Friday, June 29, 2012

SOP Friday: Front Office Roles and Responsibilities

We've discussed Service Manager and Technician Roles and Responsibilities. Your front office is also critical to your success. With very small companies, this role will be played by the owner for awhile. But it needs to be handed over to someone else as soon as possible. While these tasks are extremely important to the company, they are also easily handed off.

As a rule, the owner of a small IT shop is not going to be a pro at bookkeeping, billing, payroll, etc. The boss keeps these chores, in part, because he doesn't trust anyone else to do them. But these tasks take up a significant amount of time, and the boss is much more productive at sales or technology than at word processing.

Just as everything begins with one boss, everything in the "front office" begins with one person. But there are three types of role that person will perform. Maybe, if you get big enough, you'll hire all three. But in the beginning they will all be in one person. The three key front office roles are Office Manager, Bookkeeper, and Administrative Assistant.

The office manager basically runs the place. The bookkeeper handles most of the finances. And the admin does all the little stuff that just needs to be done. For most of us, these three will be one person. In fact, when I talk about my "$200 Miracle" hire, that's the all-in-one first hire Office Manager, Bookkeeper, and Administrative Assistant.

In my businesses, the first hire is now always an all-in-one assistant. As we grow I eventually hire (actually, the office manager hires) an admin. I have never grown so big that the Office Manager and Bookkeeper roles have been separated, but that would be the next step. If you outsource payroll, you may never need to have these separated.

Here are some general activities for each of these roles. Again, these will probably be assigned to one person for some time.

The Office Manager Role
-----------------------
- Sort, open mail
-- Invoices
-- Checks
-- Bills
-- Payroll
-- Contracts
-- Ads
-- Other stuff
- Misc. Paperwork (e.g., rebates from the office supply store, vendor co-marketing forms)
- Set up client meetings (road map meetings and other)
- Accept packages, match shipments received with Purchase Orders and client "will call"
- Verify that all Hardware, Software, and Materials have been properly charged to clients
- Coordinate direct mail campaigns (monthly & special projects)
- Run the office: Communicate with the landlord, janitorial company, alarm company, etc.
- Hand out security codes as needed
- Make keys and manage getting keys to and from employees
- Process new clients into the system
- Process new employees into the system
- Handle all personnel matters (along with the owner/manager)
- Process all business-related paperwork (for corporation, partnership, etc.)
- Send anniversary cards, etc. to clients


The Bookkeeper Role
-------------------
- Enter bills to be paid into Quickbooks
- Pay bills
- Deposit checks
- Send invoices
- Enter payments into Quickbooks
- Produce invoices for Manager to review (in PSA)
- Synch PSA with Quickbooks
- Print checks for Manager to review
- Collection calls if needed
- Process payroll
- File taxes (city, county, federal, income tax, sales tax, ewaste tax, business licenses, reseller permits, SUI, FUI, SSI, OMG!, etc.)
- Work with accountant or enrolled agent and owner to properly file state and federal taxes


The Administrative Assistant Role
---------------------------------
- Filing / sorting
- Mail things, ship things
- Cut, fold, staple, stuff, etc. – papers, flyers, mailer, whatever
- File invoices and other paperwork per distributor (e.g., Ingram and Synnex)
- Get the mail
- assembling handouts
- Misc. Research projects
- Typing
- Update forms, checklists
- Photocopying or scanning
- Make coffee
- Run errands: Fill the owner's car with gas, get lunch for in-house meetings, shop for supplies, etc.
- Inventory office supplies
- Prepare sales folders
- Empty garbage and recycling (If each person is not responsible for doing this and you do not have a janitorial service.)
- Clean the office (If you do not have a janitorial service.)

If I missed any chores you have in your company, please enter them in the comments.


You Need An Assistant!

If you are a one-person shop, you are doing all these things. Or you are failing to do all of these things, which can be very stressful. Many things (including bookkeeping) can be outsourced to some degree. But lots of things can't be outsourced. Someone has to work with the landlord, manage contracts, sort the mail, pay bills, etc.

These jobs are often scattered throughout the the day/week/month and so you don't see how much time they take. But look at that list and imagine how much more work you could do if you were not doing all this administrative stuff!

The first step in handing off these chores is to complete this list. What else needs to be done in your business? Add it to the lists. Then sort them in the order you most want to hand off to someone else. That will help you develop a "training" for handing off each task.

When you get the right office manager, everything in your business will run better! In addition to all of the things listed above, a good office manager will take care of a thousand "little things" that never seem to get done. The place will be better organized. All company communications will be smoother (internally and externally).


As I've said before, I would make an assistant my first hire. You'll have more time to go do sales or billable work. And you'll be able to delay hiring a technician for quite a while . . . as you become more profitable.


Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -


About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Time Sheet Submission and Approval

:-)


Now Available: 


Seminar on MP3 Download 

Two hours of audio training - Plus two slide decks in .pdf format. 

Agenda: Project Management in a Managed Service Business and Zero Downtime Migration Strategies.

Friday, June 22, 2012

SOP Friday: Troubleshooting Guidelines


IT Troubleshooting: Eight Rules and Thirteen Techniques for Success


Troubleshooting is a very interesting piece of our jobs. It is almost never taught. Yet it is central to our success. After all, if you have no troubleshooting skills, you'll spend lots of time NOT solving problems. Eventually, you'll go do something else for a living. Conversely, the better you are at troubleshooting, the faster you solve problems and the more money you make.

So . . . you guessed it . . . you should have some standard training on troubleshooting. There are three keys to success with troubleshooting. Two of them can be taught. First, there are rules or principles of operation. If you can follow the rules, they will help you make good decisions. Second, there are specific techniques to follow. We use some techniques for one ocassion and other techniques for other ocassions.

The third element can't be taught: Experience. Experience is the magic ingredient. How do you know which rules apply? How do you know which technique to use? In fact, how do you know exactly what to do without troubleshooting at all? Because you've seen it before. You've done the task many times. You've solved similar problems. And if you're good at applying rules and techniques, then experience just makes you faster and better.

This article focuses on the skills you can teach. These can be imparted to your technicians. And many of the rules are designed specifically to save your company money. The most obvious example of this is the rule to call for help after 60 minutes with no progress.

Note: You should REALLY read the article on the Trouble Shooting and Repair Log from last July. We will use this and refer to it as the TSR Log.

A training on troubleshooting is useful so that everyone on your team takes a similar approach, and because they can learn from each other. The only way anyone gets the experience that will make them great at troubleshooting is to spend time troubleshooting!

