It is officially budget season, for most businesses anyway. In just about every industry you can name, organizations of all size are in the throes of defining goals and resource requirements for a new year. This includes many tech companies—but not nearly enough.

How good are MSPs when it comes to creating meaningful annual budgets and participating in effective strategic planning sessions to grow their businesses? The number will likely surprise you.

Working with Clarity Channel Advisors clients, I have gained a deep perspective on the MSP industry at large. While there are a minority of service providers who diligently work at strategic planning, a majority of MSPs don’t. Take establishing sales targets.

Most MSPs have an aspirational number they pin to the wall and they say, “we want to grow X percent next year.” Yet they do very little strategic planning for how they will achieve that number. Instead of studying their business, they enter the next year doing exactly what they did the prior year and hoping that it will be enough to reach their arbitrary growth goal.

In the dynamic and competitive environment MSPs now find themselves in, this approach is feeble at best.

So why do MSPS do this year after year? The answer is simple: Most MSPs spend their time working in their businesses, not on them. (If you’re unsure about the difference, check out Michael Gerber’s book, “The E Myth.”) To make real gains, you have to change your ways.

This time of year, take time with your management team and get offsite, away from the distractions of daily operations, and focus the following questions:

  • What worked well for us last year? What didn’t?
  • What are our points of difference in the market?
  • How is the market changing and where is the market going?
  • What are our goals for next year?
  • How will we get there? Do we have the resources we need to get there?
  • What are/will our clients be asking for? How can we deliver in a competitive way? Do we have the right partners/vendors to achieve our goals?

You can develop a solid strategic plan by answering the aforementioned questions; I guarantee it will pay dividends. Growing a business and executing against a good plan is hard enough. But growing a business without a plan is way harder.

One final piece of advice. If your 2016 strategic plan doesn’t address developing a better, more comprehensive cloud strategy that consists of owning your clients third party applications or how to deliver analytics to your clients, it’s probably not a complete plan.

If you need help getting your planning process off the ground, feel free to reach out.

Jim Lippie is the Chief Advisor at Clarity Channel Advisors, a Quincy, Mass., business consultancy that helps MSPs, VARs and other channel companies transition to more profitable business models using a comprehensive cloud strategy and better Business Intelligence (BI). He can be reached at