Episode 136: How to find a phone person for your MSP

Episode 136: How to find a phone person for your MSP

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Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 136: How to find a phone person for your MSP
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Episode 136 includes:

  • Why every MSP needs a phone person, and the best way to recruit yours
  • 3 rules to maximise your personal time
  • Plus on the show this week, what it really means to be a serial entrepreneur

Featured guest

Al Alper is a featured guest on the MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Al Alper from CyberGuard360 for joining Paul to talk about the new ways to sell cyber security and what it means to be a serial entrepreneur.

Al Alper is Founder and CEO of Absolute Logic, Inc. and CyberGuard360. He is a serial entrepreneur, having founded several successful companies where he saw exits through acquisitions by companies such as CIT. Absolute Logic and CyberGuard360 are his 5th and 6th ventures. Al lives in Wilton, CT with his wife, Janice, where they raised three children, Kaitlin, AJ and Alexandra. In his spare time, he volunteers on several local community Boards and Commissions, and many non-profits. He enjoys a myriad of sports including skiing, windsurfing, boating, racquetball and more. 

Connect with Al on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alperal

Show notes

Episode transcription

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

Paul Green:
Hello, my friend. And welcome to episode 136 of the show. Here’s what we got coming up for you this week.

Al Alper:
A business as a serial entrepreneur is your mistress and you never leave it. I see a hole in some space and I feel compelled to fill it.

Paul Green:
That’s Al Alper from CyberGuard360. He’ll be here later in the show to talk about his journey as an MSP owner and why he started his own cyber security vendor. We’re also going to be talking about your personal time. It’s the most finite resource that you have and far too many of us waste our personal time on things that really don’t matter. I’ve got for you this week, three rules to maximise out your personal time.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
One of my beliefs about every MSP’s marketing setup is that you must, must, must have a phone person. Now, what does a phone person do? Well, it’s kind of obvious, really. They make phone calls for you or to be more specific, they make outbound phone calls to your leads and to your prospects. Essentially, they are working your network for you. They’re working your marketing funnel for you so that you personally, as the business owner, don’t have to do this, because it’s not fun work. I don’t know that many business owners in general, never mind just MSPs, who enjoy picking up the phone again and again, and again, and yet there is a real value in picking up that phone. You can go back in this podcast and listen to a number of guests we’ve had who make their living making phone calls or their business makes phone calls on behalf of MSPs.

Paul Green:
And the wonderful thing about having a phone person making those constant outbound phone calls is that you seem to get lucky with your timing more often. Because a core marketing problem that most MSPs have is that people only buy when they’re ready to buy. But you don’t know when that moment is. So by making lots of outbound phone calls, 20, 30, 40, 50 a day, the chances of you stumbling across someone who is ready to buy, well, that just goes up dramatically. Huge amounts in fact. There’s a core three step strategy I recommend to all MSPs. Step one is to build multiple audiences of people to listen to you. Step two is to build a relationship with those audiences and you do that through content marketing. And then step three is to commercialise that relationship. You’ve got to get the right message in front of the right person at exactly the right moment.

Paul Green:
And your phone person is your secret weapon in doing that. So every MSP should have someone, but what kind of person do you use? Should you hire an agency for example? Well, there are some good agencies around. But I’ll be honest, there are more bad agencies than there are good agencies. It’s very, very hard to get it right when you hire an agency. And of course it’s going to cost you a lot more money, because you are paying for someone to manage your phone person for you. And of course they need to make some profits on top of that. They’ll have higher overheads than you would if you just hired your own person. Should you perhaps hire a telemarketing professional? Someone who’s been doing it for some time? The problem with telemarketing professionals is they may have learned some really bad habits over the years, which they’re going to bring into your business.

Paul Green:
It depends where they’ve learned to be a telemarketing professional. If it was in some kind of boiler room where they have to pick up the phone near 100 times an hour or they get fired. The kind of, these places do exist where they have to put their hand up to go to the toilet. It’s insane. These are normally the ones with the robo dialers, so they disconnect a call and the robo dialer tries a number of people until it connects someone else and then connects through. You know when you’ve been robo dialed, don’t you? Because you pick up the phone and there’s a slight pause before you’re connected to a human. If they’ve learned telemarketing in that environment, you don’t want that person, you really don’t. Because what we are talking about here, when we’re talking about a phone person, is not really selling.

