Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bering McKinley Holds Service Manager’s and Dispatcher’s Workshop - Chicago

My good friend Josh Peterson is holding a great two-day workshop. Josh is a great coach and a great instructor in the Managed Services community.
You're guaranteed to get your money's worth from this program.
From the web site of Bering McKinley (www.beringmckinley.com)
- - - - -

Service Manager’s and Dispatcher’s Workshophttp://www.beringmckinley.com/service-leadership-workshop
 December 4 & 5, 2014     Chicago, IL
We are offering our very popular Service Fundamentals Workshop in Chicago on December 4th and 5th here in Chicago. We cover:
1. Measuring department performance. 10 KEY METRICS to ensure you are delivering excellent AND profitable service
2. Centralized Dispatch. What it is, how to do it AND how to roll it out without losing your entire service team.
3. Time entry – You will learn how to stop fighting this battle TODAY. No more fighting. The struggle is over. Your staff will enter time as they go and you will capture your true costs and more invoicable hours
4. How to hire, retain, measure, and replace staff. You’ll be an HR expert by the time we are done with you.
5. How to deliver a Signature Experience that your clients will love
Who should attend?
Owners who need formal training on delivering service
Dispatchers on their way to being Service Managers
Service Managers who have never received any real training
Experienced Managers new to the industry
How much?
$950 (special discounts for current Bering McKinley Peer Group Members and for members of competitive Peer Groups) – This includes a work book for future reference and a library of sample documents including sample contracts, job descriptions, and scope of work samples.
Why?
As an owner, you can’t be all things to all people, hard as you may try. Utilize the experience and expertise of Bering McKinley to train your staff. 1000’s of your peers have trusted Josh Peterson to train their staff. You’ll be in great hands.
- - - - -
:-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Price of Admission: Knowledge

I had a very interesting interchange on LinkedIn the other day.

I wanted to gain access to a closed group. I am not "really" part of the group. They are my perfect audience (which is why I wanted access). But I am not one of the target members.

When I requested permission to join, I received an interesting proposal: 1) I need to write a 500 word post of interest to the group; 2) I need to engage members in a discussion of the topic.

In other words, I need to participate and be part of the community. No one wants a spammer to jump in, promote their stuff, and then disappear. This is the long-standing ethic of communities online.

It is a good thing for me that my entire history among online communities has been a history of participation. I remember the early days of the Yahoo Groups that were at the core of the SMB community ten years ago.

Those groups are still going strong, such as . . .

SMB IT Support for the 21st Century
(formerly SBS2K)
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/sbs2k/info

Managed & Cloud Services for SMB IT
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SMBManagedServices/info

Small Biz IT
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SMALLBIZIT/info

So it's easy for me to commit to participating in this group. After all, it's the industry I love and the community I love. I'm just amazed at how many hundreds of groups are out there having their private conversations.

My most recent books - The Managed Services Operations Manuel and Project Management in Small Business - represent the results of my conversations over the years. Why? Because it's the never-ending conversations in all of these online communities that help me to see what I.T. professionals need the most.

My books are not the definitive truth about how to run a Managed Service business. They simply represent my opinions and my experiences. I am now working on my second Managed Service business. In addition, I have worked closely with a dozen or so businesses owned by my coaching clients.

But the really big picture comes from interacting with thousands of business owners every year. YOU and others who want to work really hard on your business are the people who help me figure out what people need next.

Participating in the community is good for your business. Sometimes you're the one asking the question, so you get immediate rewards. But you ALSO get great information when you participate in helping others. The discussion - the exchange of ideas and opinions - will open up your mind to new ways of doing everything! And even if you don't change your business right away, learning how other people run their businesses will help you in the long run.

Yes I'll participate!

I encourage you to do the same.

:-)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Browser Wars: How Do Prospects See Your Web Site?

If you haven't checked out the blog on SitePoint, it's worth a look. Here's their October browser update report: http://www.sitepoint.com/browser-trends-october-2014-back-work/.

This is based on the excellent stats you can see in real time at StatCounter - http://gs.statcounter.com/.

Every month someone tells us that the entire world will soon be mobile. For example, this story from earlier this week: "There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world."

Like you, I sit at my desk, with my real keyboard an real big monitor, and read this news. And maybe like you, I wonder whether this applies to me. The global trends will affect us all eventually, of course. But what about MY real world today? How mobile are MY clients, viewing MY web sites?

Let's look at the global stats first. Here's the division of browser usage globally on desktops:



And here's what it looks like when we include mobile browsers. The lines from above about the same, but they now represent a smaller share of the overall pie.



One of the great confusions about "advice" for businesses is the difference between B2C and B2B. Business-to-Consumer includes all those mobile device. Business-to-Business includes a lot fewer mobile devices. BUT when the business owners go to lunch, or stand in line at the DMV, they pull out their iPhones and start cruising the Internet.

It's still not clear that that affects you. After all, are they watching cat videos or shopping for a new service provider? I'm a firm believer that any business looking to do business with another business is probably using a desktop computer. We consume products on mobile devices. We watch cat videos on mobile devices. But we do serious research on our desktops when we need to make an important business decision.


My Own Logs


I manage several dozen web sites for my own businesses. Most of them (like most small businesses) are very low volume. In the small business space, "high" volume is probably anything over 1,000 hits a day. By that standard, I have three high volume sites.

Without getting into the details of Chrome vs. IE vs. Firefox, I lumped together all the desktop browsers with at least 1% of the total and all of the mobile and tablet browsers with at least 1% of the total for my own sites.

The pattern I see for my sites seems to be divided between content-focused larger sites and product-specific smaller sites. The Small Biz Thoughts blog, SMB Books store, and the Great Little Book sites are viewed by desktop browsers about 80-90% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 6-10% of the time.

Note that these are also the three "high" volume sites.

Product-specific sites with few pages (Managed Services Operations Manual, Great Little Seminar, and Managed Services in a Month) are pretty consistently viewed by desktop browsers about 60-66% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 25-30% of the time. That's a significant difference.

Relax Focus Succeed is basically in the middle. You might say it's product-specific since it does promote one book. But there are lots of articles there discussing a variety of topics. So with a split of 62% to 34% it's much closer to the product-specific sites than the other content-focused sites.



What Does It Mean -- If Anything?


For me, the big message is that my audience might do some quick reading about a specific offering on their mobile or tablet device. But when it's time to dig in and spend time on a site, folks do that from the desktop. The length-of-visit statistics bear this out. Excluding bounces (5 seconds or less) and forgotten visits (60 minutes or longer), the average length of visit for the product-specific sites is seven or eight minutes. With the larger content sites and the book store, the visit lengths are in the range of 10-24 minutes.

What I don't track is whether people showed up on a phone and then came back to "stay" from their desktop. I'd like to think that's true.

As for YOUR site, you need to do some investigating. If you're not tracking your logs, I recommend you start. If you want a free tool that's easier to use that Google Analytics, I recommend StatCounter.com. Yes you have to pay some money when you have larger log files. But it's easy to get truly usable statistics.

There will always be mobile users and there will always be desktop users. More and more, you can expect clients and prospects to use mobile as well as desktop. So the next question is, what should you DO about it?

Luckily, I think the answer is pretty easy. You should make sure your site looks good with "flexible content" browsing. Don't just set the width to 900 and assume it will look good on any device. Sometimes a tiny little version of your web page is impossible to use. With a flexible content template, menus are converted to be usable on a very small screen.

I think SMBBooks.com is a great example. In fact, I've been told that it looks better on the phone than on the desktop! If you're not sure what is meant by flexible content, check out the menus on SMB Books.

The bottom line is that your prospect might give your site a 20 second tour on their mobile device. If you "pass" that test, they may come back on a desktop browser. If you don't pass the test, they'll be gone for good. That's not fair, but that's the way the world works sometimes.

:-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Woman UP! - Recommended Reading for Microsoft's Female Employees

Timing is everything. Yesterday Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recommended that women in tech let Karma be responsible for their raises. Of course Karma is dealing with him today.

In the meantime, I got some great seasonal advice from career guru Aimee Cohen, author of the new book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success. So I thought I'd pass along the following Tips to Transform Your Negotiating Skills article.

These tips are written from Aimee's experience as a successful career coach and shared in her book. This is recommended reading for my female friends at Microsoft (and the entire industry, unfortunately). Available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Up-Overcome-Sabotage-Success-ebook/dp/B00L9M6HM8

Thanks to Aimee for permission to print this article:


Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success

Instead of a Trick, Treat Yourself to a Powerful Negotiation

By Aimee Cohen
Halloween is a holiday that prides itself on promoting a battle between trick or treat; good or evil. People either gravitate towards the darker side of haunted houses and vampire costumes, or the lighter side of pumpkin patch parties and dressing up as angels and fairy princesses.

Even the idea of parading around a neighborhood as a zombie or a doctor ringing multiple doorbells is filled with mystery and uncertainty. Will you get a "trick-or-treat"? And the rules are such that you're not allowed to ask for what you want. You either get a mega-Twix bar, a bag of peanuts, or some new number-two pencils, and then the swapping and negotiating begins once you get home and evaluate your loot.

