Sunday, April 29, 2007

Content is King

Were you Slapped by Google's ad rates last year? Did you start paying a lot more and getting a lot less?

If you've never heard of the Google Slap, and you do online advertising, then you need to spend some money at www.perrymarshall.com.

But that's not what this posting is about.

I'm putting together a PowerPoint presentation for SMB Nation East for next week. The topic is Google Adwords.

And that got me to thinking about my own strategy for launching Relax Focus Succeed.

Just in case you're looking at Google Adwords, run these two searches:

site:yoursite.com and related:yoursite.com

(note that www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com may give different results.)

If you want to see how Relax Focus Succeed comes out, enter site:www.relaxfocussucceed.com. You'll find that it kicks mucho booty and takes names. And if, after eight pages of results you click "repeat the search with the omitted results included," then you'll see even more.

That search (site:xxx.com) lists all the pages from your site that Google has in their system.

Now, you can buy ads, but you can't buy access to the search engine. Which means . . . Well, let's hold off on what it means for a minute.

The second search, related:www.relaxfocussucceed.com, returns links that Google thinks are related to your site.

So, here's the deal: Google wants to display your ads on sites that are related to your site.

Remember, you're totally working from the outside and speculcating about what Google wants. But, basically, Google wants to display ads on pages so that they are placed in front of the right audience. And then the audience goes click, click, click. When they click, Google collects advertisers' money.

Last Summer Google introduced a new formula that moved away from basic Click Through Rates and focuses more on overall site content.

The lesson is: Your site needs content. RelaxFocusSucceed.com does well because, for the last three years, it has been a pure content site. Essays and Articles. Perhaps the lesson is "Slow and steady wins the race."

Fill your landing pages with good content. It will serve you well in the long run.

Here's an important point to consider: It is not in Google's interest to allow you to have an effective advertising strategy that doesn't cost a lot of money.

Because their system is a "black box," you can only guess what their rules are. And those rules keep changing. That's what makes search engine optimization such a fleeting and difficult process.

Google wants really effective ads to cost a lot of money. And they want cheap ads to be less effective.

I've been involved with online products since way before http: was invented. Even fifteen years ago, the winning slogan was "Content is King." The same thing is true today. If you have an anemic five-page web site with no real "content" then Google has no reason to send people to it.

Beef up your site! Put in free educational reports. Post your newsletters. Link to sites with real content. But also have your own content.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Best Business/Technical Book Award

Last night I attended the Awards Dinner for the Northern California Publishers and Authors. No rubber chicken here. I had the cajun ciapinno and my wife enjoyed the salmon.



Anyway, the good folks at NorCalPA did me the great honor of naming my book on Service Agreements as the Best Business/Technical Book for the year! The award is given for books published in 2006.



Even got a nifty plaque:





Best Business/Technical Book


2007



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Pay Full Price for Perscription Meds

I Pay Full Price for Perscription Meds
Thanks to Exchange Defender
--------------------------------------

I've been using email since 1983. Back then, you needed to execute a series of elaborate commands to get from one university system to another. It could take half an hour to make a connection and transfer a 10k text file.

But email was automated. Even before TCP/IP was in common usage, the email systems "just worked." Magic procedures connected one system to another, and email flowed smoothly from university to university.

As a result, email built the internet. Email was, from the very beginning, the "killer app" of the internet. People signed up for compuserve in order to communicate with one another. Other forms of data exchange followed, of course. But the backbone of _why_ people got connected to the internet was email.

But, in return, email is trying to kill the internet.

Unfiltered email has become almost completely unusable. And the completely arrogant moron vigilantes who create "block lists" make the situation worse.

"I'm not sorry." They say. "All your email has been blocked because . . . you're using a new technology instead of a dusty T-1. Fiber? That's some new fad. Your entire class C subnet has been marked as _dial-up_ and denied email. If you wish to be removed from this list, fix your stuff."

So in addition to spammers and viruses and spyware, we have these block list a-holes cutting off large sections of the internet from one another.

