MSP News

PACO LEBRON – from starting an MSP to building a community!

Content Provided by: MSP Bugle / SuperOps

Starting Up

Interestingly, Paco insists that his decision to become an entrepreneur in 2011 came purely out of spite. Paco was then working at a company that moved from printing to break-fix to VAR to training, and he suggested to the business partner that this will not work out. “The conversation got to a point where he said once the money starts coming in, don’t come back. It was a challenge, right? When anyone asks me, how did I start my MSP, I always jokingly say, it was started out of spite,” recalls 38-year-old Paco.

Also, like many MSP business owners, Paco took the entrepreneurial plunge to become a master of his own time so he could be there for his daughter, who was then a baby.

Paco started a break-fix ‘shop’ as a side hustle and managed it through a virtual office, while keeping down a full-time job. He continued this until 2017, registering ProdigyTeks in 2013. Paco says he was making good money for a part-time job, but the pharma­ceutical company he was working for was offshoring tech jobs, and so with a good severance in hand, Paco could do whatever he wanted to, including transforming his break-fix side hustle into a full-time MSP.

However, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Far from it.

Rock Bottom

“In 2017, I was very spoiled,” says Paco. He had the severance, he had unemployment income, he was working at a national break-fix, and was doing computer repairs on his own – it should have been good. “I thought it was great. I was living the dream. But, I was going ahead and making all these stupid money moves. And so you know, this lasted up until about July of 2017. When I got around to August, a lot of the money started drying up. So I said, it’s game time and I really gotta try and figure this out,” says Paco.

But things didn’t improve; in fact, by late-2017 Paco had hit the proverbial rock bottom. “I was hiding my vehicle from being repossessed, (trying to prevent) from being served a lawsuit for a bad loan. I had just met my fiancée, and she had every right to leave at that moment, but she didn’t. And I thank her for that.”

But, Paco had done a few things right during his break fix stint and during the time he was preparing to transform into an MSP, and that helped him make his way back up from rock bottom.

While working his break fix side hustle and when he was planning the move to the full-time MSP mode, Paco had started educating himself on concepts like how to generate revenue and how to be a business leader. He leaned into these lessons, plus he found a highly supportive mentor in John Dubinsky, Founder of the Maven Group.

John’s mentorship came at the right time, a testament to the importance of a good mentor for a founder. John helped Paco focus on the right things. Like the importance of billing monthly, not quarterly or annually, paying bills monthly, and so on and so forth. Things were beginning to pick up in 2018. Paco got into partnerships with bigger MSPs for client referrals, where the larger MSP would share leads of prospects who did not meet their specifications. In September, Paco landed his first contract.

The Turning Point

This brings us to the story right at the start – how Paco almost quit.

In September 2018, he was on site to terminate some patch cables and he met with an accident. But this is not what made him want to quit. What should have been a 30-minute job had gone on for over two hours, and he forgot it was his day to pick up his daugh­ter from school. Paco had decided to become an entrepreneur to tai­lor his time around his daughter, and, for the very first time, he forgot about her. To say that he was upset is an understatement.

He began questioning the very idea of being an entrepreneur. But before he took a final call, he decided to speak to John. The advice he received was to shut off from everything for three days before he made a final decision. This is what Paco did.

In 2017, Paco had given himself two years to build the MSP. There were three months left until this deadline, and Paco decided to make the most of the time remain­ing to see if he could build something sustainable.

“And sure enough, I made the change,” says Paco. He switched both expenses and invoicing to monthly, partnered with larger MSPs who referred smaller pros­pects who did not meet their re­quirements to ProdigyTeks for a referral fee, and he split receivable dates, where instead of billing once a month he billed all ACH (Automated Clearing House) transactions on the 1st of the month and billed the other clients who paid via credit cards on the 15th, ensuring an even split of revenue. “That was when I started to gain traction, and I have not stopped since,” adds Paco.

