Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Challenges of Improving Your Team: Time and Money

Here's a challenge many larger MSPs have. Let me see if it rings true for you.

  • You want your entire team to understand the managed service business model.
  • You want to do some team building.
  • You want them to grow as a group, but also grow their understanding of their specific job, where it fits in the big picture, etc.

You want some training, but that requires requires two really big things. 1) It requires time off task. In other words, they have to take time away from their job  so they can get better at their job. That's a standard challenge everybody faces.

And, 2) It takes money. There are a lot of programs that seem to think that just because you have the "MSP" name, that you have essentially all the money in the world and you're willing to give it to them!

At Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, we understand what it actually takes to build a managed service business.

It starts with building a great team. 

Today, I want to talk to you about the benefits of a team membership with the Small Biz Thoughts technology community. (If you want to view the video version of this, go here.)

Time - The biggest thing is we have a program that allows you to work at your pace. It's like coaching light without the big expense. Trust me, if you want to do coaching and you want to pay a bunch of money, I will be happy to help you out.

Money But if what you need is to spend a reasonable amount of money and you want to be able to take your time. A one-year team membership right now is only $3,599. And that gets you up to 10 memberships in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community.

It gives you lots of access to free classes over at IT Service Provider University. And it allows you to work at your own pace. 

One of the real benefits of a team membership is that you get a little extra of my time. Several companies have gone through a program that we have where they sign up six eight or sometimes ten members of their staff to go through an entire class together at ITSPU.

And so they'll go through the class and then meet with me for an hour, have some deep dive discussion about how the class material fits within their specific job title. This is great because you have different levels of technicians, you have service managers, you have front office people, sales people. They all need to understand what's going on inside your managed service business, but they look at it from different angles, obviously.

So this allows your entire team to sit together, go through these classes together, talk to each other about it, go through that experience together.  

Best of all, you do all of this at a pace that doesn't take them out of their job for a week, or take them out of their job for three days in a row. 

This is a great price for improving your entire each. 

If you have a member who wants to go wild and take all the classes, they can do that. We had somebody do that last year. The boss bought a team membership, and one guy just said, "I'm taking everything." I think he took twenty of the twenty-five courses we offer. And he got certified in them, so he's got specialist certifications left and right.

Every once in a while, you get somebody who's super ambitious and has the time to do that, but not everybody does. So quite realistically, if you don't have time or you can't afford to have somebody out of the office for three or four days to go to a big conference in another part of the country, this is a great way to give them the education that they need and to do it together as a team, if you choose to.

You certainly don't have to do that.

It great to know that this small investment allows:

  • The salesperson can go take three or four classes on sales
  • The front office people can take three or four classes on front office (on finance and QuickBooks and so forth)
  • The technical people can take about twenty classes regarding their job
  • And the managers can take classes that are about leadership and strategy and running the service board

Everybody in your team can benefit from a team membership!

All it takes is a one-time commitment. And if you choose to renew in a year, the price is locked in for life. With this program, YOU get to manage the team memberships. For example, let's say you have twenty people in your business.

You pick the ten who you want to have access to the community and you manage that. You add people and remove them whenever you want. Six months, three months in, whatever, you can take these people out, add other people in. Then,  send the salespeople off to get training. Then you can switch them out and add in front office people go get training. Then you can focus on managers. Whatever you choose to do, you manage which people have access at any time.

We are not here to dig deep, deep, deep into your wallet, take all the money we can find, and leave you without help. Every single thing we do in the classes and at the community is designed around my motto:

Nothing happens by itself

You have to take action. 

That's why the classes have homework. That's why we are so focused on checklists, worksheets, calculators, and Excel spreadsheets. We want you to have tools that allow you to make changes today to improve your business.

It's great to have a grand scheme and a grand plan, and I want you to have those things. I want you to have a mission, vision, and values. I want you to go through that process, and I'll help you with that if you need it.

But you also need to improve every single process in your business - every day! And if every single thing works one percent better, and then one percent better, and one percent better, you literally can improve every single piece of your business, year after year after year.

I know that's a lot of grand promises, but I'm just telling you: Everybody who goes through this program has loved it. And we have people who are renewing time and again because their team still continues to improve and get value from their team's membership.

