Episode 122: What a potential acquirer wants from your MSP

Episode 122: What a potential acquirer wants from your MSP

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Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 122: What a potential acquirer wants from your MSP
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In this week’s episode

  • What exactly makes your MSP more attractive to a potential acquirer? This week Paul has the answer. Two guests – one a former MSP owner, and the other the person who bought his business – join Paul to share their journey
  • Also on the show, the next phase of creating your one page marketing plan. This week it’s all about your marketing message – find out exactly what you can say to attract the right kind of new clients to your MSP
  • Plus, find out about the importance of great leadership within your MSP and how to improve your leadership skills

Featured guests

Rob Hamilton is a featured guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Rob Hamilton for joining Paul to talk about how he grew and sold his MSP.

Rob Hamilton was founder and CEO of technology firm Dynamic Edge.  Established in 2009, Dynamic Edge is a UK based technology partner for business.  Dynamic Edge was identified by Microsoft in 2010 as the first UK partner to strategically lead with cloud technologies and is still seen as the most experienced cloud deployment MSP in the UK. Dynamic Edge was acquired by Zenzero in October 2020. Since then Rob has been enjoying a sabbatical before embarking on his next challenge.

Away from work Rob is a keen motorcyclist, cyclist and distance runner having completed 10 marathons since 2004.  Rob holds a motorsport licence and enjoys trackdays. Rob is married to Mandy and they live in Surrey with their 2 youngest children.

 

Nicholas Ashford is a featured guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

 

Thank you to Nicholas Ashford from Fordhouse for joining Paul to talk about what made Rob’s MSP business so attractive to acquire.

Nicholas is a founding partner at Fordhouse, a UK SME specialist investor that helps business owner-managers realise a return from their many years of hard work by acquiring their businesses in a flexible, fair and efficient way. Fordhouse invests in the Managed Service Provider (MSP), Accounting and Virtual Receptionist sectors.

Nicholas has 2 young children and splits his time between Winchester where he lives and Fordhouse’s offices in Westminster. An ex-rugby player, you may occasionally find him lurking near a gym pretending he’s “still got it” when time permits.

Show notes

Episode transcription

Voiceover:
Fresh every Tuesday for MSPs around the world, this is Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
Hello, this is episode 122. And here’s what we got coming up for you.

Nicholas Ashford:
You don’t get to interview everyone as part of a acquisition process. So there is a element of gut feel and trust in the team.

Paul Green:
We’re joined today by Nicholas Ashford and Rob Hamilton. Now they are part of an ambitious rollup that’s happening here in the UK. What is a rollup? It’s where a number of MSPs are coming together to form a big super MSP. Rob sold his business into Zenzero. And he’s going to talk about that later on in the show. Nicholas is part of the acquisition team that put that deal together. And he’s going to tell you how you can make your MSP very desirable to future acquirers. Even if you’re not thinking of getting out in the next couple of years, this is an interview you’re not going to want to miss. We’re also going to be talking about your one-page marketing plan. Now this is a series we’ve been running across the podcast for the last couple of weeks. Today, we’re going to look at how to develop your marketing message.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
One of the things that I most love about my work working with MSPs is that I get to spot trends. I get to sort of join up the dots and notice how some things are like other things. So for example, within marketing, we know that one of the things that ordinary business owners and managers are looking for is leadership. Yes, of course, they want to buy a service where someone comes up with a technology strategy and then implements it for them. But to a certain extent, they’re also looking for leadership. They are drawn to people with passion, people who can talk about technology with a sparkle in their eyes, an amazed look on their face, and talk about it with such vigor that they are attracted to them because they are natural technology leaders.

Paul Green:
This is why it’s possible for you to grow your MSP and to attract new clients, regardless of how long you’ve been doing it or how good your technology actually is. It really is all about passion and leadership, because the kind of people that you’re trying to attract as clients, well, they don’t know what they don’t know about technology and managed services. Therefore, they are drawn to people they feel attracted to.

