Friday, April 29, 2016

New Video: Maximizing Billability

What is billability? How do you calculate it? More importantly, how do you maximize it? There are many types of labor within your business. Some are good and some are bad. To figure out the difference, you need to track it all very carefully.




Billability is the measure of hours billed. If you're break/fix this is pretty straight forward.

But with managed services, you have to track several different kinds of labor. But that I mean tracking the activities of you technicians. In a managed service business, billability refers to the labor is is productive in support of a managed service contract.

Basic types of labor include:
- Covered Labor
- Billable Labor
- Overhead Labor
- Rework
- Unproductive Labor

Covered labor means productive labor (not rework) that fulfills the promises of your flat fee contracts. Generally speaking this is "maintenance" and no additional invoice is sent.

Billable here means that this is work for which an additional invoice will be sent. Most commonly this will be project labor or adds/moves/changes.

Overhead labor refers to all the other legitimate time for which you will pay employees but not bill clients. This includes training, meetings, drive time, checking email, etc. There are things you just need to do to run a business.

Rework and Unproductive Labor should be VERY small or non-existent.

You can make an argument that overhead is necessary and is simply part of the cost or running a business - like paying the rent or electrical bill. You need to measure it and put limits on it. But you have to accept that overhead labor cannot be zero.

Rework and unproductive labor CAN be zero and should be as close to that as possible.

We all have perceptions about where these numbers are in our business. But most people are too optimistic and over-state the billability of themselves and their technicians. It is critical to measure this because labor is expensive!

If you get this wrong, then your time estimates will be wrong, your job estimates will be wrong, and you will make a lot less money. In fact, you might lose money if you don't know how much you're wasting.

Feedback welcome.

:-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Y$10K - Average Sucks

One of the reasons I started the Y$10K blog series is the research released in January that 63% Of Americans don't have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. What? $500? They don't have $500 in savings that they can get their hands on. That's very serious.

Let's look at some other scary statistics. But first, let's agree on what we mean by average or above average. See the chart.

In a "normal distribution" there's something called a standard deviation. It is based on the variance or the variation between individuals. One standard deviation is represented by the symbol Sigma.

Graphic adapted from the one at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_deviation




So we see that one standard deviation accounts for 68% of the variation and two standard deviations account for 95% of all variance. Now if you only care about being ABOVE average - to the right of center, then two standard deviations puts you above 97.7% of the population. A third standard deviation would get you to 99.8%

The good news is: It's EASY to be above average. Basically, you have to try. That's it. Pretty much anything you do to try to be better results in placing yourself far above the crowd.

Here are a few things to think about:

- The Average American family savings account balance: $3,950
- The Average amount saved for retirement: $35,000
- The Average American household debt: $117,951

And on the non-finance side:

- The average American is overweight (63%).
- The average American watches 2 hours and 49 minutes of television a day.


I'm just speculating here, but I think there's a huge connection between all these things.

The basic choice we have to make at any minute is whether to act for our immediate comfort and pleasure or delay gratification. So many people choose to eat rather than to feel empty. They plop down in front of the TV instead of reading a book or doing something else that might help their career or just exercise their mind.

At any given time, you have all the excuses you need. You can't save a dollar today. Or this week. And certainly not this month. But when it goes on like that year after year, your excuses become clear. At some time in the decade that just passed, you COULD have figured out how to save some money. Failing to get started on this is why most people have less money saved than it takes to live for a year.

Unless your plan is to retire and then die right away, you need to prepare for it!

But you need to have a plan. Being just like everyone else sucks.

Put out the effort to be at least one standard deviation above the crowd. And to be honest, your goal should be two and then three standard deviations.

Once you put your focus on that, you will make very fast progress.


-----

Sources:

https://www.creditdonkey.com/average-american-savings-statistics.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/01/06/63-of-americans-dont-have-enough-savings-to-cover-a-500-emergency/#58a0daef6dde

http://www.newstrategist.com/store/index.cfm/feature/57_15/50-facts-about-the-average-american.cfm

http://www.statisticbrain.com/american-family-financial-statistics/ (March 2016)

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/new_nhis.htm

http://www.bls.gov/tus/


Monday, April 18, 2016

ASCII Group Appoints Shannon Mayer as VP of Channel Development

Congratulations to long-time community member Shannon Mayer! Just got a press release from The ASCII Group. Shannon has been appointed as their VP of Channel Development.

