On this episode of the Start Grow Manage Podcast, guest Damien Stevens discusses the importance of having the right people and processes in place for a successful business, particularly in the context of managing backups for MSPs. He also shares his own experiences and offers advice for those struggling in their businesses, emphasizing the importance of vulnerability and seeking help from others in the community.
Damien Stevens founder of Servosity
Damien Stevens is the founder and CEO of Servosity. Previously, he was an MSP who lost a major client’s data and nearly his family’s welfare. That prompted his mission of ensuring he does everything possible to prevent data loss from happening to other MSPs. Now, he leads Servosity with a heart for his employees and a passion for improving peace and sanity for MSPs. He believes in providing value first in all aspects of his business and personal life. Outside of Servosity, he is a husband and dad of 3 kids (Which is abundantly apparent from his frequent dad jokes.) and enjoys pushing himself to pursue new adventures.
What is the problem you solve and for whom?
- We help MSPs focus on the core business by not worrying about and babysitting their Backup and DR.
How do you help MSPs?
- We help MSPs focus on the core business by not worrying about and babysitting their Backup and DR.
Your Company Website/URL
- Steal my Backup and DR Process!
Joe Rojas: Hello and welcome to the Start Grow Manage Podcast. My name is Joe.
Jeff Loehr: Today, we’re here with Damien Stevens, who started Servosity. Why don’t you just tell us a little bit about yourself to get started?
Damien Stevens: I’m very blessed to have three kids and an amazingly more than-she-should-be patient wife. And what led me to start Servosity, though, is I was an MSP, and I probably like a lot of MSPs, I understood the tech, can do this and do that, and I can learn things, and so of course, we were growing pretty rapidly.
The biggest part about that is I was the one managing the backups. And so we were using the best software you could get then. And it sent me lots of emails that I promptly didn’t want to read
But I was diligent about if it said, “Error RED”, I would go fix it. That’s what you did then, right?
Then, our biggest client called and said that all their servers were down. They had five servers. That was our biggest client.
Only now do I know we were in managed services because they’d pay us every month instead of just selling break-fix.
MRR, is the three best things I learned from that business.
Jeff Loehr: So there’s, but there are two sides of MRR. MRR is brilliant. You got the money coming in, but you also have to deliver the service, right?
Damien Stevens: Yeah. That’s pretty important, as it turns out.
Jeff Loehr: So it ends up with you on the line with all of these backups and these emails that you don’t wanna read and end up deleting without reading them. And those red errors that you have to go and fix.
Damien Stevens: Yeah. If you think about the early days of managed services, right? This is the early 2000s. It was a brand-new game, so we had no idea.
We were just hustling, whatever a client needed, let’s do it.
We did not only break fixes, but we built the computers and sold them. I know that seems crazy to talk about in this day and age, right?
Joe Rojas: I remember those days.
Damien Stevens: But as we grew, we sold break-fix. Then we sold these monthly recurring contracts that we didn’t know were really managed services. And we also sold all these computers.
And to give you an idea of the utter chaos. I came in one day, and I had been working on a project for a client for about a month that was due the following day.
Which was to build them a website since we also sold websites too.
On that day we had a big order. So we sold everything. We sold our own computers, so my computer with the project was gone. I just sold it. There’s nothing left.
So I guess you could appreciate the chaos that we were operating through because we were growing so fast. The processes, the procedures, they just weren’t there.
And I was managing the backups. And despite all that, I was still fixing them whenever the green dots turned red.
So back to the story about the five servers that were down.
The client was panicking. We were panicking. If you guys have experienced that, that’s not a fun day.
Joe Rojas: It’s stressful.
Damien Stevens: They’re standing over you, they’re pacing around. And those were back in the days when you went on-site to do a recovery.
So I go on-site to do the recovery, and everything’s green, saying it’s good.
So I’m thinking this is not a fun day, but I’m good. And tens and tens of hours later after being on with their tech support with a vendor and all this sort of things. I learned that we were able to take a successful backup of the corrupted NTFS volume.
Long story short, we were taking successful backups of corrupted volumes, and all of them were corrupted. So I had to go to my client and tell them like, I can’t restore your data.
And I don’t know if you guys have ever been anywhere close to that.
