Monday, June 30, 2008

Muscles of Success: Do Your Billing

Today is the last day of June. Time to do end of month billing.

It is also the fifth Monday in June. Yee-ha.

If you do invoicing every week, do your invoicing today. Do not procrastinate. Do not delay. Do not forget.

There are a handful of habits that can make a real difference in your business. One of them -- which seems to be troublesome for many people -- is getting the billing out on time.

If you do your invoicing on time today, those charges will be in this month, this quarter, this half of the year. If you do the invoicing tomorrow, they'll be in next month, next quarter, and the next half of the year.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who "forget" to bill their clients. They focus on working very, very hard to please their clients. And then they do one of two things to throw their money away.

1) They don't keep track of their time. "Oh, I think I was out there at least an hour." Or two. Once you start tracking your time religiously, you'll make more money. I promise.

2) They don't bill for their time. If you bill for all your time, it is impossible to imagine that some people don't. It's not important to them. They're too busy. They don't like that side of the business. If you're going to be IN business, billing for your services is the only "side" of business that really matters.

I've talked to many consultants over the years who readily admit that they forget to bill clients.

At one point, we subcontracted with a consultant -- a Microsoft MVP -- who did work for us in another city. He was very sharp, understood the project, completed the work in a timely manner. He came up with some excellent solutions when the network had problems. He was fast. He even drove sixty miles to do the job.

But he never sent us a bill. Ever.

I asked him for an invoice again and again and again.

Eventually, we stopped working with him and called another technician. The other technician was not as smart, not as clever, and not as fast. But he did a good job.

And he billed us for his time. That made him accountable to us and allowed us to be accountable to our client.

- - - - -

I love my job. I like helping people. I like working with people. I like computers. I like solving problems.

I don't like paperwork, but it makes the rest of my enjoyable life possible.

Billing for your work is approximately the highest priority activity in your business. Take it seriously. Schedule it. Do it.

If you're one of those people with notes in your PDA, outlook, scraps of paper, etc., then resolve to stop behaving like an amateur and take a big step toward professionalism. Today.

One of the key reasons that Autotask and ConnectWise are in business is that they help you track your time. Every minute from 8AM to 5PM. If you just billed for all the work you do, you'd see a big jump in your income.

Start today.

So you can finish the quarter on an "up" note and start the next quarter making more money immediately.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Amazing Matt Makowicz Sale!

Happy Friday.

Well, Matt tells me that his new book -- A Guide to Marketing Managed Services will be in our hot little hands next week. It's due out July 4th -- just in time for the big American Independence Day.

So we're combining the celebrations and having a Matt Makowicz / Independence Day Sale!

Here's the basic outline:

Now through July 4th, 2008 . . .

All orders $100-$199 receive $10 off.

All orders $200-$299 receive $20 off.

All orders $300-$399 receive $30 off.

All orders $400-$499 receive $40 off.

PLUS all orders $300 or more receive free standard shipping.

If you want to place an order over $500, email me and we'll talk.

Bonus Notes:

These price are in addition to any bundle prices offered already. They are in addition to discounts that already exist.

This is a great opportunity to get together with your user group, put together an order, and ship it all for free to one location.

We don't ship again until Monday, but if you hurry, you'll have a box of great books to read at the old family BBQ!

- - - - -

Of course, there's a Super Duper Deal if you buy both of Matt's Books. Not $200. Not our regular $180 for both. Even with the introductory price, you'd expect to spend at least $160.

During this sale, you can buy both of Matt's Books for one low price of $149.95.

And that puts you over the $100 mark, so you'll get an instant credit $10!

That makes the bundle only $139.95.

And that makes it a great holiday!

- - - - -

Hurry before my wife finds out and the sale ends early!

Who You Callin' Upidstay?

Thank you to the 247,000 people who reminded me of one of the great lines from The Lion King:

"Ixnay on the Upidstay."

"Who you callin' Upidstay?"

Special Editions - Part One

Thank you, all, for your feedback on programming.

We have added two special SMB Conference Calls to the agenda.

I have tried to keep the conference call to the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

But for July we're going to add another Wednesday at the regular time - 9AM on July 9th.

It is important to hear from Amy Luby because the MSP Revolution Conference is different from any other national conference this year. It really is a bootcamp. Erick Simpson will be teaching some classes. I will be teaching some classes. The weekend will be an extended step-by-step guide to rebuilding your business from the ground up.

