Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moving to the Cloud Part Two - Finances

In the First Installment I laid out our new line card for moving our MSP business to a Cloud-services-based company.

Today I want to explain the nitty gritty of the financial model behind this.

If you look at the old model (the one most VARs, VAPs, and MSPs use), it is something like this:

Year One:
- Sell Big Server
- Plus Server Licenses
- Big project labor here
- Plus Desktop Hardware
- Plus Desktop Software
- Sell Services monthly (MSP model)
- Sell occasional project labor

Year Two:
- Sell the odd add-on, monitor, new desktop
- Sell replacements for all desktops that are 3 years old (roughly 1/3 of all desktops)
- Sell Services monthly (MSP model)
- Sell occasional project labor

Year Three:
- Sell the odd add-on, monitor, new desktop
- Sell replacements for all desktops that are 3 years old (roughly 1/3 of all desktops)
- Sell Services monthly (MSP model)
- Sell occasional project labor

Year Four:
- Sell Big Server
- Plus Server Licenses
- Big project labor here
- Sell the odd add-on, monitor, new desktop
- Sell replacements for all desktops that are 3 years old (roughly 1/3 of all desktops)
- Sell Services monthly (MSP model)
- Sell occasional project labor

Repeat years 2-4 forever. Rinse, repeat.

If you take my advice, you get prepaid for all that, so there are no cash flow problems with Hardware and Software.

That old model leaves the client with three big negatives on his mind (whether real or imagined is not relevant):

1) Big outlay of cash every three years.

2) Worries about his server being out of date -- starting 20 minutes after the install is complete.

3) Client is focused on the stuff you sold him as if it were his business. It's not. It's simply an infrastructure on which he can operate his business.

Think about your own business. Have your tried Salesforce.com or Corelytics?

Monthly payments. Who cares what server it's on? Who cares what the operating system is, how much memory is allocated, or how many processors are working on "your stuff" right now.

Either it works or it doesn't.

In The Big Switch (Thanks, Erick Simpson, for turning me on to this book), Nicholas Carr gives the excellent example of Voice Mail.

You used to have an answering machine. Then the answering machine got built into the phone. Then the answering service was provided by the phone company. Now everyone has voicemail on everything.

And no one cares how voicemail got there, how many processors it uses, etc.

It either works or it doesn't. You either like this flavor or that flavor.

No one cares where their web site is housed, how their email gets onto their screen, or where the line of business application "exists." As long as it works, no one cares.


The New Financial Picture, in a Nutshell

If you looked through the services we'll be selling in the Cloud Model, you see a lot of similarities.

- The services are hosted somewhere else with few exceptions

- The services are hosted on premise when it's in the client's best interest

- The services are charged to the client on a monthly recurring basis whenever possible

- The services are paid for on a monthly basis with very few exceptions

The ideal services here are paid for each month as they occur. Clients (and resellers) can increase and decrease services as needed -- month to month. Add five mailboxes and pay for five more mailboxes. Take away five, pay for five fewer.

Other than "That's the way we've always done it," there isn't a big argument to be made in favor of installing old-school servers or workstations at client offices.

Think voice mail: What cares where the server is? Is your data secure? Is your business secure? If yes, why invest in a heavy piece of equipment that you have to maintain, but which becomes a boat anchor in three years?

    Side Note on Servers There will always be a place for "standard" servers on site for some clients. You have to evaluate this one client at a time. There will emerge a new class of appliance-like servers (see my Biz Server Nano discussions). These will exist onsite, but won't be serving up web sites, Exchange, CRM, and all those other services you now sell separately.


Managed Services Lives!

None of this precludes you from selling Managed Services. As I tell clients, a virtual server doesn't know it's a virtual server. It can still get infected. It can still have a bad configuration. It's databases can be corrupted. Virtual "stuff" still happens.

You will probably cut maintenance costs by always having the option to push a button and simply take the machine to the state it was in yesterday. And you will definitely cut maintenance costs because of the totally-remote nature of the services. You can't drive to the server and fix it, no matter how good your excuse is. So you'll have to fix it remotely.

Many people could already be doing this, but they're not.

So here's your new (revenue) chart of accounts:

Revenue
- Goods
-- Hardware
-- Software
-- Materials

- Services
-- Hosted Servers
-- Hosted Workstations
-- Web services
-- Hosted Services (AV, spam, etc.)
-- Hosted Phone Services
-- On Premise Cloud Services
-- HaaS
-- Other

- Labor
-- Managed Services
-- Hourly Labor
-- Sub Contract Labor

Do you see how almost everything on that list is bought on a month-by-month basis. And while it's sold on a month-by-month basis, the result is ongoing (recurring) revenue.


Low Startup Costs

Look out! Heads up!

You can start reselling this stuff this afternoon. Almost NONE of this requires an up-front investment. So you're not out of pocket. And that means some start-up who doesn't know anything about your 20 years of experience could get into this business tomorrow.

And will.

And has.

(Reality Check: I counted sixteen vendors today on a Google search for "hosted desktop." You calculate that by look at the highest bidder for ads on the right (Leostream) and count the ads through the pages until that ad is repeated. This varies by time of day. But the point is people are already doing this.)

For your business, the news is very, very good.

You will be able to transition your clients one at a time. As your clients are ready for new servers, you can determine whether a cloud-based solution will work for them. If so, migrate them from their physical server to a virtual server. And away you go!

As a model for all of this, consider the classic phone system or Internet connectivity model. There are four basic pieces to this puzzle:

1) You'll have setup fees up front. If you choose to make these flexible, or give them to the sales person, you can do that.

2) There's a commitment. It could be as little as four months (we've determined this is the break-even point for us with new clients), or it could be three or more years.

3) There's a monthly payment. If the payment is to a hosting provider, you'll receive a percentage. If the payment is to you, you'll also make a monthly payment for services.

4) There's always some kind of equipment on premise. It might only be Thin Clients/Fat Clients and monitors. But people will still need printers, switches, laptops, etc.

In this model, cash flow should be very manageable. You're only paying for what you use. Payments go up and down with usage. Everything's due every month. And since there's some margin built in, you're guaranteed that margin every month.

Note, also, that this model is extremely scalable.

Point. Click. "New server created."

If the servers and workstations are in the cloud, and you've picked the right providers, then you have essentially unlimited capacity. Of course, if you're still providing support services, then you still have limits on how many servers and workstations you can support before you hire someone else.

But with services like Zenith Infotech, MSPSN, Dove Help Desk, and Third Tier, you also have an essentially unlimited labor force to help support your clients -- and you pay for them on a monthly basis, just like everything else.


The Bottom Line on Finances is Recurring Revenue

- You're providing the client's infrastructure as a service for a monthly fee

- You're totally on the line for making this work
    You could Gerry-rig some crap, but you'll eventually get caught. Or you could do it the right way and find a quality partner. Believe or not, we recommend doing it the right way.



And what can you charge? Well, I've been asking around in Sacramento, Ca (about the 20th largest metro area in the U.S.) and finding zero resistance to $99/month per desktop -- before we add maintenance.