Paul Green:
That’s why I’m not calling this telesales. I’m even vaguely uncomfortable about calling it telemarketing. That’s why I prefer the term, it’s just a telephone person. What we’re talking about here is someone phoning people on your behalf so that you don’t have to do it, because you’ve got many other more valuable things that you need to be doing with your time. They’re phoning on your behalf and they’re just asking some open questions. They’re trying to find out if this is indeed a good time to talk or whether or not we need to call back in three, six, nine months, maybe further in the future. So I believe the best person to hire is your own person. And I genuinely believe the best kind of person for this is a back to work parent. Obviously someone who is comfortable on the phone, you want a back to work parent whose ideal job is literally sitting on the phone for hours and hours, and hours.

Paul Green:
It’s your idea of hell. It’s my idea of hell. But if they want to do that, that’s great. And actually if they can make money just sitting phoning other people, not even trying to sell them something, just asking them questions with the outcome being to book a 15 minute call with you if and when they find someone at the right point. Hell, if there’s someone who wants to do that, go and find them. If they’re a back to work parent, that’s great. Because you know what? You’ll get as much outcome from them in the five to six hours a day that they can work as you would from a full-time person. I really believe that. I love hiring back to work parents, because you can get really highly trained people with a very positive attitude who will cram in eight to nine hours worth of work in six hours a day.

Paul Green:
And they will love it, because someone has trusted them to return to the workplace. So where do you find this person? Where do you find your back to work parent? Well, I would avoid job boards. I wouldn’t put job adverts out there, because these kind of entry level jobs, and let’s be honest, this is a lower paid entry level job. Although you will get a better type of person and a better quality of person if you pay more. These kind of entry level jobs can attract very inappropriate applicants. If you’ve ever put something on a job board, particularly a job board where they can press a button and just apply for a job at the push of a button, you get hundreds and hundreds of very low level people applying. They clearly haven’t read the advert. Some of them aren’t even in your country. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Paul Green:
And that’s why I think job boards are to be avoided. A better place to post is on social media. And I don’t necessarily mean on your MSP’s Facebook page or Twitter account. But what about if you were to leverage the social networks of the people who work with you? What if you and your team all posted on your personal social media networks that you were looking for someone? You could either link to a job on your website or you could just say, hey, we’re looking for someone to make outbound phone calls. There’s no selling involved, it’s appointment setting, flexible hours, work from home, perfect for a back to work parent. Is this you? Do you know someone? Is there a friend of a friend that we should be talking to? And then you give them the contact details. Now that would be great coming out on your own team’s personal social media accounts, because you’re much more likely to reach real people.

Paul Green:
You almost want to reach the people who aren’t quite ready to go looking for a job yet. And the fact that something’s come up and it’s a friend of a friend, of a friend, makes them think, ooh, this is a good opportunity. I’m going to make the most of this. I’m going to go for this. Maybe that would be a better way to find really authentic candidates. You can also of course advertise it on social media platforms directly. Facebook has a huge jobs offering. It’s a very effective way of reaching people. But again, you’ve just got to be careful of the very low level applications, especially on Facebook, where much of it can be automated. If they can tap a button, then they’re going to waste your time. Now the initial interviews, when you do those, I would do them on the phone. In fact, I would try very hard not to see what this person looks like or anything like that until you’ve spoken to them on the phone.

Paul Green:
Why? Because that’s their principle communication tool. They are here to speak on the phone on your behalf. So your initial interview should be on the phone. Have a chat with them, see how engaging they are. If you are bored talking to them after five minutes, guess what? They’re not going to be very good performers when it comes to generating you more leads. And then of course, if you like that initial phone call interview, you could set up a video interview or even a face-to-face interview down the line. But I truly think that first phone interview is the most important thing.

Paul Green:
How they stand on the phone and their ability to perform and communicate well on the phone is really important. It’s really hard you know, communicating just over audio. And I say this to you as I’m communicating to you over audio, but I’ve had a number of years of experience of doing radio. So I do things like play with my voice and do different intonation. And we’ve got the privilege of production where producer James, say hello.

James:
Hello.

