Webinar: Pocket MBA for MSPs

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Special guest Harry Brelsford from SMB Nation joins Devin to discuss his book ‘The Pocket MBA‘. Learn practical business lessons from one of the best-known names in managed services.

Webinar Transcription

Devin: Thanks, everyone for joining us today for another webinar from the host broker. 

Harry Brelsford

Devin: And we’re really happy today to have an excellent guest. This is a man who has been described as the true founder of the SMB IT community by Karl Palachuk. He is the CEO of SMB nation, which is coming up on 22 years in business. He’s also the founder of 420 MSP, hosts many industry events, and has written many books on the MSP industry, including The Pocket MBA, which is what we’re going to be talking about today. So, I’m very happy to have Harry Brelsford with us today. And Harry, I’ll let you take it over from there.

Harry: All right. And Devin, just to confirm you can see my screen since I’m the host. 

Devin: Yes, I can. 

Harry: Okay, great. I’m going to go to slide two folks. We’re talking about The Pocket MBA, Finder, Minder, Grinders. So first of all, let me do some introductions. Harry Brelsford, 32 years in the rain in Seattle. And Devin, you may not know but six months ago, I relocated to Austin, Texas. got tired of the rain, and I like to ride my bike, and I need some. So folks, you know, hit me up on LinkedIn. If you’d ever like to meet up, that’d be great. And I did go back and forth a little bit. 

The Pocket MBA

Harry: But pertinent to today. The book I did, I guess it’s probably been out about a year The Pocket MBA. So, what happened Devin is it’s been about a year and a half. Number one, I had a trademark The Pocket MBA I wasn’t really taken advantage of. And then number two, with the pandemic, that’s when I sat down and started typing. And the answer is very simple. I had more time on my hands than I realized I would, without as much travel to events and so on. So, I took an old book I did in 2003 about How to be a Small Business Server Consultant, and rewrote it as The Pocket MBA Instant Entrepreneur. And so of course my bias is towards the MSP community. But I want people today to think of outside just the MSP community that you’re actually most likely a founder, owner, operator of a small business yourself. And the idea being that a business lecture is always timely. It’s an evergreen type lecture we’re having today. But always timely, and I appreciate you attending. Devin, if people want to in chat, you want to shout out one or two locations. I believe you’re in Vancouver, folks, you’re welcome to chat it up on where you’re located. That’s always interesting. While we’re doing that, let’s get going. 

Rules of 12

  • The Brelsford Rules of 12 system. This is a systematic “points” approach to sales and marketing.
    • Consistency

Harry: So, the Finder aspects. Finder is get the business, Minder is managed the business, and Grinder is do the work. So, we’re going to cover finder minder grinder, a, you know, traditional professional services paradigm. So, what I did with the book is I broke it up into fiscal quarters now we’re going to say a fiscal quarter is 12 weeks, that’s actually I think, 13 weeks. But you got to have a you know, you got to have a little vacation time and holiday time. So, for our purposes, our fiscal quarter is 12 weeks. And I came up with the rules of 12. So, each week, you should be doing something right. And it is akin to, if you got to Weight Watchers or Nutrisystems, and you have a report card where you can score calories, right and to some extent, it doesn’t matter where those calories come from, as long as having to say you’re below 2000 calories a day. And so that’s kind of what I do with this scoring system. The main thing is to be consistent. That’s how I grew my business organically over the years, I’ll talk in the grinder section about maybe you know, with some new opportunities out there, you need to be a little more strategic and grow faster. But the main thing under any business scenario is consistency. 

Finder – Business Development versus Ring the Bell

Harry: So, we’re going to talk a business development versus ringing the bell I have advised a number of businesses I guess he kind of call it a side hustle to running SMB nation, but I just kind of get brought into conversations. And I’m a real believer in the educational sales approach the business development approach, right and here’s you know, I borrowed this artwork from Anna Vitale where she walks us through how to sell anything right gain their trust, educate them, be optimistic. Here again follow up consistent follow up and then get them to yes and ask for the business versus ring the bell. I’ve worked with some firms in our space that have sort of a car dealer car lot mentality, how you know, how many sales did you make today? Did you ring the bell. Those don’t tend to result in relationships. Right. That’s more You want to sell the car, you want to sell the car and you’ve ever seen him again. So, I’m really big on the business development approach. 

Finder – Rule of 12: LinkedIn Lookalikes

  • Nearest Next Door Neighbor concept
  • Your best clients “hang out” with birds of a feather.
  • Cadence: Once a Week!

Harry: So, let’s do some finder activities. The rules of 12, LinkedIn lookalikes. So, I’ve drawn this from a startup I did in the predictive analytics area, where we talk about lookalikes and nearest next-door neighbor. And those are personas right that we target. And so just this morning, I was reviewing a confidential document about a large MSP on the East Coast, about $40 million that’s trying to be acquired. And they target Life Sciences, professional services, law firm and law firms and healthcare. Well, if we go to law firms, and I have my own image up from LinkedIn, a little bit older screenshot, but if you go over to the far right over here, you’ll see that these are my nearest next-door neighbors or lookalikes, that LinkedIn, the algorithm is very good about suggesting folks who want to hang out with and do business with so here again, if you’re working with a law partner, it’s likely that people also viewed other law partners over on the far right. And some of you will recognize those two names Paul Dippell, is a well-known quantitative analyst in the MSP community does some really good research. Dave Seibert is known for having a quarterly show in Southern California a little meetup but that makes sense, Devin that if you were trying to work with me or you work with me and you wanted to similar birds of a feather those two fit that category. And then again, I suggest you do this once a week quite frankly most of us are in LinkedIn all day every day so it’s not even a super big challenge to go friend people and target these personas that makes sense.

