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My Story: Break Fix To MSP

By Scott Millar •  Updated: 04/22/22 •  7 min read

I’ve told this story before in my books (Bear Attack SEO for MSPs & Video Marketing for MSPs); however, it still stays with me today in my head and is one of the biggest reasons I serve managed service providers.

We will discuss my journey from break-fix to MSP.
My 1st proper IT job was managing 300 endpoints across 50 locations. I’d built PCs and installed and flattened OS’s, but when it came to servers and networks, I had no clue what I was doing. I was on a long journey from break fix to MSP.

I had support though- anything I couldn’t figure out, I could escalate to our managed service provider.

I held this position for five years, and by the third year, I’d figured out about networks and servers and even managed to reinstall our Citrix presentation servers onto new metal.

Breakfix Days - IT Manager fixing computers

Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 – I was all ovver this while doing a side hsutle in breakfix computer repair.

The transition to break fix

As time went on managing this network, I felt as if I only knew a tiny fraction of how IT works and wanted to see other networks, infrastructure and technology.

In the background to all this, I’d also built up a successful part-time break-fix business. I was acquiring leads and sales via Google search and ads.

I soon went full-time into the break-fix business and decided to start contracting out of my IT manager role.

There was something I loved about attracting new business – serving the business was secondary. I thought I’d found some sort of magical key when I was ranking top in Google for local IT search terms.

I had some big lessons to learn in business, but they came with time and experience. The ten phone calls a day I was getting through google served me well and helped me make the decision to leave my employer.

What I did not understand at the time was that the break-fix business model is a broken model – you can’t scale it, and you’ll always be looking for the next job.

Twelve months in, I had a decision to make – hire someone to help with the repairs or quit.

I was overworked.

Contemplating the MSP lifestyle

Overworked with 10-20 laptop/computer repairs a day – I needed out – this photo was from 2011 right before I went to work for an MSP.

 

The problem with the break fix model

The break fix model is a lifestyle. It allowed me to pay the bills and live, but it was too much work for too little money. The long-term viability of such a business diminishes over time – you just have to look around at the type of devices that are now on the market and the fact that a large majority are not repairable.

The break-fix model is a thing of the past.

Break fix No More Managed Services & Security

My first role in managed services was that of an engineer. The past MSP that helped co-manage our Citrix environment had lost one of its head sales guys.

He’d started up on his own and offered me a job. In return, I’d learn all about the other technologies, networks and types of customers the world had to offer.

I jumped at the chance – there was a certain allure with working on multinational oil and gas clients. In return, I handed my old employer’s contract over to him, and I provided service delivery for his MSP and clients.

It’s one of the most innovative ways I’ve seen a nimble service provider reach escape velocity.

He’d built relationships with a bunch of local IT managers and offered them a job at this MSP in return for servicing the old employer.

There is an element of risk to this, but the strategy allowed him to concentrate purely on the sales and generating recurring revenue.

I Broke free of break-fix

The break-fix days were history, helping many hundreds of end-users and clients with their technology problems. I looked around at the more senior engineers providing managed services, and it struck me – if I wanted to progress, being a tech can only get you so far. Service delivery seemed to be a dead end.

I decided to enter a new role in business development. This, in all cases, is a fancy title for an IT salesperson.

I had to learn all about networking, building relationships and figuring out the whole managed services sales process.

Luckily I had some help along the way. Firstly, BNI helped me not only from a business networking side but also taught me about presenting, timekeeping and building referral partners.

Without the 60-second presentations, there would have been no Video Marketing for MSPs – there would have been no IT Rockstars.

The BNI Era

When it comes to BNI I see it as something you have to try – it’s a good learning experience, and like it or hate it, you will form some relationships over those early morning breakfasts.

Let us circle back to the managed service provider I was employed with.

I should have been handed a list of potential clients that the owner had quoted or spoken to in the past but had failed at selling to.

The one question I ask all new members that join IT Rockstars on our very first onboarding call is, “do you have a prospects list”.

There are a few reasons I ask this question, but it ties back to my own experience as a lost, poor IT salesman. No leads, no prospects, nothing.

 

MSP Clients via cold calling?

My boss hired a sales consultant, and the very first task she had us do was create a potential client list.

She made me cold-call a list of companies.

I did not see the benefits. It was a real challenge for me to pick up the phone and speak with someone that had no knowledge of who I was or who the company was.

None of the calls we made over a series of weeks led to any in-person meetings or business. A managed service contract was just a dream.

Little did I know that only if we had a full marketing and sales process these calls would have made more sense.

Most of the calls we made got us speaking to our prospects, but their was pieces of the puzzle we were missing.

Our limited view of the world and the sales process from start to finish. I was still thinking in break fix world – an easy sale. We were both new to sales and had no idea just how many touchpoints and time were required to go from cold prospect to winning a managed service contract.

Predictable, proactive growth

Your marketing has to support the initial call – you should be marketing to a list of prospects prior to speaking with them.

It seems so obvious, but it’s something that most MSPs don’t do or have ignored and try and jump straight to the sales bit.

As I continued my journey from break-fix to managed service sales, I learned many lessons.

From an MSP’s perspective had to be the time someone enters your sphere of conciseness to becoming a customer and paying recurring revenue. For me, it was from 6 months on average up to 24 months.

The sales journey only starts with that 1st phone call – there are many other touchpoints both before and after prior to the customer signing on the dotted line.

No new customers

The part that frustrated me and something you might be able to relate to is the feeling that there we no leads. For all my effort into my sales, I had a scarcity of leads – people to speak to about managed services.

We’re here to help at IT Rockstars – we want to transform the way you grow your managed services business.

 

Scott Millar

Founder of IT Rockstars, Scott has helped over 300 MSPs & IT service businesses transform their marketing and position them as the local technology leaders in their area.