In some sense, the margin doesn't matter because

1) You have unlimited capacity

2) You're paid every month

3) You pay out for services every month

4) And the difference is profit.

Let's say you pay 80 and collect 100. That's 20 you get to keep. Multiply and multiply and multiply. Because it's all paid for as you go along, there's no monster outlay to expand.

And the more you rely on known solutions rather than cutting edge technology, the bigger your margin will be.

- - - - -

Next up: How Do I Move To The Cloud?

:-)



SMB Books Hot Summer Deals Super Sale!
Free and half-price books (with purchase).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ed Correia Update

A friend of mine, and one of the truly nicest people you'll ever meet is Ed Correia, CEO of Sagacent Technologies.

I met Ed several years ago when we both served on the board of the NorCal IAMCP Board. Ed has been active in the local technology community and as a speaker nationwide.

Well, a couple of months ago Ed had a stroke. At first I knew "something happened." Then I found out it was a stroke.

Finally, today, Ed sent an email to his clients with some thoughts on the experience.

This is worth reading whether you personally know Ed or not.


    I'm Baaaaaaack!
    And With Some New Ideas Too!

    by Ed Correia, CEO, Sagacent Technologies

    As you may have heard by now, I suffered a stroke on the evening of May 1st and have been away at the hospital and then a stroke rehabilitation for about a month. The stroke left me (hopefully temporarily) without the use of my left leg, left arm, and left ear - but luckily didn't affect my speech or cognition. My energy level is greatly diminished and with the physical impairments any physical work has proven quite challenging (even writing as I was left-handed!). As a result, I am only working two half-days a week while I devote most of my time to physical rehabilitation classes and rest.

    During this ordeal I have had the opportunity to ponder business and life from a perspective not normally available. It is my hope that some of these thoughts may be helpful to you in your business and your personal life.

    Some Observations And Things You Should Think About *NOW*:

    • What Really Matters To You? When you are facing death - all the 'stuff' just melts away. Our normal lives and days are so filled with worry and stress about the stuff. Honestly, when it came right down to the wire and we weren't sure if I was going to pull through I really only cared about a few things:

      • First - my family - had I done everything and left them prepared and funded for the future?

      • Second - my business, clients and employees - mostly had I done everything to ensure that the business would operate and run as I designed and take care of clients and employees alike?

      • And truly that was about it.


    • Identify All Key Players. Life-threatening things (heart attack, stroke, cancer, accidents) can happen to anyone at any time. This can affect you, your business partners and key employees. Your business can also be significantly impacted should the spouses or significant others of these people have a problem. My wife's business was majorly impacted by my sickness and hospitalization.

    • Document, Delegate & Train

      • Document all processes and procedures used in your business.
      • Delegate as much as possible to employees
      • Have at least two people trained to perform every task
      • Have a clear exit plan for your business, and a backup plan of how your spouse or partners might liquidate the business should the worst happen.

    • Get Good Insurance

      • Health Insurance
      • Life Insurance
      • Long-term Care
      • Key-Man Insurance


    So, what should you change or do now to protect you, your family and your business?


- - - - -

In case you might know the face, here's a VarVid video from last year's Microsoft Intergallactic Partner Conference:



- - - - -

Our community is large on one hand (thousands of consultants all over the world), and small on the other hand. We tune in to births, deaths, surgeries, accidents, and victories. We're human beings interacting with each other and bumping into each other.

And there's one thing Ed forgot to mention that's important: Human beings are important.

We're all important and since we've dedicated a big piece of our lives to this profession, it makes sense to jump in with both feet and CARE about the people in this community.

I've got a few dramatic stories about how individual health affairs have affected our company. We've received clients when someone died or had a stroke. My key programmer had a stroke several years ago. His replacement was just getting over a heart attack at a young age.

You can ignore this side of life as long as you wish. But the health of those around affects us.


I'm grateful that Ed is doing better, and I pray that he and his family will thrive for many years to come in good health.


:-)

Coach Stu and Virtual Administrator on SMB Conference Call

Please join us live . . .

July 1, 2009
9:00 AM Pacific Time / Noon Eastern

Stuart Selbst
Virtual Administrator

Register Now!

Stuart Selbst is recognized in the SMB VAR channel as a trusted partner advocate and advisor. In 2002, Stuart founded Just Technical Solutions, LLC after spending nearly 15 years working in corporate IT. Stuart sold his interests in Just Technical Solutions in 2007 allowing him to focus on helping start-up VARs become successful in the ever changing industry.

Stuart’s ongoing effort to help the “little guy” get organized, grow and become profitable has positioned him to be the “go to” guy when getting started as a Managed Service Provider. Stuart continues to play an active role as a channel advocate working with organizations such as CompTIA, MSP Partners and IPED to make MSP’s successful and an asset to their clients.

He has spoken and presented at a number of industry events including CompTIA Breakaway, CompTIA Managed Services Summit and MSP Revolution.

Virtual Administrator offers Hosted Kaseya, Hosted Sonicwall GMS, Spam Soap and Intronis as part of their service offerings to help small VARs become successful MSPs. Stuart heads up the Virtual Administrator Trusted Advisor Program, which is an executive level coaching program that aligns sales and marketing processes along with business goal setting to achieve success.

Our topics will include where the channel is going and the Virtual Administrator Trusted Advisor Program.

Join us July 1st at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

Info:

- web www.virtualadministrator.com

- Blog address – www.stuartselbst.com


Other links:

- www.twitter.com/stuartselbst

- www.facebook.com/coachstu

- www.linkedin.com/in/stuartselbst


Register Now!

:-)



Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're Moving to The Cloud - Part One

    Note: To be kind, I'm not going to link up every reference I've made to my speculations about the future, about our industry, and building five-year plans. Please read the entire Small Biz Thoughts Blog. Suffice it to say:

    1. My prediction on the future of server architecture is happening NOW. SMB Consulting will change dramatically in the next six months. Are you ready?

    2. I am eternally grateful that I was fully vested in Managed Services when the economy collapsed. Yes, revenue went down. But it hit a base and did not go below that.

    3. Virtualization rules. If you're not doing it, Get started on Virtualization Today

    4. The Cloud is next. RUN - do not walk - to the Cloud.


In case you haven't been paying attention, here's your future:

- Hosted Servers
- Hosted Workstations
- Hosted Line of Business Applications
- You need SQL/CRM/Sharepoint? Hosted.
- Phones: Hosted
- etc.

In other words, you're going to sell a lot fewer servers in the future. And a lot fewer workstations. And fewer Office open licenses.

And less of everything.

At the same time, Microsoft, HP, Dell, Staples, AT&T, Google, and KPEnterprises are going to do what they can to push technology deeper into a market filled with smaller clients.

Why KPEnterprises? Because we hereby publicly acknowledge that there are no borders. If your credit card is good, I don't care whether you're in Sacramento, West Sacramento, San Francisco, Connecticut, Texas, Paraguay, England, France, or the Philippines.

Between my staff and all the outsourced I.T. connections in the known universe, we can literally do anything, anywhere.