Sometimes you go into a troubleshooting situation from the start. For example, some thing is not working and you are going to find out why. At other times an issue becomes a troubleshooting situation. In other words, you went in to do one thing and ended up finding a bigger problem than you thought.

The only real difference between these two situations is your level of awareness going in. Troubleshooting rules and techniques are not different. The biggest problem with a situation that becomes a troubleshooting job is that you might not realize you've slipped into troubleshooting mode for some time. That's why one of the rules is ask for help if you're not making progress.

Interestingly enough, troubleshooting experiene in other areas can be very helpful in troubleshooting computers and networks. If you fix anything (cars, toasters, etc.), you'll see that many rules and techniques apply to other fields. Now let's look at rules and techniques for troubleshooting IT issues.


Eight Rules for Troubleshooting Hardware, Software, and Networks

1. Try the obvious solution first.

There's a famous quote in medicine: "When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don't expect to see a zebra." (Dr. Theodore Woodward, University of Maryland School of Medicine). That means you should not start by looking for weird problems.

2. Document everything. Use the TSR Log!!! A TSR log must be started at the 1 hour point of any single ongoing issue. Documentation also means that you label everything you can. Seriously: this helps. A perfect example is hard drives. Before you start switching hard drives around, make sure you label them so you keep track of where you started and what you did.

3. Only change one thing at a time. Inexperienced technicians (and many clients) make several changes at once. For example, they apply all the waiting updates, switch out the network cable, and change the IP properties. The obvious problem (whether the issue is fixed or not) is that you have no way of knowing which change made a difference.

In addition, one of these changes alone may have changed behavior that you can measure and document. That knowledge might be useful if the issue is not solved because you could have elminated two of those, but now you can't eliminate any of them.

This rule is extremely important. In fact, it's the reason we do not allow clients to take on two major projects at the same time, such as a network migration and changing ISPs. If you have network issues and you've changed two things system wide, you can spend a lot of time chasing the rabbit down the wrong hole.

4. Know what you know. See the blog post about this. You should be completely and honestly aware of the margins of your knowledge. In addition, this rule affects documentation. As you progress, you need to be very clear about solutions you have tried and eliminated from consideration. This keeps you from trying the same thing again and again. Also see the article on working with third party tech support and documenting calls.

5. Don't forget the basics! Even experienced technicians forget this one. If they think they know what the problem is about, they jump in and try a few things. A half hour later, they call someone else on the team who asks "What kind of errors are in the event logs?" Uh . . .. If you haven't checked the event logs, you might be embarrassed to see that the problem is obvious.

6. Slow down, get more done. I've covered this many times in my blog and my books. There are several angles to this rule. If you're in a hurry, you won't be careful, you'll miss things, you'll forget the other rules, and you'll become frustrated faster. Go slow. Ask for help. Splash water on your face. Take your lunch break. Get a fresh pair of eyes.

7. Use your PSA's knowledgebase capability !!! Your professional services automation tool (Autotask or ConnectWise) is a great place to document issues so you can do research within your own knowledgebase. Has your team solved similar problems? Is there a hotfix already downloaded to the cloud drive? Don't duplicate work of any kind, even research.

8. Ask for help! You're not alone. The maximum time anyone should work on any problem before stopping and calling for feedback or support is 60 minutes. It is critical to the company's profit to not waste time by continually trying the same thing over and over or to simply stumble around hoping to find success.

The first time I took a vacation and handed my clients over to an employee, I told him that he is not alone. He can call HP, Microsoft, Dell, Symantec, me, other technicians, or anyone else who might be able to help. Sometimes a vendor knows the answer but the online support system is horrible (e.g., SonicWall) or the vendor has undocumented fixes that they only hand out if you call in with the problem (e.g., Microsoft). At other times, another tech will have worked on something similar. Or they might just suggest a different approach.

The more consistently you apply these rules, the smoother your operation will work. One of the great benefits of experience is that you take note of "weird stuff" you come across. Having a good process will help you isolate the weird stuff, document it, and add it to your internal mental database.

These rules are like your muscles of success. You need to practice them so you'll get good enough that they become an automatic part of your troubleshooting process.


Thirteen Techniques for Troubleshooting Hardware, Software, and Networks

Techniques are different from the rules above. Rules are big-picture guidelines. Techniques are specific approaches or actions you use to find problems and isolate solutions. Everything above continues to apply. Here are some techniques you will employ in troubleshooting. If you've been in technology long, you'll recognize all of them, even if you didn't have labels for them.

The wisdom of an experienced troubleshooter is to know which technique to attempt first, second, etc. Some techniques are opposites of each other. Experience will help you decide how to start and how to proceed.

1. Start with the highest probability. This is simply the action that executes Rule #1 above. But remember that things change over time. Here's an incredibly general but accurate example:

Let's say there's a problem with the network. Period. That's all you know. In the world of Windows NT 4.0, I would say to start with the physical connection (cable, NIC, switch). In the days of Windows 2008/2011 I would say to start with DNS. One of the jokes in my office is "All problems are DNS." That's surprisingly helpful!

2. Start with the Physical. This technique is as old as networking. But it also applies to software and hardware issues. For example, if a hard drive is old or beginning to die, it might spend an excessive amount of time writing and re-writing data, marking bad sectors, and moving things around.

We tend to forget this technique today because hardware (and networking) has become extremely reliable. The network-specific equivalent of this rule is "Work your way up the stack." Remember the ISO (Open Systems Interconnection) model? The stack looks like this:

7. Application
6. Presentation
5. Session
4. Transport
3. Network
2. Data link
1. Physical

3. Start with the program. This is the opposite of Technique #2. Assume that cabling, network, and connections are all stable. This technique is actually more common today than #2. You examine the program, then the operating system, and on down.

4. Apply all the patches, fixes, and updates. It is amazing how many problems go away when you apply all the patches to the hardware, operating system, and program. Keep updating until there's nothing left to add. Now test the issue. Very often, the problem will be gone. You might be dissatisfied that you don't know what caused or fixed the problem. See the last technique, below.

5. What has changed? Whether changed by the client, automatic updates, or even one of your staff, changes are a very frequent cause of problems. This is an easy technique to try: Simply reverse the change if you can. Often you cannot. In such cases, you simply have to find the new conflict and figure out how to solve the problem. But at least you're on the right track.

6. Order matters. Sometimes a problem only happens because a series of actions was taken in a specific order. Change the order and you have no problem. This is the most common cause of people saying that a problem is "random." If there's one thing a computer system is NOT, it's not random. This is why it is critical to get clients to report exactly what happened. In what order did they open programs, save files, etc.?

