Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Culture Killers

This is a Guest Editorial by long-time community leader Rayanne Buchianico:


The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Culture Killers

By Rayanne Buchianico

I started my career in a different world. I was grateful to have a job during a recession. I quickly learned the rules of the road and performed my work to the best of my ability, and most times, I went above and beyond what was asked of me. I had some great employers in my early career. I also had some awful bosses. I took lessons from all of them to build my leadership skills into the person I am. I purposely built my company so I could be the boss I always wanted to have. I thought, “If I make this a great place to work, everything else will fall into place.”


That worked for a long time, until it didn’t.

My company offers competitive salaries and an exceptional benefit package, flexible hours, extensive PTO, a stocked kitchen for lunches and snacks, company outings, and countless opportunities for personal and professional growth. I wondered who could possibly hate working here?

Two people decided that what I offered them was not good enough. They bonded. The gossiping and whispering began. I ignored it. The gossiping and whispering got louder and started to include other people in the office. I ignored it some more. The work was getting done. The clients were happy. I didn’t much care what they thought about me. I continued to work to make it a great place to be and pretended not to notice. After all, no one came to me with a concern or a complaint. 

To be fair, I had a lot going on during this time. It was busy season, my workload was off the charts, I purchased a building, and I had some personal issues that needed attention. I was not as present in the office as I typically am.

Then, it got worse. Some of my co-workers stopped communicating with me altogether. If I asked a question, they answered. If I asked them to do something, they did it. But, the underlying tone and lack of camaraderie was clear. You could feel the tension in the office. The forced laughter when they were in groups. The quick hush when I walked nearby. I should have put an end to it right then. You know how hindsight goes.

Instead, I sent one of the instigators to work from home full time. That kept them out of the office, but not off text messages. I began coaching another team member into a leadership position. I was sure I could turn this around. The more I did to improve the atmosphere, the worse it seemed to get. I called in a culture coach. I hired a leadership coach. I read books. I listened to podcasts. I organized company events. I thought I was doing everything right.

I met an MSP owner at a recent event. She went through the exact same scenario and took all the same steps I was taking. We had a good long talk about this, and I want to share what I learned. 


Make sure you are not the problem

This was the main takeaway for me. I was so sure the problem was not me, that I never stopped to double-check. Employees need a clear path to success. 

  • Set goals for each team member
  • Provide timelines and budgets
  • Be sure you can measure their progress – and actually measure it!
  • Review their work
  • Written procedures are great, but training sessions are better
  • In-office games
    • Sports pools
    • Contests
    • Friendly competitions with prizes

Your employees need to know what it means to be successful at your company. Just coming to work and completing tickets and going home does not help to bolster morale or pride in a job well done. Be specific in your expectations and review them regularly with your team. What are they doing well? Where can they improve? Set goals for improvement and follow-up in 30 days.

Talk to your teammates one-on-one. No one likes to be called out in a team huddle. You need a one-on-one relationship with each member of your team.


Reward your team

Not all rewards need to be monetary. Sure, your co-workers will not turn down extra money, but that may not be their primary motivator. Ask them what they like to do. What are their interests? Can you do something meaningful for them? Gift cards and money are nice but so impersonal. Try stepping up your game.

  • Buy a local adventure for them, even something touristy in your own town 
  • Get a gift certificate to the best restaurant in town
  • Movie passes
  • Family adventures
  • Performance bonuses

This is something you can bring up in a team huddle. You’ll hear each person shout out something they like to do. Make notes and choose rewards accordingly.


Trust your gut

If you feel dissention in the ranks, take charge immediately. One or two people can bring down half the company. They will create a toxic culture then blame you for it. If you let it continue, don’t be surprised when they all walk out because you let one of them go. 

No one ever said, “I should have waited longer to fire that person.”

If you can feel the tension, imagine what the other employees are feeling. No one person, or even five persons, are worth losing a valuable employee who wants to be part of your organization. 


