Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Audio Program: Barbara Dove - Build a Robust Email Marketing Program

We are happy to announce that we've released a great new audio program with Barbara Dove - a true pioneer of IT Help Desk support.

This presentation was originally made at SMB Online Conference, hosted by Small Biz Thoughts. Dove talks about robust email marketing systems that are helping small IT companies thrive.

Whether the economy is moving up or down, you can Thrive – with Good Marketing!


This program is fifty minutes in length, delivered as a zip file with MP3, slides, and handouts.


Check it out now - only $19.95
Buy Now at SMBBooks

- - - - -

About Barbara Dove
• President and CEO, Dove Help Desk
• Topic: Build a Robust Email Marketing Program

• With over 15 years’ experience in senior management positions in service operations, Barbara has worked in executive and strategic service management positions at various computer and test equipment companies.

• Barbara founded Dove Help Desk in 2003 to provide the resources necessary to manage the routine requests from users to relieve the pressure on IT providers and their staffs. After 9 years, Dove Help Desk continues as a division of Global Mentoring Solutions, Inc. Barbara 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.

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


- - - - -

Also New This Month: 

Modern Marketing Best Practices with Patrick Schwerdtfeger

Patrick takes a unique approach to Social Media. He starts out by stating that most of the 100 million people on Twitter are wasting their time!

But a few people and a few companies are having extreme success with social media. What separates these two groups? And more importantly, what is the legitimate role of social media in positioning yourself as an expert?

What do prospects do today when they consider hiring you? The do an Internet search! How do you show up? What is your online image, you Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile, and your Twitter profile?

This presentation covers some great, simple techniques you can use to take your social media presence to the next level. And most importantly, he shows that almost no one is doing this effectively.

Check it out now - only $19.95
Buy Now at SMBBooks

:-)

Monday, November 28, 2016

When Does Marketing Start?

Business consultant and author Peter Drucker once wrote:

"Business has only two functions - marketing and innovation. All the rest
are costs."


Many people have a mistaken belief that marketing is something you do when it's time to sell your product or service. Nothing could be further from the truth! Marketing starts before the product or service even exists!

My favorite marketing coach is Robin Robins. If you attend one of her workshops, you may get to see her build a marketing campaign. She starts by talking about the client. Who's going to buy this? What do they look like? What do they want? What's their pain point? What problem can you solve.

(If you haven't seen her stuff, I recommend you check out the Technology Marketing Toolkit.)

The stages in product development look something like this:




But notice that "marketing" is not listed here. Why? Because it's ALL marketing. Marketing is the process of defining and communicating the VALUE of your product or offering. You cannot start the marketing discussion at the "Promote/Sell" stage. That's too late in the process.

There are many kinds of value in your offering. Assuming you're in the IT business, your offering will have at least two or three of these value types:

- Functional Value. How well does this product/service achieve its goal? For example, reliable backup of data.

- Emotional Value. How well does this product/service fulfill and emotional need, such as feeling confident that the company can survive a disaster?

- Monetary Value. Obviously, how will this product or service help the client make money, save money, or do something they haven't done before; and how does that compare to the price of the offering?

- Social Value. How does this product/service fulfill the client's need to achieve or maintain status among their peers?

If you start "marketing" at the Promote/Sell stage, you're really just telling a story about how you can provide value to clients. It's like you have to wedge value into the conversation.

It's much better to start with defining the client and then discussing value at every stage of the product evolution. That way, the product or service is literally inseparable from the value it brings to the client. Instead of value being an after-thought, it's baked in!


We All Know This Is True

How many times have seen a great product fail? You hear people complain about how hard they worked to develop something - and there were no buyers!

You can have an awesome product that fails fast if you develop the product first and do the marketing as an after-thought. Think about grand failures from the Ford Edsel to the Apple Newton. They are often priced wrong, have the wrong feature set, or are great for a microscopic audience.

ALL of those factors can be addressed by considering the client perspective from the beginning. Notice that my graphic above actually implies a series of feedback look. Test. Refine. Continue refining.

When you just make the argument that your product is better and people should just buy it, then you fail - even if your product is better. OS/2 was a collaboration of competitors that should have resulted in market dominance. But it was built based on technology considerations and not value.

If you don't have the client-focused value discussion all throughout product (or service) development, it is hard to convince people that they should buy it just because you say it's "better."


. . . To be continued . . .



Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Audio Program: Patrick Schwerdtfeger on Modern Marketing Best Practices

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a member of my Northern California mastermind group.

A few years ago, Patrick presented at my SMB Online Conference on the subject of Modern Marketing Best Practices.

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

- - - - -

Modern Marketing Best Practices

Originally delivered at the 2012 SMB Online Conference.

This program is fifty minutes in length, delivered as a zip file with MP3, slides, and handouts.

Patrick takes a unique approach to Social Media. He starts out by stating that most of the 100 million people on Twitter are wasting their time!

But a few people and a few companies are having extreme success with social media. What separates these two groups? And more importantly, what is the legitimate role of social media in positioning yourself as an expert?

What do prospects do today when they consider hiring you? The do an Internet search! How do you show up? What is your online image, you Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile, and your Twitter profile?

This presentation covers some great, simple techniques you can use to take your social media presence to the next level. And most importantly, he shows that almost no one is doing this effectively.

Check it out now - only $19.95
Buy Now at SMBBooks

- - - - -

About Patrick Schwerdtfeger

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a professional speaker. He is also an author and Social Media Expert.

He is the author of three books:

Webify Your Business

Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed

Keynote Mastery

See more about him on his site - www.patrickschwerdtfeger.com.

Patrick is a regular speaker for Bloomberg TV. He has spoken about business trends, modern entrepreneurship, and the social media revolution at conferences and business events around the world.

He has been featured in The New York Times, CNN Money, Fortune, Bloomberg, Businessweek, the Associated Press, MONEY Magazine and Forbes, among others.

:-)


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

Released 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

:-)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mentoring and Master-Minding

One of the most important - and overlooked - roles of a manager is being a mentor to others. Many people have a 1940's "command and control" approach to business. But as I pointed out a little while back, telling people to Just Do It is often very bad advice.

People need to be instructed, guided, and helped to improve. You're not in a competition with your employees: When they do well, your company does well. So constantly helping them to improve is good for every one.

New Video:


You should also be open to being mentored. That means having the humility to seek advice from others. I love the master mind groups I belong to. They allow me to talk about challenges I face and get feedback from people I trust.

As a general rule, master mind meetings start with a quick discussion of what's changed since last time. Then members take turns talking about a challenge they face and getting ideas from the other members.

I have used my master mind groups to get feedback on client relationships, naming products, pricing, employee issues, productivity tips, and so much more. The best part of a meeting is often hearing advice given to someone else. After all, just because we didn't bring up an issue doesn't mean we don't have that issue.

And, in general, having business-focused discussions will improve your business in the long run. You get in the habit of working "on" your business. You also get a boatload of good tips and advice.

Overall, you should be in a never-ending stream of mentoring and being mentored. All of us can learn from others. And the world keeps changing so things that worked last year don't work as well this year. So we have to keep evolving.

It's another example where education in all its forms should be part of your continuing personal and professional growth.

:-)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Benefits Make Sense Even Without a Group

When I had a number of employees, I used to always offer them benefits. There are two major reasons for this. First, it saves me some money (personally) because I get my insurance paid for through the company. It’s a very well accepted business expense and I get insurance out of the deal. Second, it makes your business a nicer place to work. It makes employees a bit “stickier” compared to places that don’t offer benefits.

But times have changed. When I got rid of my I.T. consulting business and moved to book publishing full time, I was down to a “group” of one. It was difficult to find a good set of benefits for just me. With the Affordable Care Act, I couldn’t be turned down. So, I finally have the coverage I want.

“Benefits” are things like retirement plans, medical insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance, and so forth. Many people hold on to their corporate jobs and run a consulting business “on the side” because they need the benefits.

You don’t have to do that anymore – especially since a lot of companies are not actually providing these things. They’re making them available for you to buy through payroll. They’re negotiating a price but the employee is paying for it.

To be honest, that’s a great reason to take the plunge, find your own benefits, and jump ship.


Where Do You Get Benefits? 

That’s a tough question to answer because the answer is almost anywhere. If you use a payroll service, they may offer certain benefits, including health insurance and miscellaneous retirement savings plans. Your financial advisor (including accountants and enrolled agents) may also offer some benefits such as life insurance and retirement plans.

Of course you can also go direct to a broker who has lots of options available. Or a certified financial planner may also offer some or all of these things. In the modern economy, many people are choosing to buy each of these benefits separately. Additionally, some insurance companies (like VSP Vision Care) are offering individual plans that you can purchase directly from them.

My medical insurance plan comes bundled with almost-useless add-ons for optical and dental coverage. The vision coverage has a $100 co-pay for exams and $500 deductible for glasses. That’s about equivalent to no coverage at all! The bundled dental is a little better, but the out-of-pocket is still pretty high. In both cases, I went with separate plans for these things.

The main benefit you have as a sole proprietor (or small corporation, LLC, etc.) is that you can claim exemption from Workers Comp in many cases. If you are already paying for medical coverage for something else, you can exempt yourself from WC insurance as an owner of the business. Note: If you’re not doing this, you should talk to your tax advisor and Workers Comp insurer to see whether you are eligible to save this money.


Expandable Programs

You have to make sure that any benefit programs you offer are equitable inside your company. In other words, if you have employees, you have to offer the same thing to everyone who meets certain criteria. You can set the criteria, but you still need to be aware of the laws.

For example, you might say that employees are eligible if they have been employed at least 90 days and work at least 30 hours per week. What you can’t do is to have different programs for owners and employees.

If you are sure you’ll never have employees, then don’t worry about what you choose. But if you might have employees, then make you work with a company that can grow along with you. As strange as it sounds, I’ve see companies that had plans for one person or three-or-more, but not for two. Huh?

Again, you need to work with good advisors who will make sure you get a combination that works – and keeps you inside the law.

I’ve been self-employed for 21 years. I’ve grown companies to a dozen employees. So I’m not willing to bet that I’ll always be a one- or two-person operation. And with luck, my choices for benefits will last me for years to come.


VSP – Vision Service Plan

I recently found out about a great resource guide from VSP – Vision Service Plan. VSP provides vision insurance for the smallest shops out there, including one-person businesses. Their resource guide is at this link. I asked them if I could promote this. (I was compensated for this blog post.)

The resource guide provides lots of valuable information, including a thorough understanding of the "gig" economy - made up of individuals working independent jobs. If you’re a sole proprietor, this is you. In fact, our industry has been doing exactly this for twenty years – way before Upwork (formerly Elance and Odesk) hit the scene.

It also includes information on VSP Individual Vision plans, which start as low as $17/month. VSP individual plans are perfect for sole proprietors, since they can be purchased directly from VSP at www.VSPDirect.com. I bet 90% of the people reading this wear glasses. If you're in need of vision insurance, I encourage you to check out VSP individual plans.

For more information on VSP, click this link.


About VSP

VSP is the national leader in eye care benefits, and offers affordable individual vision insurance to people who don’t have employer-provided vision care. VSP serves 72 million Americans through individual and group plans. (That’s one in five people in the U.S.!) Individual vision plans can cost as low as $17 a month and members give the company a 95% overall satisfaction rating.
A VSP individual vision plan includes annual benefits that cover:
A comprehensive eye exam
Prescription lenses with covered lens enhancements
A generous allowance for frames and/or contacts
A wide selection of brand name frames
Access to a network of more than 36,000 doctors

:-)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Choosing the Right Backup Form Factor

Backup technology changes all the time. Because of that, you need to choose your backup form factor carefully. There are several things to consider.

Capacity - What is the total capacity of the client's data?

Speed - Based on capacity and speed, you should make sure that your backup is finished during the after-hours window.

Media Lifetime - How long will the backup last on the shelf? Cheap CDs, for example, have a surprisingly short shelf life.

Durability - How much abuse can your backup media take? We never expect to drop an SSD or DVD, but accidents happen.

Form Factor Lifetime - Can your restore from a 100MB Zip Disc? How about an IDE drive? How long will you be able to restore from your backup?

Many of these considerations are becoming less critical with cloud backup, but they're no necessarily irrelevant.

Another major consideration is cost. This is particularly important if you rotate media out of circulation. No matter where you backup (including the cloud), you still need to have a complete backup that goes offline and is never over-written. For a 2 TB drive that might be $150. For other media the price will be different.

No matter what you use for backups, you absolutely need to understand how to restore from the backup. That means you need to truly understand the backup technology so you don't screw things up while trying to recover data. And, of course, you need to document the backup process and procedures.

LOTS more tips in my latest video:

Comments Welcome.

:-)


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

SMB Roadshow 2017 Dates Announced!

Ta - Daaaaaa!

Here's our press release announcing our 2017 SMB Roadshow.

It's all about Making Money with Cloud Services!

