Thursday, April 19, 2018

True Story - The Frozen Backup

This is a true story. It happened about 2008. It happened with one of our non-profit association clients, the Assault Awareness Association (AAA).

At this particular office, the backup system was a DAT tape drive. In case you're not familiar, the DAT tape cartridges are just a couple inches wide. We always tried to create backup systems so that a full backup fit onto one cartridge.

That way, we didn't have to rely on humans to remember to put in a second tape in the morning and then swap tapes again in the afternoon. One tape per day. One full backup per tape.

We also had a tape rotation system that dramatically improved the reliability of restores if need be. Generally speaking, we tried to keep about ten tapes in rotation, and remove one from the rotation permanently at the end of the month. That way, we had several restore points and twelve "permanent" offsite restore points in case we had to go back more than a few weeks.

I'm glad that the days of tape backup for the smallest businesses are behind us. Too many opportunities for human error (designing the backup system, implementing it, running it every day, testing it). It's also slow.

BUT I am a huge fan of tape. As I've always said, it is the most reliable and robust backup you will ever find. Tape is nearly indestructible. At the end of the day, tape isn't the problem: People are the problem.

Anyway . . .

One day the server crashed at AAA. I forget all the details, but we had to restore from backup. Lisa, the office manager, had been given the task of taking tapes home every night for safe storage. And, at the end of the month, she took one offsite for permanent storage. Of course these were all labeled.

My faith in our backup systems is absolute. We've never failed to restore 99-100% of the data from a backup that we designed, implemented, and maintained. So I was very confident when I told Lisa, "Remember all those tapes you've been taking home? This is the day we need them. Please go bring in every tape from the last year."

We did whatever we needed to do to prep the server so we could restore from tape and Lisa went home to get the tapes. She brought them to us in a one-gallon zip-lock baggie.

It was dripping water. The bag had water on the inside. All the tapes were wet!

I asked what happened. She said that she knew they were important and she stored them with all of her most important documents - in the freezer!!!

Okay. You gotta work with what you have.

So, we opened the door on each cartridge and shook out as much water as we could. Then we laid them out on paper towels. And tried to read the smeared labels. We put them in the best chronological order we could.

The plan was pretty simple:

1) Remove the tape drive so that it's connected but physically outside the server. That way, water inside the drive will stay inside the drive.

2) Restore as much data as we could.

3) Order a new (and larger capacity) tape drive.

4) Find a better place to store backup tapes.

The result: 100% success! The client lost work from the day of the crash, but we recovered 100% of the data from the wet backup tapes.

I swear: True story, except the names were changed.

Lesson learned: Improve our training process with regard to offsite storage of backups. You can never guess what clients are going to do, so remove as much ambiguity as you can from every process they're involved in.

And of course this improved our training across all other clients as well.

We created a one-time task of finding out where all of our clients were actually putting those take-home tapes. Some of them needed to make changes. No one else was keeping them in the freezer.


Rethinking My Money Back Guarantee

Since day one, I've had a simple money-back guarantee. I want my customers to be happy. I want them to come back again and again.

But now I need to put some limits on that, and I need your feedback.

My no-questions-asked guarantee was based on two things:

1) I always try to give more value than the cost of the product/service.

2) I assume buyers are good, honest people who are sincerely trying to improve their businesses.

I also try to make sure that people don't feel ripped off when I release a new product. When I release a new edition of a book, I give the new edition to people for free if they bought the old edition within the last several months. In other words, I do business the way I would want to be treated.

Every once in awhile, someone will contact me and say that a product is too simple or too advanced for them. Generally, these folks have purchased a book or a class. And of course I am happy to refund their money.

But on rare occasions I have someone who just plain wants to rip me off. This normally takes a simple form: They buy a huge bundle, log on, download everything, and immediately ask for a refund. This all takes place within an hour and involves over 1,000 pages of downloads.

In my opinion, these people are just plain thieves. They clearly see value in the products but have not had the time to evaluate or implement anything.

Recently, I had someone request a refund after five months. They took two classes, downloaded thousands of pages of downloads, and then waited five months and asked for their money back. This is probably someone who is failing at their business and has not implemented any advice. So the good news (if there is any) is that they are not able to get value from the materials. In that sense, a refund is legitimate, if not timely.

This is particularly irritating for me because I've already paid taxes on this sale from last year.

You may have heard that LL Bean had to rethink their return policy because people abused it. Well, in the last year I have felt very abused. I don't think my products have gone down hill. But abusive returns have certainly gone up.

What Do You Think?

I really want to be fair. But what's fair? I don't want to create a complicated set of rules. I really do want to allow refunds where people simply don't find value in my products. But I have been ripped off several times in the last month - to the tune of several thousand dollars.

Maybe I should feel grateful that my material is worth stealing. :-)

Here are some things I am considering:

1) All returns must be within _____30_____ days of purchase.

2) Physical books must be returned in good, resellable condition. Buyer pays for return shipping.

3) Once the downloadable content of a product has been downloaded, the merchandise is not returnable.

4) Online classes are refundable until the last day of class.

As always, I appreciate your feedback.

Thank you for your support!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Most Important Checklists for Any I.T. Service Provider - Class Starts April 24th!

