Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jeff Middleton on SMB Conference Call Wednesday

Join Us

April 1, 2009

9:00 AM Pacific Time



Jeff Middleton -- Mr. Migration
SBS Migration / SBSMigration.com


Swing Migrator, Microsoft MVP, Conference Organizer, Author, and all Around Nice Guy

Register Now!

Join Jeff and me as we discuss Migration Strategies for SBS 2008 (and other things, too).


SBS 2008 is pretty fresh on the landscape. SBS 2003 has been an amazing product! So how do we move clients from '03 to '08? More importantly, how do you make this move?

We'll discuss strategies -- both technical and strategic.

Join us April 1st.

Register Now!

More Info on Jeff:
- www.sbsmigration.com

Also Check Out our Interview with Jeff from last year at:

SMB Conference Call #6

:-)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Autotask Community Day One Notes

So why is the Autotask Community event a "Community" at all?

And why is there a link inside Autotask that says "Autotask Community?"

And why is there a web site for Autotask users called The Autotask Community?

Well . . . are you ready for this? Autotask is an extremely Community Focused company. The morning sessions today were a Fan Festival for the leadership at Autotask. It is really clear that these folks are reaping the benefits of building a community -- and integrating the community into their managed service tool.

Community is not an add-on or an afterthought.

Some business partners talk about community but don't really know what that means. In my (okay not very) humble opinion, Dell and Symantec stand out as examples of this. It seems like they feel obligated to say they care, but they can't change their internal processes to save their life.

Today started with a "rally and vision" presentation. Then it turned very quickly to the Community. In Autotask's case, that means raving fans who work really hard to help Autotask evolve. Awards were presented to the AT users who had contributed the most to their evolution -- including Mark Crall and Amy Luby.

The early afternoon featured a close-up view of some cool new features and tools.

And the rest of the day was filled with users telling their stories and best practices.

Community through and through.

Oh, and tomorrow the general conference session will start with . . . quick tips from five more partners . . . talking about how to get the most out of the community.

- - - - -

Two lessons for your business:

1) Whether it's community or anything else, your values won't necessarily just show up in your business. You need to work to put your values first in order to move your company in that direction. This stuff doesn't happen by accident. It's a top-down thing.

2) Do you have clients who simply pay you, or do you have raving fans? One of these is better than the other.

- - - - -

Personal note: I don't normally post at this time (in any time zone). But tonight I got hijacked by a couple of friends. We sat in an abandoned cafe for 2.5 hours after it was closed and talked about everything. Rest assured, the problems of the universe have been solved.

So now it's past time to turn into a pumpkin and I'm going to bed.


:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Autotask Community - Day Zero

Yesterday was the big pre-day for Autotask Community. We had a good crowd. Good size. Good people. Great questions.

Here's a little feedback from one of the attendees:

    "Hey Karl. Your seminar was very useful. You should raise your price of admission! I drove 7 hours total today just to hear it and $29 was a steal IMO. Your insight to having been there and done that is very valuable….

    Thanks for putting this on. I got a lot out of it and have a bunch of good ideas to work on…."

    Brian Blake


Thanks, Brian!

- - - - -

The hotel at Opryland is freakin' enormous. I don't know a single person who hasn't wandered aimlessly lost at least once.

Big is one thing, but this is nine acres of indoor overlapping mazes. There are no shortcuts or easy ways to get where you want to go. Strange.

Anyway, the events kicked off with a really nice reception, followed by two vendor-specific parties. One was Level Platforms.

The other was a combo of MSPSN and IT Control Suite. They announced a backup system called Business Continuity as a Service. Offsite backups with full data recovery in less than 24 hours.

I didn't see all the vendors last night. But one stood out: Own Web Now / Exchange Defender brought something new to the universe. Pink and purple T-Shirts. The world is full-up white T-shirts, and approach full for black shirts. So this was a very nice change.

Vlad says the pink shirts are moving surprisingly well. They guys are taking them for their wifes. Uh huh.

If you are attending the Autotask Conference be sure to go by Vlad's booth and pick up a discount flyer for SMB Books. This offer is only available to people who visit his booth.

- - - - -

Today we kick off with keynotes by Bob Godgart and a panel moderated by Joe Panettieri from MSP Mentor.

Later in the day, Mark Crall is running a series of seminars with me, Travis Austin, and Terry Hedden.

Welcome to Nashville.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This Is Not For You

If you don't own any books or audio CDs by Brian Tracy, go buy some today.

I particularly like his audio CDs because I can listen to them while I'm driving around town. I try to go through each CD three times. After all, I'm "driving while distracted" and want to make sure I catch everything at least once.

My favorite Brian Tracy saying is "This is not for you."

For example, he'll be talking about sales managers who come in to work at 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning when their sales staff is expected to be in at 8:00 AM. He describes the undesirable behavior and very matter-of-factly says "This is not for you."

I have a vision of Obi Wan waving his hand. "These are not the droids you're looking for."

Perhaps what stands out to me is the prohibition of bad behavior. All too often we give and receive advice on what we should do. You should get to work on time. You should be a good example for your employees.

It is far less common, as adults, to give or receive advice about what we should not do. Such advice is fine from a manager or a road sign. But from one professional to another? That's pretty rare.

As a consultant, you get to be one of these rare professionals who get to give both kinds of advice (what to do and what not to do).

  • Clicking on attachments from people you don't know, in an email you didn't request: This is not for you.
  • Keeping the same password for three years: This is not for you.
  • Letting people connect random 500 MB USB drives to their desktop computers: This is not for you.
  • Operating without an employee security policy: This is not for you.
  • Letting your anti-virus expire: This is not for you.


You get the picture.

There's something compelling about these words. You're not arguing ("A good anti-virus program is critical for your business! Why just the other day . . ..").

You're simply stating a truth.

And it's somehow affirmative. "This is not for you." It sounds friendly. Like, I know you're a good person and a smart professional. You wouldn't do something like that.

It draws people in. So they agree with you. No that's not for me.

Try working this phrase into your consulting practice.

Like the next time someone wants to buy a $399 Dell special with a twenty minute warranty, a celeron processor, and 256 MB of RAM.

No. This is not for you.

:-)


Hey! Looking for great books and other resources focused entirely on the SMB Consultant?
Visit www.smbbooks.com

"Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful . . ."

Okay.

So I'm trying to get to Nashville and the home of some awesome music.

I get a call from American Airlines. I only mention the name because they're liars.

My flight is cancelled. Because of the weather. Cross winds.

But 1) they called me last night when the weather hadn't happened yet! (It still hasn't)

2) Sacramento is calm and beautiful

3) Houston is calm and beautiful

4) Nashville is calm and beautiful

5) None of the other airlines are cancelling flights. So their cross winds must be okay.

Why lie?

I'm actually not upset, although I could see how you might read it that way. I just don't understand why they give such a lame excuse.

Why not say "I don't know"?

I never hassle the messenger in such circumstances. She doesn't know. And she's not REALLY the liar, although she can't possibly believe what she says.

So she re-routes me through Minneapolis on a different airline. Northwest is not experiencing cross winds.

Sadly, I won't be at the Grand Ole Opry tonight.

Cross Winds.

:-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Every SMB Consultant Should Be Rich

I just finished by morning meditation.

If you ask me how I got where I am today, I'll tell you that the most important element of my success has been the habit of sitting quietly in a chair for 20 minutes a day and having absolute clarity about the "big picture" so I can stay completely focused.

This habit -- daily quiet time, or reflection, or meditation -- made me rich.

