Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2009

Tomorrow - January 1, 2010 - will be a happy day for me. Not because of anything in particular except that it won't be 2009!

I am generally happy to own more than one company and to wake up every day picking and choosing what I want to do today. And for the most part that still holds true. But both businesses faced some real challenges this year, which makes it doubly tough some times.

Probably the best comment on the economy came from Motorola(1) Channel Chief Janet Schijns (see Motorola: Don't Blame the Economy.

    "Are you willing to make the claim that your business is only doing well because of the economy?

    No?

    Then you can't make the claim that your business is only doing poorly because of the economy!"


Bam! Right between the eyes. I'll always take the credit when my company kicks booty. So now that line is stuck in my head like a Weird Al Yankovic song and I can never blame the economy when it affects my business.

Realistically, here's where we went (up and down) in 2009.

We started down because we fired our largest client in late 2008. PITA x10. Not worth the effort. Then the stock market crashed and all of our clients took a collective deep breath. Which is to say, they stopped spending so they could figure out what's going on.

We laid off a technician in January, primarily because of the client we'd fired. Revenue climbed generally upward for the first half of the year. At some point we had replaced the lost revenue but not the technician. Thank you Zenith(2) and Autotask(3).

The best, hardest lesson we learned this year is that we need to be nimble and quick at cutting costs when revenues decline. Unfortunately, labor is the primary cost in our business. And that means I had to learn to lay off people I really like in order to keep my business in the black. This was very painful in July when our discretionary labor was 5% of what we had project it would be. Slashing people is very painful.

In the middle of the year our clients' pain was reflected in our primary revenue stream: Monthly managed services. As clients dropped a desktop here and a desktop there, their payments floated down a little each month. I think July was the bottom. After that they started adding a desktop here and a desktop there. Many are poised to do some hiring in January and we're already seeing action on that front.

So we've had a tough year. But we're ending the year solidly in black. Our EBITDA will probably be around 13% (which doesn't suck but also doesn't diminish the pain we went through).

On the Personal/Business side, my Brother Manuel is gradually moving to do high-end consulting on his own, so he's moving out of the daily operations at KPE. This is personally challenging to me because I have enjoyed working with him and having him to rely on for the last five years. He leaves a huge void that cannot be filled by a normal human being. We will literally need two or three people to replace him. I'm hoping we have the first one on board now.

I will miss him personally and professionally. Next Summer he's moving to Florida.

On the totally personal side, my family has had a very rough year. The details are no one's business, but suffice it to say that I learned the very hard lesson that you can't make other people no matter what you do. Everyone has to be personally responsible for how they react to the world around them. Anyway, my wife and I have been together for 21 years but probably won't make our next anniversary in March. [Insert misc. painful experiences here.]

On the bright side, my daughter Victoria is 17.67 years old. She is the absolute light of my life and apple of my eye. We have always been close and have grown closer since my wife moved out. I will be extremely sad when Victoria goes off to college in Fall of 2010, but we have a great buncha months ahead of us. And to be honest I am very proud of the fact that she is a strong and independent woman. She'll do great at college and love the freedom as well as the intellectual challenge.


Moving Up; Looking Ahead

I have been accused by friends(4) of being too optimistic. But I gotta tell you, 2010 will kick butt around here. KPEnterprises has a written goal of doubling our top-line revenue in the next 12 months. If the last week is any indication, we'll do just fine. We have campaigns outlined and I'm hoping to pull off a marketing stunt that has never been done before in the I.T. consulting space by any partner of any size.

Of course I'll write that up for you and sell it online at SMB Books. :-)

KPE will have a huge focus on Cloud Services. If the Zenith Smart Style on-premise cloud offering is as great as it looks, we plan to sell the heck out of it.(5)

GLB is launching a whole new venture with a very special partner. Please join me January 6th to find out more about that. Register for my "State of the Nation" address

GLB will focus more on Cloud Services as well. Of course we won't abandon the things we've done before. But GLB now has a staff of five people (mostly part timers) and we can take on some pretty cool things. So we're looking forward to a great new year.

After a couple years of building, GLB is poised to do some awesome things. We have decent revenue at this point but very low profit. But I believe we now have the base to begin moving up.

As for my personal activity, I am hoping to finish one book being co-authored with a new author on an amazing topic that's totally fresh to our space. Stay tuned. I won't let you miss that. And then I am hoping to release two other books on my own in 2010. If my staff can take care of business and leave me alone, I might just get another one out that's been on the back burner for a couple of years.


Doing What I Love

Of all the things I do in all my roles, the most fun I have is when I'm:

- Spending time with my daughter

- Traveling and meeting people (Conferences definitely count. The way I do conferences, they're not work.)

- Writing

In 2010 I'm going to balance these things and I plan to love doing it. If I can make the travel profitable (not just break-even), then I'll do more of it. I'm hoping my daughter and I can make our way to the U.K. in the Spring and I'm hoping I can make that long-overdue trip to Australia in the Fall.

Yeah, 2009 sucked a lot. And 2010 will be a huge amount of work for me. But I'm going to totally grab the bull by the horns and wrestle 2010 to the ground. I'll make it a great year! You just wait and see.

- - - - -

(1) The FTC Guidelines are stupid. I have not been paid by Motorola to say anything about anything. I haven't received free gifts or anything else from Motorola. This is not an endorsement of anything. I don't even know what product Motorola was pimping at the Comptia show. Did I mention that the FTC Guidelines are stupid?

(2) The FTC Guidelines are stupid. KPEnterprises has a complicated relationship with Zenith. We have received free service from them. We do not officially endorse their product, but we love it and are happy to tell everyone about it. To my knowledge I have never uttered any misleading or false statements about Zenith Infotech. Great Little Book has received advertising dollars from Zenith Infotech for print and online advertisements. GLB has also offered free advertising space to Zenith because we have a great relationship with them. GLB does not officially endorse Zenith but I personally own both KPE and GLB so I'm completely aware of the relationship. To my knowledge these facts have been disclosed openly and the FTC Guidelines are stupid.

(3) The FTC Guidelines are stupid. KPEnterprises uses Autotask. We have not received anything from them for free (as far as I know). We did receive setup fee discounts when we switched over to Autotask, but I don't think these were different than would be offered to anyone switching from another PSA system. I am not paid to endorse Autotask or any other product. I do not endorse Autotask or any other product. I love ConnectWise but we don't currently use it. I love Autotask and we do currently use it. Great Little Book has received advertising dollars from Autotask for print and online advertisements. GLB has also offered free advertising space to Autotask because we have a great relationship with them. GLB does not officially endorse Autotask but I personally own both KPE and GLB so I'm completely aware of the relationship. If anyone actually reads my blog they know all this and the FTC Guidelines are stupid.

(4) The FTC Guidelines are stupid. These friends are intimately tied to the SMB and MSP communities and if I named them by name I'd have to disclose baby gifts, Christmas gifts, book deals, co-marketing campaigns, beer Visas, advertising dollars, and a spider web of interrelated pimping activities worthy of a large purple hat. So I ain't sayin' nothin. The FTC sucks. Just my opinion. No one paid me to say that.

(5) The FTC Guidelines are stupid. See #2 above. Blah blah blah. May contain trans fats.


:-)



Register now for Karl's State of the Nation Address for SMB Consulting

Free.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is This a Good Decision for My Business?

I run KPEnterprises - The Best I.T. Consulting Business in Sacramento. And like you I sometimes need to make difficult decisions. And as we grow, my staff need to make these decisions without bothering me.

Some decisions are very easy: YES we do that; or NO we don't do that. Some are based on money: If you want us to work after 5:00 PM the cost is higher. If you're okay with that, then let's schedule it.

But there are also many decisions that could go either way. Someone wants a price break. Can we include the PC tune-up in the initial install? Most of these decisions are money decisions. And there's always a tendency to push money decisions up the ladder to the top. That's true no matter how small the dollar amount is.

I've had technicians track me down, leave voice mails, and drag me out of meetings to ask whether they can give away a network cable that costs $3. Maybe it's their personality. Maybe their previous boss would have killed them for this. I don't know why people do such things -- except that they have never been told that it's okay to make a decision!

There are a few guidelines out there for handing off decisions to your staff. One of the more popular ones is based on dollar amount. For example, if the item in question is under $25, just do what makes the customer happy. It might be $50 or $100 or whatever.

A twist on this is that one level of employee (line tech) has a $25 discretionary spending and another (supervisor/manager) has a higher spending limit.

That's all good, but doesn't address the more important question. Without regard to dollar amounts, Is This a Good Decision for My Business? In our case, that translates into Is This a Good Decision for KPEnterprises?

Here are a few guidelines we wrote up for our company. I originally got this idea after reading How to Make a Buck and Still Be a Decent Human Being by Richard C. Rose and Echo Montgomery Garrett.

Is This a Good Decision for KPEnterprises?
  • Question 1: Is it the right thing for the client?

  • Question 2: Is it the right thing for KPEnterprises?

  • Question 3: Is it ethical?

  • Question 4: Is it something for which you are willing to be held accountable?

