Saturday, August 30, 2008

Managed Massage

How will people buy services in the future? In a managed model.

Case in point: There's a franchise appearing in your neighborhood called Massage Envy. Cool logo.

Here's the basic program: You join and receive a certain level of service (one 1-hour massage per month). In Sacramento the price is $59 per month. (Rolls over to next month if not used.)

You may also upgrade for a reasonable fee. Make that a 90 minute massage for $18 more.

Buy additional services at a reduced rate. Additional hour massages only $39.

Reduced monthly rates for family members.

Hmmmm.

My wife refers to this as Managed Massage.

Even with well-being, the focus on maintenance prevents more expensive break/fix work.

The environment is modern, professional, clean, and has the latest tools and techniques.

Overall, this specific idea is good. But I think it really does represent how we'll be buying services in the future. By subscription. With a flat-fee portion and preferred rates for services.

Many businesses already have Managed Window Washing, Managed Copier Maintenance, and even Managed Legal Services.

They don't call it that. But maybe someday they will.

:-)

Friday, August 29, 2008

If It Flies, It Dies

Duck Update: The Gaggle Has Arrived

We're getting ready for SMB Nation over in the palacial offices of SMB Books. The week started off with a bang, so to speak:

Duck
Boxes of Ducks

More Ducks
A Tableful of Ducks

and the week concluded with the arrival of weaponry.

Ducks with Guns

Fair Warning on Duck Shooting

To shoot a duck, you will need one of two things. Either a real, printed business card, or a duck hunting license.

If you come to the booth and do not have a business card, we'll send you off to print your own duck hunting license.

Why not just let people shoot ducks? There are three reasons for this.

First, MOST people who are paying thousands of dollars for a booth have no idea why they're at the show. Ask them. They'll tell you that they're "getting the word out" or "having a presence" or some such nonsense. Take "presense" to the bank and see if they cash it.

SMB Books has specific goals. Harry has promised 600-800 attendees. We want everyone who is not on our mailing list to join the mailing list. So, to shoot a duck, you need to give me info that puts you on the mailing list.

Second, you need real, printed business cards. Even if you have to get them free at Vista Print and have someone else's logo on the back. There are only a handful of things that every business person must do. One of them is to have business cards. For roughly three hundred years, this is how business people have introduced themselves to one another.

Third, we're not worried about alienating people who don't have business cards and won't give us a valid email address (via the duck hunting license request). If you can't spend $5.95 at Vista Print for professional business cards, then I don't think you'll spend $25 or $50 or $100 for a book to improve your business.

- - - - -

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pack a BIG box of ducks and ammo for shipping to Seattle.

See you Oct. 3rd for the big SMB Pre-Day Show with Erick Simpson.

and Oct. 4-6 on the floor of the vendor hall at SMB Nation.

:-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

OOF - What's Your Policy?

In Microsoft-speak, OOF means Out of Facility. This is a holdover from the way old days of Microsoft's original email system, Xenix. Think early and mid-1990's.

Anyway, we refer to OOF as Out of Office because we create an Out of Office message, even though the facility for getting this done is OOF.

Whatever.

- - - - -

How do you use your Out of Office reply system?

Here are a few options:

  • None Allowed
    Some people turn it off because they don't want auto-replies going out of the office. It just alerts spammers that they've found a legitimate address.

  • Not Used
    I personally rarely use them. Important email to my company rarely goes to me. I travel a lot and get back to people when I can. Most of the time, my clients have no idea when I'm out of town. And most of my Internet friends don't care where I am.

  • Detailed Information
    Some folks give great, detailed information about how to proceed in their absense.

    This is an actual OOF reply. I've changed the name so you don't go break into his house while he's on vacation:

    From: craig@xxxxxxxxtech.com
    Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2008 9:18 PM
    To: karlp@greatlittlebook.com
    Subject: RE: Karl's SMB Email August 25th

    [This is an automated reply from Craig xxxxxxxx]

    I'm on a family vacation through September 1st. I won't be checking email or the phone while
    I'm away. For a prompt response, or computer support, please resend your email to
    help@xxxxxxxxtech.com. Our office manager David can put you in touch with any of our techs,
    and we'll help get your issue addressed quickly.

    While I'm gone, the rest of xxxxxxxx team is here to support you. xxxxxxxx's weekly
    webinars are happening every week:
    http://xxxxxxxxtech.com/webinars/

    Our weekly tips newsletter comes out each Monday:
    http://xxxxxxxxtech.com/tips/

    And of course, the rest of the technical team is here to make sure your computers are running
    smoothly. Thanks for your email.

    ~Craig

    ---
    Phone: 123-456-7890
    Email: help@xxxxxxxxtech.com
    Web: www.xxxxxxxxtechs.om


    KP Note: I love that reply. Lots of useful information. It gives a real sense that you're going to be taken care of while Craig's out of the facility.

  • Short And to The Point

    This message also gives clear information on how things will work in the recipient's absense, but is pretty sparse:

    Apologies, but I'm not currently available. If your enquiry is business critical & thus very urgent, please call my office on 0845-123-4567 and ask to speak with Tina.

    Alternatively, I'll respond to your email as soon as possible.

    Many thanks for your message and your patience!

    Sincerely,

    Nxxx Pxxxx


  • Or Just Plain Fun

    This one is not anonymous because it's very clever and Robbie's back from vacation, so you're less likely to break into his house.

    Thurs 21st - Monday 25th August:

    Lift tickets - stupidly expensive.

    Accommodation on snow - outrageous.

    Hiring skis, boots, poles, goggles etc etc - more money than I've got.

    Not having to think about anything other than avoiding trees & avalanches whilst shooshing down the snowy slopes of Thredbo for 3 days? Priceless. :-)

    Sorry folks but I'll be either up a mountain or down in the bar, returning Tuesday 26th & so if urgent, please contact Michelle Agudera on i-michea@microsoft.com or 02 9870 2308.

    Cheers,

    Robbie Upcroft
    The World's Worst Skier



Just as with every other thing in your organization, your out of office (OOF) reply should be intentional. It should get the message across both in terms of content (how to get help) and tone (friendly, business-like, stuffy, etc.).

What goes out when you're not in?

:-)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Super Bonus Book Deal

I'm not sure how it happens, but we've fallen into the same pattern as every bookstore on earth: We have some stock we need to get rid of.

Some books are old and out of date (e.g., 2003). Some are just left on the shelf after they stopped selling.

So we have a two-part deal for you.

Until our overstock is gone, here's the deal:

  1. Enter the secret code

    gimme5

    while shopping at smbbooks.com.

  2. We'll give you an immediate $5 USD discount.

    One per customer, please.

  3. We will also email to you a list of the overstock books we have in inventory -- and you get to have one for FREE!

We could sell these books at 50% or 80% or 90% off, but let's face it: This is lost money. We paid for the books and they're perfectly good, but I'd rather get rid of them than buy a new shelf. So we're writing off the rest of it and giving them away.

Then Lana gets to use that shelf space for something else.

- - - - -

Here's what you do:

- Go to SMB Books web site.

- Place an order of $5 or more.

- Enter the secret code gimme5 at checkout.

- You'll get $5 off and a free book.

Life is good, isn't it?

Valid through 9/7/2008.
Free books last while stock on hand is still available. You still get the $5 discount.

Tell your friends.

:-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MSP Revolution Preday - Matt Makowicz and Stuart Selbst

Matt Makowicz sent me a note the other day. He wants to make sure the entire universe knows that he's doing a great pre-day event for MSP Revolution with Stuart Selbst from Secure My Company.

I can't inform the universe, but at least I can make sure the seven readers of this blog are informed.

The details are posted on the SMB Preday web site. But here are the basics.

Title:
"How to add $100K (or More) in Revenue in The Next Six Month"

Presenters:
Matt Makowicz from Ambition Mission
Stuart Selbst from Secure My Company

Date:
Thursday, September 4th.

Location:
Chicago, IL

Bonus Materials:
Every attendee will get a choice of one of Matt's books AND full use of 10 Kaseya licenses for 60 days from Secure My Company!

First, bestselling author Matt Makowicz of Ambition Consulting unveils five proven, affordable, and simple marketing strategies that can be implemented immediately.

Second, VP of Secure My Company, Stuart Selbst will teach simple sales techniques that work every time and can be used right away even by those who "are not salespeople."

As an added bonus, Matt & Stuart will also explain how to increase revenue even more with easy to bundle value added services to your customers for even more revenue or profit.

Registration discount information is posted at the SMB Preday web site.

Check it out.

And I'll see you in Chicago at the MSP Revolution conference!

:-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

September is SBS Buzz Month

I posted the latest SMB Email this morning. If you're not a subscriber, go to http://www.greatlittlebook.com/Mailing_List.htm and sign up. FREE.

With Events and Pre-Day events in Australia and the U.S., I count 26 SBS-focused events in September. Now, of course, I haven't been given information for all the other countries in the world. Send your in-person events and I'll add them to the calendar.

Anyway, that's quite a little Buzz Factory for SBS and for SMB Consultants.

Somewhere on that list, I hope you'll find an event to attend.

If not, there's a ton of online training, webinars, and podcasts.

If you haven't touched SBS 2008, you've got about 6-8 weeks before it starts showing up.

- - - - -

Tip of the Hat to Erick Simpson

Just before we went live with my SMB Conference Call a few weeks ago, Erick informed me that my GoToWebinar.com account included the ability to have 1,000 guests. I primarily use that account for client-focused seminars, so I didn't know I had that many lines!

Anyway, I've decided to move the SMB Conference Call over to that service. My teleconference service does most things well and a few things poorly. So I'm going try the other service I'm already paying for.

For recording, I've acquired and tested a product called EZPhone Recorder. Seems to work great and should allow me to get the SMB Conference Call posted to the web site in short order.

NOTE: this means you need to now Register for the SMB Conference Call.

Go do that now so you don't forget.

- - - - -

The next SMB Conference Call is on Zero Downtime Migration.

That means no company-wide downtime for any critical functions. And less than one our of downtime per desktop.

It means doing system migrations during the day (8 AM to 5 PM), at a leisurely pace. Low stress.

It means your customers can go on making money while you migrate the network.

Find out how: Wednesday, Sept. 3rd at 9:00 AM Pacific.

Register Now.

B-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Picking Your Partners

My friends Arlin and Vlad have been having a public exchange about partnering with Microsoft.

I've had my share of thoughts on this subject myself. See, recently, Vendor Loyalty Goes Both Ways and Grading the Microsoft Relationship.

The interesting question for me is: How closely should my company be to a "Microsoft only" or "Microsoft first" shop?

On one hand, Microsoft is just another vendor. On the other hand, they're the 800 pound gorilla of vendors.

I can easily move clients from Cisco to Sonicwall, or Sonicwall to Cisco. We recently made the move from Symantec Anti-Virus to Trend. No blips. No arguments. We just did it.

Even getting rid of Dell isn't a challenge. We wait for something to go wrong and quote HP.

Moving clients off of Microsoft would be a much slower and more difficult process.

KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) has been a Microsoft Certified Partner for almost ten years. Our 3-second tag line is that "We design, build, and support Microsoft networks."

We are a Microsoft shop.

When we need a tool, we look to Microsoft. That's true whether it's an Office product, a resource kit add-on, or a power toy. Our zero downtime migration is accomplished almost entirely with Microsoft tools.

But we do not embrace Microsoft to the exclusion of the rest of the world.

And by world, I mean world.

Microsoft's first-line tech support for SBS has been horrible for years. We have simply abandoned it in favor of Zenith and other options.

If some day the only version of Microsoft Office available is through Office Live, then we will use and sell something else.

Right now I have two servers in my home. Microsoft Home Server and a Linux box.

Most partners I talk to are the same: they balance four factors:
1) "What works"
2) Cost
3) What's right for the client
4) Working with vendors who are good to work with

A great example is Groove. Vlad takes a quick jab at "Grove" in his post above. Groove is an embarrassing, kludgy collection of tools thrown together without much glue.

Warning: Old Man Story Approaching

In the days of Windows 3.1 and 3.11 for Workgroups (yes, two distinctly different versions), you could not connect to the internet without some effort.

First, you were running a 16-bit system. So you had to install a 32-bit emulator.

Then and only then could you install the sockets needed to connect to the Internet. Of course, the World Wide Web was still hidden away in a particle physics lab, so all you could really do was telnet and ftp.

And yet, even in 1993-1994, brave and optimistic programmers released collections of tools so that a DOS/Windows PC could do all the things a Unix box could do: Finger, ping, nslookup, telnet, etc.

It was a fun time to be a nerd.

That's what Groove reminds me of.

Except that really great versions of all the tools inside Groove already exist somewhere else. Everyone does these things better than Groove.


Just yesterday, a pissed off partner emailed me about being taken for granted by Microsoft. "They want us to be their sales drones, no matter how poorly they treat us."

The bottom line hasn't changed: You need to look after your business. One piece of that is building long-term relationships that work for your company. Where it makes sense to partner with Microsoft, do it. Where it makes sense to partner with someone else, do it.

Because, at the same time, you are building relationships with your clients that need to be profitable to your company and to the clients. You need to give them good, long-term advice. If everyone makes money in the long run, the cost becomes less relevant. That leaves "what works," what's right for the client, and a vendor relationship that's good for you.

"Selling out" has no meaning in this context. We're all in business to make money. Making money by building the right partnership with Microsoft is not selling out.

:-)

Tech Ed Australia Kicks Booty Down Under

I've been chatting with Wayne Small, MVP from Down Under.

And he mentioned the butt-kicking pre-day event he's putting on for the Microsoft Tech Ed conference in Sydney Sept. 2nd.

Check out all the juicy details Here.

And get a summary of all the pre-day events on the Australian Tech Ed page at SMBPreday.com.

One of the coolest additions to the agenda is a Student Day to introduce professional I.T. to the high school (morning) and university (afternoon) students. We need more of that!

Wayne's event is the Windows Essential Server System (SMB Day) event.

The SMB Day also features our good friends Robbie Upcroft and Dean Calvert. Festivities start with nibbles and registration at 7:30 AM and go through about 5:30 PM.

Then the big Tech Ed Welcome party is scheduled from 6:00 PM until "very late." Sounds like an Australian good time!

From the web site, here's a summary of What will you get out of it?
  • 300-LEVEL CONTENT - on Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 - Enterprise-class Server Solutions, designed and priced for SMBs.

  • DEMONSTRATIONS - will show the installation, set up, deployment and migration from previous versions, and updated features.

  • NETWORK WITH YOUR PEERS - at the premier event for Microsoft SBS partners this year.

  • ROUNDTABLE the issues, and gain tips for driving your business from your Peers, with extensive Partner-to-Partner content.


OH, I wish I were going to be there.

Plus, attendees get an okay-to-sell full version of SBS 2008.

Thanks for the info, Wayne.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SBS Sizing

Manuel and I had lunch with a partner yesterday that included a very interesting exchange.

The partner commented that he wasn't sure whether he'll be installing SBS 2008. Why? Because it seems like it's geared toward larger offices.

Manuel was quick to point out: If you would install SBS 2003 at that client's office, then SBS 2008 is perfectly appropriate. It is, after all, just the newest version of that product.

More importantly, I'm concerned about how someone got the impression that SBS was for larger offices. Is this a common perception in the community?