Next 5-Week Live Class starts April 24th:

The Most Important Checklists for Any I.T. Service Provider

Taught by Karl Palachuk and Manuel Palachuk, Authors and Coaches

- Five Tuesdays - April 24 - May 22, 2018 - Register Now

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

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In addition to building hundreds of checklists and standard processes for KPEnterprises in Sacramento, CA, the authors have both written books, trained individuals, and coached teams on successful processes and habits for running a modern, successful managed service business.

Checklists are critically important to creating SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures - for your company.

This course is intended for managers and owners of a managed service business. It covers many facets of the "checklist mentality" that the instructors have used at a variety of successful I.T. consulting businesses.

This course will cover daily the use of checklists in daily operations as well as the "larger picture" of running the entire company. It will address both internal checklists for running your own company and external checklists for managing client relationships and client technology.

This is an intensive live webinar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.

Delivered by Karl Palachuk and Manuel Palachuk, authors of the Network Migration Workbook and many other books for MSPs - managed service providers.

Includes five weeks of webinar classes 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 webinar classes (50-60 minutes each)
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

Week by Week Overview of the Course
  1. Week 1: What is a Checklist / Sample: Daily Backup Monitoring and Maintenance
  2. Week 2: Employee Hiring Process / Exit Process
  3. Week 3: New Client On-boarding / Client Off-boarding / Quarterly Client Roadmap
  4. Week 4:  Monthly Maintenance Checklist / New PC Checklist
  5. Week 5:  New Server Build / Class Summary

Sample Handouts for this course:
  • Class Syllabus
  • Slides from all classes
  • MPI Checklist Template
  • MPI Doc with TOC Template
  • NMW Discovery Checklist
  • NMW Remote Workstation Migration
  • How To Document Any Process White Paper by Manuel Palachuk
  • Personnel Folders
  • New Hire Checklist
  • Hiring Folder (ZIP)
  • Employee Goals Template
  • Employee Evaluation Template
  • Client Onboard Checklist
  • Client Removal Checklist
  • Roadmap Questionnaire
  • Roadmap Template
  • Roadmap Meeting Notes Template
  • Monthly Maintenance Checklist
  • New Workstation Checklist
  • New User Checklist
  • Welcome New Employee Orientation
  • Server Build Checklist
  • Troubleshooting and Repair Log
  • Time Stamp Version Standards

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why I Started a Second Managed Service Business

Mauricio asked me a question no one ever asked me before. He attended my roadshow and sent me this note:

"Thank you for having us, we really appreciate all the information you provided us definitely planning on utilizing the information as soon as we get back into town. , looking forward to attending more of your shows.
Just out of curiosity; you mention you sold your manage service company twice, Why would you sell a business that is making you money and then start all over again?"
Selling the first business (KPEnterprises) had a lot to do with a personal "perfect storm" involving the recession and a divorce. My service manager, Mike, was spectacular at executing my SOPs as outlined in my books. He bought the company (now America's Tech Support) and kept me on as a coach/adviser/manager/etc. I did a lot of client relationship work, ran some major projects, and helped with client roadmap meetings.

When Mike sold the business two years later, I no longer had any connection to it. Many former clients contacted me for help. Some literally begged me to come back. When one of them had a huge system-wide failure due to firewall update, I jumped in to help.

That's when I realized that I could create an even MORE profitable business. All I had to do was wait until my absolute "A" clients from back in the day contacted me. One by one I took on a handful of truly perfect clients. They all took my advice, spent whatever I asked them to spend, trusted me, held roadmap meetings, paid their bills on time, and so forth.

I literally created a small sized but hugely profitable company with only perfect clients.

I had one part-time tech and an administrative assistant who split time between that business and Great Little Book, my publishing business. All in all, it was a pretty sweet operation. We operated out of my house and it was a pretty easy, low-maintenance company.

But . . . I realized that I was not making the kind of progress I wanted to make on publishing new books. And I wanted to hit the road almost non-stop in 2017. So, with heavy heart, I decided to give up being a managed service provider (or working in a MS business).

My friend Tom bought the business and I introduced him around. He kept me around as extra help on an "as needed" basis. I've been called into a couple strategy meetings. But he's doing a great job taking care of my clients.

I ended December 2016 with a week in Hawaii with my daughter. I started January 2017 with a week in Key West. Then I hit the road for the big 2017 SMB Roadshow. In addition to speaking in almost three dozen cities, I managed to put out two books last year.

If I can just take time to sit at my keyboard, I hope to have at least one or two new books out this year. I have five books in the works right now (ALL new books - not second or third editions). I love writing and I am worried that I'll get old and die before I finish I the books I need to get out of my head.

I hope that answers the question.

Side note: I have a secret master plan that has been brewing for years. Step One was to create the four-volume set of SOPs. Step Two was to update the Service Agreements book as well as Managed Services in a Month. With those books all out, I felt I had a large enough "body" of work to make Step Three a reality.

Ruben, my web guy, is actively working on Step Three. It's been years in the making, so I'm going to be patient enough to make sure it's right before I let anyone see it.

More questions welcome.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ziften Launches Partner Program to Increase Channel Partners' Strategic Value to Customers

I received this press release and was asked to hold until today. If you have relevant news for the SMB IT community, please let me know.

