In this episode of Start Grow Manage, co-hosts Jeff Loehr and Joe Rojas are joined by Trevor Thomas, VP of Sales for ZenContract, to explore the importance of niching to communicate and establish structured processes for managed service providers (MSPs).
Thomas also shares his extensive sales experience, explaining how he excelled in various companies, from telephone providers to bars and hotels. The key, he reveals, is the ‘niching’ strategy. By targeting specific markets allowing a more personalized approach to each customer’s needs, businesses are better able to understand and meet their expectations.
For MSPs, Thomas advocates for clear contracts to ensure responsibilities and terms of business relationships are well-outlined. He also gives an overview of ZenContract and the value it offers to businesses.
Trevor Thomas has a passion for both people and technology – putting the two together is the perfect blend.
Trevor helps MSPs overcome the headache of Contract Lifecycle Management and Automation.
What is the problem you solve, and for whom?
We fix the contract headache that plagues the majority of MSP’s. Bringing in decades of best practice processes from the MSP space we assist with templatizing, creating, sending, executing, and managing contracts. From initial managed agreement, to renewal, and everything in-between. We also leverage direct integrations into the leading PSA’s.
How do you help MSPs
We fix the contract headache that plagues the majority of MSP’s.
Your Company Website/URL
What you are promoting:
Jeff Loehr: So you’re going to Space Camp, right?
Joe Rojas: No, I’m not going to Space Camp. My son is going to Space Camp. And this is the second week, so last week, he did robotics. And he was like, you know what, one year of Space Camp is good enough for me. And then yesterday, he had his first day of actual space camp, where they’re doing all the really cool space stuff.
And he was like, this week is going to be the best week ever!
Jeff Loehr: Why don’t we get to go to Space Camp?
Joe Rojas: Here’s the cool thing about Space Camp: they have an adult program. Next year, theoretically. We could go to Space Camp.
Transition to MSP Topics and Interview Introduction
Joe Rojas: Talking about MSP stuff. We’ve got this great interview with Trevor Thomas coming up with ZenContract.
Importance of Contracts in MSP Business
Jeff Loehr: I think it’s very interesting, this idea of the importance of contracts and that there’s a reluctance to put contracts in place. And I’m not sure really where that comes from.
Joe Rojas: I remember my first MSP; I got bit a bunch of times by not having things in writing, especially when I worked with lawyers. And like you do a six-month sales cycle.
You’re like, this is my friend. We don’t need a contract. We’ll just shake hands, and it’s going to be great. We’re just going to love each other. And then, if something comes up, we’ll work it out. But it turns out it’s not that way.
Like when the matter hits the fans, it turns into another deal. And then people all of a sudden, it’s “Oh no, we’re doing business.” And yeah, you’re responsible for this, and I’m responsible for that. And then all of a sudden, there’s these guidelines, and then you have to make a choice whether you’re going to pay whatever it is that they’re asking for, or you’re going to pay a lawyer to defend against that.
But either way, it’s going to cost you if you don’t put in a contract.
Jeff Loehr: Because if you don’t have a contract, you haven’t defined really the terms of the deal.
So even if you are going to prepare a lawyer, it’s for what, right? If you haven’t agreed to anything, then nobody’s violating any conditions, right? Like anybody can demand anything. Anybody can claim anything.
The Role of Contracts in Business Relationships
Jeff Loehr: It’s very important to have contracts with friends and with people that you know well, because, if you really want to continue the relationship with somebody and you’re doing business with them, you really want to be sure that you’ve got things written down so that there is clarity in terms of what the business is, what the expectations are, and where you’re going with all this,
Joe Rojas: Yeah. Because if you don’t, you get burned.
The Importance of Waivers in MSP Business
Joe Rojas: The other thing, too, especially for MSPs, is waivers. Because the role that you’re in as an MSP is that you’re giving this advice. You’re saying, here, this is what you need to do. And then if the client says, no, I’m not going to do that. And you’re saying, no, if you don’t do this, you’re not protected.
You need to do this. And they say they’re not going to do it. You got to get them to sign something that says that they’re not going to do it. Because what will inevitably happen is that you told them that they needed to do something. They didn’t do it. They get run over by a truck because they didn’t do the thing that you said to do.
Jeff Loehr: If you’re going to insist on multi-factor authentication and they don’t want multi-factor authentication, you got to have a waiver for that because if you don’t, what’s going to happen is that somebody is going to find a way around a single factor, authentication. And then when that happens, they are going to come back to you and point the finger. And it doesn’t matter that you had a phone conversation 18 months ago in which they said, no, we really don’t want this and we don’t care, what the implications are, right?
At that point, that’s not a relevant conversation. if you want cybersecurity insurance, you’re going to have to show that you have these things put in place.