The same is true when women try to negotiate for a raise or promotion. They never know if they're going to get a "trick-or-a-treat", and they don't feel empowered or prepared enough to ask for exactly what they want or what they rightfully deserve. It's often not until they get home (or back to their desk), and they've had a chance to evaluate their "loot", that they realize they've received a "trick-not-a-treat".

The other challenge women face is that they walk into the negotiation as one extreme or the other. They show up with either the vampire or fairy princess costume and attitude, and struggle to live up to that "too nice or too mean" persona if it's not authentic.

Part of the problem is that women are never taught how to effectively negotiate, and don't do it very often. They fear walking into a negotiation and assertively standing their ground, because they don't want to be perceived as the "B-word". Women are also notorious for committing the "Disastrous Triple-D" where they routinely, and often subconsciously, downplay, dismiss, and diminish their accomplishments. It's very difficult to negotiate for more money if you describe what you've done as "no big deal", or "anyone could have done that".

The following "12 Tips to Transform Your Negotiating Skills" will take the mystery out of negotiating and will keep the "trick-or-treating" to Halloween. These tips are written from my experience as a successful career coach and shared in my book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success:

1. Be Yourself - don't be an angel in the office, and then all of the sudden show up as a devil in the negotiating room. Nothing is more off-putting or confusing to a boss or hiring manager than having your alter-ego do the negotiating for you.

2. Get a Goal - know what you're trying to achieve before the negotiation even begins.

3. Know Your Bottom Line - figure out ahead of time how low you'll go and when you'll walk away from that new job or opportunity.

4. Be Realistic - do your homework and set realistic expectations. If you know the position only pays $100K, then asking for $250K is probably not going to happen.

5. Script It Out - everyone gets flustered and nervous in stressful situations, so scripting out what you want to say beforehand, and practicing saying those words can mean the difference between a trick or a treat.

6. Anticipate Objections - proactively think about any and all reasons why the other person would say "no", and plan out your responses accordingly.

7. Bring Alternatives - come prepared with your first choice, your ideal outcome, but also bring alternatives to keep the conversation going until you reach a successful compromise.

8. Avoid Emotion - Tom Hanks said, "There's no crying baseball", and there is also no crying in negotiations. Keep your emotions in check and save the tears or squeals of joy for the bathroom afterwards. This is when you need a poker face.

9. Practice Makes Perfect - don't expect to be a negotiating guru if you only do it once every few years. It takes practice. Go to a garage sale and practice negotiating for junk before you try to negotiate for something more meaningful.

10. Seek Support - it takes a village to raise a child, and it can also take a village of support and encouragement to raise an assertive woman. Rallying support of your efforts is an effective way to create accountability. There's no backing out and no retreat.

11. Think of a Third Person - women can find negotiating for themselves painful and difficult, but thinking of who else would benefit from a successful outcome is often the motivation they need to get the job done.

12. Celebrate Success - instead of thinking of negotiating as an all or nothing proposition, find a way to celebrate what you did gain.

The reality is that women don't like to ask, and would rather have root canal surgery without anesthesia than negotiate a higher starting salary, a bigger raise, or a more advanced promotion.  Not negotiating is not an option, and it will ultimately end up killing their careers. It's time to pull on those "big-girl panties" and learn how to negotiate with power and confidence.  Woman UP! and find a way to get that "treat" and not a "trick" when it comes to negotiating.

About the Author

Aimee Cohen is a career expert, veteran speaker, and author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success.  She is owner of Cohen Career Consulting where, for more than 20 years, she has a nearly 100% success rate empowering women to achieve career success.  Aimee provides strategic step-by-step action plans to clients during personalized one-on-one consultations.  She leads outplacement transition seminars for Fortune 500 companies and is a contributing writer for the Denver Business Journal. She facilitates the LINK to Leadership program for The Leadership Investment, has appeared as a career expert on television and radio shows, and in print media such as Glamour magazine, the Denver Post, and Denver Woman magazine, and she was a past nominee for Outstanding Women in Business Award from the Denver Business Journal.
Aimee lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband of 22 years. She has two teenage children. Her son is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and her daughter is in high school.

Woman UP! is available at Amazon.com as well as other online booksellers.  

To learn more visit her on: 
Twitter: @WomanUpPower




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Win our Halloween Contest! One winner every day for October!

SMB Books is holding a very easy and fun contest.

Here are the details - and a bit of fun:


For every workday (Monday-Friday) during the month of October, we are giving away a prize. The prize will either be a 250 ml erlenmeyer flask or a little wooden coffin - filled with candy. Hidden inside the candy will be a Gift Certificate worth either $25, $50, or $100!!!