As people worry about interest rates, mortgage fallout, inflation, and longer sales cycles, there's no better time to take stock of your business and determine what you should be doing in the years ahead.

Join Amy Luby and me as we explore what's ahead for SMB Consultants.

- - - - -

We're also adding a Special Edition show on Thursday, July 24th at 4 PM Pacific / 7 PM Eastern / 9AM Sidney / 00:00 GMT.

With apologies to the folks in the UK and Europe, we needed to find a compromise time when both Mathew Dickerson and I will be awake, alert, and enthusiastic.

Mathew is the author of SLAM: Service Level Agreement Model, which has become a very popular book. With essentially zero advertising, this book is flying off the shelves.

We'll talk about the SLAM model, and what makes it different from other options that are out there.

- - - - -

We'll add another Australian-focused special edition if this one goes over well.

Again, thanks to everyone who jumped in with suggestions. Now please commit to listening to these broadcasts!

You can always find the latest info at the SMB Conference Call page.

I'll be posting a complete, updated calendar of events for the rest of the year in my weekly SMB email on Monday. You can subscribe to that between now and Monday at the Great Little Book website.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Cell Phone Law: Don't Be Stupid

Beginning July 1, drivers must use a hands free set in order to talk on a cell phone while driving in California.

I'm of a mixed mind on this issue.

On one hand, the real issue has nothing to do with cell phones. On the other hand, reducing distractions while driving is a good thing.

The latest research (Public Policy Institute of California, University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center) shows a couple of interesting things.

First, hands-free requirements had zero effect on accidents except in bad road conditions.

Second, other research in Canada and Australia showed that cell phone usage did affect accident rates -- whether the driver used a hands free device or not.

The issue is not the cell phone. The issue is distractions.

On July 1, we will still be able to do the following while driving:

  • Dial the cell phone!!!!! Eyes off road during this activity.
  • Punch an address into the navigation system
  • Eat Chinese food (with chop sticks)
  • Adjust the radio
  • Read books, magazines, etc.
  • Put on make-up
  • Shave -- Electric, please
  • Review stock ticker on the satellite radio
  • Tend to the baby
  • Hold a dog on our lap
  • Reach for objects on the passenger seat
  • Look for junk in the glove box
  • Change CDs, remove the old, find the new, etc.
  • Drink coffee
  • Read printed maps
  • Watch videos
  • Check data feeds on the PDA/smart phone
  • Drive like a crazed lunatic who must change four lanes at once
  • Curl our eyelashes
  • Change clothes
  • Drive while tired
  • Operate a laptop on the seat next to us
  • and More!

Check out videos of people driving while distracted: The related article is here:

Here's the statistic that tells it all:

"Almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction, according to the report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute."

I'm not sure why people are fixated on the cell phone. You can be distracted by anything.

Let's hope the State Legislature doesn't waste money making laws against every other stupid activity human beings can come up with.

Our company has long had a policy that prohibits all cell phone use while driving a vehicle. We didn't do this for safety reasons, per se. After all, our technicians can still spill coffee or hot cigarette ashes on themselves while driving. They can change CDs, read books, and shave.

So why did we pick on cell phones? Because our society is fixated on cell phones, and we can easily foresee a lawsuit if one of our people is in an accident and is talking on a cell phone.

It would be easier to just pass a law that says "Don't be stupid." But we don't have the money needed to build 7,000 new prisons. Although we could save a lot of money by eliminating 10,000 existing laws that amount to the same thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Need Your Advice, Feedback

I have a huge backlog of people I want to interview for the SMB Conference Call.

Three (maybe four) of them are from Australia. So I don't want them to get up in the middle of the night to do a conference call.

In addition, the schedule is pretty full between now and October.

One one hand, I don't want to dilute the audience (or overwork myself) by having a call every week.

On the other hand, I have a few interviews that I think are really important to the community.

My original goal was to do these calls on the first and third Wednesdays. And we've occasionally had other calls.

So what do you think?

- If I were to arrange a guest from half way round the world, when's the best time for a special call?

- Should I try to squeeze in extra calls, or is there just too much going on already?

Please post feedback here. Thanks.

- - - - -

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see The SMB Conference Call page.

I'll still take your advice.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A 16 Year Old's Advice on Building a Brand

So I'm driving down the road with my 16 year old daughter. Somehow, we got on the topic of coffee places. And she makes the following observation:

    One reason I don't like Java City is that the person behind the counter doesn't always know how to make the drink I want. The taste of their coffee is way better than Starbuck's, but sometimes the person who helps you says "I don't know how to do that. Let me get the person. Just a sec. And then it takes ten minutes to get your drink."