Here's the press release:

- - - - -

The ASCII Group Appoints Shannon Mayer as Vice President of Channel Development


Bethesda, Maryland – April 18, 2016 -- The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent MSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce the appointment of Shannon Mayer as Vice President of Channel Development.  In this role, Shannon is responsible for developing key alliances while creating new channel strategies for our vendor partner program.

Shannon is well-known in the channel, and prior to joining The ASCII Group, she was Senior Marketing Programs Manager at Continuum Managed Services.  She has also served as Channel Engagement Manager at LogMeIn and Director of Marketing and Channel Relations at Datto.

“We are delighted to have Shannon join our team, and her experience and commitment within the channel will bring great benefits to both our members and partners,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

"ASCII has a long history of providing programs and services that help the IT solution provider community grow and improve their businesses,” said Mayer.  “They do incredible work for our industry and I am excited and honored to become a member of their amazing team and look forward to continuing to help the channel community thrive."

The ASCII Group has experienced significant growth in 2016 including additional staff and an expansion of the IT SMB Success Summit Series into Canada.

For additional information about The ASCII Group visit www.ascii.com. Follow The ASCII Group on Twitter @asciigroup.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers.  Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction.  ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. 

-30-

Press Contact
Alysia Vetter
Director of Marketing & Communications
Tel: 800-394-2724 x 131
Email: alysia@ascii.com


Friday, April 15, 2016

SOP Video: Cash vs. Accrual Accounting

My latest video is posted on the Small Biz Thoughts YouTube Channel.

The topic is Cash vs. Accrual accounting.

Basically, you have to choose one of these accounting methods . . . at least until your company gets large. There are specific thresholds at which you are required operate on an Accrual method.

For small businesses, you still have choices.



Personally, I have always used the Accrual method of accounting my businesses. Here I explain why I do that and how it helps me keep revenue and cost of goods sold lines up in my accounting system.

Feedback welcome, as always.

:-)

New Audio Program - Manuel Palachuk's "Culture and Compass" - Free

My brother Manuel has a couple of signature presentations. One of them is called Culture and Compass. Happily, I was able to record this presentation awhile back and it is now available as a free download from SMB Books.

Check it out on the Audio/Video page at SMBBooks.com.

- - - - -

Culture and Compass: Cultivate a Successful Environment for Employees and Clients - from Manuel Palachuk


Originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference. For more information, see www.smbonlineconference.com.

Experience managed service provider and coach Manuel Palachuk presents his signature presentation on creating the culture you want within your small business. Every company has "some" culture. Manuel talks about creating your culture with intention, from the top down. As Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan have pointed out, “People generally don’t think themselves into a new way of acting. More often, they act into a new way of thinking.”

Manuel talks about how you get that process going to sculpt the culture you want in your organization. He covers the various motivations within an organization and how culture needs to be created from the top down. It involves addressing behavior as well as common values and commitments. This is a very practical guide for leading your team where you want it to go!

You might also enjoy Manuel's feature-length video on this topic: Culture and Compass -Culitvating a Successful Environment for Employees and Clients

- - - - -

About Manuel Palachuk
Author, Business Coach for IT Consultants

Manuel has over 25 years of business, management and training experience in the computer and electronics industries. He is an expert of process, systems, and their efficiency who is driven toward continuous improvement in all aspects of business.

Manuel is the co-author of the Network Migration Workbook, an expansive 535 page document covering the complete processes and checklists required to migrate your network with zero downtime. Manuel is currently writing Getting to the Next Level: A Blueprint For Taking Your Managed Service Business To The Top.

Manuel is the former President of KPEnterprises Business Consulting in Sacramento, CA and former Chief Operating Officer for Network Technology Solutions (NTS) in Pompano Beach, FL. In 2012, Manuel founded his coaching business, which you can explore at https://www.manuelpalachuk.com/. The primary focus of this new endeavor is to help Managed Service Providers take their business to the next level.

:-)

NOTE: We have released a whole series of new audio programs this year. Check them all out at www.smbbooks.com:

Released April 2016 


Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online 

- Audio program with Stephanie Chandler
- Only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information


How to Have a Never-Ending Conversation with Your Clients
- Audio program with Bob Nitrio
- only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information


Your CEO Transition Plan
- Audio program with Arlin Sorensen
- only $19.95
- at SMB Books
- More Information


Relax Focus Succeed® 
Now available via MP3 and Audible formats
- only $19.95 or less
- at SMB Books, Amazon, Audible
- More Information


Released March 2016 


Organizing for Success
 - Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information


Consistency and Success
- Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information


Only the Excellent Survive
 - Audio program from Karl Palachuk
- Free
- at SMB Books
- More Information

:-)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How I Make My YouTube Videos

I have made a lot of videos in the last few years.

