ERP035 - Moving from TnM to MSP


Today on the podcast, my guest is Nigel Moore, Founder of The Tech Tribe. Nigel built and sold a successful MSP in Sydney. Now he is leading a tribe of MSP owners looking to grow their MSP practice. Nigel and I talk about the evolution of the IT service company to an MSP. The mistakes people make and what makes it difficult. We also explore the idea of if you should do TnM & MSP or just go pure MSP. Nigel is a fantastic guy, and is truly passionate about the industry.

Resources mentioned

Managed Services in a Month - by Karl Palachuk
The Tech Tribe discount link here. Use this link and get 40% off your first month and the tech tribe will donate mosquito nets to communities in Africa!


Having trouble getting your techs to enter their time? I have a short training course to help MSP techs manage their time and get their time in the PSA.


ERP034 - The power of customer satisfaction


Today's podcast is brought to you by Simplesat. Your tool for stupidly simple satisfaction surveys. I'm joined by Derek and Cory Brown, the father-son team behind Pronto Marketing and Simplesat.

If you're in a service-based industry it's important to know how your customers feel about your service. Traditional satisfaction surveys are terrible and the response rates show that's the case. Simplesat can increase your client feedback 10 fold. Simplesat also makes the data more actionable. 

I recently did a blog post about Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). So if you'd like to learn more about how getting customer feedback can empower your business, check it out.

Podcast Transcript

Todd:    Welcome to evolve radio where we explore the evolution of business and technology. Today's podcast is brought to you by Simplesat, your tool for stupidly simple satisfaction surveys. I'm joined by Derek and Cory Brown, the father and son team behind Pronto marketing and Simplesat. If you're in a service based industry, it's important to know how your customers feel about your service. Traditional satisfaction surveys are terrible, and response rates show that that's the case. Simplesat can increase your client feedback tenfold. Simple, sad. Also makes the data more actionable. Jump over to for a free 30 day trial and try it out yourself now onto my interview with Derek and Cory.

Todd:    Joining me on the podcast today, or Derek and Cory Brown, cofounders of Pronto marketing and simple set. Welcome to the podcast guys.

Derek:    Hey, thanks for having us.

Todd:    So this will be a bit of an experiment. This is actually the first time that I've had more than one guest at a time on the podcast, so we'll start with a bit of the background as we usually do. If you guys want to give us some history. I think people in the MSP market, especially, you're probably familiar with Pronto, you guys do a fair bit of work on web pages and marketing efforts for the industry. Some people may have seen simple set and the new product that you guys are working on. If you want to kick us off and give us a bit of background on where Pronto came from and your development through the, uh, through the industry.

Derek:    Sure. Um, you know, I'll take that. This is Derek. Before I started pronto, Cory and I started Pronto. I worked at Microsoft for about 13 years in a variety of different positions, mobile devices and such. For one period of time I was responsible for windows small business server back in the day and spent a lot of time. Um obviously getting to know our, our partners around the world. I met partners in Australia and India and Europe all around the US had a partner advisory council. People like Curtis Hicks Arlin Sorenson and just learned a lot of, you know, really got to enjoy my time with the it guys and, and what became msps out of that. And when I decided to take a break and do something different than Microsoft and got talking to Cory about starting a company, you know, I really thought from my experience with these guys was a lot of struggles around marketing and marketing execution and getting things done. Um, and so we started pronto with the idea that we would be kind of like manage what we called managed services for marketing at that time that we would do execution and get things done for our MSP clients. And that's worked out really well. We've been doing it for 10 years. We have over 1500 clients, which are probably 900 or something. Are MSPS on all on some sort of ongoing subscription full service program along the way. Customer service became really critical to us. You know, we're doing thousands of requests a month. Major websites reduced to a quick short little updates to fixing things like broken forms. We have new customers on boarding, new customers going live sort of all through the life cycle. We started collecting this data and different sort of ad hoc ways zendesk had things are we use survey forms. Um, and you know, we're really kind of a super data geeky company. I have a fulltime data analysts that worked for me on this kind of stuff and we just started wanting to build better tools that gave us a more holistic view of things both from a CSAT or customer satisfaction at a transactional basis such as um, you know, were you happy with the support ticket to specific sorts of moments in time like the website goes live? What was that experience for you? We do NPS when people cancel with us and ask us, you know, how, what could we have done better and how do you feel about, um, you know, pronto with that kind of exit moment. And then we do quarterly N and lots of things. So really simple sat started for us as an initiative to just get better data for us and have a more holistic view. We also thought about it in terms of, you know, just wanting to have a full life cycle on our customers. For instance, we had a lot of people saying a lot of great stuff in our feedback, but we had no way to share it. That was really scaled. So we thought about that particular challenge as well. So really simple set, don't you grew out of two things which is our deep passion around customer service and doing better along with working really closely with hundreds and hundreds of MSPs day in and day out and the kind of things that they ask us, um, and the kinds of challenges that they have. And strategically for our business, it made a lot of sense because we really have come from just being a website to a full range of marketing services and adwords, facebook campaign management and custom content development and that we really have a full funnel. And the last piece in that funnel is really about customer retention and customer satisfaction and sharing feedback, you know, back to the top of the funnel. So we felt like it was a really good fit for our business.

Todd:    So what I would take out of that is that the more things change, the more things stay the same. When you mentioned two things that I'm certainly familiar with that the marketing is always a heavy interest for, for customers, um, for especially people in technical fields. It's not an area that they're super comfortable with and usually need someone else to lean on for, for some of that support. And the other part that you mentioned that I'm a big believer in is that the knowledge is the easy part. The execution is where the rubber meets the road and I think that's a certainly an area where more businesses should take advantage of, uh, agencies that can support them in the areas that are not core to their business. So I think that's a really interesting that, that, that is still very evident in the industry today as well.

Derek:    Yeah, we're big believers. I mean execution is hard, um, and something as simple as saying you should get a monthly newsletter out. You're in the tornado of taking care of customers and your focus is, you know, with small businesses and you're their it guy. It's so easy to punt. Send the newsletter to next week, week after week after week. And, you know, we just get it done for our clients.

