How MSPs can finish strong every year

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Why end-of-year planning is important and what MSPs can do to finish the year on a high note.

End of year

Many MSPs and their clients use the calendar year as the fiscal year,  bringing both limitations and opportunities. The shift from premise to cloud, and Capital Expense to Operating Expense (CapEx to OpEx) is part of this as well. Let’s explore some ways to maximize your annual performance and prepare for the next year. 

Finish projects

We all have a natural tendency to associate monthly, quarterly, and annual barriers with marketing efforts, closing sales, project completion, or just about any other task. While we do far fewer “forklift jobs” with so much that was on-premise now in the cloud, it still makes sense to book expenses by year’s end and do the same with year-end deals.

Projects are not limited to what you deliver to your clients, though. And while projects come and go every year, most of us have ongoing internal efforts related to processes, procedures, documentation, security, tools, integrations, and more. Some of these never end, but others do have completion dates and targets,  and once again, the end of the year is a natural target.

Plan for taxes

I am not qualified to offer tax advice here, but I can urge you to seek it out. And I can confidently say that tax planning is another of those truly continuous processes. It should go without saying that tax regulations vary so widely across the continents that any advice here must be of the most general nature. But accounting principles are universal, and it is safe to say your primary concern is when to “book” income and expenses and how to minimize tax exposure. There are many nuances here, so please get yourself expert tax help.

Client relationships

Another issue that we should not fail to stay on top of is continuously strengthening our client relationships. We all know that maintaining a strong relationship is important. To that end, we deliver regular reports, issue occasional personal email, phone or personal contacts, and schedule regular (we use the term “periodic”) briefings.

As the end of the year nears, making an extra effort to reach out with kind words and thoughtful gifts is wise. Helping your clients plan for their own end-of-year, perhaps even providing them an outlet for their extra capital funds is always good business. Remember your role as that of an advisor and that many of your clients do their most strategic planning in Q4, so help them out.

Vendor relationships

It seems that nothing changes as quickly as our vendor relationships as an MSP. We must evaluate new products and services, consider new vendors, manage changing ownerships, and manage the occasional dramatic pricing changes, not to mention licensing commitments and other challenges. Don’t forget the rapidly evolving threat landscape, and the changes that force upon our security stack, not to mention its complex nature. It can surely be overwhelming, but it is not all challenge and strife.

The good news is that many of your vendors will offer more aggressive deals during this final quarter, as they have sales targets just like you do. Some of your vendors will also use year-end to target special deals, renewal benefits, and even product releases, but this all means you must be ready to act by year-end, so get started on this planning early. My Q4 planning starts in July.

Re-evaluate your ways

It is remarkably easy to become complacent in the way we design and deliver our services, even in the face of all the changes I’ve addressed above. I know MSPs that use the same RMM and PSA for over ten years, that have had the same security stack for five years and have not updated their web page since...well, ever.

I am not making the case for change for its own sake. But the reality is that your clients have become more cloud-based, their workforce more mobile, and the threat landscape ever more profound. Ask yourself how you have adapted your services, pricing, and marketing to address this. Speaking of marketing, when was the last time you built a cohesive plan to optimize it?

You may find that ending the year strongly requires a continuous process of improvements that occur all year long. In my own case, I tend to try to make changes to services, delivery, marketing, and relationships in Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 respectively. Arguably, I try to end the year strongly every three months, though Q4 still carries the most weight.

Final analysis

The end of the year brings natural pressure to finalize projects, improve processes, work on client and vendor relationships, and much more. But it also brings not just deadlines, but the promise of improvements and new starts. Lean into the opportunity of orchestrated continuous improvement but remember to plan early to finish the year strong.

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