As of this writing, my primary YouTube channel has 195 videos. This includes 40 videos in the SOP Friday series. Check it all out at www.YouTube.com/smallbizthoughts.

Someone asked me to demonstrate how I put together these videos, so while I was producing video 41 in the SOP series (scheduled for April 22nd), I took screen shots so I could show exactly what I do.

I use a Sony Handycam to record the video (see my review here).

Then I use Camtasia Studio to edit the video. Camtasia costs about $300. The current version works very well with Windows 10. I found it frustrating with Windows 8. I got in the habit of saving frequently so the machine didn't lock up. With a new fast machine and Windows 10, those problems went away.

This step-by-step video demonstrates the process from getting the files off the camera to uploading the finished video to my YouTube Channel.



You can go straight to this video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUni0y8Gcg8 or subscribe to my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/smallbizthoughts.

I'm happy to answer questions here or on YouTube. If you email me about this, I'll probably answer the question here or on YouTube so other folks can see the answer.

Enjoy!

:-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Audio Program from Stephanie Chandler - Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online

Now available from SMB Books . . .

Own Your Niche: Simple Strategies to Increase Website Traffic and Build Buzz Online from Stephanie Chandler


From the author of the book Own Your Niche. Author, Online Marketing Expert, and Small Business Strategist Stephanie Chandler presents a jam-packed session of tips and tricks for making the most of your online presence. You will literally need to listen to this program at least three times just to catch most of the content!

Topics including defining your Target Audience, tapping into the Power of Communities, optimizing your website, developing a Content Marketing Strategy, and many more tips to embrace Social Media and get the most out of it.

This is a 50 minute audio program, delivered as a MP3 zipped with the slides/handouts.

Only $19.95

Immediate Download

Buy Now

- - - - -

About Stephanie Chandler

Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business, Booked Up! How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book to Grow Your Business, LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business, From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money with Books, eBooks and Information Products, and The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books.

Stephanie is also CEO of AuthorityPublishing.com, a custom publisher of non-fiction books. She is also the founder and president of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a nationwide association with tens of thousands of members (see nonfictionauthorsassociation.com).

She is a frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, BusinessWeek, Inc.com, and Wired magazine, and she is a blogger for Forbes.

- - - - -

This program was originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference. For more information, see www.smbonlineconference.com.

:-)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Operations = Strategy Execution

We have a tendency to look at the term "Operations" to simply mean everything that a company does. We look at each individual item and say we have processes and procedures for that. This is an atomistic view of operations.

I think it's much more powerful to think of Operations from a much more holistic perspective. Operations is the execution of your company's strategy, vision, and mission. When taken from the larger position, operations is much more powerful. Here's why.

Think about the role of operations in an organization. Operations is the "how we do what we do" piece of your business. It comes after you decide WHAT you do. First you need to decide what business you're in, who you want your clients to be, how you want to place yourselves in the competitive environment, and which products and services you want to offer. Those are all policy decisions. Those are strategic decisions.

Operations is the execution of your strategy. In other words, Operations takes strategy and turns it into execution.

Here's a great example from the IT consulting business.

Strategically, do you want to compete on price and always be the low-cost option for your clients? If you do, then you'll need more clients and have to constantly be looking for cheaper alternatives. You won't be able to sell high quality products and services. You'll spend a lot of time doing re-work because the implementation of a low-cost labor strategy will require less skilled labor and less time to execute each job.

Your marketing will focus on the low end clients. Your sales presentations will focus on cost savings. You will have a minimalist approach to standardization and quality of work.

And all that's okay if you choose to a low-cost and high-volume strategy.

Now, let's look at a high-quality strategy. Here, you'll need clients who value their investment in technology and put a premium on uptime. Now, you have to sell high quality products and services because you require uptime and reliability. You'll pay more for labor and charge more for labor. You have to because you can't afford rework. As a result, you will have more rigorous process and procedures. You will constantly be looking for higher quality tools, products, and services.

Your marketing will focus on the benefits of high quality services. Your sales presentations will be all about benefits and problem solving. You will have the highest standards for quality work.


