Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Self Employed and Need Vision Coverage? No Need to Worry About Open Enrollment

Over at SMB Community Podcast, I posted an interview I did with Al Schubert, Sr. VP and General Manager of the Direct to Consumer Strategic Business Unit at  VSP Individual Vision Plans. You can also view it on my YouTube channel.

Earlier this year, I worked with VSP to create a resource guide about preparing for retirement when you’re self-employed. After all, it’s a lot different from folks who receive a regular paycheck. Download the resource guide at www.vspdirect.com/retirement.


Check out the interview here:



VSP has a national program for vision care that is focused entirely on individuals and their families. They've engaged me to help get the word out.

As a self-employed business owner, you've put in a lot of hard work to get to the point where you are actually looking at retirement. Now there's a payoff you might not have expected: flexibility!

For example, with a VSP Individual Vision Plan, you don't have to worry about once-a-year opportunities to sign up for coverage. You can enroll anytime by visiting VSP Direct to sign up. Enrollment is open year-round and only takes five business days for your benefits to kick in.

Here's the deal: In the 21st century, you can choose to sell your business, take on a partner, pass it on to your children, or slowly downsize. You can continue working at some level for as long as you want. If you truly love your business and your clients, you have lots of options.

As with everything else, I encourage you to move to retirement with intention. Don't just let it happen to you. Choose what you'll do. I hope this free resource gives you some ideas.

Get the PDF immediately at www.VSPdirect.com/retirement.

:-)



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rayanne Offers Brand New Course: QuickBooks Online for the I.T. Pro

W5-15

Automate Your Accounting with QuickBooks Online and Integrated Apps


Taught by Rayanne Buchianico, Author and Coach
- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

Complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.

Topics for this class include:
  • Touch your transactions exactly one time to avoid duplicated entries
  • Make your business audit-proof with automated attachments
  • Understand the purchasing and procurement process in detail
  • Assess late fees to past-due invoices
  • Automate invoicing and collections
  • Customize Payroll Settings for proper gross profit margins
  • Pay your bills electronically from INSIDE QuickBooks Online
  • Match your vendor bills with actual credit or bank payments
  • Set up and record:
    • Deferred Revenue
    • Customer Deposits
    • Sales Tax
    • Hardware as a Service
  • . . . 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, accounting staff, and managers. It is particularly useful for the Owner or Operations Manager.

Register Now


A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five teleseminar phone calls (50-60 minutes each)
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class calls will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Which Book Cover Should I Use? - Managed Services in a Month - 3rd ed.

I've hinted here and there. So here's the announcement: The 3rd Edition of Managed Services in a Month will be out in December.

It will have TEN new chapters and is truly the complete guide to managed service. In fact, if the title "Managed Services in a Month" hadn't already been the best selling managed services book on Amazon for almost ten years, I would change the title to The Complete Guide to Managed Service.
:-)

Right now, the book is going through proofreading and layout.

And of course we need a book cover. I asked my graphic pro Sally Galli to come up with a few designs. Unfortunately, I like them both. I do have my own thoughts on both, but I want to hear what YOU think.



After all, if you're reading this blog, you're the audience, right?

Here's how you can help me pick a book cover. Choose your preference (A or B) and any comments about changes you recommend.

Fill out the official survey here.


The survey does NOT ask for your contact information. The only required question is which cover your prefer.

Or you can just email me - karlp@smallbizthoughts.com with your preference.

Thank you for your feedback!

:-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

New Podcast from Auvik - with Richard Tubb (and Me)

Ta-DAAAA!

I am happy to announce that Mr. Richard Tubb and I have teamed up to provide a "What's Happening" segment on Auvik's new podcast. The new podcast is called Frankly MSP.

You can get instant access to the podcast (Episode One) on YouTube here:


Auvik announced the podcast Tuesday on their blog at https://www.auvik.com/media/blog/tech-podcast-msp/.

The podcast will also be available on iTunes, of course.


A Few Details . . .

In Episode One, Richard and I talk about password policies, creepy artificial intelligence, connecting Alexa to your ticketing system, and more.

Then host Jennifer Tribe interviews Kevin Royalty (Total Care Computer Consulting, Cincinnati) about expanding your offerings by partnering with other technician who have specialty offerings.

After that, Auvik is planning two more episodes immediately to kick off their new podcast.

Please check it out. Subscribe on iTunes!

:-)


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Free Webinar: Pricing Strategies - Wednesday

I am very pleased to be presenting another MSP Tech Talk for SMB Nation on Wednesday - tomorrow.