It's funny. 98% of the people who ask me about that immediately dismiss it and want to know what else I did. They want the result without the most important step.

You may have heard me tell an audience this:

If you set aside morning quiet time and take 15-20 minutes every single day for 30 days, it will change your life. I'll put that in writing. Oops. Just did.

There are many reasons why this works.

Perhaps the most important is that you have time to figure out why you do what you do. Once there's a why, then the doing is much easier.

One of my favorite books is the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Gerber is perhaps the most famous proponent of the phrase "Work ON your business, not IN your business."

What does that look like? Well, you probably guessed that it doesn't look like running around from job to job, eating in your car, never seeing your family, and filling your life with stress until midnight -- then doing it again.

Awhile back I was in a meeting and one of the members mentioned that he had perfected his 30 second elevator speech. Another guy asked "What is it?" The first guy said he didn't have it memorized.

A lot of us do that with our so-called goals.

We say our family comes first, but we have no idea what that means. We do nothing to improve our family life, personal life, or marriage life. Nothing. We exist. We go through the motions every day.

We say we want our business to go to the next level, but we do nothing to change it. We do the same thing every day, every week, and every month, hoping it will get better.

If you don't like where your business is, more of the same is NOT better.

There are two kinds of riches you can attain in very short order. First, there's a value-filled life that will give you an anchor to hold on to no matter what happens. This has a side benefit of making you a happier person, in a happier marriage, with a happier family, and lots of positive relationships. That's true richness.

Then there's money. Money is approximately the easiest thing in the world to acquire. You live in a world of money. It floats by us all the time. All we have to do is figure out how to reach out and earn our share.

Many people -- maybe most people -- eventually figure out how to get more money. But they do so without considering the riches that matter and that are more long-lasting.

When your house goes down 50% in value, and the stock market goes down 50% in value, and the bank reduces your credit limit every time you make a payment, you learn how easily money comes and goes.

And here's the really sad part: If you just spent ten years ignoring your family and building a fragile nest egg that can disappear in a flash, you're going to feel pretty darn helpless. Life will seem pointless. And your children will still be ten years older.

I take it as a "given" that I will be financially wealthy. Then I focus my life on the big picture that really matters. The money will come. At least in the computer business, it will come. It can't help itself.

So there are two sides to the "Riches" story.

First, you need to take quiet time every day, figure out what really matters in your life, and learn to focus on what's really important every single day.

Second, you need to change your life to reflect the values you now identify. That means NOT working until late at night. That means putting your family first and your business second -- where it belongs.

"Everyone" says they agree with that, but almost no one practices it.

I can't tell you how many emails I receive from people at 11 PM or 3 AM. It's shocking to me that people do this and think they'll get ahead. You'll get an ulcer, but you won't get ahead.

You'll make a little money, but you won't get wealthy. You can't. You're limiting yourself by believing in the Myth of Horsepower. (See "Working on Workaholism).

It is pointless to come into work every day, every week, every month, and work really hard without a big picture. If all you do is bang your head against the handful of emergencies that came up today, you will never get ahead. Because there is no "ahead." There is only the same daily grind with no larger purpose and no measure of success.

Money: Here's How to Get Rich. If you've read this far, it's probably because you want the secret to becoming the OTHER kind of rich -- becoming wealthy.

If you're in the computer business, becoming financially wealthy is very simple. I didn't say easy. You will have to work very hard (between 8AM and 5PM). But you can absolutely do it.

You see, when you exist in an industry flowing with money, you don't have to figure out where the money is. It's all around you. You can literally reach out and grab it.

Then you have to control your cash flow and Pay Yourself First. What does that mean? That means to put a little money into investments every month.


Control your lifestyle or it will control you!


Once you begin working normal business hours, focus will come very quickly.

When you're in a business with $100/hour rates, there is NO excuse not to be wealthy. The only thing that can keep you from being wealthy in the next three years is your personal spending habits.

Buy what you need, not what you want. Put the difference into your house payments.

Buy what your business needs, not what you want. Put the difference into the stock market.

Drive a Toyota instead of a Volvo and put the difference toward your bills. Pack your lunch and put the extra $100/month into car payments.

If you want a "night job" buy a rental unit and become a property manager. There are few faster paths to wealth than owning real estate.

When you make $100/hour or more, there is no excuse for not paying off your debts. There's no excuse for not making extra car payments. There's no excuse for not making a slightly higher mortgage payment.

STOP scheming about how you can work more hours on some project that will just lead to spending more fruitless hours.

- - - - -

Summary:

First, Adopt a daily habit of spending quiet time in meditation or quiet time.

(If you don't do this, skip the rest. You will never be rich.)

Second, limit your work hours to 8-10 hours per day. This is essential to practicing the values that will emerge from step one. You have to have a life -- with hobbies and friends and all that stuff.

Third, make an effort to understand all the money that flows in, to, from, and around your personal and business life. Make changes that move you toward a goal of wealth.

Luckily, a down economy is absolutely the best time to get started. Interest rates are down. Houses are on sale. Stocks are 40% off. Every dollar you squirrel away in the next two years will double or triple in the next five.

When you get to $5,000 in your Roth IRA, open a regular stock account. Don't watch it every day, but check in once a week. You don't have to be Silas Marner, but it's okay to take pleasure and price as your nest egg works it's way up to $10K, $20k, and $100k.

I used to assume that every computer consultant who had been in this business for ten years was a millionaire. I have learned in the last few years that that's not true.

It should be true.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Operating System Push-Back Inevitable?

I'm afraid Microsoft and the rest of the business world is in for a bit of a surprise.

Yes, the economy is down. So that will affect some sales. But on a grander scale, there are other forces that will keep the sales of some new operating systems lower than expected.

I have recently been in public forums where Microsoft employees are probing to find out why an operating system hasn't been selling very well. No. It's not Vista.

It's EBS.

I contributed some thoughts (a shocker, I know). I believe there's no market for EBS. If a brand new company needs exactly three servers, then it's fine. But if a company is growing from one to two to three servers, it's nearly impossible to justify.

Let's say your first server is a file server and runs exchange. It might be SBS. I hope it is SBS!

When you get to the point where you're adding a server, it's probably SQL or Terminal Server. If you have SBS Premium, then you already have the licensing to just install these once the hardware arrives.

Stop. What does that network look like? Does it look the same as 90% of your network maps from for the last six years?



By the time you get to three servers, you've grown there organically and the easiest thing to do is to add one server, not buy three new servers. Formatting two servers to totally install EBS fresh on existing hardware would be hard to justify.

Two critical opinions determine whether a specific operating system gets sold into this environment:

1) The consultant believes that it's the right operating system and therefore recommends it.

2) The client believes that it's the right operating system based on what they know.

The client may be a former network engineer or know zero about computer-thingies. In either case, the client's knowledge comes from the press, the consultant, friends, neighbors, relatives, and loud-mouth know-nothings who happen to have an opinion.

So, here's the deal with EBS:

There's no market for this operating system. Pretty much the only appropriate client is a brand new company that needs exactly three servers. That population was small until October 1, 2008. Now it's non-existent.

A consultant might recommend it in an attempt to make sales. Other than that, there's no reason for a consultant to recommend this O.S.

As for the client . . . how could they even know about EBS? They can't, so they are in no position to think it's the right O.S. for the job.

- - - - -

Enough about EBS. Microsoft has introduced OS's that flopped before. We all either remember Windows ME and Microsoft Bob or we've heard about them.

No, EBS isn't' the big problem for Microsoft.

Microsoft's real problem is their past ability to build great operating systems.

What was the biggest challenge to the adoption of Windows 2000? NT 4.0.