- - - - -

Ziften Launches Partner Program to Increase Channel Partners' Strategic Value to Customers 

Tiered global channel partner program delivers increased financial incentives, partner- focused enablement programs and support for increasing global growth initiatives

AUSTIN, TEXAS – April 10, 2018 — Ziften, the leading provider of all-the-time visibility and control for client devices, servers, and cloud VMs, today announced a new channel partner program to enable resellers and distributors to deliver global endpoint and cloud security solutions to customers. The program, called the Ziften Activate Partner ProgramTM, is designed to empower the Ziften partner community, ensure that partners have the resources they need to successfully sell Ziften’s security solutions, while underscoring a commitment to joint business objectives—growing the customer base and increasing market share.

Also, the recent addition of Greg McCreight as Ziften’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Channel Sales highlights the company’s strong commitment to this program and the success of the partner network.

“The introduction of the Activate Partner Program highlights Ziften’s commitment to the channel and makes it easier for us to grow the business of our mutual channel partners, said Donald Scott, Sr. Manager Emerging Vendor Initiative, Advanced Solutions, Ingram Micro U.S. “As one of Ziften’s preferred distribution partners with specialization in IT security, Ingram Micro is uniquely positioned to work with Ziften to provide enablement and support for this growing partner network and bring more value to our customers.”

Having achieved strong market momentum with the launch of its Zenith security platform in February 2017 and announcing a strategic business and technology collaboration with Microsoft in November, the Activate Partner Program supports Ziften’s growth of a worldwide partner network.

Program benefits include incentives and resources, including access to innovative technology and expertise, offered with the Activate program to help partners increase their revenue in some of the industry’s fastest growing markets. The new program includes:

  • Rich financial incentives that encourage long-term reseller investment and reward on- going success. 
  • Market development assistance and funds available to drive incremental demand and lead generation. 
  • World-class, hands-on support from Ziften field sales, sales engineers, technical support, and marketing experts. 

“Ziften is 100% committed to building our channel partner relationships as a foundational component of our company’s growth, and this new partner program is a proof of that commitment,” said Greg McCreight, SVP of Worldwide Channels, Ziften. “The Activate Partner Program combines our successful security solutions, financial investments, and hands-on assistance to help partners create more opportunity and close more deals creating mutual growth.”

About Ziften:

Ziften delivers all-the-time visibility and control for any asset, anywhere - client devices, servers, and cloud VMs – whether on-network or remote; connected or not. Our unified systems and security operations (SysSecOps) platform empowers IT and security operations teams to quickly repair user impacting endpoint issues, reduce their overall risk posture, speed security threat response, and increase operations productivity. Ziften’s secure architecture delivers continuous, streaming endpoint monitoring and historical data collection for large and mid- sized enterprises, governments, and managed security service providers (MSSP). And Ziften helps extend the value of incumbent tools, and fill the gaps between fragmented, siloed systems.

Ziften Media Contact: 
Zonic Group Public Relations
Gregory Cross

Monday, April 09, 2018

Presenting "Weeding Your Client Garden" at SMB Techfest April 19th

I love SMB Techfest - and you can attend for free on me. Just head to

April 19th - Anaheim, CA

to get your free pass. Doesn't work in Chrome, so use another browser.

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Farmer Out Standing In His Field

I have long advocated weeding your client garden. That is, improving your business and profits by strategically firing specific clients. There are several pieces of this strategy. You can't just fire a bunch of clients.

For the first time ever, I am delivering a full-length presentation specifically on the topic of weeding your client garden. There are several different ways to do this, each designed to mold your clientele into the kind of companies you want to work with.

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I'm also doing three super-quick ten minute presentations on other topics.

If you haven't been to a Techfest, please do yourself a favor and join us April 19th in Anaheim - or online.

Lots more info at


Thursday, April 05, 2018

Lessons from PayPal's Working Capital Program

PayPal has a program called "Working Capital" that basically gives you a loan directly to your PayPal account based on your annual PayPal activity.

This is unique for a couple of reasons:

1) It does not affect your credit score since PayPal looks at your past history. They already know what your cash flow is and what you can afford.

2) Payments are automatically deducted from your regular sales. So you never have to actually make a payment. But every time you make a sale or receive money via PayPal, they take their payment.

I happen to do my credit card processing through PayPal, so I've got a steady cash flow going through their system already. I find their approach very appealing. Too many small businesses fall into the trap of taking whatever credit they're offered - at any price. Unfortunately, that often means credit cards with interest rates of 25-35%.

I'm not a fan of going into debt, but I decided to try the Working Capital program to see how it "really" worked and how painful it was. Here's my report.

The interest rate for me was 5.55% - which is excellent. In my opinion, credit card rates are absurdly high. At 20% and above, it is nearly impossible for people to pay them off. And, no matter how good you are with payments, there's also at least one time during the year where you end up paying that interest. If you let it slide, of course, then it compounds.

They don't call it an interest rate here, but an up-front "Loan Fee." The best part about it is that there is no compound interest. You pay your six percent (or whatever) up front. It's rolled into the load and that's it. Bottom line: No matter how slow you pay, you will never pay more more than this initial fee.

Note: The loan fee varies, depending on how much you pay back from each future sale. If you dedicate a larger percentage from each sale, you'll get a lower rate. Also, the size of the loan affects the fee.

I love that payments are automatic. You can choose the payback rate. So, if you commit to a 20% payback rate, your loan will take longer to pay back than if you commit to 30%, and you will pay a slightly higher loan origination fee.

Two things I have to say about the payback. First, you can't change it. Take this into consideration. You might think you'll just stick that money in the bank so you can use it little by little as needed. But if you spend all the money from the loan, the payback can seriously affect your cash flow.