Paul Green:
Producer James will do amazing production things and make me sound sexy by doing, this is my voice. And then make me not sound so sexy by doing, this is my voice. Thanks. You can stop that now. But you get the idea. We can do all of this in audio and it’s completely controlled. They can’t do all of that on the phone and their ability to communicate by audio alone, it’s a rare skill. It really is. So if you can find that person that engages you in that first phone call, go for that person. Don’t overthink it. Oh, by the way, when you do set up that initial phone interview, get them to phone you. So you agree the time and you get them to phone you. And that is a test to see if they do indeed ring at the time that they’re supposed to.

Paul Green:
A phone person is a much needed and valuable part of your overall marketing strategy. Even if you just get someone for two to three hours a day, you’ve got to get them into your MSP. It’s the only way to really work your funnel, work your network and find out the exact moment that some of your future prospects are going to be ready to buy.

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

Paul Green:
You’ve got three resources available to you, time, energy and money. Two of those are finite. They run out eventually. One of them is infinite. Which one of those three resources do you think is infinite? Is it time? Is it energy? Or is it money? We’ll just play some elevator music for a second while you decide. The answer is that time and energy are finite. Your energy’s finite, of course. I mean, I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 47. And if I get to the end of the day and I’m trying to record this podcast, yeah. It’s not going to happen.

Paul Green:
Just haven’t got the personal energy for it. I tend to have to record in the mornings or at lunch times, maybe early afternoons at a push, because that’s where my energy levels are highest. That was not the case 20 years ago. 20 years ago I could do anything pretty much for about 18, 19 hours of the day. As we get older, our energy levels get lower. Goodness knows what it’s going to be like when we’re all 70. Anyway, energy is a finite resource, so of course is time, which is what I want to talk about today. Time is a finite resource.

Paul Green:
There’s a certain amount of it. And when it’s run out, it’s run out. This doesn’t mean by the way that money is the infinite resource. There is more than enough money in the world. It’s just you don’t have enough of it yet. Anyway, back to time. You’ve probably heard it said before that you have the exact same amount of time as everyone else, including someone such as Elon Musk. It’s just that Elon Musk achieves more with his time than perhaps you do with your time. So Elon’s not lucky enough to have more time than you. I mean, okay, he probably spends more of it working than you do, but there’s still the finite pot of time for Elon. Even he needs to stop and sleep at some point. What’s Elon doing with his time that you are not doing with your time? Well, I’ve got here three very, very basic, but smart productivity rules, all about your time. And it’s to help you maximise that most precious of resource, your own personal time.

Paul Green:
Rule number one is to stop personally doing anything that’s reactive. What do we mean by reactive work? Well, unfortunately we mean a great deal of the support work that your business is involved in doing. Isn’t that part of what you do, reacting to other people’s problems and fixing those problems? Of course your business has to keep doing reactive work, because that’s one of the things that the clients pay you for. But actually, why do you personally have to be involved in that? You should only be involved in the major, major snafus which come along and completely clog up everything with an unexpected breakdown that most of your team can’t fix. But that should be like a once a year, once every couple of years occasion. If you get dragged into doing any kind of reactive work at all on a regular basis, then that is a fail.

Paul Green:
And the answer to that is identifying what that reactive work is. In fact, you could do a ticket review every week and look at your own personal involvement in tickets and say, why did I get involved in that? How did that go so wrong that I was dragged into that? And then you can put in place improved systems, so it doesn’t have to be you anymore. So a member of your team can pick that up. And of course, if you don’t yet have a team that can pick that up, there’s your goal, there’s something to work towards, is hiring in a team to free you up from reactive work. And actually, thinking about it. It’s not just reactive support work that you need to free yourself from. It’s all reactive work. What’s happening in the business that you need to react to or something will fall over somewhere?

Paul Green:
Now, not by any means saying that my business is perfect, because it’s not. There’s no such thing as the perfect business. But knowing what I know about this stuff I’m talking about here, I’ve worked very hard over a number of years to remove the crises, to remove the reactive nature of things that immediately demand your attention. It’s a very rare day for me to have a day planned and not be able to actually go ahead and implement what I’ve got planned in my day. Sure, I have project meetings and we have things that go wrong and stuff that needs to be jumped on.

Paul Green:
But we’ve more or less as a business removed the urgency, the crises, the problems. And when we do have issues and things to deal with, they’re actually dealt with in a planned and proactive way. And yes, yes, yes. I appreciate, we are not running a tech support firm. But you know what? If I had an MSP, I would do it exactly the same way. I would have systems and structures in place so that whatever problems came up, whatever routine problems clients threw at us, we would have a system in place to deal with it without me, the owner, needing to be heavily involved or indeed involved at all.