  • Question 5: Is it consistent with KPEnterprises' basic beliefs and goals?

  • Question 6: Is this a client we want to keep?


If the answer to all of these questions is "YES" then do it!


Just in case you think this is an easy thing you can pass on to your technicians and administrative assistants this afternoon, please remember: You staff have to be able to answer these questions!

In other words, they have to be able to discern what is the best thing for the client, and for your company. You have to agree on what is ethical. They have to know what it means to be accountable. They have to know your (the company's) core beliefs and goals. And they have to know which clients you want to keep.

The good news is: cheating is encouraged. That means your staff can talk to each other when you're not around. The more they practice going through this list, the more they will come to a common understanding of the answers.

The most fearful question is "Is this a client we want to keep?" Uh. They better get that one right. In reality you probably have very few clients you don't want to keep. So make it easy on your staff. Fire the marginal clients now and then your staff will know that you definitely want to keep the rest. :-)

I'm not a fan of the term "empowering" (makes me think of the Fantastic Four and I get distracted). But if you want to enable your employees to make good decisions and learn to have more of an owner/stakeholder mentality, then you need to spend a little time on the education necessary to make this work.

Your list doesn't have to be my list. But think about what is on your list. What 5-6 questions need to be asked so that your staff can do their jobs better and more independently, leaving you more time to do your own job?


- - - - -
Join my weekly email list and keep up on events in the SMB and MSP community.


:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail

January 1st is just around the corner. It's time to evaluate the health of your business. Not just its pulse, which is one factor, but a serious look at the key things that make a business go.

If you've heard me speak in the last five years, you know that I beat people over the head with Michael Gerber's book The E-Myth Revisited. Here's a little bit of what I tell folks about this book:

- If I could make every business owner in the world read one book, this would be it.

- I recommend that you re-read this book every year.

Gerber spends a lot of time looking at what makes businesses successful - and unsuccessful. And he comes up with some great rules for organizing and systematizing your business. He also comes up with ten major reasons why Small Businesses fail.

Take some time and consider - honestly - how your business stacks up as the New Year begins.

Gerber's Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail

1. Lack of management systems, such as financial controls.

2. Lack of vision or purpose by principals.

3. Lack of financial planning and review.

4. Over dependence on specific individuals in the business.

5. Poor marketing strategy.

6. Failure to establish or communicate company goals.

7. Competition and/or lack of market knowledge.

8. Inadequate capitalization.

9. Absence of standards for quality and performance.

10. Owners concentrate on the technical rather than the strategic.

Most people focus on #10 when they discuss Gerber's books. And that's totally fair. After all, one of his fundamental arguments is that people start businesses based on their skills. They are essentially technicians and not business people. Of course they find themselves as technicians running a business.

That's how I got started. That's basically how we all got started.

But as I review this list I can't ignore the first nine items. As I travel around and talk to consultants of all sizes, I find that most small businesses have most of these problems! To some extent you might expect that with new businesses or extremely small (1-3 person) shops. In fact all businesses struggle with these issues again and again as they grow.

Having successfully addressed each of these items, a business must be vigilant to address them again and again. This is true because the world keeps spinning. Having created a good management system, for example, the business world evolves. And therefore the management system must be re-created in light of the new world order.

The same is true for vision and purpose, financial planning, and all the rest. The work of working on your business is never completed.

Remember, these are the top ten reasons small businesses fail. It only takes one of these to fail! So you need to continually tune up all of them. And don't be too confident because you haven't addressed these and you haven't failed yet. The fact that you haven't failed "yet" doesn't protect you from the future!


A Few Weeks Ago a gentleman came up to me after one of my presentations. He looked at the price of our new book (about two hours labor) and commented that there's a growing crowd of people making money off of computer consultants. Well, I suppose that's true. Consider companies like MSPU, MSPSN, Cloud Services Depot, and Virtual Administrator. Consider coaches such as George Sierchio, Matt Makowicz, and Stuart Selbst. Consider marketing wizard Robin Robins and a handful of newcomers.

In some sense it's true that there's a growing crowd of people with a package or a product to sell to SMB Consultants. But it's also the case that this "crowd" stays in business because they help consultants address The Top Ten dangers listed above.

You might learn all your lessons yourself, painfully and one at a time. You'll pay full price for this education. Or you can engage someone to help you address the issues that are challenging you and put yourself on solid footing.

When I look at spending money for my business, I always consider two factors. One is how many hours of labor do I need to sell to pay for it. In other words, I don't think in dollars directly but in labor exchange. I have a limited number of hours to sell in a month. Once "spent" on one thing, those hours are not available to spend on something else.

So ASCII costs me one hour per month. Robin Robins costs me one hour per month. With travel requirements, Taylor Business Group costs me 15-20 hours per year.

The second thing I consider is how the new thing will make me money or save me money. ASCII saves me thousands of dollars per month. Robin Robins' program only needs to help me get one tiny little client to pay for itself. TBG needs to help me save a few hours OR get a new client.

Unfortunately, I am never removed from the equation. None of these things matters at all if I spend the money and let the resources pile up on a shelf. I need to work every day to make these things pay for themselves. But in the end, every one of them is worthwhile if I'm putting out the effort to work on my business.

And that brings us back to Gerber. His greatest call to action is that someone needs to work on your business and not just IN your business. If you're the owner, then you're the best candidate to take time to work on the business instead of working in the business.

Review that top ten this week. You probably have Friday off, right. Spend some time taking stock of where you are and what you need to work on in the year ahead.

If I can help, ping me.

- - - - -
Join my weekly email list and keep up on events in the SMB and MSP community.


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Vlad, Erick, Karl End of Year Wrap-Up

I don't do this for everyone.*

For years now - maybe four? - Vlad and Erick and I have gotten together to summarize the year gone by and speculate about the year ahead.

Over the years the three of us have "grown apart" in the sense that our business models are more divergent each year. We do three very different things. But we each connect with the small business consulting community in more than one way.

If you haven't tuned in The Spam Show, check it out at Vlad's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ExchangeDefender. There you'll find Vlad, Erick, me, and the occasional "other" guest.

The most recent guest was Monique Rogers. She described how the technicians at Chartec are dressed in janitor dungarees and sprayed with Old Spice as they enter the workplace. And then we discuss the twists and turns of H.R. policy that created this Nerd Nirvana.

As you might suspect, we have fun. We give a little perspective. And we have more fun.

Please join us for this once-a-year show. The specifics and registration link are on Vlad's blog:

http://www.vladville.com/2009/12/spam-show-15-liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.html

*I'm a bit of a whore, so I'll do this for everyone.


:-)



It's Coming . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

Ships very very very soon!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

SMB Books FREE Sampler CD

Well, the SMB Community shines once again. We asked some of our authors to put together materials for us to distribute. The only requirement is that it be Truly Useful. We wanted to offer a free CD Sampler of the kinds of materials available at SMB Books.

We only included material that has real value right now.

Much of the material on this Sampler CD is not available anywhere else. The disc includes more than seven hours of audio and video training plus hundreds of pages of excellent content.

We are providing this CD Free as a way to showcase our authors -- and the great resources you'll find at SMBBooks.com.

Note: The CD also contains our most recent catalog -- and that catalog includes a discount code for use at SMB Books.

Here's some of what you'll find on the CD:


Contributor: Robert Crane
  • Utilizing SharePoint to Improve Your Business - PDF

  • Utilizing SharePoint to Improve Your Business- PowerPoint

  • Windows SharePoint Services Operations Guide Ch1 - Intro - PDF

  • How we use SharePoint- PDF

  • Six Secrets of Selling SharePoint - PDF

  • SMB Conference Call September 24, 2008 - MP3

Web site - www.ciaops.com
Blog - http://supportweb.ciaops.net.au/blog/default.aspx


Contributor: Karl W Palachuk
  • Relax Focus Succeed Chapter 1 - part I - MP3

  • Relax Focus Succeed Chapter 1 - part II - MP3

  • Managed Services Town Hall Q & A - Recorded Live - Fall 2009 - MP3

Blog - Small Biz Thoughts
Web - SMB Books
Web - Great Little Book Publishing
Mailing List: Join my weekly email list


Contributor: Robin Robins
  • The 9-Step Marketing Secret That Will Double Your Computer Consulting Business In 6 Month Or Less - zip file w/12 MP3 tracks

Blog - Technology Marketing Toolkit
Free Articles On IT Marketing - www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com/articles.php
Technology Marketing Toolkit - www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com


Contributor: Andrew Rogerson
  • Andrew Rogerson Interview by Karl Palachuk - MP3

Email - info@Andrew-Rogerson.com
Web - www.Andrew-Rogerson.com
Web - Successfully Buy Your Business
Web - Successfully Sell Your Business


Contributor: George Sierchio
  • Exit Strategy Webinar - WMV

Web - www.consultantscoach.com
Free Biz Analysis www.freebizanalysis.com
Blog - www.georgesierchio.com


Contributor: Erick Simpson
  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 1 Overview - wmv

  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 2 Pricing - wmv

  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 3 Agreement - wmv

  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 4 Monitoring - wmv

  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 5 Marketing - wmv

  • How to Succeed with Managed Services - Part 6 Trusted Advisor - wmv

Linked In - www.linkedin.com/in/ericksimpson
MSPU Blog - http://blog.mspu.us/
MSPU Newsletter - MSPU Newsletter Registration
MSPU Website - http://www.mspu.us/


Contributor: Dave Sobel
  • Virtualization: Defined - Disk Performance - PDF

  • Virtualization: Defined - Selling Virtualization - PDF

Evolve Technologies website: www.evolvetech.com
Evolutionary Thoughts Business Blog: www.evolvetech.com/blog
Evolve Technologies on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EvolveTech
SMB Virtualization website and Virtualization blog: www.smbvirtualization.net
SMB Virtualization on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SMBVirtual

- - - - -

Do we get carried away?