Devin: And I’ll add to that too Harry and you might touch on this I’m not sure but you know we’ve been doing some Lead Generation programs which are utilizing LinkedIn as a data mining source and use utilizing LinkedIn Sales Navigator specifically and that is you know, another way to kind of tap into LinkedIn’s algorithm and their artificial intelligence in terms of finding the right contacts as well so I totally agree LinkedIn is a great source for finding the right sort of contacts

Harry: Yeah, it really is. And I always say you know I did the free thing for LinkedIn forever and now I throw them you know, Devin, what is it 80 bucks a month or 70 bucks a month that’s some, it’s not a trivial amount of money but guys throw a little bit of money and unlock the good stuff. Okay, either go LinkedIn premium or to your point Sales Navigator. Devin, it’s my y understanding those are two different modules. Those are two different spins. 

Devin: Yeah.

Harry: Folks, take your business seriously, throw them some money and unlock the good stuff. 

Finder – Rule of 12: Educational Sales via:

  • Competitive Research
  • Read Articles
  • Cadence: One a Week!

Harry: Back to edge. Another Finder topic, Rules of 12 educational sales via competitive research of course, so you stay up with what your competition’s doing. Reading an article in the cadences once a week is I’ve gotten in over the last several years to a new technology vertical. Initially, again goes back to the pandemic I’d read for a couple hours in the morning, often against the better advice of my posture seat and I’d be reading in bed with my laptop. We’re getting all past that and getting back to work but Devin this is this is critical. Warren Buffett is known to read like for half a day for half a day, before he actually starts work and you know who could argue with that kind of success so it’s really keeping yourself current to engage in educational sales to then be able to have conversations and I’ll give you a really good example. A press release came out a few days ago, a client I’ve done business with over the years at Terra out of Israel and RMM manufacturer I’m in no way endorsing them. But they had a press release come out and some coverage the other day about they just raise $77 million. And that gives them evaluation of about a half billions according to their cap table. But this is what you need to be you need to be staying current right about with the vendor side, the client side and then your verticals.

Devin: So, Harry, aside from SMB nation, of course would you recommend some particular places where people could go find a good articles for the MSP industry?

Harry: Yeah. It depends on what you’re looking for, okay. If that makes it, like any industry. So, wouldn’t later on when we get into the minor component of standard operating procedures, you really want to be bookmarking Karl Palachuk site where he posts up the occasional blog, I believe weekly, and he’s focused on operations, okay. Then there’s channel Pro, the publisher. The channel Pro is going to be more focused, in my humble opinion on offers, and incentives, and margins and sales, compensation and that for the MSP, so they’re really more of a where you would go to stay current with the vendors. And then in terms of the technical aspects, because remember, we’re both we’re both you know, business people and geeks. On the technical aspects I remain impressed with the publications, Redmond Channel Partner and Redmond magazine over from 1105 Media. So, you know, Devin, that’s a really good question. Because you need to have like six sources of information, right? And if all you do is watch your favorite cable, news channel, whatever stripe, you’re not getting 360 visibility. 

Finder – Rule of 12: Business Cards

  • Cadence: Quarterly
    • Collect 12 Cards
    • Give 12 Cards
  • Best Practice
    • Print on BOTH SIDES

Harry: All right, moving on. Business cards, still have a place.  I just got back two days ago, from the first show, I think it’s been the first show in 16 months I went to RetailNOW. They’re the point of sale bars and resellers, about 1300 of them at RetailNOW, in Nashville, and Devin, it’s been a while since I’ve carried my business cards, it was great. I had to find them. I had to carry them. I walked around and people still trade business cards. Even though we all you know, my kids will Snapchat each other, they aim their phone at each other and Snapchat. But folks, this still works. But here’s really the point of the slide is that just engage in this very simple behavior to collect 12 cards quarterly, one a week, and give away 12 cards quarterly. You get to the end of the year, you’ve got 50 cards, okay, you’ve got 50 cards and that’s how I did it when I built SMB nation in the starting in the late 90s. Devin, it was one card at a time and workshops, you know and 22 years later, you know look at where we’re at. It really works. 

Finder – Rule of 12: Events/Meetups

  • Cup of Coffee with Prospect
    • True CEOs eat out – serval dinners per week
  • Meetups
  • Cadence: Quarterly
    • One per week
    • Be a ROCK STAR!!!

Harry: This is this just paid for the hour you’re spending with us today. And I’m going to repeat it a little bit later on, but there’s the you know, well documented in the small business server era we had a slide deck on the coffee cup where you know, maybe trade messages on LinkedIn with somebody and meet him and buy him a cup of coffee. That’s fine and that’s coming back but the real secret that’s out there that’s working really well are meetups, meetups.com and I’ve done a couple of them this is one I’m helping the client with an Austin Texas about a meetup that’s next Tuesday in Austin Texas in the afternoon about business development. This guy so he’s a little bit of a wiseacre he’s saying it’s not who you know it’s who you bro and he’s building a little workshop around that the guy in the center with the white trunks on, but look at that organic growth. Devin here’s what’s important as a couple weeks ago he said you know what, let’s just do it let’s just have a Tuesday afternoon meetup let’s get going I know it’s August, but you know by early next year this will grow. We have essentially grown organically to 17 members, myself and Scott, you know would be to call it 15 and that’s because meetup is a really powerful search engine, right? People go and they want to do a specific topic in it. A, it probably exists in your community so you could go meet potential clients like maybe legal technology or B, create the meetup group, and then leverage the search, any thoughts on that Devin, but a lot of people don’t understand meetup is who it’s a secret man.