Second, a quicker payback might be painful. I have plenty of money flowing through my account, but I can tell you that it was painful to see a $100 sale result in only $70 hitting my bank account. Payments are taken after PayPal's regular fees. Mine's about 2.9% for credit cards. So a $1,500 sales drop about $1,005 into my account. Ouch.

Do your own calculations here. Imagine you take a loan for $10,000 to buy equipment so you can make more sales. Cool. Now calculate how long it will take you to pay back about $11,000 by automatically paying 30% of all PayPal sales until the loan is paid. This could easily be several months with an effective 30% reduction in cash flow.

As I mentioned, I like this program and payback schedule. In large part, that's because the payback process is very straight forward - even if it's painful. Giving up 20-30% of your cash flow while only paying 5-6% fees keeps you in touch with your money and doesn't cost much.

To me that's way better than putting $10,000 on a credit card, making payments and paying 25-35% in interest, compounded month after month. The credit card might be better for your personal cash flow, but it's VERY expensive in the long run.

You have to pay back a certain percent every three months. So if your PayPal sales traffic doesn't automatically reach that payback amount, you will need to make additional payments. But note that there are no late fees or penalties. Of course I highly recommend that you only do this if you have a PayPal account with a high volume of sales.

Bottom Line: I loved this loan program. I would do it again. I probably will do it again. It's a very honest, straight forward, and simple way to get some working capital. About a thousand times better than using your credit cards to fund your business.

That's my two cents.

Check out PayPal Capital's FAQ Here:


Monday, April 02, 2018

Women of the Channel: On the Road - Tampa - Seattle - Austin

I got a note from Lindsay over at The Channel Co. about their events this year. Here's a "road show" I hadn't heard about. I've added this to the calendar I post in my weekly email (sign up here).

Women of the Channel: On the Road - Regional Summit Locations 

Here's their description of the event:

Leadership Development For Women Shaping The Channel’s Future

The Women of the Channel Leadership Summit is going on the road in 2018 with a series of regional summits designed for early and mid-career professionals along with those transitioning into new roles. An extension of The Channel Company’s highly successful Women of the Channel leadership conferences, these half-day gatherings will provide in-depth content focused on personal and professional development for those in management, sales, marketing, technology or operations.

Attendees will benefit from motivational and inspirational keynotes, peer networking and engaging executive spotlight sessions – all focused on helping them propel their careers. It is here where the IT channel’s future leaders can build lasting relationships and identify growth opportunities.

Space is limited. Register Today! 

Regional Summits’ Keynoter:

JJ DiGeronimo, President, Tech Savvy Women presents “Positioning For Future Impact”

Key Topics to be Explored:

  • Becoming an Effective Communicator
  • Working More Effectively With Executive Leaders
  • Tapping Into Your Internal Power to Maximize Growth
  • Understanding Today's Channel
  • Juggling Today's Deliverables & Strategies for the Future, While Contending With Resource Constraints
  • Professional & Personal Development

Why You Should Attend:

  • Hear from top female executives
  • Connect with your peers in the IT channel
  • Enhance your knowledge of channel trends and gain marketing insight
  • Learn best practices, leadership strategies and new career skills

Event Locations:

Tampa, FL: Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay on May 3

Seattle, WA: Seattle Marriott Bellevue on June 14

Austin, TX: JW Marriott Austin on August 16

Register Here:


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Perfect Project Management? Class Starts April 4th

Highly Successful Project Management

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

This course will cover the most important aspects of project management for small business. It is intended for computer consultants, VARs, and managed service providers. Whether you sell projects on a Time-and-Materials basis or flat fee, it is critical to manage them successfully. 

Successful projects are more than simply profitable. Successful projects make you look good. They make the client more productive and potentially more profitable. They help you build a positive relationship.

This course is intended for consultants who are new to project management as well as those who have been running projects for years and would like to take a serious step up to a the next level of professionalism and profitability.

This is an intensive webinar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.

Topics to be presented include:
  • Different kinds of project management; What’s best for this job?
  • Tools to Use for managing your projects
  • Documentation at all stages
    • Pre-Discovery Process
    • The Discovery Process
    • Documentation and Communication
    • After the Project
  • Checklists of all kinds
  • Project Planning, Quoting, and Selling
  • Why Projects Go Wrong
  • The Scope is Everything
  • Closed Loop Project Management
  • How an Ant Eats an Elephant
  • Managing Projects in Your PSA
  • Microsoft Project
  • Client Training
  • The Evaluation Process
  • Managing Time / Managing Employees
  • Outsourcing Options
  • Creating Repeatable, Successful Projects
  • Building an Action Plan that works

Overview of the Course
Week One:     Introduction / Setting the Stage
Week Two:     Project Planning, Quoting, Selling
Week Three:   Closed Loop Execution
Week Four:     Repeatable Success
Week Five:      Implementing Your PM Process

Includes five weeks of webinar classes 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.

Register Now

What is the Cloud 5 Pack?

For more than ten years, I've made most of my money on the Managed Services side of my business with a product called the

Cloud 5 Pack

If you've attended my 2017 SMB Roadshow or attended my 5-week online course with ChannelPro, then you have heard the details of the the Cloud 5 Pack.

I've also mentioned the Cloud 5 Pack and the formula I've used to leverage it into millions of dollars worth of sales. For example, this video review of the HP Microserver mentions the Cloud 5 Pack.

