Age and Stage with Allen Edwards
Let me start here: You want to know Allen Edwards. He is fun. He is fascinating. He is funny!
Before Allen started Eureka Process, he was homeless in Mexico. Yes, you heard me correctly (and I appreciate his vulnerability in sharing). He had left a successful IT job and went on walkabout. He was doing some social media management when a friend asked if he could help out another friend in running an IT firm. The universe had a calling and Allen grabbed it. Today, Allen is the founder and CEO of Eureka Process, a consulting firm that helps Managed Service Providers (MSPs) with both business strategy and tactical execution.
What I appreciate so much about Allen is that he cares deeply about his clients and is not brazen enough to just provide tactical and process support if the company strategy isn’t clear. In other words, Allen acts on the belief that if you can’t answer the “why,” the “what” becomes a lot less clear.
Allen spends some time on the podcast talking about the concept of “age and stage.” Where the company is at in terms of age of business model development and stage of company growth will dictate the level of intensity required for both strategy and process. If you’re an emerging company and trying to implement scaling strategy and process, you’re likely going to fall flat. Know thyself!
Once you have a good strategy in place and a blueprint for where you want to go—which Eureka can help you develop—you can then get down to tactical execution. And a lot of that work for Eureka happens inside of ConnectWise Manage, the PSA (Professional Service Automation) for thousands of MSPs nationally. Allen shares how just having a tool or piece of software is not the goal. The goal is to understand what problem you’re trying to solve and creating the plan for how to achieve it.
Call Eureka Process when, according to Allen, “You are beginning to have stagnation or hatred for your job. As soon as you start heading in that direction and you don’t have a solution that you control in front of you, you can’t hope, you’ve got to do it. If you don’t know what your clear action steps are to solve whatever is making your life less good, I’ll fix it. Life’s too short to suffer.”
And trust me, Allen is passionate about helping people not suffer. He is proof that you can put your life on a new trajectory and Eureka Process is here to help you do just that in your business.
You’ll enjoy this Podcast episode with Allen—here are some takeaways:
- Too many people think more is more—the truth is often that less is more.
- In IT space, people assume tools will solve problems. If you don’t have your process in place first, adding a new tool will just create problems.
- You have to love what you do—and if you don’t love it anymore, Allen and his team can help you fix that.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Stride Services, who provides outsourced bookkeeping, accounting and CFO Advisory services to growing professional service firms around the United States.
We are fortunate to have Allen 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:
Allen Edwards: LinkedIn
Allen Edwards: email@example.com
Russell Benaroya: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast, where we help business leaders get and stay in their genius zone.
What is their genius zone? It’s that thing that you do, where you lose track of time, where it feels effortless, where you are doing what you are uniquely energized and capable to do and people say, “How do you do that?” And you say, “I don’t know. I just do.” That’s what we’re here to help you unlock and spend more time in.
My name is Russell Benaroya, I am your host. Stride 2 Freedom is brought to you by Stripe Services. We are an outsourced back office, bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO advisory firm helping professional service companies like marketing agencies, outsourced IT service firms, and other professional service companies, supporting them by helping their senior leadership get and stay in their zone of genius.
Our zone of genius is to help business leaders use data to make better business decisions. That’s what we do at Stripe. I am so excited today to introduce our guest, Allen Edwards. Hi, Allen. How are you?
Allen Edwards: Howdy. How are you guys?
Russell Benaroya: Great to see you. I don’t know what it was, Allen, or what it has been but ever since we met, I keep associating you with fine shoes. And I’m like, no, that’s not Allen Edwards, that’s Allen Edmonds. But for some reason, your combination of fashion has triggered me thinking about shoes. I’ve been like Allen Edmonds. Allen Edwards, own it. Weird, right?
Allen Edwards: I’ve never been mistaken for fashionable before. Thank you.
Russell Benaroya: It’s my pleasure. The reason I wanted Allen on the show today is that he started in the IT services industry when he was like five years old. I don’t know if it was when he was five years old but he has been at this for a long time. And what’s awesome is that he has seen the journey of outsourced IT services firms from break-fix to managed service. He was a pioneer in that industry.
Today, his business, Eureka Process, helps MSPs set strategy, implement process, and helps guide leaders to achieve their dreams, helps guide leaders to stay in their genius zone. So where I wanted to go today with Allen and with all our guests on the show is around this theme of what is the right strategy and what is the right process and systems investment to make for different stages of growth in your business?