Todd:    The move to simple set, you mentioned a customer satisfaction scoring. This is certainly something that, uh, I'm a big, big believer in because how do you know how you're doing with your customer service if you're not actually collecting that feedback directly from the people that you're serving? And I think a lot of people make a mistake in making a lot of assumptions about what they think is happening and what they feel the client thinks about them and the relationship and they don't really have a lot of data to validate that, that visibility and to be able to justify what they either feel is the case or you know, sometimes they can just get scared and start to worry about, you know, are we okay here? Is this client or we as our relationship solid, I don't really know. They seem to say the right things when I speak to them, but they're not really giving me the warm fuzzies. So I, I think, uh, the customer satisfaction scoring really helps to objectify that data and make it clear that the clients on the ground are giving you appropriate feedback and people are satisfied with the level of service that you're giving and being able to have that as a defensible measure if anyone ever questions what you're actually offering and whether or not people are satisfied with the service. So that's sort of my view of CSAT. But uh, uh, you know, cory, if you'd like to expand on that, maybe touch on how you, your view of CSAT is important to a business,

Cory:    right? Yeah. And it's a really good point that it's Kinda like before you would do all the other cool stuff with satisfaction, like publishing those testimonials are publishing your satisfaction score or integrations with third party systems like your crm or your psa. It's really getting it in place in the first place. Going from nothing to something is definitely the most important part. And it's like, you know, you're driving at night with the head without headlights on. You're just, you're completely in the dark where once you get this set up is there's kind of a peace of mind and a competence like you're saying that you know, you know every interaction, the customer at least has a chance to rate the feedback and provide feedback and it comes into the system or comes to you in a structured way where it's not just anecdotal and email to the founder of the company about a complaint or something. You hear offhand. All the tech is on site. It's captured in a structured way every time which allows you to take each piece of feedback and investigate that and dig into it in a structured way. Like in our team for example, when we get a bad satisfaction of Pronto, it sends an email to a group of people and our support manager is the person on point to dig into it and let us know what happened and we kind of do a little mini five why's analysis on that. So all of us in the company, we just know that if a customer leaves a bad review, we know that we're going to talk about it and we know that we're going to do something better to improve from it.

Todd:    You hit on it being a two pronged approach. The one you have to find your way in the dark and just knowing what the customer satisfaction score is to begin with is sort of the first effort of that. If you roll this out or a and you find, hey, the satisfaction scores are great, good, and then you can continue to maintain that and address any negative feedback, but also in some cases you may launch it. And maybe this is the resistance in some why some people are not comfortable sometimes rolling out these systems is they're fearful of what they're actually going to find out and if they validate that clients are unhappy than that. That can sort of lead to some fear of validating the truth of that, which I think is kind of hiding from the inevitable. You're better off to know those things and be able to manage them appropriately rather than just sticking your head in the sand and saying, well, I don't want someone to say that what we're doing isn't working. You're much better off to be able to know that in order to fix it.

Derek:    Yeah. We had a period of time where we were, at that time we were using zendesk and we were always getting 99 percent, 99 point five percent good ratings and I forget quite what was the question they would ask,

Cory:    Just how satisfied are you?

Derek:    Happy, you know, like people go happy. Yes. And we changed the wording a little bit, you know, something like was everything perfect. And we intentionally wanted that score to go down some because we weren't getting enough enough feedback, you know, of like, okay, we were good, but were we great? Um, so yeah, you can't hide from it. You want to keep, you know. And then then we started to get those. It dropped down to whatever, 97, 98 percent, but we got some really great feedback of people who were overall happy but like, well, now that you ask, you could have done this a little better. Um, so, you know, we just keep digging for it and sure it hurts your feelings sometimes, but you got to know

Todd:    Better to know. The other piece I think is really important as well as sometimes the users are happy and the business owner is not. Usually the account manager is having a conversation with the business owner who maybe has some negative feedback and as saying, You know, well I've heard that people are not satisfied with the service that you're delivering. And being able to present some evidence to say, well that's, you know, that's not the indication that we're getting. Everyone seems to be really pleased. Maybe you're just hearing from one noisy person who keeps walking to your office to say that they're dissatisfied. Uh, so I think the, the, again that, that objective data to be able to have a data point to control the conversations that you're having with the client around certain narratives that may or may not be true, I think is really, really helpful as well. The other piece that I think is great for the, the approach that you guys are taking is reducing the friction from giving surveys and collecting that data. Uh, I'm sure everyone has been sent emails that says, Hey, please fill out the survey. And most people delete them. But if are actually inclined to fill out that survey, they click a link and realize that it's a four page, a web forum that they have to weed their way through typing into open fields and scoring on a rating of 10. And uh, they, they go through the first page and probably give up after that. And you guys are taking the approach of limited friction where just give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down or a smiley face or a frowny face. And that really helps the user to be able to just give you a single click within the email, within the ticket, within the webpage, and reduces that friction of them actually being able to provide the feedback that you are looking for.

Cory:    Yeah, there's a few parts there. One is about the one click feedback, which is really important. Like you're saying, if you get an email that says please take five minutes out of your day to take a survey and there's a button there, it's the response rate's going to be super low because right there, you know, you're asking kind of like you're asking something that just no one wants to do in the first place. And the second part is that once you're on a survey, it's, they're usually the user experience is pretty bad and the design is bad. And there's a, you see the pagination and it's like one out of 20 and you're like, no, no way. I'm going to answer this so that we combine the one click feedback. So that's where you see the smiley faces in an email or thumbs or um, an NPS net promoter score, zero through 10 question and email. Once you click that, you're already answering question number one and that is already captured in the system whether they complete the rest of the survey or not. So that's already there, increasing your response rates and increasing the number of overall responses you're going to get. And then two, once you're on the survey, we're doing as much as we can to create a fun and interactive and intuitive survey process that is really different from the mean right now, which is this really kind of boring, ugly, arduous task where it's actually kind of fun and it shouldn't be a, you know, leave a positive image for your company after your customer takes a survey that it's like, wow, that was, that was cool what they just did that, you know, they have their stuff together.