Discussion on ZenContract
Jeff Loehr: So what I like about Trevor Thomas’s solution is that ZenContract not only help you put these in place, but they make sure that you’re getting it signed.
They help you track the versioning. and I think that’s something that’s, going to be important for contracts as we start really trying to delineate the liability of all the things that we’re taking on.
Joe Rojas: And as regulation starts to get enforced, it gets more complex, and the liability starts to shift more to the MSP. So, it’s really cool.
Transition to Interview with Trevor Thomas
Joe Rojas: And on that, why don’t we move over to Trevor Thomas?
Jeff Loehr: All right.
Joe Rojas: So, here’s my partner and the business friend.
Trevor Thomas’s Introduction and Background
Joe Rojas: Jeff, meet, Trevor,
Jeff Loehr: Hey, Trevor. Nice to meet you.
Trevor Thomas: Likewise. I love your guys’ content, by the way, and your weekly emails that are coming out. Yeah, they’re good. I’m stealing tidbits.
Joe Rojas: Why don’t you start by giving Jeff, like, the rundown you gave me of your career, and then we’ll kind of roll from there, and we’ll ask a bunch of questions.
Trevor’s Experience with Contract Management
Trevor Thomas: Okay. Trevor Thomas, VP of Sales for ZenContract. And, Sales is right in my title. And that’s very true as far as what I’ve been doing for the last decade plus. I think if we go back to 2008, aging myself here, was my first like true sales job with Bell, which is a big phone provider up here (in Canada), right?
They’re a big telecom and they put you through a five-day training course. And it was amazing. I was number one in Alberta and continued on until our store got bought. And then in 2013, I went B2B, I was doing corporate travel sales, which sounds boring, but all of the tangents that you get from that, because there’s the retail side of things, the cheaper trips and all of that’s really exciting.
And then in 2015, I moved to the SaaS I’ve always been interested in technology. And in kind of every facet, and that comes from, being a nerdy video gamer, you can’t see it, but, over there, there’s comic books, there’s comic books up here, there’s records, right?
Jeff Loehr: This is a little two-inch square of professionalism behind you. That’s nice and clean.
Trevor Thomas: and it’s funny, right? because a lot of people have backgrounds and, don’t want to show off their living space. And I’m like, I love this. It’s taken me years to craft this office,
And it’s a conversation starter. Almost every call I jump on, someone will mention the shoes.
And be like, oh, are you a Sneaker Head? I’m like, I was. And then they got expensive. And then, frugal me getting older was like, I’m not going to spend 150 on a pair of shoes. And then eventually I was like, it would look really cool in my office.
So yeah, got into the SaaS world in 2015, and then the MSP space is something my partner in 2015 also jumped into the MSP world. She was working with Passportal, and then she moved to Datto a couple of years later, and she told me about, all of the big names in the channel and just the sense of community in the MSP space.
People are so generous with their time and their resources. I know Reddit can be a bit of a hotbed, but if you look on there and someone’s like, “Hey, I’ve got this issue”, you’ll have 10 people jumping at them, being like, here’s how you fix that, Or here’s a script I wrote, right?
Same thing with all the Slack channels the Facebook groups. People are very giving. So it really intrigued me, and in 2021, I started doing some contract sales work for an MSP out in New Hampshire. and it was not full-time, but it gave me, an idea of what’s the day to day for an MSP.
How do you structure your proposals, your stack, all that kind of stuff. Then later that year, I was talking with Greg who runs ZenContract. And we were, on the cusp of coming to an agreement of what a role would look like, right? It was early days, and then a role came up with Datto, and I was like, Datto’s pretty solid. My partner works there, right?
The Importance of Contract Management in MSPs
Trevor Thomas: They’re a good name in the industry. So I’m going to take this offer, go full circle just under a year later. And I’m talking to Greg, and I’m like, hey, do you have a more defined role? And he’s like, yeah, we do now.
If you’re interested, let’s really come on board. It’s going to be a ton of fun. So that was just over a year ago I started here, and it’s been a blast ever since then, the community aspect, the events, these types of things, I love doing this.
Jeff Loehr: One of the things that Joe said, Oh, we’ve got to talk to Trevor because he gets niches and I don’t know what that means, but Joe, I’ll just let you guide. Because it’s one of the things that we talk about all the time is this need to have a niche to sell to market to deliver to, right?
So we’d love to hear your perspective.
First SaaS Company
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, he first SaaS company I worked at, it was actually hardware and software. And they were in the name of the game of ID verification. So, think ID, like driver’s license, passport scanning, and usually it bars in nightclubs, But as you can anticipate, there are many other applications to this, such as hotels casinos.
And then if you get into the larger scheme of things, you could relate it to other industries, liquor stores, and you know, the list goes on. Now, when I was there, and as a salesperson, you want your market to be as big as possible, if the total addressable market is a hundred thousand, you want that hundred thousand.