Devin: No, I mean, you know, honestly, I haven’t done a lot of meetups myself but it’s interesting hearing what you like I’ve been on there a little bit and I’ve seen that you have very specific groups you know, and it’s hard to find well it’s almost like an extension of the internet right? You know, you go on Reddit, you can find 100 people who want to talk about the most esoteric topic that you’re interested in and you know, I would almost say like meetups like a real-life version of that where, you know, you can find people are really interested in the same stuff as you. So, I can see the power in that for sure.

Harry: Yeah. One more comment when I wrote another book recently, and again a different vertical, I created a meetup. That was a fake meetup in Seattle in the tech space, got my screenshot I was showing you how to create a meetup. And then I forgot about it came back like three weeks later, 971 members and about Oh, oh, no. I got to do something with this. 

Devin: Yeah. 

Finder – Rule of 12: Calls per Week

  • Tele delivers 45% increase in opportunities

Harry: All right now here, this defies logic, okay? Use the phone. Okay, you know, more people are, you know, kids today, texting and so on. Here’s the deal, I helped a firm for nine months, about five years ago in the call center space and Microsoft vendor, who manages the Microsoft partner program via their call center employees. And they asked me to come on for six months, and it ended up being nine months to help them get clients beyond Microsoft, right? They had one big client called Microsoft, and that’s very dangerous strategically. So, they had me, you know, call into some of the vendors, You and I both know, in our space, and so on, but it’s that middle over on the midpoint on the left because they’re collecting enormous amounts of data, right, with the call center. And helping partners sell more. They stand by their findings, that it’s a 45% increase in opportunities. And what I like to say is, you know, are you going to get 90% voicemail? Absolutely. You absolutely are in this day and age, with spam and so on. Um, but I’d like to say, Devin, I know what happens if you don’t pick up the phones, right? I can’t guarantee what will happen if you pick up the phone, but I guarantee the other.

Devin: Yeah, I feel like this is a challenge for a lot of, especially like newer MSPs, where, you know, if you’re a technical founder, maybe you’re not as used to putting yourself out there as maybe you were in a past role or something like that. And I see like a lot of questions asked about whether or not cold calling is still part of a good mix for MSPs. And I think a lot of it is just rooted in the fear of rejection, that people are hesitant to do it. How do you see that?

Harry: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. It can be framed up a little bit differently that, you know, there’s these behavioral programs, you can go through like Myers-Briggs, right, and disc to get a personality assessment. And, yeah, our industry tends to skew towards folks who are introverted, right. So, it is literally hard for them to pick up the phone and do a power hour of dial and smile. Other people that comes naturally to, but you know that that’s real. And so, you’re going to have to kind of, you know, look in the mirror, maybe go take one of these online assessments, there’s, there’s a bunch of them on personalities, a couple of them are free. But Devin, what I found is, for example, kind of work in the show, down in Nashville earlier this week.  I come back exhausted now I’m, I am an extroverted person, but I come back, I have to swing the pendulum back to my introverted self to recharge. And I just share that with you from a behavioral point of view that if making the phone calls are hard, it is, it is hard. So as a reward, you know, take a Friday afternoon off, go recharge, right? It’s It’s okay. 

Devin: It’s good advice. 

Finder – Rule of 12: Be in the Top 12% of Your Industry

  • This is a modification from head hunters that say be in the top ten percent of your peer group
  • LinkedIn SSI (engagement, etc.)

Harry: All right, another rule of 12, be in the top 12% of your industry, your peer group, as we call it. This is a modification from the old recruiting phrase, you know that Mr. Client, you know, we target the top 10% of people in our industry, say construction management. That’s a little bit of an overused phrase. But what you can do is, again, go to LinkedIn, in the social selling index. So, you want to write these down folks, LinkedIn, SSI, you can Google it and get the direct link. It will assess based on its algorithm, I’ve actually done a blog on this. But based on your post based, on your interactions, based on this, that, and the other, it will rank you and your industry. And you might just be surprised how well you’re doing if you’re an active LinkedIn user, but this to me is one way to quantify, are you in the top 12% of your industry? It’s telling me I’m in the top 1% of my industry, and then I’m in the top 4% by the network, ranking industry versus my own private network of LinkedIn connections, but just fascinating, and really a takeaway from today’s. And Devin, by all means, that people are typing your questions or have questions interrupt me, that’s how I roll. 

Pocket MBA Minder – Standard Operating Procedures

Harry: Alright, so now the minder component. So, let me give you a little perspective. I’ve done speeches before on the pocket MBA and I’ve done a series and it was actually a series of six one-hour gatherings. So, finder where two were the hours, minders two of the hours, and grinder two of the hours. What I’ve done today, since our time is limited is I’ve kind of cherry-picked topics that I think are relevant for an MSP, who you know, just wants to kind of re-up their learning mindset. 