Paul Green:
Leadership is an incredibly important marketing position. And I’ve noticed, of course, that leadership is equally important when it comes to attracting, motivating and driving your staff. The vast majority of employees are looking for leadership. They want to be led. And leadership is not about telling someone what to do. That’s a bad aspect of being a manager. Being a leader is about setting out a vision. It’s about setting out where you want to go. It’s about setting out what you can achieve with this business and saying to your people, we can do this. We really, really can do this, you know, guys. What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to go over there. This is the area to go. This is the route for us. Come with me because it’s worth it. And you don’t even have to be a great leader. You can be an average leader, but if you lead with passion and you genuinely believe that your MSP can achieve something amazing, then you will get there so quickly and you will take some really, really good people with you.

Paul Green:
I mean, if I was to put some context on this, there’s a survey that’s done every year by a company called Gallup. Now Gallup, it’s like a polls company, a survey company, and they do their employee engagement study every single year. So they ask thousands of people, most of them working for big companies, but in all sorts of countries all around the world and they ask them a series of questions. And from those questions, they’re able to ascertain how many of those people are engaged, how many are not engaged, and how many are actively disengaged.

Paul Green:
Now let me explain the difference between those three. So engaged people are the ones who operate in the business as if it was their business, but in a good way. So they’re the people that you trust the most. They’re the people who you would rely on in the event of a crisis. If something major goes down at five minutes to six on a Friday night, these are the people that will happily and readily drop their family plans to jump in, to help with that crisis because they know it’s important for your MSP to do that. So your engaged staff are always your best staff.

Paul Green:
Your next level down are your not engaged staff. Now when it’s just you and two or three others, the chances are that most of them will be engaged. But the more staff that you have, eventually you’re going to hire some people who will be not engaged. Now not engaged, doesn’t actually mean they’re disengaged. Not engaged just means that they’re not as engaged as their engaged colleagues. So in that scenario of the crisis at five to six on a Friday, they will not drop their family plans to come and help you. In fact, they won’t even drop their plans to go home and play call of duty for the next 17 hours, because that’s more important to them than helping out. Essentially, they turn up, they do their work and they go. They’re not particularly engaged and they’re not passionate about the work that they do.

Paul Green:
And then we’ve got the final category, actively disengaged or as I prefer to call them, internal terrorists. Those are the ones that you really should be scared of. Again, this is probably more for big companies than very small companies, but the Gallup figures say that around about a third of staff are engaged, around about 50% are not engaged. That’s a scary figure. Isn’t it? And around about 20% are actively disengaged. Let’s say you had 10 staff, the chances are that three of them would be engaged, half of them would not be engaged, and one or two of them could be actively disengaged and essentially should be fired.

Paul Green:
So with that kind of context, you have to ask yourself, well, how does my leadership create engagement or reduce engagement? Well, a lot of it is down to the way that you act as a leader. If, for example, your people see that you trust them, then that is great for engagement. I mean, it’s an incredible leadership skill to have. Conversely, if they see that you don’t trust them, that’s a major problem. I know the owner of a veterinarian business that I used to work with here in the UK, who has very, very little trust in his staff. So he has CCTV cameras, like security cameras, all over all of his buildings. He’s got lots of buildings with lots of staff and the thing is, he actually sits and watches them and he will ring them up and say, “Hey, that thing that you just did, I was watching on the camera and you did it wrong.” And he’s doing it partly because he actually doesn’t trust his staff, I think, but partly because he’s trying to help people do a better job. And he can’t physically be in 10, 15 locations at once.

Paul Green:
But what this has created, I think, I believe anyway, is it has engendered a lack of trust. The staff see that, well, they think he’s sitting there, watching a bank of monitors, watching them do things wrong. So essentially he’s catching them doing stuff wrong all the time. And they feel that they’re being watched by the boss all the time. That creates a complete lack of trust. What he should actually do in my opinion, and I have suggested this to him in the past is he should catch people doing things right. When someone does something really good, a really good job, he should just ring them up and say, hey, I just happened to be on the camera. And I saw that you did this. And that was epic. That was great. But anyway, that would be how he could improve his leadership position.