Oh Yeah!

I want to thank all the contributors to the SMB Sampler CD. They are true community members and are providing YOU with hundreds of dollars worth of valuable information here.

I also thank Lana Shurayev, our super-human admin, for spending so much time collecting, formatting, and coding this CD. She's awesome.

Thank them for their efforts.

Now, how do you get this massive collection of goodness?

We will ship it free for the asking. No you can't download it. It's about 400 MB and I'm just not doing that.

Here's what you do:
- Go to the Request Page.
- Fill out the form. You must give us your shipping information in order to receive the CD
- Put "Sampler CD" in the box labeled "Products You Want"

- If you have an address that does not lend itself to our US-centric form, please email us with the exact address information and format. You still need to fill out the form!


Please be patient. The CDs will ship immediately (the next business day). But we expect a high demand.

Twitter Quiz Answers and Winners

Well the big Twitter Quiz took more real-time interaction than I expected, but was fun by all reports.

Here's a summary of the questions and answers. The decision of the judges is final. Remember the rules: This is supposed to be fun.


Question: What color 54 Convertible does Eartha Kitt want from Santa?
Answer: Light Blue (from the song Santa Baby. EK's version is the absolute best)


Question: What's the name of the Grinch's dog?
Answer: Max


Question: In what movie did Bing Crosby first sing "White Christmas?"
Answer: Holiday Inn. The movie White Christmas was made in reaction to the popularity of this song. The best selling single song of all time because it sells millions each year on top of all previous years.


Question: Which three famous reindeer names begin with the letter D?
Answer: Dasher, Dancer, Donner. Would have accepted Dunder, the original name in the original poem.


Question: What was the name of the star that guided the three kings to Bethlehem?
Answer: The Star of Bethlehem. Kind of a Microsoft-type trick question.


Question: Which Christmas carol includes the phrase Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la?
Answer: Deck the Halls. Although I almost gave it to "All of them after enough eggnog."


Question: What's the name of Charles Dickens' story about Ebenezer Scrooge?
Answer: A Christmas Carol


Question: Where is Christmas Island?
Answer: Indian Ocean near Australia. Lotta responses from down under on this one.


Question: Where did the real St. Nicholas live?
Answer: Turkey


Question: Which Sesame Street characters share names with characters in It's A Wonderful Life?
Answer: Bert and Ernie. They're the police officers.


Question: Which country do poinsettias originally come from?
Answer: Mexico


Question: Question: In Miracle on 34th Street, which store hires Kris Kringle?
Answer: Macy's


Question: Who was that Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree?
Answer: Brenda Lee. Yeah, other people sang it. Other people also sang Santa Baby. But there's only one version that counts.


Question: Who sang Run Run Rudolph?
Answer: Chuck Berry


Question: How come Spike Jones Ain't Gettin Nuttin' for Christmas?
Answer: "Cuz I Ain't Been Nuttin But Bad"


Question: Why can't Ralphie have a Red Rider BB Gun?
Answer: He'll shoot his eye out. For the uninitiated, this is from the movie Christmas Story, based on a story by, and narrated by Jean Shepard. Stars Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsley.


Question: What is Bruce Willis' most famous Christmas Movie?
Answer: Die Hard. Second place: Die Hard 2.


Question: Why was Jesus born in a manger?
Answer: There was no room at the inn


Question: Who wrote/sang "Ole Tex Kringle's on His Way?"
Answer: Tex Ritter


Question: What did Good King Wenceslas look out upon?
Answer: The Feast of Stephen (December 26th)


Question: In the song Sleigh Ride, what are friends calling?
Answer: Yoo Hoo. "Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling Yoo Hoo."


Question: Jingle Bell Time is a swell time for what?
Answer: To go riding in a one horse sleigh. "It's the right time to rock the night away. Jingle Bell Time is a swell time to go riding in a one horse sleigh." (Jingle Bell Rock)


Question: I'll be home for Christmas if only . . . ?
Answer: If only in my dreams


Question: The weather outside is frightful. What is the fire?
Answer: The fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go . . . Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


Question: Who sang "What will Santa Claus Say When He Finds Everybody Swinging?"
Answer: Louis Prima. Awesome singer and a great Christmas song that needs more attention than it has received.

- - - - -

And the Winners Are . . .

Some people won more than once, but here's the crowd of winners.

@agbert
@bytecafe
@darbunderscore
@jeremyroe
@KenShafer
@marklnewton
@marklnewton
@mDOTwerner
@mitchgarvis
@MontcoIT
@patriotnetworks
@susannedansey
@Tegwin
@xcanez

These are the Twitter names for these folks and I encourage you to follow them. After all, they've already demonstrated that they're fun people by playing this quiz.

- - - - -

I hope everyone had fun. We'll do this again.


:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Please Participate in the SBS Customer Experience Improvement Program

I was in a secret meeting with the Home and Small Business Server development team last month, held deep in an underground cave in an undisclosed city just across the water from Seattle. The discussion was about the future (As William Gibson says, "The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”). So I can't tell you about that.

But . . .

An interesting side conversation erupted about the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP).

The CEIP is that one check box in the server install that gives you the option to send some anonymous configuration information to Microsoft. Many people (I get the sense most people) disable this function.

Dean Paron, Principal Architect for the Home and Small Business Server products, was quite interested in getting more people to opt-in to this program. Of course, like you, I wanted to know why WE should care. Here is Dean's response:

    "At a high level, the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) collects information about how our customers use our programs, the problems they encounter, and automatically sends that information back to Microsoft on a regular basis. Each team at Microsoft 'instruments' their product to collect the most useful information for the product development team.

    For example, on SBS, we collect a variety of information, such as which wizards are commonly accessed, what error conditions are encountered by customers, how heavily our partner applications such as SharePoint are being used, and what common network topologies are deployed. Each of these pieces of information is critically valuable to us as a development team, because it lets us know where to focus in future updates, service packs and major releases. On the Home and Small Business Server team, we review this information regularly - at least monthly, and often more so, depending on the decision that we're trying to make."


As you can imagine, there are some architectural changes coming in the next generation of SBS and Home Server. Not just on the server itself, but in recognition of the network environment in which the server sits.

Think about the generational changes from Proxy Server to ISA. Now ISA is out. In the meantime universal plug and play routers dominate the scene. The wizards evolve over time in response to the physical environment, the related products shipped with (or sold separately from) SBS, and how you actually configure and use all that.

As Dean told me, they really want a lot larger participation in this program.

If you've ever taken a statistics class you know that you need a large enough sample to get an accurate representation of the whole. In this case, you need enough people participating in the CEIP so that you can safely say they represent the actual user base.

I can't tell a good story about why the people who opt-in are different from the people who don't. But my Ph.D. training tells me there IS a difference even if we don't know what it is.

How can you help? Here's Dean again:

    "Participation in CEIP is optional for Microsoft customers, and you can choose to opt-in or opt-out at any time. Typically, Microsoft presents the choice to opt-in during the initial product setup and configuration, and those settings can be later tweaked in an options or preferences menu. For example, the CEIP settings for SBS 2008 can be accessed in the Getting Started list. We're also very careful to protect our customer's privacy: all CEIP data points collected are extensively reviewed during the development process to ensure that they don't contain any Personally Identifiable Information, such as customer names, addresses or phone numbers."



There are no surprises here. You knew this option existed. But like me you probably never gave it much thought. We all have an interest is making SBS continue to be an awesome product. Your SBS Dev Team would like your assistance.

BTW, this is the second request I've had to check that box. The last time it was Paul Fitzgerald asking me to make sure The Network Migration Workbook included it in the big 220 page checklist. :-)


You can read more about the Customer Experience Improvement Program at the following website.
http://www.microsoft.com/products/ceip/EN-US/default.mspx


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Erick Simpson on Today's (Final) SMB Conference Call

Erick Simpson from Managed Services Provider University will join us at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern to discuss . . . Well just about everything in the SMB Space. This will include his new book - The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

Register Now!

Back in January of 2008 we kicked off the SMB Conference Call with author Erick Simpson. I didn't realize way back then how much we would accomplish, how much the industry would change, and how long the SMB Conference Call would last.

