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?
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.)
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.
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(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.
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