The contest starts October 1st.

ANY Halloween themed picture is good - as long at you give us a shout-out with the hashtag #SOP4SMB.

Here's what you do:

1) Post up a Halloween-themed picture or video

2) Put it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or wherever.

3) Give us a shout-out with the hashtag #SOP4SMB.

4) Send us an email with the link to sales@greatlittlebook.com. Include you mailing address.

Every workday in October, we'll pick ONE winner and send their package.

Rules:

- You can enter as many times as you wish. Every day. 100 times a day. Whatever.

- You can win only once.

- If you argue with any rules related to this contest, you are disqualified.

Have fun!

- karlp

Monday, September 22, 2014

The UPS Store Expands 3D Printing Across the U.S.

I am very excited about this technology. And I'm a little disappointed that my store will not be the next one to get a high quality 3D Printer.

Thankfully, I have the local Hacker Lab!

Today the UPS stores announced that they are expanding their 3D print services to "nearly 100" new locations. Here's the video and press release:


SAN DIEGO, Sept. 22, 2014 - Following the successful launch of 3D print in six markets across the country, The UPS Store® is expanding 3D printing services to meet the growing demands of its small business customers to nearly 100 additional locations nationwide.

As the first nationwide retailer to offer 3D printing services in-store, in collaboration with Stratasys, The UPS Store continues to evolve its services to better meet the needs of small business owners. Over the past year, the six locations saw demand for 3D print continuing to increase across a broad spectrum of customers. This upward trend is in line with the 3D print industry, which also experienced rapid growth. In fact, the 3D print service provider sector increased by 21 percent last year, according to The Wohlers Report 2014.

During the 2013 pilot program, the 3D print services were used by small businesses, startups, inventors, artists and a wide range of professionals to transform their ideas into reality. From inventors who patented innovative product designs to entrepreneurs who prototyped an idea and successfully delivered a retail-ready product to market, there were many success stories. Watch this 3D print video to meet a few of them.

"We are committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all of their business needs," said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and sales at The UPS Store. "We launched the pilot to evaluate if there was demand for 3D print and we're excited to be announcing an expansion, giving even more small business owners access to high-quality, professional 3D printing. We look forward to being a part of the future of the 3D printing industry."

The UPS Store is kicking off this expansion by designating Sept. 22-26 as its first annual 3D Print Week - #3DPrintWeek. Now small business owners and consumers across the country will have access to top-notch 3D printing at a much higher quality than an at-home 3D printer could provide - conveniently located at participating The UPS Store centers across the country.

The Stratasys uPrint SE Plus, selected by The UPS Store, is a professional grade 3D printer designed to accurately and reliably produce complex engineering parts, prototypes, and one of a kind objects. The heated build chamber and soluble supports allow entrepreneurs, engineers, home inventors and makers to produce parts true to their designs.

"There are significant differences between home 3D printers and professional 3D printers," said Daniel Remba, small business technology leader at The UPS Store. "Many of the challenging and time consuming steps used to prepare a simpler printer are fully automated on the uPrint SE Plus, leading to added precision and reliability, higher print quality and a success rate that is unmatched by a home printer."

The UPS Store and Stratasys will join forces to host a Twitter chat titled "How 3D print can help your small business" on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 from 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. EST/ 4 p.m. - 5 p.m. PST.  The chat can be followed using the hashtag, #3DPrintWeek.  Small business owners can get their 3D print questions answered by experts including Daniel Remba, small business technology leader for @TheUPSStore; Mark Skokut, senior application engineer @Stratasys and Brian Moran, small business expert @BrianMoran.

A full list of The UPS Store locations offering 3D printing can be found at www.theupsstore.com/3dprinting.

For more information on how The UPS Store supports small businesses, visit the Small Business Solutions portal at smallbiz.theupsstore.com.


About The UPS Store 

With more than 4,400 locations, The UPS Store network comprises the nation's largest franchise system of retail shipping, postal, print and business service centers. The UPS Store locations in the U.S. are independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees of The UPS Store, Inc., a subsidiary of UPS (NYSE: UPS). Services, pricing and hours of operation may vary by location. For additional information on The UPS Store, including information on franchise opportunities for opening a The UPS Store location, visit www.theupsstore.com.

Follow The UPS Store on Twitter at @TheUPSStore and like The UPS Store on Facebook at facebook.com/theupsstore.

Contact:     Nicole Cox
             The UPS Store
             858-455-8846
             ncox@upsstore.com

###

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Definitive Guide to Buying the Managed Services Operations Manual

Wow. Some books take a month to be "born" into the world.

