Nick Points is not just the speaker I was thrilled to listen to speak at IT Nation last year, but he’s a savvy business owner and educator. Nick’s company, CharTec, is designed to help IT leaders learn the business side of their business.
And through his work, Nick’s learned a lot of valuable lessons that all business leaders should know. Namely, continuous learning and growth is key to growing an IT service business at any point in the company’s maturity.
Here’s some of the key takeaways from our conversation with Nick on episode 61 of The Stride to Freedom podcast.
CharTec was built in a real-life laboratory. Nick built an MSP business that adapted and evolved over the years. They started with hardware, then moved to a service model, and then started investing in both infrastructure and services for their clients.
Along the way, Nick was having conversations with business owners. He asked questions like: What do you do for marketing? What’s your sales strategy? How do you train your employees?
These conversations led Nick to realize that there was a big piece missing for many business owners—knowledge about how to run and grow a business. They’re IT professionals and many needed to boost their knowledge in other areas to make a sustainable company.
So, CharTec was born. They offer quarterly conferences to train and equip IT leaders to take their business to the next level through practical, firsthand knowledge.
- Takeaway: Build from your knowledge, experience, and real-life problems you encounter. Follow the natural ebb and flow of the market to figure out what it needs and how you can offer solutions.
Continuous Learning for Business Development
Companies at all stages of the business lifecycle come to CharTec Academy to learn. They might be just starting out or well-established in their industry. No matter where they are in maturity of their business, they bring different problems and questions.
As leaders move through the academy, they’re learning the right skills and expertise for the stage their company is in.
Then, they go implement their new knowledge and see improvements.
Then, they come back and learn more.
Implement that, see improvements.
This is the process of continuous learning and growth. As a business owner and leader, you need to keep investing in your knowledge and realize there’s always something to improve on. Nick has seen such a variety of companies move through the Academy, making it clear that there’s no end point for learning.
- Takeaway: Invest in continuous learning and knowledge as a leader and recognize the stage of the business lifecycle you’re in so you can apply it appropriately.
Understand How Growth Works
Growth happens step-by-step, not all at once. And yet, many people want to rush ahead and take big leaps to reach their goal.
For example, a company might want to boost sales and start looking for a new star salesperson to hire for the team. The reality, though, is that they have a lot of work to do in leveraging what already exists. Processes are not automated; technology is not yet fully utilized—these things need to be in place before you scale up and hire more people.
The same thing applies with profitability. Nick points to this as a major blind spot for many business owners. They’re not sure exactly what makes them profitable or not; they don’t really know the numbers.
Taking a step-by-step approach to growth is to dig deep into pricing structures, costs, revenue, sales acquisition costs, and everything else that contributes to profitability. Use that knowledge to drive decisions to reach your goal.
- Takeaway: Growth happens slowly, step-by-step. Stop along the way to evaluate where you are and what the logical next step to reach your goal is.
It was a great conversation with Nick Points. Make sure to check out his full interview on episode 61 of the Stride to Freedom podcast to learn more!
The Stride for Freedom podcast is hosted by Stride Services. Contact us today to learn more about our back-office accounting and CFO services, including stable and efficient bookkeeping, cash flow management, and actionable analytics for growth.
You’ll enjoy this Podcast episode with Nick
We are fortunate to have Nick available to spend time with us on this edition of Stride 2 Freedom. If there is a speaker you’d like us to interview, click here and let us know. Stay well. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Show Notes and Links From Episode:
Nick Points: LinkedIn
Nick Points: Top 10 Takeaways
Nick Points: Email
And if you want to know more about us at Stride Services, contact us today. We offer back-office accounting and CFO services, including stable and efficient bookkeeping, cash flow management, and actionable analytics for growth.
Russell Benaroya: Hello, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast. I am your host, Russell Benaroya.
What is the Stride 2 Freedom podcast? It is an opportunity to bring guests on the show that helped you, as a business leader, get and stay in your zone of genius. What’s your zone of genius? Your zone of genius is that thing you do that is effortless or feels effortless for you, where you provide the highest value, where you make the maximum impact, where you also lose track of time, and where people say to you, “I don’t understand how you do it,” and you’re like, “I don’t know either, but it’s where I get my greatest amount of energy.”
