How Ekaru creates better QBRs and improves client relationships

Published April 15, 2024
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Evan Pappas

With experience as an MSP for smaller businesses, Ekaru knows how important client meetings are for businesses on a small scale. With time at a premium for clients, Ekaru has utilized Lifecycle Manager to make their Quarterly Business Reviews more efficient and effective than ever before. 

Ann Westerheim, PhD, Founder and President of Ekaru, knows that time and expertise are barriers to small business security. When meeting with clients for scheduled business review meetings, any wasted time harms the client and MSP’s ability to make progress on the goals they’ve set to achieve.

Clients don’t have a ton of time to waste either. They need to get back to their business and keep their data secure, so they trust that their MSP will be able to communicate everything they need to know. Westerheim has made it a priority to keep those meetings as informative as possible. 

“So we want to be able to answer all your questions, provide the things that you need, be able to explain risk to you so the business can make the right decisions about trade offs,” she said. “Being able to have those conversations and explain then lets us provide that service to the client.” 

Westerheim founded Ekaru in 2001 to provide MSP services to small businesses in her local community in and around Boston, MA. Since its founding, Ekaru has grown to a 15-person MSP that strives to give the best support possible to the businesses that can often get left behind. 

“A lot of the bigger MSPs are going after bigger organizations,” she said. “That leaves a lot of business behind – a digital divide.”

Westerheim and the Ekaru team aim to allow their clients to get more from technology, which is why security has been a priority for them. Without the help of Ekaru’s team, small businesses have had trouble taking the proper steps to keep data safe because they either demand too much time, money, or technical understanding.

Saving time while preparing for QBRs

First, MSPs need to coordinate with clients on the scheduling of regular business operations meetings. While QBRs are seen as a standard, every MSP and client has a different need. Ekaru is flexible to those needs and works with clients to decide on the right cadence for them.

“We do a minimum of once a year. So everybody gets the in-depth planning meeting once a year and we do it up to quarterly. We do have other project calls with clients for bigger projects, or sometimes we’re doing weekly check-ins with them. But a minimum of everybody on the list gets at least one a year,” she said.  

One of the big challenges MSPs report during their client meetings, like QBRs, is not overwhelming people with massive spreadsheets and technical details in the meeting itself. 

To avoid this, Ekaru utilizes Lifecycle Manager to collect the data and prepare it in advance of the meeting. By actively monitoring hardware and software details, Ekaru has streamlined its process and is now much faster at collecting the important data that clients need to know.

Westerheim estimates that the preparation phase takes around an hour of pulling together various sources of data they want as background for the meetings.

“We tend not to go through like line item by line, but we want all the supporting materials there,” she said.

Sometimes, Westerheim said, the process can take some more time because they will unearth an issue in the background where they don’t have alignment and need to address it. 

That can be a lot of work, but because they begin the prep process well in advance of the meeting, they can see any problems and address them quickly. 

Getting prepared ahead of the meeting also allows MSPs to send the Lifecycle Manager reports to clients in advance so they can familiarize themselves with the key points. This massively helps the meetings be constructive. Clients can actually make informed decisions because they are coming into the conversation with the information they need.

Ekaru can keep meetings focused on educating their clients about how they can take important preventative steps to secure their business without going over budget. 

Building Better Conversations

Westerheim said that the meetings themselves also tend to run about an hour long. 

When both parties are informed going into the meeting, they don’t need to spend a lot of time recapping the basics. They can jump into the conversation and begin reviewing past services, outline new projects and proposals, and examine possible future expenses. 

“We started being a lot more stringent with our review meetings. Starting two years ago, we really made an effort to make them a lot more stringent… By running through several cycles of it,  you get that improvement to alignment, to best practices, over time.”

Once the call is over, Ekaru also spends time with the client on follow-ups on anything like deliverables or other questions that might have come up that we need to answer. 

Being direct and transparent with all of the information thus far shows your clients how valuable your MSP is. Showing clients they can trust your MSP to have their best interest in mind is a key part of relationship building. 

With trust, your MSP not only creates a better working relationship with your client but also makes contract renewal more likely, securing a long-term source of revenue.

Saving time for MSP and clients

Reworking the old QBR preparation process with Lifecycle Manager automated monitoring and reporting features, Ekaru uses their time more effectively with clients. 

Westerheim said the team has transitioned into doing more review meetings with clients since preparation is much easier. 

“I think we probably translated our time savings into doing more [review meetings] which ultimately helps the customers in that things just don’t go out of kilter,” she said.

By addressing the clients’ IT needs in the planning meetings, Ekaru and their clients set goals and prevent unexpected events like data loss, security breaches, and unnecessary operation downtime.MSPs interested in learning more about the QBR process can check out ScalePad’s State of the QBR report. Find out how your MSP can get started with Lifecycle Manager. Book a demo or start a free trial today.