An Interview with Erik Thorsell
Richard talks to Erik Thorsell, owner of Minneapolis-based Managed Service Provider (MSP) Success Computer Consulting. Richard and Erik discuss the highs and lows of running an MSP business.
In this interview, Erik talks about his MSP business challenges and how he tackled them, plus the real reason he’s in business and how to deal with overwhelm.
Who is Erik Thorsell?
Erik started his Managed Service Provider (MSP) business, Success Computer Consulting, 28 years ago, having previously worked for American Express setting up networks for small businesses in the area.
When Erik first set up his company, he worked with large, Fortune 500 organisations, before realising he preferred helping SMEs.
So, he moved from a break/fix to a managed service model and now has 100 employees.
Success Computer Consulting is a fully managed service and managed security provider, and is now managed by a president, with Erik taking a back seat to focus on philanthropic work he does in the Minneapolis area.
Why is Erik in the MSP Business, Really?
Erik says that the answer to that question has changed over the years: “My answer for today is very different from when I started. Because when I started I needed a job; I needed to pay the mortgage.”
He saw his business as a way of carrying out work to get paid by clients.
And now, Erik sees it as “an asset that I own, that achieves goals for me and gives me financial security and the financial fuel to do philanthropic work that I like to do that has nothing to do with my with managed services”.
A healthy corporate culture is also important to Erik, and Success Computer Consulting is a somewhat unique workplace where employees can develop and be appreciated. That is a key driver for Erik.
What is Erik’s Advice for MSP Business Owners on dealing with Overwhelm?
First of all, says Erik, explore all your options. If you think you can’t continue, don’t decide you need to sell the business straight away. So, you then need to have a lot of conversations with people who have already had to make that kind of decision.
For example – imagine yourself going through the same process, find out what they did and get a clear picture of what things could look and feel like. Weigh up different possibilities and choose the one that’s best for you right now.
(You might also find it useful to check out my interview with Karl Palachuk on How to Avoid Overwhelm as an IT Business Owner).
Why do you Need Self-Awareness in Your MSP Business?
Erik says self-awareness takes practice and you have to decide that it’s worth learning how to do it. Examine your feelings around your business, and understand that you don’t have to push them away.
So, pay attention to these emotions, even if they’re negative. Why? Because you’ll be taking them into the workplace even if you don’t realise it.
Furthermore, says Erik, you and your employees are human beings. So, recognise what you’re feeling and be able to think about those feelings without judging yourself.
Understanding why you need to get out of the way as an MSP owner
Erik explains that he filled his MSP business management team with people who had skills that he didn’t, and he began to trust their judgement.
So, to get out of the way of your team and let them work, you need personal discipline.
He adds: wanting to intervene is a short-term desire; longer-term, you will benefit from letting people work in their own way and you can stop micromanaging.
The team will push back if you interfere and that’s a good thing.
Mentioned in This Episode
How to connect with Erik Thorsell
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