The Stride 2 Freedom podcast is sponsored by Stride Services. We are an outsourced bookkeeping, accounting, and fractional CFO services firm for high-growth professional service companies like marketing agencies and IT-managed service providers. What is our genius zone at Stride? Our genius zone is helping business leaders use data to make better business decisions.
Okay, enough about stride and why the Stride 2 Freedom podcast exists. Let’s jump into my conversation with a guy who I’ve been so excited to talk to, Nick Points from CharTech. Nick, how are you, buddy?
Nick Points: I’m doing well, Russell. Thank you for having me on.
Russell Benaroya: It is so great to have you. Nick is the Director of Sales for CharTech, which is a learning and training company designed to help IT leaders learn the business side of their business.
CharTech is a really cool story, which Nick will share with us, that was born out of what I look at as a real-life laboratory. He helped to build a company otherwise known as a master MSP called AARC. And what they found in building their business is that the business side of the business was where so much of the value resided, and they thought, “Hey, why can’t we apply everything that we’re learning and continuing to learn and bring other IT service providers up the curve so that they too can be successful?”
So it’s both giving orientation and a shrewd and smart business move, which we’ll learn about. What I particularly like about Nick is that I was a bit smitten with Nick when I watched him speak at this IT Nation last year. Specifically, he was presenting on how to structure a commission schedule for your salespeople.
What I appreciated most about Nick was not just that he was affable and engaging but he was also so informative and giving and willing to provide learning and information. You can tell he’s somebody that wants to raise the boats for everybody that’s playing in this sandbox. That metaphor just broke down, but you get the point. Nick, let’s jump in. What do you say?
Nick Points: Russell? Man, I didn’t know that you were the guy that was whistling the whole time in the audience.
Russell Benaroya: Well, before we jump into the business, I would like to ask that question because I thought you were a very engaging presenter. I think many business leaders want to develop better speaking skills. Where did that develop for you? What kind of investment or commitment have you made because you’re very good?
Nick Points: Well, thank you, Russell. For a lot of people, public speaking is almost worse than death. For me, it came as a trial by fire. Alex Rogers is our founder and CEO of both CharTech and our MSP; a very charismatic industry thought leader, and I was going to shows with him. I was the guy running the booths and talking to the people, and he’d be the big guy on stage.
He’d be doing keynote presentations and talking about how we developed the MSP from a $300 investment and turned it into a multi-million dollar organization. It was really cool. There was one event that was coming up in Chicago, and maybe two and a half weeks out, I got a call from Alex. He’s like, “Hey, I can’t make it. You’re up, big boy.”
My heart just sank and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do? I can’t talk about building the company. My messaging has to be different from his.”
It was a 25-minute keynote, which, at that point, was like an eternity. It might as well have been forever. I felt sick to my stomach. There were points where I was like, “Man, I just want to throw in the hat. I’ll go dig holes and work on construction.” You get that worked up with public speaking.
So, for me, it was a trial by fire. It was practice and repetition. It was being up in front of a mirror. It was recording it. The most important part was understanding what message I needed to convey and being confident in doing so. It was practice, practice, practice.
I flew out to Chicago. I did the presentation. It went extremely well. I booked quite a few deals from the podium, which hadn’t been done before. So Alex said, “Good luck, man. You’re doing the rest of them from here on out.”
So that kept evolving and getting involved more and more with the chart Tech Academy training. It wasn’t something that you just wake up and be like, “I’m going to be a professional speaker.” It’s just like the business. It’s practice, repetition, and understanding where you want to go and how you want to drive that message, whether it’s to internal staff, or to an audience of a few 100 people.
Russell Benaroya: Great experience there, Nick. It has me thinking about business leaders/owners, we often talk about empowerment. We talk about accountability. We talk about giving more responsibility. But surveys say that most business leaders struggle with actually doing it because it’s a control thing and you’re like, “I’m the best at it.”
But when there’s a forcing function, in this case, Alex couldn’t attend, or recently, I was on a trip for a couple of weeks, and I have a new leader in our business development area, and he had to step in. It’s amazing what happens when you just let go. I couldn’t have done anything because I was on vacation. It forces this moment for you to rise. You were the right person to take that mantle and the trajectory shift was significant. Super cool and notable.
Nick Points: Russell, that is probably the toughest part for anyone running a business. I don’t care if you’re the owner or you’re one of the executives or the GM. Anyone that has people looking up to you, one of the toughest pieces is you’ve got to let go of that control. But you have to be okay with your people failing.