Then you have a bunch of poor imbeciles who think they know what they're doing, so they get put in charge of email. But after the setup wizard finsihes, they don't have a clue. They build open relays and make the situation worse for everyone.

Now these poor fools have their pants down around their ankles, so they listen to a radio ad and buy a $5,000 spam filter that's more complicated than a Boeing 757. Of course they can't configure it properly, and they either continue to have an open relay or cut off half of their own clients from sending and receiving their email.

And thus internet email comes to a grinding halt.

Now, enter a truly good, competent consultant. Every piece of equipment you control is properly configured. DNS and every other service is properly configured. Exchange, sendmail, and spam filters are all perfect.

But you still have to constantly deal with email problems. And so you spend a huge amount of time trying to explain to your clients that the email problems are not on your systems.

But the fools with their pants down are also telling their bosses that the problem is not theirs.

What can you do (other than cry)?

We've decided that there's something we can do.

We sign people up for Exchange Defender.

Here's how that helps. Because E.D. servers are on the right kind of circuits, and are all well-known, registered email servers, there are never any problems getting email in or out of it. Your own ISP no longer cuts off your email. Client systems and arbitrary block lists don't block your email.

Incompetent people still get lots of spam. But their systems do't block your email because your email goes through E.D. If their systems are listed as spammers, you can still whitelist them. They have all the headaches, but you can get email to flow.

You also get a minor bonus: you get to pay full price for Presc1pt1on Druu gs like ci@las. While you get the opportunity to let these things in, you don't have to.

And a major bonus: You get dramatically lower network traffic. After all, 95%-99% of your email traffic is spam. Once you set your firewall so it only lets email traffic come from Exchange Defender servers, your traffic will drop dramatically.

Does Exchange Defender solve all your problems? No. You still have to balance your own checkbook. But it sure makes email management and troubleshooting a lot easier.

Give it a try. I'm sure Vlad will give you a test drive if you badger him enough. Check it out at www.exchangedefender.com.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Big Update for May 3rd Seminars

Reboot
------

Unfortunately, Robin has had to cancel her participation in the May 3rd seminars.

So I've rebooted and retooled. The new plan is:

I'll do three FREE seminars. All you have to do is show up.

Here are the specs:

Building A Stronger Business
One Decision At A Time

May 3, 2007
Islandia, NY

More info at http://www.greatlittlebook.com/rfslaunch.htm

A Day Filled with Seminars That Will Change Your Business

Schedule

12:30 PM = Registration

1:00 PM = Seminar One: Balancing Your Personal and Professional Lives
-- Learn to set Personal and Professional goals and standards that will dramatically improve your success -- and decrease your stress.

2:30 PM = Break

3:00 PM = Seminar Two: Good Form Consulting
-- Best Practices for the SMB Consultant

4:30 PM = Break

5:00 PM = Seminar Three: Network Documentation for Fun and Profit
-- Learn 14 Sure-Fire ways to improve your bottom line

6:30 PM = FOOD!
-- Official Book Launch Reception For Relax Focus Succeed: The Book

Attend one, two, or three seminars

-- Free --

More info at http://www.greatlittlebook.com/rfslaunch.htm

Saturday, April 21, 2007

How to Attend A Conference (revised)

I've attended a few conferences and professional get-togethers in the last few years. Here are a few tips as you prepare for various professional conferences.

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. Very often, when the official conference registration starts, that's when the special rates start.

Similarly, hotels normally close off the special rate 30 days before the event. So, don't wait too long.

Nearby hotels are sometimes a better deal anyway. Go to PriceLine.com, Orbitz.com, or Travelocity.com 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.

Also, just try the hotel site directly. If you have a AAA card, enter that.

I generally book hotel rooms and airfare at the same time. If you need or want a rental car, this is also a good time to make arrangements for that.

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, 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 MS Worldwide Partner Conference in 2006, 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 had 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 fortune.

Vistaprint.com or iprint.com 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. Why? 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 a big "user group" with a lot of cool people you've touched online and finally get to meet.

Sometimes, even at the WWPC, the content can be mediocre. But the SMB community is always spectacular! It's really like a user group filled with people who really wanted to work on their businesses.

After the Event:
My good friend Vlad has some wonderful after-the-conference tips. See http://www.vladville.com/2006/05/welcome-back-postconference-followup-tips.html

The first posting of this article was a bit timebound (e.g., references to "this year" and "last year"). It is still available here: http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-to-attend-conference_115516964142741424.html

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stay Cool Like An Astronaut

How do you respond in an emergency?
(Note, please, that today's emergencies might be nothing tomorrow.)

On one end of the scale are people who run around yelling and screaming. They interrupt everyone. Everything comes to a halt. They want results now, Now, NOW!

At the other end of the scale are those who respond calmly, assess their resources, determine the facts in front of them, gather information, and make rational decisions.

We all know we should all be in the latter category. But sometimes we can't help ourselves.

A client does something stupid and we say "Fine. I'll never go out there again." An employee makes a mistake and we berate them instead of educate them.

It takes a great deal of practice to stop, take a deep breath, and respond calmly to an urgent situation. Pumping everyone full of adrenaline so they all run around in a panic is never a good thing (unless you're organizing a riot).

Consider this recording:

http://www.arts-letters.com/apollo13/audio/problem.wav
( from this page: http://www.arts-letters.com/apollo13/audio.html )

Here's the situation. Three men in a prehistoric space craft. 35,729 miles from earth. Traveling 10,400 feet per second. They just lost their oxygen supply.

Notice that no one's voice sounds scared. No one's in a panic. "Houston, we've had a problem."

Not "Oh my God! We're all gonna die! Get me out of here! This is all your fault, you bastards."

Sit tight. We're going to assess the situation.

Here's a little perspective. If these guys can keep their cool, then you should be able to avoid panic when someone deletes the most important database in the company. Really.

I recommend the following mantra: Know what you know. Know what you don't know.

Stay calm and professional. Stay cool, like an astronaut.

These guys may very well feel panicky, but they don't act on it.

Panic never contributes to your success. This is true for the moment, for a project, and for the long-run. No one ever writes a process that includes "if else, then panic."

I remember about six years ago I was sliding a hard drive into a server. It wasn't lined up right and I was too exuberant. I literally sheared off a capacitor from the bottom of the drive. This was THE drive for the server. My job was to install a second drive so we could mirror THE drive.

Suddenly, my job became: Make THE drive live long enough to image it to the new drive. I had to find an identical capacitor and solder it in place of the old one. The client was looking over my shoulder when I did this. Luckily, he was a gunnery sargent who had returned from Desert Storm One, so he wasn't about to panic over one little electrical component.

With a little calm deliberation, we determined where to get the part. I soldered it in place, and the drive fired right up. I ate the cost of yet another hard drive, and the labor. But the entire "detour" was only an hour. I believe that yelling, screaming, and pulling hair would have delayed the repair process considerably.

It's also very important to know what you know. I knew enough about electronics to make this successful. If it were just the client and not me, he would have taken the drive to a data recovery shop for $1,500 minimum. Then he would have had a long delay as he rebuilt his system and waited for the data.

We each have a certain personality type. You may not be able to change your first "gut" reaction very easily. But over time, with practice, you can learn to stay in control. Assess the true situation and don't let any one or any thing make you panic. Seek qualified input. Stay calm. Be professional.

If you could step back and see yourself from the outside, you could examine each day and each interaction. What you'd see is that a calm, informed response will serve you well every time.

( As a side note: This kind of experience teaches you to slow down. In the long run, we get more done when we slow down just a bit. )

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Consider Outsourcing

I hereby dub Mr. David Sobel of Evolve Technologies as King of Outsourcing.

We're all in the outsourcing business, right? Yeah. I send my payroll to ADP. Big deal.

Dave outsources payroll, human resources, business reviews, hiring processes, accounting, sales, public relations, marketing, AND their data center.

Does that make him an over-stretched sole propritor?

Uh. No. It makes Evolve Technologies a Gold Certified Partner and a finalist for Microsoft Sales and Marketing Partner of the Year for last year.