A huge divide is taking place as the Cloud quickly moves in over the landscape. Very soon the world will consist of two large classes of service providers:

1) Providers who never want to interact with a client no matter what. These are the SaaS vendors. Sell, Sell, Sell. "Can't use what you bought? Cancel your subscription. We don't care." These people make a bunch of money by making a little money from a bunch of strangers. Client base: thousands or millions.

2) Providers who are willing to "touch" clients, explain how to right-click, help people figure things out, work through problems together, etc. Most of the readers of this blog have been in this category. Whether you stay there is up to you. There's still lots of money to be made.

So, even though you won't be selling as many servers, workstations, and licenses, you're still the people who will provide the service that makes all this stuff happen. People in this second category make their money combining services with labor. Labor and services will be sold to an increasingly larger client base (Microsoft and the others listed above will see to that).


Your Next Business Plan

Right now I'm laying out the future of our company.

As quickly as we can, we're adopting a new line card that looks a lot like this:

- We resell hosted web services. For some clients, this includes email.
- Microsoft or LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). We don't care.
- The hosting provider will service these products. We help as needed.
- Our costs are monthly.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell hosted servers. SBS, Windows 2008, Sharepoint, Exchange, etc.
- Licensing through SPLA.
- We service.
- Our costs are monthly.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell hosted desktops. Thin/Chubby clients.
- Licensing through SPLA.
- We service.
- Our costs are monthly.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell hosted phone systems (virtual PBX)
- Phone company provides service. We help as needed.
- Our costs are monthly. (or we receive a commission)
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell an on-premise cloud system (99% probability that it's the Zenith Infotech solution)
- Three year commitment. Monthly payments.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.
- We service.
- Licensing through SPLA.
- Virtual Servers on premise.
- Virtual Workstations on premise.

- We will install an "on-premise cloud" at our colo facility and sell specific services off of that.
- Three year commitment. Monthly payments.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.
- We service.
- Licensing through SPLA.
- Virtual Servers from our colo.
- Virtual Workstations from our colo.
- Additional services (e.g., backup/replication) from our colo.

- We resell select hosted line of business applications.
- Application provider services these products. We help as needed.
- Our costs are monthly. (or we receive a commission)
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell Anti-Virus on a per machine per month basis.
- We service.
- Our costs are monthly.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- We resell hosted spam filtering on a per user per month basis.
- We service.
- Our costs are monthly.
- Our revenue is recurring monthly.

- - - - -

MSP Mentor asked the question of whether Pure Cloud MSPs are possible.

Absolutely.

We don't anticipate going pure cloud. There's still a vital business in helping companies with their servers.

But I can absolutely see a pure cloud model working. This is especially true if you are willing to outsource the hands-on work to other partners flung across the globe.

Pack your bags, Honey, we're moving to the cloud.

Next up: The Finance Model for Moving to the Cloud

:-)



SMB Books Hot Summer Deals Super Sale!
Free and half-price books (with purchase).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hot Summer Book Sale

Well, people have gone from complaining about the cold to complaining about the heat.

That means it must be summer!

I am very pleased to announce that SMB Books is having a huge

Hot Summer Sale

- Inventory Reduction

- Close Outs

- New Products

- Overstock

- and Economic Stimulous Package

all in one.

Here's the basic deal:

We have a bunch of books that you can get for Free when you combine them with any other purchase at our site.

We have other books that you can get for Half Price when you combine them with any other purchase at our site.

Hot deal are at http://www.smbbooks.com/products/deals/HotSummerDeals.htm until July 31st.

Please tell your friends and neighbors.

:-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New SBSC Advisory Board Members

I have been honored to be on the inaugural SBSC Advisory Board. But my term is up and I'm very pleased to let you know who is on the new board.

Says the MS Partner site: "The role of the SBSC Advisory Board is to provide Microsoft with real-life feedback and ground level intelligence about what is important for SBSCs. There is one SBSC Advisory Board member in each of the 10 Microsoft US Sales Areas."

I'm not sure why the folks at Microsoft posted the details of who is on your Advisory Board behind a password protected web site, but here they are:

Member Neil Pearlstein (PAL)
Region West
Area Pacific Northwest Area
States AK, WA, OR, ID, NorCal, NV
PC Professional
Oakland, CA
http://www.pcprofessional.com


Member Debi Bush
Region West
Area Southwest Area
States MT, WY, UT, CO, SoCal, AZ, NM, HI
CMIT Solutions of Denver
Denver, CO
http://www.cmitsolutions.com/denver


Member Arlin Sorensen
Region Central
Area North Central Area
States ND, SD, MN, NE, IA, KS, MO
Heartland Technology Solutions
Harlan, IA
http://www.heartlandtechnologies.com


Member Robert Lindley
Region Central
Area South Central Area
States TX, OK, AR, LA
Innovative Systems, Inc.
Little Rock, AR
http://www.isi.cc


Member Rick Bahl (PAL)
Region Central
Area Midwest Area
States WI, IL, IN
Quality Systems Solutions
Carpentersville, IL
http://www.qualitysystemssolutions.com


Member Kevin Royalty
Region Central
Area Heartland Area
States MI, OH, KY, TN
Total Care Computer Consulting
Centerville, OH
http://www.totalcarecc.com


Member Joe Pannone
Region East
Area Northeast Area
States ME, VT, NH, Upstate NY, MA, CT, RI
Forza Technology Solutions
Wallingford, CT
http://www.forza.com


Member Robert Cioffi (PAL)
Region East
Area New York Metro Area
States NY Metro
Progressive Computing
New York, NY
http://www.pro-comp.com


Member Bill Hogan
Region East
Area Mid Atlantic Area
States PA, NJ, WV, VA, DE, MD
Partners Plus
New Castle, DE
http://www.partnersplus.com


Member Mark Crall
Region East
Area Greater Southeastern Area
States GA, NC, SC, FL, AL, MS
Charlotte Tech Care Team
Charlotte, NC
http://www.techcareteam.com

Congratulations to all.

If You're Not Getting SBSC Newsletter, Start NOW

First: Holy Smokes, Batman!

I was very impressed with the Small Business Specialist Community newsletter I received yesterday.

Here are some snippets:


    You receive this communication as a benefit of your Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community membership.
    Welcome to the July 2009 SBSC Program News. This newsletter is designed to present the most current and relevant information about Microsoft incentives, promotions, and opportunities available for SBSC members.

    New SBSC Advisory Board Announced: A Strong Resource for All SBSC Members
    The SBSC Program Team has selected new SBSC Advisory Board members for the new Microsoft fiscal year starting July 1, 2009. The role of the SBSC Advisory Board is to provide Microsoft with real-life feedback and ground-level intelligence about what is important for SBSCs. This year there is one SBSC Advisory Board member in each of the 10 Microsoft U.S. Sales Areas. SBSC Advisory Board members are committed and eager to be the local partner liaison between you and Microsoft. If you want to find the SBSC Advisory Board member in your region, and share the good and the not-so-good about being an SBSC member, click here.

    Congratulations to the Winners of This Year's SBSC "Driving Small Business Success" Contest!