Operations is where strategy becomes execution. So let's assume you've decided on the high-quality strategy. If someone proposes a move from business-class firewalls (starting at $1,000) to home-class firewalls (around $100), how well does that fit with your strategy? Obviously it doesn't. The lower end firewall will have much greater latency, so it is automatically the bottleneck of the client's network. It will have limited support for NAT, VPN, and IPSec. It will have a slower CPU and less memory.

On the product side, selling low end equipment is counter productive to the strategy of quality.

Now let's look at the server or labor side.

When you lead with quality, you have to have high end processes and procedures. That means your technicians are properly trained and they execute your checklist and procedures consistently. That takes overhead. It means you have a service manager who is constantly focused on providing the right service for each job. You coordinate activities in order to minimize rework and client downtime. All of that takes labor and good tools (e.g., a good service board designed for this industry rather than a home-grown product you built on crapware you found on the Internet).

Now consider what happens when you are tempted to provide that superior service at a lower cost. Of course you'll earn less money. But you'll also have to cut service. To cut labor costs you'll have to cut something else: Training, quality control, centralized management, quality of work delivered, amount of time allocated for jobs, etc. You will have to provide lower quality service.

That's the point at which the Operations department gets to push back. They get to invoke the mission, vision, and strategy of the company and ask, "Have we changed our commitment to quality? Because the reduction of quality support is not consistent with our mission to this point."

Let's be honest: Some people feel a LOT of pressure on price. Clients want to pay less but demand the higher level of service. This is true in many aspects of our lives. People buy the cheapest airline seats they can find and then complain that there's no legroom. Others pay for legroom and accept that they are paying more than the people seated behind them.

I encourage you to do the work that so many people avoid: Go back to the strategy discussion. Go back to the vision and mission discussion. It is very easy (and common) for people to wave their hand and say, "I don't need that." But without a clear vision about who you are, the clients you serve, and the services you offer, you don't have clear guiding principles for your execution. Without an overall strategy, anything you do will fit in operations. That makes it hard to provide consistently.

If you want to compete at the low end, you can do that. Lots of people do. In fact, most do.

If you want to compete on quality, you can do that. But it means you have to have people, policies, processes, and procedures that allow you to execute at a very high level.

So while "operations" might be seen as all the little things you do in the finest detail, I think it's much more powerful to think of Operations at a higher level. Operations turns your vision and your master planning into the execution of the promises you've made to stakeholders, clients, and employees.

:-)

Saturday, April 09, 2016

New Audio Program - How to Have a Never Ending Conversation with Your Clients

How to Have a Never Ending Conversation with Your Clients
featuring Bob Nitrio


One of the most powerful techniques you can adopt in your service business is to develop a strategy of working with you clients to improve their business. Technicians and "computer guys" are easy to come by. Having a strategic technology adviser who helps the business to make money, save money, and get the most from their technology is much harder to find.

After twenty years in business, community leader Bob Nitrio shares some of his best tips for viewing the entire client relationship as a continuous conversation about the client's business. Learn how to help your clients be more successful and they'll love you forever.

This is a 50 minute audio program, delivered as a MP3 zipped with the slides/handouts.


Only $19.95

Immediate Download

Buy Now
- - - - -

About Bob Nitrio

Managed Service Provider, Strategic Business Consultant, I.T. Pro Leader

Robert A. 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 SMB market. 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.

As the co-founder and co-leader of the Sacramento SMB IT Pros, Bob maintains close ties with like-minded peers who seek to constantly improve their ability to deliver the very best support for their clients. As a leader in the IT consulting community, Bob also maintains close ties with other group leaders worldwide and encourages the development of those relationships through shared knowledge and resources. He 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.


Friday, April 08, 2016

SOP Video: Your Successful Client Visit


A Quick-Start Guide to an Onsite Service Call


This morning I posted my latest SOP Video.

There are three pieces to every service call: Before, during, and after.



Preparation for the call involves getting ready to give the client the best service. That sounds obvious, but many people skip some very basic steps. For example, you should print out all the service tickets for that client and make sure that you know everything that needs to be done there - even if you can't do it today. You don't want to be blind-sided by a question and not even know there's a problem.

Side note: This is a great example of why every service provider needs a ticketing system (service board / PSA)!

Of course you also need to gather the parts and tools needed for a successful visit. And you need to dress professionally.

