If you’re an MSP or a break/fix guy trying to climb the ladder, you’re juggling a lot. Sometimes, just keeping your head above water seems like a losing battle. Becoming more proactive is a dream. And that vacation? One of these years…
Day-to-day, you face challenges, like figuring out what your first moves should be, how you’ll operate (such as the RMM Software and other tools you’ll need), your pricing strategy, how to keep your commitments, how to handle quotes for little (but important) stuff, whether you need professional services automation, how to offer cloud services and make money doing it, and whether it’s worth the fuss to set up a knowledge base.
Phew! That sound like a lot! To help you digest it all, we’ve pulled together a list of MSP Best Practices that should help seasoned pros as well as newbies navigate these diverse issues.
Figure out if this is really the right direction for you
Any aspiring MSP needs to have a deep think about whether this is the right move. Is it really the direction you want? Are you fooling yourself into believing there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? You have to do that before settling on an hourly rate, what your SLA (service level agreement) will cost, then what you will sell it for, and the array of products you’ll offer.
Plan how you’ll operate
There are certain things you’ll need to put in place as you transform into an MSP. You’ll need to decide on your internal stack, the client stack, network equipment, backups. Plus you should spec out the RMM Software you’ll utilize and whether you’ll need professional services automation. Map out your operations before you take the plunge. Don’t assume that you’ll flip the switch and suddenly leave the break/fix world behind. It’ll be a transition—and you might always have some break/fix work that just won’t go away. Another thing, while being an MSP can be very lucrative, it can also be very challenging. Anticipate a year or so when you’ll be pulling your hair out. If you have any left after a year, you’ll be ahead of the game. Going in, you have to have a solid plan.
Do not underprice your work
Think long and hard about your pricing model. Going in cheap might get you a job, but you’ll have a hard time moving up the food chain after that. You’ll be pigeon holed at that price. And you probably won’t end up with long-term clients that way. They’ll always be looking for a cheaper option. Show your value to a client and price yourself appropriately. And when those urgent break/fix calls do come in, adjust your rate accordingly. Think the Uber model—rides are cheap when no one needs one, but more expensive in rush hour.
Keep your word
Sure, it’s a cliché, but honesty is the best policy. Don’t tell a client you can do something when you know it’s a dicey proposition. Level with them and tell them the truth. They’ll appreciate it in the end. Be clear on objectives, timelines, and deliverables with every client every time.
Handle quotes for small parts, cables, etc., quickly
Small parts, cables and associated items are not significant in the grand scale of things, but it’s important to have a process in place for quoting prices. The same process you use for quoting large-scale projects and installations might be overkill for an HDMI cable or a small hard drive. It just takes too much time—and before you know it, you’re in the red. Sell your clients that, for anything under a certain dollar figure (maybe $100), you’ll provide a verbal quote and then take a credit card to pay for it. Make billing for your smaller items as frictionless as possible.
Utilize professional services automation (PSA) to ensure you have an audit trail
The mix of spreadsheets, manual processes and assorted email trails might have gotten you through as a break/fix operation. But to be a true MSP, you need to have PSA in place—or at the very least some kind of CRM. Every bit of data related to your clients should be in the system. Then, when you complete work, you can automate the process of billing from the system directly—or export to an app like QuickBooks. The key here is having a process that everyone in your organization can follow easily—everything from technical order fulfillment to accounting review. It’s not exciting stuff, but a workflow that notifies accounting of tickets that include products or expenses is critical to ensure billing is done quickly and accurately.
Offer cloud services as a value-add
If you’re not playing in the cloud, you’re not keeping up with the times. But, how can you make money? With either Office 365 or Google, it’s hard to make a profit from the cloud products themselves. We suggest packaging cloud offerings with your other services as a value-add. On your service contracts, support for a cloud service could add maybe $1 per mailbox per month or one hour of service per year. Make it simple and don’t try to reap too much profit.
Set up a knowledge base only if it’s right for you
A knowledge base sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? You have to have one, right? Maybe, maybe not. Here’s a better question: Should you spend time and money setting up your own—no matter how specific your market needs are? Of course, it depends on the size of your shop. If it’s a 50-person operation, and your help desk is inundated with the same requests over and over again, then you should probably create one. But remember to keep it current (yep, those articles can get old pretty quick) and include a link to it at the top of your help desk forms and in the auto-responders. If you’re a smaller operation, maybe have a few answers ready to go, but use a cloud-based solution—and even Google—as a first response.
Keep on Keepin’ on
Keeping your business humming right along means taking obstacles out of the way. The MSP Best Practices we covered here are by no means an exhaustive list. There is a lot you can do every day to make life easier for you and your colleagues. But starting with a few of the fundamentals we outlined should set you up nicely. Then, the sky’s the limit.
Finally: A Tools Checklist
Sure, the sky’s the limit, but you didn’t actually think we’d leave you just like that, did you? Here’s our MSP Best Practices checklist for the tools you should consider working with, including some recommendations.
- RMM, PSA & Remote Access tools: you won’t hear us say anything on this subject—although we do have an idea or two! 😉
- Accounting software that can easily integrate with a PSA software: Quickbooks Online or Xero are both great choices.
- Virtual Phone System: A product like Grasshopper is ideal.
- Email Marketing: Mailchimp is a great choice.
- Team messaging: Slack is the clear leader.
- Optional: An MSP marketing agency. Some say it did wonders for them, some say it didn’t. It’s your call.