Are you planning to change your marketing or recommendations when SBS 2008 ships?

Perhaps the SBS/EBS messaging has muddied the waters.

I really don't know where this perception came from. But I'm concerned that the perception exists.

- - - - -

I stated about ten months ago that the technology roadmap for servers in the small space is different in the realworld than Microsoft wants it to be. See Oct 2007 post.

So if someone decides to put Home server in a five-user office, that makes sense to me.

But what's your realistic alternative for an office with 10+ users?

I hope you're not planning to sell them Server 2008 plus Exchange. Save the money and go with SBS 2008.

Now, if the client is more like 65 users with a gaggle of servers, then you certainly need to quote the separate products.

Of course the unspoken alternative is "other."

Other might mean hosting files on some cloud service (eFolder, etc.), having email hosted (Own Web Now, etc.), and using an industrial strength NAS device from HP or Dell.

Other usually means no domain control, no centralized security, and no Microsoft.

What does your future look like?

Are you under the impression that SBS 2008 is for a larger audience than SBS 2003? If so, what will you be selling?

Friday, August 22, 2008

SBS Announcements - Launch Party

Yesterday the Cougar Beta team informed me that the real, live product has been released to manufacturing.

The baby is due in early October.

Today Harry B asked me to make sure you know that there's going to be a major launch party for Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008.

Where: SMB Nation in Seattle
- In fact, on the pier while Harry also launches a boat!

When: October 4th (Saturday)

How: Register Today!

The big party is really SMB Nation 2008, which will have more than 600 attendees and last three days.

Here's the sponsor line-up for this year:

Platinum
Intel
Trend Micro
HP
Microsoft

Gold
Autotask
CMIT Solutions
Aastra
SonicWall
Labtech

Silver
D&H
The Planet
Connectwise
Citrix
N-able
Reflexion
Tigerpaw Software
Nero
19Marketplace
Symantec
StorageCraft
Acronis
Calyptix
MaxSP
Doyenz
EMC Retrospect
Quanta\Syspine
Zenith Infotech
Linked In
Backup Assist
CRU DataPort
WatchGuard.

Bronze
Netgear
Untangle
CTL Computers
Level Platforms (LPI)
MSP Partners
Linksys by Cisco
Comcast
Diskeeper
Expetec
New Global Telecom (NGT)
Pronto Marketing
eFolder
CoreConnex
Highly Reliable Systems
Napera Networks
Independent Computer Consultants Association (ICCA)
Integrated mar.com

Special Bronze sponsors:

- SMB Books
- Results Software
- Technology Marketing Toolkit

- - - - -

The three-day conference will also feature three major pre-day events:

- Absolute Best Practices by Karl Palachuk and Erick Simpson.
- - Find out more and register at http://www.smbpreday.com/smbnation2008/

- 10 Proven, Affordable Marketing Strategies to Get New Customers by Matt Makowicz.
- - Find out more and register at http://www.smbpreday.com/smbnation2008/

- Client Attraction and Marketing Blueprint by Robin Robins.
- - Find out more and register at http://www.smbpreday.com/smbnation2008/

- - - - -

So Harry wants to know:
Where will you be October 3-6, 2008?

Attendees can learn more and register at www.smbnation.com.

:-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

SBS 2008 Released to Manufacturing

Just got a note to "Cougar" beta testers from the development team.

12:35PM Pacific.

SBS 2008 was released to manufacturing today.

Retail and volume licensing products will be available in early October.

Now all we need are the books . . .

. . . Where are the books?

:-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Zero Downtime Migrations

At the excellent SMBTN conference this spring, one of the speakers from Microsoft was talking about the great migration routine for SBS 2008.

I have great respect for him, so I won't mention his name. But he made the point that you are limited to 52 network migrations a year . . . because there are only 52 weekends in a year.

At KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist), we respectfully disagree. I have mentioned many times in public, at seminars, and on the SMB Conference Call, that we don't work weekends. And we don't work evenings.

Does that mean we don't do network migrations? No. I like to say that we work smarter, not harder. (hmmmm. Wonder if I can copyright that?)

We migrate client systems during normal business hours -- With ZERO company-wide downtime. And less than one hour of downtime per desktop.

Over the last few years, we have developed a system of migrating companies to new servers during normal business hours with no significant impact on their business.

In large companies, this is standard operating procedure (or could be) because they have multiple servers, and multiple domain controllers. They can move domain control, and even global catalog services around without bothering the staff.

But small businesses face a special challenge: They normally only have one server. Or, if it's a Small Business Server, it has to be the center of the universe.

How do you move Exchange, SQL, line of business applications, and other critical functions to a new server with zero downtime?

This is About Techniques, Not Tools

First, Zero Downtime means no company-wide downtime for the server, the primary line-of-business applications, email, etc.

Second, ZDTM means letting the clients work throughout the day. So we don't send everyone home, keep them out of the most important data, and keep them away from their email.

Ever.

The focus is primarily on the SMB market, but these basic techniques will work for any migration.

The bottom line is that the tools and techniques you need for ZDTM have evolved over time. But they're cheap (or free) and widely available. What you need is a recipe or technique.

There are no specialty tools here. And no magic. In fact, most of the tools we use are available in the Microsoft resource kits or available for free download from the Microsoft web site.