Onsite, you need to follow just a few rules. Like - Don't take the best parking spot. Go ahead and park at the far side of the lot and leave convenient spaces for the client and their visitors.

Also onsite, make sure you say hello and goodbye to the receptionist and your primary contact. Keep them informed about what you're up to and give them the chance to give you additional information. Clients should never feel that you sneek out or disappeared on them. Most of the time they won't have anything important to tell you. But if you always give them the opportunity, then they'll feel that good communication is part of your brand.

One important element mentioned here is the TSR or Troubleshooting and Repair log. See my blog post at http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2011/07/sop-friday-troubleshooting-and-repair.html for more details. You should never spin your wheels on a problem for more than about 30 minutes. In other words, if you or your tech are not making progress toward a solution, start the TSR Log. It will help you solve the problem faster, escalate more quickly, and document your work.

After the service call, make sure the onsite checklist is executed. That includes putting time entries in the PSA, including notes about what was done and not done. If new issues come up, new tickets should be entered. If the service manager needs to know something, that should also be noted in the PSA. Appropriate tickets should be closed - onsite, before you leave!

It's very important that you do these things "in real time." This is especially true when you're working as a team. If a tech leaves the client office and all the notes are in the system, this gives great power to the service manager. If the client has to call and ask something about the visit, the service manager will be able to look in the PSA and answer all the client's questions. If the ticket is still open, and there are no notes and no time entries, then the service manager is going to have a bad conversation with the client. In addition to messing up the "real time" goals for your company, it also makes you company look disorganized.

Bottom Line: Create a simple checklist for every onsite visit. Before, during, and after. This is key to your brand.

- - - - -

View all my SOP videos at www.YouTube.com/smallbizthoughts.

For information on the Managed Services Operations Manual, see www.sop4smb.com.

:-)

Relax Focus Succeed® Now Available on Audible!

Relax Focus Succeed®

Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both

I am happy to announce that Relax Focus Succeed® is now available on Audible.com!

Just Click Here*


Who Should Read This Book?

This book is useful for everyone who seeks to be happier and more fulfilled. Individuals will find ways to bring harmony between the "roles" they play at home, at work, and in the community. Bosses and managers will find ways to motivate and inspire their workers.

Everyone will gain a better understanding of the linkages that exist between the various complicated aspects of our modern lives.

We each need a plan for our lives, but planning, scheming, and set-ting goals seems like just more work. In our busy lives we just don't have time to make time to do the things we know we need to do. It's like we don't have time to fix the roof because we're too busy mopping the floor.

In this little book you'll find the key ingredients you'll need to stop, sit down, and begin building a happier, healthier, more balanced and successful life.

There are no magic pills here. You have to do all the work. But the work doesn't have to be unpleasant at all. Everyone can and should work to have a more fulfilling and balanced life.

And this book will show you how to get started.


- - - - -

Last month w released the audio book in MP3 format. It is now available in the following formats:

- Audio via Audible.com / Amazon

- Audio MP3 on SMB Books

- Paperback at Amazon

- Paperback at SMB Books

- Kindle format at Amazon

- Kindle format at SMB Books

- PDF format at SMB Books


- - - - -

If you haven't tried Audible.com, you should. It is a subscription service that allows you to download one audio book per month. The first month is free.

There are hundreds of thousands of titles available, including about 180,000 free titles.

Your first month is free. You can also buy additional credits at a discount.


:-)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

New Audio Program - Your CEO Transition Plan - by Arlin Sorensen

Your CEO Transition Plan - An Audio Program from Arlin Sorensen


No matter who you are or the size of you business, there will come a time when you need to transition of your leadership to a new person or a new team. In this 50 minute audio program, Community Leader Arlin Sorensen talks about the most important considerations in planning your move from one management team to another. Great advice for businesses of any size.

This audio program with handouts is perfect for companies anticipating a transition. But it's full of useful information for all businesses. After all, one of the best pieces of advice you can heed is to run your business as if you're going to sell it.

Running your business in anticipation of a management change will help you make good decisions around daily processes as well as budgeting, your org chart, and more.

This is a 50 minutes audio in MP3 format.

Only $19.95

Immediate Download

Buy Now

- - - - -

About Arlin

Arlin Sorensen is a Community Leader, Founder and CEO, HTG Peer Groups and Heartland Technology Solutions. Widely recognized as the most successful MSP in the World!


