Part 2: Leadership Lessons from a Successful SMB Owner

October 26, 2015  By Jeremy Willis
Be open to advice and foster employee development

I lead a six-employee, growing managed IT infrastructure services company that has been operating since 2009. Recently, Autotask asked me to share my Top 3 lessons learned in running a small business. If you haven't read the first blog in this series on taking action when times look tough, you can read it here

Now for the next two lessons:

Lesson 2: Learn from experienced peers.

About one year into our business, we decided we needed guidance on a long-term strategy. We sought counsel from a successful peer who had been running an IT services company for 15 years.

His advice was disruptive but ultimately helped us to mature as a business. He suggested we convert from a time/materials service model to a managed services model, which we did (although we still do project work for clients). Another thing he said was, "You've got to find a PSA tool to adopt!"

That's why we started using Autotask. It helped provide critical insight that allowed us to improve our decision-making; greatly improved our service desk delivery; and allowed us to track our work, which helps keep us accountable

I'm certain that having Autotask was the key to us winning a big contract with a large client in 2012. We were up against larger competitors, but we were confident because we had all of the key deliverables and work processes established. We also knew Autotask would help us to align our capabilities with the client's needs. 

Lesson 3: Invest in strong employees. 

During the reorganizations in 2014, we elevated our Service Desk Administrator to a consultant after she was certified in the Autotask Certified Consultant Program (CCP). 

I had noticed that when we would go to conferences, and people would talk about using Autotask, she was one of a handful using it at an advanced level. I thought to myself, "I have a gem, and I have to do more with her!"

We looked at her career goals and determined the CCP certification was a great match for her and our company.  

Two weeks after her certification, a high-revenue client with more than 100 employees hired us to re-engineer IT processes and integrations with their third-party applications across all of their departments. Our CCP’s expertise with the Autotask platform is what enabled us to do it.  

How We Operate Today

We tell our clients that we see our service delivery to them as a three-legged stool consisting of speed, quality and low cost. We know clients want all three, yet the reality is, if we want to stay profitable, we can only "deliver" on two at a time. 

Because most of our clients are small companies, our biggest challenge is agreeing to a price and service model that works for everyone. To do this, we have to be more productive than our competition so we can control cost. Autotask gives us the efficiencies, accountability and intelligence to do it. 

Overall, the business is strong after six years of navigating the various challenges of small business ownership. While I know new challenges are ahead, I’m confident in the people, tools and processes we’ve developed to help us continue to grow. 
Jeremy Willis

Jeremy Willis is the owner of Advanced Intelligence Engineering. AIE is an IT managed services company serving the greater Chicago and Northern Illinois areas. You can follow him on Twitter here: @aie195.

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