I want to sell to everyone, gimme, gimme, gimme, right? Of course, if there’s a product fit, and you know, that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I mean, you want a larger addressable market. Now, the person who was doing our MSP sales and marketing, our director at the time, had this good analogy of bowling pins.
And he’s like, so when you’re bowling, what’s the first thing you’re trying to do? You’re trying to knock down that first pin. Because if you don’t knock down that first pin, you’re not going to get the rest of them.
So his methodology was, let’s make sure that we hammer that first pin. Which for us was bars and nightclubs. Then from there, we can go to hotels and casinos and dispensaries and so on and so forth. So he was very adamant on this. And once we got, enough of an established presence where we didn’t really need to do much as far as product market fit or marketing, or, we had the sales process from the time the lead came in to the time it was closed, nailed, then we moved on.
Then we did the same thing with hotels. And then we went to dispensaries. Dispensaries was a bit more timely because, Canada legalized cannabis. at the time, so it just seemed like a natural fit, but we didn’t move there until we had the other two bowling pins hammered.
Then we moved on. and it was very effective because, let’s say you’re an MSP, you go, they’ve got to be 20 employees, they’ve got to be in this geographical location. And they need to have a need for this IT.
Okay. Now, if you go down and you say, okay, we’re just going to work with dentists. Now you can take that ICP, and you can nail it down so much more. And you can go, okay, now we know what software they’re using internally. And Joe, you had a really good example of, was it dental? There was one industry that you told me about where it’s now we can go in, and we can go in with a game plan and say, we know your software, here’s how much time you’re going to save by implementing this system.
And it’s not just, hey, here’s our stack of A, B, C, and D, it’s here’s a stack that is tailored for you.
MSP Tailored Towards Architects
Joe Rojas: We were talking about architects and I was like, yeah, it’s yes, Autodesk and you need this kind of workstation and you need, these kinds of plotters and these kinds of printers. And this is the software that’s going to manage your printing because every time you print something, you charge for it.
So, you have to manage your printing to know how much the cost is going. So you get deeper and deeper. And then they get, Oh, you understand me. the things I need to bill for, etc.
Jeff Loehr: Like you say, it’s great as a salesperson to have this massive market, but in the IT world, it’s really hard to sell to because people are just not as interested in just generic IT support.
What they want is, how do I track and bill appropriately. So you got to be able to help them expand and grow their business, not just sit back and say, Hey, if you ever have an email problem, give me a call. And email problems are not as interesting to people these days, right?
Trevor Thomas: In that same line of thinking when I was doing travel sales, I built out this book, and it was all sales collateral that had various things, such as some reporting metrics and white papers on duty of care for employers. but I had a really good ratio of getting people on the phone, and booking meetings.
I think I was number two in Canada, I won a bunch of awards that year. But it wasn’t because I booked a lot of meetings, it was because I would close a deal. And the way I was able to do that is in the first, three to six months, they had a really good training program, but I took their collateral and put it into, a structured book.
And I would sit down in a meeting, and I would say, Okay, Joe, you’re HR, I’m going to flip to the duty of care portion. Or Jeff, you’re a CFO. I’m going to flip to the reporting metrics and show you how you have granular visibility. Oh, you’re the CEO? I’m going to show you how you’re going to earn more money and spend less, right?
And give you that high level, if you’re the admin person, I’m going to show you how you don’t have to spend 30 hours a week managing travel. You just have to do two, right? And here’s the incremental costs for it, right? So that’s the same idea of going down to this niche.
Jeff Loehr: And this goes in line with the bowling pins, right? Because then you focus on the CEO first. And you’re only talking to CEOs, then you figure out the CFO and the next one. And now you can go through the whole organization, but you want to be really sure that when you talk to the CEO, even if you only have the one story, even if you only go to the one place that you really know how to talk to that CEO, right? You can’t half-ass it. You can’t just go and say, this is going to be good for you, man.
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, that’s just it. It’s something that it wasn’t so much trial and error. We had a really good collective team. I think there was about 25 of us across Canada, doing business development management, and it was a full cycle from prospect to close. After the close, you hand it off to an account manager.
Joe Rojas: I like that because you’re bringing it to a different dimension. Like it’s important to be able to niche to your client. But then you’re going to sit in front of a human, and you have to know what are the interests of that human, right? Because you niche down to a client.
So let’s say you’re sitting in front of the CFO of the architecture firm, his wants and desires are different than the lead architect. Different Wants and Desires, which are different than the HR Managers. You really want to listen to exactly to what Trevor is saying, is exactly.
My wife has this saying, it’s honey on my heart.
It’s this. The idea not only do you have to know your niche, but you have to know inside your niche. What are the wants and desires of the people who hold the purse strings to your sale, to the thing that you’re trying to get them to commit to? And then how do you speak directly to that person?