Minder – The Business of Business

  • Work in the Business
    • Most Here
  • Work on the Business
    • Need More HERE! (Emyth)
  • Consistency

Harry: So, we’re going to talk about standard operating procedures and there’s again nobody better in the industry than my friend in years Karl Palachuk, in this area. And so, you know, as we start to think about the minder mentality, it’s the old work in the business or work on the business, the famous book, The Emyth, is all about this a must-read for anybody. And Devin, you need both, um, you know, if you go too far off and work on the business and you’re living strategically, maybe there’s a little bit of owner in a tension going on and work on the business. And you know, the best example of that would be a cash business, like a bar where the owner is not paying attention. And the waitstaff is giving themselves very large tips. But you need to find that balance of in and on the business. And again, the key is consistency, good book, The Emyth.

SOP – Be the Franchise

  • On-boarding Yourself as an MSP
    • Challenges
    • Lessons Learned
  • On-boarding a New Employee
  • On-going Operations
    • The cookbook

Harry: So standard operating procedures. What I would like you to think about, and I’ve been, I was on their advisory board, a large North America franchise group called CMIT, out of Austin Texas, and it was really interesting that their persona for people who want to open an MSP practice as a franchise, and we’re gonna steal from them, okay, we’re gonna beg, borrow and steal their approach. But their persona was typically a male who was over the age of 50. And maybe had been in a corporate environment, okay, and so they, you know, what happens, your 50th birthday, you get tapped on your shoulder, and they give you a severance check. In fortune 100 ageism is alive and kicking. And so, a lot of these people, maybe they worked at HP, Dell, other places, so they have a technical understanding, not at the MSP level, but they want to stay in the tech sector. And so they buy a franchise in the franchise comes, as you might imagine, with the cookbook, it comes with a lot of training that comes with a lot of assistance. And that is a great way to go if you’re getting into this business, and you have not been in this business. But more importantly, I want to challenge you to treat yourself like a franchise like Do we have the white notebook the cookbook? With the standard operating procedures spelled out? Do we have uniforms? Right? There’s a there’s a time and a place for uniforms? Do we have collateral right sale slicks and handouts and that kind of thing? I just thought I’ll be right back. Just thought of this, but I think it helps drive home the point. This is a battle card. That was for the sale of Windows Server 2012 R2, it has competitive analysis, it has scripting and factoids for sales to respond quickly to questions, it has it off. And that would be a part of your bill of materials. So that would be in your bomb, in terms of your industry and your expertise, this, lay it out on a large piece of you know, cardstock and that’s franchise thinking, that you have all the collateral right there. Let’s move on. 

Generic SOPs

  • Turn door key at 8am and 5pm
  • Pay bills on the 15th of the Month
  • Bank Deposits Daily
  • Collections

Harry: So generic standard operating procedures are going to be for any business, pay the bills in the 15th of the month, engaging collections, turn the key at eight, turn it back at five, nothing new there. 


  • Add a New Client to PSA/CRM
  • Add a New User on the Client’s Network
  • Password Management
  • Document Management Tools – MATURITY
  • The key is Checklists

Harry: Managed Services Providers SLPs, this is the world of Karl so he has all these checklists over at his site. Add a new client to the PSA, add a new user on the client that work password management, of course, very important, talk about document management in a minute. But the key is checklist. And if you’re not have this mindset, because it can’t be at all and I’m going to step back a second. A lot of people think they have to be finder, minder, grinder. And I’m like pick two. Okay, because not, not everybody is all three personalities. And so I’m probably the finder and the grinder. And so Devin, you’re certainly well aware of Jennifer Hallmark on my staff been with me 14 years,  so she’s the minder, right? So, you have to hire around your weakness. And I did want to kind of highlight that. Devin, what I’ve seen in our industry is two out of three, you know, if there’s some MSPs that are great at sales, and they’re out at little local trade shows, and then we all love the work, and I’m going to talk about that in a minute. Grinder is not a problem for our audience, right? We’d love the word. But it can be hard to be a minder. And if you’re a minder mindset, you might not be the best finder, it’s a different personality.

Devin: For sure. So just to make the connection to a couple slides previously, this would be the sort of stuff I presume, when you’re talking about working on the business. It’s like the setting up the checklist, and this sort of a slide would be a big component of that. Right?

Harry: Right. Right, exactly. And, you know, let’s talk about that. When I conceptualize The Pocket MBA and having, you know, gone to grad school, and I know, your boss, Hartland, did we, we joke about those days a little bit. That I think an MBA or a Pocket MBA should be a work on the business conversation, a little higher-level conversation, right? Grad school is not necessarily vocational-technical education, where you’re, you’re doing the keystrokes, right. And, you know, the Community College has a role, right? And I mean, we need craftsmen, and tradesmen, and technicians. That’s typically handled in a different format than graduate school or what I’m calling the pocket MBA. So that’s wise of you to see that today. We’re kind of on the business I’m not going to show you the keystrokes. I don’t have a hands on lab. 

Documentation Maturity Levels

Harry: Forgive the fuzziness of this I could not find an original of this, but basically this came from my friends. In years, I always am begging them, borrowing, stealing when I see good presentation. So, via accreditation, this was from I.T. glue that was based in Vancouver, Washington, BC. They got acquired, I believe is by Cassia. And I kind of lost touch with them. But their thing was about documentation. That’s also a Karl Palachuk. So, there’s different maturity levels of documentation in an MSP and I did type it out so we can read it here. 

