Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Business of Drones Takes Off

Over at the Killing IT Podcast - killingit.smallbizthoughts.com - we are constantly talking about what's new, what's next, and what it means for IT consultants.

One of our recurring topics is Drones - specifically drone aircraft. In fact, our Tuesday podcast includes a story about UPS developing (and getting a license for) a drone airline. After all, they already have their own airline for cargo delivery by plane.

Again and again, people ask me at conferences, what has any of this to do with US - with IT professionals. Well the simple answer is A Lot!

The drone industry is growing up fast.

With this move, UPS will start deploying drone deliveries in "campus" settings such as medical campuses and college campuses. To make this successful, they will need to develop a great deal of sophisticated controls, procedures, and safety protocols. But my guess is that they'll be hugely successful.

Of course Google (Alphabet) is in the race as well, as it Uber.

As with any technology, solving a big problem such as this (massively coordinated deliveries in a control environment) will also solve many related problems in the larger market. This includes creating designated flight paths, collision prevention, and even theft prevention.

It also means that lots of technicians will be needed to deliver, program, deploy, and repair these drones. This might mean companies like yours, if you have the skills.


CompTIA has a new drone community.

See https://www.comptia.org/membership/communities-and-councils/drone-advisory-council

The CompTIA drone advisory council is looking at the evolution of this industry, how partners are making money, and how opportunities are emerging to make more money going forward. Their first online community meeting was last month. The next one is this Thursday - October 17th at Noon Eastern. You can register here:

https://www.comptia.org/events/view/drone-standards-best-practices-and-market-research

Bottom Line: There's opportunity here! It's definitely not too late to get into drone technology. And it's certainly not too soon to start making money with drones.

Action Steps:

1) Listen to the Killing IT Podcast on your favorite pod catcher

2) Join the CompTIA Drone Community and watch that webinar Thursday

Keep watching this space. I've been pushing these emerging technologies for years. Now they are entering the stage of commercial adoption. Make sure you get your share!

-- -- -- -- --

For the news article on the UPS drone airline, see https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/1/20893655/ups-faa-approval-delivery-drones-airline-amazon-air-uber-eats-alphabet-wing

:-)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Don't Assume You Know What Clients are Thinking

(I almost entitled this "Don't Assume Clients Know What You Go Through")


I had an interesting conversation with a Lyft driver yesterday. Dude was telling me that he sometimes gets a ride that's fifteen or twenty minutes away - and then turns out to be a seven dollar fare. He says he always gives those people one star because they should have cancelled.

I said, Whoa! That's not fair to the rider. They requested a ride. It takes time to get there. It's not their fault that you're inconvenienced. In fact, it's the app's fault.

He said that riders should use common sense. They have two minutes to cancel without a penalty. They should see how far the driver has to go and cancel the ride as a courtesy.

I see his point. But, the fundamental problem with this logic is that it assumes the client has both the same knowledge and the same perspective as the driver. Both of these are very unlikely.

Many people have cancelled a ride and paid a fee. To the rider, there may be confusion about whether that was Lyft or Uber. And, of course, they may not know that they cancel within a certain amount of time. And is that two minutes or five? The driver knows all the rules because he does this all day long. The rider is far less likely to pay attention to all the rules, or have them memorized.

As for perspective, it's natural that the rider has a different perspective. There's an app. You push a button and someone magically shows up at your door. It's not the rider's job to think about where the driver came from, how long he's been driving, what mood he's in, etc. And she certainly can't know that he'll give her a one star rating because she requested a ride and took it.

All these lessons apply to your business as well. By definition, the client's perspective is not your perspective. Their knowledge is not your knowledge. Because of these facts, what you consider common sense is not what they consider common sense.

We sometimes bundle all the things we do into a category called "Service" sector. But there are lots of different kinds of services out there in the service sector. Lawyers, accountants, and bank tellers are all in the service business, as are receptionists and checkers at the grocery store.

IT is a very different animal, though. In addition to doing some consulting (like attorneys and accountants), we need to look after a lot of things our clients are not aware of or able to understand.

Why is http different from https, and why should I care?

I pay a lot of money to be safe, so how come I'm not safe?