Again and again, folks talk about the Cloud 5 Pack . . . and get it wrong. So let me explain what it is.

First: The Cloud 5 Pack is not something I sell to consultants. It's a formula I use for creating a bundle of hugely profitable cloud services. So you can't buy the Cloud 5 Pack from me. But sometimes I offer training on how to create YOUR Cloud 5 Pack using my formula.

Second: This is not rocket science. If there's any "secret" sauce here, it boils down to
1. Create a bundle. Never break up the bundle. Sell other stuff in addition to the bundle (manage services, other cloud services, HIPAA compliance, telephones, signage, etc.)
2. Always sell managed services on top of the cloud services. I prefer to sell them for the same price. e.g., $299 for the Cloud 5 Pack and $299 for the managed services component.

Third: The five-pack refers to five user licenses. So, the bundle is a collection of vital services, sold for "Up to five users." You have seven employees? You buy two 5 Packs. Someone reading this says it will never work because clients don't wan't to pay for unused licenses. Bullshit. They do it every day. But Symantec (or some other large company) gets the money for the unused licenses instead of you.

Fourth: The goal is to bundle "The core technology that every company needs." This Cloud 5 Pack is not the only thing you sell. But it is the thing you can sell to every single client you have. For example, my bundle includes
- Storage and backup
- Hosted Exchange mailboxes
- Office licenses
- Anti-Virus
- Spam Filtering
- Remote monitoring and patch management
- Web site
- Technology Roadmap (quarterly business review)
- Quarterly onsite training

It's extremely important that you move away from single-user licenses. They keep you from making real money. And they keep you competing on price. The bundle is a unique offering. Yours will be different from mine. And sold in a 5-pack (or 10- or 20-pack), you can offer an awesome package at a very reasonable price.

I make just over 100% on the cloud services bundle. Then I add managed services for those five users. And the managed services is almost 100% profit. So the overall package has massive value for the end user client and huge profit for me.

I've been delivering this basic bundle (with a few changes) since 2008. I've literally sold millions of dollars worth of this very simple collection of cloud services. In fact, it gets more profitable every year. Just the storage component alone has gone down in price in the last year by about $17 per 5-pack. That doesn't sound like much, but remember the total price is only $299. So without raising rates, my profit jumped more than 5% on one component.

Virtually every question I get about selling this offering is based on fear. IT professionals come up with all kinds of reasons why a client would not buy it. But most of those questions exist only in the heads of the IT Pros. Clients never ask me about unused licenses. Clients never ask me about what happens to their old AV or their old Microsoft account. They don't care about that stuff.

ALL of the client questions are based on security and reliability. And every day there's a new story about how SMB is under attack by cyber criminals. And every year there's a new disaster that demonstrates that the cloud is the place to be.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what I'm selling. It is a bundle that allows me to promise the client essentially 100% uptime, a great price, and all the core technology they need to run their company.

Last year I did six-hour trainings on this, so I obviously can't spell out all the details in one blog post. But I hope you can reverse-engineer from here.

More than ever, I firmly believe that servers are already a thing of the past. You need to be selling only serverless architecture to your clients.

Take a stab at it. Create YOUR Cloud Five Pack. I'll bet the first client you talk to about it will ask to sign up right away.

Questions welcome.

- - - - -

Update: I did a lengthy webinar and answered LOTS of question about this. Replay is here.
- kp


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ten New Video Podcasts

Have you been following the SMB Community Podcasts?

This year I've made a commitment to produce a lot more of these. So far, I've added ten new interviews during 2018. One more will be posted in a few days.

Check out what we have so far at The format is a time-saving 30 minutes. Generally, we don't show slides or let people do PowerPoint presentations. This is a real interview. I plant the seeds and the guest talks about what they want.

I post the interviews as both an MP4 (uploaded to my YouTube channel) and MP3 formats. So if you just want to listen and go jogging, you can take it with you.

Here are the podcasts so far this year. Give a listen and don't forget to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Interview: Herman Pool / Vertical Axion

Dave Sobel on Future Trends (and More)

Michael Siggins – What’s New at ChannelPro?

We Held a Community Meeting . . .

Joshua Liberman: Selling Security

Jennifer Fields and Elizabeth Vanover – Executive Marketing Collective – on IT Marketing Strategies

Justin Esgar – ACES Conference 2018

James Kernan on Sales Coaching – and More!

Rayanne Buchianico – Welcome to Tax Season!

Josh Peterson – Managed Services in a Month Peer Groups!

RSS Feed


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Managed Services and Cloud Service - Killer Combo

Gotta say: I love the stuff we're doing on this year's SMB Roadshow.

We've only got FIVE shows left this Spring. So if you haven't signed up yet, now is a great time.

First, I cover a massive - but extremely important - topic: The 25 Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Running a Service Business. These are literally the rules I created in my own company. They are phrases and beliefs that summarize how a successful business works.

And I'll bet there are some real surprises in there.

I have tried to keep this presentation under two hours and I can't do it. Too many questions - and great audience participation. Plus - there are several slides that will pay for the cost of the seminar if you just follow that one piece of advice.

Second, I am working with Jennifer Fields and Elizabeth Vanover from Executive Marketing Collective ( to bring some great marketing information to the Roadshow.