Todd:    Excellent. So you guys are generally serving the MSP and IT service market, but obviously CSAT is something that's pretty universal, especially in any type of a service entity. You, you guys don't limit yourself or view the product, as centric around it service providers do you?

Cory:    So at the moment I'm kind of yes and no, we do have customers that are non MSPs using the product and most of them are still technology companies that are relying on a help desk, zendesk or a freshdesk to collect customer satisfaction. Um at the moment we are over 90 percent of our users are msps and we're finding more and more as we get into this. Just how um, you know, there's, there's all these different industries and niches and just how much each individual one requires an incredible amount of focus and attention to really get it right. So while we, it's kind of just the, the non msps are just coming in through word of mouth or organically, but the product that we're building right now is really centered around Msps, around support that we offer and the integrations that we have and the marketing and everything around that. Mainly it service.

Todd:    Okay, great. And what type of feedback are you getting from the clients? I imagine there's the party that it didn't have any type of a program in place and I'm sure they're wowed and then you may have some people that are coming over from a different types of surveys systems. Can you maybe touch on both of those scenarios or any other type of success stories that you have?

Cory:    Yeah, sure. So, um, and like you said that there's definitely two camps. One, they were doing nothing before and now they're, they're completely eye opening for the company to have this sort of data a user for to be an internal mail just the other day that they've sent out to their team where they say, um, you know, this, this data is beyond valuable and they're sharing the dashboards with our team in an email and kind of doing a weekly pep talks with the team and saying, you know, now we're up our satisfactions up a few points. We drop one the last week, so let's keep it up. Stuff like that. So that's really cool to see that it's actually making a, um, a driving impact on a company from other users switching over from other services. We've received a lot of feedback that they're receiving more responses, the response rates are going up from other solutions they were using and also our testimonial testimonial publishing widgets on websites are a huge hit where before they were just, they weren't really able to take advantage of positive feedback and one feature was simplesat is you can publish it, you can publish feedback on your website in real time and display it on your homepage or a testimonials page. So that's a big hit where we have a lot of users displaying that feedback on the webpage.

Todd:    Yeah, that's a cool feature as well that you can actually see, hey, this was feedback from this morning or yesterday afternoon. It gives, uh, the, the, the, the, the vision around the fact that this is real time data that you're not sort of cherry picking testimonials from four years ago and leaving them up on the website, that there's fresh stuff coming in and people are satisfied with the service that you're, that you're providing something that's a really cool plus as well. That kind of leads to I guess some of the other feature sets. That's one of the differentiators that I certainly see in simple sat from the other products in the, in the industry. Um, it's not something that didn't exist before. So I'm curious why you guys decided to develop your own product to meet this need. If you either saw that there was something missing in the market or you felt that there was a competitive advantage that you can produce a against the competitors that were there.

Cory:    Yeah, sure. So, um, as they are in the beginning, as simple as that really came from us with Pronto not having the solution that we really want. So a lot of this comes from our learnings about everything from feeling like the surveys aren't interactive and intuitive enough for users to, um, know there's no, a lot of different survey tools. They only do one thing, so they only do a CSAT ticket feedback where a lot of other tools specialized just in net promoter score collection or um, you know, there's other tools like survey monkey or type form that make really great survey tools, but really don't focus on the customer satisfaction element or focus on the MSP market. So when we look at customer satisfaction, we really view it as there's three areas that, one is surveys, so doing a great job at presenting surveys to customers and collecting data on two is the insights piece where once you collect the data as taken advantage of it in your own dashboard, uh, leaderboards and stats, integrations, notifications, reporting, and the third one is taking that customer satisfaction back out kind of top of funnel thing where you're actually using it as a marketing tool to increase website conversions and show your satisfaction percentage on a website or point positive customers to leave a good review on Google or facebook or some industry pay.

Cory:    So we've seen a lot of, there's other competitors or other companies that do a great job at one of these areas, but we're not seeing a lot of it does a great job in every area and we really want to take ownership over every part from beginning to end. And that's how we think we can have the most high quality. Yeah. Product in that process.

Todd:    Right. So kind of wrapping in a bunch of the different products that are available out there. Uh, the CSAT is the one that, that is sort of the core of the product right now. Uh, the, the other components that we've tucked on, touched on are more in the roadmap and things that you're developing. Do you want to touch on sort of what you see as the development and the roadmap for the product and what people would hope to see in the next six to 12 months?

Cory:    Working on a net promoter score email feature. So this will allow MSPs to sync their customer list with simple sat. I will start with connectwise and autotask and infusionsoft and you sync the customer lists and all the fields that you need there. And you can create an audience within simple sat to make sure that you're only sending that net promoter score email to like active contacts with connectwise or infusionsoft. We use the person type and we'll manage all of the sending rules and delivery and where you can set it up on autopilot, where email sends out once a quarter to all your active contacts between Monday and Friday, five to nine, nine to 5:00 PM, evenly spread about the distribution between your lists, so it'll be a great. We've done this for Pronto for years now, but it's a great autopilot where you just know it's not like something you need to put on your calendar to do the NPS survey and like just like marketing, you're going to forget to do it or punt it. It's just on autopilot. It's always working. The feedback's coming in just like CSAT, so that's the the nps feature and we have that. We'll be ready to start testing in August. Other types of integrations, we're just working on getting deeper in the IT market, so for example, we're working on getting with a direct integration with bright gauge now users can integrate with BrightGauge at the moment through our dropbox integration. We'd like to get deeper with Brightgauge with that and just working with other partners and vendors and tools such as IT Glue and connectwise and autotask and all of them just getting deeper with that.

Todd:    Great. And the NPS, we kinda touched on it a couple of times when people may not be as familiar with it because we kind of elaborated on CSAT. Maybe if you could just give us a bit, uh, a bit of a download on, on the usefulness of NPS as well.