One thing that has not changed: Erick is a "mover and shaker" in the managed services arena and great author, speaker, and trainer. Many people in our industry owe a piece of their success to Erick personally and also to Gary and the other folks at Managed Services Provider University.

Whether you've heard Erick on a Microsoft webcast, attended an MSPU event, or even on the SMB Conference call, I'm sure you'll agree it is always worthwhile to find out what Erick's up to. A quick review of the Conference Call Archives will give you a taste of the variety of topics on which Erick can speak. He has been a frequent contributor and we're honored to have him on one last time.


9:00 AM Pacific / 12:00 Eastern
Wed. December 16th
Register Now!

Tell all your friends and colleagues!


About Erick

Author: The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice, The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!, and others. All available at SMB Books

Related Links:

Managed Service Provider University

Erick's Email: esimpson@mspu.us

- - - - -

Note for January:

Please join me for a very special one-hour "2010 State of The Nation Address for SMB Consulting"

I will try to give some thoughts about the year ahead, our industry, cloud computing, the state of the MSP industry.

At the end we will have a special guest and make an important announcement.

This call may or may not be posted for later broadcast. Please join us live.

January 6th, 2010
9:00 AM Pacific:

Register Now!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Robin Robins One Day Per Year Sale

Holy Smokes, Batman.

Just got this email from Robin Robins.

Please wait fifteen minutes so can buy whatever I want. Then check out the big scratch and dent sale at Robin's Site.

- - - - -

Robin's Email:

Hey Karl,

We just opened the doors for our "scratch-n-dent" sale where
you can get the Toolkit, Blueprint, 36 Month Millionaire
and other products at 50% off:

Robin's Site

These are legitimate copies of our products that are slightly
damaged or imperfect, which prevents us from selling them as
"new." So if you don't mind a bit of dust or a smudge here
and there, you can get an absolute STEAL:

Robin's Site

But you have to HURRY...there are a limited number of these
products available at these crazy discounts.

Once these products are gone, they're gone - sorry, no exceptions!

Dedicated to your success,

Robin


Technology Marketing Toolkit, Inc.
http://www.technologymarketingtoolkit.com
2000 Mallory Lane
Suite #130-472
Franklin, TN 37067

Anyone Can Do Sales

[ Rant Warning ]

Anyone Can Do Sales

Anyone Can Do Marketing

Anyone Can Do Computer Support

Anyone Can Do Network Engineering

Anyone Can Do Business Coaching

Anyone Can Run a Consulting Business

. . .


Except: They Can't!

I recently did a Spam Show with Vlad Mazek and Monique Rogers (will be posted Here some day). We talked about H.R. - Human Resources and how much everyone hates to do H.R.

The hiring process can really suck up your time. And in the end you might not get the employee you want, need, love, and deserve.

KPEnterprises - Sacramento's premier Microsoft Certified Small Business Specialist - recently did a lot of hiring. I can officially say that I hate the H.R. job and have hit the limits of my patience with H.R.

I've seen thousands of resumes from people who aren't remotely qualified to touch a computer. They shouldn't be allowed to USE computers let alone fix them. What are they thinking? I'm too stoopid to know that they are less qualified than my cat? Do they think they'll get hired by accident and then just work out so we'll keep them on?

I honest-to-God don't know what they're thinking.

And we're not alone. If you go to a bunch of networking events (live, in person, in your town) you've seen that 30% of all unemployed professionals have now become "business coaches" of some kind. Life coach. Transcendental success coaches. Whatever.

There are people out there with skills, talent, education, certification, and a process that works. So you can't wake up one day and say "People like to take my advice. I'll become a business coach."

Sales is the same way. Everyone who's ever sold a used shirt at a yard sale thinks he's ripe to be a sales person. No. Sales people have skills, talent, education, certification, and a process that works. You promoted a failing product on LinkedIn? That doesn't make you a sales person.

True Story:

After two phone screenings, a resume review, and a skills matrix evaluation, I brought in a person to be interviewed for sales. I introduced myself, held out my hand, and she said "I don't shake hands."

I don't shake hands.

So now I have to update the advertisement: "Must not exhibit behavior that will lose the sale before you get three feet into a prospect's office."

Aaaaaaaaargh!


It's the same story with marketing. Remember those in-person networking events? Well another 30% of the crowd are instant experts in marketing, social media, search engine optimization, and getting your message "out there." Hey, who needs Robin Robins when this unemployed investment banker can give you everything your business needs for $300?

Everyone knows I love Robin, but she's not unique in the universe. But she and a small group of other people have skills, talent, education, certification, and a process that works. They are the pros. Just because someone "figured out" Facebook doesn't make them a marketing pro. Twenty years of working your butt off makes you a pro.


Somehow everything that everyone else does looks easy.

Anyone can do that.

Except they can't.

We complain that "anyone" can get into the consulting business. They just print up a laser perf business card and start fixing things. But it's becoming the same with everything in our society.

"Anyone" can set up a home entertainment center. Well, anyone do a half-assed job of it.

Anyone can set up SBS incorrectly.

Anyone can create crappy ad copy.

Anyone can sell something to someone, even if it's the wrong thing at the wrong price.

Anyone can set up a network the wrong way.

Anyone can design their own server at Dell and end up with 1GB of RAM and a Celeron processor.

Anyone can build their own non-working off site backup strategy.

Anyone can build a desktop in the cloud that performs worse than a P3 with 256 MB of memory.


I don't want "Anyone"! I want someone with skills, talent, education, certification, and a process that works. I want the real thing. I want people and services and tools that work.

Sometimes that costs money. Anyone can fool themselves into thinking they're saving money by hiring a consultant who has never opened the case on a computer. You know who's qualified and who isn't. The hard part is finding clients who know the difference.

I'll be glad when the economy picks up and people go back to doing what they actually have skills, talent, education, and experience in. Insurance sales people should sell insurance. Bankers should bank. Construction workers should construct.

And I should get back to running my businesses and not screening nincompoops who think I'm going to ignore my own ad and hire the first person with a pulse who walks through the door -- even if they don't shake hands!

- - - - -

Warning: Later today I'm doing an interview and then going to lunch with a candidate for the sales position. If he dribbles food all over himself and starts talking about his porn collection, I'm going to stick my fork into his throat!

[ /Rant ]

That felt good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

YOU Are Not A Waste of Time

Today was a weird, strange, productive, busy, day.

In some sense today was everything I needed it to be and the best day I've had in a long time.

Why? I didn't hire my sales guy. I didn't talk to my daughter (except by text message). I didn't send out a proposal. I didn't make any really big decisions. I didn't sign any deals. I started my work day at 7:00 AM, which is earlier than usual. I finished it at 7:30 PM, which is much later than usual.

So why was it a good day?

Because it was satisfying. I was super-busy and super focused.

As you may know, I held a Twitter-based Christmas quiz today. Well, today the magic thing that connects Twitter posts to Facebook was broken for most of the day. Then it was really slow the rest of the day. So I had people responding to 6 hour old quiz questions.

But I also had a high level of online interaction.

Aside from that, I talked to people on three continents today. That always makes me feel very "international." And I had long conversations with people about the vision and goals of both of my companies going into 2010.

I have a business coach who is part coach and part personal counselor. We had an hour-long chat today. So that got me pointed in the right direction.

We had a major development meeting at KPEnterprises around cloud computing strategies. No hard decisions, but some real clarity about options and some idea about budgets.

And just before finishing off the Twitter contest, I had a really great, relaxed conversation with a major player in our space about a super cool project we're going to launch next year. It was, as he said, a wide-ranging conversation about our industry.

Only one thing detracts from my day: a comment. Over a long interview/lunch with a sales candidate I mentioned the Twitter contest and how Facebook was giving me trouble. Another person at the table said he was so glad that he hasn't gotten into the Twitter/Facebook/social media thing. He speculated that he'd get hooked and waste all his time there.

Well that word waste really stood out to me.

With all these social media, I feel a kind of connection with a broad spectrum of people all over the country - and all over the world. Many (most) are in the I.T. business because that's where I hang out. But everyone has friends all over the place. And they have friends, etc. So I have plenty of connections with people who are far-flung and have nothing to do with computers. But they're still part of my network.

I have found myself inspired by a picture posted by a "stranger," touched by one comment, and angered by another. I have connected with people at different levels and I've felt a real sense of community in all of this.

Some people say that all these "Internet Friends" aren't real friends. That's just silly, in my opinion. In the last year I've connected with dozens of people who I used to know from high school, college, graduate school, former jobs, and old neighborhoods. In addition, I've made online connections with people I used to only know because we ran into each other at a conference once a year.

At work - at GLB and KPE - I had a great day because I went from one laser-focused activity to the next. I was "on" and "at capacity" every single hour. It was hugely productive because, even though I didn't sign any deals, I moved everything forward.

And online I had a great day because I connected with a lot of people and really enjoyed myself.

You can get carried away with anything, including social media. But in the right measure, online activity is NOT a waste of time. It is, in fact a great addition to my life.

You, my friends on this blog and Twitter and Facebook (etc.) are a wonderful part of my life. I appreciate you.

You are not a waste of time.

:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

SMB Books Twitter Christmas Quiz

Welcome to the SMB Books Twitter Christmas Quiz!

Full Rules are posted here:

http://www.smbbooks.com/categories/smbquiz.htm


How To Play

The contest will be run on Thursday December 10th.

Questions will be posted throughout the day. A question can be posted at any time that day, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Pacific Time.

You must be following @karlpalachuk on Twitter to receive the questions. (see http://twitter.com/karlpalachuk.

On Twitter, click REPLY and enter a response in the following format:

    Entry @karlpalachuk [Your Answer Here]



Note: You MUST add the word Entry before @karlpalachuk in order to be eligible to win.


Winners will be determined on a first come, first serve basis: The first respondent to reply with the correct answer in the correct format will win the prize.

No purchase necessary to enter or win.

To enter the contest, you must be the first to tweet to @karlpalachuk the correct answer to the trivia question.

You can will multiple times, so keep playing even if you win!


Note: Questions will appear in the format

    Prize = $50 off at www.smbbooks.com - What color 54 Convertible does Eartha Kitt want from Santa? http://tinyurl.com/smbquiz


We will discuss the answers and post the winners here.

OMG: I Love Zenith Infotech

If you haven't been reading this blog for very long, let me just say I Love Zenith Infotech.

One of the principle rules of success at KPEnterprises (Sacramento's premier small business consulting company) is "If it can be done by Zenith, assign it to Zenith."

One of the consistent messages I hear from Zenith management is "Bring it on. Keep throwing stuff at us until we squeak."

Well, after months of watching from the sidelines, we pulled the trigger this week and integrated Zenith with Autotask. The only real delay was that we had a series of junior technicians and no one who could take on the project and manage it through to completion.

Well, we have a new Level 2 tech with nothing better to do, so we started the integration.

Here's an example of the tickets we saw immediately:

    Log Date/Time: 12/09/2009 03:07 AM ET
    Account / Zenith Site ID:
    Device / Zenith Device ID:
    Autotask Ticket: T20091209.0001
    Zenith Ticket: 200912090000029
    Status / Zenith Status: Complete / NOC Completed
    Assigned To: Partner
    Assigned By: NOC
    Subject: Anti-Virus not synchronized on Server :-SIERRASBS
    Notes: This task is to notify you that NORTON Antivirus is Not Updating on Server SIERRASBS. NOC has carried out the necessary troubleshooting and now NORTON Antivirus is updated with Latest Antivirus Definitions. No action needs to be taken from your end. Note: In case, the issue re-occurs, we will troubleshoot further and will update you with the status.
    This e-mail was automatically generated for Autotask Account with Zenith PSG of 2DB52820514D4FC4. Please do not respond.


Okay. Whatever. Blah Blah Blah Ginger.

Here's the essence of that service request:

1) We found a problem with SAV updates

2) We created a ticket for the problem

3) We fixed the problem

4) Ticket closed

The sweetest words of all are: Please do not respond.

Not that we don't want a personal relationship, but Zenith found a problem, fixed a problem, created value for our client, and solved the problem. In other words . . .

    The first time we heard about this issue is after it was fixed.


How could we respond? Thanks. Imagine the disc space of millions of ticket entries that just said thanks.

- - -

Perspective:

I hear a lot of partners complain that they turned on integration with Zenith and got overwhelmed by the tickets. Oh My God. They're killing me. Boo hoo hoo.

But slow down and read through the tickets.

You got 50 new service requests regarding problems on your client computers. In the span of 5 hours, 45 of these were fixed. In the next 5 hours another three are fixed.

So: Zenith caught fifty issues you didn't know about and fixed 48 of them.

Just because you don't know about an issue doesn't mean it's not there. If Zenith is "spamming" your board there are lots of little things that were going un-done. Time to do them.

We recently went through an extremely busy time around here and I needed to hire some additional help. I have learned an important lesson in all that: You need the right personality to take charge of a project like this. You need to know that you're going to get a flood of tickets. You need to not freak out. And then you need a strategy for getting your arms around the new reality of your bigger, better service board.

For us the Zenith integration is pretty smooth. We're meeting daily to refine the system in response to interactions between Autotask and Zenith. We went through the same thing with ConnectWise. When you take two tools at the core of your business and get them to talk to each other, it takes a little extra attention.

We've loved Zenith for years. Today we love them more.


:-)



It's Coming . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

Sale Ends Soon!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

MSP Services Network (MSPSN) To Be Acquired

One of my good friends has some GREAT news to announce. Amy Luby of the MSP Services Network announced today that MSPSN is being acquired by High Street Technology Ventures. Amy has been a true evangelist for the Managed Services movement. In addition, she has created a program of success for her partners, and is responsible for some of the most innovative content available to MSP's and SMB Consultants today.

In fact, the acquisition announcement was made today from the Comptia conference in Washington, DC where MSPSN's content is the focus of the day. This is quite fitting.

If the last four years are any indication, we can expect even more amazing things from Amy and MSPSN in the future. Stay tuned.

Special SMB Conference Call Today - 4 PM Pacific
Please register for a Special SMB Conference Call - Wednesday December 9th at 4:00 PM Pacific / 7:00 PM Eastern.

Register Here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/574776657.

We'll talk to Amy and discuss what this change means for MSPSN, the broader MSP community, and for the overall climate as we move into 2010.

I personally congratulated Amy yesterday. Today we begin the analysis of what this means for the broader community. Join us today at 4:00 PM Pacific.

- - - - -

Word of this announcement came to me via Brian Sherman of Tech Success Communications and forerly a partner advocate at Autotask. You can ping Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.

- - - - -

Here's the official announcement from Tech Success Communications:

MSP Services Network (MSPSN) To Be Acquired

Management changes and enhanced managed services offerings to result from purchase

Washington, DC - December 9, 2009 - MSP Services Network (MSPSN), the industry's leading provider of managed service support infrastructure, announced today at the CompTIA MSP Business Simulation Experience in Washington D.C. that it has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by High Street Technology Ventures. Under terms of the agreement, Gerard Kane will assume the role of CEO and Amy Luby, founder of MSPSN will be appointed to the board of directors when the transaction is completed. In her new strategic role, Luby will be responsible for shaping the future direction of the organization, while Kane will take an active role in the day to day activities of MSPSN.

MSPSN will continue to operate as a separate entity, with plans to increase the number of services it delivers to the existing base of partners as well as continue a rapid expansion of the network. "MSPSN has demonstrated the vision necessary to establish itself as a leader in the industry and I look forward to enhancing that position in the marketplace", commented Kane. "I'm excited for the timing of High Street's involvement," added Luby. "Solution providers are building their capacity for managed services delivery in their existing business, and these moves will allow MSPSN to evolve a new generation of services for this vibrant community."

MSPSN will continue to partner with a variety of managed services vendors to enhance the technology options available for members, including pre-configured solutions and best practices templates. According to Sheldon Waters, CEO of it Control Solutions, Inc. "We are very excited by the additional resources and expertise that Gerard and his team will bring to MSPSN, which Amy has already established as a premiere resource for the managed services community. "

Increasing the number of MSPSN managed services providers is another goal after the transaction is concluded, and the expanding network will result in new technical and business support options for the community. Partner Vince Tinnirello, President of Anchor Network Solutions, Inc. added "This agreement is very encouraging to us, representing a continuation and enhancement of the tools and processes that enable us to deliver top quality services to our customers."

The transaction is expected to close in early 2010. For more information, visit www.mspsn.com.

About MSPSN
MSPSN (http://www.mspsn.com/), founded in 2007 by Amy Luby, is dedicated to providing a system that allows the Managed Services Provider (MSP) Community to communicate and collaborate with each other for the purpose of growing stronger. MSPSN offers training and guidance for mastering the MSP business model, as well as the tools to manage and build their businesses. They host a Global Community to SMB focused MSPs who collaborate with each other for support. MSPSN is dedicated to providing the Operational Support Services that MSPs need to grow their business and offer the best solutions for their clients. MSPSN exists solely to assist the MSP Community and is committed to providing an infrastructure that will help build thriving businesses.

About High Street Technology Ventures
High Street Technology Ventures (http://www.hstvp.com/) is focused on assisting and developing technology based companies by providing the necessary ingredients of expertise, investment and long term advisory services. Our team is comprised of seasoned entrepreneurs from leading technology companies who offer deep domain expertise coupled with hand-on operational experience to those companies we engage. Our overall goal is to increase the value of our partners, our investments and our team by connecting all stakeholders in beneficial and symbiotic relationships.

:-)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Special Alert: Conference Call on The Changing MSP Business

Note: this post edited after the announcement went public. -kp
- - - - -

We've never done this before. But that's because we've never had this kind of event in the MSP space before.

Great News will be announced on Wednesday morning about a major change in the MSP community. It will be a bit earth-shattering for some people.

MSP Services Network (MSPSN) To Be Acquired

Amy Luby will remain on the board of directors. New CEO will step in.

Listen for the announcement at the beginning of my regular 9:00 AM Conference Call. The rep from Intel will just have to wait until I get this announcement out.