We’re going to talk a little bit about age and stage. I don’t care if you’re an outsourced IT service business or any service business for that matter, you will benefit from the age and stage. Ready to jump in, Allen?
Allen Edwards: I sure am.
Russell Benaroya: It’s so good to see you.
Allen Edwards: Likewise. Yes, I have done this since I was five because I started 1994 professionally, and obviously, this young, it must have been five.
Russell Benaroya: I know. I was reading your bio, and I was like, man, because you’re a young guy. You’ve been in the world of entrepreneurship for a really long time but also grew up in the industry. You started at the bottom and worked your way to leadership.
Allen Edwards: Yeah absolutely. I remember my first job, the owner still tells the joke that I was hired for summer help but I never left. He was like, “How’s he doing full time or going to high school?” I don’t know. I’m sorry; elementary school. My bad.
Russell Benaroya: Exactly. You do some pretty cool things outside of work. And I like talking professionally and we’ll do that, but let’s talk a little bit about what’s behind your profession. What is acroyoga?
Allen Edwards: That group of people does not like that name, but it stuck and people understand it. It’s a combination of acrobatics and yoga. I honestly do not practice it much these days. I still occasionally get down with the kids or some other people that know it.
It’s basically partner yoga, but it involves a lot of acrobatics. You’ll see terms like an L base where one partner can lay on their back and hold their legs up to an L. The person on top can assume various yoga poses. It’s a lot of working together and communication and I think that’s what I liked most about it. I even ran the acroyoga group in Savannah for a little while. I never got super fancy, but I love teaching beginners and helping people come in. Those who had a lot of experience got to do the cool stuff and showed off their skills.
Russell Benaroya: How would you connect acroyoga to entrepreneurship?
Allen Edwards: Communication is huge, and process. There is a process to everything. Yes, we don’t write them down as often or reference them in writing in acroyoga so much, but when you say, “Hey, I want to do this type of washing machine,” there’s an understanding that you have to have with your partner that says, “Hey, we’re going to go from this position to this position to get there,” and not drop the person or what we call creating a cuddle puddle.
Russell Benaroya: That’s so cute. I hear you. We’ll double-click on that. Let me ask you one other really important question because you live in Squamish, just outside of Vancouver and you are 30 minutes or so from Whistler. And I know you’re an avid snow skier. What’s one of the coolest places, if not Whistler, that you have snow-skied that was really memorable for you?
Allen Edwards: First of all, thank you so much for saying that word snow-ski because when I say that up here, they laugh like, “What do you mean snow-skiing, it’s just skiing.” It’s like, no, skiing is water skiing where I come from. A custom guy once said, “Oh, that’s cute. Come on in.” Well, I am actually not an avid skier. I’m actually a brand new skier. This is my second season skiing.
Russell Benaroya: Are you for real? I had no idea.
Allen Edwards: Yeah, I am totally for real. My friends honor me and say, “Allen, you’re actually a very average skier now and for your second season, that’s phenomenal.” I can ski just about anything just not prettily, or well, or with good form. I just went skiing yesterday. It was in challenging conditions but it was a lot of fun. It’s been great learning something new.
Russell Benaroya: That’s great. As opposed to learning skiing when you’re a kid where you’re lower to the ground, your center of gravity is a little lower, you’re willing to take more risks, to learn as an adult on skis is courageous.
Allen Edwards: Yeah. There are three-year-olds who can barely stand up who are out-skiing me and they come by in packs.
Russell Benaroya: Totally. That’s awesome. Well, let’s jump in. I want to hear more about Eureka Process and how you got started, and why it matters. Give us the background and then we’ll dive into the age and stage.
Allen Edwards: I love being vulnerable. It’s one of the things that I teach that if you can be vulnerable in a business setting, you can create trust and help other people be vulnerable and earn and create trust.
When I first started this business, I was actually homeless on the streets of Mexico. I had just left a successful job and leadership and went on a walkabout. I didn’t really have any income. I was doing some social media management, but not enough. I was running out of money and then a good friend of mine in the IT industry says, “Hey, I have this client who could use some tech help.” I said, “Great. I’ll do that.”
At the time, he was paying me like 30 bucks an hour, which, given my costs were so low, was like, wow, this is amazing. But within three months, that relationship had changed dramatically. Not only did the tech stuff get done, but they were asking a lot of questions, like, “Hey, you’ve done this stuff with IT before. What did you do with this? How did you set up the PSA?”
