Friday, November 11, 2022

My Best Advice for New MSPs or IT Service Providers

I recently published a video with LOTS of advice for people who are starting their own Managed Service Business (or any IT consulting business, to be honest). It was in response to an email I got from Jermaine. He’s looking at taking the plunge, so I thought I’d give him some tips and tricks.

You can view the video – and hundreds more – at

If you know someone who’s moving from being an employee to running their own business, please point them to that video or this post. 

Old people like me always get asked the question: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be. I’ve been giving advice for more than fifteen years, so I have lots of advice. But let me start at the top and give you some advice for anybody who is taking the plunge and starting their own It consulting business in 2023, or maybe even this year. 

The first piece of advice I would give you is to read Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth Revisited. This is literally THE book for new small business owners. See link below.

If I could, I would make every business owner of every small business in the world read this book. Gerber looks at why businesses succeed and why they don't, which businesses succeed and why they do. And he gives some really amazing advice. I was blessed by being turned onto this book when I first started my first business.

I read this book at least once a year for the first ten years that I owned a business. And then I've been reading it every other year or so since then. So, I'm not kidding you when I tell you, go get this book. It will change your life and it will improve your business on day one.

And I'll just give you one little bit of advice from this book. You are a great technician, but right now you are in what is called an entrepreneurial fit. You think that because you're good at being a technician, you're going to be good at being a business owner. But they are not related to each other! I'm not trying to discourage you, but here's the important thing you need to know: You have to go into this with your eyes very wide open, and you have to know what you're getting into.

Second, If I were to give you one piece of advice, after all these years of experience as an independent consultant, my piece of advice would be take every piece of advice that you ever hear and try to integrate it. Some of it you'll be resistant to, even though you'll know day one that you really need to do it. Some of it you'll glom onto it and say, oh, I totally have to do that. And then you'll be very excited about it.

Some of it you won't know how to fit in with what you're doing, but you have to start reading. Whether it's Gerber or me or anything, you have to start reading. 

Third, if I'm going to give you one piece of advice, it's this go get yourself an account at, or, go get yourself an Audible account. Go get yourself a Kindle reader or iPad. Start consuming books. And I'm sorry if you've been one of these people who has always hated going to school. If you're going to be good at business, you have to go to school.

I could walk you through the thousands of books I have on business, but there's no point. You need to do this yourself. Read every business book that you can get your hands on. If you can try to read one book a week, even if that means it's on Audible and you listen to it. And, every week, just do whatever it takes to get through one book. 

Personally, I love Audible because I can listen to a book while painting a fence or doing chores. I normally listen to a book three times because I might be driving and I'll be turning a corner, trying to not hit somebody right at the moment that an important thing is said Or I doze off, or I start paying attention to birds in the yard, or whatever. We don't have a perfect attention span, you and me. So Audible allows me, at no extra charge, to listen to a book three times, and then I get the information.

Unfortunately, I'll tell you the truth, whenever I listen to a book on Audible or read a book on Kindle, and I really like it, I'm the kind of person, I want to go buy the physical book so that I can mark it all up and take notes and highlight all the stuff that's important. 

You should gobble up books as if they are food, because knowledge is ultimately the food of your business, right? And you need all the knowledge you can get. 

Sometimes you're going to read a book like Good to Great, for example. That's a great. Great book. And you're going to love the book. And then you're going to think, “It's really hard to apply to my very small business with one employee and just trying to make enough money to get through the week.” And then a year later you'll read Great By Choice, and you'll say, “Oh. This is much easier to apply to my business.”

Part of what happened is, it's been a year. You've been running a business. You've got some experience under your belt. It makes more sense. It's easier to apply. So, read or listen to every book you can find on business. Sometimes, let's be honest, a couple of chapters in, you won’t be motivated to go on. It will be difficult or boring. Don't throw the book away. Put it on a shelf and come back to it in a year. Come back to it in two years. Try. 