I'll be talking about pricing strategies from Break/Fix to Managed Services and Cloud Services. In particular, I'm going to cover the key things you need to focus on so you are always profitable!

Sign Up Now


MSP Tech Talk

Fall 2017 

Tickets are Complimentary........

All you have to invest is your time.

This multi-faceted event gives technology providers the opportunity to learn from industry experts with no travel, hotel cost, or extensive time away from your business.

The Fall Agenda includes presentations by Harry Brelsford, Jamison West, Amie Seisay, Mark Scott, and me.



THE AGENDA

Sept. 27th
12:00 Noon Pacific
Pricing Strategies: Break/Fix, Managed Service, and Cloud

Karl Palachuk
One of the most common topics for service providers is pricing. How should you price your services? By user or device? In bundles? Should you include hardware? What's covered and what's not? And how do you set an hourly rate?

While the questions never cease, managed service author Karl Palachuk provides some great guidelines to consider as you structure your pricing.

Join us for an entertaining and educational webinar - September 27th.

Register Now



Also coming up in this series . . .


Oct. 4th 
12:00 PM
Embracing Change as an Organization with SharePoint

Amie Seisay
Technology changes at a rapid pace. Business processes should align with the changes that are happening in the world. This of course, impacts how people perform their job functions. The days of waiting for IT to build web applications have shifted, empowering business users to develop their own websites and dashboards to showcase information. IT can shift their focus to developing high powered solutions that will provide even greater business value. This session will cover business solutions in SharePoint involving approaches to Change Management. We will also discuss pointers for allowing SharePoint to deliver true business value.

Register Now




Oct. 11th 
12:00 PM
It’s not getting to the Cloud it’s about a safe journey

Mark Scott
Cloud this, cloud that, “take your business to the cloud”. The age of cloud computing is upon us and with it a dizzying array of tools, templates, platforms, services, subscriptions, API’s, and applications. We can now build applications and easily share data with virtually everyone on the planet -- intended or not. In this session, we’ll cover

Business Drivers
Architectural Concepts
Design Requirements
Data Classification
Cloud Security
Cloud Application Security
Operating in the Cloud
Legal Considerations

Register Now




Oct.  18th 
12:00 PM
How to Align Your People

Jamison West
Are your teams performing at their full potential? Are people on each team aligned with each other – values, personalities, and interests? Are they aligned with their roles and objectives to fully maximize the potential of their talents? Join Jamison West as he shares why his new business was created to improve company and team culture and performance.

Register Now



:-)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cloud 5-Pack Training: ONLY 4 Australian Cities and 3 U.S. Cities Left!

Nashville: Done!
Atlanta: Complete!

Next up: Adelaide - Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane

An interesting thing happened at the last two roadshows: LOTS of people came from out of state to attend each show. In Atlanta, more than half the attendees were from out of state. People are realizing that it's winding down. If you want this info, you need to attend one of the last seven cities.

November and December: Oakland - San Jose - Las Vegas

This show is 100% education. No vendors. No sponsors. No promotions. Just education focused 100% on helping you make money with cloud services.


This training will NOT be available at a lower price in a recorded format when the roadshow is over! If you were hoping for that, I'm sorry.

I am working to re-present this with a marketing partner for significantly MORE money. After all, this is a business model that will make you money with the first client you sign and will probably change your entire business model for the next 5-10 years. It really is worth the money.

If you want a sense of what we're up so, here's a 35 minute video on making the move from MSP to Cloud Service Provider:



Link to SMB Cloud Roadshow 


But if you sign up for any city, you get access to all the recorded audio - immediately. There are several cities’ audio posted already. More to come.

And you get access to all the downloads, handouts, slides, related member-only videos, and the Facebook group. Also . . . if you decide to attend live, you can attend any city you want.

There are only seven cities left on the 2017 Roadshow. So NOW is a great time to figure out your strategy for getting this material. Here are the cities.


City / CountryDate
Adelaide, SA Australia

Oct 10th

More Info

Melbourne, NSW Australia

Oct 12th

More Info

Sydney, NSW Australia

Oct 17th

More Info

Brisbane, QLD Australia

Oct 19th

More Info

San Jose, CA USA

Nov 14th

More Info

Oakland, CA USA

Nov 16th

More Info

Las Vegas, NV USA

Dec 8th, 2017

More Info


Option One: Attend one of the last few events.

Option Two: Sign up and attend "virtually" by downloading content now.