The path of Arlin Sorensen's career transitions from one of mankind's very earliest occupations to an industry that's almost synonymous with the modern age. Arlin graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Farm Operations, and in 1977 — with his wife, Nancy — began farming. Then in 1982, Arlin purchased his first computer (an Apple II+) for use in his operation and the farm boy was permanently smitten by the technology bug.

Arlin's first's foray into information technology for a living was as a consultant. By 1985, he had moved into the retail side of the industry and then in 1990, Arlin and his brother Brad formed Sorensen's Computer Connection, Inc. (SCCI).

A merger between SCCI and Connecting Point Joplin (Missouri) in 2002, gave rise to Heartland Technology Solutions (HTS). With additional acquisitions and mergers in 2003, 2006 and 2010, HTS now has seven offices in five states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma) and more than 75 employees. Under Arlin's leadership, HTS delivers the full spectrum of IT solutions (including networking, document imaging, managed services, e-marketing, GPS-based precision agriculture and telephony) to businesses and organizations in America's farm belt.

While HTS was in the process of growing into the company it is today, Arlin had already founded Heartland Technology Group (HTG) in 2000 to become a vibrant community of IT solution providers, fostering business as well as personal growth through business improvement, accountability and life-work excellence. Reflecting Arlin's interest in building and enhancing relationships through sharing and mutual support, HTG is now comprised of 270 member companies throughout the U.S., Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.


- - - - -

Originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference.

For more information, see www.smbonlineconference.com.

:-)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

LOGICnow Takes to the Road with MAX on the Move – Connect

Carissa over at LogicNow sent me a note about the upcoming MAXFocus Partner Days. I've added these to the calendar of in-person events in my weekly newsletter. Here's the detail.

You can see all the MAX events and shows they'll be doing this year at https://connect.maxfocus.com/events/.


The Partner Day events have the following agenda (I'm sure there are minor variations):

  • MAX Managed Online Backup Academy Breakfast
  • Welcome and Introductions
  • State of the Market - A session of industry insights, trends and MSP themes
  • Roadmap Session
  • Addressing the Managed Security Services Opportunity 
  • Lunch
  • CompTIA- Trends in Managed Services
  • Remote Management Technical session, with Mac agent and Service Desk
  • Selling and Marketing Managed Security  
  • MAX Managed Online Backup Recovery
  • How to Grow/Scale a Disaster Recovery as a Service business
  • MAX Risk Intelligence 
  • MSP Panel
  • LOGICnow’s Future and Vision 

It's quite a packed day - almost twelve hours all together!

The events are free and will feature sessions by Alistair Forbes, LogicNow's General Manager.

Note: Three of these events also offer a MAX training preday. So if you're in Cincinnati, Seattle, or Tampa, you can attend that as well. The preday is two 4-hour sessions that give you a deep dive on the Remote Management tools and dashboard.

- - - - -

Each event is a little different, so please visit the site and check out the agendas and location details.

 - MAX on the move- Connect Anaheim April 20th

 - MAX on the move- Connect Cincinnati May 13th / Training Preday

 - MAX on the move- Connect Seattle June 24th / Training Preday

 - MAX on the move- Connect Tampa June 30th / Training Preday

Those links have lots of extra details. Check out the MAX Partner Day in a city near you!

:-)


HPE ProLiant Easy Connect Launch - Zynstra Hybrid Cloud!

As many of you know, I worked with Zynstra to help introduce them to the SMB community and get some early Hybrid Cloud Servers deployed. They have successfully partnered with HPE to integrate their product as an amazing small business offering.

Next week they will officially launch the new product and service.

I am very excited to see the rollout.

Register today. Attend live on April 13th.

- kp

- - - - -

Here's there official announcement and invitation:



Please join us on April 13th

Every so often, a new offering is launched that changes the way IT is delivered.  Hewlett Packard Enterprise has something exciting to share with our Partners on April 13th. We have invested in an offering that is exclusively available through our partners as a service, targeted towards small business and education.  It is designed to be packaged with your services and offers a compelling Managed Hybrid Server that combines the best of both worlds, on premise and cloud,  to your customers at an affordable monthly cost.

We truly believe this helps you address your customers’ needs, gives you a customizable services solution and drives down your cost of service.  We want you to be the first to know. Please join us.