I got this note earlier this week from a Community Team member:

"Karl and his team absolutely understand how to run and scale an MSP.  The five-week classes on Service Board management and SOPs established a foundation to transform our service delivery.  Our group of technicians now function as a coherent team with everyone working from the same playbook.  We now talk about consistency of service in a way that simply wasn’t possible before we started working with Karl."

-- Greg Baker, CMA Augusta

And like everything Anything else that's out there, if you buy it and you don't use it, well, that's on you. But if you buy it and you dig in, I will help your team get absolutely amazing value from this.

The Investment - If you just had the classes, that would be 25 classes at $399 each. That's about $10,000 worth of value. Okay, great. Then you add 25 certifications at $200 each. That's almost $5,000 more. Then you add all of the books, all of the training all of the videos, everything inside the community, and the value just goes up and up and up.

I know for a fact is all of that is literally just a fire hose, and you cannot stick it in your mouth and turn it on. That is not going to work. (At least it won't have a good outcome.)

Bottom line: We've designed a program where you can take the time as you need it, as you are able to dedicate the time, and we only require a minimal amount of money because our hope is that you will get so much value out of it that you will renew again and again and again.

If you're ready to take your team to the next level, join my team membership, and I promise you, you will love it.

 If you have any questions, check out all of the Q&A at, or send us a note on that site. 

 I'm here to help you be as successful as possible in everything you do!

Learn More. Sign Up Today.


Friday, July 05, 2024

Salvador Dali and the Most Important Thing You Need to Know about Artificial Intelligence

 Not long ago, the Salvador Dali Museum announced a fun AI project. They fed all of Dali's written and recorded words, including audio and video from every source they could find, into a big "large language model" program and created a cool device: A lobster-shaped telephone that allows you to have a conversation with AI Dali.

Visitors to the museum can pick up the phone and ask anything they want. The voice of Dali then answers their question and proceeds to have an AI-generated conversation with them. The voice was trained on recordings of Dali, so the result both sounds like his voice and the content is drawn from his thoughts.

My first reaction is: Very Cool!

But some people get the description of this wrong. And as we see more projects like this with famous dead people, we need to be careful about how we describe it. 

This is not Salvador Dali. The answers one might get are not the answers Dali would give. They are in his "voice" and use phrases he might use. But the answers are not what Dali would say if he were here today. How do we know that? Read on.

You may have seen that the voice of Al Michaels will be used for the AI bot that will be commenting on the Summer Olympics. The NBC network has been very careful to walk the line. They try to be super clear that this is the voice of Al Michaels, but the words of generative AI. Going forward, as artificial intelligence and video/audio generation get better, we will see this kind of thing everywhere.

Note: You should never believe that having a conversation with the Dali phone is just like having a conversation with Salvador Dali. And watching "AI Al" Michaels will not be the same as having the real Al Michaels in the broadcast booth. 

The big difference is the human spark of creativity. An AI program might sound exactly like Salvador Dali, but it will always lack the one quality that leads one to talk to Dali: His genius. Dali became famous by using his artwork and commentary to show the world a different way of looking at itself. His artwork was his form of social commentary.

Dali passed away in 1989. Imagine all the commentary he might have about the Internet, smart phones, streaming media, digital artworks, pandemics, politics, . . . and generative AI creating artwork inspired by his creations. The best guess you can make about his commentary should be, "I have no idea what he'd say." He might love or hate where society has gone. He might approve or disapprove. But his actual response will be new, original, and unpredictable. 

The one area where AI excels is being predictable. So, you might be able to work hard enough to get an AI model to figure out how Dali might have reacted in the 1970's or 1950's. But it could never create the unique, inciteful, and unpredictable commentary that only the human Salvador Dali could come up with!

Keep this in mind when people are tempted to say, "It's just like talking to the real . . .."

-- -- -- 

For more information on the project, see this articles:




Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Core SOPs for Small IT Providers - Five Week Class starts July 2nd

Core Standard Operating Procedures for Small IT Providers – W501

Taught By: Karl W. Palachuk

- Five Tuesdays

- July 2 - July 30

- Register Now!

