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Every MSP needs to discover their “Sweet Spot”. The Sweet Spot is defined as doing what you are uniquely best at, for your ideal customers, in a repeatable systemized way.

If you’ve ever played baseball or softball, you know there are different ways to hit a home run. Sometimes you just swing with everything you’ve got, the bat collides violently with the ball, and it rockets over the heads of the outfielders.

You have to really be trying to hit a home run to get one this way. Swinging as hard as you possibly can also leads to hitting a giant pop-up at times. Other types of home runs feel different. You swing nice and level, not too hard, and everything just feels right. It’s like you just hit a tennis ball instead of a softball, and it goes much farther than you were expecting it to.

You just hit the sweet spot.

Every good bat has a place an inch or two long, about three-quarters of the way up from the handle, that delivers a lot of extra power without a lot of effort. If the ball hits the bat too close to your hands, or off of the end of the bat, it won’t go very far.

How does the sweet spot work? It actually comes down to acoustics. Anytime two objects collide, there are vibrations. The bottom and the top of the bat produce a lot of vibration. That’s why if the ball hits your bat in the wrong spot on a cold day, your hands feel like they are going to fall off.

These bat vibrations absorb some of the energy put into the swing. The sweet spot of the bat, however, produces a lot less vibration—the energy of the swing is absorbed less by the bat and more by the ball, and off it goes into the Field of Dreams. That’s also why a ball hit hard off the sweet spot just sounds different—less of a dull thud and more of a cracking “pop.”

MSPs Have Sweet Spots Too
“Finding the sweet spot” means expending less effort (and stress) for a better result. We’ve all had those clients where it feels like everything is a battle. We’ve all had customers who wear us down and are never happy, and when we sit down and calculate things, we’re barely making any money on them.

You’re hitting the ball close to your hands with every swing. With these clients, the ball never goes far, and your hands hurt after every time at bat. It’s mostly pain, and even when you do manage to get a hit, it’s a cheap single.

Then there are those clients who are a joy to work with. They don’t stress your team. You have mastery over their technology and the expertise to support it well. You don’t worry about the nasty owner, the eight-year-old server crapping out, or the glitchy line of business application creating another headache. Because those people and those things don’t exist at these clients. The client is a fan, the revenue is solid, and they are consistently profitable for you. Every month is a home run.

If you could hit the ball off the sweet spot with every swing, why would you choose to keep hitting it off of your hands? Yet many MSPs keep those lousy clients, and they keep taking more of them on. They haven’t identified and targeted their business sweet spot.

Your Giant Pumpkin Seed (The Sweet Spot)
So where do you start? How do you find that seed? The one that leads to the A-List clients, who value what you do and who are happy to pay well for your services? The key is knowing where your sweet spot is.

“Your giant seed is basically your sweet spot—the place where your best clients and the best part of your business meet. This is the place where your favorite customers are able to derive maximum benefit from the systemized, core process that drives your business.”

— Mike Michalowicz in The Pumpkin Plan

Your sweet spot is at the intersection of three key factors:

•   Knowing who your top clients are
•   Having a unique offering
•   Systemization

A diagram of a sweet spot

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Your Unique Offering
If your business is to flourish and grow, the first step is to define your unique offering. Most people will respond with “I’m delivering IT services, just like everyone else.” Yes, you are delivering IT services, but the challenge before you is differentiating those services. The key is to identify a specific area of innovation. Maybe your company specializes in virtual desktop environments. You might be the most adept at a particular piece of software or have unique certifications. Perhaps you have an insider’s knowledge of a particular vertical.

A good place to start is by asking, “What are we the best at?”

Your Top Clients
Your top clients are those who share your core values and are profitable and pleasant to work with. Several names probably come to mind. What do those clients have in common? Do they come from one specific vertical? Maybe your favorite clients are predominantly law firms or financial services companies. There are some very compelling reasons to work within only one industry. Maybe you’re not that specific. You might define your target market more generally as professional services companies. This gives you a related group of clients without limiting yourself to one specific industry or profession.

In addition to understanding what they do, you should learn your clients’ demographics and psychographics. Client demographics are their basic attributes.

Pretty straightforward stuff.

Psychographics are a little fuzzier but can paint a much more complete picture.

Knowing the psychographics of your clients can help you determine if they align with your core values, if you have things in common with them, and if they will be a good long-term fit for you.

These insights may also help you figure out where to find the right prospects! For example, if you know that some of your A-List clients support the United Way, you might want to put an advertisement in the program for an event they are holding.

The Value Of Systemization
“To get to your sweet spot, you also have to take into account your ability to systematize every aspect of your business.”

— Mike Michalowicz in The Pumpkin Plan

Once you know what your offering is, the next step is to systematize as much as possible. Systemization is the key to scalability, and in turn, to profitability. It allows you to do more with fewer employees. It allows services to be delivered consistently and efficiently, leading to greater customer satisfaction. Most importantly, systemization takes the business owner out of the equation so that they do not have to be involved in the day-to-day work of servicing clients. Goodbye, hamster wheel.

Systemization is having documented, repeatable processes for all of your business’s key functions and all of the processes involved in your client-facing service delivery. This will allow you to train others to deliver the desired outcomes of these processes. Anything you do for clients can and must be systematized.

Simply put, this is how you build a business and escape self-employment. Anything that is not systematized will be open to interpretation each time the service is performed. When the company is small and the owner is the one performing the services, this is usually not an issue. But as soon as an MSP starts to scale, it becomes a problem, and it gets worse with each new employee they onboard.

Process Saves Lives and Wins Wars
In 1935, Boeing was competing for a government contract to build bombers for the United States Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the United States Air Force. Boeing built a plane that met the government requirements, but disaster struck on the first flight. The plane crashed, stalling shortly after takeoff, killing several crew members and injuring more.

After an investigation, it was found that the captain had left the elevator lock on, and the aircraft was unresponsive to pitch control. The investigation also concluded that the plane was too complex. It was beyond the ability of any pilot to remember everything that needed to be done to fly it safely. If this plane failed, it could be the end of Boeing, so they set out to find a way to fix the problem.

The result was the first aviation checklist. This checklist didn’t teach the pilots to fly, it just made sure that experienced pilots didn’t miss a critical step or do something in the wrong order. It provided them with a process to follow to ensure consistent results.

After implementing the checklist process, the plane was a success, and Boeing won the government contract. The plane in question went on to change history. They designated it the B-17, the Flying Fortress that helped the Allies win World War II.

Documented repeatable process is the key to scaling any business.

Without process, MSPs will have a team of artisans, each doing their work slightly differently from the last person who did it, and not necessarily correctly. While this is fine for things that are unique, such as building custom furniture, it is not the way to provide clients with consistent and predictable results. The quality and efficiency of an MSP’s service shouldn’t depend on who picks up the phone that day or gets assigned to the task at hand.

In order to grow, you must be operating within your sweet spot, and your team must be able to produce consistent results that clients can depend on. The plane must take off, fly its mission, and land safely—every single time.

Adapted from Chapter 4 of The Pumpkin Plan for Managed Service Providers by Dave Cava and Shawn P. Walsh. Read a chapter for free here: