Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Lessons of Interviewing

Sorry for the long delay in posting. Busy busy busy.

One of my rules of life is that I reduce stress by simply keeping my to-do list short. That sounds a lot easier than it is. I make a concerted effort to drop things off my list. This blog post got dropped for quite a while.

Now I have 48 hours before I leave town again, so I thought I'd post a quickie.

The Lessons of Interviewing

Just before the MS WWPC, I had the opportunity to interview someone for a service manager position. I started with a phone interview (just long enough to decide with the face-to-face was worthwhile). Then my current s.m. and I met the dude for lunch. In the process I came face to face with one of the aspects of my business that I had taken for granted.

On the phone I mentioned that this was a fulltime, 40-45 hour a week job. With rare exceptions, we don't work evenings, weekends, or overtime. The would-be manager was unsure about this. He said something to the effect of "Yeah. But you'll put somebody on salary so you can work them more." I said no, we really don't do that.

At the lunch meeting I was there on time and my s.m. was late (this gives me time alone face to face, and gives Manuel time alone when I leave). Candidate asked me how we schedule technicians since we never know what's going to come up on a given day. I explained that most of our work is scheduled and that very little "comes up" unexpectedly. I also explained that everyone works scheduled hours. He really didn't believe me.

"How can you schedule work," he asked "when you don't know what will go wrong?" I explained that our business wasn't built around what will go wrong. Virtually all customer requests are non-urgent. So while it might be nice to run out and take care of something quickly, that's more expensive than scheduling tasks and working according to a schedule.

After I left the meeting, Manuel reported that he was probed about overtime again. This guy just didn't believe that we knocked off at 5PM and spent time with our families.

The whole experience made me realize that we really are different.

We really do value balance between work and life.

And many businesses don't.

If your business is unbalanced -- and therefore your life is unbalanced -- you can't pull a switch next Monday morning and bring balance. You can't work on work and achieve balance. Similarly, you can't go on vacation and work at playing to achieve balance.

If you want balance, you have to work at balance. It's difficult. Sometimes it's very difficult. But you approach it like everything else:
- Make balance a priority
- Set aside time to think about it
- Consider how you can change things to achieve it
- Decide how you will measure success
- Evaluate, revise the plan, and do it again

Planned, organized work is less stressful, more productive, and more profitable. Don't make the argument that you're too busy mopping the floor to fix the roof.

Beginning is the easiest thing in the world. Just start telling people that you're going to start putting more balance into your life and your business. Start today. Soon these people will begin holding you accountable by asking you whether specific activities bring value to your business.

Let's be honest. You've probably tried it the un-balanced way. Give balance a chance.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More Small Business Symposium Planning

Meanwhile, over in the Managed Services tent, Amy Luby, Chris Rue, and I are working with Christopher Goebel from Microsoft on a couple of Panels.

Amy, Chris, Chris, and I going to present some ideas from our own experiences with Managed Services, along with a question and answer period. I believe we're doing the show twice. July 10th at the Small Biz Symposium in Boston.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out for all the details.

I think the billing for the event will go something like this:
"Dramatically increase your utilization and profitability while increasing and retaining your customer base by offering proactive IT monitoring and management services." We make no promises about losing weight or better mileage. Other than that, we got it all.

The session will cover:
  • How to get started
  • How to position to customers, and structure the right service levels and corresponding billing considerations
  • Personnel consideration and staffing up
  • Tips, Tricks and Tools of the trade

Amy, Chris, and I all started out with different approaches to this business. So we each have a little different spin on how to get started and what to do with Managed Services.

Join us for a good time!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Queenie Spills the Beans: Big plans for Small Biz Symposium

Everyone's gearing up for the big Small Business Symposium at the Intergalactic Partner Conference.

Queenie dropped me a line. We exchanged a few notes about our schedules for the big Small Business Symposium on July 10th in Boston.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out for all the details. This spectacular event is all about--and all for--the Small Business Specialist community. So here's the skinny:

This is a brief outline of some of what Susanne and her crowd are presenting:

  • How and what the UK & Irish community is
  • Successes so far from the UK & Irish community (impressive growth, case studies from partners)
  • Vendor relationships (with HP, MS, CA etc and how we can lobby them to build better relationships with us)
  • Worldwide successes (video example of Nick Pieters and quotes from partners across the globe about their positive experiences from the community) as well as my view on what works and what doesn’t and why we are a strong network
  • Where to go and how to join (SMB Nation, blogs, forums, events, etc)
The take-aways from this session are:
  1. Why the community works and how it benefits everyone who is involved (both from a business and personal point of view)
  2. How partnering with vendors and joining programmes such as the Small Business Specialist Programme improve business practice
  3. Where to start to look (websites, forums, blogs, events, WWPC!)
Susanne Dansey will be presenting along with Tom Crosbie (Crosbie IT, East & West Midlands Partner Group) and Mark Taylor (Chorus IT, West of England Group).

And if Amsterdam, London, and Midlands taught me anything, they taught me this: You can look forward to a GREAT discussion that will be useful to all SBSC's, no matter what continent you're from.

Queenie says 2 PM on Business Skills Track 2