I guess I should expect something like that from a work like this.



"The Books" are now available as paperbacks (individually and as a set), ebooks in PDF format, ebooks in epub (Nook, kobo, Sony reader, etc.), and in Amazon Kindle format.

That's a lot of work! Trust me. This stuff doesn't just happen!

Now you can get whatever form you want. Here's where you can buy the books - together or separately:

Book(s)FormatISBNSMBBooks.comAmazon.comSmashwords
4-Vol SetPaperback978-0-9905923-1-0
Not Yet

4-Vol SetPDFN/A


4-Vol SetePub Format
(Nook, Sony, etc.)
978-0-9905923-7-2

4-Vol SetKindle Format
978-0-9905923-6-5
Not Yet

Vol 1: Front OfficePaperback
978-0-9905923-2-7


Vol 1: Front OfficeePub Format
978-0-9905923-9-6


Vol 1: Front OfficeKindle Format
978-1-942115-03-8



Vol 2:  EmployeesPaperback
978-0-9905923-3-4


Vol 2:  EmployeesePub Format
978-1-942115-00-7


Vol 2:  EmployeesKindle Format
978-1-942115-04-5




Vol 3: Service DeptPaperback
978-0-9905923-4-1


Vol 3: Service DeptePub Format
978-1-942115-01-4


Vol 3: Service DeptKindle Format
978-1-942115-05-2




Vol 4: Service DeliveryPaperback
978-0-9905923-5-8


Vol 4: Service DeliveryePub Format
978-1-942115-02-1


Vol 4: Service DeliveryKindle Format
978-1-942115-06-9



As you can see, we've had two bits of trouble getting Amazon.com to sell our books as a bundle. They're selling the paperbacks separately. If you want to buy them separately, use the links above. So far we've not been able to get them to sell the bundle with ISBN #978-0-9905923-1-0.

We could theoretically sell the bundle as one Kindle-formatted book, but Amazon has severe restrictions on pricing. Since we can't get the wholesale price we need, we can't sell via the official Kindle store.

But there's good news for Kindle folks: We paid to have the books formatted in Kindle format, so you can buy from our web site. You'll receive a zip file with the .mobi file and the downloadable contents. Just download the file and load it on your Kindle. It will just work.

NOTE: Our price for the 4-book set goes up to $279.95 on October 1st.

Buy now to get in on the $199 early-bird price!

:-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Line of Business Training - Who Does It and Who Pays?

We get mail . . .

Josh sent in the following email regarding something I wrote in Managed Services in a Month.

- - - - -

Hello Karl,

I've finished reading your Managed Services In A Month book and really
enjoyed it. Very thorough and insightful. Brutally honest and I appreciate
that. Something I needed to hear.

One question I have: on Pg.180 you mention "some LOBs require a good deal of
training in order for you to support them properly".

Are you inferring that the LOB application training expenses should be
passed onto the client? If so, how would you approach the client to request
reimbursement?

Would there be a difference (in cost) if the client was new or if the client
was existing (they add on a new LOB application that I have no experience
with)?

Is it kind of like the managed services contract setup fee: good clients
waive the setup fee, bad or new clients charge the amount you want?

Regards,

Joshua

- - - - -

Here's my two cents worth on LOB training: It depends. There are three primary instances when you need to know about LOBs - line of business applications.

1) This is your focus. For example, if you support Dentrix or American Contractor as your primary business. If that's the case, you should be completely responsible for your own/your staff's training. This is similar to focusing on Microsoft. You train yourself on MS products on your own nickel because it's central to what you do.

Having said that, you should also charge more as a specialist in this software than other LOB software. If you really are an expert in something, then charge expert prices.

One advantage to niching a market is that you can subscribe to their newsgroups and forums. You can answer questions online to user problems. You can learn to speak their language and be sought after. Who knows how to migrate this specific high-end system? You do. So the clients come looking for you.

2) Your largest client uses a specific LOB. If you get a big chunk of money (10% or 20% or more of your gross) from a client who relies on a specific LOB, you need to know something about that product.

In some cases, you'll do some one-the-job training and be able to document processes for setup, upgrades, and migrations. But occasionally you'll need to get some real training on a product. If that's the case, then you need to decide who's paying

Some of these LOB software packages require training that's in the neighborhood of $10,000. Others are $1,500. At the low end, it's probably worth doing to keep your largest client. At the high end, it's worth having a discussion with the client that involves a split on the cost of training plus a long-term commitment to services.