You're guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

- All classes are recorded

When I take on new coaching clients, they have many of the same issues over and over again. This is true of clients with $50 Million in revenue as well as those under $1 Million. 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?

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?

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
  • and more!

Course Outline:

Unit 1 Introduction and Organization of SOPs

Unit 2 Managing Time and Money

Unit 3 Service Delivery and the Service Board

Unit 4 Practical Operating Considerations

Unit 5 Putting It All Together

Delivered by Karl W. Palachuk, blogger and author of the very popular "SOP Friday" posts at

Includes five weeks of webinars with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor. All classes are recorded for download.

ITSP University Certification:

Meets Certification Requirements for:

  • Management
  • Service Manager
  • Technician

Register Now!

Only $399 

per person

-- -- --

Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community Members: Register for free or at a huge discount. See the Deals and Freebies forum for the code you need.

Members with annual subscription attend for FREE. Email the Community Concierge to get started.

Details at


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Dual Path to Your Exit Strategy

I've been involved in several discussions of KPIs recently. (And I hope you saw my big webinar on KPIs at

KPIs have become a big discussion topic in the SMB IT world over the last few years because of the frenzied activity around mergers and acquisitions. This has led to discussions focused specifically on a series of KPIs that are not necessarily related to running a good, solid, profitable company with a long-term view of success. But they are useful to companies with a bunch of money who are trying to find measures of profitability so they can filter the companies they might buy.

Last week, I spoke at a conference where I was asked to give my thoughts about exit strategies. But the intro was not about a variety of exit strategies. The session intro focused on buying an MSP business or selling your MSP business. And that led me to give some thoughts they were not looking for.

Truth: What it takes to run a healthy long-term business is NOT the same as what it takes to maximize the sales value of your business in the 12-24 months before you sell.

For years (decades), I have quoted the following line from George Sierchio: "Run your business as if you're going to sell it."

The theory behind that is that focusing on things like profit, contract renewals, excellent service, and a great culture are good for the long-term health of your business. And that's still true. But today, I would take a two-pronged approach to success.

You need to follow TWO tracks toward your business success. The first is the long-term, good, healthy way to run your business. Focus on that for years and for decades. Focus on that for as long as you need to build a great, well-run business.

The second track only applies to the one or two years before you sell. ONLY then should you explore what companies are looking for to filter through managed service businesses to see which ones they want to buy. There are two big reasons for this. First, many of those measure are useful for big money investors but are totally unrelated to running your business well. Really!!! 

Second, unless you're going to sell your business in the next three years, the chances are excellent that these targets will change. As a rule, the people who are buying businesses want to spend the least amount of money to buy companies that will make the largest amount of money. They will lie to your face and tell you that they have a long-term interest in your company. But they will start changing things and extracting revenue as soon as they can after the sale is complete. So, as time goes on, they will change the filters they are looking for in order to maximize their return.

I know that nobody wants to hear this message, but I promise you that it's true. 

Let's say you're in business for thirty years. For the first twenty-eight years, you need to focus on building a great, sustainable, profitable, reproducible service business with a great culture. That's the only game to play until you're ready to sell.

If you plan to merge with a friend, sell to your service manager, let one partner buy out the rest, sell your client list, or other "friendly" exit strategies, then you never need to change the way you operate. Just keep doing what you do.

Finally, if you plan to sell to strangers or well-funded companies who are gobbling up MSP businesses, then you need to re-focus on the measures that matter to them. For many of these measures, there is ZERO connection to a well-run business. The goal is simply to meet whatever metrics someone came up with to compare a bunch of companies they might buy. And what they're looking for today may not be what they will be looking for next year or the year after.

That's why I say to follow the long-term strategy until you really are ready to switch to your end-game. Run you company well, with a great culture and great profit, for as long as you can. Only spend time measuring things that don't build long-term success when you no longer need to focus on the long term.

I welcome your feedback.

-- -- -- 

If you haven't seen my webinar on KPIs, today's a good day. I'm not selling you anything.


Monday, June 03, 2024

Avoid the AI Hustle!

One of the phrases that typifies the last few years is "Hustle." 

