Monday, August 21, 2006

Hours in a Week

I guess because of something I posted, there are "rumors" that I go home at 5:00 PM and don't work. Let me just say: For the most part that's true.

Here are my thoughts on working for a living and what's reasonable. Take it or leave it.

First, and most importantly:

You have to balance your work and your life. And, just like everything else in life, this balance changes over time. It changes as you get older, it changes as your job evolves, and it changes as your personal life evolves.

"The balance" is different for everyone, so I can't say that you should do what I do. But I CAN say that working 16 hours a day is bad for your health, bad for your business, and bad for your personal life. If you're working those kind of hours, things are very un-balanced.

If you get in the habit of working too much, it feeds on itself and you feel that you can't get out: you can't change the way things are.

That's not true. Just decide to change. You can make it happen.

Second, let's look at how many hours are reasonable.

I'll start by saying that the 40 hour week is silly and not much of a starting place. It is the result of arbitrary government decisions, union negotiations, and lots of things you had nothing to do with. So where do we start?

In the U.S. today it is very reasonable to show up for work at 8 AM and leave around 5 PM. If you make the departure 6 PM because you're the boss, that's still reasonable. If you have a meeting for lunch, or work through lunch, that counts as working time, not time off. Thus, if you work 8-6 with no time off, that's 50 hours/week for the five-day work week.

Alternatively, if you work a solid 8-5 and put in the odd hour in the early morning or the evening, you still come up with a 50 hour week.

Working a few hours on the weekend brings this to 52-55 hours without really straining yourself or interfering with your family life.

Therefore, I believe working 50-55 hours a week is very reasonable as a business owner.

If you work 12 hours/day x seven days, that's 84 hours. That's not reasonable.

I try very hard to keep my hours under 50/week.

When I was a sole proprietor, I never scheduled an appointment before 9:00 AM. And I made sure I never planned to work after 4:30 PM, so I could be home by 5. I did work and hour or so each evening. But I've never done the workaholic 60-70-80 hour weeks.

Even now that we're a five-person shop, I work 8-5 because my service manager wants me to be a good example for the staff. Otherwise, I'd still be 9-430!

Because I am religious about putting my hours into our practice management tool, I can accurately report the hours I actually work each week. If I'm drafting a blog post at 6:00 AM on the patio while having my morning coffee, that goes into PSA tool. Same with paperwork on the weekend.

Here's the breakdown for calendar 2006 so far:

3 Weeks in range <= 40 hours = 8.82%

8 Weeks in range 41-45 hours = 23.53%

7 Weeks in range 46-50 hours = 20.59%

8 Weeks in range 51-55 hours = 23.53%

7 Weeks in range 56-60 hours = 20.59%

1 Weeks in range 61-65 hours = 2.94%

0 Weeks in range 66 + hours = 0.00%

As you can see, I've had three weeks with less than 40 hours. Two of those were in Europe, so that counts for something. ;-)

This would have been five weeks, but I spent the last two Saturdays painting our new offices with my daughter.

About 1/3 of my weeks are in the range of 45 hours or less. Just over half of my weeks are under 50 hours, and just over 75% are under 55 hours. The one week over 60 hours was a travel week, teaching seminars for myself and a training company. In fact, almost every week with greater than 55 hours was a travel week.

I'm not dismissing travel weeks in any way. They are time away from the family, time away from normal routine, and time away from the office. They're actually pretty darn un-balancing!


Concluding Thoughts

Working reasonable hours -- 50 or less -- is possible. It's also beneficial to your personal and professional success.

When you're trapped in the workaholic environment, it's hard to see a way out. But remember that you're the boss.

In my next Relax Focus Succeed newsletter, I'll discuss "Escaping from the Workaholic Environment." If you're interested in following this thread, you can subscribe for free at

Now I'm going to get in the hot tub . . .

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chris Sneezed a Book; Vlad Sneezed a Conference

Okay, you laggards who've been sleeping in the back row. Wake up and welcome to the 21st Century. Today we're going to talk about Idea Viruses. Your textbook will be Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. And your homework is to provide some feedback on how we can use this marketing concept "offline" in our SMB consulting practices.

Cliff Notes:
Some ideas spread like viruses. We've all seen examples.

"Everyone" had a Palm Pilot before you even heard of it. Soduko went from a cute newspaper filler to a worldwide phenomenon. You have to try it! Google hasn't been around that long, and they're already in the dictionary as a verb. Google it.

Seth Godin spells out the virus analogy. Someone uses a product or service and raves about it to his friends and associates. This is called sneezing. Some people only sneeze occasionally. Some people sneeze all the time. Some sneeze quietly, some loudly. Some sneeze to a small crowd and some sneeze to a huge gathering.

If you have the right audience -- a large but closely knit group and has a lot of inter-group communication, the virus can spread very quickly. This is especially true if a handful of "promiscuous sneezers" like the idea. As a general rule, these sneezers are not paid or, if they are, that arrangement is known to the community and they are effect at spreading viruses despite the fact that they're paid.