We need to understand the client's perceptions and perspectives. IT really isn't their job and you can't expect them to care about it. Now, having said that, when you warn them about things and they take no action, you also can't take the blame for that.

I've always used the line, "You pay us a lot of money to give you advice: You should take it."


I used to have a client (an attorney) who never saved or closed his Word documents unless he had to. One time, we needed to kick everyone off the network for some reason. His office manager went into the attorney's office and started closing out Word documents. There were over 100 documents open! Some had not yet been given a name.

As the office manager was patiently saving and naming files, I asked whether the attorney had never lost any data. The answer was no. The reason he pays us is to keep bad things from happening. So I asked, don't bad things just sometimes happen? No, he said. The guy drives a BMW, buys only top shelf, and expects everything to go right.

That's a great approach and a great attitude. But it also means there's a lot of pressure on my company to take care of him where he won't take care of himself. And for the right price, that's what we did.

Now, that's not a normal client. But the behavior isn't completely unheard of either.

What habits and practices do you have in place to understand your clients' perspective on technology?

For me, regular roadmap meetings go a long way. In addition to helping me see the client's perspective, they build a relationship that will hold up when other things fall down.

:-)

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

5-Week Class: Make the Most of QuickBooks Desktop in an IT Service Business - Start October 15th

Course 5W12

Make the Most of QuickBooks Desktop in an IT Service Business


Taught By: Rayanne Buchianico

October 15, 2019 - November 12, 2019
Tuesdays, 9:00 AM PST

Register Now 


QuickBooks is QuickBooks, right?

Well . . .

QuickBooks has to be set up right. Then it has to be used right. Then you need to have specific processes for the kinds of things you do in YOUR business. QuickBooks has some great interview-based setup parameters that differentiate between a "service" business and a storefront.

But QuickBooks does NOT have a configuration setting tailored specifically for a technology consulting business! There is no "MSP" option when you install QuickBooks.

In this class, Rayanne walks you through several processes that are geared toward the kind of business you run.

This class provides unique content from a unique teacher! Rayanne is a managed service provider from Tampa, FL. She is also an accountant and an Intuit certified ProAdvisor. In addition to her MSP business, Rayanne helps I.T. consultants to take control of their finances and understand their own business at a deeper level

Topics for this class include:
  • Set up your Chart of Accounts to manage your MSP
  • Read and understand your financial reports
  • Set up and track KPIs and service-level metrics
  • How to track and claim a credit for sales tax paid to vendors on products for resale
  • Maintaining HAAS equipment and recording income and expense properly
  • Tracking direct labor and overhead payroll expenses
  • Creating and maintaining a purchase order system
  • Managing customer deposits, retainer payments, and unearned revenue
  • Action plans for success
  • . . . and More!


Delivered by Rayanne Buchianico, Financial Coach and QuickBooks Advisor. Rayanne has been an MSP - managed service provider - for many years and advises MSPs on how to get the most out of their QuickBooks and PSA integrations.

Includes five weeks of webinar classes with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.







SBT Community Members: 
You must use a code to receive the discount.

Go to the SBT Community "Offers and Deals" Forum to find the discount.


If you have questions, email concierge at Small Biz Thoughts.

:-)

Thursday, October 03, 2019

It's All About the Questions


This week I was a guest on Laura Steward's It’sAll About the Questions radio show.


She send me this note:

"Thanks for being on the show my friend! You totally rocked it. I loved how you were willing to play with me to create an organic show that shares so much of who you are and the work you do and wisdom you have learned! My engineer in the booth told me after you hung up that he enjoyed the show as have others who have reached out to me who heard the show live. And many thanks for making me laugh. A lot."

The recording is up on Laura's Blog, website, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify and Stitcher, etc. 



Here are the additional links. If you enjoy the show, reviews and likes are greatly appreciated.



:-)

Status vs. Status

As a frequent traveler, I belong to all the "award" programs. Platinum this and Gold that. But unlike most frequent travelers, I'm not very strategic about it. If a conference is at a Hilton, I stay at the Hilton (not the Marriott across the street). If it's at a Marriott, I stay at the Marriott (not the Hilton across the street).

Some people are rabid "points" aficionados. They go on and on about how this credit card gets you these benefits, these passes, these upgrades, etc. My brain gets tired just trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B without sitting in the back of a small plane.

