Sun, 23 November 2014
Richard speaks with 3 of the top MSP Vendors at the 2014 CompTIA EMEA Conference in London to understand how their tools can help IT Managed Service Providers (MSP's) help their clients and make more money.
Richard Tubb: So I'm here at the CompTIA EMEA Conference with Ben Lange of Rummage. How are you doing Ben?
Ben Lange: I'm very well, thanks. How are you doing?
Richard: Good! So tell us a little bit about Rummage.
Ben: Rummage is a fast search organization tool. We did some research when we had problems ourselves and that was when it comes to at managing, organizing and finding your data it can be very difficult. And more and more of this day and ages, technology creeps into our lives and we're making files, we're sending files, we're sharing them and we're storing in all sorts of different areas.
And a lot of the time when it comes to surfacing information, trying to get them back and just organizing all, it takes a lot of time to do so.
What Rummage does, it gets to know you a little bit, it understands your contacts and sucks them in from LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and these sort of mediums. And it also analyzes your file and folder structure within your organization. Gets to know your projects and your clients and it automatically generates tags.
We found that if you're a meticulous organizer, so that's fine, you can find things but often colleagues are sending them, they're sharing them, they're storing them in locations and other people can't find them when they want to. And they waste time at work when it comes to looking for this information. And so we created a typing engine, it's an automatic typing engine that it will go through all your files, gets to know what's important to you and tags everything appropriately.
Richard: So you mentioned that it brings you files from lots of different locations so for instance myself, I'm a Google Apps user, I use Gmail, I also use Google Drive, as well as Dropbox, and I’ve got a local NAS with files in there. Would Rummage help me to sort it out those type of files?
Ben: Absolutely would. What we've been developing the past year is the alpha, and that works at the moment, it works on a local machine. But that includes you know, you've got Dropbox folders there, you've got Google Drive's folders there, you've got your local email, so currently, the free version out now today will do all that and will scan these mediums. What we're working on now is bringing even more things to the front, to the forefront. Where we will index your cloud services.
Everything, all in one place is what we're aiming for, so if you do use Dropbox, you do send attachments, you do have things locally, or on shared drive, or in the cloud and don't waste time looking for it. Rummage has done that hard work for you and just use that.
Richard: And how much time would you estimate people do waste looking across these various services of files?
Ben: That's a very good question. Actual fact The Wall Street Journal mentioned but recently, it's a phenomenal statistic. I can't quite remember but it says a ballpark of couple of hours a week.
Richard: Couple of hours a week.
Ben: Per person. Wasted just looking for data, just trying manage all those emails, manage all those files everywhere. It’s about surfacing information. And in this day and age, where we expect technology to work and we're busy, I need it now and Rummage provides.
Richard: Who were you working with to get the products out to end users? You're working with IT solution providers and managed-service providers. What is an ideal client look like for you?
Ben: That's good question. You know, an ideal client will be anybody in a small medium business who know where money is tight. They don't have enterprise-level solutions, they don't have enterprise-level search organization. And at of the moment, we've taken a sort of a low risk self- fund approach.
We’ve developed the idea completely in house and we now have the alpha out there. So it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to look for partners and talk to managed service providers and talk to the IT world and say, “Look, we've got a fantastic idea”. We produce the alpha, we’ve got downloads, we’ve got users, we're really kicking off and it's a great time to connect with us and talk about our product.
Richard: If anybody listening this, so this can tell where a busy conference, the EMEA Conference has lots going on around us. The conversations that you've had with IT solution providers and managed-service providers, what’s their feedback for Rummage?
Ben: Feedbacks been quite positive. Being really happy with the conversation I've had. It’s not for every MSP, not everybody wants to take a piece of software and then bundle it up with the package that they already produced. But then what I really discovered here talking to managed service providers is that here's a lot of differences on how they approach their profession.
I really think having some fantastic conversations that it is a tool that MSP's can get on board with because at the end of the day they’re providing service to their clients and that service is all about productivity, it's all about efficiency. Rummage is about that. It's about saving time for the end-user and essentially for the MSP.
We actually might be reducing the number of support tickets they get from clients if their clients aren't calling them up saying, “I've lost this, I don't know where my data is,” because Rummage helps you visualize all your data.
Richard: So helping the MSP to lower the cost of customer support?
Ben Lange: You can say that.
Richard: Fantastic. So if anybody listening to this wants to find out more about Rummage, how will they get in touch with you Ben, how will they look at Rummage on the web?
Ben Lange: Absolutely, we're on the main social platform so I'd say the best place is in our website and that's getrummage.com. And you can contact us directly through the website. Of course, we got Twitter and Facebook as well. So our Twitter handle is @getrummage and Facebook is www.facebook.com/getrummage.
Richard: I like the uniformity!
Ben: Thank you very much.
Richard: Well thanks for your time, Ben. Enjoy the rest of the conference.
Ben: No problem at all. Thanks for your time.
Richard: I'm here in CompTIA EMEA Conference with David Clarke of Benemen UK. How are you doing Dave?
David Clarke: I'm doing good actually Richard thanks so much.
Richard: Good. So tell us a little bit about Benemen UK and what you do.
David: Okay. We started recently in the UK, a Finnish based company. The business started at 2008. It's cloud-based telephony and it does a few sort of quite clever things. It integrates mobile fixed and unified communications in one platform. What does that mean? It means that all the devices you use for telephony or extensions of the same system.
So whether that be your mobile, your desktop, VOIP phone or if you're using Microsoft Link on your computer. As I said, it place everything together in one platform, so your mobile truly is an extension of the same network. Your link client is truly an extension of the network and call-center functionality can be delivered right through at that and there some extra things that can happen. You can have call recording on any device.
If you're in a different country and somebody rings you, you can take your call through your link client rather than on your mobile to avoid roaming charges. But people are still phoning your mobile number or you can be presenting a fixed line number whichever you choose. It's a lot of flexibility in the system.
Richard: What type of clients are actually using this system alone? So you got some great samples of somebody who’s benefited in this system.
David: We’ve got a number of organizations that had a large sales focus so they got people who work from offices or right from client premises. And for them it’s the flexibility of being able to use this wherever they are. But also there are reporting functionality within the system.
So if you got people like that, it's important to for them to know, who are their important customers? Who are their important conversations? There’s a lot of reporting built into it in the background. We've got other organizations that have small sort of offices in other countries so for them it's important for everybody to be included in the same network.
Richard: We're at the EMEA Conference and there's a lot of IT solution providers, managed-service providers, so which particular types of IT businesses are you looking to partner with?
David: We're not looking for huge numbers of partners. What we want to find is partners who have a similar view of the world to us, who perhaps are offering innovative services. So on the straight IT service provider’s side, people who are moving their business into managed services. They see telephony as an important aspect for their overall IT support that they're providing to those people. So people who are supporting installations of 50 to sort of 500 users maybe across multiple sites. That's on the solution provider’s side.
Then maybe other businesses who have a background of selling PBX systems and are now perhaps moving into cloud-based systems to replace those old PBX's as they become end of life and unsupported anymore. Or the vendor who made those things has been acquired for the 5th or 6th time by somebody and so their clients are looking for something A to replace what they've got but probably to add some functionality to the operation.
And there will be a lot of resellers who are selling link maybe as just a unified solution COM solution that people use in-house and we can actually add telephony to that and then perhaps build an overall service package from that.
Richard: And what about the barriers of entry for the partners, do you have certain levels that you look for or sales targets that you need to achieve. What does that look like?
David: The more important thing, the relationship. I was introduced to CompTIA by Mark from Pensar who I've known for some time and people like Mark have very progressive and collaborative view of the market place. And that fits really well with how we see the world. We have a number of partners in our business that we collaborate with and bring them in as the one that is required. And I think is that approach more than anything else that we look for rather than in the early stages, the hard numbers or the targets, so that kind thing.
