Congratulations—you’ve started your own MSP business. You’re the boss. Now you’re on the verge of making your first hire, or at least thinking about it. How do you go about it?
Most MSPs believe their first hire should be a technician. The approach makes sense at first glance. You want more billable time to sell to clients, and you want help closing tickets for the clients you do have.
But let’s reframe the challenge. Shouldn’t you focus your time on your area of expertise—which is most likely tech and not business operations?
“We as MSPs speak to our clients, and we say, you should outsource your IT to us, because you’ve got better things to do with your time than fix computers,” says Richard Tubb in an episode of The Tech Tribe’s Behind the Geeks.
“And they go, that sounds like a good idea. And so managed services was born. Why is it then that so many managed service providers insist on becoming accountants, administrators, marketing?”
We’ll tell you more about why to seriously consider making your first MSP hire an admin assistant, then dive into when and how to hire, plus how to delegate the work and optimize the transition.
Free yourself to focus on your area of expertise
According to Richard, the goal of expanding your team is to “surround yourself with people who can lighten the load for you, who can do the things that you don’t want to do or you shouldn’t be doing.”
Admin work, like bookkeeping, invoicing, ordering, organizing, and answering phones, tops that list. Delegating administrative work means you have more billable time to spend serving your clients and generating revenue.
Andrew Moon, former MSP, now business consultant at Orange Nomad, said his first admin hire allowed him to focus on improving service delivery, “including automating the crap out of everything.” He even leveraged his admin assistant to help with documenting processes for his first tech hire.
Freeing up your time is beneficial, but according to Tech Tribe leader Nigel Moore, the biggest return on farming out admin work is freeing up your headspace to focus on higher level things.
“It saves you the brain cycles… You’re thinking creatively higher, and you’re thinking about marketing strategies or team things or new products and services you’re going to roll out,” says Nigel in the Behind the Geeks episode.
Start the process of your first admin hire right now
You might be wondering when’s the right time to make the first admin hire in your MSP. It’s earlier than you think.
In fact, Nigel says immediately: “You are going to find things within your business that… you don’t enjoy doing or more importantly, you shouldn’t be doing.”
Signs that confirm you need admin support include spending hours every week on invoicing, scheduling your own meetings, and handling your own email.
If you’re still concerned that you’re hiring preemptively, start the hiring process gradually. Post a job listing, and keep an eye on the candidates that are available and interested. You don’t need to finalize a hire until the right person comes through.
Select the working conditions for your admin assistant
You have a couple options for how you hire your admin assistant, from the number of hours per week to whether the person will work virtually or with you on-site.
Nigel recommends starting the role as part-time at 15-20 hours per week with the potential to become full time in three to six months. You’ll have less initial scoping and training to do and can add more tasks as they ramp. But keep in mind, if you keep the role part-time permanently, you risk losing your administrator to an employer who can offer more hours.
Another decision you’ll need to make is whether you’d like your admin assistant working from the office or virtually.
With the rise of remote work, virtual assistants (VAs) are more popular than ever. There are many online agencies that focus exclusively on connecting you with VAs. Some, like Virtual Gurus, specialize in North American talent while others will help you find cost-effective admin help overseas. You can also search a general marketplace like Upwork or HireMyMom.com.
To dig deeper on how to best find and work with virtual assistants, Chris Drucker’s book Virtual Freedom is an excellent resource.
If you prefer in-person collaboration, that may sway your choice. But there’s no wrong way to go.
Speaking of in-person environments, in an episode of his MSP Marketing Podcast, Paul Green adds an interesting point about how your admin assistant can help foster a positive culture as you grow your MSP.
Especially if you have young staff, Paul believes there’s “an important role for someone to look out for them.” From stocking the breakroom to listening to problems and offering advice—the right administrator can serve as an “unofficial mom” to help nurture the team.
Transfer the work to you MSP administrator smoothly
According to Richard Tubb, when it comes to delegating work, you need to overcome the fear that nobody else can do it as well as you.
Leaning into Richard’s advice may help you see the big picture. “If you want to grow your business, you cannot do it alone, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who can do the job,” he says.
Let’s go over how to transition tasks to your admin assistant, starting with the creation of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
It may seem daunting to outline every admin process you have, so one way to tackle this is to simply start documenting each process the next time you do it.
“Just bullet point what you’re doing as you go through it. And then once you’ve documented it, hand it over to somebody, let them do it. Find out mistakes,” says Pete Matheson, former MSP turned business coach.
I’ll let you in on a secret from Nigel. You don’t even have to be the one to create the SOP. You can talk your assistant through the process over Zoom. They can record it or take notes and create the SOP themselves afterwards.
Want to skip the meetings altogether? Record your screen as you talk through the process on Slack or Loom for your admin to watch.
Another pro tip to reduce friction in the transition? Standardize your client agreements to make it easier for someone else to manage them.
“We cut the customization out so there weren’t all these weird nuances that only I could deal with, because I was the only person that understood how that thing was set up,” says Nigel.
Course correct until your involvement decreases
At first, your new MSP administrator may not do the work exactly as you would have done, but it will improve. Have patience and give clear feedback. Eventually they may be even better than you at doing the work. Reaching that destination makes the entire process worth it.
When mistakes are made, don’t correct them yourself. Instead, send the work back to your admin assistant to figure out the root cause of the issue and internalize the correction going forward. This practice works whether you’re a team of two or many.
The result? “We got better and better to the point where everything would be perfect for weeks at a time in our invoicing,” says Nigel. “I didn’t touch the invoicing system at all apart from just doing some reviews of some stuff, which took me maybe five minutes a week.”
You, too, will reach a point where you only need to be involved as a last validation.
“We’ve got all these checks and balances in place now with the team to go and do stuff in there. So now I can take that step back,” says Nigel.
Remember you can’t grow your MSP on your own. Learn to give up control, value your time, and honor your strengths. Trust the process and employ these strategies to mitigate the hiring risks. You’ve got this!