    Most people don't like the taste of Starbuck's coffee as much as some other place. But at least at Starbucks, everyone can make everything.

The girl's got something there.

Look at the big Starbuck's picture. If you blind-folded people and gave them something to drink, no one would choose cheap coffee beans quick-roasted and burnt.

Mix it with a bunch of milk, caramel, sugar, and syrup. Now you have a competent drink that lots of people can enjoy.

Why is Starbuck's a success?

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

You can order a double grande froo-froo frapacino with a shot of vanilla in Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, or London. And you'll get the same drink. And the same atmosphere. And the same music. And the same chatter. You'll be offered the same gum and chocolates at checkout.

The same. The same. The same.

Starbuck's doesn't have to offer the best food, the best coffee, or even the best mints. They have the best experience. They consistently offer the best experience.

Remember the old truism. People buy for emotional reasons and justify their decision with rationalities.

On any day, anybody can make an excellent cup of coffee. But it takes a system to make millions of cups of coffee every day that are consistently good. And it takes a system to get 90% of those people to come back within a week to order the same thing again.

What do you offer your clients? An excellent one-time experience, or a consistent good experience that you can repeat as many times as necessary?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Schrag on Being a Micro Consultant

Some one-person shops are (in Vlad's words) Single Points of Failure. We've all met them.

An SPF is a sole proprietor who doesn't know enough about technology to be out there selling his services to the public -- but is.

An SPF doesn't have the tools, techniques, or assistance needed to provide modern tech support.

If an SPF gets hit by a bus, the clients are in trouble because the knowledge of the network goes with him.

You get the picture.

But not every sole proprietor is an SPF. Some of them have invested the time, money, and effort to build a business that's run the right way. They document their clients' networks. They've educated themselves on the products they sell. They've invested in the tools needed to provide superior service. They have "backup" technical support so they can take a day off.

David Shrag -- my guest on today's SMB Conference call at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12 N Eastern -- is not an SPF.

David is a sole proprietor who works very hard to provide excellent, competent technical support. But he grows his business in terms of dollars rather than people.

Some people don't want employees. I understand this completely. Even if you love them like a family, employees can be a pain in the neck. It's not the employees themselves, but the payroll, quarterly reviews, interviews, personal problems, etc. It's the having of employees that's a pain.

Schrag on Surviving

David has a very positive approach to staying in business. You've heard the stats: only 20% of businesses survive the first five years; of those that survive, only 20% of them survive the next five years.

David bets that the overwhelming majority of the businesses that go down the tubes are businesses with employees. In other words, sole proprietors tend not to go out of business.

"Staying in business is easy" says Schrag. And I agree with him here.

Join us to talk about Schrag's Ten Commandments for success, surviving as a sole proprietor, and growing your business without growing employees.

For SMB Conference Call information see

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Proposals, Resumes, and Marketing

I've got this shingle that says "Book Publisher." So people send me ideas and queries.

Here's the deal: I have not yet published a book I did not write. I'm what you might call a self publisher.

People who know me, or at least know of me, know that I focus on the small business market and "success" literature. I don't print comic books, novels, sewing books, cook books . . . or pretty much anything that's not related to small business consulting and personal success.

But, still, I have "publishing" on my shingle.

So I get unsolicited email, like this:

"I have written a book Would you be interested in reading and possibly publishing it?"

No book.

No title.

No summary.

No proposal.

Not one single thing that could possibly lead me to say Maybe (let alone Yes).

Oddly enough, I get pretty much the same thing as owner of a technology consulting company when it comes to people looking for a job.

Emails arrive (unsolicited) with no resume. Just wondering if you'd consider hiring me.


And I hope I don't do this to other business owners when it comes to marketing: Do you want us to be your I.T. service provider?


We engage people for a reason. We do business with someone because the two parties can exchange something of value, whether that's labor, product, knowledge, or money.

We don't engage for no reason whatsoever.

If you might ever want me to publish a book, send me a book proposal. It should outline what the book will be, why you're the person to write it, who the market is, who the competition is, and a very realistic time frame for completing the project.

If you want a job, send me a resume that's on target for the job. I don't hire SQL programmers to manage Exchange servers. Provide me with a cover letter connecting what you do to what we do. Throw in some references, and make it sound as if this is not a generic, desperate attempt to get any job available.

