I was on the phone chatting with masterIT CEO J. Michael Drake a couple of weeks ago. It had been about 18 months since we had last spoken. Suddenly, the tables somehow turned and Drake began to interview me. At one point he asked: "What's the biggest change you've noticed in the IT service provider market -- right now -- vs. two or three years ago?"
I paused and thought hard about the question. You know the obvious answers -- the acceleration of cloud, mobile, big data and now The Internet of Things. But my response involved none of those hot-button topics.
Instead, my answer involved a single word: Balance.
Want me to explain more fully? OK, I'll give you three words: Life-work balance.
Looking Back to Shape Present-Day Views
My reply was based on my own journey covering the IT service provider market. During the early go-go years while Amy Katz and I were building MSPmentor and The VAR Guy (say, 2008-2009) at our previous company, I firmly believed that many MSPs would work really hard and cash out at really high valuations. Then, they'd live happily every after.
Some MSPs certainly achieved that dream. Most didn't.
Fast forward to 2010 or so. At the time, Drake described a potential world of entrepreneurial fatigue. Without pointing the finger at his own business, Drake said he began to see some IT service providers burning out while chasing the M&A dream. Next, jump to 2012. The Wall Street Journal said many small businesses were in purgatory -- stuck without an exit because valuations were too low.
There Has Been An Awakening. Have You Felt It?
Somewhere around 2014, I think many IT service providers took a step back from their businesses and called a personal time out.
Not by coincidence, thought leaders and community leaders like HTG Peer Groups published guides like Planning for Success the HTG Way (yes, I recommend buying it). The seeds were being planted across the IT channel -- it was time to really think about how we were all spending our waking hours.
The ripple effects are everywhere. Scott Spiro, CEO of Computer Solutions Group, attended the Continuum Navigate 2015 conference in September -- hosting a session on life-work balance. And yes, plenty of IT service providers showed up with questions. But don't stop there. Check in with small business guru Karl Palachuk, and you'll notice his popular book: Relax, Focus, Succeed.
Of course, entrepreneurs building startups still need to burn the midnight oil. That's fine. But that can't be a "forever" strategy. You ultimately need a path from (A) working around the clock to (B) building a self-sustaining business.
Force yourself to walk the path from A to B. At some point, you're bound to achieve balance. Yes, true life-work balance. Pass it on.