Paul Green:
So lack of trust is one of the things that we do that damages engagement with our staff. Lack of personal connection is another one. We don’t communicate change very well sometimes as leaders. And by communicating change, I mean, as we’re changing things within the business, we sometimes are not very good at communicating that to our staff. Because we come up with an idea or you might hear something on this podcast and it might sit at the back of your head for two or three weeks. You might roll around the different options on it and then, only then do you decide to take action at the point at which you’re ready to go ahead.

Paul Green:
Well, your poor staff, when you say to them, hey, crack on everyone. We’ve decided to do this new thing, whatever that new thing is, and we’re going to do it A, B and C, this is how it’s going to be. Crack on everybody. And you essentially drop it on them like a bomb. They have no idea where it’s come from, they have no idea this thing that you’ve just suddenly dropped on them. It took two to three weeks for you, the person in control of the change to get used to it, but you’ve dropped it on them just like that. It’s kind of not fair to them. Doing that badly removes engagement with your team. Doing that well improves engagement with the team.

Paul Green:
So how do you improve your leadership skills and get your staff completely behind you and engage with what you’re trying to do with the business? A lot of it is about communication. It’s about passion. It’s about drive, but it’s also about self-awareness. You need to be aware how you act. When do we ever do this? When do we ever sit and look at ourselves and say, hey, how could I have done that better? How could I have communicated that to my team better or handled that situation better or made that clearer to them? There are a couple of books that I recommend that you read. And in fact, these are also Ted Talks. If you don’t want to read the whole book, you can get a summary of them from the Ted Talks website.

Paul Green:
They’re both from an author called Simon Sinek. That’s S-I-N-E-K. The first book I recommend you read is called Start With Why. And the second book is called Leaders Eat Last. And I believe that Simon Sinek is one of the world’s greatest thinkers right now on leadership for people like us, for small business owners. Go and read those books or go and look at those books on Ted Talks and watch his talks on them. And there’s a whole load of things in there that will help you to understand the psychology of how people think, how we as people act and react to the leaders that we’re following, and how we become more engaged or less engaged when we’re doing something. In fact, not only is this going to help you with your team to create more engagement with your team, it is also going to help your marketing. And that, to me, feels like an absolute win-win.

Voiceover:
Here’s this week’s clever idea.

Paul Green:
This week, we’re on part four of creating your one-page marketing plan. And if this is important for your MSP and you’ve missed the last few episodes, just skip back a couple of episodes. We started this in episode 119, and over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at helping you to understand your market and your competitors, how to understand the clients that you want to reach, how to pick a vertical or a niche or a neesh, or which kind of segment of the audience that you should be going for. And this week we’re going to be talking about developing your marketing message.

Paul Green:
So you may remember me in one of the previous podcasts talking about the marketing triangle and the marketing triangle is the basic formula for getting your marketing right. There are three sides to the marketing triangle and they are message, market, and medium. Or if you Google it, sometimes it’s written as media. I prefer using the word medium. If you don’t have all three sides of the triangle right, then your marketing just simply won’t work. Market, message, medium. So we’ve talked in the last couple of weeks about getting the market right. Today, we need to get the message right. And then next week we’re going to finish this one-page marketing plan off by talking about the different marketing mediums that you’re going to use.

Paul Green:
Now, the marketing message that you put out there tells your prospects, not only what you do, but a little bit about how you do it and only a little bit, because they don’t really care how you do it. But more importantly, it tells them why they should become a client. Now, this message is the most important part of your marketing plan. It’s what’s going to go on your website. It’s what’s going to go on your LinkedIn. It’s the thing that you’re going to repeat to people if, and when you meet them at networking meetings, in fact, your former version of it for your elevator pitch, that 30-second pitch that you give when you’re at network meetings or you meet people for the first time.

Paul Green:
You’ve got to ask yourself the question, why would someone pick you? Why would they choose your MSP over someone else? What’s your USP, your unique selling proposition? Now nine times out of 10, you’re doing the same as all the other MSPs. You’ve got very similar technology stack. You’re doing the same kind of things, offering the same kind of services in the same kind of way. It’s all samey, samey, samey, samey. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I’m not suggesting in any way that you go and do things completely differently for the sake of it. That is not the goal.