And if you're selling your consulting services, put together the same kind of package.


Offer to solve a prospect's problems or reduce their pain. Focus on what you do excellently rather than offering to do everything. Grab their interest and then connect what you do to what they need. Throw in some references, and make it sound as if this is not a generic, desperate attempt to get any job available.

In the end, the business world is all about marketing. People marketing themselves to employers. Businesses marketing their services to one another.

All too often, we let these interactions "just happen" rather than organizing and having a plan. Remember one of my mottoes for success: Slow Down, Get More Done. It is always more fruitful to take time to plan something before you jump in. Organized effort will be more fruitful than just responding to the moment.

- - - - -
BTW, on the writing front, check out agents Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada.They have some great resources for writers, including a complete outline of a book proposal!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Deliver What You Promise

So Robin Robins reminds us that "No one knows how good you are until after the sale. Before they buy, they only know how good your marketing is."

How true. How true.

And it really doesn't matter what business you're in.

But the next step is also critical: Once they sign the deal, you better deliver what you promised. Maybe more.

Robin always gives examples from other service industries (e.g., heating and air). I have a personal experience relating to having my backyard redone.

A few years ago we had two new patios put in. The salesman did a perfect job of sales. Gave us just the right information. Had a binder full of reference letters. Got us to pay for the plans. Revised things per our feedback.

Step by step . . . all the way to YES.

And then they proceeded to do a half-assed job of pouring concrete. We had cracks so large we were afraid to let the chihuahua go out unattended. On two different occasions we have had to call them in to jackhammer out their concrete and re-pour it the way it should have been done in the first place.

Even at that, they wanted us to pay for them to re-do the work they screwed up!


You did it wrong. You get to pay to do it over.

- - - - -

Unfortunately, I've seen the same thing in our line of business. A technician is paid to do a job. They mess it up or learn on the job. The client doesn't know the difference.

And when the system blows up, the technician gets paid to fix it.

Even if the fix is another half-assed learning experience.

To my mind, that's the "bad" side of break/fix. It creates an environment in which incompetent technicians can thrive off of unsuspecting clients.

That doesn't represent most break/fix technicians and clients, but it represents a lot more than it should. Through thirteen years in this business, I've seen this scenario a minimum of once a year. When I was going after smaller, cheaper clients, I saw it a lot more frequently.

- - - - -

My good friends Erick Simpson and Matt Makowicz can lay out some spectacular sales strategies. Upselling. Cross-selling. Selling selling. Selling some more.

Buy both books and these two will teach you sales like you've never had before.

But then you have to deliver.

When I think about the efficient sales processes of Erick and Matt, I can see a gaggle of consultants going out and selling millions of dollars of new business.

But I'm not worried about the delivery side. Why?

Both of these guys put 99.9% of their attention on the long run. They don't sell one-off jobs with no eye to the future. Their nefarious plan is to make the client happy, get invited back, sell them another job, and build a relationship that will last ten or more years.

Service delivery is as important as sales.

Good service delivery means quality work.

Good service delivery means no rework.

Good service delivery means happy clients.

Good service delivery means good documentation.

Good service delivery means working for the client's best long-term interest.

Good service delivery means profit.

Good service delivery means follow through.

Good service delivery means delivering on the promises you made during the sales process.

Good service delivery means future referrals.

Good service delivery means good service.

Good service delivery means creating value.

Many people think selling on "value" means jacking up the price. These people tend to be prospective clients who only buy on price and assume that one technician is the same as another.

But we're not all the same!

Some technicians go in, barely do the job they're hired to do, and leave. Other technicians deliver spectacular results -- and value.

One of these types of technicians gets invited back.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Recession Today, Thank You

Over the weekend I had a public disagreement with a friend over the economy. We both agreed that a recession is two or more quarters of negative growth as measured by GDP.

Facts are facts.

The economy grew slowly in Q4 of 2007. It grew very slowly in Q1 of 2008 (Just last week the adjusted rate was posted at .9%).

This quarter's growth is expected to be even smaller. But it is expected to be growth.

No matter how small the positive number, growth is growth.

We haven't had one quarter of shrinking GDP, let alone two.

I understand that gas prices are high and unemployment is up. But despite the hangover of the housing "crisis," there's good news.

The Fed lowered interest rates and that will work it's way into the economy over the next few months.

Overall, GDP growth for the year will be small -- maybe 1 or 2%. But it's not shrinking. Growth is growth.