- - - - -

Sacramento, CA, November 16, 2016 – Karl W. Palachuk, internationally recognized technology author, blogger, and managed services business consultant is heading out on a twelve month tour of twenty-eight cities across six countries.
Palachuk will be bringing his SMB Roadshow to Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the United State. The key messages in the tour are targeted at technology providers who serve small to medium-size businesses. The curriculum will focus on Cloud services, designing modern offerings for small businesses, and improving inefficiencies with standard operating procedures.
Palachuk has been advising technology business professionals through his books, blogs, and touring events for nearly 20 years, helping thousands of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and I.T. consultants reach their customers with solid business models and offerings in cloud services, server migrations, remote management, and more.
Palachuk’s book Managed Services in a Month has been one of the top managed services books on Amazon for almost ten years. His brand new series, The Managed Services Operations Manual (four volumes) is also extremely popular and influential. In early 2017 Palachuk plans to release new versions of two of his most popular books for managed service providers.
“I am extremely excited to be able to connect with I.T. consultants personally in 2017. Visiting 28 cities will be a huge challenge, but also a lot of fun.” Palachuk said. “I have made many friends all over the globe in the last fifteen years. It will be great to see them all in real life!”
The SMB Roadshow will kick off the tour with three Texas cities back-to-back: San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas in January. A complete list of cities is at http://www.SMBRoadShow.com.
##
About Karl Palachuk
Karl W. Palachuk has written 15 books, including Managed Services in a MonthService Agreements for SMB Consultants, and the Managed Services Operations Manual. Palachuk has advised I.T. and digital consultants for nearly 20 years as an international speaker, blogger, podcast host, and personal business consultant. He has worked with dozens of corporate advisory boards and beta programs. His larger clients include Intel, Microsoft, HP, QLogic, Cisco, Solar Winds MSP, and many more. For more information, visit http://www.KarlPalachuk.com.

About Small Biz Thoughts
Small Biz Thoughts is the training and content division of Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc., owned and operated by Karl W. Palachuk. Their programs are geared specifically for the independent/entrepreneurial I.T. consultants. 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 http://www.smbroadshow.com
Media Contact
Laura Napolitano
LauraN@SmallBizThoughts.com
Phone: 001 916 217 9432

Monday, November 14, 2016

Free File - 2017 Pay Periods, Pay Dates, and Holidays

I just finished one of my annual chores: Creating a handout for my employees with the pay periods, pay dates, and holidays listed.

No genius level stuff here.

But if you want a copy for free, CLICK HERE or click the graphic.

No registration, no nothing. Just click and download.

This file is in Excel format, so your browser might ask you to verify that you really want to grab it.

As simple as it is, a page like this is very handy for employees. Everyone knows on the the first day of employment which days are paydays and which are holidays.

I made a conscious decision about a dozen years ago to close on ten national holidays. If you include state holidays and religious holidays, you could easily close 20 days out of the year. But that's hard to manage when you are in a service business.

I picked dates that I'm pretty sure all my clients are closed.

Of course your holidays and pay dates will vary - especially if you're in another country. But this Excel spreadsheet is easy to edit. So if you don't have a template already, feel free to grab this one.

:-)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Disaster Recovery Basics - Video

A few tips about Disaster Recovery Plans.

First, I'm a big believer that you need a paper copy of your DR plan somewhere - for every single client. Yes - you will probably have access to an electronic version. But realistically, in a true disaster, you may not have electricity. Or a building. So you need to know that you can get to the DRP even if the server's under water.

Second, you should not plan to replace the network exactly as it is today. Today's data and databases are much more flexible than in years gone by. So plan to get the newest, best equipment and software you can. Having said that, if you have some old line of business application, you may need some older technology to make that work. Make sure that's in your plan!


Of course, the more you rely on the cloud, the fewer disasters you'll have and the easier it is to get back up.

The 800 pound gorilla for disaster recovery is the BDR - backup and disaster recovery system. This will allow you to move quickly into "business continuity" mode rather than disaster mode.

Here are a few specific things to keep in mind:

1. Go slow. Don't rush around and freak out. First, assess the actual damages, determine what the most recent successful backup is, and what resources you have available to you.

2. Make a plan! Yes you have the big DR Plan. But now you need to create a specific plan for this specific disaster. What will you do first? What will you do second? etc.

3. Use a TSR Log. I've covered this many times. Here's a specific post: http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2011/07/sop-friday-troubleshooting-and-repair.html

4. Update the plan! How could it have gone better? How can you improve the process? And is it possible to avoid this disaster altogether next time?

Hope that helps.

Add your best tips below.

:-)


Thursday, November 10, 2016

eFolder Begins Shipping Replibit BDR Appliances

Press release from eFolder:

- - - - -

eFolder Begins Shipping Replibit BDR Appliances


eFolder Celebrates the Product Launch by Raffling Off $10,000 of Free Equipment at IT Nation 2016
Orlando, FL – November 9, 2016

eFolder, a leading supplier of business continuity and file sync services, today announced at IT Nation 2016 that ReplibitTM BDR appliances are now shipping and generally available. To celebrate the product launch, eFolder is giving away $10,000 worth of free BDR appliances to randomly selected attendees at IT Nation. Every IT Nation participant will receive a Replibit BDR raffle code in their conference bag distributed by ConnectWise. Eight lucky winners can claim their free BDR appliance by visiting the eFolder hospitality lounge during IT Nation.

