Charm School for MSPs?

David Russell is a leader in the MSP industry. In the early '80s he started an events business, and in 1982 IBM asked him to do a computer show. That's when Dave discovered IT and began learning everything he could about it. Dave had some successes and failures along the way (including a failed dot-com […]

David Russell is a leader in the MSP industry. In the early '80s he started an events business, and in 1982 IBM asked him to do a computer show. That's when Dave discovered IT and began learning everything he could about it.

Dave had some successes and failures along the way (including a failed dot-com business). Nevertheless, he persisted. He worked for a software company and eventually got into IT Consulting for MSPs.

Dave met some very talented IT techs who really knew their trade, but what they didn't know was how to portray a professional image. So, the entrepreneur that he is, he started Dave's Charm School for I.T. Geeks.

These people had the technical, sales, and operational knowledge necessary to succeed, but were failing because they didn't present a professional demeanor, which damaged client relationships. This resulted in lost sales to the tune of $10,000 per month on average.

Dave found that the cause of client complaints wasn't due to a lack of technical prowess, it was because these people performed poorly and lacked soft skills.

Soft skills are the interpersonal, people skills that include the ability to communicate, listen and "read" a client, to gain insight into their needs and better relate to them.

David RussellWhen you and your employees perfect your soft skills, your business will benefit from better:

  • Teamwork,
  • Decision Making,
  • Problem Solving,
  • Motivation,
  • Flexibility,
  • Time Management,
  • Conflict Resolution,
  • Critical Thinking, and
  • Collaboration

Employees must improve their soft skills for an MSP business to thrive. Soft skills are about how to act rather than what you know. Dave says that the world has changed - that strong soft skills are now a requirement for highly profitable companies, not an option. 

Unfortunately, the majority of IT managed service providers hire employees for just their technical skills, and they only provide technical training for their current employees. This is a big mistake. The truth is that these soft skills are just as crucial to business success as the more recognized technical or hard skills.

  • According to SalesForce, 77% of employers say that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.
  • 44% of U.S. executives listed soft skills as their top concern about job applicants - twice the level of the second highest category, technical skills.
  • Employers are more concerned about weak, soft skills than low technical skills.

Dave's Charm School teaches the essential behaviors your team needs to know to improve professionalism, work better together, and increase customer satisfaction. It's a pre-recorded training you can use with your teams, and it gives your employees a standard of behavior to follow.

Charm School is available via training videos (about 1 hour each) and talking points you can share with your employees. Onsite training is also available.  

Dave's Charm School is useful for:

  • Training new employees,
  • Addressing a specific weakness within a team,
  • Helping an employee improve a specific behavior, and
  • Reinforcing your company values and culture.

Dave's most successful MSPs have their teams commit to the lessons they learn and act on them. The facilitator then checks in with employees once or twice a week to see if they applied what they learned and how it's working for them. It's the "application" of what's learned that provides the ROI for your organization.

Charm School includes courses for specific tasks like onsite IT work, remote IT work, and more. It includes tips on what to do and not do –

like charging a client for the hour-long lunch they took (believe it or not this happens all the time). What a great way to lose a client!

Charm School is available for a low monthly subscription.


Now that you've trained your employees with Charm School, what about you? Are you the best boss you can be? Dave has an answer for this in his MANAGEtoWIN program. MANAGEtoWIN software and consulting provide companies with 10 to 10,000 employees the tools they need to manage to win.

Today, your most important career asset is your leadership skills. To compete in today's crowded MSP marketplace, you must move beyond being an "okay" manager to becoming a powerfully effective leader.

Dave says there are 3 Strands of Leadership:

  • Company Culture: Your leaders define the culture and success of your company. MSP businesses have the same problems that all organizations have when it comes to management. You must spend time on building the culture of your MSP business. It's the foundation of your organization. To do this requires a system that focuses on four key areas:
    • Hiring employees
    • Managing employees
    • Developing employees
    • Retaining employees

Unless you do this, your business culture will be weak, and your management will be haphazard and without direction. A lot of leaders in the MSP space are systematic in their sales and technical processes, but not the managerial process. Many set goals and don't follow up on them. Or they tell their employees to behave a certain way, and they don't do this themselves – so there's no role model for employees to learn from.

As true leaders, you and your managers must be the best role models for your employees and catalysts for engagement. As you know, good talent is becoming scarce, and you need the best employees to grow your IT managed services business.

  • Meaningful Work: Your employees must feel like they are doing meaningful work. Meaningful work is different for each employee. If you can get each one involved in work that's personally fulfilling for them, they'll stick with you through "thick and thin".
  • Gratitude: When you show that you sincerely value the members of your team, they'll stay with you.

If you work on these three core components of leadership systematically, your MSP business will have the foundation it needs to grow.

Behaviors and Habits

Did you know that 40% of the way we behave is driven by habit? We all have habits that follow us through life. Maybe your father pushed you to always be better, but as a result, you never felt good enough. This can exhibit as anger or pain when something goes wrong in your business. Perhaps you were in the military and constantly berated by a sergeant all day long (who wasn't the best role model himself). As a result, you may lash out when customers complain (another good way to lose a client).

We all have negative "stuff" that we carry with us from the past. These experiences affect our behaviors – ones that don't make for a good leader. In this case, it's time to break these habits. If you don't, they may sabotage your ability to lead, and your business as well.

Be sure to take a good look at your strengths and how you can build on them to better your leadership skills. MANAGEtoWIN will help you do this. Dave says that it's life-changing for almost everyone who takes it.

Monthly subscriptions for MANAGEtoWIN are only $59 + $2.25 per person per month.

Both Charm School and MANAGEtoWIN are ongoing courses. Changing your company culture isn't a one-shot deal. It requires a commitment and motivation to make your MSP business the best it can be.

If you'd like to speak with Dave personally, you can reach him by dropping me an email at He'll be happy to talk to you about your unique managerial requirements.


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