Of course we want you to listen to the entire Intel interview at 9:00 AM Pacific. Register for the 9:00 AM Call

And read the last blog post regarding details of the Intel call.

We are announcing a special SMB Conference Call to cover this story more in depth later in the day.

In order to give the announcement a little time to "soak in" and give you some analysis, I have scheduled a special interview at 4:00 PM Pacific / 7:00 PM Eastern / 12:00 Midnight in London. I think that's 11:00 AM Thursday in Sydney.

We will talk to the main person involved in this breaking news story. We'll give you as much information as we can.

Right now I expect this call to last about 30 minutes. We *may* open the floor to questions. We *may* record the call. Your best bet is to tune in live.

Please register for Special SMB Conference Call - Wednesday December 9th at 4:00 PM Pacific / 7:00 PM Eastern. Register for the Special 4 PM Call.

:-)

Bryan Young from Intel - SMB Conference Call Wednesday

Join me Wednesday Dec. 9th at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern . . .

Bryan Young from Intel's Sales and Marketing will join us to talk about some cool services being offered for Managed Service Providers - and anyone who is interested in getting into the services space.

This call will be particularly good for people who are or will be building systems. Intel has a very cool program to integrate their chip technology with remote from Logmein.


Register Now

Bryan Young is a Business Development Manager in the Sales and Marketing Group at Intel Corporation.
Bryan's current focus is delivering service revenue opportunities to customers worldwide. Bryan has launched several products into the Intel Reseller Channel ranging from servers to services.

About Intel, Bryan says:
"Intel pushes the boundaries of innovation so our work can make people's lives more exciting, fulfilling, and manageable. And our work never stops. We never stop looking for the next leap ahead-in technology, education, culture, manufacturing, and social responsibility. And we never stop striving to deliver solutions with greater benefits for everyone."

Our Topic will be central to Bryan's job: Delivering New Managed Service Offerings

Register Now

9:00 AM Pacific / 12:00 Eastern
Wed. December 9th

Tell all your friends and colleagues!

Mark Your Calendar Today!

Info:
- Email address: bryan.l.young@intel.com

- Web address: http://www.intel.com/technology/product/ipes/index.htm


Related video:



And just for the fun of it, here's my favorite Intel commercial:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Vlad Mazek on Final SMB Conference Call Appearance

We have three more SMB Conference Calls left. Then Oprah and I are going to dance off into the sunset.

Here's what's up for Wednesday December 2nd at 9:00 AM Pacific:

Vlad Mazek from Own Web Now will join us to talk about the next generation of software you can resell into your SMB clients.

OWN is known for hosting services, Exchange Defender, Shockey Monkey, . . . and Vlad. So we'll talk about all of those.

Hosted Spam filtering has dramatically changed the way many of us do business. And the evil so-and-so's haven't gone away. But email nastiness has reached a kind of plateau. After all, when 99% of the email traffic is spam, what else can you do?

So now the evil bastards are turning to heightened web attacks. We've all seen it. Think back over the last two years. How many attacks have come through email vs. seemingly safe web browsing? I'll ask Vlad what OWN is doing about these threats -- and how we can all make money off of it.

In addition, we'll talk about cloud services - file sharing, encryption on the fly, HIPAA and SOX issues, government compliance issues, and email archiving.

And whatever comes up.

Vlad is a Microsoft MVP for Exchange Server. He's also a fun guy to talk to and a very bright person.

Come join the fun.

Register now at The Conference Call Page and join us . . .

Wednesday
December 2nd
9:00 Pacific / 12:00 Noon Eastern / 17:00 GMT / 4:00 AM Thursday in Sydney

In the meantime, email questions for Vlad to me at karlp@greatlittlebook.com.


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Monday, November 30, 2009

How Much is Your Resume Worth?

Seriously. How Much is Your Resume Worth?

Think about it this way: If your communication with a potential employer is limited to a brief email, a cover letter, and a resume, how much attention should you pay to those tiny bits of communication?

You might be tempted to say that you're hoping to get a job at $50,000. That makes your few hundred words worth $50,000. Or perhaps you're hoping for a job at $80,000. That makes your few hundred words worth $80,000.

Realistically, somewhere in this wonderful world of ours, someone is willing to pay you at least $40,000 or $50,000 USD (if you're competent). So your resume is really worth the difference between your ideal salary and the salary you'll actually be offered.

So quite realistically, let's say you'll get a job somewhere for at least $48,000 and you're really hoping for a job at $60,000.

Your resume is worth $12,000.

In other words, if you have THE perfect, butt-kicking resume, it can be the difference between "a job" and THE Job.

For regular readers, this topic may be getting old . . . But Oh My God, why is it so hard to post a job in a great paying industry and get people to care about applying for the job? After years of hiring people, I have given up on the old established way of hiring people.

The old way is:
- Post a job description
- Get 100 + resumes from people who don't give a crap
- Eliminate 90 of them for tiny, meaningless reasons
- Screen ten of them seriously
- Interview 3-5 people
- 2nd interview with 3 of them
- 3rd interview with 1-3 of them
- Hire one of them

I know it sucks to look for a job. But it sucks just as much to hire people.

- - -

So we are trying something new.

I recently posted the standard ad and got about 130 resumes. I started to look through them, but they were full of unqualified losers. I think people submit their half-assed emails and crappy resumes so they can check a box on the unemployment application.

YUP: I looked for a job.

So I threw away all the resumes and cursed. Then I came up with a new plan. I posed the following on Craigslist:

    Tech Support -- MS Certified in Sacramento, CA

    Position: Senior Technical Support--MS Certified
    Location: US-CA-Sacramento
    Job ID: T17

    Employment: Hourly - W2 - Part to Full Time

    We are looking for a Microsoft Certified Professional with field experience who is passionate about customer service and small business consulting.

    Ideally the candidate will also have hands-on experience with Small Business Server and customer service.

    We are looking for an *experienced* and *certified* Windows Technician to support our clients.

    NOTES:

    - Do not send a resume until requested to do so. We will not look at unsolicited resumes.

    - To apply for this position send the following two items to jobs@kpenterprises.com:

    - 1) 1-2 paragraph description of why you are passionate about technical consulting

    - 2) Go to https://mcp.microsoft.com/mcp to register and share your MCP transcript. Email the link to us.

    - We will send a technology self-assessment to people who stand out. Some of these people will be asked to submit resumes.

    We are looking for a long-term employee who will grow with the company as we evolve into offering some new and very cool technologies. If you want to work on known technology and just collect a paycheck, you won't fit in here.

    A background check and clean DMV report are required. KPEnterprises is a drug-free work place.

    This position is in Sacramento. Please do not apply if you are outside the Sacramento Valley.


Let's Examine This

Here are a few key points:

1) Do not send a resume

2) Send a few paragraphs about why you're passionate about this industry

3) Send a link to your Microsoft transcript


Now let's think back. Let's say the average job applicant's resume was worth roughly $12,000. Don't you think for that kind of money you'd follow the instructions?

Here's What Happened

In total, 34 people applied.

17 of them - exactly 50% - sent a resume and did not follow instructions. They were eliminated without looking at whatever they sent in.

Again: I know I'm frustrated here, but for a job that pays the rent and puts food on your table, isn't it worth following some very simple instructions?

- - -

I consider this experiment a success so far. Let's see how the guy works out. :-0

It's a success because I started with passion and the ability to write a paragraph. That was mixed in with the ability to follow instructions. If someone can't spend a few minutes to follow these instructions, they certainly won't put out much effort after they're hired!

We also started with absolute proof that they had a Microsoft certification, so I didn't have to fiddle around with that.

We have a good interview process. And other than a tech who was out sick for part of the IW process, it went well.

I was pleased with all three candidates, although one admitted in the interview that he did not meet all of my criteria. The other two were great and both would work well on our team. We hired one.

So after all that, one out of three candidates that we actually did a first interview with still weaseled through the system far enough to waste a significant amount of my time. The new process is better than the old. But maybe there's just a certain level of B.S. in the whole hiring process!


:-)



Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Josh Peterson / Taylor Business Group on SMB Conference Call Today

November 18th
9:00 AM Pacific / 12 N Eastern

Register Now!

Josh Peterson is a business coach and MY business coach for my Taylor Business Coach.

I am honored to be able to talk to this man any time. But I am particularly honored to have him on the SMB Conference Call where you can ask him your questions.

Since I left my beloved HTG 13 group and joined a Taylor Business Group, I have been bombarded with questions about how they compare, etc. This conversation will clarify some of those differences.

But more importantly, we'll talk about the amazing laser focus TBG has on the SMB consulting space and how they promote success. In addition, Josh was VERY well received at SMB Nation and we'll talk about some of those topics as well.

At his SMB Nation presentation, Josh gave some great advice on hiring a new sales person. I took a ton of notes even though I spent three days with him the week before! This man is awesome.

TBG is totally PSA-neutral, but they are creating specialized Business Improvement Groups, including the one I belong to. And they're getting started in the UK. Woo-Hoo.