I caught up with Dave at the SMBTN Summit last month. I scooped all the knowledge out of his brain. And now it's posted on my Consulting Tips page at http://www.i5pc.com/Consulting_Tips.htm.

Click on Consider Outsourcing.

Dave chose the picture!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Ultimate Documentation: Your Own Demise

Welcome to the big leagues.

One of our clients handles extremely sensitive data for major national corporations. Their security and data handling procedures were audited this week and we were obviously a focus of that audit.

This client is on total managed services. They have zero technical support in-house. They have drunk the kool-aid and rely on us completely for managed services.

So the question is: What happens when . . .

- KPEnterprises goes out of business?
- KPEnterprises has an employee go crazy?
- KPEnterprises' principals are both killed in a horrible toaster oven accident?
- Client decides, for whatever reason, that they no longer wish to do business with KPE?
- There is a pandemic and KPEnterprises cannot perform their duties?

And then the auditor spoke a phrase which, thanks to Vlad Mazek, burned through my heart:

"KPEnterprises is the single point of failure in your technical support."

How do you transfer knowledge and procedures to another support organization? How do you audit the policies, procedures, and performance of KPE?

They did not require any action, but asked that we all think about it.

Of course we decided to take action.

We are now documenting the procedure for how this client would make a smooth transition away from our company. This will include

- Immediate lockdown procedures
- Acquisition of a new support company that is properly credentialed and trained
- Testing all documented procedures by a third party tech support company
- Documenting schedules for all procedures
- Performing daily, weekly, and monthly procedures in-house or via another company
- Having our network documentation binder audited for completeness and clarity
- and so forth

After all, one of our big selling points is that "Any qualified technician should be able to open that binder and find everything they need to know about supporting your business." While we believe that's true, this will be the real test.

Not quite ISO 9000, but a step in that direction.

Gulp.

If we give them excellent tech support, they won't ever leave us. But if something we can't foresee happens, they need to stay in business. So it makes perfect sense.

Between 911 and Katrina, I no longer believe that I can predict what "could" go wrong. Things can go wrong that you never imagined.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Robin Robins Bugs Me

Disclaimer: This post is not about Robin Robins or her Technology Marketing Toolkit.

If you haven't heard about Robin Robins and her amazing technicolor Technology Marketing Toolkit, go to www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com. Make sure you tell her Karl sent you. Thanks.


I bought the Toolkit for three reasons.

1) I was at the point where I needed a quick "step up" in my marketing activity. I have been doing direct mail marketing since I started my business. I had a system. I pumped money into it. I knew it worked some of the time. But I needed to take it to the next level.

2) The timing was right. I could afford to put some money into the business. Even if you know it's the right thing to do, it's hard to spent the money if you don't have the cash flow. I was ready to spend money on faith.

3) If I'd been on the fence, that ended when she completed her presentation and 65 people lined up to buy her toolkit. The bottom line was: She obviously has something to teach me about sales.

Since then I've joined two other of Robin's programs. She gets a monthly stipend from my company.

In return, I get bugged all the time.

Robin's "members" get a non-stop flow of audio CDs, sample campaigns, and great ideas.

Some of my good friends reject her techniques as old-school, un-professional, interrupt advertising.

The truth is, her materials cover print advertising, video endorsements, compensation plans, price structuring, tradeshows, how to find a lawyer, getting the most out of Google Ads, . . . and a LOT more.

I don't think I've ever made a better investment in my business than signing up for Robin's mastermind group.

Stop.

I said this post wasn't about Robin or her Toolkit. That was all background.

As you may know, I have a book called the Network Documentation Workbook. Some people buy it, use it, fine-tune it for their own purposes, and love it. But lots of people buy it, know they should read it, love the idea, and never take action. This is very frustrating for me. I want people to implement this stuff!

My "system" is to put out a book and do enough supporting activities so that people find me, ask me about it, and I can encourage them to use it. But I don't have a system to bug them about it. I don't show up in their mailbox 1-2 times a month. I don't have a monthly call-in. I don't have dozens of audio programs. I don't have free phone days.

