One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a business owner was that even though I was running the day-to-day operations of my business and knew everything going on, I did not grow significantly until I started to actually measure what I was doing. KPIs (key performance indicators) are not just some fancy acronym reserved for large-scale enterprises, they are what they say they are… indicators of how your business is performing in key areas. What is key to you is likely to be different from what is key to another managed service provider (MSP), but there should be similarities. The most important thing is to have them (in addition to having a way to track them).
Understanding your KPIs
I boiled my KPIs down to two categories: security (financial) and change. Security-based KPIs made sure that I stayed within my operational safety zone, while change-based KPIs allowed me to see if I was headed along the trajectory of where I wanted to be next.
Some examples of simple financial security-based KPIs are:
- Monthly minimum billings (cash flow)
- Cash on hand (your bank balance)
- Budget vs actual expenses (cash flow)
Some examples of simple change-based KPIs are:
- New customers (sales)
- Monthly billings % growth (sales)
- Employee billable hours (efficiency)
Keeping it simple
Your specific KPIs will depend on your focus, what makes you feel safe, and where you want to take your business. You can get fancy with KPIs, but I suggest you don’t. The first step is to determine two or three KPIs from both categories and concentrate on those for at least three months. After this time, you will undoubtedly have gleaned some additional insight into what KPIs are right for you and your business. Some KPIs make obvious sense and some need to be tested; there is no harm in trying to measure them. Some KPIs should be looked at weekly and some monthly—this will vary from business to business. Keeping an eye on them will help you react faster to both downturns and opportunities, minimizing risk and maximizing return.
Even if you are a one-man shop, measurement is critical to obtaining the success and stability you want from your business. It is for this very reason I started using a PSA (professional services automation) tool immediately after starting my MSP business. Most of the KPIs you need to manage can be reported on directly from your PSA. In fact, your selection of a PSA tool should be based at least in part on whether it captures the data and is able to report on the KPIs for the business processes that you want to measure.
It is very easy to say, “I paid all the bills this month; we must be OK,” and carry on. However, that attitude allows for little to no growth and may not help you prepare for market downturns. Measurement is critical for reaching goals, both personal and professional. If we don’t know where we are or where we are going, how do we ever expect to get there?
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Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter @EricAnthonyMSP
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