7. Serial substitution. This means that you change one thing and test. If the problem is not solved, change that thing back. Then change the next thing. If the problem is not solved, change that back. And so forth. The technique works best when you can define the possible variables. For example, in TCP/IP you have the IP address, subnet mast, default gateways, hosts file, DNS, and so forth. You can literally make a list and check things one by one. Documentation is critical to this. Use the TSR log!

8. Troubleshooting Checklists. We get frustrated when we call tech support for a client and the ISP wants us to verify that the router is plugged in, the cables are good, etc. But we have some checklists ourselve. After all, if a client called you and said that her computer doesn't start, you'd go down your own checklist. Is the UPS plugged in? Is the light red or green?

Creating a few simple checklists can help your technicians to quickly solve some of the most basic problems. This helps them learn troubleshooting and saves you money!

9. Reproduce the problem. This is particularly helpful with intermittent issues. Can you (or the client) reproduce the problem every time? If so, that will give you great clues about where to start. If not, then you need to begin investigating when the problem happens, which programs are being used, and so forth.

10. Have users help with documentation. This follows from Technique #9. If you can't re-create an intermittant problem on demand, then you need to engage the client to help you. Give them a form with instructions. When the problem recurs, they need to tell you what were they doing, which programs were open, etc. Anything they can give you at that very moment may be helpful. They can either keep a paper log, enter notes in the service ticket, or email information to you.

11. Do you have multiple problems? This is essentially the opposite of Technique #1. It will certainly not be the first thing you consider. But at some point, consider the possibility that two things changed, or two things failed at the same time. It does happen. Finding one issue may or may not help to find the other issue. But fixing one issue may make the other issue easier to find!

12. Product-specific gotchas. This technique relies heavily on experience. Sometimes you just "know" that a program behaves a certain way, or comes set up wrong out of the box, or you have to connect a certain cable first. This is knowledge that doesn't really help much with figuring out problems generally.

But whenever you see one specific product, you know what you need to do. This is also one of the reasons that you will be more profitable is you have a small set or products you sell. You get to know those products and can troubleshoot them very quickly.

13. Do you care why? This is a completely different approach. Do you care why the problem happened? Can you simply reboot and fix it? Can you roll back the system to the last restore point and it works? As left-brained techno-goobers, we want to understand what happened. But as business owners and managers, that may not be the most important question. If you can fix something quickly, who cares why it broke?

Note: If the problem happens again, then you need to care. If the problem recurs, then you need to pick the right technique and troubleshoot the problem until you really fix it.

- - - - -

Remember: Computers are not random. That makes troubleshooting them a very systematic job. Unless you've engaged a random function, computers always do exactly the same thing under tha same circumstances. When that does not appear to be true, it's because you haven't explored enough to determine when it does one thing and when it does another.

What remains true under all circumstances is that the rules always apply, and one of these techniques will reveal the solution. There's very little you can do to speed up experience except to tackle as many problems as possible.


Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Front Office Roles and Responsibilities

:-)



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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Culture of Success is the Path to Greatness for Small Companies


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference June 26-28.

We have an amazing line-up of speakers. One is my brother and co-author Manuel Palachuk of Conceptual Age Consulting. Manuel is a coach and "outsourced COO" for managed service providers. One of the things he excels at is developing a powerful and productive culture within a company. That will be his topic at the conference.

All of our amazing speakers have great topics - and we have some speakers I guarantee you've never heard before.

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

A Culture of Success is the Path to Greatness for Small Companies


Sacramento, CA, June 21, 2012 – Small Biz Thoughts Technology Events announced that Manuel Palachuk – author and business coach – will be a featured speaker at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. Palachuk will speak on Cultivating a Successful Culture for Employees and Clients.

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Palachuk is the principal at Conceptual Age Consulting of Boca Raton, FL. He is the author of The Network Migration Workbook with his brother Karl, and the author of the upcoming book Getting to the Next Level: A Blueprint For Taking Your Managed Service Business To The Top.

Conceptual Age Consulting provides management services and coaching for small and medium-size IT companies. Palachuk is the former President of KPEnterprises Business Consulting, Inc. of Sacramento, CA and former COO for Network Technology Solutions (NTS) in Pompano Beach, FL.

“Most businesses don’t spend a lot of time creating a culture of success,” said Palachuk. “Greatness never just happens. You have to build it intentionally over time. We’ll talk about how technology businesses can create a culture of success in everything they do.” Palachuk’s blog is at http://conceptualageconsulting.net/blog/.

Other conference speakers include Ken Thoreson and Jeannine Edwards. Thoreson is a well-known sales management consultant, recently named as one of the Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers of the Year for 2012 by Top Sales World. See www.topsalesworld.com/topInfluencers.php for more information. Thoreson is the president of Acumen Management Group. For more information, visit www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com.

Edwards is the Director of ConnectWise and LabTech Communities and will be speaking on how small IT companies can dramatically increase their cloud services revenue. Edwards has more than twelve years of diversified Business-to-Business development experience in the technology industry. She has become a well-known figure in the IT Solution Provider channel.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include Autotask Corporation, the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Conceptual Age Consulting

Conceptual Age Consulting provides coaching and consulting to organizations, teams or individuals with only one goal in mind: to take your service-based business to the next level, and they have the blueprint to do it! They primarily work with IT Consultants, MSP’s, VAR’s and other Technology Service Providers. For more information, visit www.conceptualageconsulting.net.


About Autotask

Autotask Corporation provides the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers. Autotask is accessible from virtually any computing or mobile device connected to the Internet and features a world-class API that seamlessly integrates with the other systems and tools that providers rely on to run their businesses. For more information on Autotask Corporation, visit www.autotask.com.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

:-)



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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Measuring Your Success is the Key to Success in Small IT Firms


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference June 26-28. One of our speakers, Stuart Selbst, is a business coach specializing in the SMB market. Stuart will talk about measuring the success of your business . . . and more.

All of our amazing speakers have great topics - and we have some speakers I guarantee you've never heard before.

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

Measuring Your Success is the Key to Success in Small IT Firms


Sacramento, CA, June 20, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that Stuart Selbst – long-time business coach for small IT companies – will be a featured speaker at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. Selbst message is very powerful: Small IT firms need to track and measure their progress if they wish to succeed in the long term.

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Stuart Selbst is a well-respected industry leader, speaker, business coach and the President/CEO of Stuart Selbst Consulting, a consulting firm that offers executive level business coaching for Managed Service Providers and Value Added Resellers.