Paul Green:
What I am suggesting is that you position your MSP differently, because you’ve got to remember the people that you’re trying to reach, the ordinary business owners and managers, they do not think like you. They do not understand technology like you. They do not embrace it. They do not absorb themselves in it. They’re not thinking of technology from the second they wake up till the second they drift off at night. Technology for them is just a conduit. It’s something, if you like, a necessary evil that they have to put up with in order to get the business outcomes they want.

Paul Green:
So they are not picking you based on your technology, your partnerships, your accreditations, your qualifications. They are picking you based on you. They are picking you based on the people. And the marketing message that you put out there should be based around you and the people within your business. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Good marketing is actually about the prospect. The challenge here is to talk about you and your people in the context that appeals to prospects, because they don’t really care about you, not in any level of detail until the point they’re actually seriously thinking of entering a partnership with you, of giving you money. But it’s the only real differentiator you’ve got is you, you and your people.

Paul Green:
On your website, I’d love to see lots of pictures of you and your team. I’d love to see stories, stories told about you, preferably by your clients. In fact, those stories work best as testimonials, as forms of social proof, perhaps even some case studies. You’ve got to be able to encapsulate what’s the thing that makes you different from all of your competitors. And can you capture that in a headline? Is it that a certain number of companies trust you? Maybe it’s the number of people that trust you? 1058 people trust us to keep their business running every day. In fact what’s better is 1058 town name or vertical name or niche name, niche name, people trust us to keep their business running every day.

Paul Green:
That’s about people. That’s not about technology at all. Maybe that within your business, you’ve got 132 years of combined experience in technology. Now that in itself is just a dry fact, but how can you make that more interesting and turn it into something that’s really, really going to resonate with people? People buy from people. So you’ve got to look at it from their point of view and ask, how do their people connect with your people? What are their problems? What are their needs? What are their wants? How can you solve those problems, satiate those needs and give them what they want? How is it that you’re the only business in town that can do this?

Paul Green:
Because you and I know there are lots of MSPs, but they don’t need to know that. In fact, what we want is for them to see that there are lots of MSPs and then there’s you, and there’s only you. We call this category marketing, where you create a new category. The category you’re in is IT service provider within your great big overall area. That’s too big a category, you’re competing against dozens of people. So create a smaller category. This is why having a vertical or a niche is often a very good thing because you create a smaller category. What are the benefits that people get from using you? What do other clients say about you? Back to social proof again. Show me what they say. Give me an abundance of social proof. Give me more case studies and testimonials and independent reviews that I could possibly ever read. In fact, do that in video form as well. That would be absolutely perfect.

Paul Green:
And if you really want to top this off, you would put a guarantee on this as well. That guarantee would tell people that you are so safe, that in fact, if they are not delighted with the experience with you, then you will do everything in your power to put that right. In fact, I’ve got some of my MSP Marketing Edge members, now offer a guarantee saying that if at any point you’re not delighted with the service, they will refund up to six months of fees paid. Now that is a very brave and outrageous guarantee. And you know what? In 20, 30 years, they may have one client claiming on that and it will be worth that one client claiming it for all the new clients that they’ve won, that didn’t claim on it. A guarantee like that absolutely makes you feel safe, safe, safe, safe, especially when it’s backed up by all of the social proof.

Paul Green:
So there’s a lot there. And the job for you on your one-page marketing plan is to try to drill all of that down to a couple of simple messages. Look, if you want some help doing this, because this is really hard stuff to do on your own. I struggle to do this and marketing is my full-time life. It’s not your full-time life. Technology is. Marketing is just something that you have to do in order to get new clients for your MSP. There is some help for you. We have a Facebook group. It’s open to any MSP at all to talk about your marketing. So it is vendor-free zone. There’s no selling that goes on in there. It’s just to talk about marketing with like-minded MSPs.