The relationship is key because if we have a good relationship, then the way people do business is they do business with people like them and so their clients are going to be a reflection of a type of a provider they are and that's what we're looking for. That's the most important thing for us.
Richard: Makes a lot of sense, absolutely. So in terms of the benefits of the IT companies that you partnered with, what does the opportunity look like in terms of pounds and pence?
David: If you look at the moment in Finland and across some other countries, we're looking at sort of average revenues per user up in some instances about 60 or 70 pounds a user. And it’s going to be earning a good margin in that. So you could be talking on something like that. The potential to be earning a margin of perhaps 20 pound a user out of that. Which if you think of 50, 100, couple 100 users then that can build into something that is pretty substantial part of the business.
And we don't say to them, “This is what you got to sell this for,” because recognize more of the not, they’re probably going to be including maybe this as part of an overall package. And for us, if it can add value and they can add a premium to that, then so much are better for them.
Richard: And that's exactly where we met. It’s on Twitter – Follow Friday! So lovely to meet you at last, Dave. Hope you enjoyed the conference and thank you for your time today.
David: Thank you very much, Richard. Cheers.
Richard: I'm here at the CompTIA EMEA Conference with Mark Charleton of Distributive Blue Solutions. How are you doing Mark?
Mark: Today has been really good actually, it's a good opportunity to network with vendors, and some nice MSPs so I’ve had some good conversations.
Richard: Excellent. Just before we got on air, we're talking about App River. For the listeners on the podcast who have never heard it before. Perhaps you could explain a little bit why it‘s a benefit to MSPs.
Mark: So App River is one of our new vendors we have just signed up so there are a cloud provider, offering kind of anti-spam and web security in the cloud. And they’ve also got a good history with host and exchange. Got over eight million mailboxes worldwide, so got good heritage there. And they’re also one of the few syndication partners in the world. Particularly there’s only three with a two-tier distribution agreement, I wish we’ve got.
We now have access to the Office 365 portfolio, an importantly for partners it gives the partner the ability to own their relationship with the customer. It means we bill you, you add your margins to it. You retain the controller over the bill, the relationship and the support.
Richard: And what so benefits do you see the solutions bringing to an MSP ahead of what is a fairly crowded market?
Mark: Office 365 is obviously kind of a Microsoft driven product and you’ve got the alternatives from Google and you got to make your choice for end users what is appropriate. But a lot of the feedback in the channel was that they didn't like handling over the relationship to Microsoft, they wanted to retain that stickiness that was important to them really.
And on the advisor program, they kind of felt that they lost that closeness with their customer. So this agreement is exactly the same service, it's exactly the same screws, it's the same bundles running out the same data center. There’s no degradation of service or anything. It's just the relationship is yours.
Richard: So it seems to me, if a no-brainer why would MSP go with Microsoft when they can work with Blue Solutions to deliver this?
Mark: There's always resellers that feel there's an advantage buying direct from a vendor and maybe you kind of need the experience their kind of support offering and their billing process and decide whether it works for you or not. On the advisor program, there's many, many different stories of rebates and how much you get and you know when you get them our model gets you up front margin.
One of the great challenges with Microsoft as people are probably aware is they kind of change the rules so things start off looking really, really good and then they will reduce your margin. Your discount is reduced, your NFR is reduced and they recently just reduced the action pack down from 250 seats with office 365 down to five, you don't get that restrictions through Blue Solutions.
Richard: For anybody listening to this who wants to find out more about Blue Solutions as a distributor how will they go about that?
Mark: BlueSolutions.co.uk or call into the main sales team. I've got a product specialist that looks after the app services at Office 365, you can have a 30-day free trial with all those services, you get a call supervision with your customers.
Fri, 31 October 2014
Why do so many Managed Service Providers (MSP's) understand the importance of Marketing to help them acquire new clients and grow their business, yet don't make the time to consistently do effective marketing?
Effective MSP Marketing
In episode 5 of TubbTalk, Richard speaks with to discuss the biggest mistakes MSP's make when it comes to marketing, understanding why MSP marketing needs to be consistent, and looking at options to ensure effective marketing for MSP's.
Richard: Gemma, thanks for joining me! How are you?
Gemma Telford: I am good. Thank you.
Richard: Cool. Thank you for joining me today. Now, you have been in the IT arena for quite some time. Tell us a little bit about your background and where you come from before you set up the IT Marketing Agency.
Gemma: Okay I have been in the IT channel for a number of years now. I guess my first kind of big role was of a Head of Marketing at Ingram Micro. So I headed a marketing team there of about 15 people, looking after all vendor and reseller marketing for the UK Channel. And I left there a few years back now. I went back to Agency Land and then to IT Marketing Agency in the spring of 2013.
Richard: Cool. How have things gone since you set things up?
Gemma: They have gone really well and the business is good, going from strength to strength. We are now up to 10 people this year and we’ve got a number of clients on board that were working with across a whole range of things from strategy, to marketing execution, across content social, web marketing, and digital whole range. It has been actually a brilliant year.
Richard: What does a typical client look like for your business?
Gemma: We work across the channel so we work with vendors, and resellers, and DCs. I think the strength about what we do is we offer marketing as a service. So we have got a range of services that we can wrap around depending on what that client needs.
We are not prescriptive about how we do marketing. It is very much looking at how marketing and sales are aligned, and what the end goals of the businesses are and what they are trying to get to, and really helping them from a strategy down viewpoint to realise those goals.
Richard: Obviously, we have known each other for a while now and I am very aware of your experience within the IT market as a whole. But there are going to be some IT solution providers watching today and thinking, "Oh great. Another marketing person starting at their own marketing agency." Why is what you are doing different to any other marketing business out there?
Gemma: Because we center very much on marketing for the channel. I have been in marketing now for a long time but I think there is a real lack of marketing agencies who know the channel really well.
Obviously, having worked Ingram, I know the distributed channel very well. I have worked with a number of vendors independently and also worked with resellers. I worked with Network Group for a while helping them set up their strategic marketing. And I have worked with individual resellers.
And I think the good thing about the team that we have put together is they are real experts in the channel. We understand the dynamics of how the channel works and we understand how to leverage that to get the best out of it.
Richard: Let us talk about resellers, IT solution providers for a moment. In your experience, what are the biggest mistakes that MSPs and IT solution providers make when it comes to marketing?
Gemma: I think the biggest mistake that MSPs and solution providers make is not to do any marketing. Many businesses are set up by often a technical person and it is just not something they know about or they are not comfortable with. And apart from that I think really is a lack of knowledge.
What does good marketing look like? There is always that joke about marketing being the covering development, the branding, elements, and things like that are really important. But again for us, marketing is always linked to sales. And it is about getting that end result and the return on your investment. I think In terms of mistakes that people make, it is just one from not knowing where to go and what good marketing looks like.
Richard: What about the free resources that are out there? You come a from a vendor world, from the distributor world there’s many available from marketing development funds. There is co-branded marketing. Current IT solution providers may--I could say may do--but can IT solution providers use this material and get good results?
Gemma: Yes, certainly I think there is a whole plethoraof different materials out there from vendors and distributors. And I am sure in a limited way that can certainly help resellers it’s certainly than doing nothing.
But I think there are a couple of problems around that. One is the vendor message is going out to market and that ties you into that vendor. And secondly, there is no targeting around your own businesses. No messaging about what your business does that is different to anyone else in that space. Why is solution provider is X better than solution provider Y? What do you do that is different? What can you bring to the party?
And I think the other danger is that some of the big vendor brands are sending out campaigns nationally all at the same time. So potentially, your end user customer might get exactly the same email from you and the competitor all at the same time. Again, there is nothing there to differentiate your business.