Quiet Quitting

I did not know this was a thing until I started reading articles about it. After The Great Resignation hit my company, many of the players offered to stay on until their replacements were hired and properly trained by them. They cited concern for the clients. 

Against my better judgment, I allowed some to stay. Their work was not being done. Training was sloppy. Documentation mysteriously disappeared. They had two-hour giggle-fests in the office while I continued to pay salaries for them and their replacements. I put an end to that and on the day they left, they took two more co-workers with them.

When someone resigns, send them home. You are not saving yourself any work by allowing them to stay. 

Once the office was free of the employees, the atmosphere immediately lightened. We collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief. I ordered lunch for the staff, and we talked openly about the events leading up to that day. Then, we all banded together, picked up the broken pieces and got to work. 

By the end of that first week, I looked back and thought, “This is what a team looks like. THIS is the culture I have been building.”

-- -- --  

Rayanne Buchianico is the owner of ABC Solutions an MSP accounting expert. She is also a PSA consultant and podcaster, M&A expert, author, instructor and speaker, and a board member of the National Society of IT Service Providers. She’s won awards for her work and community involvement from every organization that matters in our industry.

:-)


Monday, September 12, 2022

The ASCII Group Creates Pivotal Industry Study on MSP Services and Vendor Selection

From my friends at ASCII sent over this missive:


The ASCII Group Creates Pivotal Industry Study on MSP Services and Vendor Selection

Bethesda, Maryland – September 12, 2022 – The ASCII Group, a large membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers, is pleased to announce the creation of ‘Rate My Stack’, a comprehensive industry study focused on MSP services and vendor selection.

For nearly 40 years The ASCII Group has provided programs, services, and resources for MSPs to better run their IT businesses. With the vast expansion of vendors in the IT channel, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are continually evaluating which vendor partners serve the needs of their customers the best while helping the MSP build a competitive services offering. To help with this, The ASCII Group saw a need to embark on this one-of-a-kind study. With community in mind, the aggregate data will be used to offer insight while providing peers the ability to share and rate each other’s ‘stacks’ anonymously.

Led by a committee of 12 ASCII members, the ‘Rate My Stack’ initiative was built on providing the individual Managed Service Provider deeper intelligence on what their fellow peers are doing in the market. In aggregate, the data will provide insight into the following areas:

What components do MSPs typically provide as part of their service offering?

What are the most popular components of the service stack by category?

Which vendors are on the rise or decline and the reasoning behind it?

What are the most popular products/services MSPs are using to run their internal operations?

What services are typically not offered compared to their peers?

“The ‘Rate My Stack’ endeavor is the first step in providing intel in helping our community build a better service offering,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group. “Learning from peers is the best form of business education and knowledge sharing is the backbone of our group.”

To learn more about becoming a member of The ASCII Group, please visit www.ascii.com


About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers. The Group has 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 and international reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of leading and major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com

:-)



-30-


Sunday, September 04, 2022

Check Out the NSITSP Candidates - Voting Starts Sept. 15th

We did a blog post over at NSITSP.org, but I thought I also post here.

NSITSP Members Campaign season is underway. It’s brief, so make sure you read up on the candidates as you prepare to VOTE, starting September 15th.


Check out the Elections Page Here and meet the candidates.

You can view all candidates or just the ones for a specific board or committee. This is the e-version of our voter pamphlet. Each candidate has their picture, plus a candidate statement, and links to their social media, so you can see how they present themselves to clients and the public at large.

Candidates: Don’t forget to share your candidate profiles with your clients. Let them know that you are investing in our industry and helping us to transform the industry into a profession. And don’t forget to monitor the Elections Forum and respond to posts.

Members: Join the Elections Forum, post your questions, and engage the candidates.

Note: All paid members are eligible to vote. So don’t worry about letters of reference. If you’ve paid, you can vote.


If you have questions, send us a note.

Thank you for all your support!