We have a lot of people signed up for this conference call. Please join us for a great conversation!

Register Now!

9:00 AM Pacific / 12:00 Eastern
Wed. November 18th

Tell all your friends and colleagues!

Link for Taylor Business Group:

Web Address = http://www.taylorbusinessgroup.com


:-)



Now Shipping:
The Network Migration Workbook:
Zero Downtime Migration Strategies for Microsoft Networks

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Personal Note

Several people have pinged me to see if I'm still alive. Of course!

This blog has been relatively unattended for a month or so. I thought a quick note of explanation was in order.

Right now my personal life needs some attention. So I'm giving it the attention it's due. 2009 has been personally challenging for me. The members of my HTG and Taylor Business Groups know a bit about this.

The bottom line as always is: I'll be fine. But I need to focus my attention on the most important things.

2009 has been a challenging year financially. KPE will be in the black, but it has meant cutting back some hours and making some changes. I love my team and it's hard for me to cut back in order to stay profitable. It's the side of business no one likes.

Over at GLB we don't make much money, but it has had no reductions. In fact we've added two 20-hour positions in the last year. But GLB has also taken much more than it's share of my attention in 2009. Several people have reminded me that I started the year trying to travel less. But I've travelled every month, sometimes to three or four cities.

The fall, pre- and post-SMB Nation just about killed me.

As work begins to pick up for KPE and we start retooling for new products and services in 2010, I'm trying to give KPE (my core business) all the attention it needs.

So if I don't respond to email, don't be offended. There are 900 people ahead of you. I will answer every one. But not today. :-)

I am looking forward to my annual retreat in a few weeks. Three days of silent retreat with no gadgets. I need it this year more than I have in a long time. Gotta recharge the batteries.

Thank you all for your support and for your encouragement. Please be patient with me. I'll be back in the swing of things as soon as I can.


:-)



It's Coming . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

Ship Date: November 30th

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Drinking Tocqueville's Coffee

Alexis de Tocqueville is a political philosopher who predicted the absolute dominance of mediocrity in America. In his book Democracy in America he makes the point that Americans don't like to stand out, be different, or live on the edges of normalcy.

In a democracy the great masses determine "the good." As a result, the good is determined by the great mass of people in the middle. Good enough is good. Why be great when you've got good?

So I'm at the airport and I grab a cup of coffee that gurgles out of a dispenser and a croissant wrapped in plastic. Both are fine.

Fine.

Good. Not great.

A stranger comments to me that "Burger King does the same thing with their coffee. It sells enough that they have no reason to change."

Right on. Mass produced, "good enough" and it appeals to the great masses.

This is very much in line with Jim Collins' Good To Great analysis. He say "Good is the enemy of great."

I hope my business can strive to be just a notch or two above good. Maybe someday we'll be great. Cuz you've heard it before: Good Enough Isn't.

[ /random thoughts]
:-)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

VOIP - Vocalocity is the Focus of SMB Conference Call

Response Point might be on a shelf next to Bob, ME, SMB Accounting, and Clippy . . .

But VOIP is still hot. And as pipes get faster and cloud services get hotter, VOIP in the SMB space is set to really take off.

One alternative (used by my companies) is Hosted VOIP from Vocalocity. We use and resell it.

Join me Wednesday November 4th at 9:00 AM Pacific as David Politis from Vocalocity joins us on the SMB Conference Call.

Register Now!

We'll talk about hosted Voice Over IP and the great opportunities in for VOIP in the SMB Space.

Executive VP and General Manager David Politis is the founding employee of ZivVa (now Vocalocity) and was instrumental in transitioning the business from international VoIP calling to Hosted PBX services.

David pioneered the company's lead acquisition programs and managed product development of the hosted applications at Vocalocity. David is also responsible for leading Vocalocity's channel growth initiative.

He has worked closely with many of Vocalocity's certified resellers to grow their business by selling and supporting Vocalocity's hosted voip offering.

Read Whitepapers, case studies, or register for a webinar at http://www.vocalocity.com/resources

Please join us for a great conversation!

Register Now!

9:00 AM Pacific / 12:00 Eastern
Wed. November 4th

- - - - -

Mark Your Calendar Today!

Info:

Web Address = www.vocalocity.com

Blog = http://www.vocalocity.com/blog/

You Tube Channel = http://youtube.com/vocalocity

In- house Video site = http://vocalocityflix.com

Testimonial videos = http://www.vocalocity.com/view-testimonials/

Twitter http://twitter.com/vocalocity

:-)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Zero Downtime Migrations Seminar - Seattle

Will you please join me in Seattle on November 3rd for a 2.5 hour seminar on Zero Downtime Migrations?

The seminar is called An Introduction to Zero Downtime Migration Strategies.

It's perfect for anyone moving to SBS or any other Windows-based server. And, yes, that's either SBS 2008 or SBS 2003.

Only $49 per person

$10 discount available instantly. Just use discount code SEA200911 at checkout.

Info and registration are on the SMB Books Zero Downtime Migration Seminar page.

We'll cover . . .

- Project Management in a Managed Service Business
We all work projects. But do we all work them profitably and efficiently? Whether you're 100% managed service or just getting started, come and learn the most important elements of keeping project labor on the "billable" side of the ledger.

- Zero Downtime Migration Strategies
Join one of the authors of The Network Migration Workbook for an introduction to SBS Migration that will make your business more profitable and your clients a lot happier. Is ZDTM really possible and practical in your business? Attend and find out.

For more info, see http://www.smbbooks.com/categories/seminars.htm.

Register Now

Thanks to MS MVP Steve Banks for coordinating this with the local user groups!

- - - - -

Tuesday November 3rd, 2009
6:30 - 9:00 PM

Registration and gathering at 6:00 PM.

See you there!

- - - - -

Some Feedback from the Portland Seminar in June:


- "Great presentation! Well thought out and presented. Very persuasive."

- "Good slides and info!"

- "No hotel bar." (There's one in every crowd.)

- "Very relevant. Thanks."

- "Not enough time to cover all the info!"

- "Great points regarding project management from a high level."

- "Too brief."

- "If I can 'get' this, it will revolutionize and revitalize my business, giving me my life back!"

:-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Channel Insider Bull's Eye Awards

Larry Walsh from Channel Insider magazine reports . . .

    I'm excited to announce that we're now accepting nominations for the Channel Insider 2009 Bull's Eye Awards. These awards will recognize the contributions, innovations and solid work of solution providers, managed service providers, vendors, distributors and industry groups.

    You can find out about the 22 categories and nomination process here: http://www.channelinsider.com/c/a/Surveys/Channel-Insider-Announces-Bulls-Eye-Awards-651165/.

    We encourage you to nominate your favorite vendor, distributor, trade association, channel account manager and, of course, yourself.


Check it out!

:-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

In Cincinnati - Ready for the All-Day Managed Service Extravaganza

Okay. Had a so-so travel day.

Here are a buncha random notes.

It turned into a high-tech handheld day and a low-tech writing day. I filled an entire tablet of lined paper and started another before the plane landed.

Ironically, I then hear Dave Ramsey on the radio and he said something that I've found to be very true in my life: Great ideas can make you go broke. If you don't filter very strongly, you can find yourself investing a lot into every good idea you have. Without the focus, you can end up paying for great ideas forever. You need to execute.

Change channels. Too close to home.

Then I find 97.3 fm and it's playing Little Feat. How often do you hear Little Feat on the radio? I may have to move here.

Got to the Residence Inn and the room was amazing. If you've never stayed at a Residence Inn by Marriott, make the effort to do so the next time you travel.

So now I'm relaxing and typing up a few notes for tomorrow.

This will be a super 8-hour tour of what you need to know about success in the modern world of managed services. See the details at http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2009/10/all-day-event-in-cincinnati-oct-24.html.

Only $49 at the door.

Hope to see you there.

:-)



It's Coming . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

Ship Date: October 31st

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Get Your Resume Seen Today

As the economy picks up, you may find yourself looking for a job - or looking to move up by moving to another job. Let me give you a bit of the employer's perspective to help you out.

Disclaimer: I'm not an asshole. Really. I'm just a guy trying to run a business. And when I try to grow my business I have to find good people who have the skills I'm looking for right now. I'm going to put out an advertisement and be overwhelmed with resumes.

Please do all the things you need to do to get a job.

Please avoid the things that will just annoy possible employers.

I know it's hard to blast the universe with a million resumes and get little or no response. I know it's very difficult to be out there looking for a job in a down economy. But it's also difficult to be looking to hire and to dig through mountains of "spam" applications.

Hiring is difficult. Keeping that in mind will help you get past the first few hurdles. When I go through the hiring process, I have to cull through hundreds of horrible, unqualified resumes. Then I ask for appointments and 60% of the applicants don't respond. I make interview appointments and 25% don't show up. I make second interview appointments and another 25% don't show up. It's difficult and depressing.

So when you drop your resume into the "inbox" of that process, you need to work hard to make sure you make the cut.