Now, it’s an opportunity to train. Where did we fail? Here’s where we could have done things differently. It’s an opportunity for them to grow as well as you. Now, if they keep failing and doing the same thing, that’s a people problem, and we need to take a look at that.
But if we invest in our people, in training and education, we have to be okay. If we want to grow, if we want to scale, if we want to have that self-running business, you will never get there unless you can start delegating and then letting go of some of that control. And it’s easier said than done, but that will be the biggest game changer for you as the business owner. Finding the right people, training, educating, investing your time, and then letting go of that control, unless you want to work in the business 60-70 hours a week.
Russell Benaroya: I feel like we are already in a CharTech Academy session or some subset of a session that’s talking about leadership and scaling. Tell us about CharTech and CharTech Academy; what it is set up to do and how it helps business leaders rise to grow the business that they probably dreamt of when they started.
Nick Points: To answer that, I can take one step back and give you how CharTech came about. Again, we have our multimillion-dollar MSP, 30 years in business. We’re still in the trenches as an MSP.
Let’s go back to circa 2006 – 2008; managed service wasn’t really a thing yet. Monitoring agents started coming out. As an MSP, we went through all those transitional phases. We did break-fix work. We sold computers. Then Costco started selling computers and it was tough to compete with a company where you could walk into their store and buy a computer for less than our cost was, 20 pounds of hamburger meat, your underwear for the next year, and you walk out.
Our industry changed so we started having a focus on service; what the stores weren’t doing. We went through blocks of time. We did the whole discounted labor rates. We started with retainers. You’d pay us a nominal fee of 200 bucks a month and then with that, you got a block of time with this labor rate. We went through all these different transitions. Then we got the taste of “all you can eat”. It was a fixed flat rate that actually came from one of our local clients. He was like, “Hey, I’m tired of not being able to budget my IT expenses. One month it’s here, one month it’s down here. Just give me a number that no matter how many times I see you, whether I call you or not that month, I’m going to pay the same rate.”
So Alex gave him a number. I think it was like $2,500 a month, and the client almost jumped over the table and shook his hand. Immediately, we were like, “Damn.”
Long story short, Alex was driving by that office and we had four of our trucks parked at the office. We only had five, and Alex was in the fifth, so he pulled in. So now we had every single truck that we had at this client’s site, and we were just fixing computer issues.
We came back and we had a meeting and it was like, “Hey, this is killing us. We’re not making any money on this. What’s the problem?” We were like, “Well, he doesn’t want to invest. He doesn’t want to buy new equipment. He wants to keep paying us to fix it.” And it was kind of a joke from one of our engineers, “Why don’t we just give them a server?” Everyone laughed then we started thinking about it. Huh, you know what, let’s give them a server.
The ticket count for that client went from maybe 40 to 50, down to three. So we said, “Hey, we like this flat rate.” We started positioning it to clients and saying, “Hey, we’ve got this opportunity for you. No matter how many times you see us or call us, you’ve got a budgeted rate.” And they loved it and were like, “Sign me up.” But then we had to say, “Well, hold on here. We need to talk about an investment into your network to get you up to the standard so we can perform the services we just promised you.”
A lot of times they didn’t have that money sitting there, that 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 grand project money. They were cool with the monthly. Then we tried, “Well, can we just replace this part now and you’ll do the server next quarter?” And they were like, “Yeah, that works.” And next quarter would come by and guess what happened, Russell?
Russel Benaroya: No money.
Nick Points: So we kept pushing it out and our supporting equipment at a flat rate, and it was just killing us. Alex was the big fisherman and we started including the infrastructure. We would just self-finance it. There was no leasing available at the time. You couldn’t rent it. So we just started buying it and we’d include it as part of our offering. We called it chartering like chartering fishing boats.
With that, our revenue number started skyrocketing. Our profitability went through the roof. We were removing that barrier of entry. We no longer had to make two sales. We didn’t have to sell a project and a monthly because that’s another mistake people make. They sell the project first, then in their mind, they’re like, “I’m going to come back and get that monthly.” And they never get the monthly because the person just cut a $50,000 – $60,000 cheque. It was crazy.