You know. What's your main hustle? What's you're side hustle? For a real taste of how this term has evolved, head to YouTube and enter the search term Side Hustle. You'll find a million ways to not get rich! Titles include:

  • 7 Side Hustles Students Can Start In 2024
  • Side Hustles: Ideas to Make $1000 Per Month in 2024
  • Best Side Hustle Jobs of 2024 - Make $500 or More This Week
  • The New AI Side Hustle That's Making $1,579+/Day
  • Top 11 Side Hustles of 2024 
  • 6 Realistic Side Hustles You Can Do Remotely in 2024
  • The 7 BEST Side Hustles That Make $100+ Per day
  • 7 Side Hustles for Beginners
  • 3 Side Hustle Ideas To Make $500/Day 
  • Most Underrated Side Hustle Of 2024 
  • 5 Side Hustles For Anyone Over 40 (Keep Your 9 to 5 Job)
  • The BEST Side Hustle For Christian Women

And that's the key to understanding this trend. A "hustle" won't build wealth. While you're promised $1,000 a day doing almost nothing . . . the truth is a lot closer to nothing. In many cases, someone is earning real money. But, as with all hustles, that's one in a million. And they're probably making their money on ad clicks while showing you how to get rich quick.

People have always been tempted to act like sitcom characters - constantly looking for a shortcut to get rich without working hard, or by gaming the system. Today, Artificial Intelligence has become just another excuse for some people to work harder at gaming the system than they would work by simply going to work every day and doing some work!

As I pointed out in my recent webinar on AI, if you use AI as a tool to improve some part of your work, you might be more successful. If you use it to replace yourself so you can work less (or not at all), you will fail. 

One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic was the wide acceptance of remote work and the ability to send much work off to "the cloud" or outsourced services. Many of us in IT have been doing these things for two decades or more. But we could never get our clients to really dig into remote work until they were forced to.

As with all fads, there's a cycle that John P. Sisk labeled "Intoxication and Hangover." Folks who are eagerly seeking low-work and no-work hustles are in the intoxication phase. Stay tuned for the inevitable hangover.

And if you want to make it through this fad successfully, today's a great day to double-down on working on the skills that you know bring success to your job!


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Three Kinds of Knowledge / Three Kinds of Training

Business Training, Technical Training, and . . .

A few weeks ago, I posted a note in my Small Biz Thoughts newsletter that got a huge response. You never know what will hit home for people.

I've been in the "training" business for a long time. Way back at the beginning, I decided to focus on business training rather than technical training. This blog has been 99% business focused from day one (in 2006). 

The training we think about in IT tends to be either focused on specific technologies or on business processes. Technical training often comes from, or is approved by, makers of hardware and software. And, if a product is popular enough, third parties provide training as well.

Business focused training tends to be provided by authors and coaches. I offer these services, as do my friends James Kernan, Rayanne Buchianico, and many others. And while these sometimes focus on getting the most from a tool or program, the focus is mostly on the processes that make businesses successful.

The third kind of training is harder to teach. It's all about the details of HOW you do what you do. It's about the care and attention you bring to a job. Let me give an example.

One time, I had a technician who has to be described as a technical genius. I'll call him Emil because I've never had a tech with that name. He could be sent on any job and he'd figure it out. Hardware, software, and even some coding. He was a fast learner and a fast worker. He saw the heart of a problem faster than anyone. And he fixed things right the first time. When he walked away, everything just worked.

But Emil lacked an important skill that eventually led to him seeking happiness with another company: He did not take a professional approach to his work. He would install a brand new rack of brand new equipment and it would look messy and horrible. No thought was given to the order of items in the rack. The wiring always looked like the "before" picture of a meme.

Emil took no pride in his work product. He took pride in his technical prowess, speed, and accuracy. But if the job looked ugly and amateurish, he did not care. To him, these aesthetic elements were irrelevant.

If Emil was a mechanic, there would be grease on the car seats and greasy fingerprints all over the fenders. If he was an electrician, you'd find gaps between the light switch and the hole in the wall. No attention to detail, no pride in workmanship, and no appreciation for the little things.

I'm not sure what you call the training that results in appreciating the details and doing things well. All professions have this training, but it's rarely separate from other training or offered stand-alone. It's built into the "little tips" you get along the way. It's what professionals do.