The really good news about expensive training is that it never goes to waste if you become an expert in the field. Let's face it: There aren't many companies willing to spend $10K on training for a single product. That means that the LOB company will start referring people to you because there just aren't that many people who have made that kind of commitment.

3) You can't know everything. The third scenario is the most common. You might have one dentist, one real estate agent, one property manager, one construction contractor, one printer, etc.

You can't know every line of business application out there. THAT's why we require that client have support for their line of business applications. We can solve problems really fast if we can get a technician on the phone and talk nerd-to-nerd.

If you tried to get training and be competent on five LOBs, if could cost you a fortune. But it costs each client the cost of maintenance to have top-shelf support available to them. This is a pretty easy sell because you're not asking them to give you more money. You're asking them to spend money, but you don't get any of it.


The Manage Service Approach

I am happy to include "vendor management" in our platinum level plan. That means we manage the LOBs, we contact tech support, and the client is not involved in that piece of support.

We have the documentation. We're not going to let them screw up the security in active directory. We're not going to let them access the system as administrator whenever they want. And we're not going to let them apply a conflicting IP address to a piece of equipment on the network.

Remember: you are the first line of defense against LOB vendors. If they come in and screw things up, you will be the one that gets the call. So it's in your best interest to help them NOT mess things up in the first place.


I hope that answers the question. Feel free to leave comments here or email me if you have other questions.

:-)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Robin Hits the Road - IT Marketing at Its Best!

You may have heard that Robin Robins is hitting the road to do some highly focused Marketing training for MSPs, VARs, and IT Service providers.

I'm sorry I'm late to getting this out for the Show in L.A. But if you're in Boston, Orland, Chicago, or DC, check it out.

I had lunch with Robin in San Diego a few years ago and she confided in me that she really doesn't like to do the "roadshow" travel. She's got a personal health routine, a family, and a business to look after. So she hasn't been out on the road for five years.

I don't know if that means it will be another five years . . . but you should definitely check this out.

Just so you know - no bullshit (and I'm not being paid to say this) - I bought Robin's materials in 2004. Since then I have bought monthly subscriptions, bundles, bootcamps, and more. Her stuff works. And her bundles will always make you more money than they cost - IF you use them.

Anyway, here's the press release:

- - - - -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Robin Robins To Host Five-City Implementation Roadshow Benefiting Over 500 MSP’s Nationwide

Franklin, TN — Robin Robins, founder and owner of Technology Marketing Toolkit, will hit the road this fall for a five-city implementation roadshow beginning September 9th in Los Angeles and will feature stops in Boston, Orlando, Chicago and wrapping up in Washington DC in November.

Robin will spend two full days in each city sharing dozens of proven marketing campaigns that have successful track records of igniting sales, boosting profits and securing better quality clients for thousands of IT service businesses worldwide.  Attendees will leave this event with everything the need to quickly implement a clear, actionable, and effective marketing plan for the IT service businesses.

Since this is the first time Robin has hit the road like this since 2009, tickets in all cities are selling extremely fast.

“The last time I was out for a roadshow like this was 2009, so I’m certainly overdue to get back on my client’s turf and work with them one on one,” said Robins.  “I’m excited to reengage with my members and clients and help them get motivated on their marketing again,” she continued.  “I have to throw a big thank you out to our event sponsors eFolder and Sophos for helping me make this possible, and in turn, I’m thrilled to be able to open this event up to their partners as well.”

For more information or to attend Robin Robin’s 2014 IT Sales and Marketing Roadshow, please visit www.itmarketingroadshow.com or call Robin’s office directly at 615-790-5011.


About Robin Robins and Technology Marketing Toolkit

There is no doubt about it: Robin Robins  has helped more MSPs and IT service businesses to double – even triple – sales, profits and MRR growth than any other marketing consultant in the IT services industry, period.  As a trusted advisor to over 7,000 IT service business owners for over 12 years, Robin knows a thing or two about what it takes to grow sales, recurring revenue streams and a profitable client base for an IT service business.

For additional free resources, videos and articles on marketing your IT service business, plus to request a FREE, customized marketing consultation, go to www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com.

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Boston
Thursday, September 18-19, 2014
Location: Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel
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Orlando
Tuesday, September 30 -
Wednesday,
October 1, 2014
Location: Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel
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Chicago
Tuesday, October 28- 29, 2014
Location: Chicago Marriott O'Hare
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Washington D.C.
Tuesday, November 18-19, 2014
Location: Embassy Suites Old Town Alexandria
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:-)

Friday, September 12, 2014

SOP: The Network Documentation Binder

The Network Documentation Binder is exactly what it sounds like. Originally, this was simply something that emerged from the way I ran my consulting business. Then it emerged into the Network Documentation Workbook. After that, we literally used that workbook and the forms in it to maintain our clients’ networks.