Selling the Client

We have had clients argue with us about this.

"But we have to be off the server."
No you don't.

"We can't work in the primary line of business application."
Yes you can.

"It has to be done after hours."
No it doesn't.

"We'll have to stay out of email."
No you won't.

"If you migrate the server during business hours we'll be down."
No you won't.

"If you migrate the server during business hours, our work will be interrupted."
No it won't.

- - - - -

Our largest network migration using this technique was 70 desktops.

This is generally a low-stress process with two days on site at the client office.

There is no magic.

Employees who are not involved in the planning discussion generally don't know that anything is going on.

Why should clients pay after-hours rates to migrate a network?

Why should you pay your technicians overtime rates to migrate a network?

Let's all just learn how to step up to the next level and do our jobs during normal business hours.

This is the 21st century. Network migration doesn't have to be a major drama that requires the complete interruption of your client and 100% of the attention of your company. It's just a job. Do it right and it doesn't have to be an "event."

As I write this today, KPEnterprises is performing two server replacements in "real time" at two different clients. One is a SQL server and the other is an SBS server with fifty desktops.

Manuel is in the office orchestrating this by telephone. I just spent the morning doing the SMB Conference Call. Now I'm writing this blog post.

There's no drama here. It's not a crisis. It's not two crises.

If you are interested in Zero Downtime Migrations, I ask two things of you:

1) Post your questions to this blog and I'll try to answer them all. If you email me, you'll get an answer eventually, but perhaps not as timely.

2) Mark your calendar for September 3rd. The SMB Conference Call will feature my brother and the President of KPEnterprises, Manuel Palachuk. We're going to explain ZDTM and how you can do it. Tune in.

- - - - -

Here's a hint: The most important piece of this process is that you have to assume it CAN be done. After that, it's just a matter of figuring out HOW it can be done.

In the Super-Good Project Planner I give some examples that will help you see the light. One is about using Exchange Defender to move a client from one ISP to another with zero loss of email.

Think along those lines and join us Sept. 3rd.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wed. Aug 20: Jerry From The ASCII Group

We have a great SMB Conference call scheduled for Wednesday.

If you are not a member of ASCII, you should listen in to this call and find out what they're up to.

If you ARE a member, then you should listen in to make sure you're taking full advantage of your membership.

Our special guest is Jerry Koutavas, Vice President of Business Development for The ASCII Group, Inc.

Jerry is responsible for all aspects of the company's vendor and reseller community programs. For over 13 years, Jerry has held a unique vantage point of listening to both resellers and vendors and understanding not only what makes them tick but more importantly what they lack in terms of driving relationships and revenue.

This call will address how to maintain the trusted advisor role with your customers while expanding upon revenue opportunities that are tailored to fit your customer base – quickly and effectively.

To join the conference call:

- Wed. August 20th. 9:00 AM

- Dial (319) 279-1000 (U.S. phone number)

- Your participant passcode is 1024518.

- This call is limited to the first 300 attendees.

- - - - -

And here's a sneak peek for Sept. 3rd:
Zero Downtime Migrations . . . Stay tuned.

:-)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Check Out Karl's SMB Calendar

If you don't subscribe to my weekly SMB Email, I recommend it (wow, big surprise).

An important part of that email is the SMB Calendar.

We have just added almost 20 events to that calendar -- between now and the end of this year.

So you have time to sign up now. The email will go out Monday morning. That's one minute after midnight on the East Coast of the U.S.

- - - - -

Why don't I just list it all here or on a web site?

To be honest, I think calendars are more useful in email. Blogs just naturally age quickly. So they're great for "real time" announcements. For example:



But a more comprehensive calendar would become outdated quickly. And who wants to spend the rest of their life updating old blog posts? (Not me.)

The SMB Books web site brags about providing "Resources for SMB Consultants." Why not there?

Or the Great Little Book web site, home of the SMB Conference Call. Why not there?

The truth is, I would feel obligated to keep a calendar up to date if I posted it on a web site.

With email, I can do my best on a once-a-week basis. When someone gives me an additional event, I can add it. If there's a correction, I dutifully make it in the next email. If a link changes, I fix it.

It's useful and manageable.

- - - - -

I've had people tell me "I want to see the calendar, but I don't want your email. Where else can I find this?"

Here's the deal: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

My SMB Email is totally event-focused. If you want to scour the internet and collect all this information in one place, please do so.

If you want me to try to do it, you'll find it in the email.

Reading (or ignoring) advertisements about seminars is part of the price of admission.

If you have any complaints about this policy, please click here.

- - - - -

Subscribe to my SMB Email Now

:-)

Ducks Making Their Way to Seattle

The duck order was confirmed. Will ship Monday.

What kind of ducks can you win if you visit the SMB Books booth at SMB Nation?

Here's what we ordered:

Doctor Rubber Duckies

Dentist Rubber Duckies

Sports Rubber Duckies

Pirate Rubber Duckies

Camouflage Rubber Duckies

Fiesta Rubber Duckies

Professional Rubber Duckies

Cowboy Rubber Duckies

Princess Rubber Duckies

Beach Rubber Duckies

Nurse Rubber Duckies

Race Car Driver Rubber Duckies

Armed Forces Rubber Duckies

Hippie Rubber Duckies

Propeller Beanie Rubber Duckies

Cheerleader Rubber Duckies

Fairy Tale Rubber Duckies

'50s Style Rubber Duckies

Rock Star Rubber Duckies

Ninja Rubber Duckies

Cat Rubber Duckies

Dog Rubber Duckies

Biker Rubber Duckies

Referee Rubber Duckies

Golfer Rubber Duckies

Farm Rubber Duckies
Construction Rubber Duckies

Safari Rubber Duckies

Tennis Player Rubber Duckies

Lifeguard Rubber Duckies

Lucky Rubber Duckies

Artist Rubber Duckies

Pilot Rubber Duckies

Hockey Rubber Duckies

Redneck Rubber Duckies

Karate Rubber Duckies

Halloween Rubber Duckies

Thanksgiving Rubber Duckies

Mad Scientist Rubber Duckies

Mardi Gras Rubber Duckies

I Love You Rubber Duckies

Devil Rubber Duckies

Luau Rubber Duckies

Patriotic Rubber Duckies

Angel Rubber Duckies

Penguin Rubber Duckies

Reindeer Rubber Duckies

Holiday Rubber Duckies

Caroling Rubber Duckies

Holiday Mouse Rubber Duckies

Nutcracker Rubber Duckies

Soccer Rubber Duckies

Basketball Rubber Duckies

Red And White Football Rubber Duckies

Football Rubber Duckies

Cute Weighted Rubber Duckies

Carnival Rubber Duckies


We only ordered 1-2 dozen of each. So if you want, for example, a race car driver rubber duck, you'll need to come by the booth early and take your shot.

If you knock a duck off the shelf, you get to keep it.

If you want to be a guaranteed winner whether you knock off a duck or not, you need a Duck Hunting License. Available for FREE at Great Little Book.

We have ordered more ducks than there will be attendees at the conference. So you can win more than once.

You also win discounts from SMBBooks.com -- even though everything's on sale every day already.

Get that license now and I'll see you at SMB Nation!

:-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sound Bytes Two - Erick and Karl

A few days ago I posted a sound byte from my SMB Conference Call with Erick Simpson last week.

Here's another one. Five minutes in length.

In this Sound Byte, Erick and I discuss what we're doing in Seattle for the big pre-day seminar on October 3rd.

The theme is Absolute Best Practices.

One of the reasons I like working with Erick is that he's passionate about best practices.

Check out the audio at http://www.smbbooks.com/categories/freeaudio.htm.

The entire call is posted on the SMB Conference Call Page.

- - - - -

And as long as you're at it, NOW is the time to register for the big pre-day seminar.

October 3, 2008
2-6 PM
Seattle Marriott
Seattle, WA

You can register here: http://www.smbbooks.com/products/seminarkp20081003.htm.

In addition to great content, we've got two special deals:

Special Offer #1:

Every person who registers for this event will receive two FREE audio books. Find out more and sign up today.

That makes this seminar too good to pass up!


Special Offer #2:

All attendees will receive a special discount on Erick's next book:

"The Best IT Service Delivery BOOK EVER! - Break-Fix, Managed Services, Professional Services and Hardware Warranty Services"

which we'll launch at the event!

:-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Monkey is Born

After lo these many days . . . the Monkey stirs.



I am proud to announce that Promotion Monkey memberships will be available September 1st, 2008.

This is not (necessarily) a technology-focused adventure.

If you promote anything on the Internet, then you should give the Promotion Monkey a whirl.

Please check it out at PromotionMonkey.com

Thank You.

:-)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sound Bytes from SMB

Had a great SMB Conference Call with Erick Simpson a few days ago. Anything with Erick is always great.

The call is posted on the SMB Conference Call Page. Scroll down to the section labeled Info from Previous SMB Conference Calls.

The topic is "Super Duper Help Desk." As you may have guessed, that's my title and not Erick's.

Anyway . . .

Before we got into the meat of that broadcast, Erick and I stumbled onto two side conversations that may also be of interest, so I edited them out and posted them separately on the Free Audio section of SMB Books. Notice, on the left side of the page is a new area called "Free Audio Content."

The first extraction is a discussion of some of the specifics of the upcoming MSP Revolution Conference (see www.msprevolution.com. September 4-6 in Chicago.

The 4-minute sound byte is here: http://www.smbbooks.com/SoundBytes/blipvert1.mp3.

ALSO:

I posted the MSP Revolution Discount Code in my SMB Email, but forgot to post it here.

Special MSP Revolution Discount Code

Don't forget to take advantage of our discount code for MSP Revolution:

Go to www.msprevolution.com and enter the code GLB

You'll receive a $100 discount. That brings the price down from $399 to $299!

What's it all about? Listen to the SMB Conference Call with Amy on the SMB Conference Call Page.


Stay tuned for more free sound bytes.

:-)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Duck Hunting Starts October 3rd

SMB Books is proud to be a sponsor of this year's SMB Nation conference.

We have teamed up with Results Software to present information -- and fun -- during the whole conference.

Here's the deal.

We've built a ten-foot booth with a nice little shelf.

We're going to line the shelf with . . . Rubber Duckies.