Richard: The vast majority of MSPs that I work with tends to be owner/managers who are technical in nature. And they almost feel, across the board, almost embarrass about putting themselves out there blowing their own trumpets. And that is existentially what marketing is, putting yourself out there and saying how good you are.
How do IT business owners overcome their reluctance to do marketing and that very British thing about not telling people how good you are?
Gemma: It is something that, believe or not, I sympathize. You got me to do this video and I am terrible at putting myself out there personally as well so I completely get that.
Working with a good marketing agency, what they’ll help you to do is to draw that story out of you. It does not mean sitting down in a room and you say, "Okay." What we do that is great is actually through a conversation you can help people to identify what are the strengths in their business. What have they done really well?
And often when you get them talking about clients that they have worked with or projects that they have worked on, it becomes clear that there are key things that they are doing right. And sometimes it is just as simple as saying, "Well, that was great wasn’t it?" And they go, "Oh yes."
Richard: In your experience for Managed Service Providers, what is the biggest challenge for them working with a marketing agency that might meet down their local BNI or breakfast networking group. What are the biggest challenges they might come across working with a marketing agency like that?
Gemma: I think the thing is that unlike case finder marketing agency who specializes in their arena. While the principles of marketing are the same regardless of which vertical you are in or which space. I think that someone that you meet at BNI would probably be doing marketing and branding for a number of businesses. They won’t have the in depth knowledge. They won’t have the technical understanding of what the solution providers are trying to get across. They won’t necessarily understanding from an end user point of view. What are the things that those end users are looking for?
Again, it is not just getting out the messaging about you and your business. It is understanding what the audience is looking for from you and helping to provide that content back to them.
Richard: What about when it comes to budget? A lot of IT solution providers would be thinking that, "We need new clients through the door. We wants new clients through the door." But it seems like an awful lot of money if we go to a marketing agency they are going to charge us the earth for these big productions, and these big campaigns, and everything. Realistically, from your experience in the industry, is that the case or working with marketing teams do you get a good return of investments?
Gemma: I think that it easy to spend a lot of money on marketing and a lot of that can be around doing things that look really good or thinking you have to have a professionally printed brochure and you need 5,000 of them. And actually it is straightforward these days particularly with social media and things like that to develop a core of content that works for you really well and works hard for you. And it does not need to be that expensive.
The other thing to consider about in investment in marketing is that it does a number of things for you so it can help you often cross sales and in your existing customers as well. You also need to consider what the lifetime value of new clients is.
So you might be investing 5,000 in marketing. But if it bring in five new clients, they are spending 5,000 pounds a year with you and they’re likely to be a costumer for five years actually when you look at that return on that investment it is much greater than your initial investment.
I think one other thing to consider is that marketing is not a quick fix. You do not send out an email and one month then you have five new customers. It is a drip feed. And actually some recent researchers showed that if a customer has never heard of you, getting from never having heard of you to buying process can actually take up to seven or eight touches. You need to be out there consistently with your messaging.
Richard: Which lead us to one of the biggest challenges that IT companies have in that they do not have a consistent pipeline. They typically think about marketing when times are getting tough. And by then it’s often too late is that true?
Gemma: Absolutely yes. Again, I think it is one of those things that something we talked about earlier is that some businesses are waiting until everything is perfect before they get going on the marketing push. But actually you can do things that have an impact immediately and everything does not need to be perfect but you do need to keep going out there the same as you do with your sales effort. You do not suddenly pick up the phone when you realize that there are no orders in that month. You need to be building those conversations and relationships overtime.
Richard: It is interesting something that you said earlier on about upselling. Most people think about marketing as bringing in new clients but of course, for Managed Service Providers watching and listening in today. Across the board, nearly everyone I speak to has not sold every solution that hey provide. Not nearly every solution to all of their customers. Talk to me a little bit about upselling and the amount of money that MSP is leaving on the table there.
Gemma: Yes, absolutely. The hardest part of any new customer or new customer win is actually the bit before you got them over the threshold. If you’re looking at your existing customer base and looking what else you can sell to them, those people already know you, they already trust you, and they already made the decision to buy from you.
Like you say Richard it’s leaving money on the table if you are not selling those solutions. But also, you want the best for your customers and perhaps there are things that they are not aware of that that they could be buying from you or that they should be doing for their business. Different services, manage antivirus, back up, and all these kinds of things.
They often go for one thing that’s your in but if you are not telling them about the other things that you are doing, you are doing them a disservice but you are also doing a disservice for your own business.
Richard: Indeed and a lot of the services that MSPs sell as well as increasing recurring revenue, it actually decreases their customer support. It lowers their customer support. MSPs make sure you are doing upselling to your existing client's market and to your existing clients as well.
Moving forward with your business now, you have got a new initiative that I am involved with. Would you like to tell everyone listening and watching a little bit more about that?
Gemma: Sure. We are launching the MSP Marketing Academy and it is basically a managed solution for Managed Service Providers. It is marketing and service. And there are a number of different options according to what people are looking for but essentially, what it delivers is a monthly marketing campaign which is then diagnostic and all the collateral around that.
With each campaign there will be an email, a landing page, a blog, some kind of thought leadership, or download document, and some suggested social media or output. And it is written by experts in the channel. It is UK based so people with lots of experience who understand those kind of issues. And it is available for people to take in as a campaign in the bottom push out themselves through their own systems or as a fully managed service.
Richard: Again, that is what we were saying about the upselling. It strikes me that it would be really easy for an MSP to pick up one of your campaigns and to use that to market in their existing clients.
Gemma: Absolutely yes. And that is definitely what we are hoping. And again, a number of the MSPs that we’ve talked to have said that they want to do that because there is a number of clients that are only buying one service from them. And actually reaching out to their existing clients and to new clients with professionally branded material which is going out through platforms that help to measure that return on investment as well and give you good intelligence coming back from that. It is really important.
Richard: For those businesses who are interested in the MSP Marketing Academy but again, their concern of maybe they have done marketing before and marketing does not work for us, they’ve had a bad experience perhaps or they are thinking, "Hmm, I probably haven’t got the budget for that." What are the options available to them? What they could they do instead of engaging with the MSP Marketing Academy?
Gemma: There are a number of options. Again, I guess, if they are wanting to do some kind of marketing, then they got the option of doing some vendor marketing if there are vendors that they are particularly engaged with.
And one of the other thing that we are offering as a part of the Marketing Academy is a quarterly meeting which we are calling the gathering which will be looking at marketing for part of the day and then the afternoon will be spent looking at some of the aspects of running a managed service business which are more general.
We will be having a selection of different speakers coming to those events. There will be workshop elements of those events so people will be able to come along, find out what is a value proposition, how do I go and create that for my own business, and then take that away at the end of the day.
There will be real value from those meetings. And then that maybe a stepping stone for them to get on to do some marketing for their own business or they may decide actually there is really no option here that we can just take in and get it done.
Richard: Yeah just as they say marketing in the box and then get the clients coming through the door.
From a personal perspective I am really excited about joining. I really appreciate that you sent an invitation to me. One of the biggest challenges within my business of course is that I am just one person.
As much as I’d love to work with every MSP out there, I cannot. Most MSPs have come to me initially. Some have marketing is one of the big challenges so I think the MSP Marketing Academy is going to give them a good voice to do that. I am going to be a part of it. So I am about to speak with a lot of MSPs. I am really looking forward to that.
You mentioned about the gathering. That is going to be a good place for MSPs to get together with experts and their peers to learn how to do marketing. But what about those MSPs who are thinking, "I should be able to do this on my own. I should not.” What are the other options that are available to them?
Gemma: I guess that is one of the things that we hear most commonly, "I should be able to do that," or even with the best intentions people go and try to do some of this stuff.
I think the danger for most MSPs is that they do not do anything. You might read a book and think that is great and I will go away and I will have the marketing plan. But then it actually does not happen same as many things. Doing nothing is the key danger.