That’s when I realized that, wait a minute, in my own business before, leading others in leadership positions, I have done this before, and frankly, the formula to success looked pretty darn similar. So I started applying those principles to that client. I picked up a second client and developed the brand, Eureka Process, from a different corporation it was before. So that’s the really early roots; having that epiphany that I do know what I’m doing.
It was an amazingly transformative time. I love hearing it from the eyes of my partner because I met her during that time. I was like, “Why did you start dating this homeless dude?” She claims she won the lottery. I don’t know if it was a good lottery or a bad lottery. But to see us building from that first client to the second client to now.
Russell Benaroya: What was that client asking for from you?
Allen Edwards: Initially, they just needed additional tech help. I still had good troubleshooting skills, even though I was a little rusty on the tech side because I’d been in management for so long. It was exactly what they needed. They were a very small firm. As they started asking more questions, they would say things like, “Hey, you know ConnectWise?” “Sure.” “How do you do this?” “Well, first of all, I wouldn’t do it that way. I would do it this way And this is why.”
Then a few more of those questions and I’m like, “Well, you shouldn’t start executing these things in your tools until you have a process behind this so that we all know what to expect from the inputs that we give it and what output we’re supposed to get.” That just kept developing until it became process-based. It was a full-time job; developing processes, teaching the team, and setting up the tools to follow the process. I had no time left for technical work.
Russell Benaroya: What did that time in your life do for you as far as crystallizing the outlook around where you wanted to open up the next chapter and move from what sounded like a difficult period of time in your life to this new purpose? Was it like a lightbulb or was it just organic and it kind of unfolded?
Allen Edwards: Part of it is just magnetism to what you know. I had connections in IT because I had done it for 20 years. I obviously had the expertise, and then it was a Eureka moment for me to acknowledge and honor the fact that I did have the expertise. So many of us think that we’re imposters in our own skin.
Of course, there’s also that personal growth thing. My move to Mexico was a bit intentional. I wanted to reduce the cost. I wanted to start fresh; I wanted to start clean. I do not believe in escaping your problems because, usually, the problem is you and you happen to be there wherever you go. I was intentional about what I was doing and why I was doing it there. And it really emboldened me to always do the right thing because what’s the worst that could happen?
I’m living in a warm place with warm rain even if I don’t have a roof over my head, where fruit can grow around me. My cheapest month there was 300 bucks spent in the entire month. What’s the worst that can happen if you make a mistake in business? Don’t fear mistakes. Don’t fear being wrong. Decide, execute, adapt. That gave me the energy that I still carry forward today when I’m talking to clients about decision-making and fear of mistakes and how to lead people. Be brave, be bold. And honestly, what is the worst that can happen?
Russell Benaroya: I love it. What year was that when you moved to Mexico?
Allen Edwards: 2017 is when I moved to Mexico, I believe.
Russell Benaroya: Okay, 2017. So really just four to five years ago. A lot has happened since the Eureka moment. Tell me about your Eureka Process today. Where are you today? Who do you serve and what is it that you offer broadly?
Allen Edwards: People hate this term, but we are business consultants. We focus on IT businesses because we have that wealth of experience specifically in IT. These other practices have been done and worked this way in the past. So that’s definitely a value-add for everybody.
My favorite thing to brag about Eureka Process is that we now have a team size of seven. We’ve roughly doubled team size every year. For all you entrepreneurs going, “Oh, that sounds painful,” you’re right. It’s been a lot of fun. I have a great team, but every time you double something, there’s a lot of complexity to figure out. How do you beat that back into simplicity? How do you spread the word even more firmly and more committed as you get further and further removed from the original genesis?
Russell Benaroya: Let’s double-click on consultants because there are a couple of pieces to how I think about you. There’s this strategy piece, and I want to talk about strategy because I think you have a really thoughtful approach to applying the right strategy at the right time for the right stage. Then I also want to talk about some of the tactical and technical help that you provide.
It’s one thing to develop strategy; it’s another thing to execute the process and systems to help that strategy unfold. Let’s talk about strategy first. What does that mean to you and how do you guide your clients?
Allen Edwards: Strategy boils down to two things. One is having a system and a reason for strategy. The second one from a consultancy standpoint is great meeting facilitation. It’s a very separate skill that happens in a lot of our meetings. For those of you using other consultants, I hope they’re planning this for you. How do they run a meeting? Hopefully, they’re not telling you what to do. And hopefully, they’re not just actively running you through the system, whatever the system is.
