Among the benefits of business peer groups and organizations such as Gary Pica’s TruMethods is learning from the experience and best practices of other really smart and successful entrepreneurs. MSPmentor got a peek into the “Great Ideas” of member organizations at last week’s TruMethods Schnizzfest conference in Philadelphia.

First some background. As part of the program, Schnizzfest attendees from around the globe submitted their “Great Ideas,” implemented at their own businesses, that had the effect of improving processes or sales or something else in a significant way. The best ideas were shared with all attendees. We collected just a handful of the ideas, and the rest are available to TruMethods members. But here’s a peek.

(UPDATED: to include the names and business names of some of the Great Idea generators which were not previously included. If I missed your name and company name but your idea is here and you would like your company name included here, please drop me an email at jessica.davis ( at) penton dot com. Thanks.)

  1. Burnt Day. One business owner discussed that there have been periods of time in the course of the business when all team members worked extra hard and long hours to get everything done. Naturally, people started feeling burned out. So the company implemented the “Burnt Day.” Employees can call out “burnt.”  Each person is awarded two burnt days per year.  There are rules, however. The days cannot be used within two weeks of each other. Twenty-four hour notice is preferred (but not necessary in cases of extreme burnt-ness). And days can only be used for work-related burnt-ness, not Monday morning hangover burnt-ness.  Not only does this improve employee morale, but it also adds to the corporate culture.
  2. Touch the Cloud. Another MSP has created a program called “Touch the Cloud” where local businesses who are considering cloud computing but are not convinced are invited to an event about cloud computing.  The event includes a tour inside a local data center, letting them “touch the cloud.”
  3. Solution of the Month. Much like TruMethods own Great Ideas, this program created at Kevin Studley's MSP, The Network Pro, LLC, lets employees submit ideas to help improve the business’s processes and procedures. The program lets the business capture these ideas, and at the end of the month employees vote for the best ideas. The employee who wins the best idea for the month gets a $100 cash on the spot award. Over the last 18 months 45 ideas have been submitted by employees to the business that created this program. Six have been implemented. These ideas have reduced support costs, increased efficiency, eliminated repeat issues and added to best practices.
  4. Converting Client Credit. This idea from Robyn Howes, president of Certified NETS, is designed to convert customers on “sucky plans” to better plans. The business holds a meeting with the customer and provides them with an invoice that shows their current IT  spending with the MSP, the additional services the MSP would like to provide and the value of those additional services. Then the MSP offers the customer a “discount” for the first three months of those improved services.  Basically, the MSP provides the new services to the customer for free for three months and represents that value on the invoice, but at the free/discounted rate. The MSP tells the customer that the problems they have been suffering with could be solved if they contracted for the additional services (i.e. other customers using these services are not having the problems you are having) , and then they SHOW them that’s true by providing those services for three months free of charge.  How has this worked? So far the company has already converted a few existing clients and realized another $4,000 in monthly recurring revenue. More customer meetings are planned.
  5. Hiring Video. Recognizing that it’s tricky to attract A-grade talent when you are on a tight payroll budget, one MSP went the extra mile to create a professional video that shows why it’s great to work at that MSP.  James Ford, CEO of ActiveCo, recounted how his company hired a videographer for $500 to do the job. Employees were interviewed and asked why they liked to work there. The end result was a video that showcased the MSP’s culture and its happy employees. The company embeds the video link in all its employment ads. When asked why they applied to the company, many successful hires cite that video. Caveat: I think this is effective because it was professionally produced.  I saw this video. I've also seen ones that are not so effective -- where employees look scripted, the background looks unpleasant and no one smiles.  It's not what you say, but what you show.  Care should be taken here that your final product video makes your business look happy and fun. 

More “Great Ideas” (along with more details about the great ideas listed above) are available to members of TruMethods. 

Meanwhile, what Great Ideas do you have to share?  We’d love it if you shared them in the comments below.