By: Bob Godgart, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Visionary Officer
There’s no denying 2009 was a challenging year. Nearly everyone was forced to cut costs, streamline operations and undergo the proverbial belt tightening to stay out of the red. It wasn’t easy. Salary levels were frozen. Bonuses canceled. Furloughs mandated. And, in the worst cases, employees laid off and businesses closed.
But all the tough decisions and hard work have a pay-off – especially for VARs and MSPs who continued to invest in their businesses and proactively serviced their customers during these tough times. Those who have made it are going to enter the new decade leaner, meaner, stronger and smarter than ever before. Here are my top five strategic tips for the new year:
1. Take Stock and Invest in What You do Best – If you haven’t done so yet, examine which services and solutions produced the highest amount of sales and profit for your business in 2009, and which were losers. If you run some basic reports and crunch a few numbers around revenue minus SG&A, you might discover the three to four service offerings that made your year. But, there may also be less obvious keys to increased profitability, and that’s where your key performance metrics against industry benchmarks are so important. If you haven’t done so yet, invest in some basic benchmarking software to help you track your own business progress. At Autotask, we train every new customer how to set up a variety of executive dashboards and reports, and offer up a great little benchmarking tool for this purpose.
2. Join Forces Around the Globe – In 2009, the Managed Services industry went global in a big way – from Australia to the U.K., even Southeast Asia, we introduced the world to a whole new way to conduct IT business and grow an IT services practice. As a result, solution providers and VARs who are doing business in Asia and Europe discovered new vendors and partners to grow their revenue and expand their expertise. In fact, 'service' has become the big buzz word of the industry, so much so that even traditional IT hardware vendors have purchased big name service integrators to add to their IT solutions portfolio. How can MSPs compete? Service providers in the IT service industry have become masters in the art of partnering. Many of you have chosen IT business management systems like Autotask specifically to manage those partnerships as easily as you manage internal resources.
3. Find Ways to Get More “Sticky” With Your Clients – If all you do is offer the same services as the next service provider, you’ll quickly find yourself becoming a commodity, vulnerable to a lower-cost provider of the same service. Find, invent, “borrow,” re-spin or resell services that are truly unique. Our 'Taskfire' co-managed service desk is a good example of this. It allows any service provider to engage new clients with a tool that allows them to manage the internal tasks they can handle and easily outsource anything they can’t to you. This opens up a limitless array of new co-managed service combinations, and has the added benefit of giving you complete visibility into what your clients are doing, and how they do it.
4. Use The Cloud To Your Advantage – Despite of what you’ve heard (and what you might expect me to say), Cloud Computing will not take over the IT industry. There will always be on-premises resources, networks, computers and software to be serviced. However, it’s the fastest growing segment of our business, and a technology that you need to leverage and become expert in. What better way than to manage your own business from the Cloud? Despite some notable exceptions that I’m sure you’ve read about, the Cloud has become amazingly stable, available and reliable. Last year Autotask had virtually no unplanned outages for the entire year, and we continue to invest heavily in our infrastructure to keep it that way. Adopting a cloud infrastructure in your own business can give you speed and flexibility and drive efficiencies in areas that are critical for you to maintain your services advantage. It can also offer you a way to develop new capabilities, such as instantly 'turning on' new managed services offerings or tracking the delivery of your proprietary service offerings more easily. You can even use the cloud as a command center to monitor your entire business and keep track of the key sales, service and operational metrics that determine monthly, even quarterly business success. Take a look at ways to embrace a cloud model where it makes the most sense to grow your profitability.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but what we do know is that 2010 will be a year of great opportunity and increased competition. Take the time to differentiate your business, brand your services and take advantage of new technologies like cloud computing.