What was the biggest challenge to the adoption of Server 2003? NT 4.0.

What was the biggest challenge to the adoption of Server 2008? Server 2003.

What is the biggest challenge to the adoption of Windows Vista? XP.

What will be the biggest challenge to the adoption of Windows 7? XP.


With every generation of operating system, there's a larger and larger community that just wants to stay where they are.

This is complicated by a growing community of hardware and software providers that refuse to update their stuff for the new operating systems.

Some vendors, like HP, work very hard to keep up with every O.S. They embrace every product Microsoft introduces (Example: They're the only brand-name provider of an off-the-shelf Home Server box.).

But LOTS of other vendors never upgrade their crap. Most of these lazy so-and-so's wish that we still lived in a Windows 98 world.

They program in .net 1.0.
They use SQL 4 instead of the very modern 5!
They don't really understand ActiveX
. . . or anything created in the last five years.

- - - - -

I am shocked at the laziness of software developers.

I am shocked at the laziness of hardware developers.

I am shocked at the laziness of SOME computer consultants.

I was just shredding an old case that involved this phenomenon. The client showed me the quote from the freakin' moron consultant who came before.

This schmoe recommended -- in writing -- that the client buy seven new computers with Windows 98 and then pay the consultant to remove 98 and install Windows 95. Here's the best part: "We don't know the quality or stability of the new operating system. Windows 95 is stable, reliable, and well understood by the consultant."

In other words . . . "I'm a moron. I refuse to learn the skills required to advance in my so-called profession. I hope this client is stupid enough to spend the next three or four years using an operating that's already obsolete. And I get to charge by the hour to replace new, working stuff with obsolete old stuff. Woo-hoo"

Thank Goodness such Bozos represent a microscopic portion of our profession.

But since our profession has no barriers to entry, these folks will always be around.

- - - - -

The problem is very complex, taken as a whole.

If you have a machine shop that uses an RS232 interface to control welders, routers, saws, etc., and you're not connected to the Internet, then you can survive for the next 100 years with Windows NT. In fact, your life will be easier with NT4 than with anything that's newer.

If your office receives reel tapes in EBCIDIC and you translate to ANSI, then you need an HP 3000 with MPE/X.

If your primary line of business application was written by a lazy bastard who refuses to keep up with his chosen profession, and you're out $250,000 for the software, then you need whatever operating system and patch level he uses.

If you make decisions about your server, network, desktops, and the rest of your I.T. infrastructure so you don't have to replace a seven year old printer, then you get what you deserve.

But . . .

For 90% of all clients in the SMB space, it will ALWAYS be cheaper and more cost effective in the long run to use the latest operating system and software from the leading providers.

Today (and for the last two years) that means Vista.

Next year that means Windows 7.

Today it means SBS 2008.

And Office 2007.

You can make all kinds of excuses about living in the past.

If your client has no opinion, she is most likely to go with whatever's installed right now. So her uneducated opinion will always look backward instead of forward.

And that leaves your opinion as a consultant, because your opinion and the client's opinion are the only two opinions that matter. If you don't look to the future, your client won't look to the future.

Despite all the bad press, there are about 200 Million legitimate copies of Vista in the wild. So if you forget the B.S. and look at the numbers, it's a hugely successful and spectacular operating system.

So when Windows 7 comes out, it will have to compete with
people who refuse to move away from Vista,
people who refuse to move away from XP,
people who refuse to move away from 2000,
people who refuse to move away from NT4,
people who refuse to move away from 98,
people who refuse to move away from 95,
people who refuse to move away from NT3.x,
people who refuse to move away from Windows 3.1

and the occasional Unix machine.

The point is: Every time Microsoft releases a really great operating system, they create another competitor to their future operating systems.

- - - - -

I am now hearing whispers that SBS 2008 hasn't taken off as Microsoft wished. Again, part of that is the economy. To be honest, part of it is the price jump, especially for Premium.

But part of the resistance is the absolute success of SBS 2003. 2003 changed the landscape of the small business network. It changed the standard practices of the consulting industry.

So the biggest challenge to SBS 2008 is SBS 2003.

Not because we won't love the new technology. But simply because the last operating system kicked so much butt.

This push back against new operating systems is inevitable. As the base of installed systems grows, the base of resistance to new operating systems grows.

New technology will always push operating systems forward. But just like office products, 95% of us only use a limited number of core functions and we need those core functions to work reliably over time. With luck, they will also work the SAME over time. When you get something "right," you don't need to change it for change's sake.

Our company policy is to sell the latest products available unless there is a compelling business reason to do otherwise. That simple rule will keep us on the forefront of knowledge about what's going on in our profession.

But I fear that philosophy is no longer the majority opinion. And even if it is, it won't be for long.

Computing in general has reached a point where resistance from the installed base will exceed the desire for new technology.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SMAC Your Staff

End of March means end of the first Quarter.

April means employee reviews for the first Quarter.

I recommend that you SMAC your staff every quarter. That means, create goals that are

- Specific

- Measurable

- Actionable

- Consistent

:-)

We certainly SMAC our employees.

We have a very simple form. At the top it has the employee's name and job description (one sentence). Then it lists job requirements (e.g., 70-282 exam or MCP status).

After that, we list a handful of things we will evaluate for the quarter. We start out with some "overall" goals so that everyone knows what's important in the big picture:

- Overall quality of technical support provided to clients
- Overall contribution to positive relationships within KPE
- Overall contribution to positive relationships between KPE and clients

The first set of goals is very general. They represent the values of our company and give us the "big picture" view of how an employee is doing.

For example, two of these items are about relationships. In our organization, relationships matter a lot. We only want to work with nice people -- inside or outside our company. So we don't tolerate clients who are abusive and we don't tolerate employees who can't contribute to a positive atmosphere.

For these higher-level goals, we don't go into great detail. After all, it would be silly to list out "Don't yell at customers" or all the many ways people can be unpleasant to work with. This is bigger-picture stuff.


Then we list very specific goals for the quarter.

- Certification Goals: Complete One MS Exam
- Learn to manage resources for KPE in Autotask
- Master Zenith SaaZ Scripting
- Completely revamp the remote office network and VPN
- Maintenance and care of Technician's on-hand supplies (The Scary Box)

[What we call the "Scary Box" is not supposed to be scary at all. It's the supplies we expect every tech to carry in their car. I'm sure you have something similar: network cables, a screwdriver, spare tapes, etc.]

Notice how each of these is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, and Consistent.

Specific goals have enough detail that they can be easily seen and evaluated. In fact, specificity makes these goals measurable and actionable. If I say "Be Good" there's not much to measure there, or take action on. Everyone can argue about what that means.

Measurable goals are easily evaluated. Just ask the question "How will I know that this goal has been achieved?" For example, what constitutes mastery of scripting in Zenith?

It is easy to see what sales goals look like: One contract, two contracts. $10,000, $50,000. But we don't measure out technicians in terms of the dollars they bring to the table. That's not their core function. We measure technicians in terms of service delivery.

The service manager is measured in terms of the utilization of the technicians.

Actionable goals clearly state the end-point that must be reached. An employee should be able to look at an goal and know what they need to do to accomplish it. Pass a test. Learn a software package. Complete a task. Once the end-point is clear, the employee should be able to start taking actions to achieve the goal.

If the goal is vague ("be a good employee"), there are no specific actions that can guarantee success. But if the goal is clear enough, the employee will understand both the end-point and the path to take.

Consistent goals contribute to the overall job description (stated above the goals). They also contribute to the department's goals and to the company's goals. They evolve from quarter to quarter with the employee and help the employee to improve as a professional.