If you can't do a book a week, that's cool. Do a book as often as you can. If you love audio programs, check out every single thing done by Brian Tracy. He likes to call that audiobook collection 55 miles an hour University. That is, as you drive around doing your chores Saturday, or whatever. And in the course of a year, you will be able to consume enough books to be equivalent to getting a four year degree at a college. So your university is going to be educating yourself on every single aspect that you can find with regard to your business. 

Now, here are a few more recommended books just for you. 

Next up, the Small Biz Quickstart Guide. This workbook is something that I wrote in 2020 in response to a friend who said, “I want to leave my job and I want to go start another business. But before I do that, Mr. Checklist, I need you to give me the ultimate checklist of every single thing I need to know.” So I wrote down every question I could possibly think of that he would have (How to open up a bank account; how to get a business tax ID; how to find an accountant; how to figure out what's going to happen to your 401K; how to figure out what do you do about insurance between job and self-employment; and which kinds of taxes do you have to pay.)

All of those questions are in here along with the recommended answers. In this book, I basically divide your universe into three pieces. The first one is all the things you need to know and all the things you need to do in the one year before you quit. Now, if it's too late, you can use that to catch up.

The second group is all of the things you need to do in the month between quitting and starting a new job. Things like actually getting that tax ID, actually getting that bank account, actually getting your business cards printed.

And then the third section is all those things you need to do the first year. And there's a lot less hurry about that. But you should figure out your cash flow. You should know what a cash flow report looks like. You should know lots of things.

Overall, this is a workbook, intended for you to answer your own questions. So it's just a place to start. There are probably other resources, but if you look for this on Amazon or Kindle, then you're going to be able to find other references of other similar books. 

I know this sounds self serving, but I'm just telling you, if you are in IT, you need to read Managed Services in a Month. This book is designed literally to change your business in 30 days. 

I'm motivated to put out that video because Jermaine sent me an email and said, I stumbled upon this book and it really did an amazing job of helping me get all set up and ready to go, answering the right questions, being headed in the right direction, and avoiding some really big mistakes.

Managed Service in a Month is the best selling book ever on managed service. It's one of the first. I wrote the first, Erick Simpson wrote the second, and Managed Services in a Month is the third. It has been revised several times. It is designed for you to be as successful as possible with managed service. It’s a quick read and I recommend that IT professionals read it as soon as possible before (or after) you start your business. 

Somewhat related to that, and often purchased at the same time, is Service Agreements for SMB Consultants

If I could only give you one piece of advice, I would tell you is get paid in advance for absolutely everything. Another one would be to use a managed service model. Another one would be to have a service agreement. Sign a contract with every single person that you do business with. Sometimes you need just a one pager that's just got the most basic outline that says, “I'm going to bill you and you're going to pay me.” Sometimes you need something a little more complicated that says, look, we're going to have an ongoing relationship. What does that look like?

Your service agreement is absolutely not about your service. It's not about what you sell. It is not about your statement of work that gets stapled to the end. The service agreement is about your relationship with your clients. And to be honest, it's kind of like the fence in your yard. Nobody cares about the fence until there's a problem about something hanging over one side of the fence or the other. 

When things go wrong with your client relationship, you need a contract. Nobody ever reads the contract until the day there's a problem. But you have to have that contract in place. Do not resist me on this. Just simply do it, because you're going to do it eventually. You might as well, do it now. 

I mentioned that you should get paid in advance for everything. Guess what? That's one of the Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery. The sooner you do that, the better. That, again, is one of those pieces of advice that will change your business. I wish somebody had told me on day one to get paid in advance for absolutely everything. It would have changed many, many elements of my life and made me a bunch more money.

I'm actually working with a coaching client right now to help transition from being paid in arrears to being paid in advance. And let me tell you, that transition makes you a lot of money. But if you're just starting out your business, start it out on the right foot and get prepaid for absolutely everything you do. This book is filled with lots of other great rules about how you run your business. For example, we only work with people we like.

