By Paul Parisi, SaviorLabs and ASCII Group member since 2016
One simple word: Sanity.
Technology management is not trivial and moves super-fast. Things change every day, sometimes every hour. How do you keep up and make good decisions and choices:
- With technology?
- With emerging threats?
- With managing employees?
- With managing vendors?
- With sales and marketing?
- With managing clients?
Peer groups are one of the best answers to all the above questions. As I was writing this, I took a break to meet with one of my peer groups. It was such a blessing to hear that I am not alone, and others are dealing with the same issues I am. I have never left a peer group meeting, virtually or in person, thinking that I wasted my time. One thing that is critical for a peer group to be most valuable for you is to be involved. Don’t be doing other things – concentrate, pay attention and take notes!
Technology. Face it, as much as we might like to think we know a bunch of this and that, we’re supposed to be the experts, aren’t we? You will come to realize you can’t know everything all the time. I have found that seeing what my peers are dealing with every day is invaluable.
Peers are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” Helping to avoid problems before we even know they are problems. I find that the information I get from peer group feeds is much more dependable than normal public postings. This is because real people and names are behind the posts.
Emerging Threats. Similarly, with emerging threats, peer relationships are invaluable. When a threat is surfacing, and the world is burning down, and there is so much noise all over the place, it’s hard to get clear answers. The conversations on the internal message boards give us real world and real time on-the-ground tactical information that we can act on, now. This is super helpful, especially in a crisis.
Managing Employees. I will bet that no one (ever) started a technology company because they wanted to manage people. Employees (humans?) are one of the most difficult things you will deal with in business. When you are at your wit’s end with humans (hopefully before), a peer group is a place where you can claw back what little bits of your sanity are left. You can lean on those that have boldly gone before you. I can get real world advice from them. There is always someone that has done this a lot longer than I have. Their wisdom is such a blessing, especially when I am frustrated with all these people!
Managing Vendors. Wheeling and dealing with vendors are huge and discouraging issues. We are busy enough trying to figure out how to read between the lines of what vendors say and promise, what their tool actually does, and what their contracts really mean. Having the insights of others who have already done it is so helpful. An added benefit to many peer groups is significant discounts by vendors. Once you buy the shiny new thing peer group members offer you their hard-won insights when you go to deploy it.
Sales and Marketing. The mystery of how to get people to give you money. The mystery of how you find the people who want to hear about what you are selling. What magic is this? Personally, I used to think I did a pretty good job at “sales” once “I was in the room.” After being in some great peer groups I have learned that, while I am pretty good, others are fantastic. There is so much value in your peers about this very issue. Hearing how they deal with potential clients in this current reality is beneficial. You can learn what is working and what is not working right now. Hearing what works and doesn’t work is a huge benefit. The same goes for marketing. Talking with peers about what they have learned is much less painful than learning yourself! Peers give you unbiased information from other real business owners. It gets us out of our echo chambers.
Clients. If we could just make money without clients, wouldn’t it be wonderful? No calls, no problems, no issues, no risk… but also no revenue, and more importantly, no profit. Always remember, as altruistic as you may want or hope to be, business is all about making money. Your business is NOT your hobby. The goal of a business should be to provide a valuable service to those that need it. But even if you have that all straight, getting new clients is the hardest thing you will ever do. The easiest client to get is the one you already have. So, it stands to reason that you should invest heavily in communication, service, and nurturing.
Peer groups, especially those that are directed by a good leader, help by challenging us to do better. Here is what we did and what happened (good and bad). One of the smartest people I have ever met did not coin the phrase but repeated it often: “Never be the smartest person in the room.” If you are the smartest person in the room, then you can’t learn anything. I always look forward to meeting with my peers and getting to know them better. We are at the cutting edge of an industry that has changed the world more than most could have ever imagined.
We are only as good as our team. Bottom line: peer groups equal help, profits, encouragement, insight, wisdom, friendship, and of course, sanity.
About The Author
Paul Parisi is the President and Founder of SaviorLabs and has been a member of The ASCII Group since 2016.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs, and Solution Providers. The Group has members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solutions providers with a national and international reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction, and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of leading and major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.