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April 9, 2023

From Guiding Force to Roadblock

Navigating the Challenges of Growing Your MSP

TL;DR: This article provides insight into the key aspects of running a successful business: developing a clear vision and strategy, embracing new technologies, networking, and seeking mentorship. It also emphasizes the importance of focusing on the 'who' rather than the 'how', and highlights the need for entrepreneurs to invest in themselves, their teams, and to never stop.

When you first start your business, your energy, skills, and enthusiasm will be what drives your idea to become a successful business. As your business grows and evolves, the same characteristics that made it successful in the past could now become the cause of its failure. To prevent this, you must take an adaptive approach to growing your business and establish a foundation of flexibility. This means taking the time to reflect on what has worked in the past and making adjustments as needed for future success. To keep your business agile and ahead of competitors, it's important to learn from experience and be open to change. There is no universal solution for scaling a business, but by devising a bespoke strategy, savvy entrepreneurs can effectively pursue long-term growth and meet their specific needs. With a balanced mix of ambition and caution, you can give your business the best chance at reaching its full potential.

Dan Sullivan's approach to remaining adaptable and flexible while scaling businesses includes a strategy called 'Changing your Game'. This method stresses the significance of comprehending an organization's financials and functions. He encourages business owners to understand every process in order to have a clear grasp on how decisions affect their bottom line. He suggests breaking complicated jobs into smaller parts and giving each part to someone on the team. Use data and check progress often, so the boss can change things when needed and make good choices. This allows them to adjust their strategy as needed while ensuring that goals are reached in a timely manner. In addition, Sullivan believes in continuously learning from setbacks or mistakes in order to refine strategies and reduce risk.

That is all quite different from when you first started your business when it was all risk to create demand and cash flow.

And why is that?

smiling girl in black and white striped shirt

Well, it is the abundance of time and energy that we have to ‘spend’ as entrepreneurs in the early days. We need to be able to make decisions fast, be ok with mediocrity, and pivot on a moments notice.

As your company grows, you will hire more leaders and staff who will need to establish processes, expectations, and accountability to maintain the standards that you set during the early days of your organization.

So as your company grows and matures, so will the requirements to plan and move at a pace where everyone is aligned and stays focused. Those ‘new ideas’ that you barged into your weekly leadership meeting with are now disruptive as ‘it's not part of the plan’.

Let's take a look at how we can better manage the ideas, pivots, and wants we have for our organizations as they grow. These ‘shiny objects’ are still our secret weapon, we just need to know how to better utilize this ‘shiny object syndrome’.

Here's how the five examples of why a business could fail if an entrepreneur has too many ideas could apply to an MSP:

  1. Lack of focus and direction: If an MSP has too many ideas for new services or products, they may struggle to prioritize which ones to pursue. This can result in a lack of direction for the business, making it difficult to achieve long-term success. For example, if an MSP tries to offer too many different types of services, they may not be able to specialize and become known as experts in any one area. Research conducted by the University of Cambridge found that entrepreneurs who have a clear and focused strategy are more likely to succeed than those who pursue multiple ideas simultaneously.
  2. Limited resources: Pursuing too many ideas can also stretch an MSP's resources thin, making it difficult to execute on any of them effectively. This can result in a lack of progress and missed opportunities, potentially leading to failure. For example, if an MSP tries to offer too many services without having the necessary staff or technology in place, they may struggle to deliver quality services to their clients. Research by the University of Southern California found that startups with limited resources are more likely to fail if they pursue too many ideas at once.
  3. Overwhelming complexity: Juggling too many ideas can also create overwhelming complexity for an MSP and their team. This can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and a lack of coordination, ultimately hampering the success of the business. For example, if an MSP tries to offer too many different types of services, it may be difficult to train staff on all of them, resulting in a lack of consistency in service delivery. Research by Harvard Business Review found that simplicity is key to successful innovation, as complex ideas are more difficult to implement and maintain.
  4. Lack of market validation: Pursuing multiple ideas simultaneously can also make it difficult for an MSP to validate the market for any one of them. This can result in a lack of understanding of customer needs and preferences, making it difficult to create a service that resonates with the market. For example, if an MSP tries to offer too many different types of services without first understanding which ones are in high demand, they may waste resources developing services that no one wants. Research by the University of North Carolina found that entrepreneurs who focus on market validation early in the process are more likely to succeed.
  5. Divided attention: Finally, pursuing too many ideas can result in divided attention for an MSP and their team. This can lead to a lack of focus and commitment to any one idea, ultimately leading to failure. For example, if an MSP tries to offer too many services without having a clear focus on their core competencies, they may become spread too thin and fail to excel in any one area. Research by the University of Texas found that entrepreneurs who stay committed to a single idea are more likely to succeed than those who pursue multiple ideas simultaneously.

But this will be too slow!

time lapse photography of white train

But let's think about those 5 ideas, they all take time to analyze execution. I commonly hear “my company moves to slow”, which is an interesting paradigm.

Like a bullet train passing you, perspective can be an odd scenario. In the early days, the world around you was moving fast and you had to run as fast as the train. But as it’s grown, you are now riding the train watching the world pass you by. But it’s in this moment, that you are still traveling at the speed you once were, you just now are a passenger. It’s this metaphor that is important because your company, as much as you think, is not moving slow, you just don’t need to move as fast as you once did. 

