MSP Panel: As-a-Service Won't Work With The Wrong People

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson


Changing your business model from break-fix to managed services means training your employees on a new way of doing business — and it may even mean hiring new employees. At Business Solutions magazine’s Channel Transitions Conference on October 7 in Philadelphia, the VAR/MSP panels shared their experiences making sure the right people, in the right positions, have the proper training and incentives to make the new business model work.

Bruce Nelson, president of Vertical Solutions, looks for “list makers” for his company. He says organized people are more successful there — adding military veterans with technology backgrounds have found success at the company. Nelson says people who thrive on the challenge of solving big problems, a personality type he describes as “a cowboy mentality,” don’t do well in the managed services environment. “They tend to sit around and wait to be heroes,” he explains.

Nelson says that of the account managers who were with the break-fix business he bought in 2007, none of them are still with the company.

Todd Schorle, president of TS TECH, says his company uses the DISC personality assessment tool to help find the right people for positions in his company. According to Schorle, of the DISC personality characteristics — Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness — people with the traits of high “S” and high “C” tend to be more successful at managed services. “Now I can use a person with these traits, less experienced in technology, and train that person.”

Schorle also says some of his break-fix employees are no longer at the company: “If you don’t understand how to deal with customers, you won’t make it work.”

Steve Rutkovitz, CEO of Choice Technologies, says his company hired a consultant to help train his staff. Throughout a year of training, the company re-engineered its help desk — teaching customer service representatives how to work through problems without always sending out technicians. He says about 85 percent of his staff was able to successfully make the transition, aided by their abilities to communicate, document, and learn.

Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc., says training at his company depends on the employee’s job description. With a large number of solutions, the company uses a matrix to train people only on the products they need to do their jobs. Dale Walls, owner and president of Corsica Technologies, adds they handle training in a similar manner, identifying the courses employees need to take depending on their positions.

Hunter Allen, CEO and president of Cervion Systems, a Retail-as-a-Service VAR, says sales employee training is a challenge. “Selling has to be the means to the right solutions. Selling as-a-Service has to come second.”

Brian Doyle, VP of IT and data center services for PCNet, agrees that “concrete sales training” is a necessity.  He adds that training technicians on the help desk first helps them before they deal with customers face-to-face. Doyle comments that training is also necessary for senior-level employees who might not be used to documenting their calls or other information. “You can get them to buy in if you help them understand why it’s important,” he says.

Doyle also shared his company’s plan for compensating his sales team. He says after trying other plans, they settled on a schedule to pay commission based on the length of the contract. For example, for a 3-year contract, a sales person would receive 50 percent of the commission the first year, 25 percent after one year, and the remainder after the second year. He says this plan allows sales people to start building their commission income more quickly, but it doesn’t create a large financial burden on the company. Like the other panelists, Doyle says his company also offers incentives to his technical staff.

Channel Transitions is sponsored by: AVG Managed Workplace, Mercury, OKI Data Americas, GFI MAX, ModernOffice Suite, and Harbortouch with industry association partners The ASCII Group, CompTIA, and the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA).