In business, major breakthroughs are few and sometimes far between. So how do good companies get great? Via continuous, iterative improvements, in most instances. Here are five tips vendors, consultants and practitioners alike shared in Austin at ChannelCon 2017 that can put you on a path to greatness.

1) Spend More on Marketing
First and foremost, to thrive in today’s market you have to embrace proven best practices that result in continued success. This includes allocating proper resources to key activities that are critical for your business to thrive. Take marketing. During a session at ChannelCon, Brent Combest, general manager of One Commercial Partner (West Region) at Microsoft told attendees that his company has crunched the numbers on successful partners and identified what separates the best from the mediocre. One key factor is amount of money invested in marketing as a percent of overall revenue.

Most MSPs spend less than 5 percent of revenue of marketing, he says. Many spend no more than 1 percent. But the most successful Microsoft MSPs and solution providers invest 12-13 percent on marketing. “If you’re not at that level, you’re underinvesting in the one part of the business that is the key to your success,” says Combest.

2) Ask the Right Questions
Another key area is operational efficiency. In a session on the topic at ChannelCon, several thought leaders shared their perspectives. For example, Julian Lee, CEO and president at TechnoPlanet Productions, a marketing and communications company that provides tools and services to solution providers and vendors alike, advised partners to develop a much more thorough understanding of their businesses. This goes well beyond focusing on a few KPIs.

TechnoPlanet has created a 200-question tool that helps partners think through all aspects of their business—from what it will take to close new business to how it will find new talent and more. After completing TechnoPlanet’s questionnaire, some partners have told Lee that they never before even considered many of the aspects that he probes. A few have even been brought to tears when they recognize how behind the times they are.

“The one key thing that MSPs must do to run more efficiently is simply ask the right questions,” he says.

3) Develop “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” Service Practices

Charles Love

Former MSP Charles Love, a partner engagement manager at Mailprotector today, advises partners to run their businesses as though they were franchise a la McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts or The UPS Store. If you can duplicate everything that your company does, then you’re well along your way to greatness. “Could you swap out employees and get the same level of efficiency? If not, then focus on what’s not replicable and address that,” Love advises. The thinking makes a lot of sense and requires that an organization understand its processes and document them assiduously. It also requires that organizations impose discipline on how their employees operate.

4) Put More Discipline into Hiring
This is something that Vince Tinnirello, CEO at Anchor Network Solutions of Lone Tree, Colo., believes in strongly. What worked for him when his company employed nine technicians did not work when it grew to 15. So he has taken steps to impose greater discipline throughout his workforce to ensure that customers receive the same level of service regardless of whether they are working with one of his most senior technicians or one of his least experienced.

The key to that, of course, is hiring the right people.

“A big takeaway I have got from talking with others about operational efficiency is this: we need to apply the same level of rigor to hiring that we do to taking on a new client. We MSPs need to ensure there is a proper cultural, technical and attitudinal fit with new employees,” he says.

5) Walk Away from Customers That Upend Your Processes

One company that is willing to walk away from business is Waterdog Technologies, a Springfield, Mass., company that specializes Workspace-as-a-Service technology. As a practice, Waterdog will disengage with a customer whose demands disrupt the operational model that Waterdog has developed. “Alpha Dog” Crash Lowe (pictured right) jokes that his company’s offices include framed letters sent to clients informing them that Waterdog will no longer be their partner of record.

It does the same with employees, too. Lowe says he takes his time with hiring and puts applicants through as many as 10 interviews at his company, including some outside the office. After several weeks of work, Lowe will offer money to misfits to leave the company, a practice made famous by Zappos founder Tony Hseih.

These two practices may be a bit much for some, but they have helped to propel Waterdog. Implemented properly, they might work wonders where you are employed. Ditto for the other ideas.