The First Employee Most MSPs Hire and Why it is the Wrong Choice

If you are running a small MSP and are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. Most of us get into Managed Services because at some point someone told us that we seemed pretty good at fixing computers and maybe we could make a living doing that.

Fixing computers is fun…. Or at least it used to be before the sinking feeling of facing your titanic list of open tickets set in. It is a curse of success, really. People realize your company is pretty good at fixing machines and so you end up with a fair number of clients and now you’re bringing in $8-12K in monthly recurring revenue (MRR). So you’re thinking to yourself that this would be a good time to hire someone to help out with the business.

It is at this point that nearly every MSP makes a critical mistake.

When you’re under pressure to get a massive amount of technical work done and you have some budget available to bring on a new employee, it is incredibly tempting to attempt to duplicate yourself. That is: you try to hire a second Tier 3 technician (or maybe settle for a tier 2 technician to deal with the smaller jobs).

IMHO, Both choices are wrong.

Small MSPs have three primary jobs (listed in the order that MSP owners view their importance):

  • Technical Work.
  • Sales and Marketing.
  • Back Office and Overhead.

Technical work brings in the money, and sales and marketing lead to more technical work. But back office (invoicing, book keeping, answering the phones, scheduling appointments, and more) are jobs which are often folded into the daily routine and often are ignored or allowed to languish. (Be honest with me, you’ve let invoicing slip a day or two because you wanted to finish a project or just ran out of steam).

MSPs will attempt to automate backoffice work and then invest in man-power to either get new business or tackle the business that they have. The problem is that competent sales and technical workers are expensive and often will not perform to the standards that you feel you can perform the work yourself.

The overarching advice in business is to attempt to replace yourself. But many MSP founders assume this means they should replace their strengths first and then focus on the back-office work so they can support other technicians to do the work for them.

Somehow, it rarely seems to work out as planned. The technician you hire doesn’t seem to be as focused on your customers and not as interested in staying on top of their field as you are. They just show up, do some work, and then go home at the end of the day. Meanwhile, you find yourself cleaning up after them and you end up doing their job as well as theirs.

You know where I’m going with this: You need to replace your weaknesses first.

Backoffice workers tend to be much more orderly by default. A good office manager is often incredibly organized and can help you do a critical thing in your MSP: build structure. When it is just you in your company you can work on any schedule, take tickets in any form, and talk to customers on any communication medium.

Take the following example: Customer A calls you at 11pm saying their PC isn’t working. Much to their surprise you pick up the phone. Since you don’t have anything better to be doing at 11pm, you sign on to their machine and fix the issue. You go to bed feeling satisfied knowing that you have another happy customer.

However, at 6am the next morning, Customer B wakes you up with a text to your phone. They say “no hurry, but my server seems to be acting up, can you look at it when you get into the office?” You also notice that Customers C and D have also sent emails relating to projects you have open with them. You’re awake now, so might as well get up and rolling on the day!

A few days like this and you find yourself yearning for a vacation you know is never going to come.

(This is not a made-up scenario. This really happened to me!)

An office manager can fix this.

An office manager forces you to start funneling your customers through proper communication channels because they now must  get your office manager to schedule an appointment for you to service them. Your office manager takes all calls and emails and organizes them for you to review in the morning. That means that at 11pm you peacefully finish that episode of Game of Thrones you were watching and then sleep well until 7:30am when your alarm was set. You get into the office refreshed at 9am and see that your office manager has a schedule set for you (or is putting the finishing touches on it).

This leads to the structure your MSP needs to hire more technical talent.

Once you’ve successfully offloaded the backoffice work, then you will find that it is 1000x easier to hire additional technical talent for your MSP.

An office manager can act as a dispatcher.

They also force you to properly configure your PSA so you can communicate important information back with your home office.

They will become the backbone of your company and give you the breathing room you need to take on more technical work yourself.

So when you’re out there looking for your first employee. Consider hiring an Office Manager, or a similar back-office role before you think about replacing your technical skillset. Even here at Network Depot (the MSP branch of Virtual Administrator), the founders of the company still offer their technical skills on occasion. It helps keep them sharp. But day-to-day office functions have been almost entirely unloaded onto our very competent office staff. While the founders still drive overarching decisions and company policy – things like answering the phones, billing, and setting technician schedules is not something they are heavily involved in.

They can work on their business instead of in their business (you have read E-Myth, right?). And with time, I believe you can too!

What was your first hire in your MSP? Are you looking now? What has been your experience with employees thus far?