So that it impacts them. And they see not only that you know their organization, not only that you know their industry, but that you know them.
Trevor Thomas: You couldn’t have explained it better. And if we even go back to my previous point, okay, I maybe had more media bookings than anyone else. I had half the calls of people. So I’m booking 14, 16 meetings at 200 calls and everyone’s at 400 doing eight meetings. And they’re like, what are you doing differently?
I’m like, before I pick up that phone, I’d look at that company and I go, okay, what vertical are they in? What has my past experience taught me about this? And then you dive a little bit deeper and go, okay, here’s the regionality. They’ve got an office in India, and in Calgary, and one in the States.
Okay, now I know that there’s probably international travel, and I can speak to that, and I can speak to the challenges, right? So now I’ve got my first meeting. Now you use the buyer personas, and you drill deeper, right?
Jeff Loehr:100%. Then you have to be able to deliver on that. And I think it’s, there in your travel example, because you have international travel, you know what the solution is to that international travel.
So, it’s not just about the sales conversation. It’s also being able to deliver on that promise. And I think when you’ve narrowed your business down to be able to do that, works really well. It
Trevor Thomas: There’s, marketing and sales strategy and there’s a spray and pray methodology, right? Which, isn’t super effective.
Jeff Loehr: They’re like, Oh, I’ve just called a thousand people and nobody wants to talk to me. yeah, because you’re not telling them a story that’s in any way relevant to them. you’re not talking about their problems.
Trevor Thomas: And you’re like, Hey, we’ve got this cool thing. It’ll, it’s going to be good for you. I promise. And they’re like, that doesn’t really strike a chord. Why would I talk to you?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. what problem are you going to solve in my business? we’re going to help you with it.
And if we go back to Joe and the architects, and there was another one, I think it was a clinic or something where you would help them with iPads and booking.
Joe Rojas: Oh,yeah.
So we were talking about ophthalmologists. And when I went and sat in the waiting room, and I saw that they were doing everything on paper, and I’m like, oh my God, so all we did was automate the whole thing with iPads and SignaturePad.
And what we did is increase the capacity from 11 to 15 patients to about 30 patients an hour that can be taken in. And then we did the same thing at the back end by automating the logging in and logging out of systems and putting a process in place.
For the technicians to walk in first, log the doctor in, get the chart up, get them ready, and all those pieces increase the bottom line of that practice. By millions of dollars. we’re talking about a big practice, right? With a hundred employees. the bottom line, they doubled their production.
And that’s because you’re focused on the business itself. I think you and I, did we have a conversation about MSPs that do pest control or something like that?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, we did. And they’ve got different lineups for each one. So they’ve got… I forget, was it like Arborists and Pet Control or something like that?
Joe Rojas: You would think pest control, what? But it’s an MSP that does pest control, folks, and it doesn’t matter how narrow you get, there’s a market,
Trevor Thomas: Yes, that’s just it. So when I was working for the ID scanning company, and we’re like, okay, we’ve nailed this vertical, we’re going to shift to another one. We spun up a totally separate brand. The inner working’s very similar, but the pain points we’re talking to, especially so you can resonate with them, are slightly different.
At the end of the day, the software, the solution’s very similar. You scan an ID, it says, okay, this isn’t fake and they’re not part of any do not rent to or ban lists or anything like that. And then log some metrics as far as, demographics, time, flow, all that kind of stuff, right?
But when you look at the reports we’re giving back to the different, verticals for the Bar and Night Club, we’re going, okay, here is the flow of people, here’s your gender ratios, here is, when people, you’re peaking, right? And here’s a drop off. So at 11 p. m, you’ve got a drop off of people.
Why don’t you do a special from 11 to 12? So then we can give them value, like that actual insight, right? And then whereas if we’re talking to a hotel, we’re talking about, what issues are you facing as far as people trashing rooms?
Because we have no process in place. what’s the cost of that for each time someone trashes a room, gives you a fake ID? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a connected list where if they go to Oakland and they trash a room, now when they go to Sacramento, it’s going to be like, yeah, this guy trashed the room.
This is a room trasher, right?
The stories I heard working with hotels was gross…
Jeff Loehr: I’ve heard stories of hotels and grossness and issues that I just pretend that I’ve never heard them because otherwise I would never stay in a hotel again.
Trevor Thomas: One of the things that I like that you said when we started talking about is that every time that you secured a pin, right? You spun up a new brand and it’s key for you guys out there to get how important that is, that they actually spun up a whole new brand.
Joe Rojas: Like if it was a completely different company, because you want to be known for the thing that you do really well. And that’s why every time they spun up a new avatar, they spun up an entire brand around it. So just to preserve their nicheness with that other brand, right? And that’s key.