:-)

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Core SOPs for IT Service Providers - Five-Week Class Starts Sept. 13th

Core Standard Operating Procedures s for IT Service Providers  - Our first class ever at IT Service Provider University - and still one of the most popular courses we have each year.

Fresh class with totally revised slide deck starts September 13th. 

Register now.

You’re guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!

Taught By: Karl W. Palachuk, Author and community builder

- Five Tuesdays - September 13th - October 11th 

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific


Register Now - Only $299*


This course will cover the most important procedures you need to have in place to run an efficient and highly profitable Managed Services Business.

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!

When I take on new coaching clients, they have many of the same issues over and over again. And almost all of them boil down to SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures. Or the lack thereof.

Everyone knows you need SOPs. In fact you probably know which ones you need. But where do you start?


You will learn:

  • A practical introduction to SOPs
  • The relationship matrix of SOPs
  • Clients
  • Employees
  • Vendors
  • Internal Organization
  • The Ten Most Important SOPs for your IT Consulting Business
  • SOPs management, organization, and updates
  • Implementation strategies internally
  • Implementation strategies for clients
  • Service Department SOPs
  • Building
  • Training
  • Deployment
  • Upkeep
  • Avoiding the biggest pitfalls with SOP development and deployment
  • Building an Action Plan that works

and MORE!


ITSP University Certification:

Meets Certification Requirements for

Management

Service Manager

Technician


This class will be recorded. Each unit is generally posted within 24 hours of the live class. These recorded units will become the On-Demand class and you’ll have lifetime access to it.


Class Content

  • Unit 1 Introduction and Organization of SOPs
  • Unit 2 Managing Time and Money
  • Unit 3 Service Delivery and the Service Board
  • Unit 4 Practical Operating Considerations
  • Unit 5 Putting It All Together


Register Now - Only $299*


Note: * Members of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community attend at no additional charge. See details in the Community

:-)


Tuesday, August 02, 2022

All-New 5-Week Lead Generation Course Starts August 9th

From IT Service Provider University



Create a Great Lead Generation Program

You’re guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!


Taught By: James Kernan, Author and sales coach

- Five Tuesdays - August 9th - September 6th

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

Register Now - Only $299*


Learn the industry’s best practices on the overall sales process from Prospecting, Qualifying, Needs Analysis and Assessments, Connecting your value proposition to the customers issues. Tips to get through the Sales Process faster and Closing the Deal!




Description

The MSP Lead Generation and Appointment setting course will include five live training sessions delivered in 60-minute classes. Designed for technology business owners, sales managers, and sales professionals, this training program covers industry best practices for selling contractual monthly recurring revenue and finding new accounts.

All five sessions will be recorded LIVE and delivered with a PDF workbook and related template exercises. 


You will learn . . .

  • How to create your sales playbook
  • Appointment setting 101
  • How to run the first and second prospect meeting
  • How to make customers for life – secrets to valuable QBR’s
  • How to create and present fantastic proposals that close


Unit 1 Creating Your Sales Playbook

Unit 2 Appointment Setting 101

Unit 3 The Sales Process and How to Run Your Prospect Meetings

Unit 4 How to Keep Customers for Life – secrets of QBR’s

Unit 5 Creating and Presenting Amazing Proposals


About James Kernan

For the past 12 years, James has served as a Principal Consultant for Kernan Consulting and provides Coaching, Advising and Mentoring programs to entrepreneurs and leaders. Kernan Consulting offers One on One Coaching, CEO Peer Groups, M&A Consulting and online training programs.

:-)


Monday, August 01, 2022

What Makes a Perfect Client?

An Ode to CLFP


Over my long IT consulting career, I have had many great clients. I’ve had clients who let my daughter hang out in the conference room when she was little. I’ve had clients who sent technicians home with boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve had clients that fed my employees lunch if they happened to be visiting on a Friday. I’ve celebrated weddings and funerals for clients over the years.

We are, after all, a small business doing business with real people.