One time, Emil went to an important client's office to install a new piece of (expensive) equipment. When he left, we got a call that basically amounted to, "I never want him in my office again." Everything worked perfectly. Technically, it was correct. But it was ugly. He had not put attention on how the job looked when it was done. Obviously, we sent out another tech to clean up after the technical genius.

Aesthetics matter. Pride in work matters. The little things matter.

Some people think I'm a control freak (I really am not) because I have an SOP (standard operating procedure) for everything. But all those little SOPs matter because the little things matter. For example, as soon as I discovered white network cables, that what we put in client offices. Unless they wanted a technical "look" - which few did. Most offices have white and off-white walls. Why should their professional office be messed up with ugly blue or gray cables?

Similarly, I prefer Velcro over zip ties for one important reason: Something's going to change. A wire will be removed. A wire will be added. With zip ties, the result will either be ugly or involve a massive amount of rework.

The point is: YOU have a long list of these "little things" that you train your technicians on. None of them make the network work faster. But they give the technician pride in work while keeping the client from seeing your messiness every day at work.

Your brand is represented in everything you do - including the little things.

When a client invests in your company, they deserve a job that looks professional. When you spend money, you want to take pride in the result. So do your clients. And, as a rule, we expect more-senior technicians to do a better job of this than less-senior technicians.

Where does this third kind of training come from (whatever it's called)? It comes from the apprenticeship process - even when there's no formal apprentice program. It comes from the never-ending commentary of senior techs saying, "Pick up after yourself," or giving tips about how we do things around here.

And it comes from taking pride in your work! Ultimately it comes from a belief that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things . . . and WE do things the right way.

What do you say when you see greasy fingerprints on the fender or misaligned switch covers? You probably say, "Well, that's what I get for hiring an amateur." (Or saving money.) No client should ever have this reaction to work done by your company!

Bottom line: You need to make attention to the "small stuff" part of your company culture. If you do it right, the client may never notice. But if you do it wrong, they definitely will. And, ultimately, doing it right the first time needs to be part of your branding. Let the competition be known for rework and low quality.

-- -- -- 

A version of this article was previously published in my Small Biz Thoughts newsletter. If you're not seeing it every week on Mondays, you should.

Note: 1) We NEVER sell, rent, or loan your email address. 2) We use Constant Contact to manage our newsletter email, so you are in control. We cannot re-add you if you remove yourself. 3) This newsletter goes out once per week. About once a month there's an additional email regarding our next five-week training. About two or three times a year, there might be an additional email.

Please subscribe. We think you'll be pleased, along with 10,000 of your fellow IT consultants.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Most Important Checklists for Any IT Service Provider - Class starts May 28th

The Most Important Checklists for Any IT Service Provider – W508

Taught By: Karl W. Palachuk & Manuel Palachuk

- Five Tuesdays 

- May 28 - June 25

-- Register Now

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern

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 IT consulting businesses.

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.

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.

Only $399

Register Now

Week by Week Overview of the Course

  • Week 1: What is a Checklist / Sample: Daily Backup Monitoring and Maintenance
  • Week 2: The Pre-Discovery Checklist / Discovery Process
  • Week 3: Employee Hiring Process / Exit Process
  • Week 4: New Client On-boarding / Client Off-boarding / Quarterly Client Roadmap
  • Week 5:  Monthly Maintenance Checklist / New PC Checklist

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
  • The Big Pre-Discovery Checklist
  • Troubleshooting and Repair Log
  • Time Stamp Version Standards

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

Only $399

per student

Register Today!

Remember: Members of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community receive huge discounts. More details at - or email the Community Manager.


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Join Me at ChannelPro Live - Columbus - June 5-6

I am honored to be presenting a couple of times at the ChannelPro Live event in Columbus, OH next month. Please join me there, if you can.

AND I'm very pleased to say that the good folks at ChannelPro have invited the entire board of directors of the National Society of IT Service Providers to meet there and hold our first in-person board meeting and team building event.

ChannelPro events are always filled with great information and networking. Please plan to join us if you can. 

