Are the traits of authenticity and transparency in people important to you? If so, then it’s probably important that your managed service provider (MSP) is authentic and transparent as well.
Does it also matter to you that your coworkers have these two qualities? Are authenticity and transparency a component of any of your core values? If you answered yes to either or both, then it’s very important that you look for these qualities when you’re searching for a new MSP.
The best managed service providers become more like employees than just another vendor. So it makes sense to take just as much care in screening for the right MSP as you do for the right employees.
Keys to the Kingdom
Whether they are your employees or the employees of your MSP, the people who manage your IT have the keys to your kingdom. It’s quite a lot of power and an awesome responsibility.
MSPs exist for some of the same reasons that other professional service firms do. Businesses outsource tax work and other complex accounting to CPA firms primarily because it’s so complicated to do for their own company. Law firms abound for the same reasons, and so do IT service providers. Business technology is exceedingly complex and can be extremely difficult – and quite risky – to do yourself. Even large enterprises face great challenges every day dealing with the complexities of choosing, deploying, and managing their technologies.
Sadly, we’ve helped more than a few companies that have been held hostage by their IT department. Most often it’s a single employee running their IT department. Very rarely it’s been another MSP, although last week I told a true IT Horror Story about such a situation.
Business owners become frightened when they realize that the person who knows so much – about that which they know so little – may not be the trustworthy person they thought they’d hired. Here’s a small sampling of some of the things I’ve heard over the years:
“I keep asking Bob for an inventory of all our IT stuff but I never get a true accounting. Here’s some online report of some of our computers – that’s all I’ve got. I have no idea what we really have.
I asked Bob for a list of all our passwords and he got angry. He gave me the list, but he can just change passwords any time, right?
I’m afraid that if we fire Bob he’ll do something bad to us.”
All of us who own or have owned businesses know how uncomfortable a bad employee relationship can be. In my experience it’s people that are the number one cause of sleepless nights amongst business owners, far more than money issues.
As leaders we all have differing opinions on the most important qualities of leadership. At or near the top of my list are authenticity and transparency – although these are things I value in any relationship.
It’s hard to build or maintain trust when someone won’t open up to you, or if you find yourself wondering if they’re really the person they portray themselves to be.
Similarly, your relationship with any professional services company must be built on a foundation of trust, or you’ll never be comfortable with it.
Questions to ask when you’re interviewing a new MSP
We’ve written extensively on this topic, in both our blog and this ebook. Here are some new questions to ask if you’d like to get a feel for how authentic and transparent your MSP candidates are.
Everyone loses a client from time to time. Tell me about the most painful client loss you’ve ever experienced.
As with all of these questions, the content of the answer is not as important as how the person reacts to the query. Does he tense up or is he immediately thoughtful and comfortable with being vulnerable?
This doesn’t mean you should disregard the content altogether. If he launches into a story about a client they thought would be great but turned out to be a nightmare (client as bad guy), that says something very different than a story where he admits the MSP made a mistake and despite all their best efforts to make things right, the relationship was broken and the client eventually left.
What is the single biggest challenge you face in your business today?
In a needs analysis meeting with an MSP, you’re probably opening up about many problems and challenges you and your business are facing. Isn’t it reasonable to ask the MSP to reciprocate? And, if he is willing to open up with you the same way you’ve opened up to him, would that be helpful to know? What might that tell you about how this person will handle challenges when they arise?
Other than your company, who are two other managed service providers in Austin, TX that you would recommend to a friend, and how do they differ from your company?
Once more, just the willingness to answer this question indicates authenticity and transparency.
An answer that includes something like this,“…and we regularly refer people to them if we think they’d be a better fit” speaks volumes.
May we tour your office and meet some of the people who might be supporting us?
This question is from our blog, Ask Your IT Provider Candidates The Right Questions. If they say no, or give any reason not to do it, that could be all you need to know about them. I’d stop the interview right there and move on.
If they say yes and you go to their office, you’ll learn a lot just by walking in their door, and much more by meeting and talking with some of their people.
I have no doubt you can think of a few questions yourself that may take a candidate by surprise, and also surprise you with what their reaction reveals.
Thinking about and screening for authenticity and transparency when you’re searching for the right MSP will help you avoid a costly and painful mis-hire. Give it a try the next time you’re in the market for a good managed service provider.
Our goal for this blog is to answer the questions you ask.