Derek:    Yeah. NPS is great for, for two reasons. It came from some research that, um, that you guys did at Bain, it must be 20 years ago or something and wrote a book called the ultimate question. And what they found was through kind of two things, one, that the most effective kind of question you could ask someone was, would you recommend this company to a friend or a colleague? Um, in one way or another. Um, they also did some interesting research that companies that actively did do customer service and follow up on it had greater growth in their, in their, um, in their stock price. It was actually kind of an analysis on the impact of the financials of a company that are focused on customer service. The great thing about NPS is not only, it's a proven methodology in terms of this question, but it's now benchmark across all kinds of industries and you know, you can go out and find benchmarks and see how you can compare. So I think it's just, it's a, you know, it's not a, it's not a solution for everything. There's other information that you need, like nps is not good for a ticket satisfaction. Maybe it's more like a quarterly or something to kind of check in with your customer on this kind of. I'm feeling about the overall relationship. You know, we also use a methodology, you know, something like raider that's kind of in between CSAT and NPS and of digging down a little bit more. Um, but I think at a minimum, especially say for an MSP, you need that CSAT transactional, how do we do on this ticket? And that's kind of a real hot, you know, kind of question that you can watch go up and down over time. And then you step back and ask your NPS and get that feeling of overall how people feel about the relationship.

Todd:    Right. That's a great summary. So you're kind of collecting that, that similar type of data both from the top end of the relationship as well as the transactions within that relationship. Right?

Cory:    Right. And then once you have those in place, it's really insightful. Um, when you're collecting both CSAT and NPS feedback. At Pronto, we know this where you'll, there'll be cases where you might have a really high CSAT score for customer, but in lower NPS score and the other way around and something like that could happen where, you know, the techs are always friendly and they always get things right the first time, but maybe overall your service is really overpriced or maybe you're missing a, a service component that's really inconvenient for the customer. So while they're really happy with the day to day interactions, they're not likely to recommend your company to a friend, but you know, it could be the other way around to where maybe there's a few texts that they just don't really like working with. But overall they're super happy to recommend you because they see a lot of value in the service and know they couldn't live without you. So that's been really helpful for us at Pronto that, you know, if you're only doing, it's Kinda like you're not doing anything, you're totally driving in the dark, but if you're only doing one that it's half the picture. So getting both in place really helped us.

Todd:    Yeah. As I often say, a data does not give you any answers. It'll only help you out. Ask more intelligent questions.

Cory:    Yeah. And like with asking questions, it's one thing that's great too about getting this feedback is it opens up a conversation with your customer and that's really what's important, that it's giving more channels and more opportunities to open up the conversation and the real meaningful insights that's going to happen. Or once they answer a question that you follow up with them and then you have a conversation about that. That's really one of the biggest values of a tool like this.

Todd:    Yeah. And customer satisfaction is something that people absolutely need to take seriously. It's your best defense against commoditization in any type of service based industry. You need to develop deep, meaningful relationships with your clients and being able to collect that data and know that you're on track is super, super critical. If people are not collecting CSAT information and they're curious about the product, where would you suggest they go to check things out?

Cory:    Right? Yeah. You can go to and just follow the sign up process. From there we have a free 30 day trial where you can use the product in its full form, do test it out and implement your system. So super easy to get going and I'm always available for support or helping implement with anything. So

Todd:    anything I haven't asked or anything we haven't touched on that we showed in the conversation.

Derek:    You've done a pretty good job.

Todd:    If listeners want to connect with you and ask a follow along on social, any avenues that they should look for you on?

Cory:    Yes, so you can find us on facebook and linkedin. Our emails are or I'm probably the best way to get in contact though is to go to our website at and just chat. Start chatting with us with the widget in the bottom right corner.

Todd:    Okay. Awesome. Well appreciate you coming on the show and talking a bit about NPS and CSAT and all the cool stuff that you're delivering to the market.

Cory:    Yeah. Well thank you so much for the time and yeah, thanks a lot.

Derek:    We appreciate it.

Todd:    I hope you've enjoyed our conversation about simplesat and the importance of client feedback. If you haven't already, go to simple and test it out with a free 30 day trial. Also, if you haven't yet subscribed to evolve radio, please subscribe. That way you'll get the latest episodes straight to your smartphone.

ERP033 - Advanced Biometric Security w/ Ian Paterson

Ian Paterson CEO of Plurilock

Ian Paterson CEO of Plurilock

Today on Evolved Radio we're talking everyone's favorite IT topic lately. Security!

I'm joined by Ian Paterson CEO of Plurilock. His company has a really innovative approach to security. It's an advanced form of user identification that can tell who you are by how you type and move the mouse. We talk about why users hate passwords, security requirements for regulated industries, and much more.

To see a short video about Plurilock, you can check it out here.

ERP032 - Why you need an MSP coach W/ Richard Tubb

Richard Tubb MSP Growth Advisor

Richard Tubb MSP Growth Advisor

Richard Tubb is one of the best-known experts in the global IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) community. His track record speaks for itself, as he launched and sold his own MSP business before creating a leading MSP media and consultancy practice. Richard is also the author of the IT Business Owner's Survival Guide and the author of the Tubblog & co-host on the Auvik Frankly MSP Podcast.

We discuss why you may need a business coach, what business owners tend to struggle with most, and how technology is evolving MSP businesses as well as their client's businesses.

Several books are mentioned in the podcast in addition to Richard's book.

The E-Myth revisited

Getting Things Done

ERP031 - vCIO Process w/ Alex Markov

Alex Markov CEO of Strategy Overview

Alex Markov CEO of Strategy Overview

On the podcast today, I'm chatting with Alex Markov, President of Red Key Solutions and CEO of Strategy Overview.

Red Key is a mature and successful MSP in the New York area. Alex and his team work hard to deliver business value to their clients. One of the best way for MSPs to do that is implementing a QBR/TBR. Alex recognized the value in the system they had built and has created a SaaS product called Strategy Overview to help others deliver effective technology planning to their clients.