Option Three: Sign up for Las Vegas.

It's the last show. It's cheap to fly from just about anywhere. And you can join a national audience that didn't make it to any other city.

All cities now $599. Hurry . . . before they're really gone!

:-)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

ASCII Group Announces Enhanced Educational Agenda for 2018 IT SMB Success Summits

One of the truly great organizations you should be involved with is The ASCII Group. I think I've been a member for most of twenty years. In addition to great product discounts, ASCII puts on a series of one-day events that are educational and entertaining.

They sent me a press release announcing the cities and dates for next year. I highly encourage you to check out these events. There are nine events next year, so there's bound to be one near you.






The ASCII Group Announces Enhanced Educational Agenda for its 2018 IT SMB Success Summits with New Cities, Content and Keynote by Former White House CIO

Bethesda, Maryland – September 21, 2017 --  The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce new event cities, conference content, and keynote speaker for its 2018 IT SMB Success Summit Series. The Summits will heavily emphasize professional development for the attendees, leaving extended time for discussion of business challenges.

The Summits bring together over 1,400 IT solution providers and dozens of technology vendors in a two-day format that includes extensive networking, education and training. With events in nine markets across North America, The ASCII Group continues its mission of 33 years to help IT business owners grow and thrive. Sponsorships for the 2017 Summits sold out well in advance and points to the vendor community’s continued interest in channel partners’ achievements.

The 2018 Summits will contain education, presentations from top industry specialists, a leading edge vendor solutions pavilion, and an exclusive ASCII members-only meeting. Additionally, the Summits include numerous networking opportunities between fellow MSPs and industry experts, including: roundtables; Summit exercises; receptions; and breaks – all which are designed to foster dialogue. 

In addition to best practice addresses from ASCII members and thought leaders, the special guest for 2018 is Theresa Payton, former White House CIO and star of the CBS TV Series, “Hunted”. Theresa was the first female to serve as White House chief information officer, and named #4 on IFSEC Global’s list of the world’s Top 50 cybersecurity influencers in 2017.

“ASCII’s true value is in the conversations and knowledge that members are exchanging; members want to learn from each other. Our 2018 Summits will be more collaborative, with extensive discussions between our community and the influential vendors and industry specialists joining us,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

“ASCII is on my event ‘go-to’ list every year,” said Raffi Jamgotchian, Triada Networks, ASCII member since 2008. “They combine a great mix of speakers, workshop sessions, and top-notch vendors that understand the importance of the channel.  Best of all, I get to connect with my peers. Although we are in the same competitive market, ASCII members are always there to help out.”

The Summit Series is designed for qualified industry IT professionals and MSPs, and is targeted towards those looking to increase revenue and enhance their current business model. Admission is free for ASCII members.
For further information on ASCII’s IT SMB Success Summits, please visit www.asciievents.com.

2018 Summit Cities:
·        Orange County, CA                   February 21-22
·        Fort Lauderdale, FL                   March 21-22
·        Austin, TX                                April 18-19
·        Chicago, IL                               May 16-17
·        Ann Arbor, MI                           June 27-28
·        Charlotte, NC                            July 25-26
·        Toronto, Canada                       August 22-23
·        Newark, NJ                               September 26-27
·        Seattle, WA                              October 17-18


About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, and extensive peer interaction.  ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support its mission of helping MSPs and VARs grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.

##

Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Get All Roadshow Content - without Attending a Roadshow

I've had several people email me in the last week with the same question. It goes something like this:

"I just watched your webinar “Make the Move from Managed Service Provider to Cloud Service Provider”. I would like to join you at one of the shows but the closest locations the date don’t work for me to get there. 

Are there any other options to get a copy of video from one of your shows, downloadable materials and Facebook page access?"


(That video is a 35 minute video that has been "unlisted" and used in marketing for awhile. I made it public today so you can watch if interested.)

Here it is:



Link to SMB Cloud Roadshow 


Here's my answer to the question:

I do not have video of this event.

But if you sign up for any city, you get access to all the recorded audio - immediately. There are several cities’ audio posted already. More to come.

And you get access to all the downloads, handouts, slides, related member-only videos, and the Facebook group.


Also . . . if you decide to attend live, you can attend any city you want.


There are only nine cities left on the 2017 Roadshow. So NOW is a great time to figure out your strategy for getting this material. Here are the cities.


