Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Y$10K - Average Sucks

One of the reasons I started the Y$10K blog series is the research released in January that 63% Of Americans don't have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. What? $500? They don't have $500 in savings that they can get their hands on. That's very serious.

Let's look at some other scary statistics. But first, let's agree on what we mean by average or above average. See the chart.

In a "normal distribution" there's something called a standard deviation. It is based on the variance or the variation between individuals. One standard deviation is represented by the symbol Sigma.

Graphic adapted from the one at

So we see that one standard deviation accounts for 68% of the variation and two standard deviations account for 95% of all variance. Now if you only care about being ABOVE average - to the right of center, than two standard deviations puts you above 97.7% of the population. A third standard deviation would get you to 99.8%

The good news is: It's EASY to be above average. Basically, you have to try. That's it. Pretty much anything you do to try to be better results in placing yourself far above the crowd.

Here are a few things to think about:

- The Average American family savings account balance: $3,950
- The Average amount saved for retirement: $35,000
- The Average American household debt: $117,951

And on the non-finance side:

- The average American is overweight (63%).
- The average American watches 2 hours and 49 minutes of television a day.

I'm just speculating here, but I think there's a huge connection between all these things.

The basic choice we have to make at any minute is whether to act for our immediate comfort and pleasure or delay gratification. So many people choose to eat rather than to feel empty. They plop down in front of the TV instead of reading a book or doing something else that might help their career or just exercise their mind.

At any given time, you have all the excuses you need. You can't save a dollar today. Or this week. And certainly not this month. But when it goes on like that year after year, your excuses become clear. At some time in the decade that just passed, you COULD have figured out how to save some money. Failing to get started on this is why most people have less money saved than it takes to live for a year.

Unless your plan is to retire and then die right away, you need to prepare for it!

But you need to a plan. Being just like everyone else sucks.

Put out the effort to be at least one standard deviation above the crowd. And to be honest, your goal should be two and then three standard deviations.

Once you put your focus on that, you will make very fast progress.


Sources: (March 2016)

Monday, April 18, 2016

ASCII Group Appoints Shannon Mayer as VP of Channel Development

Congratulations to long-time community member Shannon Mayer! Just got a press release from The ASCII Group. Shannon has been appointed as their VP of Channel Development.

Here's the press release:

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The ASCII Group Appoints Shannon Mayer as Vice President of Channel Development

Bethesda, Maryland – April 18, 2016 -- The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent MSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce the appointment of Shannon Mayer as Vice President of Channel Development.  In this role, Shannon is responsible for developing key alliances while creating new channel strategies for our vendor partner program.

Shannon is well-known in the channel, and prior to joining The ASCII Group, she was Senior Marketing Programs Manager at Continuum Managed Services.  She has also served as Channel Engagement Manager at LogMeIn and Director of Marketing and Channel Relations at Datto.

“We are delighted to have Shannon join our team, and her experience and commitment within the channel will bring great benefits to both our members and partners,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

"ASCII has a long history of providing programs and services that help the IT solution provider community grow and improve their businesses,” said Mayer.  “They do incredible work for our industry and I am excited and honored to become a member of their amazing team and look forward to continuing to help the channel community thrive."

The ASCII Group has experienced significant growth in 2016 including additional staff and an expansion of the IT SMB Success Summit Series into Canada.

For additional information about The ASCII Group visit Follow The ASCII Group on Twitter @asciigroup.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers.  Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction.  ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. 


Press Contact
Alysia Vetter
Director of Marketing & Communications
Tel: 800-394-2724 x 131

Friday, April 15, 2016

SOP Video: Cash vs. Accrual Accounting

My latest video is posted on the Small Biz Thoughts YouTube Channel.

The topic is Cash vs. Accrual accounting.

Basically, you have to choose one of these accounting methods . . . at least until your company gets large. There are specific thresholds at which you are required operate on an Accrual method.

For small businesses, you still have choices.

Personally, I have always used the Accrual method of accounting my businesses. Here I explain why I do that and how it helps me keep revenue and cost of goods sold lines up in my accounting system.

Feedback welcome, as always.


New Audio Program - Manuel Palachuk's "Culture and Compass" - Free

My brother Manuel has a couple of signature presentations. One of them is called Culture and Compass. Happily, I was able to record this presentation awhile back and it is now available as a free download from SMB Books.

Check it out on the Audio/Video page at

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Culture and Compass: Cultivate a Successful Environment for Employees and Clients - from Manuel Palachuk

Originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference. For more information, see

Experience managed service provider and coach Manuel Palachuk presents his signature presentation on creating the culture you want within your small business. Every company has "some" culture. Manuel talks about creating your culture with intention, from the top down. As Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan have pointed out, “People generally don’t think themselves into a new way of acting. More often, they act into a new way of thinking.”

Manuel talks about how you get that process going to sculpt the culture you want in your organization. He covers the various motivations within an organization and how culture needs to be created from the top down. It involves addressing behavior as well as common values and commitments. This is a very practical guide for leading your team where you want it to go!

You might also enjoy Manuel's feature-length video on this topic: Culture and Compass -Culitvating a Successful Environment for Employees and Clients

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About Manuel Palachuk
Author, Business Coach for IT Consultants

Manuel has over 25 years of business, management and training experience in the computer and electronics industries. He is an expert of process, systems, and their efficiency who is driven toward continuous improvement in all aspects of business.

Manuel is the co-author of the Network Migration Workbook, an expansive 535 page document covering the complete processes and checklists required to migrate your network with zero downtime. Manuel is currently writing Getting to the Next Level: A Blueprint For Taking Your Managed Service Business To The Top.

Manuel is the former President of KPEnterprises Business Consulting in Sacramento, CA and former Chief Operating Officer for Network Technology Solutions (NTS) in Pompano Beach, FL. In 2012, Manuel founded his coaching business, which you can explore at The primary focus of this new endeavor is to help Managed Service Providers take their business to the next level.


NOTE: We have released a whole series of new audio programs this year. Check them all out at

Released April 2016 

Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online 

- Audio program with Stephanie Chandler
- Only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information

How to Have a Never-Ending Conversation with Your Clients
- Audio program with Bob Nitrio
- only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information

Your CEO Transition Plan
- Audio program with Arlin Sorensen
- only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information

Relax Focus Succeed® 
Now available via MP3 and Audible formats
- only $19.95 or less
- at SMB Books, Amazon, Audible
- More Information

Released March 2016 

Organizing for Success
 - Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information

Consistency and Success
- Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information

Only the Excellent Survive
 - Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information


Thursday, April 14, 2016

How I Make My YouTube Videos

I have made a lot of videos in the last few years.

As of this writing, my primary YouTube channel has 195 videos. This includes 40 videos in the SOP Friday series. Check it all out at

Someone asked me to demonstrate how I put together these videos, so while I was producing video 41 in the SOP series (scheduled for April 22nd), I took screen shots so I could show exactly what I do.

I use a Sony Handycam to record the video (see my review here).

Then I use Camtasia Studio to edit the video. Camtasia costs about $300. The current version works very well with Windows 10. I found it frustrating with Windows 8. I got in the habit of saving frequently so the machine didn't lock up. With a new fast machine and Windows 10, those problems went away.

This step-by-step video demonstrates the process from getting the files off the camera to uploading the finished video to my YouTube Channel.

You can go straight to this video at or subscribe to my YouTube channel at

I'm happy to answer questions here or on YouTube. If you email me about this, I'll probably answer the question here or on YouTube so other folks can see the answer.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Audio Program from Stephanie Chandler - Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online

Now available from SMB Books . . .

Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online from Stephanie Chandler

From the author of the book Own Your Niche. Author, Online Marketing Expert, and Small Business Strategist Stephanie Chandler presents a jam-packed session of tips and tricks for making the most of your online presence. You will literally need to listen to this program at least three times just to catch most of the content!

Topics including defining your Target Audience, tapping into the Power of Communities, optimizing your website, developing a Content Marketing Strategy, and many more tips to embrace Social Media and get the most out of it.

This is a 50 minute audio program, delivered as a MP3 zipped with the slides/handouts.

Only $19.95

Immediate Download

Buy Now

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About Stephanie Chandler

Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business, Booked Up! How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book to Grow Your Business, LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business, From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money with Books, eBooks and Information Products, and The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books.

Stephanie is also CEO of, a custom publisher of non-fiction books. She is also the founder and president of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a nationwide association with tens of thousands of members (see

She is a frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, BusinessWeek,, and Wired magazine, and she is a blogger for Forbes.

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This program was originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference. For more information, see


Monday, April 11, 2016

Operations = Strategy Execution

We have a tendency to look at the term "Operations" to simply mean everything that a company does. We look at each individual item and say we have processes and procedures for that. This is an atomistic view of operations.

I think it's much more powerful to think of Operations from a much more holistic perspective. Operations is the execution of your company's strategy, vision, and mission. When taken from the larger position, operations is much more powerful. Here's why.

Think about the role of operations in an organization. Operations is the "how we do what we do" piece of your business. It comes after you decide WHAT you do. First you need to decide what business you're in, who you want your clients to be, how you want to place yourselves in the competitive environment, and which products and services you want to offer. Those are all policy decisions. Those are strategic decisions.

