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I sold my MSP business.

At every sale, there are always a large number of success
claims about how it was built to sell, and how everyone is delighted about the
sale of their company. Many go on to tell war stories about how “they did it”,
assuming that the advice is useful and everyone should replicate that success.

The problem with that theory is that if you follow that
advice, you are working to get similar results. I’m going to offer some
thoughts on things I think I did poorly – things I would change, if I had a
DeLorean and could go back in time and do it again. A mistake list, if you

This is not intended to criticize my team – particularly the
team I had in the transition to new ownership. Instead, this is a look back
over ten years of owning a solution provider.

My mistakes are things I think could have been done
significantly better, and would have resulted in a better company. (Don’t get
me wrong, I’m happy with my sale. But wouldn’t you always like to do better?)

Have a partner. The Right One.

Looking back, I wish I had a second owner. Some of the
biggest strains in my organization were due to me being the only person
invested in the business as an owner. There’s a lot to owning a business, and a
second person to work with would go a long way. Bouncing ideas, dividing
effort, driving accountability, and executing better would have come from a
second owner. The right partner – not just anyone, but the right trusted
collaborator to work with.

Pay your people

I had this idea that paying people on a salary would even
out the ups and downs, and would help drive up profitability. I was wrong. If I
could do it all over again, I’d pay my people hourly. Everyone, hourly. That
way, if you work hard, you get compensated for it. Too often there was “just
enough” from employees, when if they knew the extra effort would directly
benefit them, it would make a difference. Often, employees would be “gone” the
moment their forty hours were in. If paid hourly, they could do a little better
for themselves right away by just doing that last thing today, rather than

Build compensation
around profitability.

Coupled with paying people hourly, my management team was
not nearly linked enough to profitability. While they had the idea of profit,
and understood the basic need, their own compensation was not nearly tied
closely enough to the company being profitable.

Your assistant is
your first hire.

I waited far too long to hire my first assistant. In fact,
years and employees too long. In hindsight, hiring my assistant was the best
move I ever made. By making this hire, I was more productive, got more done,
and had a significantly better company because of it. Those “little things” that
make such a difference were done, and done well, every day. She thought of all
the details, made sure I did the right things, and helped me get organized. Instead
of hiring eight years in, I should have hired this position right away.

Hindsight is 20/20. By learning from the things I didn’t do
well, rather than simply touting success, I hope to offer a few thoughts that
help others grow their businesses.