Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five Desktop Minimum

Five Desktop Minimum

Like many other consultants, we have a Five Desktop Minimum. That means we don't take on clients who have fewer than five desktop computers and one server. We're probably going to make this a Ten Desktop Minimum in January.

As with all rules, we're always being tempted to make exceptions. How about four desktops? How about three desktops and two servers? How about three desktops and two servers and a real need to replace the two servers with one Small Business Server?



You might think this is a simple matter of mathematics, but it's not.

On the platinum plan, five desktops x $60 = $300/month. Now I'd rather have $300 than not have $300. But it's more than that.

We're in our thirteenth year in business, and we've seen some networks. Our experience tells us a thing or two about these micro-clients. The pattern will look like this:

Immediate future: Fix a backlog of problems. Put them on managed service.
Within 12 months: Replace server. Perhaps a workstation or two.
Within 24 months: Replace one or two other workstations. Maybe replace switches and a printer.

Additional projects expected: None.

Change in company operations in the last ten years: nothing to speak of.

Change in company expected in the next ten years: nothing if they can help it.

Interesting or challenging line of business application: none.

As a general rule, these companies are not growing and not dynamic. Technologically, they're not very interesting. A super basic network diagram (see page 21 of The Network Documentation Workbook) represents 98% of all such businesses. They're not challenging. They're not particularly fun. They're not why we got into this business.

At the end of the day, we don't want to be bored doing our jobs. Some might say "Not everybody gets to have a fun, interesting job." True. But I get to. And my techs get to.

It takes exactly as much work to get a new client with ten desktops as it does to get a new client with four desktops. And the client with ten will be a lot more fun and interesting to work with.

And, yes, we make more money.


  1. Anonymous6:01 AM

    Hi Karl,

    Been a big fan ever since Vlad turned me on to you with the SBS show. Anyway, I have to ask...IF the small network was to be whipped into shape, and they didn't expect much change in the future, wouldn't it be "easy money" for the managed services end? Provided the business isn't allowed to make changes to the servers or desktop without consulting you first, and assuming the hardware doesn't go bad early...wouldn't it be an easy $300 a month? The amount of actual hands on time should be minimal since the business doesn't want to grow and therefore introduce change and possibly more complexity.

    My thoughts are: if you were to have a half dozen or so clients like that, there's where the easy money would be. Again, using those two assumptions above, the actual hands on should be somewhat minimal. Perhaps my assumptions are wrong?

    I'd be interested to hear what you think.



  2. Anonymous6:05 AM

    I should "easy money" I mean consistent income stream for the amount of work required. This could help stabilize income from one month to the next while you hunt for more interesting game.mncmb

  3. Well, yes, you get a nice stream of money. But ...

    1) Reality is, with server at $350 + desktops at $300, it's really $650/month.

    95% of 1-5 desktop businesses won't consider this.

    80% of 6-10 desktop businesses won't consider this.

    And the ones who do look a lot like the ones who don't. They generally don't value their technology. They'll nickel-and-dime you to death.

    2) Don't forget that part about wanting to work with interesting clients.

    3) It really takes about the same effort to get, keep, and maintain a client with ten desktops.

    4) This IS easy, consistent money if you need it. But focusing on clients like this will limit your ability to grow.

    They're a good base if you need it. But eventually, you'll need to either stop growing or start replacing 5-D clients with 10-D clients.

    Just my opinion.

  4. Anonymous7:04 AM

    OK, I see. I was concentrating on the desktops but you're right....throw in the server and at $650 a month, smaller shops have a hard time justifying the expense until they are between a rock and a hard place. By then, it's too late.




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