- - - - -

When the company has goals and values, this process is pretty easy. That makes it possible for departments to have written goals, and for employees to have written goals.

The values and goals flow from the top of the organization down to the individual level. And the individual contributions build and support the goals of the organization from the individual level up to the aggregate.

Even if your company only has one, or three, or five people, you should do quarterly evaluations.

On one hand, it's only fair to the employees to tell them what purpose of their job is and how they can contribute to overall success. And, on the other hand, the cascading sets of goals will help your organization build a map to the future.

It is pointless to come into work every day, every week, every month, and work really hard without a big picture. If all you do is bang your head against the handful of emergencies that came up today, you will never get ahead. Because there is no "ahead." There is only the same daily grind with no larger purpose and no measure of success.

There's an old saying that it would be very sad to climb the ladder of success and discover it was leaning against the wrong wall.

We are too easily drawn into busy-busy work that leads nowhere in particular.

Yes, you accomplished something by fixing a computer. But over the course of a week or a month, what have you done to move your professional development forward? What have you done to move your department forward? What have you done to move your company forward?

Working really hard toward No Goals is absolutely pointless.

And very common.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for great books and other resources.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Super Migration Seminar -- Karl Palachuk / Jeff Middleton / Manuel Palachuk

Join us May 14th in Las Colinas (Dallas) for a truly unique event. Four hours of solid, practical, hands-on information about Network Migration Strategies.

- Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations

- When to Use a Swing Migration

- Manual vs. Automated Migrations

- Deep Dive into Profile Migration

- and more !



May 14, 2009
1-5 PM
Las Colinas, TX

Find Out More and Register Today!


This seminar will feature Jeff Middleton (SBSMigration.com), Manuel Palachuk (President, KPEnterprises), and me.

This event is being held on the site of the SMB Summit, but you do not have to be a conference attendee.

More than just theory: This seminar will provide lots of click-by-click guidance on Windows Migrations -- including SBS 2008.

- Learn the truth about the Windows Migration Wizard built into SBS 2008 -- and its limitations

- Learn about the preferred tools for moving data, profiles, users, groups, security settings, and more

- Learn how to create User Checklists and how to adapt them to your scenario

- And More!


This is a solid 4-hour technology seminar.


ONLY $99 when you register online.


Two Money-Back Guarantees:

1. Your Registration will be Returned to You if You are Not 100% Satisfied

2. You Will Save at Ten Hours of Labor on Your Next Migration with the techniques you'll learn in this seminar.

Really.

- - - - -

Jeff Middleton founder and architect of SBSMigration.com. He is a Microsoft MVP and creator of the Swing Migration process. like a god to us. Jeff has been swinging migrations and consulting to consultants since before SBS 2003 was released. He has been a "VAR" and consultant for more than 20 years. In addition, he is the architect of the IT Pro Conference in New Orleans.

Karl Palachuk and Manuel Palachuk are writing the Network Migration Workbook (due in late Spring/early Summer). Karl is the founder and CEO of KPEnterprises (Sacramento's premier Microsoft Certified Partner). He has experience running support services for companies from one person to some of the largest companies in the world.

Manuel Palachuk is President of KPEnterprises. He has more than 20 years experience in IT consulting. In addition to being a co-author of the Network Migration Workbook, Manuel is the primary architect of KPEnterprises' Zero Downtime Migration techniques.

:-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Zenith Infotech Featured on the SMB Conference Call

Join us Wednesday, March 18, 2009
9:00 AM Pacific Time

Our Guest Is

Clinton Gatewood
Vice President for Corporate Development
Zenith Infotech

Clint will give us all an update on Zenith as well as discuss Partner Best Practices .

You've certainly heard of Zenith. If you're not using them, you're probably considering them for delivery of Managed Services and more.

In addition to simple monitoring and remote management, Zenith offers a variety of products including a very popular BUDR solution.

Clint will join us to talk about service, support, and some very special announcements about what's ahead for Zenith and for the managed service industry.

It's not often that you get a chance to talk to one of the big-wigs in an international company like this. So please join us for a very informative hour!

Join us March 18th.

Register Now!

Info on Zenith:
- www.zenithinfotech.com

Also Check Out the Zenith Conference Call from last year at:

SMB Conference Call #5

- - -

About Clint:

Clinton Gatewood has worked with hundreds of service providers helping them understand the managed services business model and how best to organize their companies’ from an operational and sales perspective to take advantage of this opportunity in the small business segment.

Clint spent several years in the US Army and has a BA in Political Science from Slippery Rock University and has partially completed his masters at Carnegie Mellon University in Information Systems.

He has over twelve years experience in sales and relationship management covering a wide range of industries.

- - - - -

Register Now and join us on Wednesday!

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for great books and other resources.

Handy Andy and GFI Are Seeking Your Input

MVP "Handy Andy" Goodman has accepted a position on an International Advisory Board to help the new management at GFI reinvent themselves and align their products and partner program more directly with the SMB space.

And Andy's got a request for all of us:

    "If you have had good or bad experience with any of the GFI Products or interactions with GFI as a partner, please drop me a line personally at Andy@SBS-Rocks.com and let me know about your experiences. I would really appreciate it.

    Also although I am not tech support nor a salesman for GFI, if any of you are having current issues with a product or partner interaction, feel free to contact me personally and I will you get some immediate attention.

    Look for great things to come from GFI over the next 6 months to a year for your customers and your business."


Andy also notes that he'll be heading to Texas for the SMB Summit. Yee-haw!

As for GFI reinventing themselves, Andy reports that the advisory board will probably be about 13 members strong when they get done. They are called the Elite Technology Team, or ETT for short. Andy was the first to be appointed and reports that Amy Babinchak was the second.

But he says he isn't willing to "out" the other members.

- - - - -

And since we're talking "All Things Andy" check out his new Blog at http://blog.sbs-rocks.com.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for great books and other resources.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Star is Born - Max Uptime

Awhile back Matt Makowicz(www.ambitionmission.com) recommended a site to me called 99 Designs.

It's a site where you can host a contest for creative works. For example, Matt has used this site to have book covers, business cards, and company logos created.

We used it to find our Promotion Monkey logo. We are very pleased with the final logo on that one.

NOW we come to a turning point in the history of Great Little Books . . .

The redesign of our logo.

I hope you're all aware of the little robot dude that has graced the cover of our books for the last few years.



Cute, eh?

Well, once again we have design "issues." Robo Dude 1.0 has served us well. We've sold thousands of books with his assistance.

But just like our old web site . . . No one loves him as much as I do. My wife thinks he's too clip-arty. Most of the staff don't like him. He's too "old school" in a new school world.

So, we held a contest for a new mascot to use on the new book.

Please see http://99designs.com/contests/18805.

There you'll see many of the designs that were submitted. Designers can remove their designs at any time, so you won't see all the art that was submitted for the contest.

After a week of reviewing and feedback, we decided on this little Robo Dude:



So what do you think?

Is this the new, better, mascot for Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc.?

Comments welcome.

Also: We'll take any recommendations for names. Right now we're referring to him as Max -- Max Uptime.


:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for great books and other resources.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Autotask Preday Reminder - Only $29.95

Join Karl Palachuk and Amy Luby in Nashville on March 29th.

Sign up now for the big Nashville Pre-Day Event. This event is being held on the site of the Autotask Community gathering, but you do not have to be an Autotask user or conference attendee.

Karl Palachuk on 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.

