In a sentence…they do everything possible to keep their business ahead of the competition. In talking with the owners of many successful solution providers, I find that they are always looking for ways to improve their business (e.g. save costs, reduce redundancy, improve customer service, build stronger supplier relationships, learn etc.). I get the feeling that they are more interested in building their business than the actually technology itself.
They seem to have great pride in seeing their clients grow their business by leveraging technology, but they understand that they are also running a business and when they run their own business better, it puts them in a better position to help their clients do the same. Sort of “practice what you preach”. Many tell me that they use much of the same technology in their business that they sell to their clients.
I get to talk to hundreds of MSPs, VARs and ITSPs every year and I am always keen to learn how they became successful and their challenges. I learn many new things, but I also see patterns. This business intelligence is actually what led us to develop VAR Office Suite. They often tell me that they wish that the VAR Office Suite resource was available earlier as it took them way too much time to find, evaluate and implement the tools that they needed to run their business. In many cases, some of the tools proved to be not a good fit and they lost a lot of time and money.
An alarming number of MSPs, VARs and ITSPs say that they have “no competition”. While it is a nice imaginary mind-set, we all have competition. Thinking that you have no competition, is probably not a good mindset, even if it were true. In the IT sector, there are about 100,000 companies selling IT solutions. Chances are we all have some level of competition. It seems like smart solution providers are always thinking that their competition is catching up or over-taking them. It may be a factor that keeps pushing them to do better.
Successful solution providers always find time to work on their business instead of only in their business. One made an interesting comment “The captain of a ship never goes to the engine room to fix a problem without first ensuring that the ship is headed in the clear and with someone left on the bridge”. It is obvious, yet too often IT companies are so busy that management is constantly putting out “fires” at the expense of actually running their business. It is a good indication that you are well on your way to success if you are able to delegate others to put out these “fires”.
Almost all of the successful solution providers said that they had many big challenges to overcome. Some said at times they did not think that they would make it. Many say that they still face challenges every day. Again, their determination to succeed helped them to dig-in to solve their problems. It is much easier to turn a troubled business into a success than starting a new business. Chances are if your business is already in trouble, then you may not be able to get out of trouble without some help. Pride and ego aside, with the right help most businesses can be turned around. The business got to where it is by doing something right in the first place. It may only be having issues because of growing pains, processes, leadership or market conditions. It is not too difficult to uncover the problems and set a plan to fix. It can actually be an exciting challenge.
We have yet to find any business that could not be helped. Even ones that are beyond repair can still find some value by selling some assets to a competitor. I know of a few VARs who became bigger by simply finding other VARs going bankrupt and buying their customer list. It was a goldmine of stranded or dissatisfied customers primed for them to prospect!
After analyzing many successful solution providers we discovered that there are about 30 moving parts to their business. Did you know that there are about 18 steps to procuring an IT product? These same 18 steps are repeated many times every day, adding up to about 2 to 3 hours of valuable time lost forever. This process can be automated to reduce over 80% of the time! Just 2 hours per day translates to 10 hours per week. This works out to roughly a full working day that you could gain to do something more constructive like improving your business or selling more. It adds up to over 2.5 months of saved time each year, per sales rep! It is inefficiencies like this that hurt a business. And, this is only one aspect of the business.
Think of inefficiencies like a hole in a bucket that keeps draining your resources. To keep the bucket full, you either have to keep filling it with more resources or plug the hole. Which would you rather do?
We recently wrote an article on a 12-step program to help VARs, MSPs or ITSPs go from “drunk to sober” in business. While the steps could vary depending on the individual strengths of each company, theses steps will move the business towards more success. After these 12 steps are accomplished, you can add the other steps much easier. Fine-tuning a successful business is so much easier and more fun – especially for the owners.
If you are already successful, then you are probably moving on to the next business improvement. This constant drive to improve the business is a clear attribute of being a successful IT Solution Provider. The secret may be in enjoying the process of building a successful business instead of the just selling technology.
Start today! If you had to pick just one thing that you feel needs improving in your business, what would that be?
By Julian Lee