I’ve always kept a calendar of the first month that I billed a client for services, so we could celebrate major anniversaries. And this month, August, I remember my favorite client of all time: The California League of Food Processors or CLFP. I first started working for them in August of 1999. I was brought in by another IT consultant who wanted to focus on supporting their line of business application – IMIS. But he had found himself dragged “off task” to supporting the hardware that ran the IMIS program, and then other technology around the office. He knew this was not his long suit, and he didn’t want to do it.

So he brought me in and eventually convinced the powers that be to sign a contract with me. Shortly thereafter, Janet joined CLFP and began working her way up in the hierarchy. I think somewhere around 2000, Janet was the longest-standing employee of CLFP. And that meant that I, by a few months, had been there longer than any employees. Last month, Janet retired from CLFP (although she’s not nearly retirement age). 

Somewhere along the line, Laura went to work for CLFP. She eventually left when she fell in love with my brother (who worked for me at the time) and he dragged her off to Florida. But as recently as last year, CLFP still lures her back to work on special projects for a week or two.

I do very little work for CLFP these days, having sold my managed service business. But I still manage several domains and all of their DNS. For one thing or another, I’ve sent them an invoice every year since 1999. But that’s not why they’re my favorite client of all time.

CLFP is my favorite client because they fit my model perfectly. 

  • They are technology dependent, and they know it. That means they stand out from other organizations because of their commitment to technology. They see technology as an investment and not an expense.
  • They met with us on a regular basis. When we asked for a meeting, they invited us in. They scheduled regular technology roadmap meetings. That led to a greater understanding by me of their needs, calendar, and business plans. It also led to a greater understanding by them of my philosophy and how we embrace a holistic approach to supporting their hardware, software, and services.
  • They did what we asked. This took two tracks. They bought hardware and software on a schedule designed to maximize their return on investment. And they signed the contracts we put in front of them.
  • They relied on us completely. Every year they hold a huge, international event. They engaged us in the planning and implementation of the technology side of this endeavor. Eventually, we had boxes of equipment that were set aside simply to support this annual event. They never worried that we wouldn't be there, or that we'd do something wrong. They simply checked a box and knew that my company would take care of this.
  • They invested in training. Some they bought from us, some from others. But overall, they trained their people to get better and better all the time.
  • They were friendly. They treated all of my employees with respect, even if they weren't sure about them. They believed in the long term relationship, and that investment played out in great relationships.
  • They pay their bills on time. Over 20+ years, there were a few miscommunications, but very few.


Overall, I would say they hired us with the intent of building a twenty-year relationship and then they committed to making that work. And we did the same.

In my books and presentations, I often talk about my favorite clients. Sometimes that due to personal reasons. Sometimes it's because of one business reason or another. But in all cases, it's because my favorite clients do lots of things that make the entire engagement pleasant, sustainable, and low stress. Of course they're also profitable. But you can make money serving anyone. You'll live longer when you serve great people who commit to their part of the engagement and make the job enjoyable in the long run.

My hat is off to Janet and the whole gang over the years at CLFP. I might be the only one celebrating this anniversary, but it's been a great twenty-three years.

:-)


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Help NSITSP Choose a Logo!

The National Society of IT Service Providers is searching for a new logo. We collected nominations and the Marketing Committee has whittled the field down to three options.

Voting is on right now! 

So, if you're a paid member, head over to www.nsitsp.org and vote. The direct link is https://nsitsp.org/logo-contest/vote/



 All paid members may vote now. There are two steps to the process.

First: Should we keep the existing logo?

Second: If not, which of the proposed logos should we adopt?

Cast your ballot today! Voting ends August 15th.

Vote Here


. . .

On another note . . . The Board has suspended the requirement for two letters of reference for Professional members. The Governance Committee is working on a newly revised membership program for 2023. The Board will take further action pending recommendations from the Governance Committee.

What this means: Effective immediately, all paid members may vote in NSITSP elections and run for office.

So, if you’re a paid Professional member – please vote!

And if you’re not, please join today – and vote!