Maturity Defined

  • Low Maturity: Minimal Documentation and what you have is out of date and nobody looks at it.
  • Medium Maturity: Some documentation, but it’s either incomplete or there is information sprawl. Limited strategic value
  • High Maturity: Documentation is a core part of your business, and you are extracting fantastic value from it!

Harry: Low maturity, minimal documentation, everything you have is out of date and nobody looks at it. I’ve seen this a lot. There may be no documentation, medium maturity, some documentation, either incomplete or there’s information sprawl, it’s not organized, limited strategic value. Now, let’s talk about information sprawl. It’s okay to use a free form database, like OneNote, that is not a structured relational database with fields, you need both, but it’s okay to have information sprawl. It’s just what bucket do you put it in. And I’m suggesting, you know, inside your traditional filing system or your document management program is it’s not free form you know, that’s going to be more of the checklist and the standard operating procedures. But sometimes darn it, Devin, you just have new ideas, you know, you’re out on your morning walk and you have new ideas. And this is almost the equivalent like having a sticky you write your idea down on a sticky that’s like one note, right? You have to have somewhere to just capture these little freeform ideas. So, I’m not as negative on media maturity is the vendor was here and then high maturity is in a document all this with statistics, trust me, but I’m maturity as documentation is a core part of your business. And you’re extracting fantastic value from it. Now that is absolutely true. Devin I would offer over the last day as I prepared for this lecture. Because I have a structured filing system, I was able to quickly go back to my pocket MBA lectures, the six of them, and then create a custom course for you today. Because I take yellow folders pretty serious like, terms of structuring things. 

So What?

  • SOPs allow you to capitalize “fast fast” on emerging opportunities.
  • Rush to set-up remote employees: COVID-19
  • “Charlotte is helping her team process thousands of VPN access requests for BNSF employees all working from home. They have a dev team working on automating it. Kinda cool.”

Harry: So, here’s the bottom line, on the minor component. You always should, and I haven’t written on a sticky over here, I test myself saying, so what? Okay, so So what? Right, Harry, this seems so obvious. So what? Well, I think what it does, standard operating procedures, allow you to capitalize on emerging opportunities. And you saw this nowhere faster than the way we have changed our work habits, both geography and the workflow with the pandemic resets. Right. And so there are winners and losers. And so one winner, was Charlotte, a friend of mine in Dallas, her husband is an MSP. She’s an IT pro at a very large train company, Burlington, Northern Santa Fe. And, you know, the pandemic hit. And all of a sudden, they had 1000s of VPN requests from white-collar workers working from home. And let’s just say the trains still have to run on time, right? Literally, the trains have to keep running on time, especially in a pandemic, with toilet paper, supply chain, store images, and so on. She drove success because the nature of her job and as an IT Pro, the nature of their culture, that Burlington Northern, was it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t hard for them to respond to setting up VPN, because they had a simple answer. They had a checklist on how to set up a VPN connection. That makes sense. Yep. 


  • Everyone Likes To Work
  • Time to Start Over
    • And do it five times faster…

Harry: All right, folks. Now we get into the grinder area. So, everyone on this call likes to work. I have not met an MSP that doesn’t like to work. In fact, sometimes we get so far off from the grinder side we forget finder and minder. So, the work is not the problem. And I always like to say, you know, in modern times, that it’s time to start over folks, that’s it’s been a fundamental reset. And starting over can mean a couple of different things. I will give you one example. I mean that Devin, the obvious examples that are well documented, as cyber security is hot, you know, become an MSSP. Okay, I got it. But I want to show you something that’s interesting. I did a book, over the winter, for a client actually down here in Austin, Texas in the data center space. It’s called AOL. And this is something that has really taken off and it could be part of the MSPs portfolio it is third-party maintenance. Third-Party maintenance has been around for a long time, okay, that is not new. In the best example, when I’m explaining it to you know, someone outside my industry is, you know, that ad on TV, to get an extended warranty for your car, right, your VW Golf is coming out of the OEM or manufacturer warranty, for $1200. So, you’re going to get a warranty that covers all your repairs on your car. That’s what this is, but it’s for data centers and even SMB. And so, what this guy, Scott Lopez, what his company does, and again, there’s an opportunity for MSPs. To add this to their portfolio is, he took off four years ago, I’m comfortable saying he was about 400,000 in sales to the industry. This year, he’s going to cross 15 million-selling extended warranties. And here’s why. In the enterprise case, it’s very simple. Boeing, Disney, and Carnival Cruise Lines, three of his clients have zero revenue. Now Boeing has a little revenue in defense. But all of a sudden, you had all of the IT spin went from data center refresh over to laptops, so everybody had to go buy laptops, and send everybody home with headsets. And so, they could not afford to refresh the data center. Now, let’s go back to Boeing. Boeing has to have certain service level agreements, because they’re a department of defense contractor, right? You can’t just let that warranty expire. You have to have these understandings that you know, you’re going to get new parts within four hours and that kind of thing. And that’s what third-party maintenance is all about. And so, it is countercyclical. It is really taken off with people not having cash to do refreshes. And Devin, it extends all the way down to the laptops when I was doing a project for Microsoft OEM on Dell team. At the extent you know, whenever you go to the shopping cart at Dell, right at the end, they say do you want to buy the extended warranty for your laptop, in many cases, that was our profit from the transaction, was the sale of an extended warranty. So, folks, that’s what I’m talking about with Grindr. You know, you know your business best cyber security and Azure and you know, you know how to work. I just wanted to open your mind today that maybe it’s time to not start over is a little rough, but it’s time to increase your portfolio. I do say, if you’re kind of starting over, challenge yourself to build your next brand five times faster than you did that your current brand. And you should, you should, you’ve done it once. And I go through the same thing with my startups, probably took far too long to grow SMB nation. I’m much more on point with other startups. 