After he started, built and sold a very successful Manage IT Services practice, Stuart has worked with hundreds of MSPs, VARs and system integration firms over the years to help them grow their business and increase profitability and staff productivity.

“Stuart’s message is particularly powerful as we struggle to get out of this recession,” said Palachuk. “Even if IT companies are not struggling, many of their clients are.”

“We need to measure a lot more than how much profit we’re making,” said Selbst. “We need to quantify the success that we bring to our clients. To thrive, we need to provide much more than they can get from a big-box outsourcing company. That means we need to measure everything and talk to our clients about it.”

Selbst is widely respected in the SMB consulting community. In 2009, 2010 and again in 2011, Stuart was named to the "MSP Mentor 250," an annual listing of executives and leaders shaping the Managed Services business and industry. In 2010, Stuart was endorsed by the MSP Alliance as a Business Advisor and in 2010 and 2011 was named as an Autotask MVP. Selbst was awarded the Best Member Blog award at the Autotask Community Live 2010 conference and has had articles published in a number of industry journals. He has been named to the SMB Nation Top 150 Influencers in 2011 and 2012.

Other conference speakers include Stephanie Chandler and George Sierchio. Chandler is the author of seven books, including Own Your Niche on the Internet and Beyond (Authority Publishing, 2012). Her Business Info Guide web site – www.BusinessInfoGuide.com – is an extremely popular destination for small business owners. Sierchio is an entrepreneurial veteran who has owned and operated several successful services and consulting businesses in the last twenty years.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include Autotask Corporation, the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Stuart Selbst Consulting

Stuart Selbst Consulting works with consulting companies of all sizes. They work to align sales and marketing together with business processes and the practice of goal setting to achieve individual and team success. He coaches businesses of all sizes, from start up to very well established. Typical growth is over 75% annually in new recurring revenue. Some clients have seen 200% and 300% recurring revenue growth.

For more information, visit www.stuartselbst.com. Visit Selbst’s blog at http://mspcoaching.com and his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/mspcoaching.


About Autotask

Autotask Corporation provides the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers. Autotask is accessible from virtually any computing or mobile device connected to the Internet and features a world-class API that seamlessly integrates with the other systems and tools that providers rely on to run their businesses. For more information on Autotask Corporation, visit www.autotask.com.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com

:-)



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by Karl W. Palachuk 

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Goodbye Freeday Friday


One of the things I always say is that you have to stop doing some things in order to be more successful in others. Well, I am actively taking my own advice. I have recently made a decision to cut out several of the  activities I have been engaged in.

I wish I could say that they're not successful or not paying their way. But some things aren't intended to pay their way. All activities should point to a goal. That might mean more subscribers, more book sales, more consulting business, etc. Frequently, there is no direct line between an activity and its intended payoff. But there should at least be an indirect line!

Anyway, the first two activities that I am cutting out are the Promotion Monkey newsletter and the Freeday Friday broadcasts.


Dropping Promotion Monkey

Most of my SMB/MSP readers are probably not aware of the Promotion Monkey newsletter. I started it in 2008 primarily as a means to building a mailing list among online marketers, authors, and speakers. Eventually, it became the newsletter associated with the Publish Your First Book web site (www.publishyourfirstbook.com). That site has a low-volume blog that will continue.

I moved the Promotion Monkey subscribers to my Relax Focus Succeed mailing list with the following email:

- - - - -

Dear Promotion Monkey subscriber:

Thank you for signing up for the PM newsletter. I have received a lot of positive feedback over the years.

But things change. The world keeps on spinning.

I am changing the focus of my activities to spend more time with another brand I own called Relax Focus Succeed. You can find out more at http://www.relaxfocussucceed.com.

As a result, I am closing down the Promotion Monkey newsletter. As I tell people when I speak: You can't focus on everything. The only way to be successful is to focus on something. So I'm moving my focus more in line with my long-term goals.

If you have a major promotion or marketing project, and a budget, I am happy to help out. But I will not be putting out a newsletter regarding these matters.

Note: I am going to move subscribers of this newsletter over to my Relax Focus Succeed list, which is very low volume. If you do not wish to be on that list, please note that every email has an un-subscribe opportunity. But I hope you'll stick around.

Thank you for your support over the years.

-- karlp

- - - - -

Dropping Freeday Friday

It is much more likely that my SMB/MSP readers have seen the Freeday Friday broadcasts. These were marketed through my weekly newsletter and a domain that redirects to a specific page there. The recorded sessions were then posted to the combined SMB Community Podcast and Cloud Services Roundtable site (http://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com or http://www.cloudservicesroundtable.com).

The June broadcast (June 15th) has been posted. This broadcast includes the announcement that it would be the last Freeday Friday broadcast.

And let me freely admit that the Freeday Friday project was simply a failure. I get LOTS of emails asking for help. So many that I simply cannot answer them in a timely manner. I try to answer them all, but sometimes it takes six months. So I decided to create a forum where I could answer questions for one person, but lots of others could listen in. That way, if other people had a similar challenge, they might get some tips to help them.

In addition, I acknowledge that many people do not have the resources to pay for a coach. This gives them access to a coaching session for free.

That worked for awhile. When we started, several people sent in questions and several others called in to listen. But the questions phased out, as did the eavesdroppers. The strange thing is that we get lots of people signing up to call in, but most of them simply never join the conversation.

In the end, I have to take some of my OTHER advice: People put value on you offerings in parallel with the value you put on them. So giving away coaching for free meant that people placed no value on it. And, in the end, if it is not perceived as valuable, then no one will participate.

I want to provide value to people, but I also need to feel like I’m making enough impact to make it worth my while.

As a result, I’m going to refocus my energy to other endeavors. Thank you to everyone who participated. I love the community. And, trust me, I’m not going anywhere. We’re just not going to do “this” any more.

This concludes our Freeday Friday broadcast.

Goodnight Gracie.

:-)

Goodbye Eriq Neale


I woke up this morning to find that my friend Eriq Neale ("Q") has passed away. He had been suffering with cancer for some time.

There are some people who just seem to "be there" and then it's hard to imagine that they're not there any more. Eriq has just been there as a part of the SMB and SBS community for as long as I can remember.

Eriq was a great technician and engineer, a great author, a true community leader, and a very nice guy. He was a regular contributor to SMB events of all kinds. And he is an excellent example of the kind of person who deserves to be an MVP - for Microsoft or anyone else.

I remember very clearly the last time I sat down with him and had a chat. I'm sure it never occurred to either of us that we would never see each other again.