Jeff Loehr: Yeah. I destroyed an email server for Daimler, Benz in Berlin once. That was 96-97, so they weren’t even completely sure they wanted to use email.
And then I’d managed to destroy all of their emails. And the CEO decided that, yeah, it was important enough that we should probably start taking it seriously. But it doesn’t sound quite as bad as your experience.
So you’re like restoring these backups. They’re all corrupted.
Damien Stevens: Yeah, I had to go to the biggest client that would spend money when we asked them to. And they paid on time.
Joe Rojas: I’ve been there, I’ve had a very similar situation where a client, where they’re doing everything right, and you think you’re doing everything right, and then you go to restore, and… You can’t get the data.
And it’s sometimes, we were in it for 60-70 hours. Every minute that passes, you’re just like dying.
Damien Stevens: That’s right.
Joe Rojas: And there, there comes a point by the time you get to talk to them, you’re dead.
Damien Stevens: You’re right Joe. There’s nothing they can say that’ll make you feel worse.
Joe Rojas: By the time you get in front of them, it’s like you’ve broken your trust with them.
Jeff Loehr: So, was that the end of the relationship with them?
Damien Stevens: Yeah, it was, they wanted us to try to do this workaround. It turned out the accountant had a copy of the QuickBooks from seven or eight months ago, which was better than zero.
We were still the only IT company they really knew. So we were willing to do whatever and serve them in the interim. But yeah, to Joe’s point, I had to go to them and say, “we’ve totally failed you. I’ve totally failed you”. And that’s something I don’t ever want to do again.
Everything had to get recreated. And as you can imagine, all the work we did after that is not something they were willing to pay for. I think at the end of the day, we narrowly avoided litigation. That was the best outcome we could come. And it still didn’t feel like a win. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like you’re like, “whew, yes, I’m not getting sued today.”
Jeff Loehr: Is that what inspired you to start Servosity?
Damien Stevens: Yeah, that was the point where I was like, I have let my team down.
And I said, at this point, I’m going to either run away from IT and just do something way less stressful. I don’t know what it is, maybe, skydiving.
Jeff Loehr: It is safer than IT.
Damien Stevens: Yeah. That’s what led me to start Servosity because I thought when it said, “success,” it mean that I could restore the data.
I started talking to more and more MSPs, and I realized no MSP wants to come on and say, yeah, I’ve lost a client’s data.
I talk to ’em all the time, and they’ll admit that confidentially, but that’s not what goes on the website. And they don’t really wanna raise their hand and say that on a podcast. But it’s uncommon if they haven’t lost a client’s data.
And it’s not that any MSP that I’ve met is ignoring the emails or just not doing their job or doesn’t care. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually, most of the ones I’ve, almost all the ones I’ve worked with, are some of the most hardworking people.
I feel like MSPs are the blue-collar of the IT industry. And I mean that in the best way, the world wouldn’t work without them.
Damien Stevens: What I learned is there are about a hundred different ways the backup can shoot you in the foot.
Joe Rojas: I have been shot a bunch of different ways, so I know.
Damien Stevens: Yeah, if your backup tells you “good or success,” we’re conditioned as people to go, “yeah, all right, I can trust that. It works.” I kind of became obsessed with the problem.
Jeff Loehr: And I wanna pause here just to say this is very cool.
One of the things we talk about all the time with our clients is understanding and defining what that problem is and fixing that defined problem that people have.
I love that you went out and you talked to the MSPs. And you have that tacit experience with the problem. You understand it, and you’re able to define it in a really clear way that somebody can understand. You’re not gonna sell this to a bank or an airline. You’re selling your solution to the person who’s managing their services.
You’re not selling IT to the finance person. Because your solution is very specific around the problem that they have.
Damien Stevens: That’s right. Yeah, there’s no either business owner or service delivery manager or whatever that role is that’s been there for a while that hasn’t gone through this.
In fact, when people come to me and they’re like, let’s see if you’re a good fit. Let’s talk to you, and we have an exploratory call. We talk about a lot of things, but if they’re willing to open up, it usually becomes basically: How often do you test?
And they don’t want to put this on the website, but the answer is usually is:
- I got one client. We do it annually cause they pay extra; everybody else, we don’t.
- Or, well I get like a screenshot every night that the vendor sends me.
It’s a real common misperception is screenshots are testing, first of all, screenshots are only the boot volume.