That’s critical to understand. Because you can’t just keep adding and keep adding. I get crazy with this, Trevor, like I get crazy with it, but it’s because our folks are not paying attention and how, like when you get known for something, people start reaching out to you,
They start calling you. Even vendors start calling, that serve that same client, they start calling you and saying, hey, how do we work together?
Trevor Thomas: it makes everything easier. let’s look at it from the niching aspect, right? So you go onto your website and you say, we do pest control, right? We’re IT for pest control. Or for us, we’re ID scanners for bars and nightclubs. that was our tagline, right? Now we get SEO. People who are reaching out to us know exactly what we do.
We’re getting seven leads a day, and maybe only three of them are qualified. But at the end of the day, that’s a hell of a lot better. And the people who are calling us, we could disqualify them. Hey, I work in this industry. I could see a kind of fit, but we’re not changing our product for you.
Because that’s expensive for us. It makes it harder to manage. so we’re getting more qualified leads, we’re closing more of them, right? I’m dealing with, 95 percent are bar and nightclub owners, which I’m, fairly good at dealing with, I had a couple beers here and there at a bar or a nightclub over the years.
but the conversation just becomes this kind of, okay, I picked up on that thing that guy said, now I’m going to keep using that as I go forward. you get so ingrained in this industry, right? And then same thing, once we moved into hotels and dispensaries, we’re getting leads in a different format, but again, they’re qualified.
Okay, I have a cannabis dispensary. I’m worried about government regulations for people coming in who are underage because they’re going to slap me with a stiff fine. I’ll probably go under out of business, Now I have all that information from the first time I’m talking to them. They didn’t come in through the bar and nightclub avenue, they came in from the dispensary side of things.
It’s easier to have that conversation, know their pain points, know how your solution applies to their business, and overcome those objections as they come up.
Jeff Loehr: 100%,There’s some, some, sales conversation I was having a while back where somebody referred to the objections as the expected and welcomed objections. So the expected and welcomed objectives and they’re expected because people are going to object.
And they’re welcomed because you know what they are. so you’re ready to respond, right? so now you’re ready to really talk about their objections rather than just having to sit back and pray that they love you without objecting,which I think is, I like that sort of approach, but
Trevor Thomas: imagine being able to have a conversation, you’re like, what always comes up in this is, we don’t know their internal systems. Now, as you’re going through your conversation, you just cut that objection off. as far as internal software, you’re using, A or B. Or you’re using Be Perfect, we’ll just keep the conversation going, but now you’ve already overcome that of you don’t know us, you’re building trust, right?
Then now they know you, and hopefully they like you because you understand their business, and that’s why you’re having this business conversation.
Jeff Loehr: SoI’m going to tell you a secret, Trevor, don’t tell anybody else. Okay. just going to keep this all, all between us here, but when you’re able to say to them. Oh, do you use software A or B? And they say, Oh, we use A and you say, Oh, Hey, yeah. And you’ve got these couple of problems.
And they say, Oh yeah, you’ve made the sale right there. That’s one where they already look at
Joe Rojas: It happens.
Jeff Loehr: you really didn’t get me. And usually only A or B, maybe a C and they all have pretty much the same problem. So it’s not even that hard to get to, but being able to have that conversation
You give them that moment, that sort of warm and fuzzy feeling, honey on the heart of hey, this person gets me and you’ve made the sale, right?
Trevor Thomas: and the inverse of that is showing up to a meeting, so let’s talk about ZenContract. I jump into a meeting, I say, okay, here’s how this works, right? Here’s all the contracts, here’s how you automate some stuff, here’s how you build in some workflows. And they’re like, cool, do you integrate with products?
D and I’m like, oh no, I’ve already lost all my accountability there, right? We don’t have that integration. I’ve just shown you a bunch of stuff that is not pertinent to our solution for your business because I didn’t ask one question. And if I was really new, maybe it’s because I didn’t know to ask that question.
Or if I’m dealing with a bunch of different industries, how are you going to know what questions to ask?
Jeff Loehr: Good questions to ask or where to go with that. So tell us about ZenContract. this also seems like a really. Interesting niche, definitely from my perspective, it seems very niche,very needed, and so I’d love to hear your take on ZenContract and what you guys do.
What does ZenContract Do
Trevor Thomas: and I think to give a bit of perspective, I want to talk about Greg Sharp. He’s our founder and CEO, and he’s been in this business for, I don’t want to say how many years, but it’s in the decades amount. don’t want to age him because he just had his 50th birthday last week.
I think I’m good. We posted it on LinkedIn. But he ran a number of businesses down in New Zealand and his most recent foray was called BASE2 and it was an MSP. And they ended up selling for 10 times EBITA, which is really good. About five years before that happened, they were looking to up their operational maturity, right?