Strategic Alliances

  • Business Joint Ventures
    • SBM Nation – an integrated media and events company (Paid Media)
    • Public Relations Firm (Earned Media)
    • We just bid a $60K gig

Harry: Now, here’s something you might not have expected. partner to partner and I have a better slide coming up in a minute that really defines partner to partner. But one of the ways to be a great grinder is to team with other MSPs. And so here’s, here’s an example. This is actually an older slide, we did not land the engagement. But I teamed with a public relations, a lady and her husband out of the Seattle area, and then I had my company. And we bid on a $60,000 engagement where they wanted both what SMB nation does is paid media that means webinars and banner ads, and this and that, and then they also wanted to be featured in print, or an article about their company. So, it’s paid and earned media. Well, I don’t know earned media. Okay, I really don’t. And so, I brought in an expert for that I do know paid media. And this is partner to partner sister strategic alliance. 

Strategic Alliances cont’d

  • MSPs
    • Infrastructure + Dynamics CRM
    • MSP + MSSP
    • Revisit Outsourcing (Josh Weiss)

Harry: This is one that’s going to make sense for this audience. Okay. So, infrastructure, which is, I’m assuming the majority of the people on this call on this webinar, team with a Dynamics CRM or Salesforce consultant, because they’re two different skill sets typically. I rarely see this in the same MSP organization. So, this is where you can do partner to partner and go after great work that you both like doing I know there’s a little bit of a sales conversation here, but I when I think a grinder, it also includes you know how we’re going to grind it out. The really hot topic of the day, and I’ve been on a couple of webinars with Phelan Rowe out of London, who is all about Managed Security Services, he has an event company that puts on these events. So, one of the hottest things right now is for an MSP to team up with a Managed Security Services provider. Because again, Devin at the end of the day, they tend to be separate skill sets, right? You know, you’re kind of one or you’re the other, maybe you’re big enough to have both on staff. And then the other thing maybe this is more of a grinder concept would be to revisit outsourcing, Josh Weiss out of Los Angeles, nobody does it better. Everything goes to it, again, I’m vendor agnostic, agnostic, but I just like to make my point. He’s huge on using continuum for help desk. Okay, so he doesn’t have to staff up Help Desk. That’s, I put it in the grinder bucket. That’s how you get work done. And you get it done efficiently.

Devin: I can see the alliance with an MSSP being particularly important. My understanding and correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding they say like 10 years ago, security wasn’t as big of an offering for a lot of like normal MSPs. Obviously, with the, you know, the velocity for which the ransomware issues accelerated and all that. It seems like it’s going to become more and more. And if you’re not up to snuff in your security, you probably need to be getting an alliance like now probably.

Harry: Yeah, yesterday, I mean, and again, I’m a storyteller. So, my youngest son, finished college a little over a month ago at Cal Polytechnical engineering college. He got a job at 40net, a well-known security company out of Sunnyvale, California, and again, not playing favorites, just given the context. His first day, Devin, his first day on the job, his cohort, had 20 new hires that week. They have 900 job openings out of a company with 9000 employees. And I’m like, you know, Devin, that’s real momentum. And it underscores the cybersecurity opportunity right? If they’re growing like that, well, there’s a reason why they’re growing like that because MSPs and IT pros are driving that business. 

Devin: Yeah. Now I’ve heard stories of like, MSPs, who got hit with ransomware that just literally shut down their operations. So you know, the risk is you can’t really overstate it. It’s, pretty crazy.

Harry: And it’s only getting worse and I’m not a negative person. But you know, give me the license to be it’s only getting worse. 

Devin: Yeah. 

Strategic Alliances cont’d

  • Formats
    • Memorandum of Understanding
    • Handshake
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Philosophy: Kankei no baransu

Harry: All right, moving on. So, let’s talk about what these partner to partner relationships look like. Here’s been my experience. And I’ve been on a couple of them. With some strategic ventures. It’s typically in my world it’s been evidenced by a memorandum of understanding is simple one to two-page document, you to this, I do that. The deals I’m in today are 5050 rev shares, it’s very simple, right? Let’s just let’s work together and split the profit. And, but there’s a real element of trust, right? You cannot write an agreement tight enough to cover bad behavior. You know, Devin, you know you, this isn’t your first rodeo either, and just there has to be an element of trust or it’ll not gonna work. 

Devin: Yeah

Harry: You know

Devin: For sure, 

Harry: Yeah, nobody wants to litigate. And so the philosophy and tip of the hat to the Tokyo Olympics like yes, but the philosophy here is that that translates into relationship and balance, okay. So, when you think about partner to partners strategic alliances, the relationship has to stay in balance, because if it gets out of balance, the partnerships got to fail. Because Yeah, it’s been my, my experience. 