Operations is the execution of your strategy. In other words, Operations takes strategy and turns it into execution.

Here's a great example from the IT consulting business.

Strategically, do you want to compete on price and always be the low-cost option for your clients? If you do, then you'll need more clients and have to constantly be looking for cheaper alternatives. You won't be able to sell high quality products and services. You'll spend a lot of time doing re-work because the implementation of a low-cost labor strategy will require less skilled labor and less time to execute each job.

Your marketing will focus on the low end clients. Your sales presentations will focus on cost savings. You will have a minimalist approach to standardization and quality of work.

And all that's okay if you choose to a low-cost and high-volume strategy.

Now, let's look at a high-quality strategy. Here, you'll need clients who value their investment in technology and put a premium on uptime. Now, you have to sell high quality products and services because you require uptime and reliability. You'll pay more for labor and charge more for labor. You have to because you can't afford rework. As a result, you will have more rigorous process and procedures. You will constantly be looking for higher quality tools, products, and services.

Your marketing will focus on the benefits of high quality services. Your sales presentations will be all about benefits and problem solving. You will have the highest standards for quality work.

Operations is where strategy becomes execution. So let's assume you've decided on the high-quality strategy. If someone proposes a move from business-class firewalls (starting at $1,000) to home-class firewalls (around $100), how well does that fit with your strategy? Obviously it doesn't. The lower end firewall will have much greater latency, so it is automatically the bottleneck of the client's network. It will have limited support for NAT, VPN, and IPSec. It will have a slower CPU and less memory.

On the product side, selling low end equipment is counter productive to the strategy of quality.

Now let's look at the server or labor side.

When you lead with quality, you have to have high end processes and procedures. That means your technicians are properly trained and they execute your checklist and procedures consistently. That takes overhead. It means you have a service manager who is constantly focused on providing the right service for each job. You coordinate activities in order to minimize rework and client downtime. All of that takes labor and good tools (e.g., a good service board designed for this industry rather than a home-grown product you built on crapware you found on the Internet).

Now consider what happens when you are tempted to provide that superior service at a lower cost. Of course you'll earn less money. But you'll also have to cut service. To cut labor costs you'll have to cut something else: Training, quality control, centralized management, quality of work delivered, amount of time allocated for jobs, etc. You will have to provide lower quality service.

That's the point at which the Operations department gets to push back. They get to invoke the mission, vision, and strategy of the company and ask, "Have we changed our commitment to quality? Because the reduction of quality support is not consistent with our mission to this point."

Let's be honest: Some people feel a LOT of pressure on price. Clients want to pay less but demand the higher level of service. This is true in many aspects of our lives. People buy the cheapest airline seats they can find and then complain that there's no legroom. Others pay for legroom and accept that they are paying more than the people seated behind them.

I encourage you to do the work that so many people avoid: Go back to the strategy discussion. Go back to the vision and mission discussion. It is very easy (and common) for people to wave their hand and say, "I don't need that." But without a clear vision about who you are, the clients you serve, and the services you offer, you don't have clear guiding principles for your execution. Without an overall strategy, anything you do will fit in operations. That makes it hard to provide consistently.

If you want to compete at the low end, you can do that. Lots of people do. In fact, most do.

If you want to compete on quality, you can do that. But it means you have to have people, policies, processes, and procedures that allow you to execute at a very high level.

So while "operations" might be seen as all the little things you do in the finest detail, I think it's much more powerful to think of Operations at a higher level. Operations turns your vision and your master planning into the execution of the promises you've made to stakeholders, clients, and employees.


Saturday, April 09, 2016

New Audio Program - How to Have a Never Ending Conversation with Your Clients

How to Have a Never Ending Conversation with Your Clients
featuring Bob Nitrio

One of the most powerful techniques you can adopt in your service business is to develop a strategy of working with you clients to improve their business. Technicians and "computer guys" are easy to come by. Having a strategic technology adviser who helps the business to make money, save money, and get the most from their technology is much harder to find.

After twenty years in business, community leader Bob Nitrio shares some of his best tips for viewing the entire client relationship as a continuous conversation about the client's business. Learn how to help your clients be more successful and they'll love you forever.

This is a 50 minute audio program, delivered as a MP3 zipped with the slides/handouts.

Only $19.95

Immediate Download

Buy Now
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About Bob Nitrio

Managed Service Provider, Strategic Business Consultant, I.T. Pro Leader

Robert A. Nitrio is the CEO of Ranvest Associates, a business technology consulting firm that he founded in 1992 in Sacramento, California. The company provides strategic business consulting and technology solutions to the SMB market. By becoming intimately familiar with each client’s operations, he guides them through an analytical process designed to streamline and enhance their operations. Appropriate technology solutions are introduced to achieve increased efficiency, productivity and profitability. The ultimate goal is to create an organizational culture focused on business continuity – keeping the client in business profitably every day until they are ready to execute their exit strategy.