    GRAND PRIZE Winner: Carl Mazzanti-eMazzanti Technologies-Hoboken, NJ
    smart fortwo passion coupe plus a VIP trip to a Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Race and SBSC Team jackets

    First Place Winner (A) Stephen Hall-District Computers, LLC . . .

    First Place Winner (B) Rutledge-CCS Business Solutions, Inc. . . .

    Second Place Winner: Wade DeVore-Netvision Consulting, Inc. . . .

    Third Place Winner: Matt Scherocman-PCMS Datafit, Inc. . . .

    Fourth Place Winner: Christopher Rue-Black Warrior Technology, . . .

    Fifth Place Winner: Perry-Soaring Eagle Computer Services, Inc. . . .

    SBSC Partner Finder: Fixed!
    We heard you loud and clear when you said that the SBSC Partner Finder from the Microsoft Small Business Center could be better-some of you couldn't even find yourselves. Significant improvements have been made to the back end of the Partner Finder, and we hope that it will get you good leads. As a reminder, only SBSCs are prompted in this engine, so this is a competitive advantage that you have over your local non-SBSC competition. Please take a look, and if you still have issues, shoot us an e-mail message to PartnerQ@microsoft.com with a precise description of the problem.

    New-SBSC Exclusive Resources Web Site
    Want to see a list of the Top 10 SBSC Benefits? You will find it here. You will also find a list of SBSC Recommended Resources and Training links . . .

    Windows 7 in the Microsoft Action Pack
    Registered-level members of the Small Business Specialist community, did you know that upon RTM the Microsoft Action Pack (MAPS) is scheduled to include Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate. . . .

    Launch of Digital Distribution Software Benefits
    We are proud to announce that since June you can have faster and more convenient access to your software benefits including your Microsoft Action Pack benefits, through digital distribution. By directly downloading your internal-use software, you can access software and updates the moment they're made available-no need to wait for your Microsoft Action Pack Subscription or Microsoft Gold Certified or Certified Partner box shipment. Check here for the latest details and . . .

    SBSC Learning Spotlight: Handpicked Training Opportunities for the SBSC Community
    For the second installation of the Learning Spotlight, the Microsoft U.S. Partner team has hand-picked the following trainings. Enjoy!
    " An 8-minute Partnercast: How to Sell SQL 2008 to Small and Medium Business Customers
    " 5W/50 Series-Migration Concepts with SBS 2008. Learn from the Swing Migration expert Jeff Middleton.
    " 5W/50 Series-The Network Is Slow: Troubleshooting and Tools with No Budget: Troubleshoot faster and more effectively, plus get free tools.

    Other Useful Information
    For those of you going to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans (July 13-16), we have an opportunity to meet in person during the "Build Your Own Business" open table session on Thursday afternoon, July 16. . . .


(. . . means I cut something. This is not one of those newsletters that makes you click on stories to go to the web site and read the real thing.)

Second,
If you want me to forward the entire SBSC email to you, please send an email to karlp.putmeonyourmailinglistfortherestofmylife@kpenterprises.com

And if you are a Small Business Specialist but don't get this newsletter for some reason, Contact the SBSC Partner Team and ask for it.

Like you, I get endless emails from Microsoft. Even the ones that try to consolidate all the juicy information are overwhelming.

But I consider this little newsletter lean and to the point.

Note also that there's quite a bit of news in the SBSC space.

In particular, Congratulations to the contest winners! To be honest, I was looking forward to owning a smart car. Oh well, maybe next time.

Also, Congratulations to the SBSC Advisory Board members. I have enjoyed my time on this board. With luck, they'll have an opportunity to be more active than the first board was!

:-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stumbling Into VOIP

IP Telephony is an interesting world.

In 1998 I got a new client because the phone guy pulled me into the job. The telephone business has historically been pretty profitable. It consists of selling "systems" that are too complicated for the client to understand, plus all the labor to pull wiring, and configuration labor.

The bad part about the traditional phone business has been that it's 98% project labor. There's essentially no maintenance. A fifteen year old phone system works as well as a one year old system. So once a client is set up, they don't see the phone guy until it's time for an additional phone line.

So this phone friend of mine gets a job with seven phone lines and they say they need computers. He figures he can be the one-stop shop, so he calls me in to design and set up a network. He knows CAT5, which is better than many phone people.

In a couple of days the client is ready to rock and roll.

At this point my friend tells me that his type of people (phone) are going to put my type of people (network) out of business. The way he sees it, he just has to learn or hire someone to do computers and he'll own the whole relationship.

. . . Skip ahead five years.

It turns out that it's a lot easier for a computer technician to learn the phone business than it is for a phone tech to learn IT consulting.

It helps that phones have come over to the world of I.P.

We've taken a circuitous route, but we've finally arrived at a happy place that works for us. And we are now moving full speed ahead with VOIP.

Here's our history for whatever it's worth.


The Beginning: Plug and Play

We jumped into VOIP with Packet8 (8x8) because it was super easy. I like the fact that I could have phones all over the place. We had a phone at my house, two at the office, and one that wandered with one of the techs.

This was something we could easily sell and set up.

But as the years rolled on, Packet8 had some serious issues. Primarily, outages and the need to "rebuild" our phone system at their end from time to time. Overall, I would rate it 95% of what you'd expect out of a land line.

Lesson Number One: That 5% is critical. People expect their phones to just work. And when they just don't, you're just stuck.

At this point, we'd been using and selling VOIP for about three years and decided to fish around for an alternative.


Sorry, Trix

We considered TrixBox. Bought the books, downloaded the software, built a machine, configured it.

But in the end, a TrixBox is a physical thing that lives on site (client site or our colo) and has to be maintained.

The zealots will tell you how easy it is . . . blah, blah, blah. But these people tell stories on facebook and blogs about staying up til midnight and working on systems 24 hours straight to fix stuff.

We don't do that. I'm not saying there are any problems with the TrixBox. But the people who advocate it all have a very high tolerance for working late into the night. I have zero tolerance for that.

And because the TrixBox is a physical thing that exists at someone's office, it needs maintenance.

That taught us that we are not going to push Response Point, Panasonic systems, etc. At the high end, I can see putting in a Cisco phone system for a client with a serious budget. But in (now) five years, we haven't had any of those opportunities.

We've been selling hosted systems that work. We decided that we're really looking for a hosted system that works better.

Lesson Number Two: Go with what you know. We are very comfortable with hosted VOIP and we've had success with it.


Hosted VOIP, take one

We did some research for a hosted VOIP provider. We wanted something on a solid network (like Level 3). We were also spoiled with the flat monthly fee. So that colored our decision a lot.

NOTE: At this point, we had seven phone lines for KPEnterprises and two for Great Little Book.

In the true spirit of eating our own dog food, we decided to try our new hosted VOIP provider at GLB.

It was a smooth transition and we got up and running pretty quickly. We learned that the company we chose was 90% old-school telephone and 10% VOIP. So they did not understand computers, computer techs, or the system flows within an I.T. consulting business.

They talked in acronyms I didn't understand. And when I asked what they meant, they sent me a glossary of VOIP terms. But nothing I asked about was on the glossary -- it was all internal to their company.

