Peer groups are nothing new to the IT channel community – groups like Heartland Tech Groups have long provided that “peer board of directors” that many small businesses need.
And now a new face is getting into the game – veteran Canadian channel community figure Stuart Crawford, who now heads marketing consultancy Ulistic, has introduced Ulistic SMB Growth Groups, a peer group that looks to cater to the small and growing (sub-$1 million) managed service provider market. And it’s free.
“I wanted a way to give back to smaller MSPs that are just out there getting started,” he said. “There are a lot of business coaches and peer groups out there vying for their attention, and a lot of them are confused about what to join. I want to get them some ideas and strategies, without breaking the bank, to get them started in the right direction.”
Crawford said the Growth Groups, which will be communities of between six and eight MSPs, will meet on an hour-long phone call each month, with Crawford himself facilitating the conversation. Some of the time, it will be Crawford leading the charge when it comes to education – focusing on some of his areas of expertise like marketing and social media, as well as lessons he learned in his time in the managed services game, with Alberta-based IT Matters and Bulletproof Infotech.
And in true peer groups fashion (Crawford’s background includes extensive ties to HTG, including being the first facilitator of the first all-Canadian chapter of the community) some of the learning will come from the members as they share experiences and best practices.
“The goal is to give them the fundamentals to get started, get the peers talking through the issues around growing their businesses,” Crawford said. “I want to get the peers working with each other. I’m just the guy who brings it all together.”
But for now, the goal is to do so in a way that takes all parties – facilitator and members – out of the field as little as possible. For smaller solution providers, time spent on the road in meetings is time lost for billable hours. And it’s the same for the facilitator, who views it as an investment in building up a future base of Ulistic clients, going as far as to call the SMB Growth Groups, “Ulistic’s freemium offering.”
“My goal is to graduate them into an HTG, or into working one-on-one with me,” he said. “If we can accomplish that, that will be great.”
Crawford said his goal is to get the first meetings going by the end of the month. More information about the program, as well as sign-ups, are available on Ulistic’s Web site.