Amy Luby on How to Manage Your Managed Services

Learn how to keep your staff efficient and your service desk profitable through process efficiencies and workflow management. As a special bonus for attending, you’ll receive MSPSN’s NOC Support Playbook and documentation which is what MSPSN uses internally to keep our Virtual Service Desk efficient and profitable.

Karl Palachuk on Zero Downtime Migration Strategies

Join one of the authors of The Network Migration Workbook forn introduction to SBS Migration that will make your business more profitable and your clients a lot happier.

Freebies:

1) Every attendee will receive a free audio program from SMB Books.

2) Every attendee will receive a free copy of MSPSN’s NOC Support Playbook and documentation which is what MSPSN uses internally to keep our Virtual Service Desk efficient and profitable.

Nashville, TN
1-5 PM
March 29th

Only $99 at the door . . .

ONLY $29.95 when you register online.

(Let's be honest: We just want to pay for the room.)

Find Out More and Register Today!

Register Today!

Buy Now

:-)


Visit http://www.smbbooks.com/ for great books and other resources.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Calendar Memo: Sharepoint in SBS 2008 - Chad Gross

Thursday March 19th - 12 Noon (Eastern)


Amy B posted the following memo a few days ago. This is part of the "Third Thursday" seminar series from Third Tier.



Amy mentioned that one of their goals is to get more people interested in selling and supporting this product. Tune in and hear why you should notch up your knowledge of this tool.

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Calendar Memo: Erick Simpson on Selling Security as a Managed Service

Tuesday March 17th - 9am PST

says Erick:

    This Webinar will focus on diving into one of your prospects' and clients' key hot buttons - security. We'll discuss how to message and position security as a lead topic in your marketing efforts, and how to deliver it as a managed service to maximize your profitability. Our special guest will be Michele D'Amour, Project Manager, Microsoft Security Software Advisor Program, who will share special incentives to help you earn rebates as high as 30% when including specific Microsoft products in your security solutions.

    Click here to register!

    About MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar Series

    MSP University's State of the Industry Webinar Series is meant to inform. The more you know about your industry, the products and services available to you and your clients, and how to market and sell those products and services, the greater your opportunities to increase your value to your clients, as well as your business success.

    About Erick Simpson

    Vice President and CIO of Intelligent Enterprise, a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner, and MSP University, Erick is a recognized industry expert and IT and Managed Services author, speaker and trainer, and contributor to numerous industry publications and events. Author of "The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice - What Every SMB IT Service Provider Should Know...", the definitive book on Managed Services, and the follow-ups in MSP University's Managed Services Series "The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!" and "The Best I.T. Service Delivery BOOK EVER!", Erick has also co-authored the HTG publication "Peer Power - Powerful Ideas for Partners from Peers".

    About Michele D'Amour

    Michele D'Amour is the project manager for the Microsoft Security Software Advisor program. She has worked in several partner-facing roles while a full-time employee and now as a vendor for Microsoft; she also managed the Symbol Technologies / Motorola marketing alliance relationship with Microsoft in 2006 and 2007.



:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more.

Accelerate Business Practices with Microsoft Solution Accelerators

Do yourself a favor and visit:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/solutionaccelerators/default.aspx

Poke around. But remember, at some point you have to go back to work.

This site houses Microsoft "Solution Accelerators." Some of these are just white papers on planning and speculating. Others are configuration guides. Some are full-blown technology plans in a bottle.

I first learned about Solution Accelerators during a little tour I did with Harry Brelsford in 2006. We walked through an entire technology configuration plan for a small business.

At that time there were a few Solution Accelerators, but they weren't organized together very well and you had to go looking. Now they've got this big web site with a search tool.

Some are 10 pages, but a lot of them are 100+ pages.

And just what is a Solution Accelerator? Well, they're practical guides to the Microsoft universe.

Think of it this way: Documentation tells you how to use a product. Good Books on Microsoft Technologies will give you lots of information about the details of using, selling, and fine-tuning a product. ;-)

Solution Accelerators are somewhere in the middle. They're kind of a quick step-up in understanding how a product is used. They tend to be filled with real-world practical advice. So documentation will tell you the minimum RAM required. But the Solution Accelerator will help you make a realistic decision and understand how it fits in the larger picture.

Solution Accelerators tend to have a lot of peripheral information, like "While you're at it, be sure to check . . .."

Again, you have to spend time working your work in order to get ahead. But bookmark this page and check back from time to time.

There is a lot of great, practical advice here.

As the universe of technology continues to expand, we all need a helping hand from time to time.

- - - - -

Here's what was available the day I looked:
(Note: POG = Product Operations Guide)
  • Active Directory POG

  • Exchange Consolidation and Migration Solution Accelerator 1.0

  • Exchange Service Management Guide

  • Medium Business Solution for Collaboration Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Messaging Services

  • SharePoint Capacity Planning Tool

  • SharePoint Monitoring Toolkit

  • SharePoint Cross-site Configurator

  • Upgrade Toolkit for Windows SharePoint Services Sites and Templates Guide

  • File Service POG

  • Data Encryption Toolkit for Mobile PCs

  • Medium Business Guide for Backup and Recovery

  • PCs Infected with Malware? Download the Malware Removal Starter Kit

  • Alert Tuning Solution Accelerator 2.0

  • Autoticketing Solution Accelerator 2.0

  • Business Desktop Deployment 2007

  • Consolidating and Migrating File and Print Servers from Windows NT 4.0 Solution Accelerator

  • Consolidating and Migrating LOB Applications Solution Accelerator

  • Developing Custom MOM 2000 Reports 2.0

  • DHCP POG

  • DNS POG

  • Domain Server Consolidation and Migration: Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 Solution Accelerator 1.0

  • Introduction to the Medium IT Solution Series

  • Introduction to the Microsoft Enterprise Platform for Mainframe Professionals

  • Managing the Windows Server Platform: Testing Guide

  • Medium Business Guide for Pilot Deployment and Migration

  • Medium Business Solution for Client Configuration

  • Medium Business Solution for Core Infrastructure

  • Medium Business Solution for Patch Management

  • Medium Business Solution for Print Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Remote Connectivity

  • Microsoft Assessment and Deployment Solution

  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008

  • Multiple Management Group Rollup Solution Accelerator 2.0

  • New Application Installation Using Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 1.1

  • Notification Workflow Solution Accelerator 2.1

  • Patch Management Using SMS 2.0 Solution Accelerator

  • Patch Management Using SMS 2003 Solution Accelerator

  • Patch Management Using Software Update Services Solution Accelerator

  • Peer-to-Peer Networking with Windows XP

  • Print Service POG

  • Service Continuity Solution Accelerator 2.0

  • Small IT Solution

  • Small IT Solution for Mobility

  • Software Updates for Dell Server Hardware Using SMS 2003 Solution Accelerator 1.0

  • Windows Server Deployment Solution Accelerator 1.0

  • Windows Vista Readiness Assessment

  • Identity & Access Management

  • Medium Business Solution for Management and Security using Active Directory Group Policy

  • Microsoft Assessment and Deployment Solution

  • Windows Security and Directory Services for UNIX Guide v1.0

  • IT Process & Frameworks

  • Branch Office Infrastructure Solution (BOIS) v1

  • Introduction to the Medium IT Solution Series

  • Introduction to the Microsoft Enterprise Environment for UNIX Professionals

  • Medium Business Guide for Antivirus

  • Medium Business Guide for Backup and Recovery

  • Medium Business Guide for Pilot Deployment and Migration

  • Medium Business Solution for Client Configuration

  • Medium Business Solution for Collaboration Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Core Infrastructure

  • Medium Business Solution for Management and Security using Active Directory Group Policy

  • Medium Business Solution for Messaging Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Patch Management

  • Medium Business Solution for Print Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Remote Connectivity

  • Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0

  • Small IT Solution

  • Small IT Solution for Mobility

  • Solution Guide for Migrating Oracle on UNIX to SQL Server on Windows

  • Trustworthy Computing, Reliable in Operations (IT Pro BOOK/MS Press) 1.0

  • UNIX Custom Application Migration Guide

  • Upgrade Toolkit for Windows SharePoint Services Sites and Templates Guide

  • Applying the Principle of Least Privilege to User Accounts on Windows XP

  • Medium Business Guide for Antivirus

  • Medium Business Solution for Patch Management

  • Medium Business Solution for Print Services

  • Medium Business Solution for Remote Connectivity

  • Microsoft Solution for Securing Windows 2000 Server

  • Securing Wireless LANs with Certificate Services

  • Securing Wireless LANs with PEAP and Passwords

  • Server and Domain Isolation Using IPsec and Group Policy

  • The Antivirus Defense-in-Depth Guide

  • The Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 98 Threat Mitigation Guide

  • Threats and Countermeasures Guide

  • Windows Server 2003 Security Guide

  • Windows Vista Security Guide

  • Windows XP Security Guide

  • Security Compliance Management Toolkit

  • The Services and Service Accounts Security Planning Guide

  • Implementing Quarantine Services with Microsoft Virtual Private Network Planning Guide

  • Medium Business Guide for Antivirus

  • Regulatory Compliance Planning Guide

  • Security Risk Management Guide

  • The Administrator Accounts Security Planning Guide

  • The Secure Access Using Smart Cards Planning Guide

  • The Security Monitoring and Attack Detection Planning Guide


Have Fun!

:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for great books and other resources.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Help ChannelPro Magazine Help You

There aren't many magazines focused squarely on the SMB space. ChannelPro is one of them.

Whether you read it online or in print, you'll see a lot of familiar faces and topics there.

As you probably know, print media are becoming harder to maintain and justify when everyone gets their data online. ChannelPro is no different.

BUT this is one organization that is making a real effort to provide good content specifically in our space. They are meeting with technicians and business owners. They're helping to put on the SMB Summit conference this year.

Plus they have a super online component. So which I call it a magazine, it's also a web site. Check it out at www.channelprosmb.com.

ChannelPro also does surveys every month to help determine how their audience is addressing specific technologies. This will obviously assist in future editorial content.

Read more on Michael Siggins' Blog.

Why the pimp?

Well, it's pretty simple. I'm a real believer that we need to deal with companies that have strong channels and loyalty to their partners.

ChannelPro has engaged several "real" consultants and Small Business Specialists to help them provide content and perspective on the topics they cover. They are also committed to helping with this year's SMB Summit (May 15-17).

As a general rule, we should support organizations that support us.

Check them out. Fill out the survey.

Maybe you'll win something!

:-)


Looking for great books and other resources focused entirely on the SMB Consultant? Visit www.smbbooks.com.

Catch Stuart Crawford and George Sierchio on Blogtalk Radio

From our friend Stuart Crawford, MS MVP and Small Biz Blog Talker:

Partnerships are a Difficult Ship to Steer

Join Stuart Crawford from Calgary's Small Business Specialist, Bulletproof InfoTech and George J Sierchio from Action Business Partners as we discuss one of the most difficult areas of business today, Partnerships. Partnerships can help your business succeed in new areas with business partners and also allow you a bit of a safety net with others to share your risk.

Water dangers lurk beneath the surface when you go into unchartered waters? George and Stuart will discuss and share some of our experience with business partnerships, what works? What doesn't? What to do when you are doing all the work? We will also share tips and tricks to bring your partnership back up to the surface or when you decide to abandon ship.

Listen live to Small Business Radio on Friday, March 13 at Noon Eastern/9 AM Pacific Time.

Listen live at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/smb.

Miss an episode, catch up on back editions online today.

Note: If you are interested in being interview and sharing your story, email Stuart today at radio@stuartcrawford.com.

:-)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Write a Client-Facing Newsletter

I write a newsletter for my clients (a shocker, I know).

Every month for almost fifteen years, I've produced a four-page letter-sized newsletter. We actually have it printed on 11x17 paper and folded twice. We use a nice light blue paper. And we have it printed, not copied. That way we can use photographs and whatever graphics we like.

I recommend that you write a regular newsletter. Every consultant should do this.

I can hear you already: Sounds good, but it's not easy to maintain. Where do you get the material? Blah blah blah.

Before you get too carried away, let me tell you the benefits.

1) Every time we send out a newsletter, my phone rings. Someone asks for a quote or advice. I'm in the quoting and advice-selling business, so this is good.

2) People remember the newsletter. People read it. They mention it to our technicians. Sometimes we get asked for a new copy because the last one got mangled by the post office.

My newsletter is so old, it's called README.TXT, which used to be the name of the file included in a zip or arc file, or on floppy, when a program was distributed int he old days. Anyway . . .

Here's an email I got after a recent newsletter from a very busy guy:


Subject: Best Readme.txt

Maybe it's me, but for a break I just looked at current Readme.txt. It made good points about security & disater recovery that I thought I knew, but it re-inforced them.

Just wanted to re-iterate how grateful I am to have you and your team behind me.

Please share this with your gang.

Also, thanks for the reminder about "stop interrupting yourself"!


My Thoughts on Newsletters

- Newsletters should be printed, not emailed. What's the easiest thing in the world to do? Delete an email. Or filter it. Your target is the extremely busy decision maker who is probably overwhelmed when the email arrives. A printed newsletter can be sorted to the pile to take home, take to the restroom, or whatever.

- Newsletters should NOT have advertising on every page. Some very well respected people will tell you to have a call to action on every page. I disagree. You should have interesting articles that highlight, in a subtle way, the things you can do. It is much better for a client to say "I didn't know you did that" than to be irritated by a newsletter full of coupons and act now calls for action.

- If you have regular sections, life will be easier. For example, the back of my newsletter has the mailing area (1/2 page) and an article on using some feature of MS Office (1/2 page). The front has snippets of news and an index of the newsletter that normally take up 1/2 page. When viruses like Melissa were constantly taking down machines, we had a regular column on virus alerts.

- Use lots of graphics. Screen shots from Vista, Office, etc. are very good.

We have had a number of clients copy our newsletter (or pieces of it) for their whole staff. Some people clip out the recommendations on hot-keys and tape them to their monitors.

Going Forward

Let's say you decide to move forward with a newsletter. Here's some practical advice.

1) Start with a "quarterly" newsletter. Or bi-monthly. Until you get into a routine, don't over-promise.

2) Absolutely get it out on time.

3) That will be easier if you have three in the can before you mail the first one.

4) Keep a "shell" newsletter for the next edition, open it every few days, and work on it a little here and a little there.

5) Create a folder called "newsletter fodder" on your computer. Save emails there as text files (so you can then copy/paste them into the newsletter and they'll take on the formatting of the newsletter). When you find interesting web pages or other info, save it there. Soon you'll realize that there are too many interesting things in the world and you can't write about all of them.

6) Write your newsletter in plain language. Use very little techno-babble.

7) Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Then have someone else proofread it. The more times it's read before it goes, out, the fewer typos you'll have. It may never be perfect, but keep the errors to a minimum.

If you want ideas for articles, see http://www.kpenterprises.com/news.htm, but remember that those newsletters are copyrighted. So be inspired, but don't steal blindly. Thanks.

I welcome your questions, as always.

:-)


Looking for great books and other resources focused entirely on the SMB Consultant? Visit www.smbbooks.com.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sign up for Mike Iem's Super Newsletter NOW

Sign up for Mike Iem's Super Newsletter NOW: http://visitor.constantcontact.com/email.jsp?m=1102241330914

If you haven't met Mike Iem, get a quick intro to him and his mission at the SMB Conference Call Archives.

Mike Iem is working for Microsoft on an initiative focused on supporting SBS partner groups in the US and sharing information with partner groups Worldwide!

He is a very-available liaison for to Microsoft. Over the last few years he has organized the SBS Partner Tours and worked with the SBS Leads Groups to provide information and resources to all Partner Groups (user groups) and individuals.

One of the hottest things Mike produces from time to time is the super-amazing Partner Group DVD. This is the one golden DVD you need to know what's going on for partners in the SMB space. The 2009 DVD is almost ready.

In the past, the DVD has put together marketing programs, videos, demo tools, screen shots, webinars, white papers, and LOTS of other great information and updates targeted specifically for the SMB Consultant. This is literally all the content you need from Microsoft in one awesome package.

Mike reports that the DVD is "complete" and churning through the Microsoft process to distribution.

There's a 99% chance that this will be distributed as an ISO image for download. So if you're not a member of a user group, you'll still have access to it.

But you don't want to miss out, so please Join Mike's Newsletter NOW so you won't miss the announcement. It will probably come out in the next two weeks. So now is absolutely the best time to sign up for this email newsletter. Free, of course.

Sign up for Mike Iem's Super Newsletter NOW: http://visitor.constantcontact.com/email.jsp?m=1102241330914

Mike has done some amazing things for the SMB Community. The whole 5w/50 webinar series was his baby. He has organized tours, kept the user group leaders informed, provided us with resources, and a lot more.

Please do yourself a favor: Join Mike's low-volume, high-content email list today.

In addition to the DVD information (when it's released), Mike's newsletter always has great information on marketing and promotions that will help you make more money.

Tune-in now. You'll be glad you did!

:-)


Looking for great books and other resources focused entirely on the SMB Consultant? Visit www.smbbooks.com.

Right now you can save money on
- Windows Small Business Server 2008 Unleashed
and
- Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Best Practice vs. Good Idea

At the HTG meetings, one of the main activities is the presentation of "Best Practices." Each person presents a "best practice" from their business. We all gain knowledge and insight from see what people are doing and how they do it.

One of the important rules is: This has to be a practice, not an idea. In other words, you need to be doing this in your business, not just planning to do it.

The difference is critical. A good idea is still just a good idea. When you go to implement it, you might discover that it takes too much time, too much money, or other supporting business practices. You might also discover that it sounds good but just doesn't work!

One of the greatest things you can do for your career is to attend conferences. And the more specifically focused on your business model, the better. This includes the Autotask conference that's right around the corner, the MSPSN conference, SMB Summit, SMB Nation, etc.

Go. Attend. Talk to people about what they do and how they do it.

If you're focusing on doctors, Realtors, auto dealers, then find people with the same verticals. If you're challenged by fax problems or VOIP, find people who work with those technologies. If you need marketing ideas and new clients, find people who are having success in those areas.

But, beware . . .

You also need to apply a filter here.

Many people seem to have really good ideas about everything. But when you scratch the surface you find out that they haven't done it. They've thought about it. Or they plan to do it. They may have spent money on training and are really ready to do it.

But if they haven't DONE it then it's a Good Idea and not yet a Best Practice.

For example: One time I did a presentation about Storage Area Networks. I was challenged by someone who went on and on about NAS devices and how he could integrate with the Windows security system and do "everything" with a NAS that could be done with a SAN.

He was insistant enough that I was actually impressed and wanted to see the operation. Well, it turned out to be a cheap off-the-shelf low-end NAS that couldn't possibly do 15% of what he said. And while he'd read about all the wonderful things you could do, he hadn't "yet" implemented any of them.

In other words, be bought a piece of junk and plugged it in.

But he talked as if he were the highest paid engineer at Boeing.

Let's be clear: He had some good ideas. And he probably had the know-how to implement them.

But he had not implemented them.

So he did not have a Best Practice.

How can you tell when someone's blowing smoke vs. talking from experience? Ask for details. "What tool do you use for that? Do you use the standard scripts or write your own?"

This is particularly good advice at conferences. When you find someone who is passionate about their solution, they're eager to talk details.

- - - - -

Don't get me wrong: Exchanging good ideas is also a very valuable enterprise. But before you go jump in with both feet, you need to know whether you're talking about a good idea or a best practice.

Just a final thought for the week.

Have a great weekend.

:-)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Quick Quiz: Handling Money

Here's a quick quiz you can go through with your office manager or bookkeeper.

Don't have an office manager or bookkeeper? Well, then, whoever helps you with the finances. If no one helps you with finances, mark this whole exercise a big fat ZERO and go find someone. Come back when you're done.

(See Hiring Your First Employee and The $200 Miracle.)

Okay, so now for the quiz:

1. You invoiced a client and they sent a check for the wrong amount. It is short $10. Do you . . .
    a. Deposit the check and then contact the client to straighten it out.
    b. Email or phone the client and wait to determine what to do with the check.
    c. Send the check back with a note pointing out the error and requesting a correct check.
    d. Kick yourself for starting this business in the first place.


2. You invoiced a client and they sent a check for the wrong amount. It is short $1,000. Do you . . .
    a. Deposit the check and then contact the client to straighten it out.
    b. Email or phone the client and wait to determine what to do with the check.
    c. Send the check back with a note pointing out the error and requesting a correct check.
    d. Bemoan the fact that life never seems to be as simple as it should be.


3. You invoiced a client and they sent a check for the wrong amount. It is an overpayment of $1,000. Do you . . .
    a. Deposit the check and then contact the client to straighten it out.
    b. Email or phone the client and wait to determine what to do with the check.
    c. Send the check back with a note pointing out the error and requesting a correct check.
    d. Send the client a flyer advertising a $999 product.


4. Your client prepays for managed services. So they have a $3,000 "credit" on your books to pay for the next two months managed services. You invoice for some project labor. It goes pay due. Do you . . .
    a. Ignore it because they have a big credit on the books.
    b. Apply the managed service credit to the past due invoice and send the client a memo.
    c. Charge a late fee on the overdue invoice.
    d. Feel trapped because you feel back punishing them when they've prepaid so much money.


5. A client has an outstanding invoice for $500 that goes "late" (whether that's net 10 days, net 20, net 30). They also have a credit on their account of $200. Do you . . .
    a. Charge a $25 late fee.
    b. Apply the credit to any outstanding late fees and then apply the balance to the past due invoice.
    c. Email or phone the client to ask what they want you to do with the credit.
    d. All of the above.


6. You engage a new client. They give you a down payment for the first month's managed services. Then they order a bunch of equipment and need it in a real hurry. They ask if you can invoice them in arrears rather than being paid up front. Do you . . .
    a. Order the equipment to speed up the process and then invoice the client.
    b. Do not order the equipment. Talk to client and re-state your rules (all hardware and software must be prepaid) and offer to take a credit card.
    c. Order the equipment to speed up the process and then contact the client to see how they want to pay.
    d. Make an exception just this once in order to make the client happy.


7. You give a client a quote for hardware, software, and labor. Only the hardware and software need to be prepaid, but the client sends a check for the whole estimate. Do you . . .
    a. Create an invoice for hardware and software and apply the check, leaving a credit.
    b. Deposit the check and then contact the client to let them know that they have a labor credit.
    c. Email or phone the client and wait to determine what to do with the check.
    d. Both A and B.