  • Partner to Partner (P2P)
  • Danny Brown, IAMCP, Austin, TX

Harry: So, tip of the hat to a not-for-profit trade association, I think you should at least click over folks. I’m on the panel, the board, for the partner to partner initiative, we’ve been working on it for a year, we’re just coming to market, where you do a self-assessment on your maturity level and your skills. And we’re basically trying to be a matchmaker between Microsoft partners. And that example I had a couple slides ago about infrastructure and Dynamics CRM that that is something we’re doing is we’re connecting Microsoft partners from different walks of life. So, you know, here in Austin, as an example, here, it’s the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners iamcp.org. In Central Texas, it’s run by Danny Brown, the chapter, there’s chapters all over, it’s an international organization. And I would encourage you to really think about it my audience, Devin is, you know, we tend to skew towards Microsoft itself, because the way I played with small business server, there are other organizations, but the main thing is, you know, think anew about how you grind it out. 


Harry: The other one would be in Devin, I don’t know if you’ve gotten involved. Oh, I think you had thought I saw. Yeah, Hartland is one of these events come to you, the trade association. You know, guys, trade associations, you get what you put into them. people join the Chamber of Commerce, in their local hometown. And then they’re like, well, where are my leads? I’m waiting for my leads. And I’m like, No, no, you got to go to the monthly mixer, you got to do this, you probably have to serve on one of their committees. But it does work long-term. And so CompTIA is a trade group. 


Harry: The other thing would be other communities. So, Spiceworks keep saying Austin, Texas, they’re out of Austin, Texas, 5 million IT pros. But they behave a lot like SMB nation, in terms of being a community and helping each other and you know, we’re all in this together and they’re vendor-sponsored as are we. Spiceworks is best known for their forum boards, we don’t really do that at SMB nation. Historically we were more of an event model, and Spiceworks isn’t really that, they have an annual conference, an annual event, but that’s not really what they do there. They were much more of a digital community. So folks, go sign up Spiceworks answer a couple questions. Again, you’re just circulating, getting yourself out there, and you’re gonna find good business and someone to work with. And I again, I consider this sort of a grinder lecture.

Devin: Yep. Now just add there to that we might have some vendors who might be watching this as well. And I would just caution vendors if you’re going in and getting involved in whether it’s Spiceworks or Reddit, slash MSP or the I2 pool party. You want to make sure if you’re participating on these boards, that your goal is to add value. I’ve, you know, if you go in there and you try to sell initially, then you’re just gonna be greeted by a whole bunch of negativity. So, I really love the idea of interacting with communities like this, but if you are a vendor, I just want to mention that don’t fall victim to that common mistake. Yeah, yeah,

Harry: Yeah. Don’t sell into the communities. 


Harry: I promised you we would talk about meetups again because I feel so strongly about them. But here’s Fremont a neighborhood in Seattle. And here’s a beers with engineers. And so I picked a technical meetup. The first one I showed you, it’s not who you know, it’s who you bro that would have been finder, bizdev over here. This is going to be a geekathon. Okay, and it’s just kind of cool. You know that you meet up on a certain day at a certain time and top geek heck it may help with your recruiting. You know, I’ve got an MSP here in Central Texas, with two job openings and he cannot find engineers right now, technicians, and Devin I don’t know if you’re hearing that I’ve been hearing it and then I found it it’s exactly the case. Are you hearing that about the shortage of talent?

Devin: Yeah, for sure. Definitely. Yeah.

Harry: Yeah. Well, this is how you hit it head-on, folks, you just go out, take them 12 business cards circulate, hire your next engineer. 

Labor Markets

  • Scalability
  • Expertise
  • Rapid Response

Harry: And another way to grind it out. Either you’re looking for talent, or you’re, you have a little slack, you want to go do more work, you know, you need a side hustle, as we like to say, or a side hustle to your side hustle. Or the labor market. So in this case, this is work market. And we put up a many years ago, boy, this is 2014. Devin, we took a run at trying to recruit and organize talent from our community. That at that point, 50,000 strong at SMB nation, we’re down a notch with the passage of time. But the idea was, if we could go find these XP migration opportunities, you may recall, April of 2014, is when the operating system was no longer supported and the push was initially got to Windows8, no, thank you, and then it became windows 10, which worked. But the idea was we were going to orchestrate SMB nation members for little side hustles right. And we did a couple I mean, there was a chain of retirement homes in Florida were on one weekend, they wanted a simultaneous conversion to new laptops, get off XP, you know, they have some HIPAA stuff going on. And the idea was, well, we could gather up a posse of SMB nation members and say, Hey, you take Tampa, you take Orlando trip, Kirk, here, man, you take St. Petersburg, Florida and surrounding areas. So we did a couple, it was not an overwhelming response. I’m a startup guy. That’s okay. But again, labor markets can be good for you, especially if you have a little bit of slack. And I know MSPs who, you know, they just kind of peek or something. They’ve stalled and it’s like well go do a side hustle man just you know, get your head in the game go. And Devin, one of the big ones right now, not surprisingly, and I knew some MSPs that did this was to go set up remote learners and remote workers, right? All this stuff got shipped from Chase Manhattan Bank to these call center employees apartments. Well, someone’s got to set it up and set it up securely. 

Devin: Yep. Yeah, 

Harry: And so we saw a big uptick in that. 

Thank you




Harry: So folks, what we’ve done today is we have talked about finder, minder, grinder. And you know, you could argue well, can I give this type of lecture to any industry? I absolutely, absolutely could. But that’s the point. That an MSP is a living breathing business and you need to work on the business and that’s really where I came at it from today. So that you know, Devin back to you.

