Chicken and the egg: The right tools and business growth

| By: Craig Fulton

There’s something I hear come up in conversation pretty often between managed service provider (MSP) owners. They often wonder what they should focus on first - getting the right tech stack in place or growing their business. I’ve helped close to 100 companies implement and adopt the ConnectWise platform and I’ve interacted with thousands of companies in The IT Nation to help transform the way they deliver services. One thing is constant: you cannot scale without automation tools. 

Here’s a quick history lesson. 14 years ago, I began working at an MSP in Tampa, Florida called ConnectWise, which had been in the business of offering managed services since the ‘80s. Companies that understood that technology would help their businesses grow and compete were hungry for services that kept them up, and that’s what ConnectWise offered. 

As time went on, more and more companies depended on technology. Digital transformation in small and medium businesses (SMBs) took hold and managed service demand took off. ConnectWise knew that to scale proactive services and all-you-can-eat contracts, we had to understand each customer’s profitability in real-time. The days of getting service reports from technicians at the time of invoicing was over. We needed techs entering time, updating documentation, communicating to customers, and shifting to providing support to people, all in real-time. Out of that need, the ConnectWise PSA was born. 

Over the last decade, ConnectWise has added more tools to the platform, tightly integrating them with one another, all with the goal of helping our partners grow and scale. 

Now, in the 2020s, we’re entering the age of the customer experience. The tools are needed now more than ever. You simply can’t compete in today’s customer experience driven world without automation tools. I’ve watched companies try both ways: waiting until they’ve grown to implement tools or doing it when they have a few employees and start to experience rapid growth. It is a lot more painful to do it after the fact. 

Teams that try to automate well-established processes fail to do so because those processes were not designed to scale, as opposed to systems and tools that were built on best practices. The problem is that people fear change. But there’s so much to be said about investing time and money to get your systems in place early so that you have control of your business growth and customer experience. Let’s get into what this means for your business.

Imagine delivering managed services to your customer without real-time tracking. You would gain an understanding of your profitability of each contract  only when invoices go out. At that point, it’s too late. I’ve seen so many times where techs have spent more hours per contract than planned, driving it into the red. The customer is getting more than they paid for and this is a losing situation for you. After the fact, you need to be reactive by pulling reports, sorting through notes, and understanding why so much time was spent on the project. Then you adjust and you wait.

Now imagine having an integrated platform running your business. Your employees are entering their time and notes against managed service contracts as it happens. They are using integrated tools that make their job easier. Remote control of a machine, asset configuration information, documentation of the customer technology, and automation of the administrative tasks are all one click away on a ticket. The finance team no longer has to ask for service reports because they have on-demand invoicing generated from real-time entry. Business owners and service managers have access to reporting that shows - in real-time (notice a theme here?) - how well each contract is performing, meaning adjustments can be made immediately to ensure a win-win between you and the customer. 

Real-time reporting might expose training issues that you could address with customers. Or it may show that it’s time to replace failing or under-performing technology in the customer’s business. All of this makes it a lot easier to have a conversation with your customer before things get bad, ultimately improving their experience and the relationship you have with them. This has a lasting impact on your employees as well - automation and integration makes their jobs easier so they can focus on what they love doing: working with technology and delivering great customer service. 

You can’t grow without efficiency in the way your employees work. You can’t grow without automating the way you do business. I’m not just talking about revenue growth, but growing a big business with more profit, more customers, and more employees. 

Without the right tools, you'll find your teams still manually performing tasks, which results in wasted time, inconsistency in the customer experience, and loss of profitability. But, a platform that provides a seamless customer experience and workflows from marketing, to sales, procurement, professional services, service delivery, and invoicing gives your leadership a 360-degree view of the business in real-time, allowing your business to grow and adapt quickly and efficiently. 

When automation spends more time on the customer than your employees, so that you can add more customers without having to grow teams (which increases the cost of doing business and makes you less profitable), then you’ll have the answer. 

The platform does need to come first. It’s the key to success. Business growth will follow.