As the co-founder and co-leader of the Sacramento SMB IT Pros, Bob maintains close ties with like-minded peers who seek to constantly improve their ability to deliver the very best support for their clients. As a leader in the IT consulting community, Bob also maintains close ties with other group leaders worldwide and encourages the development of those relationships through shared knowledge and resources. He is an Advisory Board member for Everything Channel’s XChange programs, which bring high level computer executives together with IT consultants for the purpose of fostering and extending their mutual business relationships. He also is a member of Samsung’s new Innovation Council which is focused on the computer-related portion of Samsung’s global business operations.

Friday, April 08, 2016

SOP Video: Your Successful Client Visit

A Quick-Start Guide to an Onsite Service Call

This morning I posted my latest SOP Video.

There are three pieces to every service call: Before, during, and after.

Preparation for the call involves getting ready to give the client the best service. That sounds obvious, but many people skip some very basic steps. For example, you should print out all the service tickets for that client and make sure that you know everything that needs to be done there - even if you can't do it today. You don't want to be blind-sided by a question and not even know there's a problem.

Side note: This is a great example of why every service provider needs a ticketing system (service board / PSA)!

Of course you also need to gather the parts and tools needed for a successful visit. And you need to dress professionally.

Onsite, you need to follow just a few rules. Like - Don't take the best parking spot. Go ahead and park at the far side of the lot and leave convenient spaces for the client and their visitors.

Also onsite, make sure you say hello and goodbye to the receptionist and your primary contact. Keep them informed about what you're up to and give them the chance to give you additional information. Clients should never feel that you sneek out or disappeared on them. Most of the time they won't have anything important to tell you. But if you always give them the opportunity, then they'll feel that good communication is part of your brand.

One important element mentioned here is the TSR or Troubleshooting and Repair log. See my blog post at for more details. You should never spin your wheels on a problem for more than about 30 minutes. In other words, if you or your tech are not making progress toward a solution, start the TSR Log. It will help you solve the problem faster, escalate more quickly, and document your work.

After the service call, make sure the onsite checklist is executed. That includes putting time entries in the PSA, including notes about what was done and not done. If new issues come up, new tickets should be entered. If the service manager needs to know something, that should also be noted in the PSA. Appropriate tickets should be closed - onsite, before you leave!

It's very important that you do these things "in real time." This is especially true when you're working as a team. If a tech leaves the client office and all the notes are in the system, this gives great power to the service manager. If the client has to call and ask something about the visit, the service manager will be able to look in the PSA and answer all the client's questions. If the ticket is still open, and there are no notes and no time entries, then the service manager is going to have a bad conversation with the client. In addition to messing up the "real time" goals for your company, it also makes you company look disorganized.

Bottom Line: Create a simple checklist for every onsite visit. Before, during, and after. This is key to your brand.

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View all my SOP videos at

For information on the Managed Services Operations Manual, see


Relax Focus Succeed® Now Available on Audible!

Relax Focus Succeed®

Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both

I am happy to announce that Relax Focus Succeed® is now available on!

Just Click Here*

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is useful for everyone who seeks to be happier and more fulfilled. Individuals will find ways to bring harmony between the "roles" they play at home, at work, and in the community. Bosses and managers will find ways to motivate and inspire their workers.

Everyone will gain a better understanding of the linkages that exist between the various complicated aspects of our modern lives.

We each need a plan for our lives, but planning, scheming, and set-ting goals seems like just more work. In our busy lives we just don't have time to make time to do the things we know we need to do. It's like we don't have time to fix the roof because we're too busy mopping the floor.

In this little book you'll find the key ingredients you'll need to stop, sit down, and begin building a happier, healthier, more balanced and successful life.

There are no magic pills here. You have to do all the work. But the work doesn't have to be unpleasant at all. Everyone can and should work to have a more fulfilling and balanced life.

And this book will show you how to get started.

- - - - -

Last month w released the audio book in MP3 format. It is now available in the following formats:

- Audio via / Amazon

- Audio MP3 on SMB Books

- Paperback at Amazon

- Paperback at SMB Books

- Kindle format at Amazon

- Kindle format at SMB Books

- PDF format at SMB Books

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If you haven't tried, you should. It is a subscription service that allows you to download one audio book per month. The first month is free.

There are hundreds of thousands of titles available, including about 180,000 free titles.

Your first month is free. You can also buy additional credits at a discount.