I don't have a way to constantly ask people: Are you doing the things you know you need to do?

In my presentations I always say that "we all know" how to be successful. The key is, how do we motivate ourselves to do the things we all know we need to do?

My family is no help. When they bug me to do what I need to do, I say "Please leave me alone about that" and they do. But not Robin! She gets paid to bug me, and she doesn't stop.

She bugs me about my web site, about my marketing plan, about endorsements, about logo design, about goal-setting. And when I ignore her, or put off her advice, she just keeps bugging me.

Until I take her advice.

And then I make more money.

We get caught up in the day-to-day activities. We all need to be pulled back to our goals from time to time. And when we're pulled back relentlessly, then we get in the habit of focusing on our goals. And maybe, someday, we'll motivate ourselves, stay on track, and we won't need outside influence to do the things we know will make us more successful.

I hope one day that I will bug people as effectively as Robin Robins.

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See newer comments on this subject here: Robin Robins' System Does Not Work

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Normally, I keep the Blog and the email list separate. From time to time I post to both so I can introduce blog readers to the email list and email readers to the blog.

The blog is at http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com
Sign up for the free email list at http://www.greatlittlebook.com

Friday, April 06, 2007

$200 Miracle

I'm amazed at the people I meet in this business who haven't yet hired an assistant of some kind.

To be honest, it took me ten years to decide that I needed someone. If I had it to do over, I'd hire an assistant my first year.

I refer to my assistant, Jennifer, as my $200 miracle. That's what it cost me per week when I first hired her.

Depending on where you live, you should be able to find an office assistant/bookkeeper for about $10/hr. Start out with 20 hours a week. That's a $200 miracle.

And what does Jennifer do for me?

- To start out, she makes sure bills get put into the system. So I can always open quickbooks and see what we owe at a glance. She works with the accountant to make sure we're using quickbooks properly. She balances the checkbook.

- She collects the mail when I don't. She gathers up all the checks and deposits them in the bank.

- When people are a bit slow to pay, she emails them, calls them, gets their credit card information, resends invoices, etc.

- Oh. And she prints up all the invoices for my review.

- She prints off all newsletters and marketing letters. Or has them printed someplace. Stuffs envelopes, applies postage, deals with the post office for bulk mail.

- When I hold seminars, she gets the fruit and coffee and pastries. She organizes all the sales materials, sends out packages as needed, and keeps track of all the office supplies. She orders supplies as needed.

- She handles new employee check-in, payroll processing, and printing all kinds of stuff I don't even keep track of any more. She proofreads everything.

- When something breaks, she calls the landlord or the fix-it place.

- And pretty much anything else we can think of. She's been known to get the pizza for staff meetings and take my car to get the oil changed.

- When there's too much for her to do, she supervises someone else to help get it all done.

--> And that's just for the consulting business. She does even more for the book business!


So this $200 miracle costs me about two hours of billable labor every week. And for that I get a bunch of stuff taken off my plate. A bunch of stuff that takes a bunch of time.

Getting Started

Do not -- repeat, do not -- put an ad in the paper or on craigslist for an administrative assistant. Holy Smokes, Batman. You'll be overwhelmed with totally useless resumes.

I started by putting out an ad for an assistant. Got about 130 resumes, including several dozen from out of state and out of country. "I'll be your virtual assistant." Sorry. A virtual assistant can't sit and wait for the air conditioning guy to show up. A virtual assistant can't run down to Staples for staples.

I started to plough through the resumes, but -- and this is key -- I was looking for someone because I was too busy. So I didn't want to read 130 resumes.

Reboot. I put a new ad on craigslist. I said I was looking for a "Person Friday" who would do whatever needs to be done around the office, including filling my car with gas. I only promised 20 hours. I think I got nine resumes. All of them were from people who were not looking at this as a career move that would eventually lead to being a $60,000 assistant to the governor. All of them understood that this was entry level and not particularly high paying.

I interviewed three people. They were all talented, with a decent education and job experience. To be honest, they were all Moms who needed to spend serious time with the kids and couldn't take a full time job. Their experience varied from graphics to teaching to office work. All were comfortable with computers. All were willing to work and had a great attitude.