Eriq was featured on the front cover of SMB Nation's magazine recently as a bit of acknowledgement that he was first among the SMB 150. And at the recent IT Pro conference in New Orleans, Eriq's face appeared on the screen when Jeff talked about people who contributed greatly and could not be in New Orleans. Eriq's gentle voice and quick laugh have always been a part of the SBS community. He will truly be missed.

Anyway, you will see many tributes to Eriq on Facebook, etc. today. He had a great impact on our community and we were lucky to know him, if only briefly.

Goodbye my friend. We will miss you. We were blessed to know you.

If you would like to help Anna Hillyard Neale you can send your donations to "eriqcare@gmail.com" a PayPal account setup by a few of his friends.

:-(

SOP Friday: Technician Supplies -- The "Scary Box"

No matter how small your business is, you will need to provide your techs with certain supplies. The nature of what you need to provide changes over time. But you should have an official list and make sure your techs have what they need. A $4 cable becomes a $60 cable if you have to pay your technician to drive back to the office and pick it up!

We provide technicans with a plastic Rubbermaid-type box to carry in their trunk. It keeps the materials safe and orderly. In addition, this makes it easy for the tech to take these materials out of the trunk as needed. We call this the "Scary box" because it gets disorderly pretty fast. When techs are stressed out or in a hurry, they tend to dig through the box and never get around to straightening it out.

We have techs bring the box to their quarterly review. It is never in order. Really. But the quarterly review is a time to get it back in order and make sure all supplies are up to spec.


What Every Technician Should Carry

So what's in the "Scary Box?"
Basically, there are three types of things the tech needs to carry: Tools, Office Supplies, and Parts. The list I give here is actually more than we normally carry these days. We've found that we carry fewer and fewer parts as time goes by. The reason for this is simple: Almost nothing breaks any more. When was the last time you replaced a bad network card?


Tools
(Quantity = 1 each)
o Ground Strap
o Label Machine – With good batteries
o Network crossover cable or block
o Spare label tape
o 5 port network switch
o Philips screw (small)
o Philips screw (standard)
o Flat screw driver (small)
o Flat screw driver (standard)

Note: A tech may need other specific tools for a job. These should be provided, but don't need to live in the scary box for each technician.


Office Supplies
(Quantities vary, but you should have at least 3-5 of each item.)
o Manila pouch folders
o Tabs for Network Documentation Binders
o The Company Product labels (If you put a company sticker with the date on every piece of hardware you install.)
o Labels for Offsite Backups
o “I was at your computer” memos
o Equipment Disposal Verification Forms
o CD Sleeves


Parts
o DAT72 and 160 Cleaning Cartridges
o DAT72 and 160 Tapes
o Network Controller Card
o 50’ Network cable Qty 1
o 25’ Network cable Qty 1
o 10’ Network cable Qty 3
o 7’ Network cable Qty 3
o 5’ Network cable Qty 5
o 3’ Network cable Qty 5
o SATA control cable
o Velcro ties
o USB Cable - Standard A to B
o USB Cable - Type A to Mini
o USB Cable - Type A to Micro

Unlike some businesses (e.g., cabling companies), we need to be very careful to keep the inventory piece of this very small. As technology changes, you are very likely to have some leftover cables or other items that you never use. I think we have five or six old style parrall printer cables at our office.

Even though each of these is not very expensive, as a whole they represent a significant chunk of change. In fact, as we phase out tape backups, we have eliminated tapes from the scary box. At $100-$200 per box, this is not a minor investment. You need to balance the need for these items with the cost.


A Few Notes About Taking Care of Supplies

The technician is expected to maintain a supply of the items listed (from The Company stock) at all times.  If something is used up or sold out of the tech’s supply, they need to get it restocked as soon as possible.  The intention is to never be on site without something you should always have on hand.

Once the list of items is assembled and inventoried, the technician is to sign for the list of supplies. (You should have a form for signing out keys, security cards, and other company property.) A copy of their list will be maintained in their employee file. Once created, only major item additions and deletions will be tracked. The technician is ultimately responsible for the care and inventory of the items.

Any delivery to a client, loss, damage, theft or other disposition of an item is expected to be reported to The Company in the appropriate manner as soon as possible.  That is to say, if an item is delivered or left for a client to own and use it must be entered on the product tab of some SR in a timely manner so that it can get correctly billed.  If an item is dropped, otherwise damaged, etc. it must be brought to the service manager's attention immediately.  The preferred method of informing the service manager is via email.

It is reasonably expected that the technician will safeguard any The Company property appropriately.  It is expected that it will never be left in an unlocked vehicle or left in any vehicle overnight in a location that could be considered a high crime district.


Your Comments Welcome.

- - - - -

About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Troubleshooting Guidelines 

:-)





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Agenda: Project Management in a Managed Service Business and Zero Downtime Migration Strategies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Joe Panettieri: You're Killin' Me, Man!


I travel. Joe travels. I'm actually surprised we don't see each other more (He travels WAY more than I do).

So think I'm running hard the last eight days. New Orleans, Jeff Middleton's IT Pro conference, Orlando, Autotask, TechEd. In all that I put out a newsletter (twice, in fact, by accident) and a few blog posts, plus two press releases. Zoom zoom zoom.

Today I was on airplanes from 7:00 AM Eastern to Noon Pacific. With time change, that's eight hours. I get home . . . and MSPMentor is filled with great stories. See www.mspmentor.net.

Don't get me wrong: MSPmentor is always filled with great news. But today, I log on for the first time after eight hours flying, and the entire front page is filled with MUST-READ stories. And they're all dated today! So now I'm feeling totally behind the 8-ball because I need to catch up.

Here are today's juicy bits from MSP Mentor:

- June 14, 2012: Hiring U.S. Veterans: An Open Letter to Technology Companies
(It’s time for you (technology companies and employers from all verticals) to make sure those military veterans are on your shortlist of job candidates. Here’s why.)

- June 14, 2012: Quest Software and PacketTrap: Who Is the Bidder?
(Quest Software and its PacketTrap managed services software business are back in the merger and acquisition news.)

- June 14, 2012: Selling Inside the Box
(Growing your business doesn’t always mean getting outside your comfort zone, finding new customers or breaking new ground.)

- June 14, 2012: MSP of the Week: Who is McGladrey?
(McGladrey, ranked 99 on the MSPmentor Top 100 Managed Service Providers (MSPs) list, is based in Mason City, Iowa and manages over 4,000 desktops and mobile devices, as well as 1,200 servers.)