You’ve got to make sure everybody in that room is heard and everybody’s feelings are acknowledged because we are all humans. We can’t just hope everybody’s a robot. It’s not going to work.
The primary purpose behind this strategy comes from a very human need. Humans need to feel like they belong to something greater than themselves. I hope I don’t cross the line by comparing it to church, but it’s not for your eternal soul. It’s just that societal need to belong to something greater than yourself.
If you’re building a big house and you’re a carpenter, you drive by and say, “I helped build that house,” even if you just did the carpentry piece. So when we create a strategy and it has the very common things you might see in a business plan: 10-year goals, one-year goals, quarterly goals, core values, those types of things, you’re creating this system of belonging where people can say, “Yeah, I identify with that.”
It’s that greater sense of belonging that humans need to drive strategy, as well as every missile has to have a guidance system. Strategies need that long-term gaze. One analogy I give is when I first learned mountain biking, I fell off a lot of bridges. That is not necessarily a pleasant experience. What’s going on is I was always looking at where my bike is and what might happen.
But when I started looking at my strategy for mountain biking, which is I wanted to be over there dry, and I looked at that point, I would always arrive at that point because I had a plan. I couldn’t envision success, versus when I looked at all my possible failures and what could go wrong, and it invariably would happen. That’s what I feel about strategy; it’s that long-term vision and that sense of belonging.
Russell Benaroya: What is a common misnomer about strategy? Do you ever see strategy as a term getting misapplied where clients or prospective clients think they have a strategy, but what they really have is a bunch of tactics?
Allen Edwards: All the time. The two misnomers I see about strategy are those who set and forget them. They write it down and they never come back to it. So they have the right strategic thing to do, but it doesn’t matter without tactics to get you there. Then you have those who are like, “My strategy is to implement a ticketing system.” Now, that may be a part of a tactic to get you to your strategy, but why are you implementing it?
If you think about it, strategy actually answers the why. Even when we teach processes, the first paragraph of every process should answer: why do we do this process? It is much easier for a human being to get behind a “why” than “my boss told me to.” It’s that sense of belonging again.
Russell Benaroya: Do clients call you up and say, “Hey, Allen, I lack a strategy. I need a strategy.”? Or are they calling you up because some house is on fire, help me solve my immediate problem? Then you help them step back and rise above to look at the bigger picture. How does it work?
Allen Edwards: Some of that is an age and stage, which you alluded to before. Well, I’ve known about it and I’ve seen it. It’s been a recent epiphany of mine; how we’re going to apply that going forward for Eureka Process. When I look at which clients are excelling and which ones are doing great, I’m like, what’s the difference? Then my original answer for that: those who focus on strategy get further. Then stepping back and going, “Well, these clients struggling with strategy, what’s going on?” And I realized it’s an age and stage difference.
To directly answer your question: what do they come to us for? What causes them to decide they need help? It’s never a fire, or it’s very rarely a fire. I have to acknowledge that anybody who calls a consultant is probably suffering from success. They’re usually not struggling. They’re usually not poor or losing money all the time. Or if they are, it’s after a period of making money. It’s that they’ve arrived. They have aged to the next stage. And that stage requires a different skill set. They don’t quite know what’s going on.
They’re like, “Hey, I grew my business from one person to five people.” “I went from making 100k to making 800k, or a million dollars, and I don’t like life anymore. What’s going on? There’s something different that needs to happen.” That same conversation happens at different levels and with different employee counts and revenue. There’s some transition that has to happen that we are not built with and that’s when we seek outside help.
So they might be addressing multiple fires. Two that I hear commonly: “I’m tired of fighting fires all the time, constant emergency mode.” Or a little more derogatory one is, “I’m tired of babysitting my employees. Aren’t they professionals?” I hear that over half the time.
Russell Benaroya: And very often, the response might be, “Well, before we point fingers, maybe we should point out, how am I an enabler for creating this environment? But that’s not a criticism or a judgment; it’s just a recognition that we’re all part of the contribution to the circumstance.
Allen Edwards: That’s also what I start with: you’re a victim of success. I acknowledge the fact that you have skills that got you here, and those should be honored. We’re going to enhance those skills, add some new skills to get you to that next place because no matter what you’re doing, you are an enabler. It’s about what you choose to enable. And it comes back to that humanness piece.