Jennifer had some particular skills and interests. And, since she and her husband had owned an S-Corp, she understood some elements of the business side of business.

Over time, Jennifer has received more money, more responsibility, and more hours.

Fear Not

Experience tells us that fear is one of the major reasons we don't grow our businesses. Fear of handing the finances over to someone else. Fear of making a commitment you can't pay for. Fear that you won't have enough for the new person to do.

The reality is: You will need to do a bit of extra work in the beginning. Training takes time. You'll need to side-check her work until you're comfortable.

But here's the promise: If you hire a $200 miracle, she only needs to free up enough of your time to bill two additional hours to pay for it. At the end of a month, you'll have someone who relieves you of ten hours a week AND gets more things done than you do in two weeks. Your business will be able to get that newsletter out on a regular basis. Invoices will go out when they're supposed to. Expenses will be properly entered into quickbooks.

Take the $200 Miracle 30-day challenge: Hire someone 20 hours/week at $10/hr. for one month. My guess is, you'll see a dramatic improvement in your business -- and a reduction in your personal workload.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Finding Your Canary

One of the hardest parts about growing your business is losing clients.

Some clients you will lose because they're too small. I've discussed this elsewhere. If someone's worth $500 a year, they're not my client. If they have three desktops and no server, and they'll never buy one, they're not my client. etc.

Some of those people are old friends and you can't keep them as clients if you want to grow. Period.

Some clients fit your "profile" except that they're jerks. As they grow and get more successful, they become arrogant, pushy, abusive, etc. These are rare, but you have to recognize that they exist and cut them off before they suck time and money from your organization.

Some clients just won't be a good fit. For whatever reason, as you grow (and they grow), they'll be looking for something different than what you deliver today. It happens.

Now here's the meat: Some clients you love and want to keep, and they fit your profile. But they want YOU and not the technician who is now showing up to fix their stuff. To them, tech support comes from you, not your organization. You have been helping them for five years. You are the owner, operator, technician, chief cook, and bottle washer. You are tech support.

Those clients are key to your success. They got you here and you like working with them.

Virtually no one has a friendly, personable relationship with the xerox repairman or the mailman. You get invited to pot lucks and they don't. Your clients want to continue inviting you to pot lucks. They don't want tech support from "an organization," no matter how good it is. They want you.

You need to figure out how to keep these clients.

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Every SMB Consultant should have an Ideal Client.

Your ideal client will be the right size. They will take your advice and pay their bill in a timely manner. They will comply with license agreements and buy new equipment on the schedule you recommend. Etc.

You must define your ideal client so you can go get more just like that.

And when you do that -- define your ideal client -- you will find yourself looking at your current clients. One or two names will constantly pop up.

"We love ABC."

"I'll take a dozen clients like ABC."

"Every client should another ABC."

"Every new client will be an ABC."

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And then one day, ABC calls you and says "We miss you. Tech support hasn't been the same. We like the way things used to be."

You just found your canary.

And as you go down into the tunnel of your new job, building your new business, this canary will tell you how well you're doing.

If you begin to hear rumblings from your ideal client, you need to freeze your machinery and address the situation. Not the situation with this ONE client, but with your organization.

Because you've defined the ideal client and now you have problems keeping them happy. If this is really your ideal client, you need to completely organize your structure around making this client happy forever. Because if you start losing your ideal clients, then your entire operation is broken.

Key Lesson:
In addition to finding your ideal client, you need to restructure your organization to serve that client and keep them forever.

When the canary stops singing your praises, you have a major problem. You've put everything on this perfect client, but you don't have an organization that makes the perfect client perfectly happy.

Stop now and figure it out.

Is this still your ideal client? If so, restructure for success. Interview them. Listen, listen, listen. Do what they want. Have a heart to heart. Take them to lunch. Find out what they need.

If not, then you need to figure out who your ideal client really is. There's no point moving forward until you do this. You can't rush around delivering something that doesn't work.