The Story, now

ProdigyTek ran as a solopreneur business until 2020. While Covid, along with the shelter-in-place mandate, was a difficult period for everyone, it also brought into the spotlight the importance of MSPs for the wider world of business as thousands of companies turned to MSPs to manage the IT infrastructure of a workforce that was sud­denly working from home.

In a matter of three months, Prod­igyTeks scaled to five employees. Now, it is an 11-member company, fully remote with team members in Chicago, where the company is headquartered, and in Venezuela, Mexico, and Florida. The company has clients in Legal, manufacturing, Construction, and in private Healthcare.

In 2015, when Paco was still doing break-fix and he was considering becoming an MSP he started MSP Unplugged, a community as well as a podcast. Solo tech shops were looked down upon and there wasn’t much knowledge sharing or support to help such business owners. While his business part­ners have changed – Rick Smith, Founder and CEO of New Jersey-based based Renactus Tech­nology came on board in 2021 – the focus of the podcast and the community around it continues to be supporting and enabling the success of fast-emerging MSPs.

Special attention is also given to minority-owned businesses, as such MSPs are at a disadvantage as they do not find the same level of support or guidance.

The Next Chapter

Paco’s goal, when he started out, was to retire at 40. But, the goal changed when he attended a summit organized at Cedar Rapids by Juan Fernan­dez. There Paco met the MSP who was the local host. Three generations of the family had worked in the business.

This sparked a dream in Paco that he could build a generational business, something that his daughter or any of his future children could run if they were so interested.

The goal now is to build a business that lasts for generations, and that can navigate the future twists and turns. Apart from focusing on scaling more efficiently, Paco is also excited about the advent of the AI era.

“Everyone says there’s always that one shift in the industry that occurs when you know that the times are changing. Back then it was on-premise to cloud. You can go as way back to typewriters to computers. I think we’re in that position now (with the shift to AI), where this is the significant change that’s occurring for a lot of people to reconsider do they want to stick around? Do they have one more left in them? Or, for those that are coming into the area, how do they fully embrace it?”

Paco believes that while it may seem that there has been a lot of activity in AI, it is still very much the ear­ly days. We are just seeing the tip of the AI iceberg, and much of what’s possible is still unfolding. Paco is excited about this next phase in technology.

Next Chapter

Prepare for Change

Paco has an interesting take on change. He says for moving to the next level in a journey, be it monetary, physical or mental, change needs to hap­pen. When you proceed to the next level, people tend to make the mistake thinking ‘this is it, I am set now’. “But that’s not the case. Yes, you’re set (for now), and you’re relieved from your current set of problems. But there are another whole new set of problems. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Can you embrace that change,” explains Paco.

Bringing this to the context of running an MSP, Paco says embracing change is also a matter of planning. He uses the fire emoji in his conversations. It stands for unplanned work torching your entire day. It may sound like an oxymoron, but Paco says you can pre­pare for the unplanned, and this is what will help you embrace change, when you know that you are pre­pared for any eventuality. This could mean spending an extra 15 minutes today to take a backup that could save hours of unplanned work a few months later or scheduling a system update so you are not caught unawares.

Doing this, Paco says, makes you comfortable with the idea of change. “You being the controller of change, tends to make things a little bit easier.” And, it is best to make things easier because like it or not change will always happen. Are you prepared is the question you need to answer.

So, what’s the one thing MSPs can do to help them­selves and ensure their growth?

“I think that really the the biggest piece to carry home is that you’re not alone. I can’t harp more about find­ing a community that belongs to you and that you can belong to it. Because I can tell you that being able to find something, whether it’s a podcast network, whether it’s an article, whether it’s a vendor, such as the SuperOps community, being able to find a com­munity that you can belong to, to collaborate and in­volve yourself with, will generate you so much more wealth, just in terms of the relationships and knowl­edge, than any dollar could or any type of currency can provide,” says Paco.

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