And then there is also looking at someone from your local BNI. Are they going to know your business well enough to do a good job for you? Therefore, do we get in to the marketing that does not work for me?
Richard: And typically costs as much as working with the IT Marketing Agency or anyone of concern.
Gemma: Exactly yes. I think another option is that you work with a specific agency. They create a lot of bespoke material for you and that is great but certainly the investment for that would be quite heavy.
And the last option is you look at employing somebody in the business. Again, there is a risk associated with that. There is cost associated with that and also in terms of the level of person that you go for.
You probably do not need a senior marketing person in the business so many people go for a junior or a graduate marketing person. And they may be great at some elements of marketing like social media but they perhaps don’t know the right copy. They do not have the tools available to do the design in house. There are still gaps in what you are trying to do there.
What we have tried to do with the MSP Marketing Academy is provide a route for the marketing of the service which is tailored for your business, which is diagnostic, which you can get out there really quickly.
Richard: It is interesting, is not it? The amount of MSPs out there, when they speak to their client, they say, "Hey, you did not go in to business to be an IT person." How are you writing after this what’s wrong with it. Why do you think that so few IT Companies have outsourced their marketing?
Gemma: I think it is one of those things that most companies perhaps do not know any better. They are not sure where to start. They are doing okay. So it is not marketing. It is not something that you urgently, suddenly have to do. It is something easy to leave.
I guess it is like going on a diet or an exercise program. You know it will be good for you if you do it. But actually, first of all, you have to take the first step and then you have to continue to do it to get results. I think there are two hurdles there that sometimes people just do not get over because they do not see it as an urgent need for their business.
Richard: And then leave it until it is too late until the pipelines-
Richard: Until the end of the pipeline and go at it blindly we’re going to go out and get someone. Let us do marketing and it will magically appears. It does not work like that.
For anybody listening or for anybody watching who wants to find more about the MSP Marketing Academy your new initiative, how do they find out more detail?
Gemma: We have a website which is www.mspmarketingacademy.co.uk or they can contact me on LinkedIn, or they can contact you if they know you. And we have a team of people who would be happy to help.
Richard: Wonderful. Well Gemma, thank you for your time today. I am looking forward to working with you on MSP Marketing Academy
Mon, 15 September 2014
Most businesses think of Social Media as a marketing medium. Jeff Hammerbacher, formerly of Facebook, once said “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads and that sucks."
Beyond Social Media Marketing
But Social Media can be so much more than a marketing tool.
In episode 4 of TubbTalk, Richard speaks with DK - a Social Media speaker and advisor who has consulted with some of the worlds top businesses on how to effectively use Social Media. DK is also the organiser of the TEDx Wellington event and a man who raises some interesting questions on what Social Media is and how it can be used. For instance, have you ever considered how Einstein may have used Social Media if he were alive today?
Thu, 17 July 2014
With close links to some of the worlds most prestigeous IT vendors, the Network Group has been able to leverage its buying power to benefit its members - IT businesses - and their clients.
In this interview Richard talks with Phylip Morgan, Managing Director of the Network Group and discusses its origins, its membership and its goals for the future.
Details of the Network Group can be found at http://www.nbg.co.uk
Fri, 11 July 2014
Richard gives his thoughts on all the news from Autotask Community Live 2014 in Miami and interviews 3 of the top MSP tool Vendors at #ACL2014
Interview with Phill Claxton of Desk Director
Richard Tubb: I’m here with Phill Claxton, the co-founder of Desk Director. How are you doing Phil?
Phill Claxton: Very good thank you very good. It’s nice to be talking with you.
Richard: You’re welcome. What does Desk Director do and how do they help the IT businesses?
Phill: It serves as a client experience platform. Really what that is, is a client portal. A portal for your clients to use to be able to view and access tickets. Really it’s been designed as a way to help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace by making it very easy to communicate with clients and deliver services that they value. Make it very easy to work with you.
Also we have a staff heads up display which is somewhat similar in its concept but it’s all about bringing all the information, your team together into one place where they can effectively work while they’re working a ticket. They can access other information at the time, speed up their process.
The two would harmoniously allowing things like presence. Your team while they’re making working a ticket would know whether the client is out of the desk at the moment obviously has benefits of knowing particularly if that ticket requires them to work with them or give them a call whatever. It’s going to be very handy to know that they’re actually sitting on their desk.
Predominantly and squarely around the client experience that’s a big place for us. We think not enough service providers focus on improving the client experience. Very operationally focused and that’s a big trend we’re seeing.
Richard: I’d have to agree with you so the clients that you’ve got using Desk Director at the moment what type of MSPs or what type of IT solution providers are they?
Phill: They’re predominantly what you would call MSPs and they range really anywhere from one to two men shops if you’d like right up to our largest of up to 250 staff. So really the whole gamete of what you would call MSPs, traditionally MSPs they’re providing outsourced IT service to their clients and using Desk Director as a way to differentiate that and make it easier for their clients to work with them.
Richard: The feedback you’re getting from MSPs that have implemented Desk Director, what impact has it had on their business and their relationship with their clients?
Phill: Sure absolutely. The feedback really is in line with what we were hoping. I’m supposed it’s worth mentioning that we are an MSP as well. It was born out of a need so we developed Desk Director for our own purposes and taking to market. The feedbacks from their clients at least is that it’s something that they kind of have been hoping for, for awhile.
They’re also seeing it’s just a nice, elegant way for them to be able to communicate and work with the MSP. And deliver a level of value what they’re seeing from that. A lot of our clients use it in new business work as well.
In fact that’s one of the big growth areas that they’ll use it while they’re out talking to perspective clients and present this at the way that they’re different. Something that you will get as a by-product of working with them as a provider. And something that they can use to better communicate with them but also provide them training, and learning and that sort of thing.
Which is a different kind of conversation from what we traditionally see.
Richard: So you’re saying Desk Director gives MSPs a competitive advantage over-
Phill: Absolutely. A big part of our decision internally when we originally wanted to crate Desk Director for our own purposes was about that we kind of set back and analyzed what we were doing and very critically realized we really didn’t present all that different to other providers in our marketplace.
We weren’t exactly making it very easy for our clients to decide on which provider they would go with. And notably our clients are getting more savvy as time goes on but they still don’t always understand what an IT service provider does for them.
We as an MSP present often this flat fee, this fixed fee to manage their IT environment but they don’t always understand what value they get from it. So we were looking for something that they could see, touch, and feel. That’s quantifiable with the value that they would get. That’s where it comes from.
Richard: Until that point, practically what does it look like for an MSP to deploy this and how do end users what do you they see?
Phill: Sure. The product is an application that they deploy. That brings itself some benefits but it deploys using the RMM products they have so an MSP would brand it for a start and then deploy it after their clients using RMMs like Continuum and [0:04:36] and the like.
Then it would appear on the client’s machine, runs in the system tray, it appears branded. The important thing is we want to make a tool that they can present as theirs. And so then when the client wants to access tickets, training material, quotes, all those sorts of thing that we deliver, they just simply get a tray. Easy to use application that’s set on their machine.
We have integration with active directory so the big drive for us also is to make it much easier for them to get into it. To help you drive adoption, the important thing to make it easy for the clients to use.
They’ll deploy it that way, it’s very simple to install and can be deployed on mass very fast. Similar thing on the MSP side the heads up display is an application as well. We purposely built it as an application because as an application we are a lot more aware of what we call context.
We can make the MSP aware of things like the machine the person sat at which with a web page is never going to be able to do. Equally we can integrate with active directory a web page can’t easily do.
Richard: There’s been a lot of announcements from vendors recently. A lot of interesting news going on in the MSP market. What’s new in Desk Director?