Some of us intervene and look for ways to speed up the process, such as conducting research, seeking input from peers, studying competitors, and exploring other options. I understand that it can be frustrating when your company is managing you and despite having strong evidence, they may not prioritize allocating the necessary investment, time, and scheduling to make your vision a reality.

Essentially we are trying to fix something that may not be broken or need improvement in the first place! Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks, once said "Success is not about being all things to all people. It's about doing one thing brilliantly and surrounding yourself with a team that supports your vision and helps you execute it with excellence." This is why managing your time and resources properly is critical when exploring multiple ideas. This is why you have a leadership team!

Now, while this is all fine, there is that one essence of an entrepreneur that, at times, feels impossible to hold back. I'll admit, in my own ventures I have been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Richard Branson says, "Most successful entrepreneurs didn't set out to build a big company - they simply stumbled upon a problem they wanted to solve." If we look at his career, a vast empire of 'solve problems' live in his wake. His conquest from everything from music production all the way to space travel are in his portfolio. But he does it not at the expense of his one organization, but as living out the 'entrepreneurial dream' of multiple teams to 'solve problems'.

Now you may be thinking "that's great Kyle, but he is a billionaire! We all don't have the working capital to spin up a business with every new idea".

But it's that very frustration that can be our power to motivate us to 'do it again'.

A friend of mine once told me "There are thousands of people who can take a business from 1 to 100. But only a handful that can take it from 0 to 1." (thanks Connor!) In the book E Myth revisited, Michael Gerber points out that many entrepreneurs are just practitioners wanting to share their craft. They are highly skilled, and want to monetize those skills. What they do not do, is realize that by starting an organization they are essentially 'changing careers'. They are forgoing their mastered skill to take the reins of business owner. However, what do they do to strengthen their new responsibilities? How do they remain accountable to being the 'best damn CEO' they could imagine?

10,000 hours

"The 10,000-hour rule says that to become a world-class expert in anything, you need to invest ten thousand hours of focused practice. But not all practice is created equal: you need a feedback loop, a mentor, and a willingness to embrace the suck." - Daniel Coyle

10,000 hours... How much effort have you spent this year, last year, the last decade on being the best entrepreneur you could be? Is it like that gym membership you have? Or were you one of the brave to find ways to keep yourself accountable?

Let me know if you apply:

  1. Continuously educate oneself: Successful entrepreneurs recognize that learning is a lifelong process, and they take the time to continuously educate themselves on topics related to their industry and business. According to a study by LinkedIn, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. Entrepreneurs can improve their knowledge through attending industry events, reading books and articles, and taking online courses.
  2. Build a strong team: A strong team is essential for the success of any company. Entrepreneurs should focus on hiring individuals with diverse skill sets and experiences that complement their own. Research from Gallup found that teams that have a high level of diversity have a 35% higher financial performance than those that don't. It's important to create a company culture that values collaboration, open communication, and continuous improvement.
  3. Develop a clear vision and strategy: Entrepreneurs must have a clear vision and strategy for their company to achieve long-term success. This involves setting realistic goals, understanding the market, and developing a plan for growth. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, companies with a clear and compelling vision are twice as likely to achieve above-average profitability and sales growth.
  4. Embrace technology: Technology can help entrepreneurs streamline operations, improve efficiency, and reach new customers. It's important to stay up-to-date on the latest technological advancements and determine which tools and software can benefit the company. According to a survey by McKinsey, 87% of executives said digital transformation was a top priority for their company.
  5. Network and seek mentorship: Entrepreneurs can benefit from networking and seeking mentorship from experienced business leaders. This can provide valuable insights, advice, and connections that can help the company grow. A study by SCORE found that 70% of mentored businesses survive more than five years, which is double the rate of non-mentored businesses.

How many of you scored 100%? Better than 70%? How many of you are wondering 'what did I do?'

Does that motivate you?

a man and a woman working out in a gym

What if we ask ourselves the question, "if I were to become a better CEO, would my teams be working on my ideas before I even ask them?" also, "would I be more willing to startup a second company or invest in more team members if I were more confident in my abilities to manage my teams?"

"In every situation, you have a choice to focus on the 'how' or the 'who.' The 'how' will lead you to frustration and overwhelm. The 'who' will lead you to freedom and growth." In the book, "Who not How" by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy, they emphasize the importance of mindset when it comes to finding the right people to help with your business. By focusing on the "who," entrepreneurs can avoid getting bogged down in the details of how to achieve their goals.

All in all, what we do to expand our ideas through mature execution and properly flexing our 'entrepreneurial muscle' is critical to the success and legacy we leave behind. Feeling us frustration and dismay comes a lot at the lack of deduction our own abilities give us to fix problems. So why fight it? If your mind and abilities have hit a brick wall, don't bury your team and organization due to a lack of your own focus, stand up and seek growth. Use your resources, search for mentors, and never stop learning. As a leader the best thing you can do is have an open mind to new ideas and perspectives. There is no better way to build success than with a strong team of individuals that share the same goal.

By investing in yourself and by building a strong team around you, you can rest assured that your business will be in capable hands and ready to take on anything. The key is to stay focused, never stop learning, and don't be afraid to ask for help. With the right tools and people, you can turn any idea into a success story. Good luck!

Still need help, schedule a call to see how this 'Chief Accountability Officer' can whip you into shape and help get your organization from Good to Great.

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EOS Implementer®

K7 Leadership
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