Thank you all for your support.

:-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Join the Big Coaches "Hands-On" Workshop at ChannelCon

 ChannelCon is back . . . LIVE!

I got together with some of my favorite coaches and we're inviting YOU to join us for a great session at ChannelCon 2022 next Tuesday.


Meet the Coaches

I will be joined by
  • Amy Babinchak
    from Third Tier 
  • Chip Reaves
    from Bigger Brains 
  • Dave Seibert
    from SMB Techfest 
  • James Kernan
    from Kernan Consulting
  • Manuel Palachuk
    from Manuel Palachuk International


We're going to pack a lot into this session. Table Topics include
1) Modernizing Your Service Offering
2) Building the Team of the Future
3) Business Challenges Beyond Fifteen+ Employees
4) Lead Generation
5) Service Delivery Process

Here are your action steps.

FIRST: Make sure you're registered for ChannelCon. Even if you can't be there in person, you should register so you get links, downloads, etc.

ChannelCon is in Chicago, August 2-4

Click here: https://i.snoball.it/p/I9xl/t to register right now. 

Use the code CC22SmallBiz to register free. Just to be safe.

SECOND: Browse to this item on your agenda - https://mychannelcon.comptia.org/meetings/rDz3kgqxCZokLiBaF#/
(after you're registered and logged in)

Click on the button to add this to your personal agenda.

THIRD - We'll see you in Chicago!

Our event is listed in the agenda as

Small Biz Thoughts - Work ON Your Business: A Hands-on Workshop (Solutions Providers Only)

10:30 AM - 11:30 PM Central Time 
Missouri Room - Level 2
on Tuesday, August 2

Official Session Description

Don’t do it alone! Solve your biggest business issues with help from peer groups, mastermind programs, and coaching. Join us for an interactive, hands-on session by five of the best-known coaches in IT: Amy Babinchak, Chip Reaves, Dave Seibert, James Kernan, and Manuel Palachuk.  Bring your problems! 

With luck, we'll all see YOU in Chicago next week.

:-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Do Unto Clients as You Would have Vendors Do Unto You

I'm sure you know the golden rule:

Do unto other as you would have then do unto you.

Here's how that applies to IT consulting:

Do Unto Clients as You Would have Vendors Do Unto You

I read a lot. And I try to keep up on the general advice that goes around in our industry. I've noticed two interesting topics recently that should be discussed together, but tend to be discussed without regard to one another.

1. Many people are very angry that Kaseya has purchased one of the "tool" companies they work with and is forcing everyone into three-year contracts. The general response is anger and indignation. "Those evil, greedy bastards are trying to keep me as a partner by forcing me into a three-year contract."

Forsooth, shame on them!

and the other common discussion . . .

2. More and more, MSPs are encouraged to sign three-year, auto-renewing contracts with their clients. The benefit of this is obvious. Recurring revenue is better than break/fix because it's treated as if guaranteed.* And, obviously, one year is better than thirty days. And three years is better than one year.

Ultimately, both moves are plays to increase the value of a company for buyers and investors.

Let's lay our cards on the table here. Seems like the general wisdom is . . .

1. Vendors are evil and greedy if they force partners to sign three-year contracts that auto-renew.

and

2. Managed Service Providers are wise to get clients to sign three-year contracts that auto-renew. 

There are handy cliches that could be applied here. You can't have it both ways. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Instead, let's look at what's really motivating all of this. One way or another, it comes down to money and innovation.

Money

Many vendors, of which Kaseya is one, find themselves in a market where they need to provide predictably high profit for their investors. One way to do that is to tie the hands of their so-called partners in order to show greater long-term guaranteed* revenue. Growth is a separate story. For now, they check the box that says guaranteed* revenue.

Is that necessarily evil? No, of course not. Many of us have signed 1- and 3- and 5-year contracts for consulting or jobs. Pretty much everyone signs a 30-year deal for a house and a 5-year deal to buy a car (or a 3-year deal for a lease).