Paul Green:
So go into your Facebook app, go to the search bar, type in MSP Marketing and go to groups. You might see my pretty little face up at the top. If you tap on my face and apply to join. We ask you just a couple of questions to check that you are an MSP and not a vendor. And once you’re in there, I will be delighted to see you. In fact, I’ll say hello to you. And it would be great to answer your questions. In fact, not just on this, but anything that we’ve discussed here on the podcast. That Facebook group is a great accompanying resource to help you get more marketing done in your MSP.

Paul Green:
So next week then, we’re going to finish off this one-page marketing plan. We’re going to look at which are the best marketing mediums for you to use within your business.

Voiceover:
Paul’s Blatant Plug.

Paul Green:
That Facebook group isn’t the only help I’ve got for you. I’ve got a book for you as well. It’s a physical book called Updating Servers Doesn’t Grow Your Business. It’s completely free. And I’ll just flick to a page at random. I’m on page 29. And actually it’s what I was talking about right at the beginning of the podcast. It’s that Gallup survey. According to what I wrote in this book a few years ago, they’ve been doing it for more than 20 years. They’ve surveyed more than 25 million employees in 189 different countries, which is pretty good, isn’t it? So, that’s on page 29. So this is a physical book. I’m just going to slap it against my desk. That’s got a good spine on it. I’ve always thought I should keep a copy handy in case I ever get burgled and I’m attacked and I have to hit someone. Listen to the spine. Sounds very loud, doesn’t it?

Paul Green:
But the reason you’d have this book, isn’t just to protect yourself against being attacked. It’s the quick guide to improving the marketing in your MSP. And we will physically post a copy to you totally free, if you live in the UK or the US, because that’s where we have thousands of copies sat in warehouses, just waiting to be posted out to you. There’s no postage cost. You don’t have to enter a credit card. It’s not one of those things where I’m trying to get your credit card number and then sell you something on the next page. What I’m actually trying to do is start a relationship with you because if we can engage with a book, maybe you’ll join my Facebook group. You’re already listening to the podcast. Maybe you’ll go on and buy something from me at some point. Or maybe you won’t. It doesn’t really matter either way. It’s just great to have that relationship started. So to get a free copy, you’ve just got to go onto my website, paulgreensmspmarketing.com.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Nicholas Ashford:
Hi, I’m Nicholas Ashford. I’m a partner at Fordhouse, which is an investment firm. And we’ve invested into Zenzero, the UK MSP very recently.

Rob Hamilton:
My name’s Rob Hamilton. I was Founder and CEO of Dynamic Edge, initially a Scottish-based MSP that we grew over 13 years. I exited the business in October 2020 to Zenzero, who acquired the entire share capital of the business. Since then, I’ve been sitting with my feet up.

Paul Green:
I bet you haven’t, Rob, at all. We’re going to explore in a second exactly what you’ve been doing with your time. Now, thank you both for coming on the show. We were introduced, Nicholas, through Zenzero, which was an MSP that I did some work with quite a few years ago now. And it was wonderful to meet you and to hear how you’ve been investing into Zenzero and really helping that business to grow and also do some acquisitions. So Nicholas, we’re going to talk to you in the second half of the interview about acquisitions and I know you’ve got some great advice for MSP owners who are looking to exit their business this year or next year or the year after. Rob, let’s start with you. I want to explore your journey because it’s always fascinating hearing the journey of a business owner, of someone who has done something that we’re all trying to do. Tell us when you got started with your MSP.

Rob Hamilton:
Back in 2008, when the then CEO of Microsoft announced they were investing nine billion globally in this thing called cloud, I kind of thought, yeah, this could be big. I was with an MSP at the time, but I went to their MD and said, I think this is going to be the next big thing and I’d like to really push our business forward. I was probably told that we did cabling and networking only, that this cloud thing won’t take off. So that kind spurred me to make the decision to go and do it alone. So it was a complete startup. I didn’t take any clients with me. It was a bit like, go out there and build your own base. That was back in 2009 when I kicked off. And in 2010, we were acknowledged by Microsoft as their first partner in the UK to strategically lead with cloud technologies, which to this day I’m especially proud of.

