Dr. Seuss might have said it best:
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.
We asked 12 leaders in the managed service provider community, from advisors and marketers to MSPs themselves, on the one book they’d recommend to MSPs who want to grow their businesses. Here’s what they picked.
Same Side Selling
Ian Altman and Jack Quarles
Every MSP looking for long-term growth has to adapt their approach to selling. Most of the potential “A” clients are already served by other MSPs. The industry is now so well populated with skilled providers that finding relevant IT problems that might motivate a prospect to switch to you is less and less likely. MSPs must carry on more informed and meaningful conversations to find opportunities. Talking from a strategic perspective through the sales process is key. Ian Altman is a master of this process. His book is a practical approach to your in-person meetings with prospects to make the buying process a positive experience. It’s a really good read, very inspiring, insightful, and applicable, with many examples.
Walk Away Wealthy
Mark M. Tepper
As our readers know, ChannelE2E focuses on the MSP and VAR journey from entrepreneur to exit (E2E). That’s why we value Tepper’s book, Walk Away Wealthy, so much. It’s positioned as the entrepreneur’s exit-planning playbook. We firmly believe that all MSPs and VARs need a business strategy that INCLUDES an exit strategy — at every stage of the business. Tepper’s book reinforces that point and offers practical advice for all sorts of exits.
The Company Culture Challenge
David Russell and Robert Betzel
The Company Culture Challenge is a unique book and a lucky find for us as it isn’t MSP-specific in the same way as other “MSP books” we had read. David Russell (founder of MANAGEtoWIN) and MSP owner Robert Betzel’s book uses companies such as Amazon to demonstrate how to transform your culture into one of success, while using a managed service provider as the example company throughout the book! It really helped us zero in on the culture we wanted for our MSP, and what kind of people we wanted to hire to make it a reality.
How the Mighty Fall
For an MSP looking to grow or change its business model, there are several lessons that can be understood from businesses that have failed, by either sticking too long with a declining business model or by changing a business model so far from where they started that it was too great a risk. By the time failure was identified, the business was unable to pull out of a dive. Better to learn the five stages of decline from history than to find out it’s too late for your business.
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Most business books are aimed at the CEOs of large corporations rather than SMB business owners. This means you have to read a lot of information to find the few nuggets you can apply as an entrepreneur. The first time I read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, I was struck by the fact that all of the content was applicable to every business. I currently own two fast-growing businesses where I use the business planning framework outlined in this book. In addition, I coach over 1,000 IT providers around the world and always recommend they read this book.
The Phoenix Project
Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford
The Phoenix Project quickly became required reading within our managed services business. The fable, written in the form of a daily diary, depicts the life of an IT leader within a large manufacturing organization. Faced with the ever-growing challenge of integrating new technologies while still maintaining a stable production environment, the main character is quickly promoted from director to VP of IT Operations. With the help of a business leader versed in lean manufacturing, the new VP meets his challenges by applying traditional manufacturing processes. By understanding Kanban visualization, Work in Progress, and eliminating constraints, his IT organization is able to quickly adapt to increasing demands. As an organization that’s applying agile principles to an IT services business, Liberty Technology found this book to contain a great deal of wisdom.
The E-Myth is a book so often mentioned in entrepreneurial circles that I would hesitate to mention it … except that spending time with MSPs makes me think most have never heard of it. These guys are the classic cases: Technical people who love the details of what they do but who are overwhelmed by the business of being in business. The E-Myth is the foundational book that will either show them how to be successful, or make them want to go back to working for someone else to let that guy deal with all the headaches of entrepreneurship!
Hyper Sales Growth
I am currently halfway through Hyper Sales Growth. It was a thank-you gift from one of my clients, and is definitely worth a read. Jack is an old-school, die-hard sales guy who offers a lot of practical advice. His insights on sales management and building a team are spot on. Whether you’re the only sales guy or not, you would greatly benefit from getting your head around working toward building a sales department in your business that is every bit as effective as a technical team.
Leaders Eat Last
One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek. In his book Leaders Eat Last, he talks about taking care of your people, and your people will take care of your customers. If your employees feel safe, supported, and empowered, they’ll pass that on to your customer base. It’s absolutely vital to create a culture in which managers make employee success a top priority. I believe in this 100% — it’s the foundation of our company culture.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Get healthy. Then grow. This leadership fable is a quick read yet it provokes questions about how to unite a team around shared vision and understanding. It’s like taking a look in the mirror, as every leader can identify themselves somewhere in this story. Most importantly, it reminds us to do first things first: Go slow and establish a healthy team, then grow fast. I recommend it for any MSP who is striving to grow their business.
The Art of Managed Services
The Art of Managed Services was published in 2007 but still remains relevant today as a historical record of the path managed service providers have had to take over two decades. Detailing some of the common pitfalls of entering managed services, the book provides easy to understand guidance on how to develop a thriving and profitable managed services practice, whether you are a startup or transitioning from a different business model.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
I think the MSP community has a very hard time when it comes to selling. Most owners come from a technical background and selling is something foreign to them. A great book to take away some of that anxiety and to understand that selling is as simple as having a real conversation is How to Win Friends and Influence People. It should be standard reading for any entrepreneur.