Anyway, the phone lines were rock solid and the telephone service was completely top-shelf. It was, in fact, Level 3.

Then . . .

A month later the company went out of business and gave us ten days to port our phone numbers (a virtual impossibility).

Lesson Number Three: Shit Happens. I don't think additional research would have revealed that this company was going out of business. But it's very difficult to "try" a VOIP provider without taking a plunge. Luckily for us, we did this with GLB on two phone lines and not with KPE and not with a client.


Hosted VOIP, take two

We went back to the research lab, and dug a little deeper this time. Finally, we settled on Vocalocity.

Vocalocity has a great program for educating partners. They have excellent, mature online dashboards.

Their documentation is so good that our first client set up everything online before we could get the telephones in their hands. Auto Attendant, call routing, extensions, etc.

I personally deal with Brian Kelly, but you can get started on the Partner Portal. You want to be a reseller.

Will they be perfect when I look back five years from now? I don't know.

But The Cloud's The Thing, as Shakespeare would say. I know going forward, our company will use and resell more services that are hosted, month-to-month, and pay as you go. Going forward, our company will use and resell fewer systems that require hardware on site at the office (ours or client's).

The phone system as we know it will move to the cloud.


I know we're not done learning yet, but I'm very excited about the path we've chosen.

And as soon as we have the spare cash to buy a bunch of phones, KPEnterprises is moving to Vocalocity as well.

- - - - -

I'm posting a link to this story on Telephonation. Some of the details of our ordeal are already posted their.

Comments and sob stories welcome.

:-)



White papers on email cleanup, backup systems that work, and more.
www.smbbooks.com

Friday, June 19, 2009

Microsoft OEM - Licensing of the Future

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been drinking the Microsoft Licensing kool-aid for may years now. Almost a decade!

But "back in the day" I built machines. So I have been a system builder longer than I've been a License Monger.

One of the changes I've noticed in the last 18 months is that we've begun selling OEM licenses again. There are several reasons for this:

- I client who buys machines one at a time and doesn't have a current license agreement can't get a single Office license. So they have to buy five licenses or one OEM.

- On two occasions, HP has had a great "Best Buy" offer on servers with the OEM version of SBS installed. Unlike Dell, HP makes rational decisions about installing operating systems, so we didn't have to nuke and pave. That saved us several hours of labor.

- Some clients are never going to downgrade and they don't think they'll ever need to move the license or re-install for any reason.

This last group is interesting because their only real benefit in licensing would be to replace the license in case of theft. They look at the License price of Office Pro and say $500 is too much money! They can buy an OEM version of Office Pro for $200. So if the machine is stolen, they can buy a new machine and re-buy the OEM product and still be ahead.

What can I say? "That deprives Microsoft of extra cash when our economy is in dire straits." Boo hoo.

Our official policy is to educate the client and help them to make good financial decisions. I've been in business long enough to know that a good deal on a hardware/software sale will lead to another good deal three years from now. I want to sell that client a new PC every three years until one of us dies.


HP, MLK, MSP, and MSFT

Our mix of products and services is a pretty good fit for OEM as well. We sell the HP desktops that are "Office Ready." That means we only need to sell an OEM Medialess License Kit (MLK), enter a key code, and they're set to go. With the bloat of Office, that saves us 45-60 minutes of installation time.

As a managed service provider, we give away three hours of setup labor with each machine added to a managed service agreement. If we can lop off an hour at install, that makes us more profitable!

One final change that we've seen is that Microsoft is pushing us back to the OEM world.

The Home Server is OEM only. I own one. I use it.

Foundation Server is OEM only. I've never actually seen it.

The reason to move to an OEM model is clear: If you're selling a single server with no CALs, a license isn't necessary.

That's true as far as it goes. But, what about getting people hooked on licensing? What about adding Office licenses to the server agreement? What about downgrade rights and machine independence? What about Software Assurance?

I was in Redmond earlier this year and told the team there that I haven't been selling these products, in part, because they're not available through licensing.

One group of folks at Microsoft has been feeding me Licensing Kool-Aid while another group is serving up OEM Kool-Aid. I literally never looked at these products for my business because they weren't sold through licensing.

But things are changing.

IF Microsoft is going to release server products, no matter how small, as OEM-only products AND if I want to sell into those markets, THEN I will end up moving to more OEM products.

I blogged in February of 2008 about the future of Microsoft Servers at the low end. I am more convinced now than ever that this is coming true.

See Karl's Server Roadmap for Microsoft and Server Roadmap Continued. It seems to me that Foundation Server approaches that model very nicely.

In those posts I introduce a product called Biz Server Nano. I really hope Microsoft uses that name! If they don't, I'm having stickers made.

Because the market is micro-businesses, one of the key components is price. Why pay $2,000 for an operating system when it's going to run on a $300 piece of hardware?

For 1-10 person businesses, 2/3 of what they need out of technology will be in the cloud. The other 1/3 will be on appliances. You can't really sell a licensing model into that business. OEM makes sense.

Gulp. There, I've said it.

But if that exact same technology works for people who have 20, 30, or 40 users, then licensing still makes sense. Even if you eliminate CALs there are good reasons to have that client on a licensing model.

I've been drinking Licensing Kool-Aid so long my lips are permanently stained.

But I see a day when we'll be back in the OEM model -- If Microsoft doesn't make our preferred products available through licensing.

:-)





SBS 2008 book by Microsoft Employee and SBS Community member David Overton
Available Now at SMB Books

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bloggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I have been getting reports that the true domain for this blog

http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com

Is having issues.

Blogger is messing with the code for blogs that are "redirected" to a custom domain (e.g., http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com).

See http://knownissues.blogspot.com/2009/06/custom-domain-redirects-are-adding.html.

Boy did I pick the right time to make that move! Not!

Stay tuned. They'll get it.

:-)

Microsoft Licensing: Downgrades Dominate the Landscape

I've been serving and drinking a specific flavor of kool-aid when it comes to Microsoft Licensing.

As a Certified Partner and a Small Business Specialist, I have been pummelled with a very clear message for many years: Sell Open Licenses

It might be Open Business, Open Value, OV Subscription. But at every turn it was license, license, license.

The reasons are many, but the truth is that 90% of the reasons are useless arguments that no one outside the Microsoft marketing department cares about. Like the free training from Microsoft. That turns out to be no better than what you get for free on the Office site.

The benefits of open license in my business are clear and obvious:

1) Open licenses are machine-independent. So, if a machine is broken, lost, stolen, or under six feet of water, the owner can take that license and throw it onto another machine.

This is particularly handy because Office is so overpriced. Clients don't want to re-buy that if they don't have to.

2) Some Open licenses have always come with downgrade rights. So, I can sell Server 2008 and install Server 2003. This is rare for us, but we've used it more and more frequently with Office and Windows (Vista / XP). It USED TO BE that you could downgrade just one version. That's changed.


The pitch used to be:

- Full Packaged Product bad (too expensive, no downgrade rights, dies with machine)

- OEM bad (no downgrade rights, dies with machine)

- License good (moderately expensive, includes downgrade rights, machine independent)

(Separate from this is the discussion about when SA and OV make sense.)