HPE ProLiant Easy Connect Launch
& Accelerating Next with HPE Compute

April 13th, 2016
3:00 pm – 5:00 CST
9:00 pm –11:00pm BST
Replay available starting 15th April

Agenda
Easy Connect Announcement
Accelerating Next with HPE Compute
       Chuck Smith VP HP Server Growth and Biz Dev Welcome
       Alain Andreoli Executive Vice President and General Manager - Hewlett Packard Enterprise Group
       Accelerating Next with HPE Compute - Susan + GM’s
       Industry Speaker- IDC Chris Chute
       Easy Connect video announcement
       Easy Connect unveil McLeod to unveil product on stage along with Nick East (Zynstra) and Kevin Torner (CEO, ERBs Technology Solutions

Event URL:


Questions? Contact Preeya Birjah by e-mail or phone at +1 479 430 4425
We look forward to seeing you.

:-)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Iterative Service Offering

In the world of statistics we use the word iterative to mean a process or sub-routine that repeats. For example, we can measure the effect of an action that occurs once vs. the effect of that action occurring over and over again. With each iteration we see the compound effect.

In business, we sometimes talk as if the planning process is stagnant. In other words, we talk as if we're going to do something once and be done with it. In fact, that is almost never the case.

Two very clear examples of this are business plans and new service offerings. In large corporations, it is common to have 1-year, 2-year, and even 5-year plans. After all, you almost have to make plans like that in order to try to make rational choices for spending millions of dollars and maximizing the return. Small businesses should do something similar - but should never be wedded to these plans.

The reason is simple. Small businesses must be flexible. They have to respond much more quickly to the environment. Flexibility is both their greatest asset in competition and their greatest savior when something unexpected happens.

Big businesses and small businesses are analogous to large ships and small boats. Large ships are less affected by waves and winds. They can ride out some adverse weather much more easily than can small boats. But when it comes to changing directions, large ships take a lot more time and space. Small boats can zig and zag as needed.

When it comes to business plans, I recommend that small business owners develop a very lean document. If you Google "One Page Business Plan" you'll find lots of resources, including a web page and book with that exact title.

I don't think you necessarily have to stick to one page, but please don't get mired down in a 50-page or 100-page business plan. That might be useful for a bank when you're trying to raise some money, but it's not very useful when you're trying to figure out what you want to do and how you want to get there.

I think a small business plan should cover the very basics. What are you? What do you want to accomplish? What do you sell (products and services)? Who do you sell it to? And what special terms, if any, apply to that relationship? That's it.

Note: I DO absolutely think you should budget at least twelve months in advance, and have some idea of what the three year and five year financial plan looks like. But again, these are rough numbers and you should be flexible about them.

A much better example of the need for flexibility in the SMB space is the definition of our service offerings. Here we see that an iterative process is not only useful but required. You cannot be stagnant with service offerings.

An iterative service offering is one that accepts the premise of an ever-changing environment. There is a tendency to think about "our offering" as something stable. But we all know that can't be. All the variables in our world are changing all the time. Large companies can ignore trends and the whims of the economy for a long we. We cannot, or our businesses will die.

The key variables here are: The underlying technology, our clients and their demographics, our skills/knowledge, and the economy.

The underlying technology is changing all the time. One of the absolute strongest advantages of a small company is that we can adopt new technologies very quickly. One of the reasons that there is constant turn-over on the Fortune 500 list is that large companies cling to the past. Very few of them are good at innovation. In fact, those who are good at innovation are those who have figured out that they need to create isolated silos for innovation so that internal advocates of their their old "successful" products and services cannot kill the new ideas.

Invariably, new product concepts are rejected by the people who are making money (and getting bonuses for selling) the old products and services. So, for example, Polaroid abandoned their research on digital cameras because they had a total cash cow with their film cameras. Until that suddenly died. Most newspapers dramatically under-funded their Internet editions until their paper circulation all but disappeared. Then they played catch-up with new Internet-only news sources.

These are great examples of how change takes place. You won't be put out of business by your competition: You'll be put out of business by a new technology you do not provide.

The examples go on forever.

The point is, we all know that technology changes all the time. We need to be constantly evaluating new technologies and new ways of delivering it. I'll never forget when the latest version of Small Business Server was released. I asked another consultant whether they had sold it yet and he responded that his clients weren't asking for it. Of course they're not asking for it! They don't know it exists. They didn't ask for the Internet either, but you sold it to them!

He didn't sell them cloud services either. And now he does something else for a living.