Paul Green:
Rule number two then, to decrease the amount of personal time that you must invest in the business. And this rule is to outsource anything that anyone can do equally as well as you or even better. There’s a certain power in tracking what you do with your time. Just for a couple of weeks, go and get yourself a time tracking app. I used to like one called Time Miller, which had a physical dice. Fell out in love with that a few months ago. I’m now using something called Clockify. There’s loads of different things that you can use. Go and find a time tracking app that you enjoy. And just humour me, just for a couple of weeks, track your time. And I don’t mean how long you’re spending on stuff. I want to know specifically, what are you doing?

Paul Green:
And how long are you spending on it? Are you, for example, doing things within the business that someone else could do on your behalf. Most of the admin you are doing, certainly most of the bookkeeping, maybe some of the lower end technical tasks and definitely much of your marketing, you can outsource to someone else. And when I say outsource, I don’t mean outsource responsibility. I mean, outsource someone else spending their time on it so you personally don’t have to spend your time on it. Let’s take marketing for example. If you were to do weekly marketing, putting out content on social media and sending out regular educational emails, you might want the overview of what’s going out. But why would you have to write them when there are services out there, like my own, the MSP Marketing Edge that writes all of this stuff for you?

Paul Green:
And then you could just glance at it once a week and say, yep, I like that. Get that out and get a virtual assistant, an outsourced virtual assistant to actually post that content and load that email content for you. Why would you do that stuff yourself when someone else can do it for you? And you can apply that to the entire business. Remember that role again, outsource anything that anyone can do as equally as you or better than you. My experience is that most people that you outsource jobs to will do a better job than you. Either because it’s their speciality or because when they’re doing that job for you, that’s the only thing they’re doing. Whereas when you are doing that job, you are thinking of the 20 other jobs that you should be doing that you haven’t got onto yet. And then we get onto rule number three, which is about repetitive tasks.

Paul Green:
All repetitive tasks should be as automated as possible. And this is probably one of those areas where now your ears are pricking up and you’re thinking, hello, automation, bring it on. Great. Get on that, seriously get on that. Take your PSA, take whatever other systems you are using, automate everything, because I know many MSPs are really good at automating away repetitive tasks. I also know there are other MSPs who overthink it a little bit too much, worry too much about it. Do you know what? Just do it. Don’t overthink it. If you need to use a service like Zapier. So be it. If you need to find a programmer who can play with your APIs for you. So be it. However it gets it done, get it done. Remembering of course that the answer to automating is probably not you yourself automating it. It’s just one of those things that could be outsourced, because someone else could probably do a better job on it than you could.

Paul Green:
Even if you’re a programming whizz, every little job that sits on your desk that has to be done by you personally, it’s another little job that just sits there and doesn’t get done and doesn’t get done, and gets put off. And we all know that that’s an incredibly frustrating thing, not just for you, but for your staff as well. There’s a trend in this little bit here, which is for you to do less. There is a myth that as the business owner, you should be working harder and harder, and harder. Don’t get me wrong, hard work, dedication, of course, you need those things. I’ve never, ever seen or met a successful person who didn’t work hard, but the most successful people, and this is a cliche, but it’s so true, they work smart hard. Elon Musk works really, really hard, but he works smart hard.

Paul Green:
He delegates loads of stuff. He outsources loads of stuff. Well, we know he’s automated much as he can. If you just go and watch the video of the drone flying through the new Tesla Gigafactory in Berlin, Germany, it’s awesome. I’m sure they lost a few drones while they were filming that. Who’d fly a drone through the middle of a machine that’s squashing bits of metal together? Anyway, Elon Musk achieved so much more because he works smart hard. How could you work smart hard in your MSP?

Voiceover:
Paul’s blatant plug.

Paul Green:
Sticking to the same theme of getting more done with you personally having to do less of it yourself. My book called Updating Servers Doesn’t Grow Your Business. Well, the whole second half of this book is dedicated to getting a better work life balance. So the first half is about powerful sales and marketing. And then the second half is about the three types of staff that you can hire. It’s about creating a consistent experience for your clients, whether you are personally there at the business or not.

