The Responsibility To Do More

  • Company:  CyberGuard360
  • Founded: 2015
  • Headquartered: Wilton, Connecticut
  • Geographic Market: About 99% of businesses in the U.S.
  • Top Growth Indicator: Client acquisition
  • YoY Percent of Growth: 80%
  • CEO: Al Alper

What Are The Top Three Metrics You Use To Measure Your Business, And Why?

The first important metric we look at is how fast we’re growing our partner base; tracking the number of new partner acquisitions we’re generating every month informs how well we’re addressing the market.

Partner ascension is our second biggest measurement tool. Our partners typically sign up with us for a specific and narrow subset of reasons or services. So, our goal is to expand them into the other platforms and services we offer, and we measure how fast we help them do that. We look at it on a week-by-week basis to see if we’re moving our partners all the way through the funnel so they’re getting full utilization out of everything we offer.

The third and equally important metric is retention. Since 2015, we’ve increased our ability to retain partners by adding value through new features, expanding white labeling all the way through to their client, and something we call “extreme flexibility,” which gives them full control over their clients and the services they deliver to them. These metrics enjoy a profound relationship with each other, and focusing on them allows us to grow quickly, delivering high customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter (NPS) scores.

When it comes down to the “why” of it all, it’s because each metric reflects customer satisfaction, which is No. 1 above all else. Our ability to satisfy our partners makes them willing to drive more business to us. To ensure focus on that commitment, last year we formed an advisory council of our partners so they have a hand in all aspects of the platform, including new features, which enable us to engage the partner and prospect community in a more intimate way. Many of our features are born of this council and their input. That’s how seriously we take customer satisfaction.

What Is The Top Lesson You Had To Learn That Allowed You To Kick-Start Your Business Growth?

To quote a colleague, “flip it.” We look at what we’re doing vis-à-vis delivering on our platform and services, and how we’re doing it, through the eyes of our partners and the larger MSP community.  Toward that end, three elements give us that insight and they all have the same value in our eyes, and we’re hyper-focused on them.

Process: We focus on making sure we’ve fully mapped out what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, including what the process looks like on our side and on the partner’s side. This includes everything from the functionality of the platforms to the ascension plan so we can see where to start, where the end is, and what’s needed to get there.

Metrics (acquisition, ascension, and retention): We not only track them, we apply them at every gate along the process of development and delivery. This is to make sure we’re on track and deliver on expectations. The Partner Advisory Council has been invaluable in helping us “flip it.”

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good: It’s easy to lose focus on the goal when you strive for perfection, but a lot of very good work is lost along the way and you risk losing everything as the market passes you by.

What Would You Say Was The Single Secret To Your Success This Past Year?

We identify opportunities in the market earlier than most, and execute. This allows us to deliver features and functionality that reflect how our partners would use and sell them. Our partners will tell you our platforms work the way they want them to work, and they often say that if they were building it themselves, that’s exactly how they would do it. This is because we have the vantage point of also being an MSP (I own an MSP, Absolute Logic) and understanding the challenges they face in the market as they deliver services and expand their business. As a vendor, that perspective is invaluable and led to the Partner Advisory Council to crowdsource market intelligence. In short, our success comes from the fact that our platforms are built for MSPs by MSPs.

Much of this inclusiveness comes from myriad other ventures we’ve been and are involved with. They have allowed us to understand a variety of markets, finding a common thread that drives success and giving us a unique perspective on how the participants conduct business. This also allows us to see farther down the road than most because those businesses are also consumers of MSP services. Having this perspective of the market gives us certain responsibilities. For example, we view the IoT (internet of things) as the single largest hole in the attack surface, but most MSPs aren’t focusing on it. Seeing the entire space the way we do means we can identify the holes and gaps and start developing ways to satisfy them.

We’ve recently launched a S.A.F.E. (secured, assured, fortified, and educated) certification program for MSPs and other third-party vendors to demonstrate that they are practicing cyber-hygiene and marketing that as a differentiator. Going through this program allows them to demonstrate they’ve employed proper cybersecurity standards and practices in their MSP. Breaches and attacks through MSPs occur because no governing body or set of standards determines which MSPs are safe and secure to use. It’s all on the basis of trust, but when it comes to security, that’s not enough. Now, people are coming to us for certification so they can demonstrate to their clients they actually do protect them. The development of this program is an example of seeing further down the road and has been a terrific success for us. It empowers our partners with a substantive differentiator and brings them more success.

What Was The Biggest Challenge You Had To Overcome This Past Year Related To Either Reaching That Growth Or As A Result Of That Growth?

It’s that same idea of not letting the perfect be the enemy of good. It’s a constant challenge to think that way because “good enough” is a subjective term. At some point, you’ve got to say to yourself, “This is good enough.” Often, the idea or product is ready to take to market and the MSP community is going to be thrilled with what you’ve done. Our Partner Advisory Council has been a terrific check and balance for this and substantially increased our speed to market, allowing us to get more done the way our partners and the MSP community want.

Who Would You Say Is The Most Impactful Business Leader Or Business Thought-Leader Whose Techniques Or Leadership Style You Either Try To Emulate, Follow, Or Are Influenced By? Why?

Hands down, it’s Paul Dippell. He’s one of the smartest people in our space and easily in the top 2 on my list. He is unbelievably bright when it comes to understanding the market, operating efficiently, and working with integrity. And he executes consistently. He’s a great example of understanding the importance of consistently aligning yourself with repeatable and scalable processes and best practices. If I were to step into someone else’s shoes for a day, he’s the person I would choose.

What Book Would You Recommend To Other MSPs or SMBs Trying To Grow Their Businesses?

First and foremost, I’d recommend “Traction” by Gino Wickman. It really puts you in the mindset of focusing on your business as opposed to in your business. It gives you a systemic approach to having that mindset and actually using it to operate. It is the nuts and bolts how-to for any business owner.

“Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish is another great book. It teaches you how to implement certain business processes and continue to drive them forward so you can keep growing. It brings to light the tools you need to achieve.

Lastly, “That Will Never Work” by Mark Randolph is a must-read, predominantly because it reminds me — and should remind all entrepreneurs — that you have to keep trying things, experimenting, and taking risks. If you don’t, you’re standing still and someone will pass you by.

In Closing, Do You Have Any Specific Advice Or Words Of Wisdom That You Would Give To Other MSPs Looking To Grow Or Build A Successful Exit For Their Business?

Your company has to be attractive to more people than just you. You have obligations to the stakeholders, but really think about who your “stakeholders” are. It’s actually an extraordinarily vast and deep community. They’re not just the people who work for you — their families depend on the money they make by working for you. They are the clients and partners who rely on your business to operate successfully. They are all the vendors you work with who rely on doing business with you. That’s the stakeholder community, and the business you build needs to be attractive to them, too. You have to build something people want to buy from or work for, and if you do that, someone will want your business whenever you decide you’re ready for that moment.

In the end, my advice is to never get comfortable. Don’t become complacent where you are. Keep growing and changing. Keep that edge. If you lose your edge, you lose your ability to take risks. People who don’t take risks have a job. People who do take risks build companies.