- June 14, 2012: How Hosted Cloud Can Help MSPs Compete on Managed Security
(SMBs may lack the internal resources their larger competitors can afford, but in the Darwinian world of business, this does not exempt them from having to compete with bigger companies.)

- June 13, 2012: ConnectWise Culture: Established But Always Evolving
(Joe says "When ConnectWise Capital invested in LabTech Software two years ago, I suspected ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini and President David Bellini would micro-manage LabTech. Fast forward two years . . . Here's an update."

- - - - -

Okay, one of these stories is not from today. And a couple were written by contributors and not Joe himself. But overall, I have to blame Joe for making me feel inadequate and like a total slacker.

If you don't read MSPmentor on a regular basis (which is to say, every day), then I guarantee you are missing something. Bookmark it and check it out at www.mspmentor.net.

- - - - -

Nominations Open for the MSPmentor 250

- June 14, 2012: Top 250 Managed Services Provider Experts: Nominations Wanted

For five years now, MSPmentor has put out a list of the "MSPmentor 250" - the top MSP experts, entrepreneurs, executives, coaches, community leaders, and influencers. The cream of the crop. You can find out more about this list, and the past winners, at www.mspmentor.net/top-250-people.

Please nominate the people who influence you in this space. Yes - You can nominate yourself. Vote at www.mspmentor.net/nominations.

Here's the description from the voting site:

"Please nominate a managed services executive, entrepreneur or expert for our MSPmentor 250 list. Yes you can nominate yourself. The fifth-annual MSPmentor 250 will debut in August 2012. Deadline for submissions: July 27, 2012. Confidentiality: We will not publish email addresses and phone numbers you share with us."

- - - - -

Thanks, Joe, for everything you and Nine Lives Media do for our community!

:-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Successful Companies Have a “Never-Ending Conversation” with Their Clients


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference June 26-28. One of the new speakers we are introducing to the SMB community is Bob Nitrio of Ranvest. Bob will talk about creating (and maintaining) a never-ending conversation with your clients as a way to do marketing.

All of our amazing speakers have great topics - and we have some speakers I guarantee you've never heard before.

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

Successful Companies Have a “Never-Ending Conversation” with Their Clients


Sacramento, CA, June 13, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that Bob Nitrio – a long-time leader in the small business IT community – will be a featured speaker at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. Nitrio’s talk is entitled “Have  a Never-Ending Conversation with Your Clients.”

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Nitrio is the CEO of Ranvest Associates, a business technology consulting firm that he founded in 1992 in Sacramento, California. The company provides strategic business consulting and technology solutions to the small business market. He is also a long-time leader in the IT consulting community.

“We are very excited to have Bob as a featured speaker for this conference,” said Palachuk. “He has been successful in two different industries and has a powerful customer service approach.”

As an influential member of the consulting community, Nitrio spends a lot of time communicating with vendors as well as clients. “Of all the communications we engage in,” he says, “the communication with clients is the most critical. Every single communication has a follow-up. When there’s no more follow-up, there’s no more client!”

As the co-founder and leader of the Sacramento SMB IT Pros, Nitrio maintains close ties with like-minded peers who seek to constantly improve their ability to deliver the very best support for their clients. Nitrio is an Advisory Board member for Everything Channel’s XChange programs, which bring high level computer executives together with IT consultants for the purpose of fostering and extending their mutual business relationships. He also is a member of Samsung’s new Innovation Council which is focused on the computer-related portion of Samsung’s global business operations.

Other conference speakers include Ken Thoreson and Jeannine Edwards. Thoreson is a well-known sales management consultant, recently named as one of the Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers of the Year for 2012 by Top Sales World. See www.topsalesworld.com/topInfluencers.php for more information. Thoreson is the president of Acumen Management Group. For more information, visit www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com.

Edwards is the Director of ConnectWise and LabTech Communities and will be speaking on how small IT companies can dramatically increase their cloud services revenue. Edwards has more than twelve years of diversified Business-to-Business development experience in the technology industry. She has become a well-known figure in the IT Solution Provider channel.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Conference Platinum sponsors include ConnectWise and LabTech.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Ranvest

By becoming intimately familiar with each client’s operations, he guides them through an analytical process designed to streamline and enhance their operations. Appropriate technology solutions are introduced to achieve increased efficiency, productivity and profitability. The ultimate goal is to create an organizational culture focused on business continuity – keeping the client in business profitably every day until they are ready to execute their exit strategy. For more information, visit www.ranvest.com.


About ConnectWise

Designed exclusively for the IT Channel, ConnectWise is the leading business management solution for service providers, MSPs, technology consultants, integrators, and developers. Today more than 62,000 IT professionals rely on ConnectWise to achieve greater accountability, operational efficiency and profitability. ConnectWise fully integrates CRM, sales, help desk ticket and tracking, project tracking, IT service management, SLAs, dispatch scheduling, mobile IT services, time and expenses into a singular IT management software to dramatically streamline IT companies. Over the last 29 years, ConnectWise has become the premier business operating system for IT solution providers. ConnectWise APIs are accessed by over 300 organizations, including ConnectWise partners and industry leaders of the IT Nation. For more information visit www.ConnectWise.com or call 800-671-6898.


About LabTech Software

LabTech is the only Managed Service tool for remote monitoring, management, (RMM) and automation developed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for MSPs. Our affordable, agent-based solution so closely emulates what technicians do in the field that techs can provide the same support remotely. Because we understand how to manage a growing MSP business, we make it easier to procure their software and allow partners to add agents as they grow. For more information please visit www.LabTechSoftware.com or call 877-522-8323.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com


:-)





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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SMB Online Conference . . . Early Bird Pricing Ends Friday

If you've been thinking about the SMB Online Conference - act now. Early bird pricing is good through Friday, June 15th. We extended it for a vendor because we promised a specific discount. But it really ends Friday.

You save an additional $100 right now.

The SMB Online Conference is the first of its kind in the IT consulting space. It is 100% audio, with audience participation. Three days - 18 hours of content - 16 speakers. 100% focused on SMB and MSP consulting.

We have amazing speakers. Some are the biggest names in our space, who rarely speak at events they do not sponsor. Some are professional speakers and motivators who have never spoken in the IT community before.

Visit www.SMBOnlineConference.com to register.

This is truly great content.

Live access is only $99 and includes full participation and all the handouts.

Live access plus recordings of all sessions, available for a full year, is only $299 right now. That's less than $17 per hour for awesome, top-shelf training.

But that price goes to $399 after Friday. So now is the time to register and save.

A few groups have discount codes available. If you think you might be eligible, email me @smallbizthoughts.com and I'll let you know.

