

Understanding the underlying impetus will enable businesses to make more educated decisions where to drive their companies. Let’s demystify this change and put it in a very easy to digest format, as the core of the change is actually simple.

It is not our shortest Blog but I promise worth the read. You will see the change taking place and how it could help you drive enormous growth in the next couple years. So fasten your seatbelts!

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4 min read

The process of becoming the Trusted Advisor

By Denes Purnhauser on Jul 8, 2014

For Managed Services Providers (MSPs) the ultimate goal is becoming the ‘trusted advisor’ on all things IT.

We’ve created a process which enables MSPs to earn this trusted advisory role as fast as possible. The key is to understand the client, and in turn help them understand their situation and their opportunities.

Looking into the 7C Methodology and processes can be a tad overwhelming at first, we know. It’s so effective because it’s comprehensive, so there is a learning curve. However in our continuous effort to make everything as simple as possible, we’ll start by emphasising a couple of core concepts.

One of the crucial elements is the client reframing process. From the client’s perspective it’s a discovery process, the goal of which is to make the necessary transformation to start working with the client at a new level. The key component of the process is the Reframing 7C canvas workshop, where we ask questions of the client’s business in order to help the client rethink basic assumptions about IT and its management. Normally such a fundamental shift is a tough, very high level process, but if you’re properly prepared to ask the right questions and challenge the client, it can be a very easy and straightforward process.

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4 min read

Why are clients lately needing more consultative work from MSPs?

By Denes Purnhauser on Jul 5, 2014

So we all agree that IT companies are facing challenging times, right? We all need to figure out a new business model in the near future. But what about the clients? Are they facing a similar problem? We have to take a good look at what’s happening on the client side to understand the trend.

We’ll use a chart to make the explanation easier. We’re looking at how things have changed in the last couple years, and where it could go. 

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4 min read

The Story of the Struggle of an MSP that led to the ReframeYourClients Project

By Denes Purnhauser on Jun 23, 2014

Some of you have been asking us about our background, who we are, and why we’re doing ReframeYourClients. 

Our Challenge

One of our companies at first was an IT managed services provider. We’ve since reintegrated it into our holding company, but think telling its history will be illuminating...

We discovered that while our clients always needed consultancy on IT in general, we lacked a viable model to do it both properly and profitably. We’ve tried to incorporate the consultancy into the MSP high-end package, and tried to do T&M. Neither approach was satisfactory.

But the pressure just gets heavier as we’ve been witnessing the evaporating services on our MSP practice, accompanied by ever increasing needs of the clients for IT management, vCIO, and 3rd-party-project management, all while IT gets more complex in terms of organization management.

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9 min read

MSP 1.0 vs. MSP 2.0 [video]

By Denes Purnhauser on Jun 20, 2014

MSP 1.0 is not widespread yet as a business model, and there is already the new 2.0 model.

What are the key differentiators between the two models? The following will refer to an average MSP 1.0 and MSP 2.0 practice.

We are assuming that the MSP 2.0 model is heavily supported by an MSP 2.0 framework, which is crucial. The differentiations may seem simplistic, but our aim is to show the possible limitations and challenges of the MSP 1.0 model, and the opportunities of the MSP 2.0.

Keep in mind that MSP 2.0 is not a substitution of the MSP 1.0 model. It is an expansion. You can move your existing 1.0 services forward, but with 2.0 as a companion the new options are going to be very promising.

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3 min read

3 ways to segment the market for MSP 2.0 services for maximum effect

By Denes Purnhauser on Jun 17, 2014

Many MSPs are not able to well define their target segments. The result can be a huge sales effort with disappointing sales closes. There are three main differentiating factors we could use to fine tune service directed toward the different segments:

  • Industry, verticality
  • Seats
  • Complexity

IT managed services providers could divide their market among three segments described below to benefit from more focused communication and delivery strategies.

The 3 minute video discusses the segmentation based on seats and complexity.

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5 min read

How to decide whom to transfer from Time and Material to MSP contract?

By Denes Purnhauser on Jun 7, 2014

Every IT managed services provider wants to convert as many Time and Material clients to MSP contracts as possible. However not every client can benefit from the advanced services of the proactive MSP model.
Based on our experience, our clients, and our ITCq research, we’ve found there are certain types of companies that could not consume the MSP recurring services.

Identifying these companies is always a struggle, so here are a couple of tips to properly selling the MSP services.
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2 min read

Research: World of Virtual CIOs on LinkedIn

By Peter Torbagyi on May 12, 2014


I was interested about the vCIO, vCTO, and Virtual Executive types of services. So my colleague Peter did some research on LinkedIn on the topic. Keep in mind everything herein is based on LinkedIn publicly accessible data...it’s interesting but there’s a limit to the depth of research you can do this way.So in general, I found that clearly the Virtual CIO industry is driven by the US. I can confirm this from personal experience, that American MSPs are much more comfortable with this term than European or even Canadian IT managed services providers.

  • since 70% of vCIOs are hired by companies with under 200 employees, and 9% to large organizations (10,000+), there must be some local support need for interim or part-time high level IT executives.
  • when looking at companies offering vCIO services, 97% have fewer than 50 employees and just over half (55%) have a staff roster of under 10.

Here’s our slide deck on our findings

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