Feed your canary. Tend to it. Make it thrive.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Relax Focus Succeed(R) off to the the printers

It's off to the printers!

296 pages.

Relax Focus Succeed(R) by Karl W. Palachuk has been shipped off to the printers.

Unlike my briefer technology books that sell for more, this book is intended for a much wider audience. So the price is a mere $29.95.

I was talking to my wife about this book, and speculating about how many might sell. After pondering a bit, and considering distribution fees, cost of printing, etc. we concluded that it will never really make any money, no matter how many we sell.

So she asked the question "Then why are you doing it?"

I don't know, for sure, except that there's this thing inside of me. It's changed my life dramatically. And I have to tell people. So I do the Relax Focus Succeed(R) web site, and the newsletter.

And now I got the book.

So maybe that will be out of my system and I can move on.

All that might sound like P.R. and B.S., but it's true. You go write a 300 page book and see how you feel!

And now I'll wait for Vlad Mazek(tm) to email me and tell me I'm a consumate salesman (that's not the exact term he uses).

Anyway, tonight I ordered 1,000 copies printed.

The extremely utilitarian cover may be viewed at: http://www.relaxfocussucceed.com.

Making Time

Vlad (http://www.vladville.com) poses the question: How does one manage to get more things done in less time?

There's a real challenge to this. Some would ask, "How do you make time . . ." but Vlad knows you don't make time at all. We each get the same number of minutes in the day, the week, and the month.

The first step is to get more done in the same amount of time as everyone else. The next step is to get more done in less time.

Is such a thing really possible? Of course it is. Look around and you'll see plenty of people who get amazing amounts of work done. They seem to have major accomplishments announced all the time.

Without simply telling everyone to just go read the entire RelaxFocusSucceed.com web site, let me answer Vlad's challenge. To wit: how do I reduce the time commitment and stress related to running a business?

First
The most important thing I do in my life and for my business is to sit down every morning, take some quiet time, and prepare for my day. I do a little relaxation exercise. I write out 1-3 goals for each of the three most important areas of my life: Personal, family, and work.

These goals are actions that need to be done today. They are directly related to my goals for the week, the month, and the year.

There's nothing new here. If you read Making It Big In Small Business by Beatrice Mulzer, you'll find that morning quiet time and goal setting is a common theme. I practice it religiously because it keeps me focused and on track.

If you want to make something happen (have a personal life, don't work weekends, double your income), you need to focus on that every day and not let it get lost in all the busy-ness that steals your time.

Second
I don't do everything myself. I don't even try.

This also sounds simple. But it's actually very hard. As a business owner, and the founder, and the chief technical resource, it is very tempting to believe that only I can do it right, only I care about the customers, and only I can manage the money. After all, only I can set the work priorities, only I can do employee reviews, only I can handle client renewals. And on and on and on.

Learning that I can hand a job to someone and then hold that person accountable has dramatically increased my ability to get more done.

Again, it sounds simple, but it's the single biggest hurdle at every stage of growth for any business. Look at your clients and you'll see this is true.

Some businesses are stuck at three people because the owner won't give up the customer relations. Some are stuck at five because the owner won't give up finance. Some are stuck at twenty because the owner won't give up the H.R. function.

One of my long term goals is to set my little consulting business free from my daily control. The only connections will be a single monthly meeting and large dividend checks. That's only going to happen when I trust other people to handle every single thing that needs to be done.

Third
I attend professional events, go to seminars, and talk to lots of people in this business.

Did you ever see the movie Starship Troopers? There's a scene where the alien sticks a probe into the good guy's head and sucks out all of his knowledge. That's me. Just ask Dave Sobel, a recent victim.

Thank God I don't have a job! I'm lucky enough to be working in one of the most exciting, growing, changing, challenging, and rewarding professions there is today. I love this profession. Which means I love sitting around with other nerds and talking about how they do stuff (and how we do stuff).

Even posting this simple blog brings feedback. People email me questions and suggestions. It all contributes to making the business run more smoothly with less of my time.

I could go on and on. I could write a monthly newsletter on this stuff. I could write a book. But that's my short answer to Vlad's challenge.