Managed Services

How to Work ON Your Business (Not IN Your Business)


For years, the Channel Illuminati have been telling the MSP community that they need to work on their business, not in their business. I myself have made that exact same commentary on many occasions. By and large, its good advice. Like all good advice though, one needs to know how to work on the business in order to work on the business.

So this month’s blog is a simple roadmap that might give you a bit of guidance on how to effectively work strategically, on your business, and get the results you want.

What to Work On When You Work On Your Business

Here is a quintessential list of things you might choose, in order, to work strategically on your business

1. Decide what you want and when you want it. This is one of those steps that is just as easy as it is essential. To quote Zig Ziglar, you cannot hit a target you do not have. Just as important, figure out what the measurable outcomes of accomplishing that goal in that timeframe are going to be. For example, you might decide that you want to add two managed services clients per month for the next year. Sounds like a great goal, and it might be, but let’s make sure:​​

  • What is the impact on your revenue?
  • How many people will you have to hire and how many tools will you need to acquire to get there?
  • What is the net income impact of that goal, and will you have to sacrifice other equally important strategic efforts in order to get there?
  • What is the impact on cash flow?
  • Are there other factors in your business or your life that are going to impact your ability to accomplish this goal?

I could go on, but I think everyone gets the point. Make sure you have thought strategically about what makes the goal a winner and what the risks are before you jump into the figurative “deep end.” Henry Ford said something to the effect of, “he left 3 to 4 hours a day free to work on the critically hard job of thinking about what he should do next”, and I believe the consequences of being strategic are what he was talking about.

2. Now, with the goal established and the impact fully considered, it’s time to make a plan to get there, which means involving everyone who might be touched by this goal in the planning. That means establishing a timeline, defining stakeholders, figuring out what tools you need to get the job done, and most importantly listening to the people who are going to own the responsibility for doing the work every day to make this goal becomes a reality. If you don’t know this already, building consensus and getting buy in are absolutely critical to building things that last. If you are the only person who believes in what you are doing, then nobody is going to care when it dies on the vine. Don’t waste so much time and so much effort without a team to share the dream with.

3. Clear the decks. Get everything else out of the way. Don’t let the work of the day derail the commitment to making your business what you want it to be. When I’m not sitting in an airport writing blogs and drinking iced tea, I spend a lot of time teaching partner engagement teams how to respectfully earn the business of the MSPs in the world. We want to be part of your strategic goals. If whatever we or all the other vendors out there offer what you need in order to make your dreams reality, then by all means, listen and take advantage. By the same token, if we are a distraction, tell us and stay focused on the mission. It is incredibly hard to focus on a bunch of different strategic goals at once, especially in early-stage growth. Don’t try, just pick the direction and go until you get there. One important sidenote -- your customers are going to come to you and ask you to substitute their goals for your goals. That’s fine, but do yourself a favor. Measure the benefits of accomplishing your goals against trading them to accomplish your customer’s goals. It will be so much easier to say no (or yes!) if you have done the early work of making sure you know what you stand to gain by accomplishing your strategic goals.

4. Finally, find peer groups or friends or anyone who has walked down this road before and ask them every question that you can think of along the way. There is nothing more valuable than the consultation of someone who has already walked down the road you are planning to travel. The confidence that comes from having good advice along the road is more likely to get you across the finish line than all the determination in the world.

So go forth and slay your dragons…or train them, or just steal their gold. Whatever it is, do the work to make sure you don’t get burnt to a crisp in the process and wake up 6 months to a year from now knowing you have skills and abilities and processes or IP you didn’t have last year. Use that success to drive more ambitious goals and build a business that others admire and maybe even try to copy. You will be glad you did.

Ted Roller, President and CEO of GetChanneled
Ted Roller has spent his entire adult life working in the channel, first is an MSP and then as a channel chief for Intronis, LogMeIn, Mailprotector, ConnectBooster, and others. Currently, Ted is President and CEO of GetChanneled, a virtual channel chief organization that helps early-stage SaaS companies build their go to market strategy and channel programs. He has been recognized as Young Man of the Year in Troy, Ohio, his MSP was recognized as one of the “Fast 50” growing companies in the Dayton Business Journal, and he has been recognized for his work with channel organizations many times over.
Ted lives in Raleigh, NC, but can generally be found at channel events or scuba diving in the Keys.