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Technology / Hardware

Why MSPs need to ask more questions in 2021

Ahead of Global MSP Day on 26 May, Barracuda’s Jason Howells reflects on the valuable insights gained from his company’s Insiders Partner Advocacy Programme.

It’s fair to say it has been a year like no other. But among all the challenges, there have also been many things worth celebrating. The MSP world is constantly evolving, changing and forcing people to grow. There’s no doubt that the global pandemic has spurred us on to be more agile, creative and innovative than before, and there have been plenty of lessons learned along the way, including how to stay at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Talking of 24/7 home life, lockdown has been both a blessing and a curse. While many never want to work in an office again, there are also those who miss it more than anything else. One thing I have learnt is that giving back and asking simple questions like “how are you?” and “how can we help?” is so important.

Putting it bluntly, it has been a time when we learnt that everything we know, love and have worked so hard for can be taken away within the blink of an eye. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve decided to make this the year I make everything I have worked for better, stronger and ultimately more impactful.

The power of asking questions

I have two examples of why starting to ask questions can improve your situation tenfold.

The first is Barracuda MSP’s Insiders Partner Advocacy Programme. This gives our customers the opportunity to learn new tips and tricks, share their own expertise, connect with peers, give us feedback and compete against others.

The programme was designed for us to receive product and general feedback. It also offers those signed-up the ability to check out new content, or take part in a case study. As participants complete activities, they receive points that they can redeem for rewards. The more active they are within the community the more points they earn.

The second example involved a little bit of listening and evolving. We wanted to make sure that we positioned ourselves so that we can help MSPs to have a security focus in their businesses and at the very heart of their services.

This change in positioning was the result of many question and answer sessions where we realised that having a security toolset was more advantageous to us and our customers than anything else. By allowing this shift to occur, we have enabled ourselves to fit these vital security-related responsibilities into the day-to-day management of our other service offerings without adding additional pressure or increasing internal expense for our customers.

The most important question for MSPs?

When I talk about why it is so important for MSPs to ask simple yet vital questions when it comes to helping their customers, I use this programme as an example as we want our customers to work with us, let us know exactly what they want and when they want it. If they have an issue, or if they’re simply feeling overwhelmed, we will be there to reassure and help them wherever we can. We keep asking questions and we do our best to keep everyone informed.

In our education system, questions have (unfairly) gained a bad reputation. Teachers prioritise the ‘right’ answers over intelligent questions – so if you question someone in authority, you are usually viewed as over-opinionated and rude. But questioning yourself and the world around you has always been a large part of the human enterprise. And it’s crucial for a successful business.

We have found that those who ask the questions come up with the most innovative and successful ideas. The simplest question for us is “Why aren’t you doing this?” This is what our Insiders Program has allowed us to do: lead for success through the simple art of asking questions.

How can you ask better questions?

Find your purpose

The whole ‘meaning of life’ question is a little out of my remit, but what I do know is how important understanding what your professional and personal purposes are. Define them. Refine them. Try not to think about ease and try to focus on what truly matters to you.

Learn to ask the right questions for innovation

Innovation is one of the most important things you’ll need when it comes to being successful, whether this is personal or professional. Figuring out what you need to ask to be innovative is the most important thing.

Earlier in this blog, I discussed why asking: “why aren’t you doing this?” is the most innovative way for us as a company to build better, and to parrot myself a little, it’s because if our customers are missing vital resources and support from us, we aren’t doing our job, and we need to be better and more innovative to proceed.

Try questions instead of affirmations

In meditation, it is very common to work with affirmations such as “I am good enough”. This might work well if we agree with the statement. But unfortunately, this is rarely the case, and if you constantly feed your mind with a statement you don’t believe in, you’ll never feel the sense of satisfaction you’re aiming for.

Instead, try asking yourself a simple question. “What am I good at?”, “What have I done successfully today?” Keep these questions straightforward – the simpler the better – allowing yourself to grow in confidence and understand how successful you are.

Remember to stay curious

Now, this one may seem a little far-fetched, but stay with me.

By being curious, you allow yourself to be active, never passive, and open up new worlds and possibilities, because you have allowed yourself to be observant and question things. Keep an open mind – there is no shame in learning, unlearning and relearning. It’s so important to accept that we all have something new to learn. When you see the world as a fountain of knowledge to dip into, the possibilities are endless.

Final thoughts

It feels like change is brewing. We all need reassurance that better times are coming and our Groundhog Day existence is on the way out. Whatever you have planned for this year, whether it is personal growth, or professional success, I wish you luck with asking more questions, finding better results and staying curious.

It may sound like a cliché, but we really are all in this together.

To connect with the community of managed service providers, and share challenges, successes, best practices and industry insights, be sure to register for Barracuda’s Global MSP Day Virtual Event on 26 May.

Home page image Hafiez Razali/Shutterstock