Who you hire for your MSP says a lot about your company and how you’re going to shape its future.

Here are six steps to hiring an IT vendor that you might be missing…

Many of the customers we forge relationships with have never utilized a service the way Upward provides it, in that they have never hired a company that acts as an entire department of their own. We very often observe prospects buying process to be awkward, unfocused and poorly aligned with what they really need for their business. We see customers send out dense RFP’s, build matrices and grill us on pricing options, rather than asking meaningful questions on how we complement their business objectives. And while we completely understand that customers will lean on their buying process for other services, like telco or copiers, when trying to qualify and quantify the benefit of one service or another, hiring an IT partner is wholly different. Why? Because you are selecting a long-term extension of your own team, it’s more of a hiring decision than an outsourcing decision.

At best, the managed services provider can be a catalyst for change, driving your business to higher profits and saving you from catastrophic cyber risks; at worst, they can cost a lot of money seeking poorly defined outcomes and leave you behind where you started and vulnerable to outsized risks. It’s an important decision.

The 6 critical steps to hiring a great Managed IT service provider for your company:

Create your Pro Forma & 3-year plan first, budget for IT.

Usually, companies start with strategic direction and use a Pro Forma to model their intentions. In this case, I recommend looking at the financial plan for the company first. The industry rule of thumb is that 2-4% of revenue should go into technology. If you don’t currently have IT budgeted anywhere close to that, or perhaps budgeted at all, it’s time to do some soul searching. Do you want to grow the business? Are your competitors likely developing digital innovations in how they provide customer value? Is the technology you have today going to work and scale with you over the next few years? If you answered “Yes”, “Yes”, “No”, consider expanding the budget to a normalized range. It’s one of the best investments you can make (if you pick the right partner!).

Make sure you consider retooling the Pro Forma each time meaningful information is added in this process. If it comes to light that your people are ravenous for better technology, make the appropriate adjustments.

Define, with the entire management team (and potentially all staff members) exactly how technology should align with your business goals.

Prior to engaging vendors, take the time to develop clear strategic alignment for technology in your company. Often your best advice will come from unexpected places.

Frame the discussion with your team in terms of outcome:


  • Could help us increase “this”.
  • Could help us decrease “that”.
  • Should be automating a mundane part of “X” role.
  • Is what our competitors use to do “this” better than us.
  • Can help us avoid a security event like our competitor experienced.

In part 3 of this blog series, we will provide a framework and specific questions for this discussion. Stay tuned!

Write this all down and turn these statements or hypothesis into questions you can ask the vendors.

“We are interested in decreasing “X”. Mrs. IT Vendor, tell us about a client you work with who you have been able to decrease “X” with”

“Are you comfortable providing them as a reference?”

In part 4 of this blog series, we will provide examples of some critical questions.

Don’t delegate unless you mean it.

We often see business leaders who are half-in on technology; they selectively engage and participate (usually in the cost analysis) and ignore the rest (the strategic part that dictates cost). If you have completed steps 1 -3 thoroughly, this is okay. If you are not fully committed to giving up control and strategic management of this key function, then you are not ready to delegate. We see many companies who have a very difficult time picking vendors, and deciding on strategy because the leader at the top is only half engaged, treating it like another telco or internet provider decision.

This decision is truly akin to hiring a key employee. Don’t be the wizard behind the curtain! If you think IT is strategically important, put your money and time where your mouth is and participate. If you’re not sure IT is important to your business, consider reading the prequel to this article.

Visit the potential vendor’s offices, meet the entire staff.

This vendor will work with every member of your staff, work alongside you during times of extreme duress, oversee the protection of all your intellectual property, design competitive strategies that are critical to outmaneuvering competitors and maintain every file, picture, application, printer, record, and device that supports you servicing your clients. Go meet them and see how and where they work.

Does their office feel like a place you might like to work? That’s a great litmus test.

Are you a creative or relationship driven group, and is their office devoid of any personality and inspiration? Listen to that.

Pick your 5-year relationship

We see many clients treat this decision as an experiment as they figure out and grow into what they know they eventually need. This is a mistake. You can’t afford the lost time while you tread water, this is a relationship that needs to drive long-term results. Don’t pick a vendor just based on who you need today, pick the vendor who is going where you are going.

Interview the vendor on their 5-year plans; are they forward-thinking, inspired in their mission, what do they see coming around the corner for their business, what keeps them awake at night, how do they hire? In short, who do they want to be? Like everything else, the vendor’s response should resonate and align with your vision, after all, they are going to be part of your team.

If you can follow these steps and make this decision count, you can find the vendor that can drive exceptional results for your business for years to come.

If you are ready to start evaluating a new relationship with an IT vendor that can drive exceptional results, contact Upward Technology and begin that discussion.