-- Cliff

Let me give you some examples from the SBS/SMB consulting community. First, we really are a vast community with excellent communications. None of us communicates with everyone everyday, but news spreads very fast because most of us have at least half a dozen hooks into the community. These include personal email, yahoo groups, blogs, blog comments, conferences, etc.

Recent phenomenon: The SBS Show. Vlad did not "sneeze" the SBS Show. He created the show and posted it. Then he initiated the virus by telling some people about it, posting it. They had all just come back from SMB Nation and they were eager for more. So they were susceptible to the virus. They caught it and told their friends. End users (not just consultants) got drawn into the mix. And they told their friends. So now everyone has the SBS Show Virus.

Interestingly enough, one year ago today Vlad and Chris and Suzanne were not "promiscuous sneezers." But because of the SBS Show (among other things), they all are today. On August 12th I was honored to have Chris post a review of my Service Agreements book. He was literally sneezing to his blog readers. It may catch on, it may not. Not every virus spreads far and wide.

When Vlad returned from SMB Nation East, he sneezed all over the place. He went on and on about how much he loved that conference. He didn't just check the box that said "good conference." No, he sneezed all over Vladfire and So I don't think there will be fewer than 350 people at the next SMB Nation East in 2007!

Who are the other sneezers in our community? Well, we all are. Viral marketing cannot succeed because a few well-known people sneeze. The product has to be good so that people use it, talk about it, rave about it, and tell their friends. But not just tell their friends. They use phrases like "You have to get this." and "It changed the way I do business." Even if all the well-known sbsers used a product, that doesn't make it a virus. A virus is easily spread. A successful virus infects a majority of the core community.

A Few Key lessons:
- There must exist a well-connected community to sneeze into.

- You have to have the right product.
We all use screwdrivers, but no one raves about one screwdriver you just have to own!

- The timing has to be right.
Maybe 2006 is not the right time for the SBS crowd to give two hoots about Storage Area Networks. But it's a great time to discuss Managed Services.

- Sneezers need to be honest.
You - the marketer - are taking a chance. Our community is very honest. If you drop some crap product on this crowd, you better be ready for serious push-back. The ultimate example is Microsoft: When they do something right, Susan and Jeff and every other blog sings their praises. But the next day that might all be gone. The power of a sneezer is related to the sneezer's credibility.

HOMEWORK -- Group Project

So all that's based on the online community. Your homework will consist of figuring out how to to this technique to market your SMB consulting business to your local SMB customers.

1) Go buy the book today: Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell

2) Now, as a group, let's see how we can use this concept in marketing to the businesses in our communities that need to buy our consulting services. How can we get people to sneeze an SMB Consultant?

Don't wave your hand and say "That's all just word of mouth advertising. We do that." Bzzzzzzzzz. I'm sorry. Thank you for playing. That answer's worth 1 point (out of fifty). We're not looking for "I use xyz Networks." We're looking for raving fans who spread your name all over the place.

I welcome and encourage your feedback. Here or in email.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Free Seminar 9/7 in Redmond - Good Form Consulting

The details are settled. I'm going to be giving a free seminar on 9/7/2006, the day before SMB Nation, at the Microsoft Conference Center.

Title: Good Form Consulting
A Round-Up of Best Practices for Organizing and Running an Efficient and Profitable SMB Consulting Practice

Register at
-- -- -- -- --

Disclaimer: If you want the deep dive into Managed Services, your time is better spent with Amy, Steve, and Chad at the Mobilize event. That's a full-day workshop 9:30 AM - 4:00 PM. If you're considering managed services, do that workshop!

-- -- -- -- --
And now back to my announcement:

Proper procedures and and consistency are key elements in growth, reproducible success, higher profits, and more personal time with your family!

In this FREE seminar, you'll see one consultant's perspective on building a successful practice.

We begin with a review of the current market environment for SMB consultants. After that, we cover a variety of topics ranging from employee management to creating successful procedures. We'll cover personal and professional development as well as a bit on sales and marketing. We'll describe procedures at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) and lead a discussion of other successful practices shared by audience members.

While there are some technical topics, this is primarily a business- related discussion. We will cover the how and why of technical procedures, but not dig into the details.

The Forms
If there's one thing KPEnterprises does to be successful, it's develop forms and procedures. While we're not going to give away all our secrets, we'll show you some of our "best practices" with regard to using standardized forms for everything from network migratiion to weeding out yur clients once a year.

Please note: we will not be distributing any of our forms at this event. We will make the PowerPoint slides available to attendees.


Plan to Thrive. Because you can't thrive without a plan.

Don't miss the unique opportunity!
Register at


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to Attend A Conference

I've attended a few conferences and professional get-togethers this year. If you don't count user groups in nine cities and groups where I sit on the board, I've attended about ten conferences and professional events "out of town" so far this year. Here are a few tips to take with you to Redmond (or any other professional event).

Before the Event:

Take care of your hotel and transportation needs. Do this well in advance. Don't wait until the last minute. Most hotels have a special rate for the conference, but this block of rooms will not be available too far in advance. For example, it is too early to get rooms for the next worldwide partner conference: Those blocks aren't open.
Similarly, hotels normally close off the special rate 30 days before the event. So, for example, it's too late to get the good rate for SMB Nation 2006.
Nearby hotels are sometimes a better deal anyway. Go to or and look for a deal. This is much easier in bigger cities. You can get unbelievable deals near large airports. At an "airport hotel" the hotels are all very close. Got to priceline and enter three stars and a ridiculously low price like $60. You'll be amazed.