Our overall theme is about moving to the future and living in the new world that's emerging so fast. If your marketing used to work and hasn't performed so well lately, you might want to look at some of the new tips and techniques available today.

Finally, I close with a presentation on merging Cloud Services and Managed Services to create the Killer Combo. Again, I am sold on the exponential nature of change in our world today. This topic has been super fun because huge changes are happening all the time. I update my slide deck after every show!

How do you adopt exponential change into your business today?

- - - - -

FAQs . . .

So, we get questions. Here are a few answers.

Q. Are there downloads?
A. Yes! Including slides, there are about 75 pages of downloads, including exercises and checklists.

Q. Is the seminar recorded?
A. Yes! We have audio recordings of the seminars - not video. In fact, some people like to listen to different cities. My material is a little different each time. And the Q&A is always different. So we'll post up several cities' recordings.

Q. If I signed up for one city, can I switch to another?
A. Yes! In fact, if you paid for one city, you can attend any other city at no additional charge. Not sure everyone needs that, but it's a "feature" we offer.

Q. If I sign up for a future city, can I access the downloads now?
A. Yes! When you sign up for any city, you'll receive information on accessing the attendee downloads page for the 2018 Roadshow. You will have access to all handouts, slides, and mp3 recordings.

Q. So do I have to show up?
A. No! You can treat this like a virtual seminar and I promise you'll still get your money's worth!

Q. I only see five more cities. Will you be adding cities?
A. That depends.

Let's be honest: It costs money to do this. I never sell from the front of the room. Or, for that matter, the back of the room. My goal is to give you value immediately.

But it needs to be worth my time. With airfare, hotel, meeting space, and (sometimes) a rental car, it can cost me $2,000 or more per city. So I need attendees.

I don't have any vendor sponsors and I don't endorse specific solutions in my presentations. But that independence means I also don't have vendor money.

So, on future shows: I will be adding shows in Boston and Long Beach in association with ChannelPro Network. And I will try to hold a year-ender seminar in Las Vegas because that worked pretty well.

As for other cities . . . I need to see how attendance shapes up. I've got airfare and hotels figured out for the next five cities. Then I'll take the Summer off and we'll see.

Bottom line for you: Sign Up NOW - that way, you won't miss this great show no matter what happens. Scheduled Cities:

- - - - -

On site registration is $259. Early registration is only $199. Register Today!


Thursday, March 15, 2018

WorldPay Releases 2018 Point of Sale Channel KPI Survey

I got a memo from my friend Jim Roddy over at WorldPay (Vantiv). They've released a three-part report on their annual 2018 Point of Sale Channel KPI Study. One more installment will be posted next week.

Here's what we have so far.

Part 1: Resellers report robust sales and profits in 2017, expect stronger 2018

Jim Roddy - WorldPay
A few interesting take-aways:

23% of respondents saw either flat or declining sales. This was a big improvement from the previous year’s study (37%).  experienced either flat or declining sales. Looking to the year ahead, the number of resellers and ISVs who expect their sales to decline in 2018 disappears almost completely (10% in 2017, less than 1% in 2018). So things are looking up!

Part 2: Resellers accelerate pace of recurring revenue transition

A few interesting take-aways:

About 42% of respondents have most mostly or completely to a recurring revenue model. Another 26% describe themselves as about half way there. All of them expect to dramatically increase recurring revenue as a proportion of their revenue in the year ahead.

Part 3: Resellers and developers share compensation, benefits data

A few interesting take-aways:

About 77% of POS resellers have very low employee turnover (10% or less), probably due in large part to the benefits they offer. Top benefits are:
  • Two or more weeks paid time off: 77.4%
  • Health insurance: 67.9%
  • Flexible work schedules: 50.9%
  • Dental insurance: 49.1%
  • Vision insurance: 43.4%

Less than ten percent of respondents offered no benefits. As Jim points out, you're going to have a tough time finding and keeping good people in this era of low unemployment if you don't offer good salaries and benefits.

Webinar on Key Performance Indicators

WorldPay is hosting a webinar on March 21st - “KPIs of Rich-and-Famous POS VARs and ISVs” - where they'll discuss the study in-depth and answer your questions about the state of the point of sale channel.

All webinar attendees will receive their own copy of the complete 2018 POS Channel KPI Study.
Register Here for the webinar.

. . .

and Thanks to Jim for the information.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Unbreakable Rules of PSA - Class Starts March 20th

The Unbreakable Rules of PSA

- IT Service Delivery in the 21st Century

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

Everyone needs a PSA - Professional Services Automation tool. But in addition to simply having a PSA, you need to set it up correctly and use it wisely.
Manuel Palachuk
In this course, you will learn how to double your value to clients and increase your profit with these powerful golden rules of PSA Service Ticket Systems.

Coach Manuel focuses on the direct connection between your service delivery system, the value you give your clients, and your profit, and how to maximize each. He also gives an overview of Agile Service Delivery, an emerging method you must learn to stay competitive.

Whether you’re a one-person shop or have fifty employees, to be consistently profitable, you must have guidelines for how to break down the work in an organized fashion and how you will communicate with the client along the way.

You don’t have to be an MSP or even use a PSA to work efficiently and be profitable, but you do need a system and a method. These "golden" rules can be the seed for your own system if you have none, or you can adopt them in whole to enrich your existing methods. Either way, this is your opportunity to take your service delivery and your profits to the next level.

The course includes a thorough discussion of the unbreakable rules of service tickets as well as covering quality communication with every client. It will be time well spent!