Russell Benaroya: Maybe we could align age and stage or strategy with an architecture that many people in the managed service provider industry know well, which is service leadership’s operational maturity model. Maybe you could talk a little bit about what strategy looks like at a few of those different stages just to help anybody that’s listening to this, normalize for them that this is what I should be thinking about. This is where I should be now.
Allen Edwards: I do not have the SLI OML model memorized. I actually often quote it often in pieces that I’ve heard. One of my favorite things is the service offering part of Service Leadership. I actually repeat this often to our clients, which is when you first start off at an early maturity level, you will sell whatever makes money.
I think it’s important to note that these maturity levels are not inherently good or bad. Higher is not necessarily better. It’s just more mature, but recognize where you are, attract clients who appreciate that, attract employees who appreciate that and you’ll do great.
Selling stuff to make money is a great stepping stone if you’re bootstrapping. You need the revenue. You can do more with a top line. Yes, the bottom line is more important, but you can’t create a bottom line without a top line. In the SLI process, it goes to that OML 2 where you’re beginning to focus your services; you do certain things better than others and you focus on those. And then there’s the ultimate OML 3 which is extreme focus. You do one thing extremely well.
I liken this to an ATM machine printing new money. When your services are that good, that’s when you should allow yourself to think about the next step, which is expanding your services. So many people think that more is more. I probably spend a large amount of time with my coaching and consulting saying, “No, less is more.” Once you have the ATM machine, then we can go build another ATM machine with the funds we’re generating. But if you don’t have that, you’re just spreading yourself out.
I think Robert Kiyosaki in one of his books wrote, “Finish one course until it’s successful.” The key is the one course.
Russell Benaroya: Amazing how hard that is, isn’t it?
Allen Edwards: I catch myself doing the same thing.
Russell Benaroya: In order to manage that ATM machine, or the pursuit of that ATM machine, or multiple ATM machines, what we know is that in the MSP arena, many of them manage their process on a professional service automation platform like ConnectWise manage. And so much of the machine that they’re building requires the effective and efficient utilization of this core foundational piece of software.
Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you help clients translate from strategy and defined tactics, to how to operationalize.
Allen Edwards: I’m going to push the process one more time because so many in our IT space love our tools. They’re like, “I bought this tool, my problem is solved.” You’ve just added to your problems. Process first.
We recently adopted an applicant tracking system for hiring because we also do screening for some of our clients. The provider of the software was amazed that we actually adopted the entire software in two hours. They’re like, “This never happens. Most people still don’t have it adopted properly.” We are determined in the conversation; our process was written in stone, this is how we do it. We simply translated our needs to what their software can do. We asked them to implement that force, and it was done.
I hope you have that level of process before you dive into your tools, whether it’s ConnectWise, Halo, Autotask. They’re probably all good tools if you have a process to make them operate in. We strategically chose ConnectWise Manage. We’ve also been branching out into others and finding a lot of great translations.
But just like with processes, in ConnectWise Manage, we go through an audit where there’s a best practice here, supported by a best practice process that should be set up. And if it’s not set up that way, you should at least have a good answer why.
One of those things we do is helping people structure ConnectWise Manage but you’ve got to have a set of blueprints and we do help clients with that. To me, that’s the easy part. People say, “This is my process.” We go, “Okay, well, ConnectWise or Autotask can do these things.” Some clients come to us for that first, and then we have to work our way backwards, which is; why are you setting up this way? Well, that’s how we sold the agreements. Well, this is a better way to sell your services. It would simplify this process, but we still have to make the tool do what you’ve promised already while working your way toward the best practices for your business.
Russell Benaroya: How do you measure your impact on a client?
Allen Edwards: The lazy way to measure is the combination of how long they stick with us and why. We still have most of our clients. I mean, we’re only five results; maybe that’s not a huge feat. But we still have most of our clients. Some will say they need you the whole time so once they stick with you, they’re stuck. What happens is, we solved the problem, maybe they call us for a finance-related problem or a marketing-related problem. So now let’s go apply this to another area.
Many people end up maturing out through the age and stage, where they end up keeping us around for meeting facilitation. With you in the room, they can hear it coming from you. You can silence me if I’m talking too much. So there’s always a reason.