Todd: 00:00 Joining me on the podcast today is Alex Markov , president of red key solutions and CEO of strategy overview. Welcome Alex.

Alex: 00:07 Hey Todd. Good to be with you.

Todd: 00:09 Today. We're going to be talking a bit about a more MSP process and specifically we're going to be talking a lot about the position of the cio or the virtual cio and the role that that plays in an MSP as well as a general it service providers. Alex, you're a particular pro at this area of the business and know that this would be an interesting discussion. This is an area that is developing pretty rapidly for a lot of MSPs as they look to provide more business value rather than just the straight up technical value and maybe just to get us started, if you could tell us a bit about your msp and your background and how a strategy overview came to be.

Alex: 00:49 Yeah, sure. So I started my career or my kind of journey as an it person. Back in 1992. My Dad got me a computer and I got on compuserve and then got on aol after that and have done nothing else except consult and work with businesses and people on setting up technology. So I really go back to the beginning of the functional Internet in 2002. I started a company in college. I'm actually did a real entity and started consulting for businesses and then eventually we switched to managed services. I merged with a partner here, those local and area, and we started Red Key Solutions and today we support over 50 different companies. We support the New York City Tri state market and we use connectwise, Labtech, it glue, bright gauge, know the full msp stack and have really invested a lot of time perfecting our vcio piece of the business and how to do qprs.

Todd: 01:51 Excellent. You launched into starting a product to actually help you out with that Vcio product process. Do you want to touch on that briefly?

Alex: 02:00 Yeah, so we, we used to have a great process that we use spreadsheets for, um, because I have to be really easy to use and we were never able to find anything in the market that was, was it is easy to use as our spreadsheets, so we had an opportunity where my brother is an enterprise quality developer and he said that he can absolutely do this and we started a different company called strategy overview, um, which basically took our process on how to do a risk analysis for clients and um, and converted it into an app that's now used by over 260 msps today on every continent.

Todd: 02:37 Awesome. So let's step back a little bit here for the people that maybe you're not this deep into the it space. A, let's help define what is a Vcio, and specifically let's talk about Vcio and the overlap between what other roles this could be defined in or maybe how they differentiate. There's the, there's the technical account manager and there's also the traditional account manager or salesperson. For Yourself, how would you define what is the vcio role that, uh, have you found success with in, in your organization?

Alex: 03:13 Yeah, so we really started the journey many, many years ago where we are trying to figure out a way how do we communicate with clients in a structured strategic way. So when we, when we all started as MSPS, we as owners is the main kind of the principles and the companies are the main people that communicate with clients, explain to them what they need to get, you know, what the risks that we see. And then as it evolves, we need to make it a formal position. Right? So we tried a number of models. We tried having an account manager, um, we tried even calling it a technical account manager. It never really worked for us, um, because they, the person that really communicates to clients really needs to be almost like a cio as the same way as we as principals. And we started MSPS, we communicate to clients as a cio would. Um, so we, we heard the term in the industry, it's a common term virtual cio and it really is a great term to define what a role does that has that type of communication with clients and that's what we call it. Again, we've tried other ways and I'm sure there are other MSPs which get the account manager model to work and for whatever reason in our MSP, our market, the way that we do it, we never were able to get that to stick.

Todd: 04:33 Yeah, I find it's, it's almost a confluence of a few different issues where it's the type of person that you have available for the role. It's the needs of the client base that you have in particular. And also what maturity level you're at in your, uh, your, your journey as an MSP. Uh, the, find the, there's a lot of components you have to get right beforehand. There's a maturity level that has to be in place before this really becomes a viable option for your business. Is that something that you see as a hindrance to people getting started on the VCIO process as well?

Alex: 05:06 Yeah, definitely. I mean, there's definitely a prerequisite. You need a PSA, connect wise auto task or any of those you need tools like an RMM, you need to get your service down, right? Um, you need to just have ideas and quoting and that stuff organized. So those are definitely prerequisites. Um, and then you definitely need to find the right person and the right team that could do that. It can't be a salesperson. We've learned that it's, it's not a sales role even though they are involved in sales, but the sales just fall out of the role. It has to be somebody that really could have a, a coherent logical conversation. Um, and in our MSP as well, we still keep principles involved in the process as well. So it's, you know, I may not go to every single meeting with clients, but especially the big clients, I'm there and I'm helping guide them in the overall strategy.

Alex: 05:57 Clients get both of the vcio and then a principal that's on the vcio team.

Todd: 06:02 And what would you say are the particulars? Like if someone is looking for that person either outside of their company or preferably inside their company, what are the qualities that you would look for in someone that you feel will be successful in that role?

Alex: 06:16 So they definitely need to be personable but not salesy, personable, just like a relatable person. They have to be sharp and be able to learn, understand technology. They have to be technically minded because the cio needs to really understand technology if they don't understand, you know, even like basics of like dns and domains and active directory and all these other things, they, it'll be difficult for them to make strategic decisions. So they definitely have to be technically minded in our company. We are. People came from the project services world, so they ran projects.

Alex: 06:51 Um, so that gave him the ability to understand budgets, understand financials, understand, you know, different companies have different needs and different budgets. And so there's definitely, it's not like a scientific black and white thing. Um, they definitely need to be flexible and be able to communicate that with clients.

Todd: 07:13 Yeah. It's an interesting mix of, um, like you said, they have to be technical to have that authority and understand the sort of, the, the issues at work and would a successful technology implementation looks like they need a bit of sales to be able to impart the value to the organization and to the client that they're speaking with, but you know, any one of these that is out of concert or, or too much on one end of the spectrum. So I think that's why it's so difficult to replicate this outside of the principle. The principle of the organization will usually know enough about the business has had to do sales in order to build their business and has that, that relationship and that authority with the client. Um, uh, do you feel that that's the Vcio role should stick with the principal before it's replicated outside of that office? Is that maybe the best approach to take there?