We were growing and scaling. Other MSP business owners were like, “How are you guys doing it? ” We were like, “Well, we got this single chartering and we just started bundling in the services.” The idea came up because we were doing pretty well and there weren’t options for leasing and things along those lines. So we just said we will start financing MSPs. It’s no upfront cost to you or your clients. You just let us know what you need. Your service agreement is collateral enough for us. We’re going to send you as much equipment as you want, we mark it up, include it as part of your offering, and we’ll keep sending you more as long as you’re paying us.
Everyone was excited about it and that’s how CharTech came about. What quickly happened is we were following up and saying, “Hey, we haven’t had any orders, man. You’ve got an unlimited account. Again, if you’re placing orders, we can get you equipment, servers, laptops, whatever you need.” And they’re like, “Man, we can’t sell it. I don’t know how you guys are doing in Bakersfield of all places, but we cannot sell it.”
And so we just said, “Here’s a random Saturday, why don’t you guys fly out to our MSP? We’ll spend a couple of days, have a few drinks, and we’ll show you how we have positioned chartering.” It eventually started to become called HaaS, hardware as a service. And while these business owners were out there, we were going through our sales process, very ad hoc. We weren’t a training company yet. Then it started morphing into, “What are you doing for business operations? How are you leveraging the ConnectWise suite? How are you managing your PSA? What are you doing for agreements? How are you tracking? addendums? How are you marketing?”
So they’re at our facility, and it just started evolving. At this point, CharTech is the largest specific MSP training facility in the world, and it came out as a byproduct. We were trying to sell hardware.
Russell Benaroya: It’s so beautiful and elegant how retrospectives make things look so obvious and easy. You could look back at Amazon and their decisions around bringing other companies onto their platform to sell their products. And you can imagine at the time, it was like, but if we do that, it’s going to cannibalize our other business. Do we want to do that? Then now we look back and it’s obvious. That was the pathway for them to become the world’s biggest store.
I feel the same way listening to your story. It’s so elegant. You saw the challenge before you, which was the obstacle to acquiring clients and servicing them cost effectively was getting over the hardware hump. And if we can get over the hardware hump, we’re going to unlock this path because we’ve significantly reduced the friction.
Again, it sounds so elegant, but I have to imagine, at that time, a lot of uncertainty, but you had the vision and the fortitude to run the experiment.
Nick Points: We did and it wasn’t perfect. And it took a lot of cash flow. There were some months we couldn’t. We just didn’t have enough capital so we weren’t able to take everything on.
One of the key pivots for us and one of the mistakes we made originally, was we didn’t do our best job of standardization. We started thinking like Southwest Airlines. We had one network that went from client to client to client. Our techs knew how to support it, they were very quick and efficient, meaning that our client satisfaction was higher. But now we had buying power because we were buying products. It was much easier to sell because we didn’t have to worry about the 31 flavors.
So that standardization was something that we kept evolving. We are huge proponents of standardizing not only the solution set but everything you do; your processes and procedures. Now, we can always evolve it. You probably see this a lot working with a lot of different companies and different applications. In our industry, we’re probably one of the worst with “shiny object syndrome”. There’s always a new feature or this or that.
At the end of the day, if it’s not going to be a game-changer for you right now, then I promise you, there’s going to be another vendor, another product set that you already probably have that will eventually have this feature in the next quarter. That’s a big problem. We can’t change everything. We focus, we standardize, we become experts in what our craft is, and then we bring on the different solutions. We bring on the different products as they make sense to solve a problem that is new. Case in point, COVID.
Now we’re working remotely. The workspace is changed forever. I don’t care what people say, it is never going to go back to everybody in brick and mortar. The cat’s out of the bag. Now there is an opportunity for more cyber criminals. It was unprecedented. It was there prior to COVID, don’t get me wrong, but that puts it front and center on the world’s main stage.
So having to adopt your security offering now to manage workforces that don’t have a central location, and the tools and solutions. There are opportunities that need to come up and we need to seize them. But for the most part, don’t just try to flip-flop because there is something that looks pretty cool. Let me go ahead and jump over there. It’s time, it’s money, and you’re going to burn profit.
Russell Benaroya: Speaking of standardizing, how is the CharTech learning platform standardized in such a way to support clients that want to go through the academy to make sure that they’re getting what it is they’re seeking? Either a comprehensive, systematic review of key pillars of the business model design or deep diving into a focus area; how have you put that structure together? What is that structure?
Nick Points: Great question. At the end of the day, every business is unique. There are certain parts that are different. You’re not different in the services you offer. You’re not different in the products you provide. You’re not different in the vendors you have relationships with. Let’s get that out of the way. What is different is your maturity level within the business. How many employees do you have?