Paul Green:
It’s about why you need to take more holidays, planning early for a profitable exit and something called the will to act, which is the thing you need to drive progress within the business. Now, if you don’t have a copy of this book yet, the good news is, it won’t cost you a single penny to get your hands on it. We don’t ask for postage. This isn’t one of those things where we say, hey, put in your credit card and then we try and sell you something out. There’s no upsell, down sale, back sale, forward sale. I don’t know what those sales are. There’s no selling at all. It’s literally a free book and it’s a physical book which we send to you. Why? Because I want to start a working relationship with you.

Paul Green:
Maybe down the line, you’ll go on and become a member of my MSP Marketing Edge service, maybe you won’t. It doesn’t really matter. Either way, I’m happy to put a copy of my book in your hands. Now, the physical printed copies are only available to people in the UK and in the US, because that’s where we have physical printed copies. Everywhere else, we will just send you a PDF. And you can get your free copy. Just go to paulgreensmspmarketing.com. That’s paulgreensmsppmarketing.com, and in the navigation click where it says, free book.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Al Alper:
Hello, my name is Al Alper. I am CEO of an MSP named Absolute Logic here in the Northeast part of the United States and also CEO of CyberGuard360 a channel company providing cybersecurity platform services.

Paul Green:
And thank you very much to, a mutual connection that we have is a member of mine and a friend, Mark, and I know he is a very, very good friend of yours who put us together and said, “You two need to speak.” And it’s been, it’s taken some time, hasn’t it? Because you are busy and I’m busy, but it’s great to actually get you onto the podcast Al. Now, there are two things that I want to talk to you about. Later on we’re going to talk about your cyber security and your compliance business, which of course is CyberGuard360. We’ll talk about that. How you came to start that and some of the interesting business challenges you’ve had with that. Let’s first of all talk about your MSP, because you are at your heart and MSP owner. So tell us how you got started with your MSP in the first place.

Al Alper:
Oh, that’s a great question. I took an unusual path to being in MSP and like all good businesses or really all good stories, they begin with a woman. But when I say that I took the unusual path, I mean that most MSPs tend to be accidental business owners. They’re very good at applying their trade and they help somebody out, and that person tells a friend how great they are at helping them with their IT. And then that friend starts using them. And then those two people tell two people and tell two people and so on and so on. And before you know it, they’re owning an IT business. I was actually much more intentional about my IT service business. I actually went to school for international finance and at the time I was, as I said every good story starts with a woman.

Al Alper:
There was a friend of mine. She was a nurse in a doctor’s office and I was working my way through school. I’ve always paid my own way. We didn’t come from a very wealthy family. And this girl that I knew, she was a nurse in a doctor’s office, as I said. I was at the time working in the computer center for the university as a way to help reduce my tuition. And that computer center was mainframe based, MVS for those who are as gray as I am, will know what I’m talking about. And she introduced me to a doctor friend because he wanted to, the doctor she worked for actually, because he wanted to automate and computerise his office. Now, this is the mid 80s. And so I had never touched a PC in my life. In fact, I had barely heard of it.

Al Alper:
And when she introduced me and I met with him, I met with him for about two hours. And at the end of that meeting, he handed me a $5,000 check. And I thought, “Oh, this is pretty easy money.” And so I went back to, I was living in Brooklyn, New York at the time. And I went back to Brooklyn and I opened the yellow pages, because we didn’t have the internet in the mid 80s. And I opened the yellow pages and I started, I looked up computer companies and I started with the A’s. And I called everybody starting at the very top and the first five that answered, and I got stuck in the As, I said, “Hi, I work for a doctor’s office and this is what we want to do. Can you give me a proposal?”

Paul Green:
Brilliant.

Al Alper:
And a few days later, three of those companies sent me proposals for automating this fictitious doctor’s office that I worked for. I took the highest proposal. I marked it up 25%. I went back to the doctor, met with him for another hour or so telling him I met with my team and he wrote me a check for another $15,000. And that’s how I got into this business.

Paul Green:
That’s awesome. What a great story. What a really great story. So you’ve had the tech company from, is it the same company from the mid 80s up till today?