ChannelPro LIVE: Columbus
June 5-6
Hyatt Regency Columbus

Register now at

Secure your spot with promo code “NSITSP” when you register.

100% free for qualified channel partners, ChannelPro’s vibrant regional events feature hours of networking time, exclusive vendor demos and deals, dining and entertainment, and masterclasses presented by renowned channel experts on topics integral to MSP success.  

I will be attending to present on how to effectively market MSP professionalism. You can review the full agenda here -

Event passes, access to all sessions, dining and prizes is 100% free for qualified channel partners—simply register with promo code “NSITSP”. PLUS, if you book your hotel room directly through the registration page, ChannelPro will reimburse the full cost of your stay for the night of June 5. If you can only make it to the main day on June 6—that's not a problem at all.  

I really hope you can make it on June 5-6—I think it’s going to be a fun and educational experience for you.

Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks,  

- Karl  P.


Note: ChannelPro is a valued support and vendor partner of the NSITSP - The National Society of IT Service Providers. You can learn more at

Friday, May 10, 2024

Why don't people know WHY their job exists?

Because KPIs teach them to value the wrong thing !!!

More and more, I have come to believe that there's one fundamental reason for almost all bad service: People do not know why their job exists.

How is that possible? Well, it's surprisingly easy. People apply for jobs based on some specific "requirements" that get them in the door. Requirements are not job descriptions. Requirements do not reflect mission, vision, and values.

More importantly, requirements to GET a job are frequently unrelated to providing great service. That's normal. For example, you might need a vendor certification (e.g., Cisco firewalls) in order to get hired on at a new company. But the skills you need every day are general troubleshooting, client communications, and attention to detail. Your cert gets you an interview. It's not related to your job.

BUT the problem is much bigger than that. 

How do companies measure performance? Answer: Horribly!

As a rule, companies FAIL to tell employees why their job exists. They are given tasks, not reasons. And while good client communication is important, what gets measured? Time on tickets. Time to close. Response time. Upselling services. 

In other words, employees have KPIs (so-call "Key" Performance Indicators) thrown in their face every day. Ticket close times are posted on dashboards. Sometimes, close rates are posted on the wall. Sometimes, everyone's performance is compared to everyone else on a big spreadsheet.

Employees are told every week, every day, and every hour that they're being measured on the big red or green number on their dashboard. They're not being measured on actual service. They're not measured on contributing to a positive culture. They're not being measured on whether they're team players. 

In fact, when they have to compete with their friends, who wants to do anything for the so-called team? It's far more likely that they see employees as one team and the company as the other. They are alienated from pride in their own work.

... And then there's an annual performance review. 

Once a year, someone judges them on morale and communications and being a team player. But every day they've been judged on arbitrary targets that have a very questionable connection to actual service delivery.

People can be forgiven for not knowing why their job exists. They're too focused on KPIs that someone needs to measure because someone else told them they should. In reality, no one can really explain why those KPIs exist, except as a way to compare companies. On measures that are unrelated to actual service delivery.

It's worth spending some time with your employees. Ask the very simple question: Why do you think your job exists? Why is this question important? Because it gets to the root of what the company actually needs from the employee. And it helps the employee understand where their job fits in the bigger picture.

For more perspective on KPIs, what to measure, and what not to measure, check out this recorded webinar: Free. No sales. Really.


Sunday, May 05, 2024

Scoundrels in the Workplace - Employees and Employers

Over Employment is is the opposite of over-working!

In the pandemic era (2020-2022), there was lots of talk about whether remote work was going to be permanent. I always held the opinion that some people would stay remote because bosses learned what's possible - and how to manage people remotely. But I also believed that most people would go back to the office for a variety of reasons.

And, overall, most of the people in the world would finally get a realistic introduction to remote work. In the world of tech, many of us have done some remote work for thirty years. And all of us have been able to do 90% of our jobs remotely for at least fifteen years.

For me, the most unanticipated trend to emerge from the remote work movement was the emergence of a new generation of scoundrels in the workplace. For a taste of this, see the site or just Google "over employment."

Over employment is basically taking two or more fulltime jobs. That's the basic description without commentary. Once I start to add my thoughts to the mix, I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this is ethical.