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!

Delivered by Manuel Palachuk, author and business coach.

Includes five weeks of webinar classes 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.

Register Now

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts on a New Community

So I've been thinking about creating a new online community. Actually, I've been thinking about it for years. But I wanted to make sure that I felt I had enough "stuff" to make it worthwhile.

I've always tried to fill a void. So I want to do more than just have a place to distribute information.

One of the things the SMB IT Community needs is a place where we can all gather as a community. There was a time when that place was the annual SMB Nation conference. But as the community has grown, that conference has faded and lots of other events have take its place.

Now, there's a conference for Robin Robins, a conference for Datto, a conference for ConnectWise, a conference for CompTIA, and lots of smaller conferences. Then there are events for ChannelPro, ASCII, The Channel Company, SMB TechFest, and others.

So we have plenty of conferences, in my opinion. BUT different people attend different events. I just attended TechFest, ASCII, and ChannelPro events back to back. All were excellent. And maybe twenty people attended two or three events. Otherwise, there was basically no overlap.

We need a place to meet as a community. Yes, there are places online. But there are 100 places to get together on Facebook or LinkedIn. There are ASCII email lists, but that's not the same as an interactive forum. There are forums on Reddit, but mostly not focused on this community.

I Use The Term Community because that's the thing we need the most.

There are new-ish groups all over the place with people who are just getting into this business. They don't know about the channel. They don't know about managed services. They don't know that there are LOTS of people willing to help them.

How could they? If you're just getting into this business, you probably think you're a "computer consultant." How could you know the terms managed service or channel?

We need a community to help people who are new to our profession. And, to be honest, part of the role of community is to help show them that this IS a profession and to show them some of the standards.

As I travel around, I meet so many great people. Over time, I get to know them. I learn about their families and friends. I can honestly say that some of my best friends are people I met in our community.

But I'm afraid the community has become fragmented and will continue to fall apart. We need something where everyone can come together and interact with one another. The goal would be to add something we can't get anywhere else - not replace something that's out there.

- - - - -

Here's what I'm thinking about.

A new online community with three levels. One is free, two are paid.

1) Free. Includes all the free stuff I give away, plus an index to everything I've ever produced. So if you want to find something, you can.

2) Paid content. Basically, this is everything I've ever produced. AND a commitment to continue posting new stuff month after month.

3) All that, plus an interactive community. We'll have forums, special internal-only webinars, community meetings, member-only training, and more.

As for the interactive forums . . . My head is exploding with ideas. We can have SIGs (special interest groups) for specialty and vertical technologies, sales, podcasting, tools, and pretty much whatever people are interested in. We could even have a buy-sell-trade board.

I really think this would be a great place for a group learning experience. For example, helping people learn to create client-facing videos and marketing material. And once the group went through the learning process together, we could hold competitions for the best products that came out of it.

. . .  Anyway . . . I've been thinking about this for years. And I think it's time to decide whether YOU would find it worthwhile. I put together a super quick survey. I would love your feedback on whether we should have just one offering or two or three. And, of course, what you consider to be a reasonable price.

Please give your feedback here:

Thank you !!!


Thursday, March 08, 2018

What Do You Need to Charge per Hour?

I've seen a number of posts on social media recently that mention hourly tech support rates well below $75/hr. I find that shocking for a competent technician. Of course no one calls themselves out and says, ". . . I'm a total noob and have no idea what I'm doing."

When I started my first technology consulting business in 1995 I set my rate at $100/hr. The reason for this was very simple. I thought it was large enough to be taken seriously as a professional.

I also thought it would make me a lot of money. After all, billing 40 hours/week at $100 was a very cool $4,000 per week. Times 50 weeks = $200,000! Sign me up! Of course that didn't happen.

Lesson One: If you bring $100 worth of value to a job, no one will bat an eye at paying $100/hr for labor.

Lesson Two: You never bill 40 hours per week. In fact, you're lucky to bill 20, especially when you start out.

Click to Enlarge
You may not charge for travel, so take travel hours out of the possible 40 hours in a week. You certainly don't charge for sales meetings, or for putting together quotes and proposals. So take that out. Meetings, planning, and time spent actually running your own business are all not billable to clients.

A really, really good technician working for someone else and doing most work remotely can often be 80% billable. That's 32 hours per week. 65% is much more common. That's 26 hours per week. Managers are frequently in the 40% billable range. Owners who do sales are frequently 20% billable or less.

The point is: You cannot bill 40 hours a week. Track it. Be rigorous and honest, and you'll see that you're lucky to hit 50%.

Now consider your hourly rate. See the chart.

The average income reported in the U.S. is about $75,000 per year. The green blocks add up to about $75-99,999 per year. As you can see, there are two simple ways to get yourself in a green cell: Bill more hours or charge more per hour.

Plot the number of hours your realistically bill in a week. If you're starting out and you're a sole proprietor, you are probably billing 20 hours or less. As you can see, you'll never reach $75K charging $50 or $60 per hour.

If you're charging less tha $75/hr, I want you spend a lot of time staring at these numbers and being honest with yourself. What do you really, really charge? How many hours do you really bill?

If you use QuickBooks, I encourage you to invoice every hour - even if it's free. You don't have to send zero-dollar invoices to clients, but it's pretty good P.R. if you do. But I want you to do this for yourself: Invoice every single hour. At whatever rate. If you give hours away, write that down as well. QuickBooks will allow you to enter five hours at zero dollars.

