How Does Your Garden Grow?

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on May 19, 2022

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We’re nearly halfway through the year, which makes this a good time to reflect upon the business plan and goals you set at the beginning of the year. Friends, I don’t want to put any additional pressure on you, but the future of your MSP depends on you meeting or exceeding the goals you set forth in your business plan. 

If you didn’t write down a plan for your business, how will you know if you’re moving forward or just standing still? Having hopes and dreams is great, but you need a plan to reach them. Seriously. You can’t do this alone. No, let me rephrase that: you don’t have to do this alone. I mean, if what you want is to be an independent consultant who works periodically for an hourly wage, then, yeah, you can do it alone. But this can grow to be a lonely life.

Plan

Growth takes planning. If you want a great garden, you don’t just throw any old seeds around on some dirt. You have to plan. Tomatoes shouldn’t be planted near corn because they make the soil too acidic. Climbing beans, however, do great when they’re planted at the base of a stalk of corn and both thrive. Zucchini loves being around beans, corn, and garlic but not near potatoes or pumpkin. Potatoes have to be planted in hills; carrots have to be thinned. It takes planning!

So does your MSP business. 

The key to planning is asking questions… about yourself, your business, and your existing (and future) clients. What do you want to be doing 5 years from now? Do you want to be running around to clients’ offices? Do you want staff to be running around to clients’ offices? Do you want to have a small concierge business or a bigger business with various staff members taking on roles including engineering, finance, marketing, etc while you eschew the technical and spend your time being a proper CEO? Do you want to have multiple offices or one location? Do you want to be regional, national, or international? Do you want to franchise your operation or do you want to consult with other MSPs on growth? Do you want to be working from the beach?

There are SO many things you can grow into…all you need to do is pick a direction and point your planning that way. 

This would be a great time to review some tips from my goal setting series.

Plant

When your plan is ready, get out your calendar. It’s time to start setting up your KPIs. 

Your plants might be started in pots inside the house until the weather in your region gets warm enough to transplant them outside. Similarly, your future MSP will have a planting season. You’ll let your customers know the changes you’ll be making, you’ll inform them of the new offerings you’ll have available for them, you’ll plant the seed that your prices will be changing. Maybe you start a marketing campaign that includes buying ad space on various blog sites that your target client might visit, or identifying a selection of SEO keywords that matter to your clients and writing original content against them. Maybe you’ll take out radio time or a billboard – the possibilities are endless.

The main thing is that you’ll be developing your growth plan; letting your customers know it’s coming. Preparing them for great things with you or preparing them to move on to a different vendor that is better suited to their needs. It’s ok to step away from some clients who don’t fit in with your growth model. 

Cultivate

Your plants have started to burst through the soil. You want to track them so you know when to move them outside and when to start pruning them; you want to thin them out and weed them so they have room to grow. And you have to water them just the right amount.

Likewise, you have to pay attention to your plan’s progress. You need to make sure your offerings are getting enough sunlight: you want your current customers talking about you to their network of contacts. Word of mouth is SO powerful. Maybe you want to cultivate this particular  aspect of your plan by offering spiffs to your current customers. 

If your plan is to branch out to more than just MSP work, this is the time to start showing your new offerings to the world. Give away a test drive, enlist a couple of clients to give you key testimonials, or maybe get a booth or present at an industry show (the ABA Tech Show was a favorite of mine) to get the word out about your MSP and your new product offering. You have to cultivate the audience and get your brand recognized.

Just like you would plot growth for your plants, so should you track your progress on your MSP’s  growth. Fill a jar with jelly beans, create a thermometer, chart a graph…do something visual to show your progress at a glance. Every time you hit a milestone, celebrate. Reward yourself and your staff for accomplishing each step toward the goal. 

Harvest

You’ve had a really productive growing season. Now you reap the benefits of your great planning. Harvest your produce, make great meals, feed a hungry family. 

You’ve worked hard and you’re seeing the payoff. Your customer base is growing, you’re taking more prospective client calls, you can afford an outbound salesperson, you have to hire more techs. There are lots of ways growth manifests itself.

Assuming you’re hitting your goals, don’t deny yourself and your staff a well-deserved break, you’ve earned it. When you come back, don’t forget to prepare the soil for the next season, tilling under the chaff and letting it fertilize the soil for the next growing season. Protect the fertile ground with mulch. In other words, don’t forget to mix in the great parts of your current plan with new or streamlined ideas and processes. Unify your stack where possible, add in coordinating horizontal offerings or take your business to the next level and add specialty products/services for a vertical market.

If only we could see into the future we’d know exactly what to do to get to our goal. Instead of the power of foresight, we’ll have to depend on our lifetime of knowledge, our circles of influence, and our trusted friends & colleagues (many of whom are in the JumpCloud Community). That is a wildly valuable grouping of assets in our corner. Lean on each other. Bring others along as you rise up. Set your intentional vision for the future, design and carry out your plan, manifest your destiny. 

Pam Lefkowitz

Pam is an IT Columnist at JumpCloud where she uses her experience as a consultant and MSP to write about IT admin life and tech. Outside of (remote) work hours, she spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with fiber.

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