Replibit is a patented, end-to-end business continuity software platform designed for managed service providers (MSPs). With three models to choose from, the new Replibit Mini, Pro, and Rack appliances complete the overall Replibit solution with a purpose-built BDR appliance family available directly from eFolder. Replibit BDR Appliances are local BDR appliances, featuring FastFlashTM SSD storage technology and the patented Replibit Appliance software. Replibit is the industry’s first all-SSD BDR appliance product line. With a next-gen, FastFlash SSD architecture, Replibit appliances deliver fast and reliable on-site system recovery for SMB client environments. The FastFlash SSD architecture means industry leading IOPs and a 50x speed advantage during system recoveries. The Replibit Mini is the world’s fastest and most reliable BDR appliance, making it ideal for mass market deployment to small businesses.

“We are thrilled to begin shipping Replibit BDR appliances,” says Kevin Hoffman, chief executive officer at eFolder. “In just a few months after acquiring Replibit, we are delivering the last critical piece of the overall business continuity solution. We now supply MSPs with everything they need for end-to-end business continuity, including the Replibit chain-free, image-based backup software, the local BDR appliance, cloud replication, backup, and recovery services in the eFolder Cloud, and global management of the entire Replibit solution. The higher capacity Replibit appliances can also serve as economical building blocks for partners that want their own multi-tenant Replibit private cloud deployment.”

“The Replibit Mini is a home run,” says Phillip Long, president and chief executive at Business Information Solutions, Inc. “To date with Replibit, we’ve been building our own BDR appliances. During the Replibit appliance beta test, our techs were blown away by the speed and performance of the all-SSD appliance. Fast and reliable on-site recoveries are critical for us to keep our promises with our clients. We are now standardizing on Replibit BDR appliances.”

“I am excited to see the Replibit solution quickly evolve under eFolder ownership,” says Andrew Bensinger, Replibit founder and vice president of engineering at eFolder. “Most partners want an end-to-end solution from their vendor. Now, partners can turn to eFolder for all the key pieces of the solution, including software, BDR appliance, cloud and management.”

Replibit BDR appliances are shipping and generally available to MSP partners in the United States. Interested partners may call eFolder at +1-800-352-0248 or visit us www.efolder.net/replibit

About eFolder

eFolder is a leading supplier of cloud business continuity, cloud file sync, and cloud to cloud backup solutions for MSPs, cloud service providers, system integrators, and VARs. Delivered as wholesale services to the channel, eFolder enables its partners to provide branded cloud services and to generate highly profitable, recurring revenue. eFolder services complement many of the managed service offerings already deployed by partners and integrate with common PSA systems, making adoption of eFolder services fast and easy. eFolder also empowers cost-effective partner and end-user private clouds, allowing partners to meet the needs of any client, regardless of size or readiness to engage in public cloud services. eFolder is a privately held company and is headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

For more information, please visit: www.efolder.net and follow us on Twitter: @eFolder

- - - - -

:-)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Core Standard Operating Procedures for Small IT Providers - Last course of the year starts next week!

W5-01

Core Standard Operating Procedures for Small IT Providers

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific
You're guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!

This course will cover the most important procedures you need to have in place to run an efficient and highly profitable Managed Services Business.

Whether you're a new "Computer Consultant" or an experienced Managed Service Provider, you need to create successful processes that will propel your company forward. Nothing is more critical to making profit than having the right processes and procedures in place!

When I take on new coaching clients, they have many of the same issues over and over again. And almost all of them boil down to SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures. Or the lack thereof.

Everyone knows you need SOPs. In fact you probably know which ones you need. But where do you start?
Checklist
You will learn
  • A practical introduction to SOPs
  • The relationship matrix of SOPs
    • Clients
    • Employees
    • Vendors
    • Internal Organization
  • The Ten Most Important SOPs for your IT Consulting Business
  • SOPs management, organization, and updates
  • Implementation strategies internally
  • Implementation strategies for clients
  • Service Department SOPs
    • Building
    • Training
    • Deployment
    • Upkeep
  • Avoiding the biggest pitfalls with SOP development and deployment
  • Building an Action Plan that works


Includes five weeks of teleclasses with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.



A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five one-hour teleseminar phone calls
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class calls will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Ideal Org Chart for an I.T. Company

I received an email from Otto with an interesting question: What is the ideal organizational chart for a managed service provider? This is an great question because it gets to the more important question of how you grow your company. It also brings up additional questions like when to hire a service manager, when to hire a sales person, and how many administrative support staff you should have.

Here is the org chart for my first managed service business when we had 12 employees (I am not putting this forward as the ideal):


Of course all the names except mine are changed.

Obviously that's different from when we started. For the most part, most companies start out with one or two people. Eventually you need to hire additional staff. I recommend that your first hire should be an administrative assistant. That frees up the owner to spend a lot more time doing sales and tech support.

Your org chart will evolve over time. Here are some basic stages.

Stage One: Sole Proprietor

Believe it or not, I think it's useful to create this chart even when you are doing everything. It helps you define the roles you play. It can also help you balance your time and think about whether you're spending enough time in each of these roles. We all know we need to do sales. But if you don't like it, you might not do it (for example).


Stage Two: Add an Admin


Stage Three: Add Technicians


Eventually you will add a technician. That will give the owner more time to do more sales. So you'll add more techs. But remember that you should also add more administrative assistants. In my experience, it's easy to find lots of extremely talented administrative assistants who want to work 20 hours per week.

A LOT of what we do can be done by a well trained admin with a good checklist. This is particularly true in the era of cloud services. There is no technical skill required to set up users in your PSA, QuickBooks, or even the RMM tool. As a rule, I would have technicians handle the RMM and admins handle the PSA and QuickBooks.

Admins can also set up all the accounts for hosted Exchange, spam filtering, anti-virus, Office 365, hosted storage, etc. I would leave the BDR configuration to technicians. But setting up usernames and passwords in the other services does not require technical skill.

Eventually, your principal AA will become your Office Manager. This relieves even more burden from the owner because now you've got someone to manage the admins as well as pieces of the client relationship. The financial piece is a big part of that. Life gets very good when your office manager handles all the billing, all the deposits, and both hiring and managing administrative assistants.

A similar evolution takes place over in the Tech Support department. Eventually, one of the techs evolves to be the Service Manager. While the owner will probably want to be involved in hiring for a long time, the Service Manager will eventually take on primary responsibility for that. He'll also manage technician time, coordinate all tech support, and play a huge role in managing client relationships.

Stage Four: Managers

At this point, the owner has two direct reports: The Office Manager and the Service Manager. You can grow quite a bit from there. Most good managers can effectively manage five to seven people. And please note: it doesn't matter whether they're full time or part time: people are people. So they have time cards, family issues, insurance paperwork, vacations, and interpersonal issues. Five to seven direct reports take about the same "management" whether they work 20 hours or 40 hours.

The only other "department" you might not have for quite some time is Sales and Marketing. Please remember that those are two different functions, especially from the employer's perspective. You employ marketing people to get the word out so prospect will call you and engage in a sales process. Marketing people always cost money (the same as administrative and technical personnel).

In the evolution of your company, you will probably have marketing campaigns executed by the admin department for a long time. In fact, you may never have a sales or marketing department. You may just have a marketing assistant managed by the owner or co-managed by the owner and the office manager.

Sales people are a different story. They should cost you a little until they bring in a lot of money. Eventually, they will cost you a lot because they're bringing in a lot more. Paying sales people is a different discussion. But let's assume you pay about 10% of gross sales or 30% of profit. These are probably very similar numbers.

When you realize that your sales person has to sell about $750,000 in new business each year to bring home a nice $75,000 income, you can see that VERY FEW people are able to do that. As a result, I highly recommend that you put off hiring a sales person for as long as you can. The owner will always be a better sales person for your company.

If you have high-end services, then you may be able to hire a sales person much sooner. But you need to make sure that you want to be a sales organization. Having a dedicated sales person who can bring in that kind of money means that the rest of your organization is ready to grow at that rate every year. If you can't deliver premium service with a growth rate of $750,000 per year, then you will end up losing a percentage of you clients every year.

Think about where that leaves you: You're paying a sales person to replace lost clientele every year because you over-sold and under-delivered in the previous year. So you're not really growing at the 750 rate. Instead, you're paying commissions to replace unhappy clients. In the meantime, your service department is growing and you may now have more than the ten technicians that a service manager can handle.

If you DO commit to a sales person, just remember that it will permanently affect your org chart and the structure of your company. You will probably not have ten administrative assistants for a long time. But you will have a growing service delivery department.

The next evolution of the service department is to hire a second-in-command. Rather than having two service managers, one way to go is to have morning and evening service coordinators or assistant managers. First, you might hire an evening Assistant manager who comes to work at 10Am and works til 7PM. He will manage the late-shift techs and the Service manager will come in at 6AM and manage the early-shift techs.

This extends your service hours if you wish. It also allows you to take care of a lot of the work that requires system reboots outside of client office hours. You can get a lot of work done before and after client work hours!

It might look like this:


- - - - -

These are just ideas. But you can see that your org chart really does matter. Here are a few tips as you grow:

First, the owner should take on all the duties that he "has to" do, whether he wants to or not. That includes sales, finances, marketing, etc.

Second, the owner should hand off the easiest and most time-consuming duties. You may have heard that you're the most expensive person in the office, no matter what you pay yourself. So hand off the less-valuable chores to someone making a lot less money!

Third, hire "managers" primarily on their ability to manage. Do NOT put your best technician in the Service Manager role unless she just happens to be a great manager. Managing people is a skill. It can be learned. But some people just don't have the temperament. Bad managers can kill your company by destroying relationships inside and outside the company.

Fourth, revisit your org chart from time to time. Grow with intention and make sure you have the best people in each role. One of the advantages of having a larger company is that your employees will evolve and grow. If you can move them into better positions from time to time, they will stay longer. In addition to advancing their own career, they provide better service to your company.

And that brings us to one of the most important lessons of all:

Fifth, do not let your company evolve based on the current collection of employees. Do not redraw the org chart to fit your personnel. People will leave. They'll grow up. They'll get married. They'll need more money than you can pay. They'll move to another state. They'll do all kinds of things that humans do. Someone might work for you for 25 years and retire from your company - but I doubt it!

Draw your org chart and fill it with the people you have. Remember that the owner wears all the hats that no one else is wearing! Let the org chart evolve, and move people around as needed. But, again, create your org chart with intention. And let it evolve with intention.

Good Luck!

:-)

Friday, November 04, 2016

How Much Detail Should You Have in Your Service Agreements?

I've received a lot of emails from people who want to know how much detail they should have in their contracts, such as minimum requirements, Internet speeds, and the specific offerings.

I put together a video with some tips. The most important thing you have to remember is that the primary role of your service agreement is to define the relationship between your company and the client. The second most important role it plays is to define the financial relationship between your company and the client.


Sometimes it's tempting to list out all the details of your specific offering. But that's not really necessary. You certainly don't have to list all the desktops, laptops, and printers. that's obviously too much detail.

The service agreement should be a broad outline that addresses the relationship, not the specific plan that you're providing this year. Those details can be on a referenced sales sheet or web site. You might even stample them to the back of the agreement as an amendment.

Remember: If your relationship is going great, no on will read the service agreement. And if it's going bad, no service agreement is going to save it. The service agreement provides very specific legal and financial guidelines for the relationship. The juicy details of your actual relationship are elsewhere.

:-)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Goals, Employee Evaluations, and Open Communications

Of course you have goals and your company has goals. But do you communicate these through your organization at every level?

I hope you set out quarterly goals for employees. As I've written about before, I'm a fan of quarterly evaluations tied specifically to the goals you set for the quarter. Goals should cascade down from the owner to the company, to the departments, and to individuals.

I say they should start with the owner(s) because small businesses exist to fulfill the dreams and desires of the owners. Those dreams might be related to the service you deliver, the charity work you can do because of the business, or the money you take out to fund your retirement and lifestyle.

As you prepare for the new year, it's a great time to have a company-wide discussion about goals. And an important item on that agenda is to share everyone's goals. A lot of companies never get around to sharing goals. Each employee has goals, but often have no idea what other folks' goals are.

This simple technique - open goal sharing - can have a huge positive effect on your company's morale and overall performance. Of course you need to plan this out rather than just share everything all at once.

Some employee goals may be personal. For example, an employee may be late every day. Or may be poor and getting service notes into the PSA in a reasonable time. Or, the positive side, they may be working to achieve a new certification.

Rule One: Only share goals when doing so can result in a more positive outcome. For example, don't line up all the people who show up late and publicly chastise them. But do make them aware that they represent a special team and encourage them to work to support each other in getting to work on time.

Rule Two: Always make sure that people whose goals affect one another are aware of it. It's one thing when a team is trying to get response times down. Everyone knows what's going on and they can work together. It's another thing if you tell each person individually to work on response time. That can feel more like criticism than teamwork.

If your administrative assistant helps push through paperwork to get clients signed up for your service, their individual goals may be very much tied in with the sales person's goals for the quarter. They should be aware of each others' goals and therefore encouraged to help each other. That's what teams do. But if they don't know they're a team, they're less likely to act like a team.

It's important that you don't make quarterly goals feel like arbitrary or meaningless standards. When you think of team goals as well as individual goals, the quarterly goals and evaluations become part of the larger discussion of your company's success. As people feel like they're part of smaller teams and the big company-wide team, their job makes more sense. They understand how their "piece" fits in the big puzzle.

It can even be helpful for people in different departments to understand the goals of other departments. Service delivery affects sales. And sales certainly affect the service department.

An unexpected benefit of company-wide discussions about goals in the cross-pollination of ideas. When you start answering a lot of questions about why your company does what it does (and why various people or positions do what they do), you'll find that a lot of ideas get thrown out. Some will be humorous and some will be serious. All of them contribute to teamwork - and you might just have some great ideas for improving processes and procedures.