As silly as that might sound to you when you're starting out, when you think you need to take every nickel that you find, the truth is that you have to work with people that you can sustain a relationship with. If you find somebody who just irritates you every single day, you are not going to have that person as a client for ten or 15 years. So you might as well not have them as a client on day one. Another couple of other rules in here that are huge for people just starting out. 

You do not have to help every person who needs help and you do not have to pick up every nickel you find on the sidewalk. Too many people starting out make the mistake of saying, “I have to work. I have to scratch and claw. I have to take every job because I need the money.” If that's the situation, you need to stop, rethink a whole bunch of your business and schedule a 20 minutes call with me.

I really will talk to you about your business and why you think you need to take all this money even though it leads you to making bad decisions and it leads you to mold your business in the wrong direction. 

I don't want you to think that I'm just trying to sell you a bunch of books. You may be reluctant to believe this, but Small Biz Thoughts and all of my businesses are literally dedicated to making IT professionals as successful as possible. That is the mission I have for my personal life and for my business life.

That is why I'm here. That's why I do what I do. And these books are not that expensive. That's the beautiful thing about books. At $20, $30, or even $40 a piece, you can buy an unlimited amount of books, and every one of them should pay for itself with one job, with less than one half hour of labor.

Books are the greatest investment you can make in your business. Education is second. 

Now I will pitch you something, which is the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community includes all of the books I've ever produced in one big bundle, plus all the videos, all the training, and all the audio programs, plus all the slides, all the checklists, and everything I've ever done. It's all in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. 

Also consider The IT Service Provider University. We now have 20 classes that are 5 hours each (five units each). And all of those classes are included in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community for one low price. And by low I mean 10% of what you're probably thinking, because everybody in this industry seems to think that you have an unlimited amount of money. I don't think that. I think you do have a limited amount of money.

And when you're small and you can only change one thing at a time, you need to spend a little bit of money, make a change, talk to some friends, get some advice; then change one thing, talk to some friends, get some advice, etc.. 

Almost every program that you'll find in this industry charges 10, 15, or 20 times what I do in a year. And it's not because I don't need the money. It's because I want to help you.

That's my primary goal. And I don't want to bankrupt you by having you pay all this other money. Right now, the Community is only $1,199 for the year. We're going up to $1,299 for the year in July of 2023. So there's not a huge hurry.

But you get literally every book I've ever written, plus 20 classes. That’s 20 times five or 100 hours of education. It's all included. 

Bottom Line: I want you to be in this business and I want you to be successful. 

If you can only buy one book, buy The E-Myth Revised by Michael Gerber. If you can only buy two, buy Gerber's book and then buy Managed Services in a Month. 

But if you can go through the books that I mentioned in the order I presented them, I really believe it will help you get your business launched in the right direction, day one.

Also: Get on my mailing list. I'm going to put a link down below to the mailing list. It is mostly filled with information and tidbits and a calendar of events in our community.

Here are the books and products mentioned:

Books mentioned: 

E-Myth Revisited - Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It - by Michael Gerber Affiliate Link 

Good to Great - Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't - by Jim Collins Affiliate Link 

Great by Choice - Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All - by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen Affiliate Link 

Small Biz Quickstart Workbook - The Ultimate Guide for First-Time Entrepreneurs - Karl W. Palachuk Affiliate Link 

Managed Services in a Month - Build a Successful, Modern Computer Consulting Business in 30 Days, 3rd Edition - Karl W. Palachuk Affiliate Link 

Service Agreements for SMB Consultants - A Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services - Karl W. Palachuk Affiliate Link 

Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery - How to Manage Your Business to Maximize Customer Service, Profit, and Employee Culture - Karl W. Palachuk Affiliate Link

and . . .

IT Service Provider University: 

Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community - 

Sign up for Karl's email list:


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