Our clients and their demographics also change constantly. This change might be slower and more predictable, but it's still there. At a minimum, your clients will age at the rate of one year per year. Their products, their services, and their company will also age at that rate. They will be affected by their economy, their industry, and their competitive environment. You have no control over these elements. But that doesn't mean you can ignore them. You have to tune into this.

No matter what your clients do, their business is affected by technology and economic shifts. That's one of the primary reasons I recommend Technology Roadmap meetings or quarterly business reviews. These are meetings with client to sit down and discuss where they're going and what they expect in the months and years ahead. In addition to helping you serve them better by making good choices about technology, these meetings also help you figure out what will happen within your own business.

Our Skills and Knowledge are completely within our control. But we cannot gain infinite knowledge. We have to make choices. And since technology expands all the time, we cannot know everything or educate ourselves about everything. So we have to decide what we want to be experts at and what we need to outsource. If nothing else, we need to have a philosophy about how we approach the world of expanding knowledge.

One of the changes I've noticed in the last ten years is that many small business owners have stopped educating themselves on new technology. I do not understand this. It's one thing to say you're old and retiring and you don't want to take on more changes before you retire. But if you're NOT retiring in the next twelve months, then you have to stay committed to learning!!! You have to figure out what you're going to sell and who you're going to sell it to.

Finally, there's the Economy. You have no way to control the economy. But you also don't have to freak out about it. Remember, you can't affect the global economy or the national economy. You can't really affect the local economy. There's only ONE economy you have to worry about: Your personal economy. How are YOU doing? How is your business doing? Not in relation to the world, the nation, or the state.

How are you doing in relation to how you want to do? That's your economy. That's the only thing you can affect and it's the only place you should spend your time worrying (if you spend any time worrying).

Take all this together. Consider the underlying technology, your clients and their demographics, Your skills/knowledge, and your personal economy. All of these together are constantly moving. It's like a Newtonian model of the universe. All of these things are in motion and they all affect one another.


Now Consider Your Service Offering

Let's say you developed a service offering five years ago. Since then, all these major variables have changed. Technologies have come and gone. Clients have evolved. You have evolved. Your business has evolved. To be successful, you need to constantly look at your service offering. Tweak it. Fine tune it. And then do it again.

Here's an example from my company: My cloud service offering. Like most people, we started out with a variety of unrelated cloud-based offerings. We started hosting web sites in the 1990's. We started offering hosted spam filtering in the early 2000's. Then hosted Exchange mailboxes and hosted backup.

Eventually, in 2008, we started offering a bundle. It included all that plus cloud-based remote monitoring and patch management. Over time we added features/services based on what people actually used. This now includes a basic Office license via Intermedia.

We revisit this offering at least once a year. Our goal is to provide a bundle that gives the client "all the technology you need." So whatever fits into that promise is open for discussion. The pricing, add-ons, and core bundle are always open for discussion. We want to have a "standard" offering. But we're dedicated to changing that offering as needed.

The concept of an Iterative Service Offering is simple: Start with something. Where you are right now is fine. Then begin a process of evaluating, fine-tuning, and changing it. Never stop that process. Think of it as a never-ending conversation about what you should be offering your clients.

Consider the changing variables around you, your offering, the technology, your clients, the economy, and everything else in your Newtonian universe. All of these things are changing all the time.

But remember: Do this with intention. Haphazardly responding to every request is not the same as systematically re-evaluating your offering. Create a process - and work it.

What's your philosophy about revisiting your service offering?

If you don't have one, today's a great day to start.

:-)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

SOP: Every Company has Culture


My latest SOP video is about building culture in your company.

There are three key pieces to building culture: Honesty, Integrity, and Teamwork.


Honesty means that you can trust each other. Everyone can feel safe to tell the truth. That means truthful reporting about problems, truthful feedback, and being able to admit mistakes. It means everyone from top to bottom can say "I don't know."

Integrity refers to creating a whole. When everyone is integrated into the whole of your company, then you as a group face challenges. You as a group work to achieve great thing. You as a group have a process for documentation, a process for communication, a process for patch management, etc.

People without honesty and integrity act more for themselves than the team. These are the people that don't share information with the group, such as configurations and passwords. People who do that think it gives them job security. In reality, they are working against the team and hurting their own job security.

Teamwork results from choosing to work on your culture. Every company has some kind of culture, whether it evolved with intention or by accident. You get to decide how it goes in your company.

:-)