Al Alper:
No, actually it’s vastly different that my, I am a serial entrepreneur. So CyberGuard360, my channel business, that is my sixth enterprise. Absolute Logic, my MSP, which started in the mid 80s really as a consultancy, and it wasn’t named Absolute back then, that more from a consultancy to more of a hardware business to, back to a consultancy. I sold that off to, I sold the majority interest in that business at the time off to a couple of my employees. And then I started up a factoring company and a few other businesses along the way. I got back into Absolute Logic in the early part of the 20 teens, 2012, 13. I bought it back from the gentleman that I had sold the majority interest to and converted what was left of the base, the consulting base that we had built originally to manage services clients.

Al Alper:
And that took about two years. And because the other businesses that I was involved in were in financial services, one was a factoring business, the other was a student loan company. Because they were financial services, I was not just the founder of those companies, I was also the CCO, the chief compliance officer. So I was very familiar, intimately familiar with compliance and security, particularly as it relates to financial service businesses. And so once we had begun to morph into an MSP, I knew at the time I wanted to stand up a compliance practice and that’s what we began to do in 2015, 16.

Paul Green:
Okay. And we’ll come back onto that in just a few moments time. I want to ask you Al, what drives you? And I’m fascinated when I talk to serial entrepreneurs, true serial entrepreneurs, such as yourself who have gone from venture to venture, to venture. Because I’ve only been in business since 2005, but I wouldn’t consider myself a serial entrepreneur. I built one business up and we changed it a load of times until we found the right way to do it and then sold it. And then I started this business and I’ve had a couple of side ventures, and I’ve done a bit of property and whatsoever. But I might have an idea every week of a new business, but I don’t act on it. And I choose not to act on it. Whereas whenever I speak to someone like yourself who has literally gone from venture to venture, to venture and you’ve probably had some failures over the years, but probably a hell of a lot more successes. What drives you to keep launching that next new initiative?

Al Alper:
Oh, that’s insanity.

Paul Green:
Perhaps you’re the wrong person I’m asking about this. Maybe I should be asking, is there a Mrs. Al that I should be asking about this?

Al Alper:
I’m quite sure she’ll say the same thing. So what drives me? I’m a problem solver. I see a gap somewhere and I feel compelled to fill it. It’s one of those things and it’s torturous to Mrs. Al, otherwise known as Janice, by the way. It’s torturous to her because I am, when you are a serial entrepreneur, this is your life financially. This is your life from a time perspective. This is your life from a commitment perspective. A business as a serial entrepreneur, a business is your mistress and you never leave it. I mean, I’m in my home office now, as you can see from my surrounds, and in all of the places that we’ve lived, I’ve always carved out space for a home office. And that’s because I love what I do.

Al Alper:
I love the enterprises I get involved in. I am passionate about trying to deliver on the promise I made to myself and the promise that I made to the vertical and the people who entrust us with their businesses and their customers to deliver on the promise we make to them. And I see a hole in some space and I feel compelled to fill it. I’ve got a Teams channel, used to be a Slack channel, we switched to Teams. I have a Teams channel called ideation, and anytime I see something missing, I just throw it up there. And once every couple of weeks I look at that list and say, all right, was that a real thought? Was that something worth going after? Should I invest a little money and do some due diligence to see if there’s an opportunity there?

Al Alper:
And at any one point in time, there might be 20 or 30 things on that board. I mean, I was just at an Aske event last week, as a matter of fact, and I was talking to a bunch of MSPs. And in the process of that discussion, two things landed on the ideation board. One of them I think is actually, could be really interesting. I’ve already tasked a couple of developers to look at how easy it would be to do. That to me is not necessarily a side business, it’s an app that will go on a smartphone and it might throw off some revenue and it might not. I just thought it was a really interesting opportunity and an interesting play for something that I couldn’t find that I would actually use. And that to me is what I mean by identifying sort of a hole in the landscape. And if I can fill it and I have the capacity and the capital, either the intellectual capital or the financial capital to fill that gap, I’m going to do it.

Paul Green:
Yeah. That makes sense. So we’re going to come back to this subject on our extended interview, which we’ll be doing on YouTube, and I’ll have some more details about that in just a few minutes. But let’s return now to CyberGuard360. So you said earlier that as you were growing your MSP and doing that transformation process, when you took over Absolute Logic again, it became really clear to you that there was an opportunity for security and compliance. So how did you end up launching CyberGuard360?

Al Alper:
Okay. You ask really good questions by the way.

Paul Green:
Thank you.

