An MSP education doesn’t begin and end once the doors are open and clients are signed. With evolving technology, constant marketing and human resources issues, and changes in workplace trends to address, there are always lessons to be learned. Nobody knows this better than IT By Design (ITBD) – the largest privately held MSP in the United States – which has disrupted the industry with Build IT, its premier education platform.
Build IT is an educational suite of services comprised of three distinct forums:
- Build IT Live, ITBD’s annual education event;
- Build IT University, a three-tier, membership-based community focused on MSP business excellence through education; and
- Build IT Communities of Practice (CoP), an online community with fresh content available daily for members.
Build IT’s overall objectives are to generate tangible business outcomes, help MSPs invest in their employees by providing information that is relevant and vital to their growth, and help the company not only retain employees but turn them into dedicated business leaders.
According to Kam Kaila, president and co-founder of ITBD, the idea for Build IT was to take education from its one-day annual conference to an online 24/7 school and help MSPs every day. “We said to our partners, ‘Don’t just invest in yourselves, invest in your next layer of leaders. Help them grow in their areas of expertise to make them better in their careers, but also allow them to impact the organizations and departments that they are supporting.’”
Why? Kaila noted that one of the biggest hurdles MSPs face today is employee turnover. Most MSPs are too small to afford to hire high-salaried, veteran staffers. So they hire young people, groom them, and then those individuals eventually leave for greener pastures. To retain them, Kam believes, MSPs need to invest in them. “Those employees need to see growth potential,” she emphasized. “They have to want to be there. Happy employees deliver happy service – and we are in a service business.”
Build IT Beginnings
In 2018, ITBD presented topics at various industry events that were relevant to itself as an MSP and which would help its peers. ITBD gave attendees the answers to their specific business challenges – which is uncommon practice at industry conferences. ITBD was spelling it out for their peers and providing true actionable items, not just providing templates and then sending them on their way without telling them how to implement the template – which is the experience at other similar events. Attendees appreciated the help that ITBD was offering.
Then Kaila and her team began getting requests from peer groups “because they loved the content and the value we were providing,” Kaila said. ITBD won such prestigious awards in 2018 as “Best in Show” and “Influencer of the Year” for peer groups. ITBD’s success motivated peer groups to change their ways to mimic those that ITBD was championing. Kaila’s company was driving changes in the industry and became a “change champion.”
ITBD decided to host its own event for its members and prospects. Called Build IT Live, it was the company’s first foray into education. More than 400 attendees came to that first event in 2019. Sponsors took a risk on them. But ITBD showed itself to once again be “change champions.” How? Each ITBD member received a bound book that contained templates, tools, and processes, and attended classes led by an industry subject matter expert. There, they learned how to implement what they learned in their MSP business.
“We were taking a tool and teaching them how to use it,” Kaila said. “We gave attendees a thumb drive with an editable copy of the template. The attendees were blown away by this. This was the first MSP event where they were given the template and the answers at no extra charge. Nobody had ever done that before.”
That first event became the biggest one of the year and was named a “Top 50” event for the MSP channel. John Maxwell, a world-renowned leadership expert and New York Times bestselling author, was the keynote speaker and afterward spoke very highly of the event. But he asked Kaila a profound question: “How do you go from impacting the attendees just one day to impacting them every day?”
Education @ Work
Kaila wanted to take Built IT Live one notch higher. She asked herself “What did we do to grow our own company?” She realized that ITBD invested in its own leaders – its employees – by bringing in subject matter experts like Maxwell and John Daly, an internationally acclaimed sales expert. Both had never presented in the MSP channel. ITBD had created a culture of learning. It educated its employees and they all became lifelong learners. With so many individuals positively impacting its business, Kam now wanted to bring those same experts and tools to its MSP partners and motivate them to invest in their own employees.
The result was Build IT, an umbrella name under which falls Build IT Live, Build IT University, and Build IT CoP. The latter two present members with new templates and tools daily. From it came the tagline: “Education @ Work.”
Build IT University offers fresh, relevant, forward-thinking courses that are focused on a wide array of essential business topics and delivered by industry experts. Each course aligns with a variety of actionable templates, engaging blogs and podcasts, and other content relevant to MSPs. Classes cover such areas as Culture, Leadership, Security, and Sales. It currently offers three tiers – Intern, Bachelors, and Masters. ITBD Partners can enroll an unlimited number of employees in the Masters Program. A Doctorate program is forthcoming.
Build IT CoP is comprised of groups of 10 people in a cohort in a yearlong education program led by world-class educators. Each CoP will meet quarterly for a two-day session that will help them to build specific business deliverables. According to Kaila, the mission is to provide executive education to ITBD’s MSP teams and leaders that is focused and targeted for their specific needs. The cohorts will be designed for Owners, Service Leaders, and Sales Members. “Think of this as a Master Class for MSPs,” Kaila said.
She believes that every MSP should have a learning and development budget and constantly be investing in their employees – the future leaders of the company – to provide better services to customers. Kaila added that if MSPs don’t invest in their leaders, the business will never be profitable. Why? Because the leaders won’t know how to lead or perform their responsibilities better because nobody has taught them how.
“Build IT looks at specific roles within organizations and develops the professional in those roles so that they can do their job better and better support their MSP owner,” Kaila said. “You grow your employees and they’ll grow your business. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Sharing is Caring
“We didn’t start Build IT to make a profit,” Kaila insisted. “We’re giving back to our channel. This is our way of saying, ‘What are the tools you need to help grow your business? Let me give it to you for free.’”
Kaila said that ITBD itself is constantly learning, but they will only bring that learning to its MSP partners when “it sticks” – when that lesson passes the muster. So Kam and her team are always looking out for the learnings that stick. But she insisted that it’s not just for ITBD, it’s to be shared with the entire channel through Build IT.
“Our mantra is ‘Sharing is Caring,’” Kaila said. “The world needs to pay-it-forward more. We need to change the way we think about helping each other. It’s not dog-eat-dog. It must be for the greater good. It must be ‘How can I help you?’ This is the way we live at ITBD and the way we run our business. It’s our legacy and that’s what Build IT is. It’s our impact on the channel.”