Devin: Thanks Harry, that was that was an awesome presentation. I appreciate it. Now one question for you. I think this might tie into the Finder part of the presentation is I’ve seen on LinkedIn I’ve been following what you’ve been up to a little bit and you’ve been on the road a fair amount and meeting people It seems and doing a lot of those kind of in person, you know, business development activities and I’m just curious how you’re finding that so far given you know, things have opened up and all that and we haven’t really had a lot of that in the last year and a half. People been eager to speak with you and how have you been finding that experience so far?

Harry: Yeah, yeah, I give you a yes, the short answer is yes. And there’s pent-up demand for you know doing business the old-fashioned way. Everybody’s zoomed out, right? People are tired so.

Devin: Sorry for inviting you today

Harry: But that’s why the meetups works so well. But let me give you a specific example. I won’t mention their name, but a Japanese printer company that does labeling and barcoding was at the show. I mentioned retail now 1300 attendees earlier this week, and I talked to the gentleman yesterday and said well how to go he said unbelievable. He said I was signing up partners right at the booth. This was the best show the 10 years I’ve been to retail now. Obviously, it was canceled last year, so you had pent-up demand. said I was signing up partners at the booth. I haven’t done that before and in. More importantly, I didn’t have time over the three days to go spy on my competitors, right usually, you know, that’s we all know how the game is played, right? You go to a trade show and you kind of walk around and you’re a little bit shy as you go by your competitor, and you’re kind of looking over what they got. He said I didn’t even have time to spy. So, but yeah, it’s coming roaring back in, we’re seeing all those indications, you know, the fourth quarter, late third quarter, fourth quarter, some shows you and I know are coming back live in our industry from well-known vendors. And I think that’s just gonna accelerate in 2022. You know, people are done with this man. Yeah.

Devin: You know, and I’m curious, too, like, I’ve seen a lot of companies doing like online lunch and learns, and power lunches and stuff like that, as lead generation activities, mostly in response to things being closed down. Whereas maybe in the past, they would have done like more of a in-person, like the beers engineers or something like that. Right. I’m curious. Be curious what your thoughts like, I wonder how much it’s going to shift back to like, you know, more in person? Or do you think that? No, with these kind of more developed processes for the online lunch and learns and things that’s going to be more of a mix? I don’t know how to..

Harry: Hybrid, hybrid Yeah. You know, it’ll be hybrid for a couple of reasons. One is I mean, we have established a new event models, right? And so, there’s the audience that likes the in person events. But maybe not everybody can go in a really good example, was at Retail Now, the Canadians couldn’t come to the event, they were not allowed to cross the border. present company accepted. And but so we missed out and that in part contributed to an end. You know, my hat’s off to retail now. 1300 attendees, normally, they have 2000 attendees. But you know, the show was dormant for two years, and you have travel restrictions. I think 1300 this early in July, is quite a good showing. And they were enthusiastic, but yeah, Dev, and that’s where we’re headed. It’s interesting. I was talking to both the attendees and vendors of the show. And there’s always the thing about well, live events are so darn expensive, right? I gotta buy the booth. I got to buy the airline tickets, I got to get hotel rooms for two people.

Devin: You got to vacuum the booth, you know, you have to pay the electrician at the facility to plug in your, all that stuff, right?

Harry: Yeah, very expensive. And so we’re headed to hybrid because, you know, vendors are going to look at okay, now, you know, it’s all fun and giggles. And maybe I’ll do six shows a year. But I can’t justify 18 shows year they’re too expensive. So maybe we can kind of mix it up a little bit with some digital sponsorships. And, you know, a virtual trade show hall and that kind of thing. But yeah, I you know, Devin, what you tend to see in free economies, as you know, is the pendulum swings way too far right it by design with a pandemic, it’s swung way over to digital. And I think what you’re going to see over the next 18 months is it’s going to swing way back to physical, just because everybody is raring to go. And maybe they have some untapped budgets. But a couple years out, you’re, it’s gonna normalize. And that’s where you’re gonna see hybrid have a real role and people will have forgotten about, you know, being zombified is bad.

Devin: And going back to what you were talking about earlier, with the Myers-Briggs, and the disc profiles, and that sort of thing, it makes sense to have both of those available because, you know, extra two people are probably gonna be more likely to want to, you know, go to a live event and introverted people might want to just be at home. So, you know, they’re both important decision-makers, and it’s good to have tactics to reach them both. So yeah, make some sense that way. 

Harry: It literally takes an island to draw on Vancouver Island. And this, you know, I lived on Bainbridge Island for many years, it takes an island to run a company, you know,

Devin: For sure. Well, thanks so much, Harry. I really appreciate it. And it doesn’t look like we have any other questions. So, I’ll just say that if you’re watching us on YouTube, thanks so much. And please consider liking the video and clicking that SUBSCRIBE button below. I know Harry, you put out a lot of stuff for SMB nation on YouTube as well. So please, do a search for that. And likewise, subscribe to Harry’s channel for some great MSP content that he puts out regularly. And yeah, thanks again. We would love to have you back. And I really appreciate your time today.

Harry: Sure. Thanks, Devin. 

Devin: All right. Awesome. Thank

About the Author:

As eBridge’s VP of Operations, Devin Rose brings marketing expertise and an entrepreneurial knack to the eBridge team. Devin holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Royal Roads University and a Marketing Management Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Posted October 6, 2021
Categories: eBridge Marketing Solutions' Blog
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