When you do this, you'll be able to run report / Sales by Item / Detail (or summary) and see exactly how many hours you invoiced, and the total income. Let's say you work 50 hours per week. You bill 25 at $75/hr. And you don't send bills for another 25 hours at $0/hr. Your effective billing rate is $37.50/hr.

But again, I bet you're not billing that. In fact, many people tell themselves they're doing great - until they run the actual numbers. It's much more likely that you have an occasional great job and a lot of weeks very really bad numbers.

The market is excellent for technicians and everyone in I.T. Services. Be honest: If you can't earn more than $100,000 in taxable income on your 1040 income form, STOP playing around in this industry and go get a job.

When you're ready to commit to a career as an individual consultant, you need to do a few things. First, charge enough to be taken seriously. Second, get yourself enough of an education to be worth at least $100/hr.

I welcome all the new people joining this industry. But please know that there are lots of people who have a lot of experience and charge more like $150-175/hr. Make yourself worth that, and charge those rates.

It's a lot easier than trying to squeeze out impossible hours at almost-impossible rates.

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BTW the other colored cells are as follows:
 Yellow = $100K - $124,999
 Blue = $125K - $149,999
 Orange = $150K - $174,999
 Gray = $175K - $199,999


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Five Week LIVE Cloud 5-Pack Formula Training Starts Thursday

In 2017 I literally traveled the world teaching my Cloud Strategies in dozens of cities across Europe, North America, and Australia. That was a wonderful experience. But I can reach more people over the Internet than I can in person.

So I got together with Mark Smith over at EH Media (parent company to ChannelPro Network) to put together my successful cloud training in a five-week live class. We have about 30 people signed up already - and we'd love to have you join us.

A couple weeks ago we held a live webinar to talk about cloud strategies. It went one hour and fifty-four minutes.  Mark and I answered answered 85 questions during the webinar. You can view the replay here: How I Built a 7-Figure Business Using the Cloud 5 Formula.

In case you missed it, we put the Q and A from those 85 questions into a Google doc. You can read it here:
Q and A from the Cloud 5 Workshop

The document is 22-pages long from one Q and A session!

- - - - -

Now, here's what you can do right now:

Sign up for my new, live, 5-Week course:

Making Money with the Cloud 5-Pack Formula!

Sign up now and get a bunch of great free bonuses! (see that page)

Class starts Thursday March 1st at 2pm EST. 

Sign Up Now

You can sign up here:

The course is designed to walk you through the exact process I used to build his 7-Figure MSP business selling Cloud Services, including:
  • What cloud services to bundle together
  • Where to buy them for maximum efficiency and margin
  • How to price and package them 
  • How to deliver them efficiently using your RMM
  • How to market and sell them And all the step-by-step checklists you need to build a successful cloud services business
One huge thing we learned from doing the webinar is that you have lots of questions! I will leave lots of time for questions in every class.

If you have questions, please contact me - soon.

All classes are recorded, so you can sign up after Thursday. But obviously, if you want to participate in live questions, you need to attend live.

Thank you as always for your support.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jennifer Fields, Elizabeth Vanover, and Richard Tubb join the SMB Roadshow

I am happy to announce some very special guest speakers on the SMB Roadshow. 

NOTE before you get the wrong impression. There will be ZERO selling at the SMB Roadshows. You are paying for education that change your business for the better. You are not paying to sit through sales pitches.

More info at

Here's the roundup:

  • Dallas, TX – March 6th - in conjunction with ChannelPro SMB Forum
    – Sign Up Now
  • Charleston, SC – March 23rd - Special Guests Jennifer Fields and Elizabeth Vanover from Executive Marketing Collective
    – Sign Up Now
  • Honolulu, HI – April 24th - Special Guest  Jennifer Fields from Executive Marketing Collective
    – Sign Up Now
  • Maui, HI – April 26th - Special Guest  Jennifer Fields from Executive Marketing Collective
    – Sign Up Now
  • Baltimore, MD – May 7th - in conjunction with ChannelPro SMB Forum
    – Sign Up Now
  • Denver, CO – May 11th - Special Guest  Elizabeth Vanover from Executive Marketing Collective
    – Sign Up Now

About These Folks . . .
Photo by Joshua Liberman

Jennifer Fields and Elizabeth Vanover have each been helping Managed Service Providers implement marketing campaigns for more than five years. In late 2017 they joined forces and founded the Executive Marketing Collective (EMC).

For more information on EMC, see my interview with Jennifer and Elizabeth on the SMB Community Podcast.

EMC focuses on a very cool perspective to marketing: Helping you to position yourself as an expert in your field. In addition to that, they offer a full set of services.

Richard Tubb is a long time coach from the UK who just happens to be available in early April, so I begged him to join me and he agreed. Richard and I also have a segment on the Frankly MSP podcast called What's Going On.

Richard also has an excellent blog at You'll find a link to Richard's blog in the blog roll on the right side of my blog.

I've been very lucky to visit Richard in the UK several times over the last few years. And I'm grateful to him for joining me here in the States!

As you can see, The SMB Roadshow for 2018 has some amazing content. Please join us!

I just finished polishing my first slide deck for the roadshow and have more that a dozen slides that will EACH save your or make you enough money to pay for the cost of admission.

Sign up today at