And a big part of that is your contracts,are they expired? Do they have the right dollar amounts on them? Where are they? Where are they? Where are they?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, this is one of the key things is we have redundant storage intentionally, redundantly.
But he looked at the business and said, there’s got to be a better way. So they developed like a beta, for internal use. And then, come time, they use the tool for valuation. So they sold for much more than they thought they were going to, They, I think initially they were looking at a three times EBIT, ended up selling for 10 times EBIT.
And then You know,I’m sure it clicked much sooner than this, but he’s like, this needs to be more widely available, right? Cause when you look at the MSP contract process, it’s very lacking. I just onboarded a client last week. great guy, decent size MSP. I think he’s got 20, 25 employees, And I’m like, okay.
So like he was actually a referral from a buddy of mine. so we’re sitting down and, I’m like, okay, how do you manage contracts today? And he’s we just someone says we need these services and we give them to them. I’m like, okay. and I get it, the MSP journey is often grassroots organic referrals, and then you feel weird about slapping a contract in front of people, which I have other thoughts on, but I get the thought process, right?
Now, throughout our conversation, I’m like, why are we talking to them, right? You seem very comfortable with this. He’s because it’s going to bite me at some point, right? He’s like, tell me about your solution. So I’m like, you know,you can templatize things, ties into your PSA for ConnectWise and Autotask.
Then you can just pick your template, pick your client, send it out, not worry about human error. Once it’s signed, you can countersign it automatically. you can pull in your product line from your PSA, then it gets stored intentionally, redundantly, right? Within the system, SharePoint, in your PSA, email, copy, right?
So everyone’s on the same page. He’s okay, that sounds really good. And he just moved forward with it because the cost to him wasn’t that much and he knew he needed to do something. But then, like I alluded to earlier, we get a lot of people who come to us and they’re like, I had this incident, right?
Which is, if you think about it, and actually I’ve got a good story, on this set of things.
ID Scanning Story
Trevor Thomas: So when I was working for the ID scanning company, we had very lax contracts,Which, the product wasn’t that expensive, right? We had our liability clear, which is something that I think that a lot of, not just MSPs, businesses in general don’t manage well is their clauses around indemnification and, liability and who holds the bag for what scenarios.
but this happened a couple times where if you signed up for a one year commitment, you got your hardware for free. And then it was, depending on the plan, 250 or 381 per month, We recoup that in three months. But if you don’t spend three months with us, we’re out 1, 200 bucks.
Happened about five times because they didn’t have solid clauses, okay, it’s 1, 200 bucks here and there. I was absolutely smashing sales there. So it wasn’t the biggest concern for me. When you look at the P& L, it was just a drop in the bucket. Okay. Now let’s look at an MSP contract where you don’t have clear delineation of liability for a breach.
how much does that cost? I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more than 1, 200, right? We have one client who didn’t get a 2FA waiver signed, or they did get it signed but couldn’t find it, and now they’re in court trying to get that resolved, right? They might win, they’ll probably win, but also, what’s your time worth, right?
Because now you’ve got to pay for a lawyer, right? There’s potential for having your reputation dragged through the mud, So aside from all of the automations and fun stuff that’s in the contract, at the end of the day, it’s CYA. Because if you don’t, you could be a shit creep without a paddle.
I think this is pretty relevant of, it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get breached, it’s when. and the SMBs don’t think about that. and I’m not saying that your contracts should be lopsided and you say, no matter what happens, SMB, you’re on the hook for it by any stretch.
But there should be a clear balance and understanding.
Joe Rojas: and accountability. I think because one of the things that you said is they had a 2FA waiver. See, if I say to the client, you need 2FA, and the client says, I’m not going to do it. Screw you. You say, okay, no problem. Here, sign this waiver. Right now, but that’s fair. What’s not fair is that I tell you, you need 2FA waiver.
I don’t give you anything. You get breached and then I’m on the hook for it. That’s not cool. I told you needed to effect me, or you needed to effect me. But if I don’t have that waiver,
Jeff Loehr: and increasingly that’s becoming crucial for insurance and insurance payouts. And your client may actually lose because increasingly the burden is actually going towards the service provider rather than staying with the customer, right? and so having that is essential.
Trevor Thomas: yeah, and the cyber insurance conversation is a really good point because it’s becoming mandatory almost,or you’d be silly not to have it. So I’m a good driver. I’ve never been in an accident. I’ve got minimal speeding tickets, no DUIs or anything like that, right? But I still have insurance.
My truck’s worth 80 grand. If someone else hits me, I want to make sure I’m covered. Like it’s just, it’s one of those things that for me is a no brainer, right? I hate paying insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I hate paying it, but I like the safeguard of it being there, right? Yeah, right? I think Australia is talking about making it mandatory to have some sort of contract management platform
as an MSP, so they can get insurance.