I have to admit, I've been Delta "Platinum" for a few years - but I have no idea how to work the system.

I'll easily fly another 30,000 miles between now and early December. So I'll have the miles I need. But I don't think I'll spend enough money to get past Gold. The same thing happened last year, but some stars aligned and I renewed the Platinum.

The reward programs refer to this as Status. What's your status? Are you Silver, Gold, or Platinum?

Of course this isn't real status. You don't buy real status: Your earn it.

As a non-coupon-clipper, I find all the complicated rules too much trouble to keep track of. (This is the same reason I don't follow sports.) In the long run, here's what I think is really going on:


  • If you can afford to always fly Business or First Class, and you fly a lot, you might reach the top tier.
  • If you get the airline credit card, and spend lots of money on it, you are much more likely to get the top tier.

Both of these strategies consist of buying your way to "status." After all, the airlines are in the business of making money. They don't award status points based on your good looks or zip code.

In a separate realm, I'm not a huge believer in credit cards. I'd rather pay cash in advance whenever possible. As a result, I'm never paying $500 for a credit card just so I can get a jump up on the race for status.

No exaggeration here: I will forget to use the benefits. I always do. I am ending 2019 with five suite upgrade nights and a free night at Marriott. Every year I give up a companion pass on Hawaiian because I forget it's there. So if I added a gaggle of additional paid-for benefits with a $500 card, I would forget those as well.

Here's what brings me value (Inside my head. Your mileage may vary.):

1) When I book airfare, I buy it as far in advance as I can. That gets me a great price.

2) I also balance price with convenience and comfort.

3) When it makes sense, I buy airfare and hotel together on Travelocity. The price is often amazing, but you get zero rewards for the hotel nights.

For example, on my recent trip from San Jose to Manchester England to Seattle to LAX, I bought the tickets five months in advance. I paid $930, and was either Comfort Plus or First Class the whole way. BUT the airfare portion of that trip, without the taxes and fees, was just under $360. As a result, it did me very little good toward renewing my Status.

Some people make points runs in order to get status. So, this time of year, they are looking at spending $3,000 or $5,000 in order to get the dollar spend needed to reach Platinum. Inside my head, that doesn't make any sense.

This wouldn't work for me because I would insist on staying wherever I go. I'd spend at least four days at the location before heading back. So that adds hotels, taxis, and food to the spend.

Because I buy tickets far in advance, I can buy legroom and comfort for $50-150 per leg of the trip. It takes a LOT of hops to spend the extra $3,000-$5,000.

The bottom line for me: I'm not buying status. I'll take what I can get. And if I end up paying for my own upgrades next year, I'll be just fine.

No points runs for me.

:-)

Monday, September 23, 2019

My Web Guy - Ruben Young

This is a shout-out for one of my web developers.

Most of you probably don't know that I mange almost two hundred web sites for my business. In addition to the blogs, podcast sites, and "major" web sites (SMBBooks.com, SmallBizThoughts.com, SmallBizThoughts.org, GreatLittleSeminar.com), I also have at least one site for each product. Multiple sites allow me to do A-B testing of advertisements.

Anyway, I have been working with Ruben Young on many web sites for more than five years. He had helped me with major re-designs of many sites, and is the designer and implementer of my membership site at www.smallbizthoughts.org.


Here is Ruben:


You can find him at RubenYoung.com.

If you need some web (or other) design work for your business, I recommend you contact Ruben.

Earlier this year, Ruben sent me a note. He has been drinking the Relax Focus Succeed Kool-Aid. He told me that working with me has convinced him to raise his rates, take more confidence in his work, and stop working crazy night and weekend hours. As a result, after 20 years in business, he is more balanced and more successful than ever.

I'm not saying he's expensive. He's not. He does excellent work, is very responsive, and is able to come up with great ideas to push the "creativity" side of the development work.

Twelve years ago, I built (had built) a membership site with pretty much the same features as the Small Biz Thoughts Community site. It cost me about ten times as much as what Ruben charged me to build the current site - and the newer site is ten times more attractive and functional.

So if you need a good developer or just someone to consult on your web or print design, I encourage you to contact Ruben.

-----

Not a paid advertisement. Just spreading the good word about a good guy I work with.