Next, we hand you a Nerf gun . . .



and you get to shoot the ducks!



You get three shots. If you knock a duck off the shelf, you win the duck.

- - - - -

It gets better if you have a hunting license!

Go to http://www.greatlittlebook.com/Seminars/2008/licenseapp.htm to apply for your FREE Duck Hunting License.

Print out that Duck Hunting License and bring it to Booth 100 at SMB Nation.

You will receive three major bonuses:

1) You win a free duck whether you're a good shot or not. That's called Guaranteed Winner Status.

2) You receive an immediate $15 discount on any SMB Books purchase made during SMB Nation.

3) You receive an immediate $100 discount on any Results Software purchase made during SMB Nation.

Total Value: Priceless!

- - - - -

What Kind Of Ducks Are These?

Fun Ducks!

We've got

baseball ducks,

cheerleader ducks,

doctor ducks,

race car driver ducks,

farm yard ducks,

pirate ducks,

construction ducks,

hockey ducks,

cowboy ducks,

biker ducks,

fiesta ducks,

mardi gras ducks,

and even Mad Scientists Ducks.

We've got it all.

But you gotta get to Booth 100.

- - - - -

Must be present to win the free duck. We're not shipping these.

But the SMB Books discount and Results software are good online or in person -- during SMB Nation.

Please register for your FREE hunting license. Print it out and keep it in a safe place. Bring it to Booth 100.

- - - - -

For those of you who haven't connected all the dots, Great Little Book publishes my books and the GreatLittleBook.com web site is designed primarily as a place to highlight and sell my books.

SMB Books is owned by Great Little Book. The SMBBooks.com web site is designed to provide a wide variety of books, audio products, and other resources to the SMB Consulting community.

Results Software is not related to either of my web sites. They provide one set of products we are happy to carry at SMBBooks.com.

:-)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Erick Simpson on SMB Conference Call

Way back in January, the SMB Conference Call was launched with our special guest Erick Simpson.

We filled 100 phone lines! After that we moved to 300 lines. We haven't filled the lines since.

Let's see if we can fill them again.

Today's topic is . . .

Building and Running the Super Duper Service Desk

I hope you know Erick Simpson. If not, this will be a great introduction.

Erick is the author of two books on Managed Services. In fact, his double-whammy combo (Erick's two books for one low price) is a best seller at SMBBooks.com.

Erick is also the co-author of one other book (that I'm aware of). He travels the earth making presentations on building your business, marketing your business, and running your business.

Today's call will focus on the last of these: Running your business. In particular, we'll focus on the specifics of running your service department.

If you missed Erick's last SMB Conference Call, download it at the SMB Conference Call page.

You'll find Erick to be thoughtful, enjoyable, and profitable to listen to!

Join us and learn more.

-----

Find out more at The SMB Conference Call Page.

Tell all your friends and colleagues!

Here's your Conference Call information:

Date / Time
Wednesday August 6th, 2008
9:00 AM Pacific Time

Dial Conference Bridge:
(319) 279-1000
(U.S. phone number)
Your participant passcode is 1024518.

Look for more information on The SMB Conference Call Page.

:-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Amazing Free Virtualization Seminar

Amazing Free Virtualization Seminar

You've met Dave Sobel, and checked out his great blog posts on virtualization.

Now meet the man, the myth, the virtual guy . . .

Dave and I are putting on a seminar on September 4th, 2008 in Chicago. We are working with Amy and the good folks over at MSPSN and the MSP Revolution Conference. The seminar is totally FREE, but you gotta register.

Dave has received a lot of attention recently from Microsoft and others. He was quoted in ChannelWeb magazine during the Worldwide Partner Conference.

He made a major splash last year with his fantasy baseball game, combined with Exchange technologies, and Treo PDAs. Read the details here: http://www.treocentral.com/content/Stories/1201-1.htm.

For quotes by Dave in several other publications, including Redmond Channel Partner, see Dave's media page.

Does this guy have an agent?

Anyway, Dave runs a very successful SMB consulting business -- and he's one heck of a nice guy!

Here's the info on our September 4th Seminar:

The topic is . . .

Designing, Implementing, and Making Money with Virtual Environments
Come learn from two partners who run their own businesses with virtual environments and have each sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of virtual systems. You'll learn:

- The basics (hardware, software, the virtual environment)
- Designing a virtual environment
- Tools you'll need
- Right-sizing the hardware and setting expectations
- Implementing a virtual project -- profitably!
- Managing the virtual environment
- Licensing scenarios
- Building the future: hosted machines, instant backups, fast implementations, and more

Sign up today!

:-)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Documentation is Hard

I admit it: Documentation is hard.

I used to think it was easy. Only over time have I come to realize how hard it is.

My experience with documentation came from instructing others, not from documenting a process. I did document a process, but completely from the view of an end user.

The difference is dramatic, and sometimes difficult for programmers to understand.

I thought documentation was easy because I always did it from the user's perspective.

The first documentation I wrote was for an online information service (back when online meant modem dial-up. There was no world wide web.).

I had to document everything my employees needed to do to gather information, enter it into the computers, generate reports, and verify the data. In many cases, they did not understand what they were doing. But if they followed the steps exactly as outlined, they were perfectly successful.