Al Alper:
So, as I said, because of my competency in the financial services and compliance space around that, and a lot of compliance, if you’ve ever been involved in any kind of a compliance audit, the lion share of a compliance on it is around systems and processes, which is a natural extension for MSP. In fact, I am quite amazed at the number of MSPs that aren’t offering compliance services today. And that’s not me pitching CyberGuard. Obviously we’d love to have them as partners, but it is a natural extension for an MSP’s business model, because it’s all about systems and processes. And to the extent that you can satisfy a compliance regulator or a law around those systems and processes, you should be offering that as a service. And so when we were standing up the MSP more robustly in the mid 20 teens, a number of the clients that we onboarded came from my relationships in financial services.

Al Alper:
And this is on or about the time, so I already knew I wanted to do something in compliance and security because I came from that world. And this is about the time that the New York State Department of Financial Services had begun promulgating the first in the US cybersecurity regulation. The formal number is 23 NYCRR 500, otherwise known as the New York State cybersecurity regulation. And it’s quite literally the first in the nation, if not one of the first codified cybersecurity regulations in the world. And this is 2016 ish, and some of our clients who were financial service associations approached us saying, hey, the department is looking to enact this regulation. They’re asking us for a response. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. Can you help us respond to this? And so I took a look at it and you don’t have to hit me with a bat to see that there’s an opportunity.

Al Alper:
And I immediately saw that we had an opportunity to build a compliance stack that satisfied the regulation 100%. And at the same time help our associations and financial service clients who would soon be obligated under that to fulfill it. And we spent about a year building the stack and part of that stack included something that I needed to build. Remember I said that I was great at identifying holes in the landscape. Well, as we built the stack and I was matching that to what was being promulgated by the department, there was a gaping hole in the vendor space. And that gaping hole needed to be filled if I was going to have the solution that I needed for our clients. And so I tasked the dev team to build the first version of what soon would become PG360. And we built that and we launched the platform and our solution on March 1st, 2017, when the law went into effect, when the regulation went into effect. By the end of 2017, we were the largest supplier of cyber security regulations under cyber security compliance services.

Al Alper:
Under that regulation in the Northeast, by the end of the first year, we were the largest in the country. And to this day, we are still the largest supplier of DFS cybersecurity compliance services in the country because of that. But in that first year, we had generated over a million dollars in brand new revenue and brought in over 100 new clients as a result of that. And all of my MSP colleagues were like, “How the heck are you doing this?” And I just showed them our stack. I said, “Here, replicate it.” And every one of them to an MSP that saw the platform said I wanted it. And I knew I had a vendor opportunity in front of me. And again-

Paul Green:
Oh, I see. So your first million dollars of new revenue was just from end clients, it wasn’t from MSPs? So you didn’t launch it as a partner program from day one?

Al Alper:
Not at all. I launched it as a solution for our MSP clients businesses.

Paul Green:
So then when your MSP friends were saying, this is a classic story, how many times have we heard this on the podcast? You build something amazing, your MSP friends say, I want that. And then you just have to do a little bit of work to make it suitable for all MSPs to use it.

Al Alper:
I would say a little bit, because it was when the first iteration was tightly interwoven with all of the other moving parts of the stack that I built. And because when you’re a vendor in the channel, you have to be vendor agnostic for all the other vendors in the channel. So like we’re a sofa shop for our endpoint security, next-gen endpoint security. That first iteration was tightly interwoven with sofas. And so when we spun it off in 2018 and built it up, we actually formalised CyberGuard as a company in 2017 when we decided to spin it off. And then when we ripped the platform out of Absolute Logic, my MSP, it took us almost a year and a half to rebuild it so that it would be completely vendor agnostic and it could stand on its own no matter what other moving parts and other MSP might have in their stack.

Paul Green:
Yeah. That was about five years, four or five years ago. So where are you at now in terms of serving MSPs?

Al Alper:
I would argue we’re a very large vendor in the space. We currently have about 500 plus MSPs that leverage our platforms on a daily basis. We’ve got more than 40,000 users on the platform. Users include both MSPs and their clients, by the way. Some 15 plus 1000 businesses that are on the platform. It’s been an unbelievable ride, an unbelievable. It’s surpassed our wildest expectations, frankly.

Paul Green:
I can imagine. I can imagine. Now, look, you and I are going to go on and continue to talk about this. And I want to actually come back to the subject of entrepreneurism with you. Entrepreneurism, is that a word? Entrepreneurialism. What’s the word Al? Entrepreneurialism. That’s the one.

