Image Above: Greg VanDeWalker enjoys Museum Rembrandt Exhibit with his daughter.
My daughter invited me to go on a field trip with her to the Denver Museum of Art to see a Rembrandt exhibit. When I think of Rembrandt, I think paintings, I think of him being on the Dutch Masters. On this field trip, the museum’s exhibit only had 2 Rembrandt paintings, the other 148 articles were Rembrandt etchings. Now, stay with me as I explain how I came to believe how Rembrandt would have been a progressive MSP in today’s world. First I will share how etchings are made, then why Rembrandt did them… and then how this relates to a managed services business.
Rembrandt lived from 1605 – 1678. Less than 150 years before his time, Guttenberg invented the first movable type printing press. This invention single handily changed our world because reading was now able to be democratize and was not just available to the elites. Fast forward to Rembrandt, he lived in the midst of the Renaissance or new birth. Everything was seemingly new and exciting. The sciences were exploding as well as art. Rembrandt was truly one of the greatest painters of his time. He had many patrons who would commission works as his reputation grew. The painting business was a 1:1 relationship. He was looking for a 1:Many approach and etching was the answer.
This is an over simplification, but this is the essence of how etching works. You start with a flat piece of copper. Then you take a sharp metal object and start etching your drawing in the copper with little strokes. Once you are finished with your etching, you rub ink on the copper plate so that the ink settles in the etch marks. You then wipe off the excess ink. Next you take a piece of paper and put it on top of the copper and then run it through a press (thank you Guttenberg) and there you have it! A picture, on a piece of paper. Another surprise I had of the exhibit was the intricate detail Rembrandt was able to capture via etching.
Now you can see the business model develop. Sure, the rich people of the day could afford a painting. But the scalable model, the one that can appeal to the masses, a model that is repeatable was just born.
I pretty sure if Rembrandt owned an MSP, he would run a profitable one. In your MSP business today – you are trying to grow, scale and be profitable. You can always do big projects (painting), but that is a business model rife with peaks and valleys. The MSP model (etching) is the repeatable business model but that still has its challenges. I think of two in particular:
The MSP model is a very desirable model because it produces a steady monthly cash flow to remove the peaks and valleys of revenue. However, to be profitable, one must take the risk from the customer and place it on your own shoulders. Consequently it is imperative you drive cost out of your business model. One of the best ways to do that is to standardize your customers’ technology to your stack, period. Just like Rembrandt could crank up the presses and print off page after page of the same etching, so you and your team need to have that kind of repeatability built into your model. I consistently see our top MSP performers be the one who can get their end-user customers on their stack fast.
Even though the MSP business model has less violent peaks and valleys of revenue, it still has mild ones that effect cash flow and profitability. The decision on when to hire a new tech is always a difficult one. The minute you do that, your profitability get hurts because you are usually hiring ahead. One of the big benefits I hear from partners who use a Master MSP is that they can grow their business without the peaks and valleys.
Now when I think of Rembrandt, in addition to “painter and Dutch Masters,” I also think “Profitable MSP” based on his scalability model! Growing your managed services business is always going to be tough. But partnering with a Master MSP helps you grow faster with fewer risks and less volatility in cash flow. Master MSPs are able to help you scale faster and standardize to increase your efficiency. Begin working on you masterpiece by finding other ways to help you grow.
Greg VanDeWalker, Senior Vice President of IT Channel and Services, is responsible for the strategic vision and performance of Collabrance and the GreatAmerica IT and Unified Communication Financing business units. Greg has consistently been recognized for his leadership in the IT channel. Most recently, he was named a ENX Difference Maker 2017. He was also honored by CRN in 2016-2018 as Channel Chief, and was named on the "100 People You Don't Know But Should" list in 2015. Greg has also served as Chair of the inaugural Managed Print Services Community of CompTIA, and has helped various advisory boards in the IT, Telephony and Office Equipment channels.