Our company has always recommended that clients use the latest version of [whatever] unless there's a valid business reason not to. Valid business reasons do NOT include "I don't want to" or "I'm used to the way software looked in the 90's."

Valid reasons include incompatibility with old programs, poorly-written line of business applications, and mission critical but old hardware.

We have also served up a flavor of kool-aid that says you can skip a generation if necessary. One generation. Not two. Not five.

But Microsoft has gradually changed the kool-aid. I think they've added aspartame to make it sweeter, but give me a headache!

Two changes have gradually taken place over the last few years. First, Microsoft has totally thrown up their hands and stopped trying to get people to buy Vista. You want XP, you get XP. You want its life extended again and again and again? You got it. You want it included in the next version of Windows? You got it?

Second, Office has gradually included more and more downgrade rights.

In the latest Microsoft Product List Document (MicrosoftProductList(Worldwide)(English)(June2009)CR[1].doc - 129 pages) you will find lots of changes that have worked their way into the system in the last year.

Attaching Software Assurance to OEM products has been supported and encouraged for some time. Software Assurance brings downgrade rights. Sometimes those rights are for one version. Now some products allow downgrades to ANY version. For example,

"Volume license customers who acquire a license for Office Professional Plus 2007 may use any prior version of the product in place of the software licensed."

Any prior version.

That means your client can keep that Access 97 database going strong for the next twelve years. They just need to make sure they have the media and someone who is willing to dig into the old VB code.

Note that Microsoft won't necessarily support what you install. If their timetable says it's out of support, then it's out.


So We're Changing Our Tune

If the clients want to run old, outdated, insecure software . . . And Microsoft has given up and made it easy for them . . . then why should we continue to force people into the 21st Century?

"Luckily for me, I have an old Word 6.0 disc. So I can install that all day and all night. It just works. And who needs the confusion of graphical user interface when text is so clear? And it's FAST, too! You can't believe how fast it is."

We're going to try to encourage the latest version of software. But we're done pushing it.

The result for Microsoft is going to be a dramatic reduction in revenue from these clients. If they can buy a product OEM and convert it to SA for less than the cost of a license, then that makes sense financially. If the license is open business and not open value, then the client has a perpetual license. They never have to buy that product again -- and they can keep moving it to a new machine as long as they live.

I know Microsoft will say that that SA expires in two years. But this particular client doesn't need upgrade rights or training. They've downgraded to Office 2000! What do they care about upgrades?

When they buy a new machine, they move the license.

Only when they add a user do they need to buy OEM, add SA, and enjoy another perpetual license.

I'll make a little less money. But Microsoft will make a lot less.

Note on using Software Assurance to convert OEM to Licensed product: you still need a 5-point minimum or you need to add it to an existing agreement. But if you sold the SBS server at a license deal (or converted OEM), then you're good to go.


Links

Here's the latest Downgrade Right Chart for Applications, desktops, and servers:

http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/8/9/68964284-864d-4a6d-aed9-f2c1f8f23e14/Downgrade_Rights.docx (link subject to change).

Note: If you try to google this, you'll get a lot of hits for the January 2007 version of this document. You want the November 2008 (or newer) version.

You'll also find this document linked from http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/volume-licensing-briefs.aspx (and the contents here are subject to change).

This page is also great for information on virtualization, terminal servers, etc.

Finally, the best document out there was just released in June 2009! It's called The Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List. I found it here:
http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/userights/DocumentSearch.aspx?Mode=3&DocumentTypeId=3 but that link is subject to change. The actual document title to search for is

MicrosoftProductList(Worldwide)(English)(June2009)CR[1].doc

(BTW: I added the correct search result for this doc to the Google "Add a Result" feature. Awesome. You owe me a beer.)

(This search currently returns no results in Bing.)


:-)


Successfully Buy Your Franchise
www.successfullybuyyourfranchise.com
Great book $29.95

Housekeeping: Blog Roll

I noticed the other day that my blog roll had totally disappeared. I have no explanation.

But I had Victoria go find all those links and re-create it.

I'll remove obsolete blogs and fine-tune as things go on.

Strange.

The only change I can think that I made was to add the URL http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com to the blogger.

Oh well. We move on.

:-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Frank Coker / Business Intelligence on SMB Conference Call

We are pleased to have Frank Coker from CoreConnex -- makers of Corelytics Software -- join us on today's SMB Conference Call (9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern)

June 17, 2009
9:00 AM Pacific Time

Register Now!

Join us to learn about some very cool software called Corelytics.

Basically, Corelytics takes your QuickBooks data and puts it on steroids. It will help you see and learn more about the numbers inside your business.

The cool thing about "business intelligence" is that the numbers are already inside your system. But the tools QuickBooks gives you to see those number are very limited.

Also, QuickBooks is not industry-specific, so there are some views of the numbers they can't give you. A good BI tool will give you benchmarks and forecasts so you can see how you're doing compared to the industry at large.

KPEnterprises uses Corelytics to help us get a good picture of our finances on an ongoing basis. It sucks data out of QuickBooks and then runs a series of queries against it to create some great analyses of the info.

In addition to benchmarking and financial best practices, Business Intelligence can help you see details in your business that will help you make decisions about where you're going -- and even more about where you've been.

Join us today - June 17th - at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

Register Now!

Info:

- web http://www.corelytics.com/

:-)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A-Holes Revisited

A few weeks ago I blogged about The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton (Here).

90% of the book is what I expected. But there's a cool 10% that I didn't expect.

What I expected is the first 30 pages, which are a thorough beating over the head that assholes are bad.

So what's the other 10%?

Well, two things stand out for me.

First, the concept of Temporary vs. Certified a-holes.

It makes perfect sense, but like most things, it makes the most sense when someone else points it out! Everyone is a jerk sometimes. We all blow our fuses. We are all capable of being mean, cruel, petty, and hurtful.

Some of us fall into this category rarely while others are like this all the time. If this happens to you rarely, then you're pretty normal. And when you act like an a-hole, you're in a temporary state. It will pass.

"Certified a-holes" are like that all the time. It's their modus operandi.


The second thing that stood out to me was the fact that there's actually a surprisingly large body of mythology in our society around a-holes.

Some people believe you have to be an a-hole to get ahead, so they go down that path. Or they decide that they'll never be successful because they're not total jerks.

Some people put up with demeaning and abusive behavior because they believe that's the way it has to be, or that all bosses are that way.

In fact, some people believe you need to keep one a-hole around to provide a bad example. Obviously, the temporary a-hole in each of us is good enough!

In the end, Sutton recommends a strict zero tolerance policy.

- - - - -

Assholes in the Real World

I have long practice a zero tolerance policy for a-holes, although I didn't use that phrase. Here are the simple rules I enforce around this:

1) No one gets to yell or scream at someone else. This is true inside my company as well as between my company and our clients. We don't yell at clients and treat them like garbage; clients aren't allowed to yell at us and treat us like garbage.

2) We treat each other with respect. Yes, we all tell stories about "that" client, but we never make clients or employees feel stupid. On rare occasions when we violate this rule, we attempt to stop, recognize it, apologize, and start over.