The benefits of contracts in business and relationships
Trevor Thomas: but you said something interesting. and people don’t do it with friends and whatnot, but I don’t know. I think any relationship is preserved best by having a contract in place. if you’re going to do professional work with someone, I… I don’t know. I think we get confused and the contract clarifies the situation.
Jeff Loehr: It gives you something to go back to, to say, this is what I’m responsible for. This is what I’m committing to. And we’ve written it down. So there’s some clarity and you can read it and make sure that you’ve read it too. And without that, it’s so vague. That’s the thing that ends up destroying your relationship,
Joe Rojas: to go loop back to something that Trevor said at the beginning, which was that MSPs lead with their heart. they’re support people. They’re like people that are there to support and they think the contracts somehow make them a bad person. That somehow they’re beyond that. and what Jeff said right now is the key, all the contract does, is provide clarity. It gives you guidelines. It lets you know what you are accountable for and what they’re accountable. And if you don’t have that, it’s really hard because, I remember when I started off as an MSP, I did everything from, change the fluorescent lights to the doorknobs, because I handled all the technical stuff.
And at some point, you got to draw a line, and you can’t if you don’t have it in writing. And so what Jeff just said is really key. It ties this whole thing in a bow, right?
Trevor Thomas: and just like real world examples, because I understand that too, I do software development on the side, I make hot sauces on the side, right? Just like little passion projects. And,
Trevor’s side project that burned him
Joe Rojas: and actually this burned me,during the pandemic I got a software development boot camp diploma, so by no means am I a computer scientist, but I know enough to be dangerous and build a full web application, and, We got our first client, which was a friend’s girlfriend,
Trevor Thomas: And, we started doing a bunch of work. I’m sure we put in 140 hours, right? And we were very clear about expectations. We had our SLA of here’s all the things, here’s our scope of work. But the contract was not binding, but I’m like, it’s my buddy’s girlfriend and she knows exactly what she’s getting. So we had an MVP launched, right?
The only thing we didn’t do was host it yet, but we were hosting it on our servers. And it was launched, and she pulled the plug and said, No, I want an iOS application. Which we told her the whole time was going to be like 150 grand. We’re going to do the web app, which we said to start with. And then if it takes off, then you get an iOS and an Android app.
and she just straight bailed on us. So 140 hours minimum on that, times two people, right? But then, when you look at it, and of course, I was quite peeved about that, right? I think most people
Joe Rojas: I like that.
Trevor Thomas: Yeah,
Joe Rojas: like that you were only peeved.I would have been, what? More than that.
Trevor Thomas: had choice words. I still have choice words, but I’ll hold them for now. but, when we’re talking to MSPs and they’re in that same thought process of this is my buddy, I’ve been doing a handshake deal with him for 20 years. those same people who are now going out and saying, hey, we’ve got that contract, their clients are saying, Awesome.
there’s so much scary stuff out there. I want to know this delineation of liability. Now we’re on the same page. Now we know what happens if there’s a breach. Now we know what happens if we screw up and click on an email. all the tools in the world are great, but without the people and the process in place and that actual understanding, It doesn’t really mean all that much.
What size MSPs does ZenContract work with
Jeff Loehr: it’s brilliant. So what size MSPs do you work with?
Trevor Thomas: All over the place. So we have people who are, one person shop trying to grow. They want to put in scalable processes. We have people who are, 20, 30 employees and they want to improve their operational maturity all the way up to, I think our biggest client’s 600 employees.
And they want a regimented process by Business Unit, right?
So HR follows this, New Business follows this, Procurement follows this, right? And then you can break down each of the templates to follow the workflow that you want.
Jeff Loehr: So you’ve got your Master Service Agreement, your SLAs, just all contracts? What are you looking at?
Trevor Thomas: kind of anything, right? It depends on how you’ve got yours set up, right? I know a lot of MSPs will have their Master Services Agreement tied to their proposal, so now you’ve got this 30 page document, which we don’t recommend, we’re not going to tell you how to run your business.
the best way to do it is usually you’ve got your Master Services Agreement, you get that signed off. That lives in perpetuity. Then you’ve got your managed, or monthly services. You get that signed off and let’s say it’s a one, two, three year commit, then if you’ve got project work, maybe you do the scope and the pricing.
And then if there’s a change in scope or an addendum to the pricing, you send that out too for acknowledgement, right? that was one thing that Greg was, very adamant on is with the project work, they’re usually losing money. Because your techs don’t account for this, and this, or they’re afraid to go to their client and say, Hey, it’s actually going to be this much more.
now you can take that away and say, we’ve got a strict process that we follow, strict ish. and this is what we have to do. If there’s a change order, it has to go through the system. It has to be dollars and cents and signed off on, and that’s it. Otherwise, we don’t give the change order.