Damien Stevens: That doesn’t tell you anything about your data. I’ve actually talked to a couple of MSPs. They’re like, “I never thought that far through it!” and they’re like blown away.
Jeff Loehr: Talking about this, I’d be immediately thinking of all those backups that I thought were all green-lighted and are ready to go. And then I’d have this fear bubbling up.
Joe Rojas: I’ve had that fear cause I was an MSP, probably even more recently than you. I got out in 2015, but I’ve had the screenshot, the boot was good, and the data itself, the data volume, was corrupted. And you know, eventually, we managed to recover the data.
Jeff Loehr: So how does Servosity solve the problem?
Damien Stevens: Yeah, we looked at testing. The common conversation I’ll have is, do you test The answer I get frequently is either “No” or “very, very infrequently.”
What’s the only backup you really trust? A tested one. And then so you test maybe annually, maybe less.
Damien Stevens: I’d then ask, “How much data do you think you could lose before your client would fire you?” And the answer is somewhere between an hour and a day, depending on the client. But basically, nobody says I could lose a week or a month’s worth, and they’d be okay with that.
So you get this huge disparity between the only thing I could trust is a tested backup and I only test annually, if that.
Damien Stevens: So what we basically do three things that are different, and it’s:
- Then technology.
Damien Stevens: I know, as a technology guy, that sounds weird. But if you don’t have the right people and you don’t have the right process, the technology won’t really matter.
And on that last point, I believe in that so much that we’ve just recently taken over 20 years I’ve been dealing with working on backups and now doing it a scale that is larger than any MSP, and we’ve distilled down into our process.
It’s called Steal My Process.
So you can steal my process. That’s how much I believe in it. If we’re not the right fit, just steal my process, and gain something from this.
The reason I do this is that I get the blessing of talking to so many MSPs, whether it’s through my show or others that reach out and say, can you help us? And in every interaction, I want to give. And now I know you can take away something. So the process is definitely a huge part of that.
Jeff Loehr: It’s actually not just MSPs, but it’s anybody who’s good at something, like people who start MSPs, they tend to be very good at technology, but you could be good at drawing, or you could be good at driving. Whatever it is. And then you decide I’m gonna start a business around that. And invariably, You don’t put the processes in place.
You’re not focusing on the people. You’re just focusing on the thing that you’re good at, and that’s where you get stuck in the hustle, and people take your computer while you’re trying to do your website, and everything’s falling apart around you the whole time because you haven’t thought of the process that says no, don’t take my computer.
Jeff Loehr: So the idea of Servosity is that it tests your backup.
Damien Stevens: Yeah. What we realized the hard way is that for most of our existence, Servosity was really not that much different than your data, your Veeam, you name it.
And I mean that in both a good and, unfortunately, a bad way. We sold you a technology tool, and it did pretty much the same thing. And we kept coming out with tools to help you test and help you protect yourself.
Then we started talking about a year or so before COVID with our MSPs about their challenges and not just what feature you want on the roadmap.
These were actual conversations about what’s the biggest challenge MSPs are facing.
Finally, we took all that and distilled it down. It came down to, basically, either the people or the process.
What we do now manage it for you. So we do everything from deploying the backups to, on a daily basis, proactively fixing them, and testing them, which is obviously critical. And that includes testing daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. So we built this whole testing regimen in for you because we realize at a certain point…
Technology would only do so much, and giving you more basically to-dos was not a recipe for success.
Damien Stevens: I was talking with MSP in person recently, and they were telling me they lost a client’s data, and he, the CEO, was so frustrated by this. He went to his CTO and said, “look, you come up with a process to make sure this will never happen again. Figure out how we could do this, how we can test, et cetera.”
So CTO was very good about it. He spent a couple of months on it, came back, and said, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll do this, and we’ll test this, and we’ll test that, and we’ll do this.
The CEO then asked, “What does that look like?” And the CTO said our cost on it was going to be about $600 a month per server.
If you’re in the MSP industry, that’s your cost. Which is not a good sign.
Joe Rojas: Oh, so, that’s about four times as much as we’re charging.
Damien Stevens: So he wanted it, but he couldn’t deliver it. That’s the thing I think that we are still improving on. All MSP vendors, Servosity included, need to do a better job of making it easier for the MSP to be successful and not shoot themselves in the foot because of something they don’t even know about.