At the same time, we expect to be treated with respect by clients. And when our employees are not treated with respect, it falls to me to make the phone call and let the client know that kind of behavior is not okay.

One thing I've learned over the years: Don't confuse arrogant with a-hole. I'm certainly arrogant, but I try not to be an a-hole. I've got lots of arrogant clients.

But even the stereotypical lawyers and doctors tend to be arrogant but not necessarily a-holes. In fact, the last lawyer we fired was because the office manager was a flaming a-hole. One lawyer was totally self-absorbed, and the other lawyers were just plain people you'd be happy to live next door to.

Overall, avoiding a-holes with a zero tolerance policy is surprisingly easy. Just do it.

If you find yourself saying you have no choice, that really means you've decided the price is worth paying.

When I look at the important clients we've fired over the years, I have to admit that most of them were not a-holes. They were disrespectful of our time and processes. They were unprofitable. They were time thieves. They were overly-cheap.

The easiest clients to fire have been those who consume too much and too many resources inside our company. We were making money, but spending all of our time on them.

Somewhere on the continuum, arrogance turns mean and evil and becomes a-hole. But most people aren't close to that.

In fact, most people are just plain nice people with rare fits of abusive behavior.

As a result, a simple zero tolerance policy goes a long way.

And the rest is just stories to repeat at the bar.


:-)


User group leaders: Please contact me regarding discounts and bulk shipments for your group.
karlp@greatlittlebook.com.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Breaking the Prime Directive

If you're a fan of the Star Trek series, then you're familiar with the Prime Directive. If you're a REAL fan, then you know that it was originally referred to as the Non-Interference directive.

If you're not a fan of Star Trek, I can't imagine why you're reading this.

Anyway, the Prime Directive can be summarized as follows:

    The most important rule we have is that we don't interfere in the affairs of lesser-developed civilizations.

Dramatic tension is created when it becomes necessary to break the Prime Directive . . . because the "real world" is just never as simple as the high and mighty ideals we set for ourselves. As a result, the crew on Star Trek end up violating the Prime Directive approximately 75% of the time.

We all have prime directives in various roles we play and tasks we undertake.

  • Situation: It's the day of your server migration project and last night's backup wasn't perfect.
  • Prime Directive: You have to have a good backup before you begin a migration project.
  • Reality of this: If you've got generations of backups and can fill in the gaps with disc copies, most people find a way to get the migration started.

  • Situation: You have a client who is being unreasonable and abusive.
  • Prime Directive: Never raise your voice to a client.
  • Reality of this: On rare occasions, it is necessary to break the pattern of behavior and "reset" the situation. While I would never raise my voice to a client, interrupting the tirade is sometimes necessary.

  • Situation: It's 4:00 PM Friday and you've come to a full stop.
  • Prime Directive: Never start a new project at the end of the day or end of the week.
  • Reality of this: What are you going to do? You start a "small" project and hope that you don't break something at 4:59 PM and get stuck working until 8 or 9 at night.

  • Situation: A new service pack has been released for your operating system and you have a major presentation to make next week.
  • Prime Directive: Never install a service pack on a production machine until it has been "in the wild" for some period of time and you have tested it on less-important machines.
  • Reality of this: Technicians are strange people. Sometimes we can't help ourselves. That offer to apply updates is just staring you in the face. Sometimes you click.

  • Situation: A good client has his laptop stolen and wants a replacement ASAP.
  • Prime Directive: Company policy is that all hardware and software must be prepaid.
  • Reality of this: We're in the business of helping people with technology. If it's really a good client, and they know that they have to pay ASAP, most of us would order the laptop to be shipped overnight.

  • Situation: Wife asks "Do these pants make my butt look fat?"
  • Prime Directive: You must answer NO immediately, with no pause whatsoever.
  • Reality of this: You must answer NO immediately, with no pause whatsoever.


Other than that last one, we all know that there are times when you just have to break your "prime directives."

But, we also know that we're going to get zapped from time to time.

- That migration without the backup could turn into a three day disaster recovery program.

- If you yell at a client and the client fires you, you can't be too surprised.

- When you start a project at the end of the day, you run the risk that you'll create an urgent situation that didn't exist before. On Monday morning it might be minor. But when you have a family commitment and you've just taken down the network, you have no one to blame but yourself.

- Today service packs are extremely stable and almost never cause problems. Unless something unexpected happens. Again, you might find yourself in a bad situation that's all your own doing.

- 99% of the time, a client will be grateful that you got them out of an emergency. But every once in awhile they'll also take 60 days to pay for the laptop. Make a note: All hardware and software must be prepaid.

The Lesson is that these rules exist for a reason. Rules similar to these exist is all consulting companies that are 1) successful and 2) have been around for awhile. Why is that? Because simple rules that are followed consistently will save you money or make you money.

And the more frequently we ignore these rules, the more frequently we get zapped.

What "prime directives" do you have in your company?


:-)


Have you read The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr? It is a great glimpse into your future, with a fun look at how we got here.

Small Biz Thoughts Gets a Domain

Housekeeping memo: I have added the domain name smallbizthoughts.com to this blog.

To my knowledge, there has never been a problem with http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com. Certainly enough people have found it.

And a Google search for smallbizthoughts finds 5,700 hits, of which 5,675 are this site. So we're not suffering there.

(A search on Bing finds 75,200,000 results. I have no idea what's going on there.)

Anyway,

As I'm doing some search engine optimization for other sites, I've realized that there are some things you need to do just so you can check the box and make sure you don't overlook them.

One of those things is to have a domain name that includes your title.

For example, we created the Successfully Buy Your Business site at www.successfullybuyyourbusiness.com. The title of the site is Successfully Buy Your Business, and the HTML title on the index page is Successfully Buy Your Business.

In addition, the Google ad to lure people in has the words Successfully Buy Your Business, which gets us higher relevancy ratings on Google and cheaper ads for the words Successfully Buy Your Business.

So, while I'm not hurting hurting for traffic, it makes sense to touch all the bases.

No action is required on your part. :-)



User group leaders: Please contact me regarding discounts and bulk shipments for your group.
karlp@greatlittlebook.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Report on Zero Downtime Seminar

Well, we had a great time in Portland last night. That includes great snackage at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Lake Oswego. Nice room. Warm cookies, cold milk, along with fruit, chips, etc.

30-some folks showed up. We really appreciate that! Portland is always a great place to do an event. Thank you to Ken Shafer and the Technology Wizards for hosting this event.

Anyway, then we had a seminar in two parts.

I've been getting questions about whether an 8 hour pre-day event makes sense before SMB Nation. After last night's seminar I am convinced that it does.

Here are some comments from the evaluations:

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

    - "I would have liked more SBS 2008 migration technical information."

    - "Good slides and info!"

    - "Wanted more specific migration instructions."

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

    - "A little more technical discussion would have been nice."

    - "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!"

Now just for perspective: I talked and answered questions for 2.5 hours. So when I see that people want some technical details and more specifics, I know we need an all-day venue.

If 2.5 hours is "too brief," how much is enough?