Find out more about the Network Documentation Workbook at www.networkdocumentationworkbook.com.

Here’s the sad truth about documentation in our industry: It sucks! There are 948,253 different ways to document a network. And 99% of the time, that documentation is either in the head of the technology consultant or in the possession of the technology consultant.

That information belongs to the client. The client should have a copy. The copy at the client office should be up to date. If you’re a small shop and you personally die or are incapacitated for some reason, the client needs to be able to hire a competent technician and that person should be able figure out the network VERY quickly based on the documentation.

That almost never happens. I can honestly say that we have seen exactly ONE well-documented network with a new client since I went into consulting full time in October of 1995. One.
All the other networks – hundreds of them – had either zero documentation, very poor documentation, or some amount of poor documentation maintained by the owner or onsite IT person.

Here’s the most interesting change in the last twenty years: Consultants have gotten better and better at tracking these thing. We have tools. We have resources. We have a PSA and SharePoint and OneNote, and all kinds of cool stuff.

But we haven’t been good at making sure the client has a copy of all that stuff. Even if you have an awesome system for documentation, you need to make sure that you print it out and give it to the client at least once a year.

Holding Documentation Hostage is NOT Job Security [Rant]

This is one of my absolute pet peeves. I hate the fact that our industry is filled with people who think that they might keep a client because the client doesn't know the passwords, the configurations, the warranty information, etc.

Time and time again, we have acquired new clients who had zero documentation. Many of them could not get the passwords from their old I.T. consultant. The consultants literally refused to give the client access to their own equipment.

This is a favorite rant of mine. Why don’t these consultants get sued all the time? How come clients never have their attorney write a letter simply stating that the client has paid all their bills, nothing is in dispute, and the client owns the information stored by the I.T. consultant?
It doesn't have to be a nasty-gram. The letter can be very nice but stern. But it never happens. Ever. Ever.

We have had clients pay us thousands of dollars to crack into their systems and then re-document them rather than face off against their former consultant. This is beyond my comprehension. (It does, however, give me a level of confidence that I won’t be in a lawsuit. If they’re not going to sue someone like that, they sure as hell won’t sue someone who is conscientious.)

Anyway . . . remember the context here. Keeping passwords secret and not giving the client access to their own documentation was not a successful job security strategy for 100% of the “other” I.T. consultants we followed.

When a client has decided to find a new consultant – for whatever reason – the client is about 90% gone. If they no longer want you for their tech support, they will leave. And my experience is that they will pay large sums of money to make that happen. So hoarding some passwords won’t do you any good.

One of the reasons I wrote my first book, most of my intervening books, and the this four-book series, is to raise the quality of service provided by technology consultants. Keeping passwords and bullying (former) clients is childish and unprofessional.

The client has paid for the hardware, the software, the installation, the support, the maintenance, and the wires in the wall. They own it. Every bit of it. Unless you have a HaaS agreement (hardware as a service), you own nothing.

That means the passwords belong to the client. The configuration information belongs to the client. The configuration backup files belong to the client.

Be Professional!

What’s the most professional way to handle all this? Do the best job you can of documenting the client’s systems. But make sure the client gets a copy at least once a year.

In fact, I recommend that you send someone to get a photocopy of the client’s documentation binder once a year and put it that into the PSA as a PDF document.

When you lose a client, graciously make sure all of their documentation is up to spec. Print it out and update their binder. And then hand it to the owner with a stern warning: Let the new I.T. Consultant use this, but never let them take it out of the building.

We had a client who left us for two years and then came back. They were with us for ten years. One of our people had a disagreement with their new front office manager, and the owner decided to side with her office manager (which is probably the right thing to do).

Anyway, they fired us and hired someone else. We created a service request to make sure all the documentation was up to spec and perfect. After all, if we leave with class and style, we might just get invited back some day.

Just at that time, one of our employees decided to spread his wings and go work for a larger organization. Well, he ended up working for the company that had taken over our client.

When we met up for beers shortly thereafter, he reported that there was zero documentation of the site. The new company had removed the network documentation binder and put nothing in its place.

In fact, the new company had a manager who believed that his personal possession of this kind of information gave him power and job security. So no one could touch a router except him. No one could touch Active Directory except him.

It was, in Josh’s opinion, a huge step backward. I agreed.

After two years, the client came back to us and we re-created all of their documentation. Plus we made sure they knew that they need to guard and value that documentation as a valuable resource.