City / CountryDate
Nashville, TN USA

Sept 19th, 2017
More Info

Atlanta, GA USA

Sept 21st

More Info

Adelaide, SA Australia

Oct 10th

More Info

Melbourne, NSW Australia

Oct 12th

More Info

Sydney, NSW Australia

Oct 17th

More Info

Brisbane, QLD Australia

Oct 19th

More Info

San Jose, CA USA

Nov 14th

More Info

Oakland, CA USA

Nov 16th

More Info

Las Vegas, NV USA

Dec 8th, 2017

More Info


Option One: Attend one of the last nine events.

Option Two: Sign up and attend "virtually" by downloading content now.

Option Three: Sign up for Las Vegas.
It's the last show. It's cheap to fly from just about anywhere. And you can join a national audience that didn't make it to any other city.

All cities now $599. Hurry . . . before they're really gone!

:-)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Beginning, Middle, and End of My Relationship with Microsoft

Way back in 1993 I found myself in charge of a program to take an entire service business built on Cobol, EBCDIC, and HP-3000 mini computers and create a new system based on Windows Server and SQL. In addition to managing an entire staff of people who ran the entire operation, I managed two COBOL programmers, on SQL programmer, and an outsourced development company that built the new systems based on a 300 page design document I put together.

That was my introduction to Microsoft. Within two years I was pretty good with managing Windows servers, desktops, SQL databases, Exchange, remote access, and IIS. That's when I signed a contract to manage the outsource I.T. support for 5,000 desktops at HP's Roseville, CA plant.

My entire staff (about 25 people) were required to be certified in Windows 3.1 (Note: Not Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. That wasn't yet part of the official Common Operating Environment.)

I was not required to be so certified, but I decided to do it anyway. I figured it would be a piece of cake since I'd been managing Windows desktops and servers for a couple years. Click. Drag. Drop. What's to know, right? Of course I failed that exam because I didn't take it seriously. So I studied and passed with flying colors the second time.

My first certification: Windows 3.1. Woo Hoo.

I learned the first two lessons of Microsoft exams. First, they are geared for massive environments that really only exist in theory within the heads of someone at Microsoft. After all, I'd seen small environments (40 users) and huge environment (5,000 users with 7,000 desktop and laptop machines), and the exam did not test the truly important things that you need to know to manage these environments.

The second thing I learned is that there are some questions that you have to simply answer the "Microsoft way" - even if you know they're wrong in the real world. Like any test, you have to practice for the test, not for the knowledge behind it.

But let me be super clear: I believe the test had real value. I believe the decision to have the support staff take these exams was a good decision. Studying for the test required us to learn lots of non-obvious features and the right way to do many things. It gave everyone on my team a common understanding to build on. It really did take our tech support to the next level.

After that, I took a contract to set up a previously-100% Novell shop on Windows servers, connect them to the Internet, and develop a way to move EDI (electronic data interchange) information over the Internet. I felt that I needed to be as certified in NT as my Novell counterpart was in Novell. So I took exams for Windows Server, TCP/IP, and more. Without realizing it, I was moving toward my first MCSE certification.

Beginning in 1995, I put a Microsoft MCP logo on my business cards. Starting in 1999, I began telling clients that we hired only Microsoft trained and Microsoft Certified Professionals. And I really pushed that. I absolutely reject the notion that certifications are meaningless. Yes, there was a time when you could take a crash course boot camp and pass all the exams in a weekend. But even to do that, you have to gain some knowledge.

For people who take the exams seriously, one at a time, they really do require a certain level of knowledge. And all those questions where you just have to know the "Microsoft Answer?" Well, to even know the difference between the Microsoft Answer and the real world, you have to have a certain level of knowledge.

I don't remember if we became a Microsoft Certified Partner in 2000 or 2001. But somewhere along the line, we jumped through some hoops and got an extra logo we could put on all of our materials and business cards. Again, we hire only Microsoft trained and Microsoft Certified Professionals.

Getting client endorsements and cases studies was useful. In fact, it's great experience in exactly the kind of things that small businesses should do with their clients but often fail to do. And it's also the case that the vaste majority of our competitors would never be certified partners. They wouldn't jump through the hoops.

I'm not sure clients ever understood the difference between logos. One Microsoft Exam gets you an MCP logo. Then there's MSCE. And finally Microsoft Certified Partner. The only time a client ever mentioned the logos to me was when someone said, "I know you have to provide the Microsoft solution." I said I don't have to. I choose to because it's the right solution.