Alex: 08:05 Yeah. You know, what I think now that thinking about it, I think in the way that we are able to succeed in it so much as we took project people that were also comfortable speaking to c level executives and speaking financials and budgets and then they basically shadowed me for about two years. Um, and then over time, smaller clients, they were able to run themselves, but they had to invest a lot in business logic and overarching, you know, she's really explain a lot about how businesses work was important to a business. Explain concepts of what a balance sheet is, you know, cap ex and op ex explain things how P and L business would look at, um, financially burden rates, just like business fundamentals where project management understand technology, but then you infuse this business knowledge into them. And that's how I truly VCIO was created.

Todd: 08:59 I think it's really fascinating to understand who is the right person and what is the process that makes this successful. Um, and every time I've, I've sort of gone through this process and work with folks to develop their vcio practice or to help develop a Vcio and their skill set. There's always one component that that is that Aha moment where they really start to get this and you hit on a couple there. The first place I usually start, um, I'd be interested in kind of your feedback on this as well as uh, asking the person, the client if they actually have an it budget or if it's just reactionary spending. And it's surprising the number of times a client that is doing multimillion dollar business and develop, doing very well, but they have no predictive spending on there. It, they've never even thought about it. And that first step to sit down with them and say, okay, here's a draft budget. Here's all the things that I have, I have visibility to. And I've wrote this down on our spreadsheet and this is kind of what I predict as your annual spend. And you just see their eyes light up and they're like, oh my God, this is amazing. Like, we've never even thought to do this. It, it's as simple as that. And then it gets way more complex down the line. What are some of the other components of the process that you feel are really important?

Alex: 10:13 Um, so first and foremost, consistency. It can't just be something that you do once in awhile and again, reactionary. You have to build a process around it. So in our MSP, we've standardized scheduling with calendly, but there's a number of solutions you can use and we use connectwise to automatically send a ticket to every client every quarter to give them an opportunity to schedule a meeting. We call it a technology strategy meeting and then essentially they can schedule that meeting. It can pick to either for us to go to their office and to come to our office or do a Goto meeting. And that consistency behind it creates rhythm and we live in, in the MSP world. We constantly, you know, we know eos and all these other types of systems. We just have to bring that same logic to this process. Um, and just keep consistency with it and then have a platform. And a process, so it doesn't matter what platform you choose, you know, we use our platform because we really like it. Um, strategy overview and, but it doesn't matter what pro platform or process or whether you're still using spreadsheets, just some kind of process that's consistent across all your clients know,

Todd: 11:22 You must have run into some resistance as well. A certain clients that maybe don't see the value in this meeting and they're resistant to either I'm starting the meeting to begin with or keeping the pace or the consistency with the meeting. Um, any, any input from you on that client that says, I don't know. I don't understand what we're trying to do here. I don't think this is valuable, so I'd, I'd prefer not to do it. Is that something that you, you try to change their mind on or is it a, you just adapt to what the client says that they need? What's your feeling on that?

Alex: 11:54 Yeah, so I, I believe there's definitely a lot of thought leadership in the industry about you need to have all your clients consistent and have them all respect to strategy and want to focus on growth and everything like that, but when we found in our market and just an are where we are as an MSP, that there's still some clients that don't really care about growth and we asked them that question like, do you, are you focusing on growth? And a lot of times they'll say no, they just enjoy their current spot where they are. They know that growing pains is difficult and painful. Right? And it's difficult to grow. Sometimes you have to spend a lot of money to grow and some clients who are just comfortable maintaining their operation. So and we still, I would say 20 percent of our business is clients like that.

Alex: 12:39 We still have clients, if they're local, if they're friends strategic for a number of reasons, referral partners will stay still. Take them and for those clients will at least tell them about all the different strategy elements. They should pay attention to elements with their stack. Even if they don't meet with us, we'll send them a report from our software and just basically outline all the different things that they need to pay attention to and if it's like a legitimate risk, we'll mark it as a risk and then that's a risk for them and for us. So that gives us a little bit of extra, um, uh, kind of liability protection because then we've identified the risk for them and then they don't, they don't have to wonder and then if something does crash, we can just reference the email that we sent saying, look, this was the risk we identified. So at the very least, even if they don't care about strategy, we can at least limit our own liability by identifying risks for them.

Todd: 13:32 Right. So you're still doing the process, their involvement is, is, is to some degree up to them, especially dependent on the risk. Yeah, I liked that approach. Um, you know, I do a lot of work in BrightGauge and I liked the idea of setting up the monthly reporting, which I would say is we're one of the first early stepping stones to a Vcio processes, at least monthly reporting on service, uh, and the approach that I take in this I think is similar in that, um, you want to at least train the person how to read a report so that you can send it to them in an automated fashion later. So if you get them on a web session or you'd go to their office and visit with them and on the first couple of times they see this report and review it with them so they understand what they're looking at. Then down the road if they want to self serve and it just comes to them automatically, that's a less of a risk than automatically just sending them this report that they don't see any value in. So I think training them in, in the value of what they're seeing through these, uh, the, the tools and the reporting I think is really critical as well. Uh, like I said, just that first stepping stone to getting started.

Alex: 14:36 Yeah, and the way we handle that actually is so in the onboarding with every client, we add them to our app and then to close the onboarding, we generate their first report and we'll bring it to them as kind of a regroup post onboarding and most clients they'll want to meet with us at least once after that to find out even if they don't care about growth and strategy and all this stuff, they still care for their quickbooks to work. They still care for their computers to work on the Internet to work. So that's our opportunity to sit down with them and say, look, if you did want to grow, if you did want to look at all these different elements, here's what you should pay attention to, but at the structural foundational level, let's make sure that your basis covered right, because if their wireless is not set up properly, if their network is not set up properly, all of that creates issues and that's issues for us and issues for them. No one wants issues. It's a waste of everyone's time.

Todd: 15:27 So in your process, in the vcio process, how much do you feel kind of a percentage split of this? Um, a lot of the industry talks about them being technology business reviews rather than the quarterly business reviews and there's some discussion about how technical they should be versus business minded and I think there's, there's a need for both, what do you see within the clients as far as their attachment or their need for these meetings to be technical versus business focused.

