On a one-on-one consulting call with an extremely bright, young saleswoman/co-founder of an MSP, she asked me a GREAT question: “What is a piece of advice you see given that you don’t agree with?”
This is a very smart question to ask, and as an aside, I can tell how intelligent a person is by the questions they ask. But I digress…
Here was my answer: All of it and none of it.
Almost all advice given by “gurus,” authors and consultants is correct within a certain situation but is NOT universally correct in ALL situations. Let me use, as an example, Dave Ramsey’s advice on never going into debt and never having a credit card. I mostly agree with it, particularly on personal debt for non-investments, but if you use a credit card properly and pay it off, there’s absolutely no reason to not have one.
Further, in certain situations, debt can be used for buying investments and building businesses that will end up paying off in HUGE multiples at a later time. As an example, my current spokesperson, David Javaheri, CEO of Direct iT, took out a loan to build his sales team and marketing plan. With it, he took his MSP from 9 years of stagnation at $2 million to nearly $10 million in a few short years. Could he have done it without the borrowed money? Possibly, but he did it much faster, and recently was able to sell his company for a huge multiple – a payout he would not have gotten if he hadn’t had the growth.
Another popular piece of advice in the MSP industry: you should NEVER give away a free assessment.
The argument is that if you do, it’s bad positioning, you’ll get taken advantage of and nobody will value your services. That advice is true to some extent, but it’s not as simple as that. Free is a VERY powerful strategy in business when used properly – and it’s complicated IF you’re doing it correctly. I’ve personally built a $40 million+ consulting business on the back of FREE and would gladly compare my bank account and profits to the braying asses on Facebook who ardently and passionately say I don’t know what I’m doing when I suggest clients use “free” in marketing.
That said, they ARE correct to a certain degree and in certain situations. If you charge for an assessment, you will get a more qualified buyer who values the assessment itself. However, you also have to understand that you will largely suppress the lead flow coming to you and will need to have other free resources available for the purpose of lead generation.
You will also have to have a very good sales process to close that initial consultation that most give away for free, and your marketing, brand recognition and reputation better be VERY dialed in to drive prospects to you who are willing to pay you to do an assessment of their security and network. For most small MSPs with no marketing, no branding, no sales process and no “known” reputation, this is a very tall order that is likely to dwindle their already extremely light lead flow down to nothing.
Back to the question that was asked of me, I take exception when people provide advice in terms of absolutes, with no understanding of the situation, resources and specific goals. So why do they do it? Some do it because they aren’t critical thinkers and want simplicity over the complicated process of creating a strategy where pros and cons are weighed, decisions made and downsides mitigated. Some just lack experience. Some do it because they really are ignorant on the subject matter about which they are providing advice yet feel completely justified in giving their opinion.
But many professional “advice givers” (authors, speakers, consultants) give “absolutes” and “rules” of success that are black and white because that’s what audiences want to buy. Nobody wants 50 shades of grey, unless they’re looking for a sexual fantasy. They want THE way to make more money, not a full course in how ALL investments work and when they are appropriate based on multiple factors, along with the upsides and risks of each.
Business owners want THE marketing campaign that is the best for bringing in qualified leads, not 10 options to pick from that are based on factors of budget, goals, time frame, relationship with the list, skill of the person implementing it, time of year, niche they are targeting, etc., etc., etc. Essentially, they don’t want the complexity of nuanced, carefully thought-through decision-making that requires the weighing of pros and cons, accepting there is no “one right way” without any sacrifices and downsides.
Know this: all business advice cannot be embraced like the one-size-fits-all Snuggies we hand out at our events (for free, I might add).
All success in anything requires complexity of thought, consideration and decision-making, a real understanding of the likely outcomes of any course of action and careful consideration of tradeoffs of such decisions.
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