There are just so many ways backups can fail. The only way I know around that is an incredible amount of testing, so that’s why we decided to manage it for you.
So if you don’t know your backup retention policy, if you don’t know your schedule, if you don’t know these things, and you can’t know that there’s consistency around them, then you really don’t know what you don’t know.
At the end of the day, people generally hire us because either they know they can trust the testing or they’re not gonna get it themselves. Then they can focus, and I believe in focusing on what you’re great at.
And I’ve yet to meet an MSP that’s like, I’m the best at backups, period. And that’s why my clients hire me, right?
Jeff Loehr: That’s beautiful. I love that. There’s a clear problem and a clear solution. You know what you’re doing. People know what they’re hiring you for, and that’s allowed you to grow.
Damien Stevens: Absolutely. More and more people are like, let’s hand this over to you guys. It will be done better than it is now.
For example, where I got a client who got a technician spending 37 hours a week on backup.
Joe Rojas: That’s what I did. When I had a failure where I like lost data and lost a client. I hired a person. It cost me dearly. My earnings per seat went down tremendously because that person doesn’t generate revenue. Their only job is to make sure the backups are happening.
Damien Stevens: Yeah. And then you end up with a thing where that one person is tribal knowledge.
Jeff Loehr: So, what got you to start your show? MSP Mindset.
Damien Stevens: So the genesis for the MSP Mindset is that I work with so many MSPs that call me about anything related to backups, but I also get so many calls about how do I actually figure out my sales and marketing process. How do I actually pick a niche?
Whatever the topic is, I get a lot of different calls because they’ll just say, Hey, who do you know?
And I realized instead of just doing one-on-one introductions, I could bring some of these folks on a podcast and let them share some of their amazing stories.
Damien Stevens: The best part is that the technicians and MSPs who listen also don’t feel so alone.
Jeff Loehr: We’ve all struggled. We’ve all been there. This is tough for everybody. I think that not being alone thing is a big deal.
Joe Rojas: And that’s what ended up pushing us too.
Jeff Loehr: Hey, look, that’s been us. Joe and I, we’ve failed so many times. We know exactly how painful it is, and we’re like, no, please learn from our mistakes.
Don’t reinvent the wheel because you don’t have to, and the same thing you’re not alone.
Jeff Loehr: Your show is great. You’ve got so many really interesting topics and mindset topics there. How long have you been doing it?
Damien Stevens: We started last year. So we’re now every other Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern.
Damien Stevens: Here’s the reason it’s called MSP Mindset. This is because I believe if you can change your mindset, you can change your business and your life.
Joe Rojas: Thank you for bringing that to the community because that’s the game. That’s a game worthy of your life, so that’s really awesome. Thank you for that.
Damien Stevens: It’s my pleasure. So many people helped me and continue to do so, and there are just so many opportunities out there. I just need to connect you to the right person. And now it’s things like that are happening on the show, in the comments.
Jeff Loehr: The upside is the community. The upside is learning from each other’s mistakes. I think the upside is it’s not all doom and gloom. There are things that you can do, and there are people out there going through the same stuff that you’re going through.
Joe Rojas: You are only alone if you choose to be alone. We’re out here, we’re waiting for you, all of us, to talk to you.
Jeff Loehr: Before we go, Damien, just based on sort of your experience, your show, and growing companies… If you’re thinking of an MSP who’s in the hustle, who just lost their computer that someone took it away and sent it to somewhere else… What would you say to them?
What should an MSP do today to start on that journey toward creating a business that they love?
Damien Stevens: I would echo a little bit what Joe said. You’re not alone unless you choose to be. So two things.
- Number one, I’m not alone. I thought I was.
- Number two, be vulnerable. The more I’m was willing to open up and say, Hey, I’ve lost a backup has anybody else? And how’d you deal with that? There are so many people that are willing to help you take yourself to the next level by changing your mindset.
Jeff Loehr: Awesome. Damien Stevens, thank you for joining us and sharing everything that you’ve done and your wonderful experiences.
Damien Stevens: It’s been my pleasure.
Jeff Loehr: On that, Joe, do you wanna take us out?
Joe Rojas: So, for all of you out there, Remember that You Are Loved.
Jeff Loehr: All right, guys. Until next time. Goodbye.