The problems that you may be facing are unique to you versus somebody else who may be just starting up and they just implemented their first PSA. Their challenges may be different from those of you that have been in the business for 5 to 10 years. But we all have problems and we’re all trying to solve problems.
The academy, what’s really cool about it is it’s at our facility here in Bakersfield. It’s not in another big convention center where there are a lot of distractions, and you’re going to go and see people on stage pitching products and services. The big challenge with a lot of different shows is you’ll hear a lot of great things from different vendors about what you could do as an MSP. You could try implementing the product this way, or you should consider adding this. No one really sits and says, “This is how you do it. This is how we do it as an MSP.”
So that’s what you get at the Academy, it’s at our MSP. You have unrestricted access to all of my people, our processes, and our procedures. The only caveat is you can’t be within 150 miles of our location and Bakersfield, for obvious reasons. Other than that, you’re here. And then as far as the academy is structured, we have content that is running on every pillar: marketing, lead generation, sales, business operations, service and delivery, and project management. We have courses on finance, all the way to HR and company culture. So there’s something for everybody.
I like to equate it to being almost like Disneyland. You’re not going to be able to get it all on one trip. The other part of it is that the first time you come to the Academy, the curriculum that you invest in, in your time is going to be different, hopefully, on your second trip. Meaning you’ve solved those problems. We came up with the plan, you’ve executed the plan, and you solve the problems. Now we have a whole other focus on the business.
Now different tracks are going to be relevant to you or spending time with different departments. It’s going to keep evolving as your MSP is solving those problems. Then the great part is as you’re hiring because sometimes we’re going to need to hire people to help solve problems, those people now can come back out. They’re getting that same messaging and then it’s this beautiful cycle. So it’s always going to evolve with your specific MSPs.
Russell Benaroya: We talk in business about focused customer segments, ideal client profile, focus, focus, focus. When you’re known to serve a particular type of client, you can be seen as a partner for that client. You can do better standardization. I’m curious, for CharTech for the Academy, is there an ideal client profile file that you find most resonates with the invitation to become part of the Academy?
Nick Points: You know what, it does across the spectrum. I’d say the majority of our attendees are in that maybe $1 to $3 million a year. We definitely have some that are smaller, like just starting up, one-person or two-person operations. And then we have some that are publicly traded companies, but they’re there for a different reason.
So, boiling it down, the business owner is starting up. They’re going to have those different needs. Then we have other companies where they have hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of employees, and then they may decide to send, as an example, copier companies. They’re like, “You guys haven’t realized this over the last decade, they are coming into our industry in the managed services.
So it’s this convergence. They have sales forces, they’re just not trained in selling managed services. Copier sales are different processes. It’s a different mindset. So we started seeing other companies like that come in that aren’t just IT companies. The majority of our members who come through are IT-managed service providers or their bars. They do product resell, and then COVID hit and they’re like, “Wow, we sold all of our product. Now I should be getting into this recurring revenue model.”
So there’s something for everybody, which is also a great point for networking, for sharing those ideas. There’s going to be somebody and not just the CharTech and AARC staff, but from the 100 other MSP companies that will be in attendance, sharing their best practices because everyone’s out here to share. We’re not competing with each other. So it’s this really great environment.
There’s something for everybody that does run the gamut. If we boil it down, most of our MSPs that are attending are anywhere from 2 to maybe 20 employees.
Russell Benaroya: What is an experience you can share or an anecdote where you’ve observed that aha moment, or that lightbulb moment from somebody that came to the Academy and realized, “Wow, I hadn’t been thinking of my business like this.”? This is a different way of asking the question, what are some of the blind spots that you help MSPs uncover?
Nick Points: Again, it’s going to depend on the MSP. I’d say that a common theme there is profitability. A lot of times, you just check the bank account, but not really understanding: are we actually profitable?
Here’s another big challenge we have in our industry. There are a lot of other trainers and other vendors that are very quick to tell you how much you should be charging. At the end of the day, maybe some of those are going to be aligned but that is the wrong thing to say. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is how much of that you keep.
If you’re charging $350 a seat, but it costs you $375 a seat to support it, that’s a bad deal. So getting the mindset around understanding your business operations. What does it cost to quote? What does it cost to present? What does it cost to do the different functions within service delivery? How do we train our people to track time against agreements?
