Recommended books for IT managers & MSP owners

On 17th April 2020, I published my second book, MSP Secrets Revealed.

In September 2019, my original plan was to put the call out for contributions and have a great resource of secrets and tactics for 100 people by the end of that year.

It turns out that life doesn’t work like that 😮. It’s actually quite hard to write a book (even when you’re hoping that many others will contribute).

Despite it being harder than I thought, I loved the process. I interviewed at conferences, on the phone and on the street if I had to. Eventually I had managed to cajoule 85 contributors into giving me a secret – something which would help other MSPs and IT managers to improve their department or business. In total I had 101 secrets and I am still incredibly proud of the end result.

I personally learnt a huge amount about both writing and editing – but also about business itself – thanks to the conversations I had.

Part of the way through the interview process, I thought it would be interesting to get a book (and software/service) recommendation from each of the contributors as a bonus. Let’s face it, most of us read, based on recommendation and so I added their thoughts at the end of each secret.

Today, for the first time, I thought it would be interesting to bring that list of books for IT managers and MSP owners together and share it with the world.

Some of the books you will have heard of below – some you may not have.

I’ve done my best to categorise them below. I hope you find the list useful.

I’m also going to keep comments open on this post forever – please do add yours below and I’ll update the list regularly to provide a definitive ongoing list.

A list of books for IT Managers and MSP owners – as recommended by IT professionals from around the world.

Most recommened:

Traction, Gino Wickman

A number of my contributors selected Traction. It’s coming up for 10 years old now at the time of writing and is still a #1 best seller on Amazon.

So many MSPs I know run this process in their business and are all the richer for it. It’s definitely worth reading (and implementing) if you’ve not considered it before.

Rocket fuel  (by the same author of course) was also recommended too.

Second most recommended:

Incredibly, only two other books were recommended more than once –

The classic, Good to Great, Jim Collins

and

Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss – Tools for effective negotiation

In addition, another author was recommended multiple times. He is a favourite of mine – Daniel Priestley, the founder of Dent Global. His entrepreneurial books are must-reads.

If you’re looking to become an influencer in your niche, Key Person of Influence is essential reading. Oversubscribed and 24 Assets are also brilliant.

Autobiography

What’s not to love about a set of true stories, encapsulating the ups and downs of life and business?

Riding the storm, Duncan Bannatyne
Henry Fraser, The Little Big Things

General business books

A set of general business books were recommened. Most here are well known and all have a slightly different take and set of lessons within them. Excuse the self-promotion at the end of the list. To be fair it was a recommended book! Helpdesk Habits was ‘born’ the year before MSP Secrets Revealed was published.

Profit First, Mike Michalowicz
Subscribed, Tien Tzou
Humans Need Not Apply, Jerry Kaplan
BOOM! – Blow the doors off business as usual, Kevin Feiberg
Predictable Success, Les McKeown
Value-Based Fees, Alan Weiss
Getting Naked, Patrick Lencioni
Pumpkin Plan, Michael Michaelowics
The E Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber
Helpdesk Habits, by errrrr, Mark Copeman

IT specific business books

There are a number of consultants in our industry who have  been recommended within this list. You may also want to check out Paul Green’s free book too.

Managed Services in a Month, Karl Palachuk
The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide, Richard Tubb
The Phoenix Project – Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr
Package, Price, Profit: The Essential Guide to Packaging and Pricing Your MSP Plans, Nigel Moore

History

I was surprised more fiction or off-business books weren’t recommended. Here’s just the one.

Devil in the White City’, Erik Larson

Books on leadership

Running a successful team rarely comes naturally and I think it speaks volumes that so many recommended books on leadership in a quest to improve how teams are managed.

Radical Candor, Kim Scott
The One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard
Effective Executive, Peter Drucker
The ride of a lifetime, Bob Iger
What Successful People Know about Leadership, John Maxwell
Great Game of Business, Jack Stack

Personal development

The last chapter of the MSP Secrets book contains a number of revealing personal stories. So often it’s impossible to split business from our personal lives. I’m still grateful to the contributors about how candid they were. So many of us are always looking to improve in different ways. This list certainly can help with that.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, the Arbinger Institute
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn
The Go-Giver, Bob Burg
Atomic Habits, James Clear

Sales & marketing

This is the largest category – and possibly for good reason. It’s one of the most difficult areas to get right when running a business – particularly, if your background is in IT. Having a grounding in this discipline is key. Know enough to hold a sensible conversation with experts. Be able to challenge and question what an agency recommends.

Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith
Fanatical Prospecting, Jeb Blount
Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff
They Ask You Answer, Marcus Sheridan
F🤍cking Good Content, Dan Kelsall
Words That Sell, Richard Bayan
The Power of Moments, Chip & Dan Heath
Measure what Matters, John Doerr
Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, Drayton Bird

As a reminder, I’m also going to keep comments open on this post forever – please do add yours below and I’ll update the list regularly to provide a definitive ongoing list.