But this is a service business. While there are many ways to get out of a contract, and anyone can sue anyone for anything, pressuring so-called partners into a three-year contract feels unfriendly. It makes people say things like "so-called partner" instead of partner. 

Historically, vendors have not been successful at tying the hands of their partners. They had to prove the quality of their products and customer service year after year to grow a family of dedicated partners. Thus, the value of their company was based on the loyalty of their partners/users/resellers. In a very real sense, the partners were devotees - not prisoners.

A three-year contract feels very much like being held prisoner. It's not inherently evil, it's just not the way we've done business until recently. As a minimum, it's not a very friendly way to do business.

Innovation

In technology, more than half of everything we do will have changed in three years. It's about two processor life-spans. And pretty much everything we do will change in five years. So a three-year contract hurts an IT service provider's business if it keeps them from using newer, better technology.

And, as the last ten years have demonstrated, it probably means that the vendors will be less responsive on the customer service front, less innovative on the technology front, and FAR less interested in the partners or end-users except as a measure of "units" that translate into revenue.

Now, about Those Clients ...

If it feels un-friendly and un-partner-like to be pressured into a three-year contract, how does this feel to your clients and prospects? 

Yes, it might make some good financial sense if you can guarantee* your recurring revenue to a potential investor. But why would your clients have any less anger and frustration than you do when it comes to three-year contracts?

Are you evil for proposing this? Of course not. 

But are you unwise? Possibly. 

In my managed service businesses, I tried several things (including one-year contracts) and settled on contracts that auto-renew forever, with a 30-day notice required to stop the contract. That amounts to 30-day contracts. It put the pressure on my company to provide excellent service. To my knowledge, we never lost a client because it was easy to leave. More commonly, clients literally never left. They stayed for decades.

We also settled on three-year contracts for HAAS - hardware as a service. This made sense because hardware was involved. And clients did not consider it unfriendly because they were often considering a three- or five-year lease as an option.

Today, everyone seems obsessed with mergers and acquisitions and market value. That's fine. But your clients deserve a level of commitment and service without regard to the length of a contract. One way that you show your commitment to service is by not requiring long contracts. 

At a minimum - Don't be a hypocrite. If you think forcing your clients into three-year contracts is the right thing for your business, please don't claim that it's a horrible thing for your vendors to do to you.

Just my two cents.

Comments welcome.


* Nothing's guaranteed. We're not going down that rabbit hole right now.

:-)





Friday, July 15, 2022

Heads Up, PayPal Users!

Per the PayPal "Changes" Page . . . .

https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/ua/upcoming-policies-full


Effective July 28, 2022:

- U.S. business accounts will not be able to receive personal transactions from U.S. PayPal accounts.

- U.S. PayPal accounts will not be able to send personal transactions to U.S. business accounts.

- The rate for the “Send/Receive Money for Goods and Services” payment type will be 2.99% (with no fixed fee). This pricing change will result in fee increases for some transactions. You can preview the Merchant Fees page that will be effective on July 28, 2022, following such changes.


What this means for you business:

If you pay US (Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, ITSP University, etc.), be aware: U.S. PayPal accounts will not be able to send personal transactions to U.S. business accounts. I'm sure this has to do with regulations around keeping business and personal straight.

But, to be honest, it's a really great idea to keep business and personal expenses separate as much as possible, even for a small business. 

The rate for the “Send/Receive Money for Goods and Services” payment type will be 2.99% (with no fixed fee). This pricing change will result in fee increases for some transactions. You can preview the Merchant Fees page that will be effective on July 28, 2022, following these changes.

It might help to go to PayPal now (ASAP) and review all recurring purchases. Make sure you know what might "break" at the end of the month. You can then make alternate arrangements. If you wish to continue paying with PayPal, you'll need to update your account. If you only have a personal account, you may need to set up a business account, and vice versa.

Obviously, there will be more details. Just be aware that the change is coming. And follow that link to learn more as details are released.

:-)