So everything is the answer. NDAs, employment agreement. We handle it all.
Jeff Loehr: These things actually,like templated and ready to go,
Trevor Thomas: Yes and no. Master Services Agreement, absolutely not. For things like a 2FA waiver, NDA, job offers, we’ve got a lot of it templatized, but all of it comes with the caveat of we’re not lawyers. Right? this might have been written by a lawyer, but we’re not lawyers. we always recommend taking it to your counsel, no matter what it is.
because like I said, the caveat there, we’ve got it in our terms and conditions. We’re not lawyers. we’re not going to pretend to know the state by state laws and regulations for everything. We’re just not.
Jeff Loehr: and that makes perfect sense. and then you have a place where people can get started with you, right? Like the MSA manager early access, is that still the right place for people to start up?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, we’re just rolling that out. I actually just went through demo of it this morning, doing the final testing, and that’s going to be, okay, I just want to manage my MSA, so you can send it out, have,your entire client list, see, okay, Joe is on version one, and it’s signed, Jeff’s on version one, but he hasn’t signed it yet, Trevor’s on version two, and he’s signed, and then If you click into, each of our companies, it’s got the revision history, right?
They signed in 2023, 2024, the addendum later in 2024, right? So it’s just this holistic view in a simple dashboard for all of your MSAs, right? Again, going back to the make sure everything’s signed off, there’s clear delineation of liability.
Joe Rojas: I do have a process question because I get this all the time and I never know how to answer this question. now that I have the expert on the line, I really want to ask,
Joe process question for Trevor
Joe Rojas: I used to send my proposals out with my MSA in it, which makes it this big 30 page document. The problem when I didn’t send the proposal out with the MSA in it is that I would send the proposal, people would sign the proposal, then I would send the MSA after and then they would read it and they would go, I have questions about this and can we change this and can we do this?
And it would turn into this whole thing. that created animosity after signing the proposal, right? Versus if I send them the MSA along with the proposal, they could read it. And then if we needed to make any changes, we’d change it. But once we pulled the trigger, it was like, okay, it’s all, puppies and unicorns. so when’s the right time to do the MSA What order do you use?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, so Greg, I think, would back me up on this, where you send your MSA first, you get all the legal busy work out of the picture first, and then you can say, here’s the dollars and cents in How much, how long, how many, right? Now, another story time, when I was working at the ID scanning place, we had nailed these bowling pins, and there was a property manager, and I said, I think there’s a good fit here.
me and the project lead on this, we went to bat and, our terms and conditions weren’t all that… Intense, like I alluded to, but there was some stuff in there that they wanted to redline, right? So we redlined it. We got that signed off and we said, this lives in perpetuity. Now anything moving forward, we stripped our terms and conditions.
You want a new unit at your Raleigh location? Done, right? Send us money for it. You want another one in your Sacramento location? Done. now the same thing is true with if you have your MSA tied to your proposal, let’s say that you’re dealing with, a 50 plus company, and the people there have a legal team that they need to run it by.
Okay, so your original one, you just landed them, there’s 50 employees, you’re getting all of this different project work, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They sign off, you go back and forth on the MSA a couple times, then it gets signed off, and you’re like, awesome, right? Now, a year later, you’re coming up for renewal, and you’re like, we gotta renew this, first of all.
Second of all, we’ve got this new EDR, XDR, whatever. Or even in six months, we’re selling them a laptop, and it carries the same terms and conditions. now you’re putting all this friction back in the sales cycle. It’s slowing things down and then, now the next time legal looks at it, they’re like, oh, we actually don’t like that clause.
I don’t want to sign it off on the first time. Back to the drawing board, right? So your sales cycle could go from, in our example, it was a day, it could go back to, because the original sales cycle was four months.
Joe Rojas: Yeah.
Trevor Thomas: So that’s my answer. That’s my long winded answer on the process side of things.
How do get started with ZenContract
Jeff Loehr: just on that, so where’s the best place for people to get started with you?
Trevor Thomas: Yeah, so there’s a couple different things. I would say just go to zencontract. com You know beautifully designed website got a lot of information on the front page There’s a book demo button. You can click that and that’ll take you to our booking calendar That’s usually where most people go. You can buy it right away.
If you’re like, you know what I watched the demo video It’s a good fit. We’ve got a four week money back guarantee it depends, do you want to have a conversation first or you just like my contracts are screwed I’m gonna pay for it.
Jeff Loehr: All right. hey, look, Trevor, it’s been a, a real pleasure chatting with you. time blew by here. That was great, and I love what you’re doing over there at ZenContract. Look forward to potentially doing some more stuff with you. we’ll have links to all the stuff in the show notes.
And on that, Joe?
Joe Rojas: Remember that you are loved