I’m often asked, if I had my time again (been running my own business for ten years), would I start a Microsoft cloud business? The answer is a resounding yes – but, why?
 
It seems that every IT man (or woman) and their cyber-dog are already delivering, thinking about delivering, or thinking they should be delivering, Microsoft Cloud services. And yet, thousands are still saying they can’t see how to make money in the cloud. Bit of a contradiction, don’t you think?
 
Building a services business where people are your product is the primary reason that growth can be slower, as great staff are very hard to find and even harder to retain. You can only sell as much as your people can physically deliver, and once a resource is maxed, it’s maxed.
 
We all dream of ‘making money whilst we sleep,’ and to do that, all we need to build a cloud business is to think of an idea, confirm there is a market and have the drive to make it work, right? Erm, no.
 
Here’s what I’ve learnt. Whether people or cloud services are your products – you still need a solid plan and a way of taking the business to market. Businesses don’t promote themselves and whilst marketing can be scaled online or sales increased with a less solutions-based (ie. cheaper) sales model, you still have to get found to get busy.
 
Developing your business plan, with a heavy consideration on how the financials stack up, is one of the biggest lessons any successful entrepreneur will tell you needs to be learnt. And fast.
 
Try this. Make your vision the end, not the beginning – what are the stages you go through to get there? Work back from say 5 years from now. Challenge yourself. Ask what will make you fail, not why you will succeed – and above all do your research. How many deals do you need at what value to make money? How many leads do you need to get that volume of deals? And how much marketing do you need to drive that volume? What will all that cost?
 
Whatever you do, do not put a finger in the air to guess. You will end up with a plan that is akin to a house of cards and will collapse in a gentle breeze. Think reality. Think contingency. Think about timescales, (proper timescales, not fantasy ones), how long will it take to promote your business, get visibility and create a pull-effect marketing engine that attracts your ideal customers, you know, the ones that will buy?!
 
Over 6m businesses start each year in the US alone**. No idea how many include some form of Microsoft cloud service, but I’m sure it’s a lot. I wonder how many of those do really well. I’d be willing to bet the ones with a sound business and financial plan, a solid marketing strategy and sales model are highly profitable in 3 years’ time. Maybe you can do it – but to give yourself a better chance, do your homework.
 
*source: FSN, 5th March 2013
**source: answers.ask.com