Please note – I need to tell you that all links are Amazon affiliate links. Should you click and buy something – eventually, that may just buy me a cup of coffee – so thank you.

Treat customers like you’re dating

This is the first article in a series of adapted excerpts from my book, MSP Secrets Revealed.

I wanted to share some of the interviews I did for that book with the world at large.

The first one is the highlights of an interview with the very awesome Juan Fernandez, previously of Imagenet Consulting. He exited that business in 2021 and is now on a crusade to help MSPs in lots of different ways.

Juan has in infectious personality – and it’s been tool long since we’ve met. It’s my turn to beat him at bowling.

____________

Juan is the ultimate advocate for relationship creation, which is appropriate, as we met at an after conference party in a bowling alley in Phoenix, AZ. He was much better than me.

He learnt to sell from an early age. His Grandmother sent him out to cut grass for a $1 … and he would come back empty handed. She told him it was because he didn’t know how to sell himself. She taught him to add value first, then to sell yourself and finally trust kicks in.

Juan was recently asked by a colleague, “If you were still on the phones, trying to sell, what would you say to your targets?”

He replied – “I’d never call anyone.”

Invest in relationships

Juan has built two businesses – and at no point in their evolution did he or anyone else ‘hit the phones’.

Instead, he has continuously invested in relationships. He taught his VCIO teams (franchise holders) to do exactly the same.

He is a big advocate for community engagement programs and meetups. He finds people he wants to work with … and then builds relationships with them. Caveat being that those individuals are part of companies suitable for Imagenet’s services.

He trains a lot of teams and goes to great lengths to explain that when you meet with a customer, you must never assume you have a deal.

“It’s very easy to forget that a customer doesn’t realise they’re in a sales cycle. Instead, teach yourself to remove the concept of selling something from your mind, regardless of how the conversation develops.”

Stop jumping to solve problems

Juan knows that the engineers amongst us typically jump on problems they can solve.

If they know, through questioning, that a customer has a need for a 4082 multiband gigablaster, conversations then tend to focus on selling just that – it’s almost a relief that there’s an opportunity to solve a problem and therefore sell something.

Juan’s advice is to do the opposite. File those thoughts away and remember to always “treat customers like you’re dating!”

“Salespeople need to become solutioneers.”

With his considerable experience, Juan points out that it’s important not to know where a customer is at right now, but to focus on where they want to be in the future. He also believes it’s not important to know how they got to where they are today.

Instead, focus on three outcomes – return on investment, employee productivity and profitability. Steer conversations and questions to these big picture areas, as opposed to plugging a firewall gap. That can of course come in time but should never be your initial focus with a prospect.

If you know you are an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ … you saw an opportunity and set up a business around it, it’s possible you haven’t ever had a need or been forced to work out how to build a business and create trust.

Juan’s path was different. He resigned from his job and actively set out to grow an MSP from nothing. He believes this forced him to focus on relationship selling and building trust, as he didn’t have a problem to solve initially.

Juan has one last lesson – his motto in business:

“Provide quality products and services that everyone can afford and add so much value they can’t afford not to buy.

Be the difference …”

Ask questions. Build relationships. Earn trust.

You won’t go far wrong.

 

The best question to ask a brand new managed services client

I love working with smart people. It’s inspiring.

I worked with someone a while ago who really gets selling.

He understands how to get inside buyers’ heads and the concept of talking a buyer’s language and really – I mean – really – figuring out what they are looking for in a service.

Adrian Evans is an author (of Be a job magnet), headhunter and career coach and I helped him to build something rather awesome for one of his clients a few years back. I know it’s awesome, because it was going to be solving their problems and giving them something, which they don’t have today which will genuinely move them forwards as a business.

How do he was was building something which would move them forward as a business?

Because he has asked just the right question before we even started.

“How will you judge this?”

So simple, yet genius.

He has got his client to lay out to him their success criteria – and specifically how they will feel when it’s right, how their senior management will react to something and what they’re expecting from a deliverable in one simple question.

I love it and I will be using it myself in the days and weeks to come.

The emotional side of business

When contracts between clients and MSPs are created – there will be metrics / legals / specs and SLAs stipulated and that’s all as it should be.

What’s fascinating to me however, is that contract renewals are so often based on relationships and gut feelings.

How often does a client really pour over historical metrics to determine whether to sign for another 12 or 36 months?

Typically those decisions are made based on relationships – and how a business owner and their team have FELT about how the service has gone. They are constantly judging how you operate in the background. Mostly they won’t even realise they’re doing it too.

If you have an idea upfront, once a contract is signed, about how all the key players within your new client are likely to judge you – then you’ve a client for life. It’s just so empowering.

Typical answers to that key question

“I’d like to sleep better at night”.

“I would like you to take the pain away”.

“I need someone I can trust on my side”.

“I need to be operational 24×7”.

“I want an IT partner who I can get on with”.

Just that one answer, can hold so much more enlightenment than the 20 page managed services agreement – if you think to ask it.

Why not add it to your sales process today?