I can look at quarterly profitability reports and understand what clients maybe we need to cut, or we need to add something else or have those conversations. On the other side of it, which clients are too profitable? I know that’s kind of crazy to think about, but those clients that you’re making money hand over fist, you know what that’s telling me, you’re not putting time against them.
Russell Benaroya: They’re going to turn.
Nick Points: So it’s both sides of it; making sure that we’re doing right by our clients. That’s one blind spot. The other one that’s kind of the big aha moment we see time and time, again, is people come out and they want to grow their business. They want to add that recurring revenue. They want to be profitable in doing so. They want to have higher close rates. They don’t want to just rely on referrals.
Closing a referral is much different than prospecting. Referrals, for the most part, are laid out or they should be. You’re doing your job, you’re getting referrals based on your successes. I’m not going to say it’s an easier sell, but it’s an easier sell.
They come on and invest in training because now they’re getting to the point where I have to grow. They have to work on marketing leads. These people don’t know me. I don’t have a personal relationship with them so they go through our training.
If you look at our Facebook page, the CharTech MSP group, there is video after video of people doing their self-videos saying, “I’ve just added $15,000 in MRR with the $60,000 project.” “I’ve added hundreds of 1000s of dollars within weeks of attending your academies or your sales labs.” They’re always like, “I was a believer, but now I’m really a believer.”
As you’re going through the processes, it looks easy. You’re like, “I know how it works.” But once you actually do it, you execute, you follow the process and you see the results, then you become a real believer. It’s pretty funny. That’s one of those aha moments; I wish I had done it a decade ago.
Russell Benaroya: I love it. A couple of thoughts come to mind. One is to suggest to any business owner to continue doing the same thing you had been doing, even if you do it better, and to think that you’re going to scale your business to two to three times the size that you are today is a fallacy. Because growth typically is accompanied by the necessary investment in people, infrastructure and process to take that step function. Business growth as a step function environment, not a linear environment.
What I’m curious about, Nick, is, how do you guide MSP owners in thinking about the investment that’s going to be important or necessary if they want to translate all this good learning from the Academy into action? And I know the answer is it depends, of course, it depends where people are on the spectrum. But I’d love for you to ruminate on that.
Nick Points: I’m a big believer in challenging the status quo. As an example, a lot of times the owners are IT people. That’s their passion. They don’t want to do public speaking. They don’t like sales, it’s just a necessary evil that they deal with.
So one of the first hats you’d like to remove is to hire that salesperson. So I have to have those conversations with them, “Yeah, it sounds great.” But the first thing I ask is, “Do you have a process? Is it documented? Is it in your CRM?” If the answer is no, you’re not ready. I have about seven checklist items and one of the last ones I ask them is, “Do you have six months of base salary set aside cash in the bank?”
Because they make the mistake of hiring somebody, pay them for two months, in their minds, this person is going to start closing deals and they’re going to pay for themselves. In reality, that’s not the case. There are always Bluebirds, don’t get me wrong. But those are the types of conversations that we’re having.
When I’m talking about where you want to go in the business; where do we want to grow? And we start mapping out these steps. Before I throw a body at a problem, I challenge: are we using technology that we’re already invested in? Can we automate this? Does it have to be a manual process anymore? Can we automate it with a tool that we already have?
Case in point, most MSPs get a PSA and they use 2% of it. They do it for ticketing and that’s it. Then they start bolting on other applications instead of just saying, “Let’s take a look at what we’re already investing in and we’re using to solve these problems. Is it possible?” Those are the types of conversations.
That was pretty broad, Russell, but really, you’ve got to look at where you want to go. And before throwing money into hiring and training and putting a body at it, can I automate? Can I better use the technology we have? And in some cases, Russell, do we outsource? And that’s very hard for us and it’s kind of funny. IT providers, this is all we do. Don’t hire an IT guy, hire my company. You’re not experts in it, leave the technology to us, you run your business. That’s our whole motto.
But when it comes to our time to do it, it’s like, “Oh, wait, no. I don’t want to outsource that. I want to hire people.” Again, it may not work for everybody but think about it. Challenge that status quo. Just because we had people in that role before may not necessarily be where we have to go.