Alex: 15:56 So from a business focus perspective, we just have an open conversation with the client, find out where they want to go, find out are they looking to grow and they're looking to expand and understand what they're currently doing in their business from a sales perspective, distribution, um, if they're servicing their accounts, how they're dealing with just having an open conversation about that. But then we do look at all of the technology behind it that affects that. So as we understand how they're running their business, we'll explain to them, for example, if we know that a construction company, companies doing $10,000,000 a year in revenue and they, they say they want to go to 50, right? But they're still on quickbooks enterprise, that's not going to work. We know they're going to start hitting growing pains. So at that point we start talking about the technical piece of it, that they should be looking at a larger Erp and they should be looking to streamline their bidding, their takeoff process, all these different things. Same thing for healthcare provider. Um, we, we look at all those elements, so definitely understanding where they've going into business, but then definitely relating to the actual technology and things that we do. Um, and, and then marrying it all together.

Todd: 17:04 Yeah. So it goes the technical components of the Prereq's to leveraging more business solutions. I view this sort of similar to the MSP business model before you're doing a vcio processes. You mentioned you want to make service a really rock solid because if service sucks, then your client is not going to listen to you about the other needs. You know, you're, you're standing here trying, trying to sell me something, uh, and the, uh, in the meantime, you can't get this problem fixed. That's been an open ticket for two weeks. So I feel like the, those, those, uh, stepping stones are important to get right. Work on your service, make sure that stable, then you can move into more advanced measures. Same thing with how you're managing that Vcio, processes a standardized stack, eliminate sort of the technical noise within the business and then start to look for other solutions or other issues to solve within the business. Further up the stack, right?

Alex: 18:00 Yeah, definitely. And I think service can actually be broken down into two categories, services, the managed services piece, which is everything, you know, our helpdesk and proactive monitoring and um, you know, all the different antivirus, all that other stuff. Right? And then there's the project piece and the project piece is just as critical as a service piece because you need to be able to quote the projects either if you're doing fixed fee, they have to be relatively accurate, right? If you're doing block hours, anything like that, they have to again be relatively accurate and it has to be timely. Um, that's another thing we found that if you get into a process where you're quoting things and you don't have a good structure behind it, a good scope of work process, I'm a good template in your quoting system, then it creates an issue where if it takes two weeks to get people quote, then they lose interest. Right. And then the actual project delivery itself, if that goes rocky, then it kind of destabilizes the whole process. So definitely MSPS as part of the making the process successful should focus on their service piece and making that consistent and then making sure that project quoting pieces consistent and you lay the VCIO on top of that. And then it's just value generation for everyone involved. The client, the MSP is just a beautiful thing.

Todd: 19:12 Yeah, that's really good advice. I often view the VCIO process, um, from a revenue generation standpoint, uh, as a, uh, project accelerator because how we're better can you get a funnel of projects than meeting with your clients on a quarterly basis to find out what their next need is and that's how it helps you figure out how that can actually lay out in sequence. So in next three months we want to do this and the next six months we want to do that and a year from now we're going to maybe focus on these things. If nothing else changes, then you can kind of work on that on a, on an annual basis. And from a sales perspective, it always blew my mind when people would come back from a client and say, oh, they're cheap. They don't want to buy this. And you know, you would, you would have follow up conversations.

Todd: 19:59 And what you would tend to find out is that they're not really saying no. They're more saying not now. Uh, and I think if you don't have sort of a business minded focus on this and understand how the business works, if you're not catching them at the right time where they're in budgeting cycles and doing planning proactively with them, then they can't make room for those OPEX are for those CAPX expenses if you're not planning with them on a progressive basis. So rather than do you want to buy this right now, it's when can we fit this into the budgeting cycle to make sure that this works for the business that opens up huge channels on developing your project funnel.

Alex: 20:36 Oh definitely. So in our APP, what we do is we used to do this in excel is basically do a three year roadmap for your budget and pick the quarters and where things are gonna move and we're flexible with, right? As long as they're okay with the risk of something being, you know, potential risks and having some glitches were still flexible with the clients. But we look at everything on a three year cycle. So our clients know roughly what the budget upcoming is for next year. That's the other really important thing about being consistent with the process because if you fall behind and it's really easy to fall behind, you know everyone's busy, everyone's focusing on their businesses. If you fall behind, then you may not be kind of telling clients about what's coming up and a year will pass and then the server that should be server 2008 needs to be upgraded. Then you surprise them with a bill. No one wants to surprise. Right, but if you tell them ahead of time, nowadays what we do is we never really even quote anything unless the client virtually says that this price is okay off of our roadmap, which saves a tremendous of time, amount of time on sales engineering because sales engineering is also very, very expensive time and if you can do the VCIO process right, that dramatically reduces the amount of investment that msps make towards sales engineers.

Todd: 21:49 Yeah, that's a huge point. I couldn't agree more that I'm. One of the areas of major inefficiency in project quoting is a, people are using statements of work to go fishing and a sales engineer sitting down for four hours to architect a solution when you know, they've maybe got a 30 percent likelihood of buy in from the client, but you know, hey, can I get you a quote so we can talk about this. It's not a piece of sales material, it's a definition of work that is essentially already been verbally agreed to. So that's great to be able to split that process and be able to have that person have visibility on, okay, yeah, let's go ahead with this. Okay, now we can actually start architecting and develop a SOW for it.