Phill: The newest thing at Desk Director for us we’ve built an integration with an online form provider called Wufoo. What that means for our MSP clients is that they can now present their client’s forms. What that really means is that a common challenge that we were hearing a lot from your partners is that it was great that the clients could much easily log tickets.
The challenge was they often had things like new user requests, change requests. Often the information they got back from a client wasn’t enough for them to effectively solve the problem or effectively make the change. Now with forms it means that you can present kind of a form for them to populate, very easy for them to work through.
You as the service provider can collect all the information that you need to effectively solve the problem. So really decreasing the back and forth that often happened. We’re seeing our partners use it for those purposes. Other ways to really innovate in the service delivery they’ll use it for things like on boarding.
New client comes on board they need to collect pieces of information from them during that on boarding process a form is a perfect way to do it. And by delivering it through Desk Director that’s a pretty easy thing for them to do. We’re iterating in the area of our learning center and making it easy to integrate with other products has been some of the key areas that have changed for us recently. Kind of a pretty active roadmap into the next six to 12 months.
Particularly driven around things like mobile, Mac, areas that a lot of things are coming back from feedback from our partners that they’d love to see in the product.
Richard: You mentioned some integrations earlier on with RMM tools and active directory which PSA do you integrate with?
Phill: Well currently we’re actually excited to announce that we now integrate with Auto task. Previously we connect wise only so very happy to be in the auto task community now. It’s connect wise and auto task for the moment at least.
With a desire going forward to look at others but very, very happy to be focused on those two communities.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Phill. I really appreacite it. If anybody listening to this wants to reach out to Desk Director how do you go about it?
Phill: Well certainly website’s a key place to go deskdirector.com. They’re welcome to email me individually as well I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more than happy to take emails from them, very happy to share information around Desk Director and happy to get on a call and do a demonstration if they want to know more.
Richard: Wonderful. Phill thanks for your time.
Phill: Thank you.
Interview with Dima Kumets of OpenDNS
Richard: So I’m here with Dima Kumets, you are the Senior Product Manager at OpenDNS. What does OpenDNS and how do they help IT companies?
Dima: Great talking to you Richard. OpenDNS is a cloud security provider. What that means is that we really rely on big data threat intelligence looking at the internet as a whole. For managed service providers we’re able to provide an additional layer of protection to catch all of the zero data threats, all the margining threats and all the other things that you really can’t get with signature based protection such as antivirus and firewall.
We’re really the guys trying to predict the threats and block them before they become a problem.
Richard: And what does that look like in practice for an IT company? How do they utilize OpenDNS to help keep their clients safe?
Dima: Excellent question. In terms of practitioner really we focus on user experience and making it seamless and easy. The deployment is as simple as pointing DNS to us and giving stuff like IP or deploying an agent. From that point it’s very simple controls so our standard security policy is the one that’s typically in use.
Block drive by downloads, advanced threats, bottom that’s all of those things. Really then manage the customization of the service such as making the block gauge well to your users. Putting your logo up making sure that the end user understands that this isn’t just something random on the web. That this is their IT provider saying whoa, you’ve just gone to a bad site on the internet and I’m protecting you.
This is for your own good and here’s how you tell me if you want to challenge that. I’m working with you as opposed to against you.
Richard: Got it. What type of impact does your service have for MSPs who are looking to increase their recurring revenue? Is this a service that they sell to clients or is it for them to reduce the cost of their support?
Dima: You know it varies, it really does. What I’ve seen from our top performing partners is they basically include the security aspect of the service to reduce their ongoing cost. And looking at the service boards and the hours logged by our partners we see 50 to 80% drop off, sometimes 90% drop off in terms of the number of hours they spend remediating. Whether it’s formatting or trying to restore systems from back up, or simply hunting down that piece of malware that keeps popping up.
The way that they can make money is with our service is very simple in terms of licensing. We include everything for our partners so they can add on granular web filtering by granular I mean the CEO gets to go wherever they want and the rank and file are restricted.
Or what’s becoming more common in this day is a co-branded reporting dashboard that they can expose to their end customers so they can monitor what employees are doign without actually doing filtering. The power of that is everybody has got a smart phone in their pocket with a 4G connection, you want to make sure your employees are productive by management as opposed to trying to solve everything through technology.
Richard: Got it. We’re here in beautiful Miami at the Auto Task community live it’s very hot for a Brit like me at the moment. But there’s lots of vendor announcements going on in the conference. What’s new at OpenDNS?
Dima; Well I’m very excited to announce our auto task integration at this conference and what better place to do it right. The auto product management which means I talk to our partners constantly, I’m looking for how do we make their experience with our product better.
The thing they’ve always said to me is I want tickets within my PSA. I don’t want to have to look in your system for alerts. Earlier I mentioned prevention and containment. If we’ve just done our job and prevented an infection taking place we’ll log that and then install that in product in auto task now so you can talk to customers and show value.
On the other hand if we’re containing something. Say crypto locker comes in via an email or some other way, we’re containing it so it can’t get the encryption key. But the IT professional, the service provider still has to do something. We’ll create the ticket and what’s elegant about this is rather than bombarding them with alerts we’ll just continue to update the ticket if the infection persists or if they continue to need to get additional data.
Richard: Got it, cool. Well thanks for your time today Dima. I appreciate it. If anybody listening wants to find out more about OpenDNS and get in touch with you how would they go about it?
Dima: Thank you so much Richard, if you want to find out more go to OpenDNS.com or feel free to me email@example.com
Richard: Wonderful Dima, thanks for your time.
Dima: Thank you Richard.
Interview with Eric Dosal of BrightGauge
Richard: I’m here with Eric Dosal who is the CEO and co-founder for BrightGauge how are you doing Eric?
Eric: I’m doing very well, happy to be here.
Richard: You’re welcome. So for those listeners who don’t know what BrightGauge do, who are BrightGauge and how do they help IT businesses?
Eric: BrightGauge is a business intelligence platform and we cater 100% to the managed service and IT service market. We help our customers visualize their data, bringing it in from different data sources that our typical IT service provider uses and just makes sense of their data so they can make better business decisions a lot faster.
Richard: What does the tool look like in practice? How is it deployed, what does it integrate?
Eric: There’s a couple of key areas that we’d like to talk to our customers about, number one is being able to pull in your data which a lot of our customers have a struggle with. The data’s in different silos how do I bring it into one location? Then to be able to customize it, and then to be able to consume it.
And the entire process is all web based so we’re a hosted solution. We pull in your data and it gives you the ability to really customize how you want to see it, and then you can consume it whether it’s on a report or if you want to consume it on a dashboard to us it doesn’t matter. It’s your data however you want to do it.
Richard: So where would that data be pulled from? RMM tools, PSA tools what types of areas?
Eric: Right now our focus is on RMM and PSA tools. Later on this year we’ll be announcing new integrations of financial packages. In August of 2014 we’re actually going to do a release where any single database you can pull in that data. We’re really just opening up so you can pull in whatever you want to see, however you want to see it, whenever you want.
Richard: Now I’ve seen a lot of the dashboards, they’re not static dashboards are they? A lot of them you can click on and drill into things.
Eric: So dashboards is really hot right now. Everybody’s talking about them, all the vendors are deploying them. We see them as great for us for awareness building. The dashboard, ours, allow you to bring in multiple data sources but then you can put them up on a TV screen, they refresh pretty rapidly so you get a lot more flexibility and customabilty.
Again you pull it into one location so it’s not just an in app view it’s all your data. Then you can see it on whatever device you want.
Richard; Give me some examples of some of the data that BrightGauge customers display on their dashboards?
Eric: Majority of the customers we work with are all around service related metrics. How can they improve their efficiency? At the end of the day if you’re looking at your PNL the largest cost is associated with your people.
How do I make them more efficient? Typical information they’re looking for is my team billable or not and what percentage is that? How can I improve that?