In the last year I have invested in two major programs that cost hundreds of dollars each. Each has a massive amount of "documentation," but that documentation is essentially worthless to people who did not write the program.

This documentation was obviously written by developers.

There's something screwy about the modern programming era. Many people assume that anything with a graphical interface doesn't need documentation. I hope we all know that's not true.

There are primarily two types of bad documentation:

1) Type A Bad is the worst documentation. It focuses completely on a series of very specific functions and assumes complete knowledge of everything else.

2) Type B Bad is the second worst documentation. It describes every drop-down menu option without any really useful information.

For example:

On the Format menu . . .
- Reformat Paragraph opens a dialog box in which you can reformat a paragraph.
- Paragraph Formatting allows you to format a paragraph.
- Convert CR/LF to Wrap converts carriage return/line feeds to Wrap.
- Trim Trailing Spaces trims spaces for the end of lines.


No Kidding, Sherlock.

The problem with the Type A Bad documentation is that the writers are completely accurate, but don't give the user any context. They say "Select MAIN and choose the CPX function." But they don't give you a start page, a link, etc.

Main what? From where? Where do I start?

This documentation is written under the philosophy called PCIPU: Perfectly Clear If Previously Understood. If you know the software but haven't used a specific function, this documentation is great. But before you're an expert, it's almost useless.

The biggest solution for Type A Bad documentation is a really good Start Here section.

    OK, you got this thing installed. Now what do you do?

    "Start by creating categories and users. To create categories, go to the Options page and click . . .."


Once documentation is placed inside the context of meaningful tasks, people will find it very useful. After all, software is created in order to accomplish something. The user bought it for a purpose and seeks documentation in order to achieve that purpose.

Type B Bad documentation is also accurate, but almost never useful. If you can read the menu, you don't need this level of documentation.

The solution for Type B Bad documentation is to step back a layer and create more general topics. So, let the topic be formatting, and include the details within that. Don't repeat the menus, but simply state what's on them. Then, give hints, tips, examples, and hot-keys.

The overall problem with bad documentation is that it does not address the needs of the end user sitting down to do something for the first time.

Most of the time, most people using most software are task oriented. How do I create new users? How do I assign them to categories?

In addition to the basic skeleton of using the functions, documentation should focus on how to achieve things with the software. That's why examples and additional tips are valuable.

It is no surprise that the best selling software in the world (Microsoft's Office, Adobe CS3, etc.) have extremely good documentation. In addition to meaningful descriptions, the documentation is filled with examples.

- - - - -

One final type of bad documentation is a distant third, but worth noting: Video-only documentation.

If you like to learn from videos, then having them available is great. But video should always be a supplement to real documentation. Videos are not random access. They require a certain level of commitment from the viewer, which may not be available at the time documentation is needed.

You provide 600 hours of training videos? Great. After I'm done reading your documentation, I might access some of those videos. But I don't have 600 hours to come up to speed on your product.

- - - - -

The reality is: Almost no one reads all the documentation available. Most people read what they need, when they need it.

And what do they want to do immediately?

99% of the time, they want to complete a function. Create users. Add them to categories. And so forth.

I encourage you to participate in documentation feedback programs when asked.

Writing documentation is hard. In some ways, it's like editing your own writing. You know what you meant to write, so you see that every time you read it. Someone else needs to read your writing in order to give you accurate feedback.

And that someone needs to be completely honest.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I Had No Idea KPE Provided These Services

Well, it happened to me. I hear people say, and I hear myself say, that you need to make sure your clients know what you sell.

So yesterday, a tech forwards a client email to me. I do some research, provide a quote to the client, and remind her to contact me directly for sales. She responds:

Hi Karl,

I had no idea KPE provided these services. I accidentally sent this email to Dan at KPE instead of my Dan at Sierra. The consequences of outlook saving our email extensions. However, I will keep this in mind for future orders, that you are able to provide these services for us.

Thank you!


In this case, we're looking at toner supplies, which are a microscopic piece of what we do. It's not like they didn't know we can do network audits.

But clients put us in boxes. They might not call you for phones because you do computers, for example.

At some level, you can't win this battle. Client personnel keep changing. Roles get shifted. And you begin offering new things.

Here are a few things we do:

  • Monthly printed newsletter. Gets a lot more attention than the email newsletter. And we can include articles on "did you know we did this?"

  • Line cards. We print lists of all the products and services we sell. But, of course, not 100%. "I didn't know you could test the network wiring."

  • Flyers for specialty products and services. These are literally "Did you know we did this?" flyers.

  • Employee training. Our guys always make sure to mention to a client when we can help.


Clients like to find out when an existing vendor (you) does some thing they need doing.

We've had clients ask us to produce their newsletter because they like our newsletter. They know we're not in the newsletter business, but they like us, trust us, and like the product we produce.

Mixed in with everything else is the fact that clients are busy and keeping track of your business is not their job.

So, we just plug away, putting our information out there. And on the day they need something, we hope they'll remember that we do sell toner cartridges.

We could have a big push on this. And we might. But we make more profit from the regular sales of Cat6 cables. We don't want to be Toner World.

As a result, we do low level marketing of these products and services. And we know that a lot of clients don't know all the little things we do.

I sure hope they know the big things we do!