Also, company growth. One number I had pulled up for me today is one of my earlier clients started off with five people and 600k in revenue. That was about four years ago, and they’re at over 25 people and $6 million in revenue. Now, did I do that? No. Was I a part of that? Absolutely, as was the rest of my team. It’s always tricky.
I love stats because I can always tear them apart. There’s always an opposing stat. IT is growing. It’s hard to lose money in IT; it does happen. So I’m not going to say we were the driving force, but they keep us around, they think there’s value there, and we’ve enjoyed growing with them.
Russell Benaroya: Do you step into an operational role? Will you help them manage certain functions in their software on a monthly basis?
Allen Edwards: Yes, there’s not a lot we won’t do for our clients. We try to take the partner approach versus delivering. No matter what our engagement is, if a client needs something that we can solve, we’re going to solve it. I have a couple of clients whom we’ve recently done project management for. One of our team goes into their software talks, to their clients, and manages their employees.
That is not the type of business we’re after. We feel that outsourcing is not the best. It might be a great leverage point to start but you should own that process. So our goal is to help them through it. In a few cases, we’ve actually gotten everybody used to following a process and having strong management, and then helped them find a replacement so they can continue.
Russell Benaroya: Your comment about focusing on one game at a time and finishing that game. What is your game and what do you say no to? You could say yes to a lot of things. Once you’re in there in that trusted capacity, you’re really a great utility player, but is there anything you say, “You know what? This is interesting, not right now”?
Allen Edwards: I succumb to a lot of things that I should not. We all go that route. One of the tasks that a lot of folks find difficult is marketing, for example. You should focus your marketing. Pick one thing, pick one vertical, pick one location depending on what you’re doing, and focus on that. And a lot of people get the response, “But what about all the other business that’s out there? I want it all.”
What I have to tell them is that it doesn’t mean you can’t do the other stuff, but your marketing should be focused. You’ll be more successful focusing on that one thing, taking the others that come to you. Obviously, there are limits to that too.
So I’m better at saying no to people who don’t quite fit our mold, but once you’re a partner of ours, where I’m a little more trusting, exceptions are okay. But make sure your exceptions aren’t the rule.
Russell Benaroya: What message would you give to the marketplace, to MSPs to answer the question, “Call Eureka Process when…?”
Allen Edwards: When people call, they are beginning to have that stagnation or hatred for their job. As soon as you start heading in that direction and you don’t have a solution that you control in front of you, you can’t hope, you’ve got to do it. If you don’t know what your clear action steps are to solve whatever is making your life less good, I’ll fix it. Life’s too short to suffer.
Reaching out to a consultant—and it doesn’t have to be us, any consultant. We have different methodologies, we have different personalities even within our team. I’ve had people say, “I don’t want that Allen guy back. Can I have one of your other consultants?”
Russell Benaroya: Just to get to know you a little better, what do you think people would say about working with you if we went and talked to a bunch of them? What would they say about Allen?
Allen Edwards: I’m pretty good at being vulnerable. Therefore, I feel like I get pretty good feedback. They would say that I am flexible-rigid. These are terms repeated more than once to me. I think they’re emphasizing rigid. They see that I’m willing to move some and I always get back to where we’re supposed to be.
I am extremely direct, very high energy. I am passionate. I think that’s what they would say. Maybe every now and then I get too myopic. I catch myself being a little too rigid sometimes but I’m able to catch myself and say, “Okay, wait a minute, I’m being rigid. You said this was a priority last week, maybe that actually has changed.” I’m always worried about people changing priorities every day. I also get quirky sometimes and weird.
By the way, my entire professional career, my hair was very short, and then COVID struck, and I stopped getting haircuts while traveling. We’ll see if the hair survives because my first trip in over two years is in two weeks.
Russell Benaroya: Awesome. What have you learned about yourself through this journey of starting and growing Eureka Process?
Allen Edwards: Number one would be patience. Again, you can’t just wait for things to change; you have to take control. I’ve always had a sense of self destiny. Through Eureka Process, I can think longer-term, create milestones that are shorter-term, and I can see the progress. And based on that, after a few of those, you’re like, we can do anything.
We’ve set very aggressive one-year goals for the last few years with my team. And in every case, so far, they’ve had to convince me how we can get such a goal. I’m like, “What do you mean? We can’t do this.” And it’s my team turning around and saying, “We’re going to do A, B, and C. We’re going to stop doing D and that’s going to get us to this result.”