Russell, you hit the nail 100% on the head. It is a tiered approach. It’s step by step. We have to set our goals. I always say, “What are the top three problems that we need to solve?” Let’s just put it down to three. Then we’re going to have action items within those three major issues. That’s what we focus on. That’s your focus for the next quarter, six months, maybe a year.
We start making progress on that, put everything else aside because we get overwhelmed and we get overloaded. We try to do too much. We think of the end goal and not the steps that we need to take to achieve it and we end up not doing anything. We maintain the status quo. We get frustrated and we come back year after year to the same shows, the same training events, and we talk about the same problems.
Russell Benaroya: I want to acknowledge your comment about using 2% of the PSA and just use the opportunity to give a shout-out to our friend, Bill Black at FocusPlanit, who connected the two of us. He’s a great example of a firm that has been built to help MSPs optimize the utilization of ConnectWise management. Just a little shout out here.
Nick Points: Russell, just to add to that, Bill’s another great example. He was a very early CharTech member. He was within the first probably 40 members that we had. He followed the processes, built his MSP, sold it, and then he’s like, “Eh, retirement kind of sucks. I need something to do.” So he focused on what he was great at, which was maximizing the investments we make.
And we use Bill as well. Again, I have people in-house that can facilitate ConnectWise. Same thing with Automator or some other agents. I have other companies I use because it’s just more efficient for me. Again, I don’t have to hire, train, and scale because we did that for years. I had a dedicated person that was just for my RMM agent, developing scripts. Then over time, that person leaves. Now what am I doing?
So I’m always looking at these types of businesses who know what we do. They’re specific to us, they understand it. And again, it’s an option. Thanks for bringing that up because that’s a perfect case study.
Russell Benaroya: Thank you. Great share. What are some trends that you’re seeing in the industry that are influencing how you’re guiding an academy or influencing the strategies that MSPs are looking to adopt to achieve their ambitions? This is a dynamic world we’re living in.
Nick Points: More so than it’s ever been. The last couple of years have proved that. When COVID hit, we were doing everything virtually. As an MSP, I want to go knee to knee. I want to do an onsite assessment. That’s just what we’ve been doing. Well, now we have to evolve. Not all companies are there.
Thankfully, we’re back in person because those virtual trainings for two days were just not the same experience as when you’re in-person with a live audience. Thankfully, we’re back in person. But the processes have evolved.
The support process is training our people how we communicate now. So the tracks and adding in different products and services, and then injecting those into processes like Teams or Zoom. Before that, we had it, but did we use it all the time? No. Now it’s every day. We’re on some kind of virtual conference, virtual meeting, having a sales conversation, or maybe it’s client support. This is the type of interaction we’re having right now. Adding in cybersecurity, it’s another big one.
And here’s an anecdote on that. You remember when it was HIPAA. You’ve got to do it. you’ve got to do it. And most MSPs would go in, and we’d sell in this whole, “You’ve got to do it.” Again, our clients with our MSP are small to medium businesses. They have 15 to 50 employees. That’s kind of our sweet spot. Anything larger, maybe we do augmentation work with an IT person that they may already have on staff. But that’s our sweet spot.
You go into a 15-person medical practice, you start talking about, “You gotta be HIPAA this and that. You’re going to get fined and you need to invest in these.” They don’t care. For them, it’s like, “I will retire.”
So changing is extremely valuable, but we’ve got to adopt our processes to work them in with our clients to start achieving this. The same thing with cybersecurity. You have to have this in place, you need to do this. It’s about educating within the process, that it’s not about firewalls and antivirus only. You start talking about the business implications, so that the training and the content has to evolve with what’s relevant. Then putting it into the processes as relates to an MSP talking to an end client.
So that part is always evolving and keeping that curriculum. And we do it as a byproduct because we have to do it as an MSP or we’re going to get left behind. CharTech always gets the latest and greatest just as a byproduct of AARC, our MSP, and then our tech members. That’s how we are staying relevant.
Russell Benaroya: Well, this isn’t a universal comment. More often than not, clients care very little about what you are actually going to do. What they care about is the outcome that you’re going to achieve. And the outcome often is somewhat of a subjective outcome. It is, I want to have confidence that somebody in my orbit owns this part of the outcomes of my organization, or I want to have confidence that we can bill in a timely and accurate manner.
How you choose to do it, what piece of technology you are using, I do not care. But oftentimes, when you’re in it, you want to talk about the technology because we’re excited to talk about technology. And we end up losing the opportunity because we get so saddled with the what, and not focused on the why.
