To me the single biggest challenge of the MSP industry is the level leadership experience and expertise. This is because as an industry we have done very little to develop the next generations of leaders to step up as many of the experienced people have moved on to Corporate, the Channel or out of the industry completely.
There is main reason for this is simple, most of us Small Business Owners don’t know how to properly develop our leaders, and there has been very little support for our industry in our part of the world to do it.
I see so many good people with potential in our industry not developing like they should or worse completely floundering because they aren’t being supported to grow. This is impacting not only them personally, but stunting the growth of businesses and limiting their ability to evolve and adapt to changing market conditions.
I am fortunate to work with so many MSPs and get to see under the hood into their operations, below are the common things that I see with businesses that aren’t developing their leaders
- A manager that gets some things but isn’t meeting the visions of the owner
- A manager that is unsure how they are doing or what they should be doing
- Best effort in the service department not working towards business goals or financials
- Constant question asking – Everything is waiting on the Owner to make a decision on, so managers not making decisions
- Wasted meetings – We spend so much time in meeting that there is a lot of talk but no action
- Leaders not being able to make changes in the business because the owner doesn’t trust them to do it successfully
- Wasted time jumping from one focus to another, leaving half done initiatives
- Constant time on reinventing the wheel. Focus spent on doing the same thing harder and faster, rather than jumping the curve to the next level of maturity
All of these end up with us being ineffective, limit our profitability, reduce the ability of the owner to have holidays and causes frustration for the leaders and employees. For many of us we are stuck in this cycle, but we aren’t doing anything to break it.
What is important to acknowledge is that there is only one person in the business that can really change this, the Owner! It is on us to invest in our people and develop them to grow, so that the business can grow and develop.
The reasons for this are listed below;
- We as the Business Owner don’t have enough time in the day to sit down with our leaders and develop them
- We don’t know how to mentor leaders
- We don’t know what to mentor them on
- We don’t know how to measure success in the business
- We don’t do business planning so don’t have the focus to provide a direction and accountability
- We don’t know how to properly structure meetings
- We don’t actually know what good looks like for MSP operations
The first step to improving is to identify our weaknesses, if you have one or more of the 7 reasons above you can look at actions to resolve the issues.
Here are some action steps you could look at to get yourself unstuck and start developing your leaders so that you can stop carrying the full burden of being a Small Business Owner and give a growth path for our leaders.
- Undertake Deliberate Learning – Be a leader yourself and improve your knowledge, read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos on YouTube, take courses. If you are doing this you can share that knowledge and your leaders will follow and come on the journey. If you aren’t developing why would your leaders?
- Get outside help – Getting the right coach can make the biggest differences to you, your people and the business. A coach is that constant that adds another leader to the business to help everyone grow, if you can find someone that knows MSPs you will also get that expert knowledge of what good looks like
- Implement a strategic business system – Many MSPs have seen massive changes in alignment, execution, accountability and buy in from implementing something like EOS, StratOp or Gazelles helps you as the owner get your vision out and a structure to setting direction
- Create a Development Plan – Create a success profile for the job role which includes what the responsibilities are for it and what the measures of success are. Taking the time to clarify what the job should be helps both you and the leader understand what we are working towards, from there we can highlight the gaps that need to be worked on
- Set a Meeting Rhythm – Set out the meetings you will have, the frequencies, the duration and agendas, then stick to them to create consistency. With the right agenda and frequency you can focus on the key items that you need to work through. 1 on 1s being extremely important, this should ideally be weekly so that there is frequent feedback.
- Expose Yourself and your Leaders to the wider Industry – Attending industry events and getting involved in Peer Groups can make a huge difference to changing mindsets. Having the opportunity to see what others are doing helps create a wider context to decisions as we get a better understanding. It is far too easy to get stuck in our isolated bubbles and only know what we know.
There are many more things you can do, but these basic next actions are a great place to start.
Developing and empowering your leaders is how you are able to work less, grow your business, create more value for sale and most importantly give those good people that work for you a purpose and growth for themselves.
With the disruption happening in the market now and the tidal wave that is coming, it is so important be working on this now, it takes years to develop next level leadership, so the longer you wait to start, the longer it will take to have what future you needs.
About the author
James Davis is the Director of Pax8 Academy Asia. Originally from Canberra, he recently moved as far south as he could to Hobart. He joined the Sea-Level family in 2020 to grow the Sea-Level Operations offering locally in the APAC Region, joining Pax8 in May 2022 to elevate the industry through education.
James is a coach that has over 16 years industry experience in owning and managing SMBs. His core purpose is “To create freedom from chaos from the lives of others so they can thrive and grow”.
He values personal development, always trying to learn something new to build his body of knowledge to grow as a person and leader. James tries to share his knowledge and experience as much as possible, believing in the go-giver mentality.