And we break it down and tackle it. I’ve been talking with my partner and some of my friends in town, we’ve been doing life goals the same way. If you want something bad enough, are you going to act on it every day until then?
Russell Benaroya: What would people find surprising about what it takes to operate and grow a business like Eureka Process?
Allen Edwards: Specifically, we are a consultancy. We are not an IT firm. Many are surprised that I don’t do IT work, first off. It’s the business side.
You have to actually love what you do. Now, the good news is if you used to love it and you don’t anymore, we can fix this. But you have to love it. I have people who say, “Hey, do you want to skip tomorrow and go skiing?” And I’m like, “I have commitments to my clients and I actually get energy from doing that.” There are certainly parts of my job I don’t like sometimes, but you have to love it, and like you said, being in the zone.
When I’m doing the stuff that I love, I look up and it’s been 10 hours and I don’t feel like I’m a slave to my job. I actually enjoy doing it and I can go be better with my family later that night.
Russell Benaroya: What is something that people don’t usually ask you that you’d love for them to know?
Allen Edwards: You gave me a preview of this question and I thought long and hard about it, and I could not come up with an answer. I feel like we get the same questions and they’re good questions. Other questions that I get that are great are: how much time will this take of me? I get that question all the time. I honestly could not think of any questions that have not been asked before or that I wish they would have asked.
Russell Benaroya: What is your view of the state of the MSP industry right now?
Allen Edwards: I think the MSP industry has just reached a new stage. We have reached maturity. Not old yet; we’re middle-aged. The young guns are done. There’s a whole group of people like me; I love being in the channel as well. There are a lot of people who don’t have as much experience as I have. This was the beginning of IT services and MSP as they transitioned away from the value-added reseller model.
There’s a lot of regulation going on, a lot of mergers and acquisitions. We’re becoming really big businesses. These businesses are harder to bootstrap now. I still think it can be done, but it’s gotten quite difficult as there are mature models of larger and larger players in the space.
I’m sure we’ll be in this stage for 10-20 years but the next stage is actually losing relevance. That’s the stage after this. I liken it to oil change mechanics. There was a time when a mechanic was a mechanic, and changing your oil was this thing that an expert needed to do. Well, now the oil change mechanic at an auto shop is the low man on the totem pole. It’s where the interns start.
I feel like a large piece of our industry might go that way in the next 20 years. The good news is there’s plenty of money to be made in 20 years. And people who own oil change businesses are also doing great by leveraging scale and automation.
Russell Benaroya: What I’m hearing you say is we’re at a point where that next S curve of innovation is starting to overlap the last S curve of innovation, and new opportunities are emerging. Those progressive MSPs that are getting out in front of it will have an opportunity to hop on that next curve.
Allen Edwards: Well, that was a very different interpretation to what I said. Now that you’ve said it, I do see that parallel. It’s going to take serious innovation and next-level thinking to stay ahead of that curve. I think we’re going to start having stronger and stronger filters at every level of MSP growth and who can make it to the next stage.
Russell Benaroya: We’re seeing more private equity money, even venture money in this space. We’re continuing to see consolidation, which you may be being called to facilitate, some integration-related activity.
Allen Edwards: I have been over a couple of mergers and acquisitions that were a lot of fun. If they’re done right, they should be good for everybody. I’ve even looked at buying an MSP just to practice my craft and stay relevant. However, everybody else has to. In fact, half of my clients are looking for an acquisition at this time. I don’t want to compete with them either. It’s a tough market with a lot of competition right now.
Russell Benaroya: Yeah, for sure. Allen, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show today. Thank you for spending time with me.
Allen Edwards: Likewise, thanks for having me, Russell.
Russell Benaroya: Well, I learned a lot about you. It was really important for me to bring you on because I wanted to learn a little bit more about you. I appreciate your vulnerability; how you came into this business, how you’ve grown the business, how you are as a human being in service to your clients, and your desire to not only help them grow a successful business but do it with the line of sight on why they’re there to do it in the first place and developing the right strategy.
Thank you for helping set the stage. Thank you for talking about age and stage and looking forward to helping support you in growth as you’re helping support so many others. Thank you, Allen. Appreciate it.
Allen Edwards: My pleasure, Russell. I’m looking forward to also working more with Stride.
Russell Benaroya: Awesome. Thanks, everybody for listening to the show today. We will see you in the next couple of weeks. Have a great day. Bye.