Even more valuable to us than the Certified Partnership was the Small Business Specialist program. We used this as a screening tool for years. Everyone we hired from about 1999 on had to have at least one Microsoft exam under their belt. With the SBSC program, we also required that they pass the 70-282 exam. It wasn't really a Small Business Server exam, but it was a great exam for the technology and the clients we were focused on. New hires had 90 days to pass that exam or look for another job.

Even after that program ended, we required at least one Microsoft certification. Every once in a while I would be a lengthy email from a candidate telling me how useless the exams were and how I was ignoring great talent (like him). My response was always the same: If it really doesn't mean anything, go pass an exam. I'll reimburse you for the exam fee.

I always paid my employees to study for exams. I bought practice test software. I had shelves full of books. We even had a machine dedicated to practice exams. I paid for every test they passed, and gave them time off work to take it. And I gave a them a raise for every exam they passed.

All that studying and practicing made my staff better at delivering real service and solving real problems. So I don't care whether any one exam was useful. The whole process of having continuous training be part of our environment made our company better.

Somewhere around 2008 it had become clear that Microsoft no longer cared about the smallest partners. I have friends at Microsoft who would argue with that and may feel hurt that I would say it. But there's nothing new here. Microsoft has completely moved away from the program of engaging small resellers and consultants.

I have learned with several large companies that I can't have more loyalty to them than they have to me.

Around 2009 we stopped putting Microsoft logos on our business cards. We still required the certifications, but we no longer considered it a selling point. Microsoft was actively moving away from small business - and we were actively moving to cloud offerings that may or may not include Microsoft.

When I sold my first managed service business (2011), the new owner did not renew the Microsoft Partnership. And even though he has a few MCP exams under his belt, he never put Microsoft logos on letterhead or business cards.

I stepped down to an Action Pack subscription and whatever they called the non-certified non-partners in the non-partner program. I wanted software to run my business and influence clients with my new companies. But then a new set of problems cropped up.

Some software (versions of Office 365) would not install. Fights between the partner program and Office support led nowhere. So I downloaded the code and installed directly. Then there were problems with those licenses and more hassles with tech support. Eventually, I just deployed Office licenses to myself via Intermedia or Rackspace. Click. Done.

At this point, the only thing I used the Action Pack for was server licenses. It's nice to build up a few different configurations and make YouTube videos or write blogs posts about them. (e.g., Booting HP Proliant Server from an SD Card). But I can also do that with demo downloads.

I have one simple onsite server that I use for internal use. That kept me in the Action Pack program.

Until recently.

In a convoluted fuster-cluck, I can either sign in with my MCP ID (karlp@kpenterprises.com) or manage my Partner Program with the same logon, but I can't get the system to acknowledge that both of these are really me at the same time. So the pages go round and round in a never ending circle of frustration.

That's when I realized that I've been selling Windows Server Essentials for years - at less than the cost of the Action Pack.

So while some primordial part of my rodent brain wants to solve the technical problems with Microsoft's Partner Portal, the truth is, it doesn't matter. I don't need it. I don't use it. I throw them $500 once a year in order to stay legal for a product that costs less than $300. I get no advice, no usable software. I get nothing from the program. So I'm going to stop. It's just become a bad habit.

In case you're wondering about the "value" of my Azure licenses through the Action Pack: I don't use that. I have a separate Azure subscription that I use for running a different business. I don't want to run that on Partner Program subscription. The cost of Azure is so cheap that there's no point in running something mission critical on anything other than a legit subscription. Just my opinion.

- - - - -

Is that the end? Is that really how my relationship with Microsoft just fades away? Maybe.

I have enjoyed amazing programs and benefits from my relationship with Microsoft over the years. And it would be great to have a relationship like that again. But today, it's not worth it.

No hard feelings. No blow up. Just quietly fading away.

:-)


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

SMB Cloud Roadshow . . . Australia!

My big SMB Roadshow is heading to Australia next month.

Please join me!

You can find out all the details at www.SMBRoadshow.com.

This six-hour seminar is jam packed with great information about bundling, selling, implementing, and maintaining cloud services. We've hit over half the cities we're going to visit this year. This will be my only visit to these Australia cities this year:

 - Adelaide - 10 October

 - Melbourne - 12 October

 - Sydney - 17 October

 - Brisbane - 19 October

I put together an 8-minute video that spells out all details of what you get with this Roadshow seminar. It also explains in some detail what we're doing and how this seminar will prepare you to make a lot of money selling Cloud Services:





Check out the video -- which includes a discount code -- and plan to join me in October.

Questions welcome.

 :-)