8. A client returns merchandise according to your policy (which you have written down somewhere). Do you . . .
    a. Credit their account, write them a check, and mail it.
    b. Credit their account, print a credit memo, and mail it.
    c. Credit their account, apply the credit to any outstanding late fees, apply the balance to any past due invoices, and then email a note about any credit remaining on the account.
    d. Both A and B.


9. A client consistently pays from the bottom of statements instead of invoices. The result is a large and growing credit on their account. They send yet another check, taking their credit to more than $2,500. Do you . . .
    a. Deposit the check and then contact the client to straighten it out.
    b. Email or phone the client and wait to determine what to do with the check.
    c. Send the check back with a note pointing out the error and requesting a correct check.
    d. Call the client and insist on meeting with them and the bookkeeper to train them on your processes.


10. You are at a client's office and they offer to write you a check for a payment that's not due for another 15 days. Do you . . .
    a. Graciously accept their offer and leave with a check in hand.
    b. Say "No, don't bother. Your regular payment schedule is fine with us."
    c. Say you don't care, it doesn't matter, or some such.
    d. Offer the take the client to lunch.


- - - - -

The correct answers are:

1. A: Deposit the check. When you hold other people's money, take possession of it and get it into your cash flow system.

2. A: Deposit the check. See #1.

3. A: Deposit the check. See #1.

4. C: Charge a late fee. And, if it's over $500, suspend their account. These transactions are not related to one another.

5. D: All of the above. In that order.

6. B: Take this opportunity early on to restate your rules.

7. D: Both A and B. Again, take possession of money and then apply your rules.

8. C: Apply all credits as appropriate, but make sure you take care of your business first.

9. A: Deposit the check. See #1.

10. A: Never turn down a check when offered.

- - - - -

Here's the common rules for these questions:

First, when someone gives you money, deposit it. Holding a check will almost always take you down a path of being responsible for someone else's money, creating delays, and keeping the money in the client's bank instead of yours.

It is much better to deposit the check, which makes the money liquid and puts you in control. You can issue a check the client immediately. You can give the money back. You can apply it to their account. etc. Which leads to . . .

Second, you need to be in charge of your finances as much as possible. You're not responsible because clients lose invoices, pay from estimates, overpay, underpay, or refuse to pay late fees. You ARE in charge of taking care of your business.

Third, good behavior on one hand (e.g., prepayments) does not excuse bad behavior on the other hand (e.g., late payments).

Consider the the big picture from an accountant's perspective. Let's assume you're an S-Corp, LLC, or some other entity doing accrual accounting.

- When you invoice a client, you have created a taxable event. You created income for your company at that moment. It doesn't matter if the client pays too much, too little, or too late. The important event took place when the invoice went out.

- Taking someone else's money is not a meaningful financial event unless it is directly related to an invoice. If a client gives you a check for $1,000 over what they owe, you are just holding their money . . . until you invoice them.

This concept is important because too many small business people think that holding each others' money is important. It's not. Invoices are important. Payments are important. Minor discrepancies in cash flow are not important.

Yes, you need to straighten out all the little discrepancies.

But don't think that rejecting a check for $555 so you can collect a corrected check for $550 is worth spending any time on.

You need to accept money that's handed to you and THEN deal with whether it's the right amount, applied in the right way, etc.

Use your money wisely. And if you find yourself using someone else's money, use their money wisely as well!

:-)

Taking Outsourcing To The Next Level

SMB Conference Call This Morning: Taking Outsourcing To The Next Level

March 4, 2009
9:00 AM Pacific Time

With Todd Lay, CEO or Simple Back Office. (www.simplebackoffice.com).


Outsourcing Goes Both Ways
You provide outsourced services to your clients. Do you also take full advantage of the outsourcing available to save YOU money?

An expert at streamlining workflow processes, Todd Lay has been an entrepreneur since he was 19. Frustrated with the number of administrative tasks that bogged him down while running his own small businesses; Todd decided to create a virtual business support services company to assist others facing the same challenges.

SimpleBackOffice was the result. SimpleBackOffice provides full and part-time virtual assistants for administrative, bookkeeping, payroll and other business tasks. Virtual assistants represent a significant savings over hiring in-house personnel, and help avoid the frustration and inefficiency of trying to do it all yourself.

Join us today.

Register Now! https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/170634463

More Info at:
- www.simplebackoffice.com

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Ultimate Disclaimer

The following is from Jim Cramer's (self-proclaimed stock guru) web site. If you haven't heard the radio show, it's pretty impressive to listen to someone reading this at the speed of sound:

"None of the information contained on Jim Cramer's Mad Money or in any of his shows, (Mad Money, Stop Trading or RealMoney) constitutes a recommendation by Mr. Cramer, TheStreet.com, Cramers-Mad-Money.com or CNBC that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You must always make your own decisions when decide to invest in any particular asset weather it is a stock, security or otherwise that may be mentioned on this site. Neither this site nor anyone in affiliation of this site guarantees any specific outcome or profit, and you should be aware of the real risk of loss in following any investments discussed on Jim Cramer's Mad Money. As with any stock, the price will go up and down and it is possible for you to get back less than you invested. Please note this risk and that this show, its owner and affiliates recommend that you seek advice from your personal financial advisor. This show has no affiliation with CNBC, Mad Money, Stop Trading, RealMoney, thestreet.com, or Jim Cramer and is not liable for any of the recommendations given on this show."

See http://www.cramers-mad-money.com.

Let's boil this down a bit.

1) Nothing I say is considered a recommendation.

2) The advice you find here may not apply to you specifically.

3) You must always make your own decisions.

4) We don't guarantee any outcomes based on any information you find here.

5) You could really lose money taking this advice. Really.

6) We recommend that you talk to someone about your specific situation before you jump in and just start doing things because they were casually mentioned here.

7) We're not responsible for anything we do or say.

The implied, but unstated conclusion is: You're responsible for what you do.

- - - - -

Online, I live by a similar disclaimer.

I provide entertainment. So even if I beg you to do something, that's not advice.

You're responsible for what you do.

And that's only fair.

I'm amazed when I talk to people who say they took my advice . . . and did something I never recommended. In particular, people read a book like Managed Services In A Month and then tell me that they followed my formula.

But somewhere along the line, they're selling blocks of time, not getting prepaid, and 80% of their revenue is break/fix.

Don't get me wrong: If you find success and want to give me the credit, I'll take the credit.

But I can't take any blame for anything I say, because no two humans will ever implement something the same way. I say "dark blue" and you make your logo light green and tell me "Thanks for the great idea. It makes all the difference."

The truth is, you couldn't implement my recommendations exactly as I do even if you want to. We start at different places, have different clients, sell different things, have different staff, etc.

The best you can hope for is to find some idea or inspiration and integrate it into your complex reality.

And I hope you do.

One of the primary reasons I like to go to nerd festivals and conferences is that I get to meet more and more people who are in my business, doing what I do, and trying new things. When we share ideas, I find little bits of gold I can take back to the office and use in my own practice.

The online forums are the same way. You never know when you'll come across something that fits your needs exactly.

- - - - -

So please remember these simple rules.

- If it works, I'll take the credit.

- If it doesn't work, I can't take any blame.

- You're responsible for what you do.

Oh, and . . .

- This blog has no affiliation with KPEnterprises, Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc., SMBBooks, The SMB Conference Call, Promotion Monkey, I5PC.com, or Karl W. Palachuk, and is not liable for any of the recommendations given on this blog."

:-)