Al Alper:
Entrepreneurialism. It’s a tough word.

Paul Green:
Let’s just say doing business. I think that’s an easier way to do it. So I want to come back to that subject with you in the extended interview. Just for now, tell us a little bit more about CyberGuard360, what’s the service for? Who should buy it? And how can we get hold of you?

Al Alper:
So CyberGuard360, if you go to cyberguard360.com, you’ll find our platforms there. We have several platforms that are, that effectively all come through PG360. PG360 is the first platform that we’ve launched for the MSP community in 2019, right before the pandemic, that was fun. And that really, I call that the client facing side of the cyber stack. So it does everything from dark web monitoring to risk assessments, simulated fishing, to policy management and anything that a user and or a client would touch. The reason why that’s been wildly successful, frankly, is because we believe that, there’s an old saying in business, don’t expect what you don’t inspect. And so delivering business intelligence out of the platform is really our strong point. So while a lot of other companies deliver silos of what we deliver, we integrate it all to give the MSP’s clients and the MSP themselves actionable BI that they can use to make better business decisions.

Al Alper:
That’s our core platform. And then we have other platforms, we call it PG plus plus, that includes a penetration testing tool for external penetration testing, a vulnerability assessment tool for internal and external vulnerability assessments. And our own prospecting tool called CRIS, which is a breach probability engine. Frankly, the mode, and I say this from the MSP side of my life, it has been the absolute single best prospecting tool I, in my MSP have ever used. I’m not saying that because I own it. I did a webinar to an audience of, there were over 90, don’t quote me on the number, but over 90 people registered. I sent them CRIS as a, it’s a breach probability engine, for them to run. And then we were going to go over the results on the webinar. 83 people showed up for the webinar. I closed 54 deals from the front of the room. I have never done that in my life as an MSP.

Paul Green:
That’s amazing. That really is amazing.

Al Alper:
That was Amazing.

Paul Green:
It is. Al, thank you so much for your time on the podcast today. So you and I now are going to head over to YouTube for our extended interview. We’re going to be talking about entrepreneurialism. There you go. I said it this time. We’re going to be talking-

Al Alper:
There you go.

Paul Green:
About what the problem is when you have too many ideas. How do you pick which ideas to pursue and which ones to dump? I want to ask you about the failures in your career as well. It’s almost inevitable that you’ve had some projects which just didn’t work. And I think we’ll delve more into CRIS, CRIS the, what did you call it? The breach-

Al Alper:
Probability engine.

Paul Green:
That was the word I was looking for. The breach probability engine. I’d like to have a look at that and how an MSP can use that as a prospecting tool. We’ll do all of that right now. And you can go and watch the rest of this interview right now at youtube.com/mspmarketing.

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

Heather Harlos:
Hey, I’m Heather Harlos from jumpcloud.com. And the book I recommend this time is Radical Candor. It’s really a book that’ll teach you how to have the difficult conversations as a leader, but not just how to have them, but why they’re important. Why it’s not fair to always focus on what’s right. Sometimes it’s good to give people hard advice and hard feedback.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

Ben Specter:
Hi, I’m Ben Specter, product manager at Zomentum. On next week’s show, I’m going to be talking about choosing the right tools to run your MSP business, but also life after being an MSP. Are there opportunities out there for you?

Paul Green:
I’ll tell you what else we’ll do next week. Seeing as we talked this week about finding your perfect phone person, let’s talk next week about their call set up. What kind of phone systems should you set them up with? What happens if they’re working from home? Should you record their calls or not? And should you coach them on their performance? How do you actually do that? We’re also going to talk about lovely YouTube. Now, we’ve been beefing up our YouTube presence just recently. In fact, I spent a couple of days in a studio filming more YouTube videos to accompany the stuff we’re already putting on there. And we are already seeing huge amounts of engagement and our viewing figures shooting up.

Paul Green:
The question is then, should you, as an MSP start your own YouTube channel and how do you get started? Talking of YouTube then, the extended interview with Al Alper, that’s already online right now. And on Thursday, we’re going to publish the latest edition of another bite. It’s our show about the show where host Sophie Law grills me and sometimes our guests as well about the things we’ve been talking about in this podcast. You can access that at youtube.com/mspmarketing, and also do subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast. Join me 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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