The fundamental thinking of people living in the technology age reinforces the value of MSP peer groups as a vital workforce and industry resource. If we look back just a few short decades ago — before real-time connectivity and things like the cloud emerged — business thinking revolved almost exclusively around the idea of competition.
But today’s captains of industry are being led by a sense of interpersonal connection to others in their physical and global community. The new wave of looking at sectors such as IT is that “we are all in it together,” so to speak. That’s a radically different idea that we are pitted against one another like a pair of UFC fighters.
Consider for a moment that media resources such as Channel Futures reports that collaboration “unites” businesses that include “managed service providers, systems integrators, born-in-the-cloud services companies,” among others polled and discovered that MSP peer groups were highly valued among companies. In its article called “2018’s Top MSPs View Peers as Community, Not Competition” Channel Futures collected data and anecdotal evidence that linked MSP peer groups to industry success.
“According to a ConnectWise report from earlier this year, partners that report belonging to a peer group say they’re better prepared to meet customer demands, and report providing almost three times as many managed services than those MSPs going it alone,” Channel Futures reported. “It makes sense, therefore, that 94 percent of the 2018 MSP 501 winners report being involved in some sort of peer group.”
The MSP 501 is a Channel Futures ranking of many of the world’s largest and most successful MSP providers. CEOs and other decision-makers on the list have arrived at the conclusion that the benefit of insight from peer cooperation outweighs the sometimes minor differences in services offered to customers.
“(Our competitive differentiation) has been hard to define, as most MSPs do the same thing with minor differences. We all say we are the best, fastest, most reliable, etc., but it’s impossible to compare, so there’s no value in saying that,” MSP Blueshift managing director Jan Chapman was quoted in the article. “We can share who our vendors are, the processes we use, how we market and sell, what metrics we employ. The openness and willingness to help our peers make this very effective.”
It appears the ideas about fierce competition between companies in the same sector have given way to a sense of community that supports each other. That being said, MSP peer groups can be tailored to meet specific company goals, accommodate team member availability and other considerations.
How MSP Peer Groups Work
The underlying idea of joining one or more MSP peer groups is that you will enjoy the perspective of other industry professionals with similar work experiences, goals and values. It can be like having a second set of eyes look at what you do every day, but under a different lens.
It’s not uncommon for like-minded people to see things from a slightly different perspective. Peer groups allow you to add subtle nuances to your craft and expand your worldview. In other words, we grow together. These are factors to think through when joining MSP peer groups.
The MSP field has seen an incredible uptick in activity during the last few years, and that places a high value on the time of CEOs, decision-makers and pertinent team members alike. It’s important to keep the power of joining a peer group in perspective and make it part of the fabric of company-wide success. The last thing business leaders want to do is make people feel like you are dropping another task on their already overburdened plate.
Being active in MSP peer groups requires effective time management that positions the interactions as a positive and enjoyable activity. In other words, involvement in MSP peer groups is most effective when people feel like it’s time well spent instead of an added task. These are two scheduling options many staff members find reasonable.
One Full Day Per Month: These are generally local events that include recreational activities and informal interactions that require 12 days annually of commitment.
One Two-Day Session Each Quarter: These often include travel and can mesh a type of business vacation with conference-style workshops and networking. These require only eight days annually, but travel generally raises them to the same 12 days as monthly peer group gatherings.
Although both styles add value to MSP team member experience, they tend to set a different tone. Monthly gatherings tend to improve team chemistry and localized networking. Quarterly meetings tend to be game-changers.
Quality Leadership and Peers
Among the essential items IT sector professionals should consider is who will be organizing, leading and potentially coaching the group.
Some successful MSP peer groups are run by certified pros and others by experienced, motivated business leaders. It’s generally important that the person or people in charge of moving the group forward enjoy significant industry experience and are well versed in running a company themselves.
While peer-to-peer interactions are highly valuable, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to invest your time into informal get-togethers in groups that are not equal or more experienced. In other words, people who are new to the industry may find incredible value with a group of other upstarts. Seasoned veterans tend to yearn for higher knowledge and innovative perspectives.
When reviewing MSP peer groups, consider the value you and your team members will gain from interacting with others who participate. Join MSP peer groups that enjoy quality leadership and participation.
Peer groups can be crafted in a variety of ways. It’s not uncommon for monthly groups to enjoy each other’s company through a mixture of recreational and formal activities. Those activities could involve hitting a shooting range, laser tag, or mini golf followed by networking dinner and drinks. Monthly meetings may also integrate formal speakers that provide niche insight into critical issues.
Quarterly gatherings enjoy more time and may offer an itinerary that includes talks on a variety of topics as well as planned excursions. This conference-like format may involve a gathering of all participants with a keynote speaker. Two-day conferences have a tendency to invigorate and inspire industry professionals for the long haul.
What Industry Professionals Say About MSP Peer Groups
The increased demand for managed services providers has not always helped companies to improve profit margins significantly, and that reality has many diverting their energies away from competing and toward cooperative sharing via resources such as peer groups. Channel Futures reports that this appears to be a global phenomenon based on polling data. In the U.S., organizations that participate are praising the practice of MSP peer groups.
Ulistic co-hosted a successful two-day information and sharing session in Atlanta GA, in Early 2019 and expectations are high going forward with other in-person peer sessions. Our next HPC meeting is in Vegas on April 1 and 2.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that face-to-face relationships trump all other types of interaction,” Sebring-based Ulistic marketing expert Stuart Crawford said. “Yes – getting together for two days with peers will always beat out phone calls and communication via social media. There’s something special about sitting across the table from peers in a business meeting and then, later in the day, breaking bread and clinking a glass or two.”
An MSP peer group gathering in Colorado Springs garnered high praise from Buffalo Computer Help, and others such as Data Magic Computer Services are advocates as well.
“Besides the normal agenda where we check in on the overall business health of each of our members, we were also treated to an excellent 3-hour sales training by one of Sandler Sales’ top consultants, Dan Levitt from Denver,” a Buffalo Computer Help post called “TheBest IT Support Companies In Buffalo Have Peers Who Help Them Succeed” stated. “Dan shared how we can become even more successful business professionals by understanding how clients make decisions when investing in new technologies – and how they come to the conclusion to outsource their IT support and services.”
An MSP Tech News article called “How My Peer Group Helps Us Be The Top Legal IT Consulting Partner” reported on a Winston-Salem, N.C., outfit’s experience at the Colorado Springs event hosted by Ulistic.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Colorado Springs for the most recent meeting of our peer group for top IT services. The event was hosted by Ulistic, an exceptionally effective IT service business marketing firm helping IT businesses grow nationwide,” Chris Chao from Atlanta IT Services firm CenterpointIT states. “Every quarter, CenterpointIT, meets with the sharpest minds in the IT services industry. The latest personal development/peer group event was hosted by Chris and Centerpoint IT, at SharpshootersUSA in the Atlanta area. Chris and his team were really great hosts.”
“The truth is that, in the right setting, your competition can be your peers – especially when you’re connected to a national group that operates outside your local market. What’s more, they can help you do what you do better. That’s what peer groups are all about,” the Data Magic post published by Shane Kimbrel states. “One such group is the Ulistic High-Performance Club, a peer group made up of the top performing IT services companies throughout Canada and the United States. This group focuses on professional development as leaders but also on how its members can best supply IT services to their local business communities.”
Living and working in the technology age means information, communication and the nature of business competition are in constant flux. It appears cooperation, sharing and MSP peer groups rank among the best ways to compete in the 21st Century. If you are a business leader interested in the increased value of MSP peer groups or website grades, contact Ulistic.
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Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.
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