The first time I look at a resume, I plan to spend less than ten seconds per applicant. In fact, the first time someone looks at a resume, it's not me. There are a few requirements I have that cull out most applicants. One is Microsoft Certification. So I have someone look through the inbox and eliminate everyone whose resume does not say Microsoft Certified Professional.

In a perfect world you, the perfect candidate, will apply to us, the perfect company, and we'll be together forever. In the real world, your perfect application comes in with 200 others, most of which are garbage, spam, unrelated, or unqualified. In a batch of 200 resumes, I'm lucky to find ten people who are qualified and don't turn me off immediately.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you have an equal chance. Your first goal is make sure I don't throw away your resume. After that, if you're one of the ten, then you'll have an equal chance.

Here are some tips. Please take them seriously.

Do These Things

- Make Your Resume Readable
In the 21st century a technical resume should be provided as a PDF. You can get a free plug-in from Microsoft to create PDFs right out of Word. Or buy PDF Complete or some other tool. You don't know what my settings are in Word, so your Word doc might show up on my screen with lines and markup and all kinds of stuff you didn't intend.

Invest $20 in a book on resumes and follow their advice with a grain of salt. DO use one inch margins all around. DO use a readable font. Don't worry about going to two or three pages. If you're the right candidate, eight pages is okay.

- Offer Up Your Microsoft Transcript
Beginning this Fall, KPEnterprises is requiring that you give us a link to the Microsoft transcript tool. This is a pretty cool way to show off your technical expertise. Go to https://mcp.microsoft.com/mcp to register and share your MCP transcript. If you put that link with the access code in your resume or cover letter you will stand out from the crowd.

- Name Your Resume Well
If I get 150 resumes, 125 of them will be named something like "resume.doc" or "currentresume.doc." But if your resume is "Anderson Resume.doc" it will make my life easier. If I were to search my archives for "resume.doc," I'd probably get 10,000 hits. But even with the name Anderson, I'd get very few hits.

And don't name your resume something cute like "The best technician at any price.doc." Cute works after you've made the first cut. Before that it's just annoying.

- Explain Large Time Gaps
If your most recent job ended a year ago, that's a major flag. I actually go looking for an explanation of this. Took time off for a kid? No problem. Worked in an unrelated field for a year? Probably okay if the rest of the resume is fine. But you have to understand that every employer will want to know about that big blank. Rather than giving an excuse to reject you, just put some explanation in your resume.

- Be Positive
As I mentioned, it's difficult to look for a job and it's difficult to be hiring right now. Everyone's a little stressed. Everyone's a little unsure about the future. You want to eat. I want to avoid hiring the wrong person.

Perhaps the best way to stand out is to be very up-beat. Help me see a brighter, more wonderful future with you on my team.

- Have a Good Cover Letter
I don't need a long letter. Just 2-3 paragraphs to show me that you are articulate. Please proof read. I know you're not the sales person. But I need people who can communicate with clients. This is more important with all the remote work we do than it used to be. If 80% of your communication is by email, you need to know how to say what you want.


Don't Do These Things

- Don't Ignore the Salary Range
When the job says $X/hour firm, don't ask for the moon. If you're really worth $60,000, that's great. Don't apply for the $14/hour bench tech job. No one's going to say "I was looking for someone to install hard drives but you have ten years of project management skills so I'll pay you three times the salary." It's not going to happen. If I need an entry level tech, I'm not going to move from $20/hr to $30/hr because you have lots of experience.

- Don't Have Typos
Seriously. Read your resume. If you send me a resume in a Word doc and it's got red squiggly underlines all over the place, I'm not even going to look at them long enough to make fun of you. I'm going to close it, delete it, and move on. This takes me one second.

And have someone else read your resume and cover letter -- aloud if possible. "Your excellent add caught my intention." Delete.

Note, please, that the employer can make all the typos he wants. The world is not fair. The one offering the money gets to decide who to hire.

- Don't Ignore Basic Qualifications
If the job announcement says "Microsoft Certification Required" and you don't have it, do not apply. Period. You will never get a chance to tell me that certifications are meaningless and you know brilliant, talented people without certs, blah, blah, blah. Your opinion on this subject does not matter. If the certification is easy, stupid, and meaningless, then go get it before you apply. If I say you have to have a license or certification, then you have to have it. Period.

Along these lines, don't bother starting your cover letter with an explanation of why you're not qualified. Nothing personal, but I've got a stack of resumes and most of them aren't qualified. Go get qualified. If you need a clean DMV, stop driving like an idiot and come back in three years. If you need a professional license, go get it.

- Don't Provide Fake Certifications
Your tech school is not doing you a favor if they tell you that passing their class on MCSE training allows you to use the title "Associate degree in MCSE A.A.S.S.X.Y.Z." There is no such thing and whatever it is, it's not an MCSE. If you have an MCSE, say "MCSE, acquired June 2006." Similarly, if the only place I see MCSE is a bullet point under XYZ Technical Institute, I'm going to assume you took the prep class but not the exam. If you have a certification, say so.

- Don't Apply for Every Remotely-Technical Job
If I'm advertising for a desktop or help desk technician and your cover letter begins with "I'm seeking a position as a programmer" I stop reading and delete. Maybe you just forgot to update the cover letter. I don't know. But I know I don't want to hire a tech who really wants to be a programmer.

And your resume will be buried deep in a cavern next to the Ark of the Covenant on the day I need a programmer, so you'll have to send it again when that day comes.

- Don't Be Cute and Colorful.
Please make your resume and cover letter readable to someone in a hurry. Flashing borders and bouncing graphics don't substitute for certifications and experience.

- Don't Ignore the Location Requirement
I have nothing against people who live in other cities or countries. But please read the job description. If you live in Iowa and want to work for me, driving to client offices in Sacramento, then you have to move to Sacramento. If you live in Bangalore and the job description includes stuffing envelopes in Sacramento, you can't telecommute.

- Don't Send Links Rather Than The Resume
Thankfully, this trend has faded. Our policy is that we will not click on 4freeresumes.com (or some other service). I don't know what's there. And I'll never find out. We educate our clients to never click on unknown links that show up in email from strangers. We follow the same advice. And remember: Everyone else is making it easy on me by providing a resume. You're making me take an extra step.

- Don't Attach Irrelevant Files
When I open your email and you've accidentally included listings for all the jobs you're applying for, or letters to other employers, I'm never going to write back and tell you that you made a mistake. Be careful. Go slow.

- Don't List Your Requirements
Don't state a bunch of your requirements in the cover letter. At this point, your goal is to shine like the sun and get through the first cut. If you have time restrictions or need special days off, save it for after you've been offered a job, or if you get asked about it in an interview.

Make me want you. Once I want you, I'll be a lot more flexible.

Note: Several people disagree with me on this. But today I'm doing the hiring.

- Don't Ask for Benefits
Don't ask about benefits in your cover letter. Even if we offer everything you need, this is not the place to bring it up. My reaction will be "This doesn't taste right." If benefits are a deal-breaker, send a separate email and ask whether/which benefits are included. That separates the benefits discussion from the resume sorting discussion.

- Don't Over-State Your Awesomeness
I've had more than one cover letter that said something like "Don't be intimidated by my skill level . . . I can bring extensive knowledge to this low level position." I'm not impressed. Similarly, don't promise that you can bring a new level of organization to my company unless you actually know something about how we're organized. Remember, if the phrase "Forget You" floats through my mind, I press the delete button and you are forgotten.

-----

The Fastest Cuts

Most of the resumes are rejected for just a handful of issues. Here are the top three:

1) No Microsoft Certification
Sorry. Arbitrary, perhaps. But it's just a requirement.

2) Not local to Sacramento
We are very proud of what we can do remotely. But when the position is in the Central Valley, you just have to live here.

3) Over Qualified
This is easier to spot than under qualified. Got a Ph.D. in Information Systems, spent 20 years at IBM, and made $80,000 on your last job? Somehow I think you won't stay with us at $20/hour hoping to get a bump to $21.


The Biggest Boost

Let's look at the other side: Who stands out the most?

1) A Good Cover Letter
In some sense, it doesn't matter what you say. Just say something and present yourself well. I personally don't hire people to sit in Dilbert Cubes, head down, avoiding human contact. So a paragraph or two goes a long ways.

2) Organize Your Resume
Get help if you need it. Always ask for advice and tell them to be brutal. This document is worth tens of thousands of dollars to you. Sculpt it with care!

Think about what you would look for. Is it easy to find certifications/education, Job dates, titles, and companies? All the details about "Improved capacity 27% in six months" is useful AFTER I figure out where you were and what you were doing.

3) Show You Can Do The Job
Give examples that show skills you think will be relevant. "I'm great with organizing small projects" or "I helped write the procedure for setting up a new client." Be someone who can add to the team.

As I said before - Make me want you!

-----

The bottom line: This isn't fun for you and it isn't fun for me.

Look good and professional. Don't waste my time. Don't do things that will get you rejected right off the bat.

And I wish you luck in your search. Getting the right job can make your life truly enjoyable. And that's the way it should be.

:-)



Join Karl for a Zero Downtime Migration Seminar

Cincinnati October 24th

Seattle November 3rd