P.S., My in-house designer, Kara Schoonveld, also does excellent work. She is currently working to revamp several other sites. More about her soon.

:-)


Thursday, September 19, 2019

24 hour Zoom Room Available to Community Members

We all love Zoom, right?

Well now we are taking our Zoom engagement to a new level.

Effective immediately, we are making our Zoom Room available to all SBT Community Members 24 hours a days, seven days a week!

24×7
Why and What? Here’s what we’re up to:

Members Click Here to Access the Link.

Whenever you want to chat with someone in the community, you simply go to that link. Your video and microphone will be OFF by default, but you can always turn them on. Recording of the session is also OFF by default.

If you’re ever just hanging out and wondering if anyone else is hanging out, we encourage you to log and engage.

Note: This is the same Zoom room we use for classes and Community meetings. So if you’re hanging out and we crank up a class or meeting, we will (politely) let you know that we “need the room” for an hour or so.

We are VERY open to ideas you have about how we can use the Zoom Room.

:-)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

NexGen Conference - Free on Me Oct 23-24

From my good friends at NexGen:

NexGen Conference  2019

Complimentary General Admission Pass for October 23 & 24th
Use Promo Code SmallBiz
Anaheim, CA - Anaheim Marriott

www.nexgenconference.com

Managed services are at the heart of the IT solution provider business, generating a staggering $158 billion in sales. Partners at the forefront of managed services are rapidly expanding by offering customers new services and solutions. NexGen caters to this critical segment of the channel, with a conference custom designed for elite services-led and cloud-focused managed services professionals.
MSPs attend NexGen to:

  • Stay ahead of technology services and industry trends
  • Identify strategic partners to fuel their growth
  • Engage with peers for feedback and validation of their strategies


This year-s featured sessions include:

  • The X Factor of Customer Centricity
  • Max Out SaaS Sales to SMBs
  • 3 Ways To Sell The Cloud 
  • Securing The Customer: Taking Relationships to The Next Level
  • Google Cloud Pros & Cons
  • Using AI to Measure Customer Satisfaction Levels


View the conference agenda

:-)

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Real Cost of Travel

As some of you may have noticed, I like to travel. A lot.

Travel is a great example of why "cost" is a relative thing - and why the cheapest looking price is often not the cheapest at all. Remind your clients and prospects of this when they want to talk about pricing.
My apartment in Edinburgh

Here are some of the key costs of travel that people ignore.

1) Travel by car is not cheap!

Many people think, "Oh, it's cheaper to just drive." Why? Because they look at the cost of fuel in isolation from everything else. It may be cheaper, but you have remember all the associated costs. Many conference hotels charge $20-30 per day to park. More if you use their valet. Plus you have to stop for more food during your travel than a you would with a quick plane ride.

2) Published hotel prices are all fictional.

You need to dig into the real total here. Many hotels add "resort" fees even though the resort consists of the workout room with three pieces of equipment. Hotels also don't always include taxes and fees in their pricing. So an advertised room at $129 might end up costing you $170 when the total bill comes. (Plus parking.)

3) Food, especially breakfast, is a huge variable.

Many mid-range hotels (Courtyard, Townhome suites, etc.) include a very basic breakfast with your stay. This can save you $10-20 over the cost of breakfast at a higher-end hotel. Of course, if you're Platinum or some other expensive metal, then you can eat for "free" in the executive lounge. But your room will be in the $169 range rather than the $139 range.

4) Wi-Fi. Get the real deal before you book.

As a very frequent business traveler who works from the road, I always need good Wi-Fi. And very often that means I have to bring it with me. In most countries, I can use my T-Mobile phone and just add a data package. In some places, I buy a local Mi-Fi device or even a low end cell phone with a data package. If you have to constantly upgrade your Internet access, it can cost you as much as $10-20 per day. Make sure you know what you're getting into.

5) Local transportation can range from free to expensive.

Once you're on site, you need to get around. So, for example, if you stay in the heart of the tourist district, you might be able to walk to everything you need. Of course, you'll pay a higher price for your hotel if you do that. It's cheaper outside the tourist area, but you'll end up driving and paying to park, or take Uber and Lyft everywhere. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy the more expensive hotel room.

6) Air fares are NOT all about the price.

