When I’m speaking to the owners of IT solution provider and managed service provider (MSP) businesses, they often lament how their business would be a lot easier to run if their employees shared their work ethic.

“I really need to clone myself about a dozen times!” they say.

They’re referring to the frustrations they experience with things such as:

  • Engineers incorrectly logging the time they’ve spent on tickets
  • Staff not following checklists and processes accurately
  • Employees not working towards training and certification goals

… and so on.

Anybody who has run an MSP business will recognize these frustrations. As a former MSP owner myself, I certainly do.

But rather than sympathize too much with an MSP owner in this situation, I ask them a simple question: Do you follow these processes yourself?

When the response comes back as a sheepish “Not always,” I remind them of the importance of leading by example.

The problem with ‘do as I say, not as I do’

Why should your employees follow the systems and processes you’ve set out if you, as the business owner, don’t yourself?

It’s not enough to say “I’m the boss. Do as I say!” Experience tells us people simply don’t respect this approach.

  • If you don’t correctly log the time you’re spending on tickets, why should your engineers?
  • If your business processes are drawn up to help everyone in the business, what impression does it give when you don’t follow those processes?
  • If you as the business owner aren’t setting yourself targets for professional development, why do you think your staff would?

Being “the boss” isn’t enough. Your business isn’t a dictatorship where you can tell people to follow the rules—but you’re exempt from them.

Why you need to lead by example

Let’s look at the most common frustration expressed by MSP owners: They can’t motivate their service desk engineers to log their time in the ticketing system.

A lack of recorded time leads to poor reporting and an inability to measure client profitability. It also makes tracking trends and analyzing client improvements very difficult.

When I ask most MSP owners whether they log their own time though, they typically say no. They expect their employees to track where they spend their time, but don’t believe the rule applies to them.

I’ve heard many excuses from MSP business owners on why they can’t record their time:

  • My time can’t be recorded in a ticket.
  • It’s impossible to measure time spent on sales activities.
  • I’m far too busy doing the work to record my time!

Do any of these excuses match up to any of the objections you’ve heard from engineers on why they don’t log their time? They look suspiciously similar, don’t they?

But do you believe that your engineers’ time can’t be recorded in a ticket, or that they can’t effectively track their time helping clients?

Of course you don’t. And one way to demonstrate this to your engineers is to lead by example.

Some examples of leading by example

In practical terms, what does it mean to lead by example as an MSP owner?

Consider implementing the following structure to the time you spend in your business:

  • Raise tickets for the day-to-day activities you complete within your business, whether they’re admin tasks, finances, sales, HR, or anything else.
  • Record the time you spend on those tickets, in real-time.
  • Allow others to see what you’re spending your time on and why.

The results of leading by example

As a result of these types of leading by example, the changes in attitudes I’ve seen from staff can be dramatic.

  • If the leader of the business—with all his or her challenges—can log their time effectively, there’s no excuse for me not to do so.
  • If the leader of the business can follow the rules, then what excuse do I have for not aspiring to the same standard?
  • If the leader of the business—even with a focus on sales, marketing, and leadership—can consistently make time for personal development and certifications, why can’t I?

Good leaders lead by example. They don’t ask their staff to do anything they wouldn’t be comfortable doing themselves.

The next time you become frustrated with your employees, consider the example you’re setting. Are you behaving the way you’d like your staff to? If not, why not?