Featured speakers include
•Karl W. Palachuk - Author, Blogger, Managed Service Provider
•Patrick Schwerdtfeger - International Speaker, Author, Social Media Expert
•Stephanie Chandler - Author, Online Marketing Expert
•Bob Godgart - Industry Pioneer, Entrepreneur
•Jeaninne Edwards - Director of Community for ConnectWise and LabTech Software
•Arlin Sorensen - Community Leader, Super-Successful MSP
•Leonard DiCostanzo - Senior Vice President, Community and Business Development
•Matt Makowicz - Author, Coach, Trainer
•Ken Thoreson - Sales Trainer, Sales Management Expert
•Josh Peterson - Professional Coach and Business Consultant
•Stuart Selbst - Professional Coach
•Bob Nitrio - Managed Service Provider, I.T. Pro Leader
•Dave Sobel - Author, Trainer, Virtualization MVP
•George Sierchio - Author, Coach, M&A Specialist
•Barbara Dove - Owner, Dove Help Desk
•Manuel Palachuk - Author, Business Coach and Consultant

Visit www.SMBOnlineConference.com to register.

Topics include

Organizing for Success
 •Keynote / Standard Operating Procedures
•Your Future with MSP and Cloud Services
•Goals and Measuring Success
•Build Partnerships in the Channel
•Grow Through Mergers and Acquisition
•Strategic Pricing Models

Marketing and Sales Excellence
•Keynote / Marketing for Your Market
•Own Your Niche on the Internet and Beyond
•Build a Robust Email Marketing Program
•Modern Marketing Best Practices
•Selling Packages in SMB Space
•Sales: Lead, Manage, and Motivate
•Triple Your Cloud Profits

Running Successfully
•Keynote / Consistent and Lasting Success
•Use Key Performance Indicators to Take Your Business to the Next Level
•How to Have a Never-ending Conversation with Your Clients
•Your CEO Transition Plan
•From One to Team
•Goals and Measuring Success

. . . and more!

Visit www.SMBOnlineConference.com to register.

Don't miss this event - or the discount: Register today!

:-)

Friday, June 08, 2012

SOP Friday: Technician Roles and Responsibilities


Last week we talked about the Service Manager's Roles and Responsibilities. The technician has fewer specific responsibilities, which makes sense. They are generally not involved with scheduling, keeping track of other techs, or budgeting.

You may have more than one level of technician. Normally, techs are basically designated by the tasks they perform. A "Tech I" will normally work on desktops while a "Tech II" or senior tech will work on servers and higher-end network issues. You should create job descriptions for these positions for hiring purposes. With luck, this article will help to create those job descriptions.

Your technicians play a critical role in your business because they are "hands on the street" with your clients. They will represent you to the clients. And, just as importantly, they will represent the client to you. Their perception of how things are working, and the client's level of satisfaction, are very important.

As you might expect, the most important part of the job description for the technician is the daily responsibilities. For the most part, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks will be scheduled in the PSA system (Autotask or Connectwise). So the techs will see these items coming up on their schedules. The most common example of this is the Monthly Maintenance Checklists for each client.

Of course you will revise this, fine tune it, and make it fit into your company's standard operating procedures. Please let me know if you think I missed anything important on this list.


Technician Daily Roles and Responsibilities

• Focus on making every work hour a profitable hour for The Company.
• Follow all company standards and procedures as currently documented.
• Track all work -- billable or not.
• Provide an excellent example of customer service on all levels for the company.
• Share technical knowledge and help mentor fellow techs wherever possible.
• Work Service Requests as assigned according to The Company workflow procedures (highest to lowest priority; oldest to newest).
• Provide clients with one-to-one or one-to-many customer service as needed.
• Review time card to ensure it is being kept up to date in real time.
• Check in with the Service Manager or the acting supervisor at the end of the day to report general status and any issues needing attention.


Technician Weekly Roles and Responsibilities

• Preview the upcoming week's schedule and mark all assigned items as Acknowledged.
• Submit any requests for personal time and verify it is on the schedule.
• Coordinate any planned out of town services with the service manager and the clients.
• Take notes for any items to be presented in the Monday Morning Meeting.
• Review time card and submit for approval by the close of business the last day of the work week.


Technician Roles and Responsibilities - Miscellaneous

• Participate in your Quarterly Review including the Quarterly Review of the Service Manager.
• Develop a training schedule (along with your supervisor) and make sure you work this training into your schedule.
• Take certifications in a timely manner so you meet your quarterly and annual goals.



Implementation Notes

As with the Roles and Responsibilities for the Service Manager, you need to make changes to this and use it to advance the goals of your company.

Make sure that you review this with the technician(s) and get buy-in from everyone in the tech department (service coordinator, service manager, etc.). This document should be evaluated and update at least once per quarter for the first year you use it.

If appropriate, you might post a version of this on the bulletin board.


Your feedback is welcome.

- - - - -


About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.

- - - - -

Next week's topic: Technician Supplies -- The "Scary Box"

:-)




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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Small IT Companies Thrive in a Bad Economy – with Good Marketing


We just put out a major press release about the SMB Online Conference June 26-28. One of the most interesting speakers will be Barbara Dove of Dove Helpdesk.

All of our amazing speakers have great topics - and we have some speakers I guarantee you've never heard before.

For information on this topic, and the rest of the agenda, please visit www.smbonlineconference.com.

Here's that press release:

- - - - -

Small IT Companies Thrive in a Bad Economy – with Good Marketing


Sacramento, CA, June 6, 2012 – Technology author Karl Palachuk announced that Barbara Dove – a pioneer of IT Help Desk support – will be a featured speaker at the first major Online Conference for Small Business IT Consultants, Managing for Success 2012 in June, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. She’ll talk about robust email marketing systems that are helping small IT companies thrive during the recession.

Managing for Success 2012 will be held “online” June 26-28, 2012 and features eighteen hours of training for IT professionals, computer consultants, and managed service providers who focus on the Small and Medium Business market.

Dove founded Dove Help Desk in 2003 to provide “outsourced” help desk services to IT service providers. She is the President and CEO. Dove Help Desk is now part of Global Mentoring Solutions, Inc.

“Barbara works with hundreds of companies,” said Palachuk. “As a result, she sees many more examples of successful marketing in a year than most of us see in ten.”

“Marketing has always been important,” said Dove. “But after years of tough economic times, there’s no time or money to waste on programs that don’t work.”