Cheap airfare is one of the most expense things you can experience. With very few exceptions, airfares are very well coordinated with experience. You pay less; you get less. If you don't care about legroom (or side room), then cheap fares will get you in the back, middle seats on almost any airline. Just don't whine about it: You chose that experience. For $25-50 more per hop, you can get a good seat on almost any airline. Also, some cheap fares now exclude any carry-on baggage. Once again, look at your total price. AND cheaper flights often include extra stops and much longer total travel time.

7) Local meals and entertainment can vary dramatically.

In most places you travel, there are meals and bars that range from cheap to expensive. But not always. If you're going to eat out every meal, make sure you have local options. It may be worthwhile to pay a bit extra to be within walking distance of reasonably priced food.

8) Plan WAY in advance and save.

I try to buy my airfare and make hotel reservations months in advance. As a result, my airfare is usually super cheap, and my hotels are reasonably priced. Buying flights 4-6 months in advance can cut the price by half or more.

My current trip from Oakland to Manchester (UK) to Seattle over about two weeks cost me $932 all in. I took the train to Edinburgh and will take a train to Newcastle. Buying way in advance, both cost less than $60 USD. Similarly, my trip to Australia next month was paid for back in April and will cost about $1200 round trip.


Bring it all together: Expect to pay more than the advertised price.

For my current trip I booked an apartment above a bar in Edinburgh for about $160/night. With that location, I have no local travel expenses and lots of options for local eating and drinking. And, of course, no parking. I did buy an extra data package from T-Mobile for $35, but it's good for the entire trip.

In general, I guarantee a certain level of "quality" travel by following a few simple rules.


  • Start by avoiding the cheapest price. I buy main cabin airfare and hope to get upgraded.
  • Check a variety of housing options. I start with FlipKey.com and then Travelocity.com. Sometimes I get a deal with the airline while booking flights (especially Delta and Hawaiian airlines). But bundles with Travelocity are also excellent.
  • Consider alternative travel. For Americans that means trains, light rail, ferries, and even buses. 98% of non-US mass transit is reliable and reasonably priced.
  • Plan well in advance.
  • Plan to pay 10-20% more than the advertised fee on hotels and cheap airlines.


Note: Your clients have experienced all of these things when they travel. So when they want to talk pricing or want to compare you to low-cost IT providers, but remind them of the last horrible "cheap" flight or cheap hotel.

Cheap never is. And the experience leaves much to be desired.

Don't be cheap.

:-)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

5-week Course - The Unbreakable Rules of PSA - Starts September 10th

The Unbreakable Rules of PSA – IT Service Delivery in the 21st Century

Taught By: Manuel Palachuk

Register Now

Five Tuesdays - 9:00 AM Pacific

September 10, 2019 - October 8, 2019

Course 5w11

Everyone needs a PSA - Professional Services Automation tool. But in addition to simply having a PSA, you need to set it up correctly and use it wisely.

In this course, you will learn how to double your value to clients and increase your profit with these powerful golden rules of PSA Service Ticket Systems.

Coach Manuel focuses on the direct connection between your service delivery system, the value you give your clients, and your profit, and how to maximize each. He also gives an overview of Agile Service Delivery, an emerging method you must learn to stay competitive.




Whether you’re a one-person shop or have fifty employees, to be consistently profitable, you must have guidelines for how to break down the work in an organized fashion and how you will communicate with the client along the way.

You don’t have to be an MSP or even use a PSA to work efficiently and be profitable, but you do need a system and a method. These "golden" rules can be the seed for your own system if you have none, or you can adopt them in whole to enrich your existing methods. Either way, this is your opportunity to take your service delivery and your profits to the next level.

The course includes a thorough discussion of the unbreakable rules of service tickets as well as covering quality communication with every client. It will be time well spent!

Whether you're a new "Computer Consultant" or an experienced Managed Service Provider, you need to create successful processes that will propel your company forward. Nothing is more critical to making profit than having the right processes and procedures in place!

Delivered by Manuel Palachuk, author and business coach.

- Includes five weeks of webinar classes with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

- This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.

$259.00 - Purchase The Unbreakable Rules of PSA - IT Service Delivery in the 21st Century
There are no modules in this training course.







:-)