Paul Green:
That’s a hell of an achievement to achieve that in just one year. What did you do to get started? Because so many people start their own business and they win a few clients or just through the sheer power and energy of getting going with it, but then very quickly they reach that point where they’re too busy doing the work to go out and win new work. So Rob, what did you do to grow the business so quickly?

Rob Hamilton:
Initially it was myself and my then business partner. We were out doing the graft effectively, doing the income generation side of things. And I was doing the business development. One thing, and Nick’s known me for almost two years now, I can sell and I’m confident I can sell anything to be fair. So I knew that was something that I had in the backpack. So I structured the business so I was billable for three days a week initially, because I knew on that basis I could get by and survive, but the additional two days was back-to-back meetings with new prospects and really pushing that forward.

Rob Hamilton:
We had some really great early wins that we were lucky to get. So visionaries that were on the same hymn sheet as me and they saw cloud as being the way forward for their business, invested in us to put them on the cloud and to support them going forward, which was really fortunate and it gave us an income stream that was out with the kind of forecast I’d expected, which allowed me to start to go and get our first, second, third employee and grow it from that point in. I’d always bow to those that I employ to work smarter than me and passed on duties to them. And I’ve done that to this day going forward. So, that’s kind of where it started effectively, a couple lucky early wins and then the ball started rolling.

Paul Green:
Was the goal always to build something big that was independent of you?

Rob Hamilton:
It wasn’t initially. I mean, as with any small business, I think your main target is hitting that one million revenue part. And then when you get there, you decide then what we’re doing next. And in our case, it was to hit the three million. Over probably the last, I mean six years ago, my business partner, Stuart Winterburn, who’s still the Managing Director of Dynamic Edge, at that point I was MD and I thought, no, this guy, I trust him implicitly. And I made a decision on a whim effectively to say, right, I’m giving you this job title. I’m going to become the CEO and kind of pull myself away from the day-to-day operational side.

Rob Hamilton:
And that was six years ago. And that was a great decision I made to do at that time. And he did a great job. It’s key things like that. And then getting a technical director on two years ago, that was far superior to anyone we had in the business in terms of experience. So it’s passing away control and I don’t have any problem with that to the right people, the trusted people. And that’s always something I’ve done over the years. Yep.

Paul Green:
Now, I sold a business back in 2016. That was my first business. It was a marketing business. And if I look back to what made me want to sell it, because it’s a very emotional decision to decide to exit a business. It wasn’t one of those things where I woke up one morning and that’s it, it was done. I think it was a bit of a gradual realisation over time that the business was finished. What I mean by finished was it could survive, in fact, thrive without me. And also that I was bored and for me to get onto the next level. And we were only doing a million, it wasn’t a massive business, but for me to get onto the next level, it would require re-engineering the business because of the way that we ran that marketing business. For you, Rob, was it a sudden realisation or was it something that you were working towards over a period of time?

Rob Hamilton:
It was something I’d always entertained and being in the field I’m in, you regularly get approaches and people work up a chat with you. I met with Nick and Freddie from Fordhouse initially, keep me right here, Nick, I think it was April 2020, which was really enlightening and kind of doing the groundwork in Fordhouse and what they’re about, where they’ve come from and acquisitions they’d made to date at that point. It really interested me. But looking at it in paper, I didn’t think our business would give the value that I perceived it could do if I stuck with it and we really grew over the next two or three years. But the whole COVID situation taught us a lot in terms of how we could get rid of expensive offices and move to serviced office accommodation, and really make the business sharper, more profitable and so forth. So that was the point I decided, all right, let’s be serious about this. Let’s see where we can go from there.

Paul Green:
So Nicholas, let’s bring you into this. Just tell us a little bit more about your background. So do you have a tech background or are you here to put together a super MSP for want of a better phrase?

Nicholas Ashford:
Yeah. In terms of my background, I’ve always had a residual interest for technology. I was one of those, I used to kind of build a computer yourself when you’re at school and that kind of thing. But then I kind of progressed in my career, managing consultant, spent some time with Capgemini as well, which is obviously quite tech focused. And then I’ve been the owner of a SME myself and a managing director and done the acquisition trail there. So I understand what it’s like to be in the thick of it doing it.