Dove has an MBA and ME in Operations Research from Boston University and a BA in Mathematics from Wilson College. She has a black belt in six sigma and is a practiced Total Quality Management professional. With over 15 years’ experience in senior management positions in service operations, Dove has worked in executive and strategic service management positions at various computer and test equipment companies.

Other conference speakers include Len DiCostanzo and Matt Makowicz. DiCostanzo is the Senior Vice President of Community and Business Development at Autotask. He is responsible for ensuring the continued success of Autotask’s global client base and identifying, building, and nurturing their strategic industry alliances around the world. Makowicz is a business coach and the author of three books: A Guide to SELLING Managed Services; A Guide to MARKETING Managed Services; and A Guide to BUILDING a SALES TEAM.

The conference is “virtual” (online only) and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day on June 26-28, 2012. Attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days. Primary sponsors of the SMB Online Conference include Autotask Corporation, the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers.

To learn more about Managing for Success 2012, visit www.smbonlineconference.com.


About Dove Help Desk

Dove Live Expert Help Desk makes your staff more productive by using remote access to quickly diagnose and fix desktop and laptop problems. Dove Live Expert Help Desk helps businesses and IT outsourcing firms become more productive by taking care of mundane computer user issues. Your IT staff will be able to maintain their focus on important projects. Your PC users will get back to work faster and be more effective. You will enjoy fast, knowledgeable, courteous service with every communication. For more information, see www.DoveHelpDesk.com.


About Autotask

Autotask Corporation provides the world's leading hosted IT business management software to streamline and optimize business processes for technology solution providers. Autotask is accessible from virtually any computing or mobile device connected to the Internet and features a world-class API that seamlessly integrates with the other systems and tools that providers rely on to run their businesses. For more information on Autotask Corporation, visit www.autotask.com.


About Small Biz Thoughts

Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Their programs are geared specifically for the Managed Service Provider and SMB Consultant communities. Their focus on future trends has helped them to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to fans and friends around the world. For more information, visit www.smallbizthoughts.com.


Media Contact:
Karl W. Palachuk
916-248-4301
sales@smallbizthoughts.com


:-)






by Erick Simpson 
Covers: 
Deliverables - Pricing and Positioning - Staffing Requirements 
Hiring, Managing and Training - Technical Roles and Responsibilities
Processes and Procedures - Target Markets - Customer satisfaction and Loyalty 
. . . and More!

Friday, June 01, 2012

SOP Friday: Service Manager Roles and Responsibilities

One of the most important tasks you need to undertake to move your company forward is to define the roles and jobs within your company. If you are a 1-3 person shop, each person may play some or all of the roles. But once you have the roles defined, you can begin hiring people. You will use your role definitions to define the daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals. And once you actually have different people in each role, these definitions will help you evaluate performance.

I'm going to give some very generic role definitions, beginning with the Service Manger. These are based on a managed service business - not a break/fix shop. You can modify for a break/fix operation, of course. You will also modify these roles to fit comfortably in your own organization.

Some of these items are mental reminders rather than actions you tick off a list. Perhaps those could go on a poster next to your desk. And, of course, you can add as much more detail as you wish. If I missed anything really big here, please let me know.


Service Manager Daily Roles and Responsibilities

• Focus on making every work hour a profitable hour for the company.
• Follow all company standards and procedures as currently documented.
• Track all work billable or not for the entire technical team.
• Provide an excellent example of customer service on all levels for the company.
• Mentor Technicians on any aspect of their position.
• Coordinate and schedule resources for service requests.
• Manage activities of all technicians.
• Manage work flow of all service requests.
• Work Service Requests as assigned according to the company workflow procedures.
• Provide clients with one-to-one or one-to-many customer service as needed.
• Review tech time cards to ensure they are being kept up to date in real time.
• Review and manage the Service Request backlog as needed to ensure all SR’s are correctly prioritized, scheduled and moved through the system as desired.
• Check with each technician at the end of the day and note all issues requiring priority attention.


Service Manager Weekly Roles and Responsibilities

• Review, revise and annotate the proposed invoicing for the past week.
• Review all requests for Personal Time from technicians and ensure they are on the schedule.
• Preview the upcoming weeks and schedule technicians to tasks as early as possible.
• Coordinate any planned out of town services with the technician and the client.
• Plan for the Monday Morning Meeting and draft an agenda.
• Review time card and submit for approval by the close of business the last day of the work week.
• Review time cards and see them all through the submission and approval process.
• Monitor and support the progress of technicians written quarterly goals.
• Prepare the tech schedule for the next week. Verify that technicians are aware of any changes from their normal schedule.


Service Manager Monthly Roles and Responsibilities

• Review and revise previous month's Monthly Maintenance Checklist* as needed.
• Implement any system wide changes to the Monthly Maintenance Checklist.
• Monitor all Monthly Maintenance progress and manage the process.
• Plan and schedule Final Friday Training.
• Review Monthly Single** Tracking Sheet and proposed items for Monthly Single to monitor progress and manage the process.
• Create and review the Monthly Single Checklist for the next month.
• Manage the SharePoint data and access to that data.
• Schedule any short notice training for technicians as required.

* We will discuss the Monthly Maintenance Checklist in a separate post. This is a customized checklist for each client that assures regular maintenance of their servers.

** We will discuss the "Monthly Single" in a separate post. Basically, this is a different task that is performed each month across all client systems.


Service Manager Quarterly Roles and Responsibilities

• Schedule Quarterly Reviews for each Technician in the second week of the quarter.
• Prepare each Technician's Quarterly Review including their new Quarterly Goals.
• Plan and, if possible, schedule any training for the technicians.


Service Manager Yearly Roles and Responsibilities

• Review the year and summarize successes, and fails. Pay special attention to the goals agreed upon for the year.
• Establish goals for the year ahead.
• Participate in the annual company roadmap meeting.
• If you have budget authority, prepare your department budget for the next year.


Implementation Notes

Customize this definition based on the processes and procedures of your company.

So what do you do with this document? First, you need to make sure that you have "buy-in" from the service manager and anyone above the service manager (general manager, president, owner, whatever). Second, you need to make a point of evaluating and fine-tuning this document at least once per quarter for the first year you use it. Make it truly reflect this job position.

Third, you should inform the technicians about this process. It will help them see that the Service Manager is evaluated on many things that affect them. These include keeping the service board up to date, getting time cards in, working in real time, and much more.

Fourth, when the time comes to hire a new Service Manager, this document can go a long ways in defining that position for your help wanted advertisements.


Your Comments Welcome.

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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.
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Next week's topic: Technician Roles and Responsibilities
:-)





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