Bring In Last Year's Goals As Well

Finally, if you've been keeping track of goal setting for awhile, you can educate your team on your goals for 2016. How are you doing in the big picture? Why are the goals changing? How will this affect various members of your team?

Again, when people see goals in a broader context, they understand more than what they need to do for the next 13 weeks. They begin to get a sense that the company as a whole is moving toward something. They understand where it's been and where it's going. They see its mission and their role in it.

Some people poo-poo goal setting and make fun of it. But I hope you see that there's much more power in context-rich goals rather than isolated targets. When people understand their jobs as a deeper level, every piece of your business will be more successful.

:-)

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Bedrock Data Announces Marketing Automation, CRM & eCommerce Integrations with ConnectWise

Nicole over at Bedrock Data forwarded this announcement to me.

IF you're a ConnectWise user and trying to figure out how to integrate date from Salesforce, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, or Shopify, then you might be interested in Bedrock's new connector for marketing automation.

Here's their press release:

- - - - -

Bedrock Data Enables ConnectWise Customers with New REST-Based Connector for Marketing Automation, CRM & eCommerce Integrations

BOSTON, MA (November 1, 2016) - Bedrock Data™, the world's leader in automated cloud integrations, today announced a new release for its ConnectWise® connector built on ConnectWise's REST API and available as part of Bedrock Data's library of connectorpartner integrations.

The new product release provides deeper integration support for ConnectWise customers to connect and synchronize their ConnectWise instance with one or more other systems including:
  • CRM systems including Salesforce, NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics
  • Marketing automation systems including HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua
  • eCommerce systems including Shopify 

These integrations provide ConnectWise users with the flexibility to align their ConnectWise instance with their existing SaaS infrastructure, in cases where different departments have different business needs, such as a sales team on Salesforce and a services team using ConnectWise.

"Bedrock Data is an excellent addition to the ConnectWise integration library," said Jeannine Edwards, Senior Director, ConnectWise Platform Strategy. "This is our first certified integrated service solution, and we worked closely with the Bedrock Data team on the effort.  The initiative not only brings to our partners Salesforce integration, but also a host of additional CRM and Marketing automation solutions from which to choose."

This connector release deepens Bedrock Data's ConnectWise integration capabilities and adds additional management flexibility including:
  • Object support for members, contacts, companies, opportunities, activities, tickets, products and orders
  • Custom field support
  • System of record control on a per field basis
  • Control of conditional rules for creation of each new record, by object type
  • Strong workflow rules for record creation and data handling, allowing fine-grained control of how data moves across your systems

"Our customers are using Bedrock Data to connect ConnectWise and marketing automation systems such as HubSpot to keep their sales and marketing team aligned," said Thor Johnson, Bedrock Data's CEO. "Our customers are able to avoid data duplication across their integrated systems, while giving marketing, sales and support teams visibility into key activities. No more running between different systems to get an understanding of what's going on with a specific customer."

Bedrock Data integrations take less than two weeks to configure and launch, including field mapping, rules configuration, initial synchronization and testing.  The resulting integration helps businesses get more out of their SaaS systems, as users from all teams have a common view into customer activity, and reporting is powered from a unified data set.

For example, a customer record in ConnectWise and a customer record in a marketing automation system such as HubSpot or Marketo are connected bi-directionally through Bedrock Data, such that updates by either system propagate across both systems, while honoring desired system of record rules on a per field basis.

"We're thrilled to see this ConnectWise connector release hit the market," said Alan DiPietro, Bedrock Data's Chief Revenue Officer. "ConnectWise has been amongst our top requested connectors and our expanded integration opens up connections not only to Salesforce, but also to ecommerce and customer support systems.  The new integration lets our customers align data across their entire business, driving efficiency and therefore revenue."

ConnectWise customers or account managers can contactthe Bedrock Data team to schedule a session to discuss their system integration requirements.  The full list of connectors available through Bedrock Data's ConnectWise connector are available on the ConnectWise page on theBedrock Data website.

About Bedrock Data

Bedrock Data provides the leading product to connect, clean and continuously synchronize multiple cloud systems in real-time. Bedrock Data connects multiple business applications while cleaning dirty data for improved team alignment, greater agility and a single view of the customer. By eliminating complex and expensive system integrations, Bedrock Data's common-sense approach speeds and simplifies cloud connections for hundreds of its customers worldwide.  For more information, please visit www.BedrockData.com.

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PR Contact:

Nicole Gorman
Corporate Communications
Bedrock Data

M: 508-397-0131