Note: This is NOT a discussion of contractors who take on multiple fractional engagements. This is not holding down two or more part-time jobs. These folks collect fulltime salaries from employers for multiple fulltime jobs. If the jobs actually require fulltime work, then I believe these folks are thieves. The most generous thing you can say about them is that they are giving one or more employers less than a good fulltime effort.

If you've already put in forty hours with another company, and then you want to put in another forty hours, that second forty hour block is going to be far less effective, creative, or productive. If you add a third forty-hour job, then it's probably the case that no one is getting their money's worth.

If your response is, "It's the employer's fault for making it possible for me to take their money and give them little or no work in return," you have seriously flawed ethical standards. 

In fact, if you read through the web sites dedicated to this concept, you'll find stories about over-working, massive stress, and schemes to get away with something that everyone agrees is wrong. BUT, they're "sticking it to the man," so it's okay. The overall theme is, "do whatever it takes to get the money, but do as little productive work as possible." In other words, massive effort can be expelled to log into multiple sites, keep your mouse moving to trick tracking systems, and generate random emails from appropriate addresses all day long. Just don't do anything you're being paid for.

Like all other trends where someone's getting rich, there are a few people earning $750,000 or more holding down multiple jobs and doing little or no actual work. Their strategy is to just cash checks until they get fired, then move on to the next fake job.

Most people can't (and don't want to) work this hard at stealing money from nameless, faceless employers. But it does raise the question: Is this just a big pay-back for bad bosses over the years? Is all of this made possible because there are lots and lots of horrible bosses?

I'm afraid the answer is YES. Many of the people who read this blog became independent consultants because of horrible bosses. In fact, horrible, immoral bosses who care more about money and their own bonuses than they ever did about their team or company culture are everywhere.

Looking Forward: Do What's Right

None of us can change the past. But we all control how we will behave in the future.

Luckily for my readers, this is really a problem for large businesses. If you only have ten or twenty employees, you probably work closely enough to know whether or not you're getting value for what you pay. And, to be honest, your culture is still something you can control from the top down every day. If you have a slacker giving 20% effort, that's really your fault.

BUT, we operate in a world where this behavior exists and is growing. Eventually, those scoundrels will become victims to the pyramid in which they are currently a a brick in the wall. When that happens, they'll come looking for a real job. Most of them have enough technical skills to get an entry level tech job, fake up their resume, and interview well. But their "work ethic" has been completely focused on pretending to work. 

These folks might learn to be good, hard workers. But you can't guarantee that. Here's what you need to do going forward. (Note, most of this is common sense, old advice that you've been ignoring for years. Now you have to actually do it.)

1. Verify resume information. Ask for and verify references.

2. Ask for and verify transcripts or proof of training.

3. Give applicants simple, reasonable skills tests. Ideally, this will be in your office so you can monitor.

4. Sign employment contracts that state the number of hours expected, along with job requirements.

5. Keep your employees engaged with good culture, decent pay, and a great work place.

Please do not go down the road of the big, faceless corporations that caused this problem in the first place. That means, do not monitor their email, their camera, their mouse movement, and so forth. Yes, there are tools to spy on your employees. But if you use them, you will create a layer of expense that only serves the purpose of alienating your workers.

For the most part, we want to believe we are exempt from these problems in small business. But doesn't that sound like the client who says that they're too small to be victims of a phishing attack? 

The world of employment has changed. And whether you like it or not, this affects your business. You are now hiring in this environment and these folks are out there. Luckily, the steps you need to take are simple and inexpensive. 

And they're just plain good business, too. Luckily, most works take pride in their work and gain fulfillment from a job well done. This is particularly true in companies with a good culture and a long-term view of the future.

-- -- -- 

Have you experienced the effects of "over employment" or something similar? I'd love to hear about it.

Additional Related Material

We covered this a bit (ten minutes) on the Killing It Podcast: 
(Overworking topic begins at the five minute mark.)

I did a Relax Focus Succeed video about a recent Internet blow-up regarding employees and employers. Basically, it's a conversation about how people should go into the marketplace whether looking for a job or looking for an employee.

My main point there is that we should start from a place of honesty. But, obviously, that's a complicated thing. See