Paul Green:
Yeah. That makes perfect sense. I’ve never built a computer by the way. In fact, if I even tried to build a computer, there would be fire, electrical discharges, there would be death and destruction. It would be absolutely horrendous. Now without making-

Nicholas Ashford:
To be fair, I think if I tried to do that today, it would also be the same.

Paul Green:
Yes. Yes. Do you know what? I suspect that Rob would actually say the same thing, because I’m sure you’ve been hands off tech for some time, Rob. As I was saying to you just before the podcast interview, you do know it’s Windows 11 these days, don’t you? Nick, without making Rob blush, what was it that made Dynamic Edge a really good fit for what you’re trying to do with Zenzero and the companies that you’re building up?

Nicholas Ashford:
There are lots of people in the market consolidating MSPs and there’s broadly two ways of doing it. One way is kind of what we call the bag of bits where you just go and try and bring anything into the business and just grow quite quickly, but you end up with kind of just a bag of bit and ultimately you have to sort that out at the end. But you can do that quite fast if you are indiscriminate. And then there’s another way where you’re a lot more considered and take your time and you kind of specifically look for things that are a right fit. It is a slower and you spend more time kind of figuring out the right partners, but that’s our approach and it’s Zenzero’s approach and very much kind of when we met, when Rob ran Dynamic Edge.

Nicholas Ashford:
There’s a couple of things. And again, yeah, not to make you blush, like you said, but actually particularly with owner manager or owner-led businesses, the person at the top will have a disproportionate influence on the rest of the business versus a larger corporate. So weirdly enough as a proxy, if you meet someone and that feels right and everything they say kind of matches up and who they are shines through, that is actually a really big indicator. And then on the other side, when Rob took us through the business and obviously these signs, such as Rob has talked before about being in the cloud really, really early, not having a load of technical debt, those things showed it was a progressive forward-looking company.

Nicholas Ashford:
And I think Rob’s decision, which he alluded to earlier, to bring Stuart in, to be the MD, and then Rob sitting as CEO meant he had done all that groundwork to actually not be involved in the day-to-day grind of that business. And that gives a huge amount of confidence. You then know there is a management level and structure that becomes very attractive from that point of view and the team are fantastic. And that’s been born out. You don’t get to interview sad. You don’t get to interview everyone as part of an acquisition process. So there is a element of gut feel and trust in the team. And that’s been paid back in spades.

Paul Green:
But you’re still buying people. So as much as you’re buying a company with processes and structure and contracts and clients, you’re also buying the people. And in fact, it’s just refreshing to see Rob and yourself on the same call, bearing in mind it’s been some time, Rob, since you sold the business. You don’t have to do something like this. And I think that shows actually the relationship that you’ve got with Nicholas and his team and that what they’ve done with your business has clearly been the complete opposite of leaving you sad or distressed that you sold your business. So many people sell their businesses and regret it afterwards, or feel that the new owners haven’t looked after it.

Rob Hamilton:
I mean, I still speak to Stuart probably every couple of days and he’ll come to me for some advice, whatever, I will do that as long as I’m around. But the embarrassing thing is the performance since I left has been better than it was when I was part of the business.

Paul Green:
And you’ve just committed that to tape as well. That’s in the permanent record now, that one is.

Rob Hamilton:
Yeah.

Nicholas Ashford:
But I think your point about people is completely right. We look at it simply, if you look after people and you look after the clients, the rest actually will look after itself. When I went through the acquisition process myself as an SME owner, perhaps initially I didn’t, in fact, absolutely initially I didn’t look at people enough as people, and there was a tendency to go, oh, it’s a number on a page. And actually the people, the culture, those things are so important. It’s the iceberg below the surface. And that’s the stuff that actually really, really matters. Even on the surface of it, it doesn’t necessarily look like that and no one talks about it.

Paul Green:
Okay. Thank you. Final question for you, Nicholas, which is for an MSP listening to this podcast who is thinking, hey, maybe this is the year or maybe early next year. What are the kind of areas that they should be focusing on to make their business look as attractive as possible to potential acquirers?