The tickets that my customers are bringing in like they talk about it like today about the customer experience being very important are we responding fast enough? How are we doing with our customer satisfaction surveys? Those tend to be the highest on the PSA side.
On the RMM it’s really just the monetary. Any server is down, when was the last time the server was down, patch management. High level things that could potentially cause an issue for your customers and then that just requires you to spend more time servicing them versus keeping it more simple.
Richard: What does a typical BrightGauge client look like in terms of an MSP? My gut feeling is only MSPs of a certain outlook who start to actually drill into figures and manage based on metrics.
Eric: The typical MSP that we work with I would say the makeup is 10 employees on the low end, and it will go up to several 100 employees. What we’re refining is the smaller MSPs, the single digits: three, four, five employees.
They’re saying we’re running around kind of like a chicken with their head cut off either they read something that I need to start looking at my data. I started putting up regular PNLs I’m trying to improved things. We’re starting to get more interest.
We’ve put together the packages for those companies to try to help them so that it’s not just hey it’s too expensive I’ll get to you when I get to a certain size. The majority of the folks we deal with tend to be service related or owners.
A lot of owners for a typical MSP owner is a technical person so they like the fact that they can get customized with their data. The biggest bang again is really around the service metrics. We’ve released about three months ago sales metrics and those are taking a little bit longer to kind of get adopted because the sales team isn’t used to using those techie tools.
The owners are more technical focused so they want service operations. We’re starting to see some traction in that area as well.
Richard: What does the implementation of BrightGauge look like? Obviously it’s very, very powerful but most of us myself included when we look at dashboards with figures it’s like okay this looks pretty bar, you haven’t got an idea where to start. What does an implementation look like?
Eric: Implementation actually is quite easy and that’s one of our kind of differentiators from some of the larger players. What it basically takes is if you’re connected to a hosted solution it’s put in the API credentials. If you’re on non premise load an agent that reads the data that we need.
Everything communicates to our data center, we crunch the numbers for you, we publish them out to you. The nice thing is, is we give you a jumpstart with about 10 to 15 template reports and about 50 to 70 depending on the integration, gauges, which are those visuals that you look at so you can kind of get started with them.
Use our templates or you can just clone, tweak the ones you want. We also have a team that’s dedicated to implementation and that gives them the opportunity to really help our customers.
Richard: Cool. Now we’re in beautiful Miami at the moment it’s very hot for a Brit like me. There’s been lots of enhancement from vendors over the last couple of days at Auto Task Community live. What’s new in the BrightGauge world?
Eric: What’s new in BrightGauge is really specifically around the auto task and comm live world is we release a bunch of new auto task gauges and visuals. Several of them around auto task sales where people are looking at hey what is my pipeline? I want to start planning resources those types of things.
We’re also talking with a lot of our customers, our community because we’re just a couple of weeks away from our next release which is our 4.0 which will include being able to connect to any sequel agent, any single database. Being able to do CSV, or excel uploads.
That’s really been kind of the focus that we’ve been talking to our partners. The other thing about our next release is we’re introducing the ability to do advanced calculations and layering. If I want to see utilization, or I want to see company and revenue, as well as tickets together you can very easily do that with our next release.
Richard: And for those listeners who don’t know who Eric Dosal is, what is your background and what was the motivation for building BrightGauge in the first place?
Eric: I started an MSP out of our family business in 2004 along with my brother who is the c-founder of BrightGauge. We ran that up until 2012 which when we sold the company to Konica Minolta.
But in 2010 what w were finding is we couldn’t do reporting for our customers so Frankie started to solve our own internal, kind of scratching our own itch. We had data in silos, we needed to report to the customers, everyone’s listening to this has probably dealt with it.
I got PDFs, I got excel files, how do I put it together to make it pretty? We built the software for ourselves internally to just integrate with two softwares and we able to send out the report to our customers. That we showed to our peer group, they liked it, we commercialized it and from there we kind of launched it.
We’ve been in the MSP industry since ’04. My father started a technology company in 1980 so technology is kind of in our blood and we love this industry.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Eric. If anybody listening wants to get in touch with you or find out more about BrightGauge where would they go?
Richard: Fantastic, thanks for your time Eric.
Eric: Thank you.
Thu, 19 June 2014
Tim Brewer of Evolve Leadership is successful entrepreneur and an acknowledged leader within the IT and Managed Service world.
Richard talks with Tim about his experiences and some of the key lessons he's learned along the way.
Richard: Hello everyone. I’m joined today by Tim Brewer from Evolve Leadership. How are you doing Tim?
Tim: I’m doing very well. Thank you.
Richard: Well, it’s a real pleasure to sit down with you. I heard your name mentioned in very respectful and revered for a number of years in the MSP industry. For anybody who’s not aware of you, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about who you are and what Evolve does.
Tim: I’ll get to Evolve and a little bit about my background. I hail from Perth, Australia which is the west coast of Australia. So I grew up in a place of a very laid back city, very much like San Diego in the USA, I guess if you’re from the USA. If you’re from England, a lot of people emigrate from England to Perth so you’re probably familiar with Perth as well.
I grew up in community services actually and a friend of mine ran an IT company and I was fortunate enough to invite me to become part of that. In time, I ended up becoming a partner and a co-owner of the business. It ended up growing for a series of years. Some by chance, we made a lot of errors along the way. We learned a lot of stuff. We’re really good with collaborating with other people. We weren’t afraid to sit down with our competitors in our marketplace or perceived competitors. We weren’t really. We learned how to do this managed services things better, this concept of managed services started coming out back in the day.
We grew, grew and grew. And in 2010 we ended up selling to a public real estate company. At the time we had about 50 staff in MSP. It was going very well. We were having a great time. I ended up working in that new company for three years. A year ago, we finished up with them as the operations director and spend the whole year living in the USA.
I got to achieve two great things in the USA. One was to offload all my knowledge within the industry both speaking and assisting a number of different countries around the US in the managed services space.
The second thing I did was I want to explore what I wanted life to look like for me going in the next stage of life. I’m just 36-37 years of age. I’m still fairly young and have a whole work life ahead of me.
I worked up both things while I was in the US. This year I’m back in Perth and I’m part of the Evolve leadership group, one of the directors with that company are best friend of mine. We do consulting and speaking in the managed service space but we also focus on governance and strategy and innovation, executive leader performance and business realization on where you want your business to go and what you do once you get there.
These are the things that we focus on helping businesses all over the globe both here in the USA and in Australia across diverse set of industries.
But on top of that as well, I have this portfolio of other interests companies like DeskDirector which is a great client experience platform, customizable innovative platform in the managed services space. I’m also director on a marketing company in Perth, Australia. I’m the director of managed services firm here in the US. I still get to speak to a lot of different places like Chartec and others when I get the chance.
Speaking is one of those things that you know that comes by invite so I try not to take it for granted. That’s a great privilege.
I’ve got a couple of other conversations going around the places as well. I end up with a portfolio of great people I’m working with, doing great things making a great difference. I think that’s where I’ll find my next number of years of work happiness.
Richard: So you’re going through the post-MSP stage.
Richard: Like myself I guess. You said you took that year in America to find where you’re going. How did you arrive at the decision of what you wanted to do? Clearly you’ve got a lot of things going on. How did you arrive? How did you get to focus to decide, yeah these are the things I want to do going forward?
Tim: I’m not sure if you and I have talked about this before but I know I talked about it when I speak. I’m like a really simple forgetful guy. I tend borrow things down just you know, a couple of points. What I discovered about myself last year or what I end up discovering in just a handful of points what is it that makes me happy and leaves me intrinsically motivated when I’m doing what I’m doing.
I discovered three things about myself. The first was I’m a better owner than I am an employee. Doesn’t mean I have to own the whole business, not at all. But it means I need to have a builder’s view when I’m doing what I’m doing whether not for profit or for profit. That help me understand kind of, I don’t want to go back into a C-level executive position for someone else. I want to be part of building something cool, something unique.