We're all very lucky this year because Doug Geary started a Yahoo! Group just to keep track of who's coming and going, ride sharing, and "unpublished" parties at SMB Nation. See Thanks, Doug. I owe you a beer.

Final note on prepping for the event: Don't blame the event organizers if you don't have a room or didn't think about airfares until the day you have to leave. Organizers are responsible for creating a forum for advertising where and when and whether you need a secret code to get a discount. After that, you need to take responsibility for your own details.

Attending the Event:

1. Don't attack the first Microsoft employee you see.
I don't know what it is with people. The first time they meet a Microsoft employee, they dump their latest problem or pet peeve on the poor soul.

MS: "Hi. I'm Microsoft Employee X. I'm in charge of choosing the T-Shirts for major SMS&P Mid-Martket vendor relations luncheons in the Northeast."

Schmo: "WELL! Let me give you a message to send back to Redmond: Licensing Sucks! I bought a license once. What a hassle. I had to register online and enter a bunch of numbers and letters . . . Blah blah blah . . . worst experience of my life . . . and one more thing . . . and if that's not enough . . .."

Leave these poor people alone! The absolute best thing you can do at a conference is NOT make an ass of yourself. Introduce yourself. Tell a funny story, hope they remember your name, and be a person they will seek out when they recognize you in the hallway tomorrow -- not avoid you like the plague.

At the Worldwide Partner Conference a in July, I had an interesting experience. John Endter, from Nevada, and I sat with some partners from the MidWest and two Microsoft Folks for lunch one day. As we were doing "hellos" someone mentioned kids. I have a 14 year old. Someone had a 13 year old. 11 and 8. Newborn. Basically, we talked "kids" for half an hour. When one of the MS folks got up to leave, she said "This has been a real pleasure. We didn't get asked one single technical question."

These are human beings, after all. Be pleasant to them. Pick your battles. And don't pick a battle at a conference. If you have a legitimate issue, then in a few weeks you can email your new contacts. Don't dump the issue on them. Ask very politely if they know who deals with that sort of thing. Let them help you by guiding you to the right person.

Whatever you do, don't carpet-bomb every poor blue badge with some complaint they can't do anything about at the conference.

2. Make sure you have business cards. Take a hundred and don't act as if they cost a forture.
I know this is Vlad's pet peeve, so I didn't make it my #1. will sell you a hundred really great professional cards for almost nothing. 2000 cards is only $49 -- unless they're on sale or you're a frequent shopper. I generally pay about $20 for 1000 cards. They're cheaper than scratch paper. They're cheaper than laser-perf cards (and people won't think you're homeless).

It's sad that anyone has to harp on this issue. Even IF it cost you $50 to hand out business cards for the weekend, just do it. Friends and colleagues and opportunities abound.

3. Go a day early and stay until the end.
Going early is sometimes iffy. But at the major events (e.g., SMBNations east, west, Europe) it's a no-brainer.

First, there are usually some great programs going on. Free seminars. For-pay seminars you can't get anywhere else. People meeting and gathering and talking about the business you're in. Many times I've met someone "the day before" who was only there for the pre-show and wasn't doing the "real show." And if I hadn't gone a day early I would have totally missed out.

Staying til the end. I went to a professional basketball game once (my daughter was in the half-time show). For those of you who don't know, basketball is a game in which the teams take turns running down the court and making points. After five hours of this mindless activity, a buzzer goes off and whoever has the ball last wins. It doesn't matter whether the game is lopsided at half time. It's always a 1- or 2-point game at the end.

And yet people leave early. WTF? There's literally one second of the game that matters. These people sit through hours of mind-numbing activity and miss the one second that matters.

Leaving a conference early is worse. Good things happen until the bitter end. After all, if you paid $500 for a conference, why leave at the $400 mark? The final-evening get-togethers are some of the best. This is especially true if you need the attention of a speaker. After the pressure's off and the lights are out, you can finally get some attention.

4. Work to find an agenda and search for "gems." Where you can't find gems,
- Get yourself invited to a focus group
- Make arrangements to do something with someone you want to connect with.
- (In other words, don't waste your idle time being idle. At least meet up with someone and spend your time talking business or pleasure with someone you've met.)

Some conferences post their agenda well in advance, even if it's a work in progress. This is good for you. Read the Bio's. Is this someone you want to connect with? Is it someone you've met online or exchanged off-group email comments with? Networking networking networking.

If you don't connect with people, then you're in a room with 800 (SMB Nation) or 8000 (WWPC) strangers. If you DO connect, then you're in big "user group" with a lot of cool people you've touched online and finally get to meet. For me, the content at WWPC this year was mediocre. But the SMB community was spectacular! It really was like a user group filled with people who really wanted to work on their business.

After the Event:
My good friend Vlad has some wonderful after-the-conference tips. See