To be fair to all the attendees, we have to start at the overview stage with stuff like this. Some people are ready to hit the ground going 60 MPH. Some people have been doing their own version of zero downtime, minimal downtime, or swing migrations. They get the overview and the details right away.

But most people we talk to are not doing -- or trying -- zero downtime migrations.

As a result, we need the intro and overview.

After that, we can do a deeper dive.

- - - - -

Our SMB Preday Seminar on Zero Downtime Migration Deep Dive is eight hours long.

- Because we WILL get very technical

- Because we WILL give all the details, click by click

- Because we WILL be very specific

- Because we WILL need that time to cover all the material

Zero Downtime Migrations are not extremely complicated. But it takes a variety of skills to pull them off consistently.

In fact, most technicians have all the skills they need. What we're offering is an extremely detailed checklist (about 150 pages), plus all the resources we use (Microsoft tools, white papers, third-party tools, etc.).

Warning: Please do NOT send your entry-level technicians to this seminar. They'll get value out of it, but a mid-level or high-level technician will get a lot more value.

The fall seminar is a little pricey, but absolutely worth the money. Here's why:

1) The seminar includes a copy of the new Network Migration Workbook. About 500 pages 8.5 x 11. Filled with examples and checklists. This book will sell for $300.

2) A printed, bound copy of the Network Migration Checklist we'll all go through together in the class. About 150 pages. In a three-ring binder with tabs.

3) A hot lunch, plus a day's worth of snackage.

Money Back Guarantee:
You Will Save at Least Ten Hours of Labor on Your Next Migration with the techniques you'll learn in this seminar.

Really.

If you need to, you can make three monthly payments.

We highly recommend that you register today!

On the seminar page at SMB Books.

Go now. Click Click Click.

:-)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Corelytics and Business Intelligence on SMB Conference Call

The last SMB Conference Call has been posted.

We had a great chat with Matt Makowicz from Ambition Mission about why so many people hire their "first" sales person again and again.

We got some instant feedback that this was an excellent session. Check it out on the SMB Conference Call Archive Page.

Next Up: Frank Coker from CoreConnex -- makers of Corelytics Software

June 17, 2009
9:00 AM Pacific Time

Register Now!


June 17th, we are honored to have Frank Coker from CoreConnex to join us. CoreConnex makes a product called Corelytics, a program to help you learn more about the numbers inside your business.

KPEnterprises uses Corelytics to help us get a good picture of our finances on an ongoing basis. It sucks data out of QuickBooks and then runs a series of queries against it to create some great analyses of the info.

In addition to benchmarking and financial best practices, this kind of "Business Intelligence" can help you see details in your business that will help you make decisions about where you're going -- and even more about where you've been.

Join us June 17th at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

Register Now!


Info:

- web http://www.corelytics.com/

- Frank being interviewed by Aaron Booker at VarVid.com:



Frank Coker from CoreConnex speaks with Aaron Booker of Varvid.com - SMB NATION 2008 from Mike Voodu on Vimeo.

- - - - -


Future Guests

WOW! We have a great line-up ahead.

- Stuart Selbst / Virtual Administrator / July 1st

- Arnie Bellini / ConnectWise / July 15th

- Bob Godgart and Bob Vogel / Autotask / August 5th


:-)


Visit www.smbbooks.com for books and more!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Microsoft Responds on Financing - Sort Of

There has been quite a buzz over the story of Microsoft moving the goal posts on financing (see Microsoft Destroys Their Financing Program as Recovery Looms.

Another article on this in Redmond Channel Partner:
http://rcpmag.com/Blogs/Scott-Bekker/2009/06/Other-Shoe-Drops-on-Microsoft-Financing.aspx.

Microsoft says that the change only affects 10% of all deals. Okay, that's fine.

But 9.99% of those are us - they're the SMB customers and partners.

So now they need to get word to the marketing department to stop telling SMB consultants that Microsoft Financing is the first and best choice for financing.

I thought it was funny when I got a recent Certified Partner Newsletter. The lead - in the subject line - was "The Facts About Microsoft Financing." Cool.

Except the actual email said nothing except the standard marketing stuff. And the link for downloading the information pamphlet just went to the same old licensing/financing web site. So the email had nothing new, but they had a great tease to increase the "open" rate.

I did talk to someone at MS Financing about this. Apparently, the only complaints they're getting is from the small consultants who have only used the program once or twice.

But Microsoft needs to understand that those small clients will do zero future deals with a 35% threshold.

As I mentioned before, the basic move (requiring a reasonable amount of MS licensing in each deal) makes perfect sense. But 35% is too high. 20% is more reasonable.

And stop pushing this as a program for SMBs. There's no shame in having a program geared to licensing houses and Dynamics dealers.

:-)



Check out Andrew Rogerson's new books on
Successfully Buying Your Business,
Selling Your Business,
Starting Your Business, and
Buying a Franchise
www.smbbooks.com

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Matt Makowicz on SMB Conference Call

Have you hired your "first" sales person more than once? If so -- or you want to hire your first sales person just once -- then tune in to the SMB Conference Call Wed. June 3rd at 9:00 AM Pacific.

Matt is from Ambition Mission and he'll join us to discuss some best tips on hiring a sales person.

Of course we'll also just B.S. about managed services and what Matt's been up to.


Info:

- Register Here

- Email: matt@ambitionmission.com

- web: www.ambitionmission.com

- Hear Matt on a previous SMB Conference Call: SMB Conference Call #17

- See Matt's Books at SMBbooks.com

- See Matt being interviewed by Aaron Booker from VarVid.com:



Join US Wednesday

:-)

Pssst.
Hey! Want to save 5% right now?
Use your Amex and the code AMEX09 at
www.smbbooks.com

Monday, June 01, 2009

SMB Nation's Salary Survey

Harry B and SMB Nation have released the results of the Third Annual SMB Salary Survey.

If you're info's not represented, it's because you didn't fill out the survey!

Of the 225 who did respond . . .

- Most have been in the technology biz for 15+ years.

- Most are owners of the business

- and the average salary was about $80,000

Obviously, I'm leaving out lots of details. See Harry's post (above).

As expected, respondents belonged to local IT Pro groups and to the well-known national organizations such as Robin Robins, MSPU, and SMBTN.

And I was happy to see that respondents are reading my blog (thank you). Harry's blog wasn't listed, as it was his survey. Mine was third. The Microsoft Official SBS Blog was second. And someone called "Susan Bradley" came in first. (Kicked my butt!)

One item that struck home with me was the balance between hardware/software sales and service revenue. These numbers are within 1% of our numbers at KPEnterprises. That gives a little faith that we're not too far off the beaten path.

Another striking stat was the amazing percentage of companies that are getting little or none of their revenue from managed services. To be honest, I'm not sure how people survived the last six months without managed service. But you did!

And Harry concludes with a wonderfully optimistic finding . . . which you'll have to Read For Yourself.

Overall, the findings are very positive and reflect that we exist in a very resilient business.

Thanks for the info, Harry.

And thank you to those contributed by responding.

:-)

Pssst.
Hey! Want to save 5% right now?
Use your Amex and the code AMEX09 at
www.smbbooks.com