From B/F to MSP - How to make the transition

Greetings All,

I’ve been running a break/fix IT and systems integration business for over 15 years - we have healthy revenue and earnings doing IT/cabling/surveillance/access control/voice/etc. Our IT customers need an MSP product and I know it will be a win-win for everyone - but I am absolutely stuck on how to actually make the transition. I think the number one mental block I have is that I have built my business on fixing problems - that is the tangible product - your business has a problem and we fix your problem so your business can move forward - and I cannot wrap my head around what the end-product looks like when developing an MSP offering. What are the internal processes - what is the end product for the customer? What are the deliverables? We have a successful managed VoIP product - so doing a managed service per se is not the issue - but again, the VoIP product is a specific deliverable. I’ve got thousands of dollars of MRR that can easily be tapped in our current customer base - but I can’t seem to make the pivot and create the package.

If anyone out there running a succssful MSP has any feedback or input, it would be greatly appreciated.

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Break fix is problem / solve and MSP is maintaining systems to prevent issues. It’s making sure systems are patched and protected while also offering the client the piece of mind that you can respond quickly to issues by maintaining persistence access to their systems.

Appreciate the post and the video. I did watch it a few months ago - but was useful to review and there is good core information there - your willingness to really share the details of your approach is refreshing and why I decided to join the forums here and engage with this community of people looking to share knowledge.

I understand the core components and the value proposition is easy to sell - but after the sale, you have to deliver a product. If the product is peace of mind - then the product is also about shifting liability. At some level, the MSP is actually getting paid to take on liability for the performance and security of the clients network and data. Break/Fix is nice and clean in this area - it is like selling a car - I recommend a car to the customer based on what I think is a good fit for their budget and needs and then they decide to buy it. After they buy that car, it is on the customer to make sure they get the oil changed and do other proper maintenance and if the car breaks down when they are on the way to the most important job interview of their life - I do not expect them to come back to me and sue me for not getting the job. If I sell them a managed maintenance package for that car - selling them the peace of mind that we are going to make sure the car is in top maintenance condition - and the car breaks down on the way to that interview - I better be ready to lawyer up.

So, this is where I get stuck - what is the internal structure for making sure backups are running and patches are applied, etc.? Is a given employee given one customer for whom they are responsible? Do I assign Company X to technician Joe - and then Joe has a set of documented processes that he is responsible to perform for Company X? What documentation is created and what is the accountability mechanism that makes sure Joe is following the processes? It is just an entirely different business model that I am struggling to put skin on. I can do the tech - map the network, find the RMM, setup the backup system, set up the ticketing system, etc. - but it is the processes that have me stuck.

On a more technical level - I know that there has been some discussion about whether to ditch RMMs - and I think it is a valid discussion. I’m not sure that persistent, admin level, remote access is worth the convenience. Why not just have a user-initiated remote connection shortcut? We use Anydesk, for example, and will put a shortcut on the desktop to our customized run-only app - which is easy for the customer to initiate. Patch management is definitely a problem without an agent running of some sort.

Appreciate the opportunity to put this out there for the community’s feedback and thanks to Lawrence Systems for creating this forum and the ethos around it.

Once you have all of your clients in a dashboard and ticketing system they are looked at by all of us as one thing as opposed to individual companies. We check the backups for everyone, the patch status for everyone, and security status for everyone. Any issues with any of those system creates alerts that the team discusses and remedies. For the most part that all runs really smooth (except updates because Windows update is hot garbage) and most the of the time is spent solving the usual things that come up like printers not working, or emails not working right and other misc issues.

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I’m sure I am over-complicating it. I am trying to create a platform rather than just buy a platform.

I assume you are using the Solarwinds backup package - which looks to be all cloud based? Are you concerned with RTO if you need to restore a 500GB fileserver - even a pretty fast pipe is going to take a while to pull that backup down. Much less, a major ransomware hit that required a few TBs of restore data.

Our backups are all onsite with cloud or remote site DR replication currently.

Appreciate your insights.

The N-Able (formerly Solarwinds) backup system offers on site as well as cloud to help mitigate that issue.

We made a video to talk a bit more about what happens from an internal perspective of running an MSP.

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I’m really disappointed that DHayes deleted his post - it had a lot of really good stuff in there. I hope he will reconsider and repost his thoughts.

Looking forward to digging into this conversation more - when I have had more sleep and coffee :slight_smile:

This is not a simple transition. Many of us have done it over the years and most of those have failed to make the transition. For those that do, the client experience is better and long term their networks are less expensive to run. What works better: Having your auto shop come by your workplace to do regular maintenance? Or for you to wait to call your shop to fix a blown engine because the oil has never been changed. Business networks are no different. Sure they may run for a year or so, but when a problem DOES happen it is normally catastrophic leaving their business stranding on the side of the road. MSP is not about “Pre billing” or “block time” it is about proactively preventing problems and planning for the future. I would be happy to jump on a phone call with you some time if you just want to talk it through.

5K endpoints
120 clients
10M per year revenue
33 people
23 years in service, transitioned to MSP 6 years ago and have tripled our business and have 6.3X the net profit.
Feel free to reach out

Yes - for sure - 100% agree with you.

Extending my original car analogy - this is the core problem I am trying to solve for my customers. They have no one in house that knows that they need to get the oil changed and need someone to tell them “Hey - it is time to get the oil changes in the company car, so we are going to do that on Friday”. What I was trying to get into was more a systems and processes level question - if I am now assuming the responsibility to make sure the oil gets changed, what are the systems and processes to get that done efficiently and consistently and in a way that mitigates all the various business risks involved. With 120 clients - you personally obviously have no idea if customer #36 needs an oil change - so what is the process that makes sure the oil changes are managed and you don’t have anyone slip through the cracks with a “I thought you were watching that customer - was I supposed to be watching that customer?” . Per Tom’s reply - the secret sauce to make it work with any sort of efficiency is a cloud-based platform where you have a single dashboard reporting for all endpoints and baked-in automation and monitoring. Per DHayes original comments - it is hard for some of us to rely on a third-party platform so heavily for such a core part of our business and, for me, I am always looking at the risk landscape and weighing the cost/benefit of taking on additional liability.

Your numbers are amazing - congratulations on your success.

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Weighing the risk and what it costs to mitigate that risk is an important factor in the decision you are contemplating. I took a decision not to go the strict MSP route years ago when I dropped the hardware VAR route. Instead I went where the players were limited that is Unix and Linux and it was a good decision for me. Right now I concentrate my efforts on “data protection” and backup solutions, an oft poor stepchild in the IT space. That in my niche.

It would have been easy to move into the MSP space with all those ready made solutions for Windows and money would have flowed simply because Windows is broken. As one guy said to me about ten years back " I love Windows, it breaks and keeps me employed." Perhaps I had some premonition that all that third party software kludged together from disparate corners of the software universe would someday haunt its users. The MSP space has a high cost of entry so one must ramp up quickly and that is another bag of worms if you are not well healed. CapX , payroll, office space, (It is possible to have a remote workforce.) insurance cyber E&O workers comp all major costs that must be covered for at least 18 months. Well you get the picture, the why behind why I am not an MSP. One final thought build alliances with known good MSPs that are ethical and honest, doing so will serve you well.