Alex: 22:30 Correct. That's a huge hidden cost that a lot don't pay attention to is the amount of time they spend on sales, engineering. And then where do you put that cost? You know, we classify the cost of sales engineering under service. There's a weird way that, that, you know, motivates the team and drives a team efficiency and then you really can look at the burden rates on that and make better decisions. Um, but whatever you put in whatever bucket you put, even if you put it on just sales and that really inflates your sales cost. So again, now we very rarely will quote something and do a scope of work unless the client pre approves it off of the roadmap document that our app generates

Todd: 23:08 and the preapproval like that, the numbers there are probably just like approximate approximate numbers. So you know, variations of up to 20, 30 percent once

Alex: 23:19 now we tell them that this is, you know, this is not set in stone, this is just a like a roadmap, you know, and especially if we don't understand if we just signing on with the client, you know, yeah, we'll do a full blown assessment sometimes before we sign up with the client. But sometimes we don't still. Right. And we explained to them that we can't know, we can't predict the price. Exactly. And it's also we have to have a more serious conversation with the client about where they want to go. You know, if they want to do multi location, if they, if they want to expand, if they, you know, or if they're more interested in cap ex versus op ex, you know, all these different elements. Those are conversations that we need to have, but putting sales engineers to architect something without a understanding that the client's actually going to commit to it and buy it is, it is a huge waste of time and just a huge money hole of time.

Todd: 24:07 Yep. Couldn't agree more. Um, so let's, uh, maybe we'll try it a bit about the solution that you guys have developed with strategy overview. Do you want to give us a kind of, you're a short pitch on how this solves problems for the MSP owner?

Alex: 24:22 Yeah, definitely. I mean it's basically like a souped up spreadsheet where there's a template behind the spreadsheet which create standardized dropdowns and has a budgeting roadmap component. So it allows us to analyze the client risks. We give all people that sign up our template that we use at our MSP. It's over 115 points of items that we look at for every business. And then we also have vertical specific items, so we look at healthcare, financial services, construction, we have different elements that we pay attention to all those clients once we run through this process with them. And again, it's template based so people can use our template, build their own template, we have people using it that are not even Msps, I know you guys have been using it and then kind of playing around with it. I'm just, it's a way to standardize a consistent approach to doing things.

Alex: 25:13 Um, and then it has a three year budget and a roadmap per page that's generated off of all those items. And there's an executive summary section. It kicks out a beautiful pdf report. It's just a really easy to use software. And then on top of that we have a dashboard that forecasts the pipeline pre opportunity and then gives you a total view of health into your entire stack in like a visual format. We were doing it a little differently where we're an MSP and we know what people, you know, what msps like, and now we're trying to treat ourselves like we want to be treated. Um, so anyone can get a free account, they can run it on one client and play with it, just stay involved in the project, pay attention to it, and now whenever they're ready they can upgrade. We did the pricing where it's very affordable for any MSPS at any size and it really allows people to standardize. There's a whole stack really elevate themselves to a, a larger trusted advisor perspective, standardize the whole qbr process. Um, it limits their liabilities and MSP it super fast, super simple to use. So that's what we did. We built it for ourselves and you know, we're sharing with MSP community and we have over 260 msps using it and a number of top 100 guys and then a ton of MSPS and every community huge Robin Robbins, a HTG group. So know we're spreading through word of mouth right now and everyone should check it out.

Todd: 26:41 As you mentioned, I've been using for the onboarding process, so I've taken the template and dumped all of the, well some of the MSP best practices that I like to see in, in, in the client that I'm onboarding and then use it to stack rank the, the uh, initiatives that could be undertaken to improve the, the development of, of the company processes or approach or metrics that they should be viewing for their business. So it's pretty flexible that way. I do like the, the template base and it helps eliminate, I think one of the push backs to doing a qbr process to begin with is writing these reports is really time consuming and I think that's a big piece that limits people from doing it on a wider basis to more clients. And I think having a tool like this to make it a bit more repeatable and just you pull up that template, run through a bunch of clicks once you. You've got the first one done. The iterations after the factor a ton simpler. So it really helps facilitate those meetings and eliminate a lot of the manual labor of having to create these reports and get something from the to review with the clients once you actually show up.

Alex: 27:52 Yeah, and besides the fact that we saving a fast amount of time on sales and engineering resources not being wasted, just the time to prepare the reports. That's another really important thing that you know, these reports are not prepared by your level one engineers, right? They're prepared by either you or your project engineers, you level threes. So we've cut our preparation time down from two to three hours down to about 15 minutes per client per quarter from some of our most expensive resources. And that's tremendous savings, right? Each be cio and each critical resource can support a lot more because with the software it allows you to pre-populate every answer through a template, you could always overwrite anything at any moment, but it allows you to pick from a standard list of common questions and we just keep refining and adding to that. So most of it is clicks and it just makes it so much faster. So, and it's structured like excel, so it's really easy to use as well.

Todd: 28:51 Yup. Awesome. Uh, well, uh, we'll look towards a closing up here. Um, if people want to follow you, uh, personally or reach out to you to find out more, can you tell them where they should reach out to you and, and to, to look at strategy overview if that's their interest.

Alex: 29:10 Yeah. You can connect with me on linkedin. My name is Alex Markov on the strategy overview site. There's a little chat widget in the bottom right corner. You can just go on there and chat and say hi. Go get a free account, test it out, play with it. And um, you don't get to keep building it for the community and keep adding features that our MSP runs into. We just launched a partner advisory council, so we have like 10 bigger msps that have been using the platform for like six months on there. I know you're going to be taking part of that as well with us and we're just going to keep building it for what the MSP community needs and you know, find ways to make our life easier and bring more value to our clients.

Todd: 29:50 Yep. Excellent. Well, we've talked about the VCIO and the technology advisor is definitely the way that the industry is headed. So this will be a great addition as people start to head down that road or a continued to refine their process, uh, once they're on it.

Alex: 30:05 Yeah. I think that's really the future of the MSP world. Um, I think msps eventually it will be something more of like managed strategy providers really can help guide the strategy for, for clients as services become easier. The strategy, something that I don't believe it will become a commodity. It's something that there's, you know, every MSP can have their slight flavor on it, but every msps qualified to do this. They're doing it for their own businesses today. So we just have to bring that same mentality that we bring to our own businesses to all of our clients.

Todd: 30:37 Yup. Excellent. Well, we'll, we'll close it up there. Thanks for your time today, Alex. I'm sure we'll be chatting more about the process and the evolution of the MSP industry. Awesome. Todd, thank you so much for your time and yeah, stay well.