The Network Documentation Binder – NDB
[End of Rant]

I went through all that to make the point: Documentation is important. In fact, it is central to what you do. Look at this four-book series. It’s all about documenting your processes and procedures. Time and time again we talk about documenting client systems.
Documentation should be the one thing that differentiates you from the competition. What you do. What you see. Everything.

So the Network Documentation Binder – or NDB – evolved out of our standard practice of documenting machines, networks, and configurations. Remember, back in the days of NT 4.0, you needed the drives for everything or you could not load the operating system.

So the Machine Spec Sheet emerged so that we knew which video card was used and could have those drivers ready if something went wrong. And the NIC. And the sound card. And so forth.
Automated systems, such as your remote monitoring tool, give you massive reports with all this data. But the useful 6-10 items of data are hidden among 1,000 other items you do not care about.

In 20+ years managing I.T., I have never found it useful to list every .dll version of every DLL on every computer in an office. But I have found it extremely useful to know the exact video card or network card!

The NDB has these basic components:
·         Title Page/Front Cover
·         Table of Contents
·         Fix-It Request List
·         Fix-It List Priorities
·         Backup Log
·         Notes Sheet
·         Network Diagram
·         Network Summary Page
·         Shared Resources
·         Exchange Specifications
·         Server Software Summary
·         IP Address Allocation
·         Hard-Coded IP Addresses
·         Router Configuration
·         Firewall Configuration
·         Machine Specifications
·         User Records
·         Product Information
·         Internet Domain Registration Information
·         Backup Procedures
·         Monthly Maintenance Checklist
·         Password Policy
. . . most of which are discussed in this four-book series.

The NDB is not intended to be 100% of the information about any machine or the network. It IS intended to give you the important and non-obvious information you need to get systems working again when they break.

How do you make that massive network-connected faxer-scanner-printer connect to the server, deliver faxes to the intended recipient’s email, and drop scans into the correct directories on the public share? I don’t know – but it’s in the documentation!

More fundamentally: How many physical drives are in the server? How are the RAID arrays configured? What’s the domain administrator password? How is the firewall configured? And what is the backup strategy? (See Section III of this volume.)

The NDB covers the basics of users and desktops because, to be honest, those are simple and mostly-disposable resources. All the important company data are stored on the server and backed up. So if a user leaves the company or a desktop computer crashes, no company-critical data are lost. Still – there’s enough information there so that re-building a desktop is as fast as possible.

On the more arcane configurations, the NDB does into more detail. Which publicly-visible ports are forwarded to the server? How do users gain remote access to their desktops? How is the BDR (backup and disaster recovery) device accessed in an emergency?

Implementation

There are two basic approaches to building your NDB. First, you will gather up some information when you take on the client. Remember Chapter One: Your First Client Visit. An ideal first job will touch each computer.

Whether it’s installing RMM agents or doing desktop tune-ups, the opportunity to touch every machines means you can start building the machine spec sheets. You’ll also need to know the IP addressing of the network, and some information about the server and firewall.
Make it a policy and a norm within your business: Every time you touch a piece of equipment, you document it.

The second approach is to do the documentation all at once. You’ll miss a few things because you don’t know they exist. But for the most part, you can document most small networks in one or two hours. This is also a good first job. Just hang out in the client’s office awhile and get to know people.

When you’re done with the documentation, photo-copy or scan everything (whichever is easier and faster for the client) so that you can have someone enter it into your PSA. The client should have a physical Network Documentation Binder that lives next to the server. You should have all of that information as one or more documents in your PSA.

Here are the two easy methods for keeping the NDB up to date:

1)      Whenever you make a change and you are on site, enter the change into the NDB. Sometimes this means updating existing pages. Other times it means that you will create a new page. Just do it.

2)      If you are working remotely and make some significant change, take a screen shot or create a PDF document. Then email that document to your in-house contact and ask them to a) Place it in the “c:\!Tech\Tech Notes” directory on the server, and b) Print it out and put it in the NDB.

Each month, when you do monthly maintenance, you will need to add a few notes to the NDB, and maybe straighten it up a bit.

I know it sounds morbid, but the ultimate test of your success is that you could be hit by a bus and your company would still continue to provide perfect service to the client because everyone documented everything they did.

For most clients, the NDB is maybe 25 pages. For some, it starts out as ten. There’s one for each server, one for each workstation, maybe three for the network, and one for each major device or line of business application (LOB).

The NDB is never intended to be a 200-300 page document that no one ever reads. Just the opposite. It is the most basic, most fundamental, most important information that a competent technician will need to come up to speed very quickly if you and your company are suddenly gone.


:-)