Nick Points: Russell, that’s very well put. In our industry, we’re notorious for overselling. We have a very feature-rich offering. We get so excited about all the cool technologies and the things that we do. But we fail to effectively communicate to a business owner, to a board of directors, to a leadership team why that is even important to your business. Because if I can’t answer that, then I don’t talk about it. I may include it, but I’m not talking about it. If it’s not relevant right now for them, then they just say, “Well, can you go and remove that piece? What does it lower my rate to?”
Or the worst case, what happens is we’re talking about all these great services we offer. Case in point, I told you earlier, I’m big on standardization. I include 24/7 support for all of my clients. I think it’s pretty cool that no matter what time of day it is, holidays or weekends, you can reach out to my team, and you can get support to keep your business up and running. I think it’s cool. Would you agree that’s pretty cool?
Russell Benaroya: Sounds cool, Nick.
Nick Points: Monday through Friday, eight to five, on the weekends, you don’t need it. But again, here’s the caveat, I include it. When I’m talking to the clients, I don’t talk about how great the 24/7 support is. It’s not a 24/7 company. I let them know they have support during business hours. Then when they go, “Oh my gosh, what happens if I stay later after coming on a weekend?” “You know what? We’ll take care of you, don’t worry about it.” They like, “Oh my gosh, that’s great. Thank you.” Now, it’s a value add.
It’s the mindset because a business owner doesn’t care. It’s just like everybody listening here. For those of you who still have direct TV or cable, you have a little black box, can you imagine if that person came in to install it, and they’re talking about how great that black box was? Nobody can tell me what CPU is in it, what kind of processing memory. You don’t care. I just know when I turn my TV on, I want my 750 channels, and I’m just going to focus on the three that I watch.
Russell Benaroya: We need to do a role practice where the MSP cannot talk about the tool. And every time they talk about tools, there’s a shock or a buzzer. How hard it probably would be and how illuminating it would be for the conversations they could have with decision-makers and clients that are in a position to say, “Yes, I want to work with you and I’m empowered to make that decision.”
Nick Points: That would be awesome.
Russell Benaroya: That’s fun. Let’s talk about the upcoming CharTech Academies. When are they? How do we participate?
Nick Points: We do once a quarter. The next one is coming up on the 28th and 29th.
Russell Benaroya: Of September?
Nick Points: September is correct. Then December 6th and 7th will be the final one of the year.
Russell Benaroya: Okay, cool. So once a quarter, and then to find out when the upcoming CharTech conferences are they just go to where?
Nick Points: I’ll give you a link that you can put in the podcast. At chartech.net, we have a drop-down that says “Academy”. From there, you can look at the Academy agenda, the different sessions, and the speakers. You can register from there. It even covers the travel logistics, getting the Bakersfield hotels we partner with, and the content changes.
This September Academy, we’re going to have something for every pillar. We’re going to hit it heavy with lead generation mindset, lead generation marketing, and sales. Then as we go into the final category of the year, we put an emphasis on planning, preparation, and strategy planning for 2023. Again, every Academy is going to vary a little bit but the content of the different pillars will be touched.
Russell Benaroya: Awesome. Nick, I’m so happy that you and your team have made the decision to invest like you have to raise the awareness of the possibility for MSPs broadly. You’re clearly providing a tremendous amount of value. I’ve been in a number of industries as an entrepreneur, and I don’t think I have seen the level of collegiality and collaboration that exists in the MSP space. You’re a great example of it.
Nick Points: Well, thank you, Russell. Appreciate that.
Russell Benaroya: You’re welcome. That is all we have time for today on the Stride 2 Freedom podcast, Nick, it was such a pleasure spending time with you.
Nick Points: Thank you for having me. This was fun.
Russell Benaroya: Oh, my gosh, you made it a ton of fun. You also made it very informative and educational. And even if you’re not into MSP, what Nick is talking about today around the core pillars of the business of your business are applicable regardless of what industry you’re in.
And frankly, if you’re in a professional service business and you have an aspiration to be charging customers on a recurring revenue basis, which many of us do, understanding the dynamics of how to sell that and service it profitably is so important. I think MSPs are on the front line of experimenting with innovation in that type of business model, which is super cool. Thank you, Nick.
Thank you, everybody. We will see you on the next episode of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast. Have a great day. Bye.