What is the primary role of an MSP? This is a big question, and it is often answered in a small and tactical way. If you ask your customers, you might get:
- “Those guys make my tech work” or
- “They help me source technology solutions” or even
- “They keep us up and running, so I can focus my time on my customers”.
All of these are legitimate statements that re-enforce the value of the work and suggest a healthy relationship between the customer and the MSP.
If you ask the vendors, you will get an entirely different answer that may go something like this:
- “The MSPs are the owners of the last mile; they connect the dots between the end-users and the technology services that make them productive.”
- The MSPs allow end-users to solve complicated technical problems that face their business with our technology”, or my personal (sarcastic) favorite…
- The MSPs are our sales force – they exist to sell our products to the SMBs.
These responses exemplify the vendor understanding of the channel community and their own approach to engaging the channel. If any vendors out there think number 3 is the best answer, some introspection might be a good idea.
Those perceptions matter, and to some degree, they have an impact on how every MSP regards their own business. I had the opportunity to spend time with an IT services provider at an event a couple of months ago with one of my new team members who was also new to the SMB channel. They were talking about what is important to MSPs, and I asked what motivated him. The answer was one that I will never forget, in part because it was so like my own thinking:
“What most people don’t realize is that we (MSPs) often act as the glue of our communities. We talk to everyone, and we help them solve their business problems from a technology perspective. We help them be productive, work with other businesses in the community, and communicate with everyone else electronically. Many of us sit on community and volunteer boards, because we care and because we add a valuable voice to the table.”
When I think about what I miss about being an MSP, my role in the community stands out above everything else. There was a sense of accomplishment knowing that every day my company had the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives and the well being of so many people. We provided value (sometimes more appreciated than others) with the work that we did. We volunteered in the community and in the schools (and some still do). We were valued and committed, and I suspect many MSPs all over the world feel that same sense of belonging. It was a special time for me, despite the long stressful hours and frustration that comes from not always being able to solve everyone’s problems.
What is the point? Good question. As a guy on the vendor side of the channel, I love working with partners who really know what they contribute to the world. Those professionals see the big picture; they know what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to be successful, and they focus on doing just that.
Being an MSP requires a great deal of hard work, and it is worth all that effort and more when you feel like a valuable part of all the communities in which you engage.