The second thing is that I didn’t have to be the main leader. I try to be a great – as I call you the ultimate business wingman. I just try to be a great business wingman for other people and a great partner in business. I’m constantly learning so I’m not saying I’ve got that right yet. If I get that right, I love coming alongside other people and help making them successful.
My experience consulting is that you’re consulting to aiding 20 people at the same time. It’s a lot of stuff to have on your plate. I’m really looking came into the view to have a small handful of things that I’m involved in that I can be a great business wingman with the people involved. I guess I’m on that journey to find that small handful of audience. I suggest probably this year I’m at planning to have that list of things sorted out.
In my spare time, I still get to get consult having the consulting business. That tends to be focused pretty around managed services space companies with 50-400 staff which we ended kind of my sweet spot, I guess in the industry. It’s the same way to use, I still get to spend time in businesses in MSPs looking at the spaces that are still there, problems that are still there to solve and the opportunity that they have maybe in the future.
Richard: Give an example, a typical engagement will look like for you. I’m going to guess it’s a long term engagement and quite a deep engagement as well. What types of companies, what problems they approach you with once they need help with typically?
Tim: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve done a number of different engagements over time. We tend to high energy, short burst engagements that then last over a period. That normally looks like 1-4 days onsite. Basically I really could ask tons of questions and turning over a ton of rocks and working out quickly what’s running well. I give that feedback, okay you’re running best in class, best in industry in this area of business. And then working out which areas of the business needs focus and needs energy and helping the owner of that business work how to apply that energy in that spot.
What we have worked out actually, we have like a spot/bootcamp/strategy sessions that we run. Its two days long with two consultants me and another one in the Evolve Leadership Consultants. We tend to go in and in that time work with all of the staff. We do a lot of pre-work. It’s called a due diligence and we have people comment that it feels like you’re purchasing my business. The depth of due diligence that we do before doing that engagement. We survey the staff, we survey their board and work with the staff and the leadership and the board to put down a strategy plan for a set period of time normally one to five years. Once that’s laid down we work at helping them stay accountable to achieving those calls. We just found that that works best.
That said as you pointed out, we got plenty of staff in our plate. We normally spend a lot of time working with people to make sure that it’s the right fit for them.
There’s a lot of great consultants that run a lot of training programs. If someone comes to us and says, “We got a real need in the area of sales,” for example. They have great planning as an organization, a great board and great operational excellence but just needs help with sales. We much prefer putting them in touch with someone to fill that specialization rather than just rather plug every hole in the organization. We try to learn to stick to our only thing, do what we do really well. And then where we can add and create an amount of value, we will consider and engagement.
Richard: It’s the same with myself. Stick to what you’re good at and deliver very high quality service than surround yourself with people who are a lot better than you in terms of the other stuff.
Richard: It’s interesting. I observed most of the very, very successful people in our industry and any industry for that matter yourself included, seem to have the ability to say ‘no’ frequently to opportunities. How do you go about saying ‘no’ to really good stuff that comes along just because you think, “I’m going to get pulled into too many directions at once.”?
Tim: For most of the people listening to the podcast, I’m guess they’re still running and manage service business. We don’t want to get too caught up in the handful of us that are post-MSP. It’s the same as saying ‘no’ to a client. And it’s really difficult when you got someone saying, “Hey, I want to pay you to look after our equipment,” to realize that they might not be a good fit for your business.
That really starts in my view theoretically understanding your client’s preferences and not all revenues is good revenue. My strategy at saying ‘no’ to people is to actually not say ‘no’. The way we do that is actually not offering them services until we’re convinced that they’re the right fit for us as a client.
By that I mean, I was actually on the phone with my business partner. He actually sits on the board with a massive manage service company out of Las Vegas. The CEO called me the other and said, “Hey Tim. I’ve been thinking about this whole marketplace fit,” that was part of their strategy document. “What does that mean? What are the key things that I need to consider that I need working at? What clients are right for us and what clients should we avoid?” He might know that but he can’t articulate that then all the salespeople are going to keep selling to the wrong people. I said, “Well, let’s look at a few things that might matter. We basically came down to this,” if someone doesn’t pay their bills on time. In fact, do you look in your finance system as a current client and they’re always 60 days late at paying. That’s the average. They’re terribly late payers and you always find them wasting horrendous amount of time doing that. He need to work out what things or what attributes will cause us to see that coming before they are a client of us? Sometimes it’s just a simple questions like asking, “What’s the methodology for paying your bills.”
We all have clients that we did the other day, they paid us before we left their site that afternoon. I’m like, “Oh my goodness. We have seven day terms. They can pay us in seven days.” They’re like, “No. We like paying when the job is done.” I’m like, “That client will keep me.” I’m happy to have deeper engagement with them. The other clients not so much. Respect. And if respect is a big thing for you as a company, working out whether or not someone is respectful and they’re respectful to their staff, their team.
We all have MSP clients that call us and abuse them. My argument should be well, respect to something that you don’t want as a client.
Long story short, we have a bunch of those criteria and we go through a series of interviews before we even offer services. Notice my language, we offer services to our clients. My catch would be to MSP is you’re not on the market. You’re not on a shop. You don’t sell products on a wall. You’re a consultant service. You’re a professional service. Good professional service companies offer services to the clients that will value their service and value them. Until you establish that a client is that client, my suggestion is you should not offer them services.
In that respect, you don’t really have to say ‘no’ to them. All you’re going to have is someone saying, “Hey, this isn’t the right timing for us to engage you. We chose to engage to someone else.” I’d rather that happen than offer services to everyone sundry and be in a position where we can’t meet the level of promises we want to make to all those people and end up with a bad brand.
The other day your brand is your brand. If you accept a client and they have rubbish equipment and it all fails when you take in the job, your brand is on the line. If they got some radical expectation or decide to go bad mouth you to everyone because you’re disrespectful, then that’s your brand on the line.
You got to do the right thing by your staff and the right thing by your shareholders and the right thing by your other clients by accepting people that fit your brand.
Richard: That’s wonderfully put. The other things that are on your plate, you mentioned DeskDirector. I had a wonderful conversation for a podcast with Phill Claxton.
Tim: Amazing guy.
Richard: I talked to Phill all day. How does DeskDirector fit into how much time you spend with DeskDirector and what are your aspirations for DeskDirector as a company?
Tim: Me personally, I spend a day a week on average over the year on at DeskDirector. It’s in bursts. We’re in a conference for the entire week. When I was leaving Anittel I got a call from our workers – let’s call him the inventor of DeskDirector. He’s running a great MSP in Auckland, New Zealand. They had this product they developed to improve the client experience. I really grated on them that with all the tools that they have, all the focus on tickets or invoices unlike their PSA tools or RMM tools that were very focused on the device or the service, they don’t really have a tool focused on the people that they look after and people accept checks and people accept contracts and so they went about trying to solve that problem.
DeskDirector is focused on client experience full stop. They do that through a number of different methods and I’d leave that up to the team and deskdirector.com if you want to go and have a look at that.
Our aspirations for that product is just to create a whole new way of helping manage service companies be unique, provide an outstanding client experience and increase the value that they provide to their clients and in doing so win more business, be more efficient and increase client loyalty from their clients. That’s our aspirations.
Phil is the main guy there at DeskDirector. He’s doing an amazing job. He’s just a complete legend. He comes out of manage services. In fact, all three of us come out of manage service industry. We’re just having great fun continuing learning, getting a lot to learn about software, marketing, strategic business development, all these things that I didn’t do a huge amount of back in the manage services days. We’re just having a great time doing it. It keeps me, if I was being honest with you, it keeps me with the manage services community. Even though it’s not my full time thing, it’s a real privilege to come out meet people at conferences again and geek out on IT services and manage services and it helps me get in touch with that. I haven’t obviously been in the industry for years, have a great affinity with that. I’m really glad that this isn’t something that I continue keep that connection with such great industry.