Nicholas Ashford:
Yeah. I think obviously, having a decent revenue line and a decent profit line is important, but that’s obvious. I think going further into that is, what is the components of that revenue? Oh, you’re shifting a load of hardware, you’re shifting a load of tin, and that’s 50% of sales. That’s not that interesting. But if you have higher recurring revenue, then that is interesting. So you don’t have to fight for each month. An acquirer can have a certainty that revenue will be there six months after they bought the business. If it’s just a load of Microsoft licensing, okay, that’s recurring revenue, but it’s commoditised. And actually that’s not differentiated. If you’re doing some dynamics work or power platform with clients that are every month spending on that, as they build out their tooling of their systems, that is really sticky recurring revenue. And that is super interesting. My advice would be bring up that recurring revenue number and focus on things that are truly value added, not commodities.

Paul Green:
Yeah. That makes perfect sense. Nicholas, tell us a little bit more about your acquisition plans and how can an MSP get in touch with you if they want to have an initial confidential conversation.

Nicholas Ashford:
We’re on a journey with Zenzero to build the leading MSP for SMEs in the UK. It’s a multiyear journey and I’m very lucky to speak to MSP owners that just want to have a chat because they want to understand what their business might be good to do. And other ones that are like, I want to go and play golf in the Agave in the next two weeks, what can we do there? It’s a full range. I’m just happy to have a chat. And sometimes it’s a multiyear process. And sometimes it’s a lot shorter depending where people are. In terms of getting in contact with us, fordhouse.team is the website. My email address is njsa@fordhouse.team. Or otherwise via zenzero.co.uk, the MSP as well.

Paul Green:
Thank you so much to my guest this week in the ‘big interview’, but we had so much more to talk about and you can hear and SEE the longer extended interview right now on my YouTube channel, just go to YouTube.com/mspmarketing

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast. This week’s recommended book.

Kevin Lancaster:
Hey there, Paul. Kevin Lancaster, CEO of Channel Program. The book I recently finished is called The Innovation Stack by Jim McKelvey. He’s one of the Co-Founders of Stripe along with Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame. It’s a quick read, but it’s super thought provoking, certainly around the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. He dissects how innovation and stagnant industries can lead to massive disruption, gets into how timing in a few sleepless nights helped Stripe revolutionise a stodgy, almost impenetrable industry. What’s great about this book is it’s not prescriptive. It’s more thought provoking than anything. So definitely check it out and enjoy.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

Mark Firth:
Hello there, Mark Firth here. I am a LinkedIn expert, but not in messages. Next week, we’re going to show you how to eliminate the need for those horrible chasing LinkedIn messages and replace them with LinkedIn advertising.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to be talking about the marketing advantage of having a dispatcher. What’s a dispatcher? It’s someone who sits on your service desk, kind of taking all the work that comes in, triaging it, and I’ll explain exactly what that is next week, and then dispatching it out to be done. It’s a very efficient way of not only getting more technical stuff done, getting more tickets finished, but also it’s a great way to communicate with your clients. I believe it has a massive marketing advantage. And we’ll talk about that next week. We’re also going to finish off a five-part series that we’ve been doing about creating a one-page marketing plan. It’s the fifth and final part next week, talking about the mediums, the different channels that you should be using to reach people and market your MSP.

Paul Green:
So don’t forget to head over to YouTube. If you go to youtube.com/mspmarketing, you can find the extended interview from today, that’s on there right now, and on Thursday you’ll be able to watch the show about the show, it’s called Another Byte, hosted by my friend Sophie Law, she’ll be interviewing me about this week’s episode. You can see that from Thursday at youtube.com/mspmarketing – please do subscribe wherever you are listening. Subscribe on your podcast platform and subscribe to us on YouTube as well. It helps us to reach more MSPs and I’ll be eternally grateful for you doing that. Join me here on the podcast next Tuesday, and have a very profitable week in your MSP.

Voiceover:
Made in the UK for MSPs around the world, Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

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