Avoid the pitfalls that new MSPs make when hiring their first employees

Growing an MSP is both exciting and incredibly challenging. Exciting when seeing your customers love the services they’re getting and spreading the word about your business. But challenging when trying to meet demand and realizing the need to hire more staff to handle the growing workload. And it’s this challenge where many MSPs struggle.

As a rule, MSPs should avoid these pitfalls:

  1. Hiring people that have overlapping weaknesses.
  2. Having no central point for transferring knowledge and establishing structures for staff to follow.
  3. A lack of technical and procedural documentation
  4. Being too available or not being available enough
  5. Not following project leadership principles
  6. Playing favourites in professional and private relationships
  7. Not trusting staff and not delegating enough.

In the end, every MSP wants to have a rockstar team that was established from the very first employee. There’s a lot of pressure on both sides to professionally fit. It will be easier for an MSP if they avoid these pitfalls. Here is why.

Hiring Employees with Overlapping Weaknesses

Anyone entering business should know that an entrepreneur will have to wear almost every hat at the start. Accounting, IT, marketing, public relations, manager, etc. Because there are so many demands, it’s easy to think that it’s ideal to hire someone that can handle that exact same workload.

As much as that would seem like a dream come true for some, it’s not ideal. The big reason being is that this recruit would have the same kind of weakness. A jack of all trades is still a master of none and two of the same doesn’t make things any better.

Instead, for an MSP to truly grow, it needs to hire people with different strengths and delegate the hats effectively. Hiring staff that complement the owner and the rest of the team is the key.

When it comes to the first employee, certain skills need to be identified. For example, a level 1 technician should have the following skill set at a minimum:

  • Detail oriented
  • Can create documentation
  • Can handle client databases
  • And are disciplined enough to follow up on any issues

No Central Point of Knowledge

When starting out with a small staff of one or two people, Information doesn’t necessarily need to be stored in a single area. It can be discussed over and retained in their heads.

It’s for this reason this pitfall can become so dangerous as when hiring technicians; they’re not going to know what others are thinking or what’s expected of them. Beyond that, it can be a headache if a technician needs to call the owner every time when they have a new problem and can’t figure it out.

A solution to this pitfall is to not only make knowledge readily available, but easy to understand and should be clear to avoid ambiguity. To do this, MSPs must:

  • Break down large parts of information to smaller and more easily processed portions
  • Not only have an online database, but have things written
  • Have a balance between over-explaining and under-explaining
  • Paying attention to team members starting points and their progress
  • Having conversations on optimizing their growth

Lacking Policies, Procedures, And Guidelines

Like the reason mentioned in the previous point, an MSP might avoid this responsibility for the fact there may only be a few people working there. Once more people are involved, there needs to be guidance.

Policies, procedures, and guidelines serve as a safety net on top of having this information readily available and easy to understand. When instructions are clear, staff will have a much easier chance of advancing.  Furthermore, it saves from having staff constantly email, hop on calls or instant chat messengers whenever they’re stuck.

Being Too (Un)Available

As much as it would feel good to always be available for technicians, it also develops a reliance. In the long term, the last thing an MSP wants is for the staff to be calling the CEO or owner for help in every situation. At the same time, an MSP owner should be available enough to ensure that operations go smoothly.

Hitting this middle ground is difficult to do. An MSP owner should encourage staff to be self-sufficient, but that doesn’t happen overnight. This is where policies and guidelines can effectively direct staff.

In terms of what kind of policies can look like, a good example to look at is escalation policies. These policies should be part of the onboarding guide. It should outline the types of issues that are emergencies and which ones aren’t. There should also be communication channels described for each issue.

Depending on the priority level, staff should be able to know from the start what is an appropriate channel to communicate issues. For example, for urgent issues the following should be done:

  • Chat to someone in the office or in a team group
  • Call someone
  • Send an email with “URGENT” as the subject

For non-urgent issues the following can be used:

  • Video meeting booked in advance
  • Sending an email
  • Or using the ticketing system

When procedures and policies are in place, these can serve as staff training practices that happen all day long. This also is helpful as it avoids micromanaging every action.

Beyond that, another strategy is to ask technicians what solutions they can provide to an issue that is being escalated. This will help them to push beyond their comfort zones and to work on problem solving skills and self-reliability. This is on top of getting a confidence boost if they do something right.

Not Embracing Leadership Principles

It’s understandable that as a one or two-person team, there isn’t much time to define company values let alone leadership principles. But when hiring staff, this becomes something very important as it can shape the brand and the company moving forward.

Embracing an ethic of consistency and reliability are good start. These are what make an MSP great. When those get adopted, it’s easier to see what kind of employees an MSP wants and customers as well.

From there, an MSP can apply these principles to how the business functions. For example, if an employee is always arriving late to work, MSP owners should confront that employee, get an understanding of the situation, and propose solutions. This approach helps to avoid being a villain or cruel to staff, while also displaying empathy and care without being too slack.

In leadership, leaders have warmth and strength. MSP owners should embody that. With that in mind, an MSP owner should hire someone that they want to spend time with first, not as someone to hang out with all the time.

Build Trust and Be a Strong Mentor

MSP owners have been doing a lot of work on their own. As a result, it can be inherently difficult to trust staff, let alone guide them. This is especially true for owners who have been solopreneurs for months or years and have been in an environment where they are the only point of contact.

But again, MSP owners can only do so much, and growth cannot happen if MSP owners make those mistakes above or refuse to trust or be a leader. Take the leap and adapt to a new situation. It’ll be weird at first, but by being patient, being a strong mentor and trusting others will pay off immensely.

About MSP Corp

MSP Corp understands you’ve worked hard to build your business and you want to protect it. With a mission to be a world-class business partner for MSP owners across Canada, we actively seek to acquire and partner with owners looking to secure the value of the business they have built and provide a seamless exit process that ensures business continuity and employee and client stability.

Contact us today to learn more about selling your business and maximizing its value.