Richard: While you were out there at conferences talking to MSPs and working with MSPs, what are the prevailing trends or challenges you’re seeing for MSPs and where are people going with that business? What are things that people should be aware of?
Tim: That’s a fantastic question. People ask me that all the time. I kind of have a few caveat on my response by saying I think that my knowledge has a half-life and I think it’s about nine months. Technically, now I’ve been out of the managed service industry and running a company, I may have no current knowledge left. But I have a share of what I noticed.
I definitely think that the shift to Cloud is a real interesting one. The result and impact of dealing with – let’s talk about our journey as IT service providers growing up. We use to sell products. Everyone was making 50% off a PC and you’d sell a piece of hardware and we call that product transactions. You receive one invoice from your supplier, say Ingram Micro. You receive one invoice from your supplier and you send a device at to a client. You check that you got the right invoice and pay the right amount. If there’s a right margin and you reconcile.
That’s how we all grew up. Heavy on the hardware. One day we woke up, “You know what, it’s really not going to work. We need to find a better way of making money. Margins are reducing.” So we go into services and we started providing block hours or project work. Then, we started providing labour. And over time there was no systems to run. We’re running tickets in Microsoft Outlook. We were just having a heck of time and didn’t know what average hourly rate was and all these things.
Then, one day someone came out with the ticketing platform ahead of time and we were like, “Oh my goodness, this is ground breaking stuff.” There’s always complexity that came with that shift going from product to labour and then to managed services.
What I think my experience at Anittel taught me running all of the data centre infrastructure and online services group, is that going from labour and if you thought that was complex offering a fixed fee for a variable amount of time, wait until you do with bundled Cloud services where you’re getting multiple transactions line items comes through for every offering. Let’s talk about hosted machine and you’re getting charged per hour per amount of processing, per hour per amount of storage, per hour per amount of memory on a flexible basis and then you have to repackage them and bill that to someone. This is now no longer two points of variation in labour or one point of variation in product. You have hundreds and hundreds of items that need to be rated, re-rated and invoiced and billed out to a client. And if you bundled that as a fixed price service, it’s a huge amount of complexity.
I think there’s a number of things like that under the surface that are getting far more complex and no one’s really come out and solve the level of complexity that we need solved to scale.
I might notice that because we’re a very big company that we have a $12 million Cloud services business but I meet people at a time and ask them that question. I’m trying to check it in a spread sheet or I just can’t track it and just look at the end of the day and see in and out and make sure I’m making enough margin. I think that as we see the managed services tools improve, we’re going to see them give us greater capacity to manage those complex transactions maybe like the insurance industry do today. They are a lot more mature in that area.
I think that’s definitely one of the areas to watch, it’s the complexity created by Cloud. I have not seen anything ultra-compelling yet to solve that problem. That’s probably the biggest area. Other people are solving the problem. That’s the challenge. The really big providers are spending millions and millions of dollars on high end transaction billing systems, re-rating rating systems like Telco’s traditionally do.
The scary thing for me is look my hope is someone in our industry solves that problem so that one, two person MSPs can still sell those services and sell them easily without the admin overhead and pain. That’s one of the biggest areas I see as a need.
Richard: It’s a huge challenge, isn’t it? If you look at Microsoft with Office 365 for many years. We know for a fact that Microsoft sold it directly. My feeling is a lot of the reason why Microsoft did that was not to carve up their partner program at all. They didn’t really want to do that. It was the complexity of allowing MSPs to bill. If a big company like Microsoft struggle with it, you can imagine smaller MSPs where they’re going to find that a challenge.
Tim: There’s actually three parts. Since we’re on record I think it’s worth mentioning all three parts. Maybe there’s someone out there that’s going to solve this problem currently. You have the billing complexity in which we call that transaction billing or services billing. We have a product and we went to labour and narrow this line of services. Services billing has got to be solved. There’s up two other really important things that happen around that billing and that’s provisioning and de-provisioning or spinning up and spinning down services.
Same thing if 365 guys are loading into the portal, they’re creating the service, configuring the service in the active directory. In the ideal environment, we don’t go and order from over the phone anymore a piece of hardware. We transact with our online systems possibly automatically when using a coding platform.
But if you’re trying to go from a quote to a sales order and your sales order has some hardware, some labour services and some Cloud services on it and you’re wanting all that to be purchased or provisioned automatically or maybe some other services to be de-provisioned or used accounts increased. To get that automated is really where we need to end up so the guys aren’t sitting there manually configuring zero infrastructure and manually configuring Office 365. That should have start to spin up immediately following a quote going out. That’s the challenge is to be able to create that level of simplicity for our industry. I think we can get to that and the platforms that are out there can see past their own platform and understand that there’s this bigger problems that they have to work together in the industry to solve.
No one player is going to go and solve that. It’s about collaborating and working across the industry to do that. Because we don’t, there will be other industries that are innovators and we need to make sure we protect all these guys out there running managed services firms. We need to make sure it’s a long and successful industry to be in.
There are some serious innovations that need to go in and around that.
Richard: Absolutely. So we’re approaching the end of our time together. For you, what’s next on the horizon? What exciting projects are you working on?
Tim: What exciting projects? I’ve got a number of different things at the moment. I’ve got a really interesting project in Perth, Australia in a company called Red Meets Blue. The CEO of that company asked me in their board and invest there. The CEO of that company has just written a book called Building Great Brands. He’s basically in the process of working on taking his project based branding agency to a managed services model. I think that’s really fascinating like applying our learnings from this industry into another industry like marketing. I’m having a great time there. That’s been really fun.
I’m also working, I can’t disclose who is, he’s also another incredible education focused software and service company that I’m working somewhere around the world. They’re just doing amazing things. You know the greatest, we talked before about what we learned, taking a break and reflecting on what we done the day? The first thing is leaving everyone with some thoughts about this webinar will be work with great people. I think in this particular education start, I met some really great people. I really am very – have become a lot more acutely aware that if you choose to work with the wrong people, life gets unhappy fast.
The second thing is do stuff that’s intrinsically motivating. I think education as an entire industry not just as we know it in schools in the western communities but think about education across the globe for people that aren’t as fortunate as you are that even went to secondary school or tertiary college or university or college. I think education is ripe for innovation and for re-imagining. I’m seeing some of that happen in the discussions that I’m having in that industry and I find it so motivating and probably one of the coolest things in that pool of things that I’m doing around that education space. I can’t wait to see what happens there.
For all of your listening, make sure you work with people that don’t make your timely turn and you love working with and do stuff that’s intrinsically motivates you. If you do that, you wake up every morning and you’ll be out of work way into the night doing what you do if you can keep that intrinsic motivation.
Richard: Fantastic advice. Tim, I can talk to you all day about stuff. We only just scratched the surface of things. You shared so much wisdom in a really short period of time. I really appreciate it.
If there are any good people out there who want to get in touch with you perhaps about speaking or consultancy, how will they reach out to you?
Tim: I do have so many different ways. The easiest way to do it is go to www.timbrewer.com.au and there’s a spot there to get in contact with me. I spend my time on so many different things, it’s hard to give you – I know that will get through to me and that will get through to me efficiently. I try to spend time where I can to catch up with people at least once. I love learning from other industries and from people in their industry. It will be the best way timbrewer.com.au
Richard: Fantastic. Well, Tim really appreciate your time and I hope we can have you come back and talk about some of those other subjects that we touched on in the future.
Tim: Richard, it’s been great catching up. So good to finally meet you in person after so many Skype calls. People are talking about you in the industry, it’s a really great privilege. Thanks for your time.