The government stimulus package is kicking in. People are getting their "rebate" checks and spending them. That will help us all a bit.

And the silver lining of a weak dollar overseas is that U.S. exports are doing very well.

I am not an economist, but these facts are not hard to come by. You have to open the paper and get past the story about what Britney and Lindsay did yesterday.

Our economy is going through a period of weakness and slowness.

We are not in a recession.

Here's the silver lining on slow jobs growth: When companies put off hiring, they find ways for their current labor force to do more with fewer people. So while they're waiting for the orders to increase to the point where they can hire more people, the productivity of their current workforce goes up.

So the remainder of 2008 will see an increase in productivity. Watch the business web sites and look for that keyword: productivity.

Here's the silver lining on high gas prices: They're keeping inflation down because people don't have money to spend like drunken Congressmen.

Aside from oil and transportation, "core" inflation is about 2%.

And the silver lining on gas? Well, there are two points here. First, if you drive a midsize mobile like mine, it costs about $25 more per tankful than it did a year ago. When the government gives me $500 to spend, that's 20 weeks worth of the difference. So, until gas settles down, the government stimulus is actually helping us weather this storm.

Second, invest in oil-related companies. Exxon is doing well. Invest $1,000 in Exxon and it will help you feel better at the pump! Schlumberger is up about 100% in the last year. Give that a try.

I'm not saying things are rosy. But let's keep a little perspective.

The economy has slowed down. But it hasn't stopped and it hasn't gone into reverse.

Slow growth is growth.

Growth is growth.

Now, here's the ultimate silver lining: The only economy you have to worry about is your own personal econo-sphere. See "We're Opting Out of the Recession."

Pimping and Selling to SMB Consultants

I joke with several of my SMB Buddies about Pimping and Selling to SMB Consultants.

In reality, we don't see ourselves as 100% vendors. Yes, we're selling something. But we're also participating in the community, starting user groups, speaking to user groups, and helping to sell other people's stuff that we believe in.

So, for example, Vlad gives me some iPods and t-shirts to put on my sales table. I get to have a good little give-away and Own Web Now gets some cheap promotion for Shockey Monkey, his managed services management tool.

I pimp Erick. Erick pimps Stuart. Stuart pimps Matt. Matt pimps me. We all pimp Arlin.

Yes, at some level we all have something to sell. But we also believe in each other and the things the others are pushing.

Last weekend I had the great honor of speaking at the Independent Computer Consultants Association's 31st conference in Washington, DC. In the preday for that, Dave Sobel moderated a panel that consisted of Stuart, Arlin, Erick, Matt, and me.

We all had to pay our way to DC. We all chose to take a weekend, plus travel time, away from family and business. None of us made as much as it cost to be there.

So, yes, we had something to sell. But we also enjoyed being together, touring the monuments at night as a group, and meeting a lot of new friends.

We enjoy participatig in the larger community. And we don't push products we don't believe in.

Most importantly, we also turn "off" and enjoy not selling.

I have several people in my calendar labelled with "call _____ NGR." NGR means No Good Reason. I might call Dave Sobel because I have a question about virtualization. But I might also call him for no good reason. The topic might be black jack, terminal server licensing, telephone systems, the place we ate in New Orleans, or Big Elvis.

The point is: It's not all about work.

There are some people who simply refuse to mention any product or service without getting a check first. There are some people who sell and sell and sell and never turn off. And sometimes they turn off more people than they turn on.

So, while we joke about pimping (Vlad's son put on the pimp hat before he could walk), we still consider ourselves part of the community rather than leaches on the community.

If you hear us joking about pimping to the masses, please remember that we're also trying to build the community.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Measuring Excellence is Relative

[Fair warning to Vlad: Showing my age a bit here.]

In my college days (back when the crust of the earth was still warm), some friends and I lived in a dorm named Dooley. We decided to see how many bars we could visit in a year. So it was called the "Dooley Tavern Tour."

When you undertake such a pointless adventure, you need some criteria to measure one establishment against another. My measure of excellence: Patsy Cline on the jukebox.

I really learned the definition of "dive bar" on that tour.

Flash forward. 2008. 4-star priceline hotel in Washington, DC. $49/night. Big plasma TV, couch, work area with lots of electrical outlets.

That's all fine. The real measure of excellence: Amazingly good nachos served at 11:30 PM in the bar.

When you travel a lot, strange things become your measure of success.

When I travel ten hours, I want a beer before bedtime. I'm amazed at how many hotel bars close at 10 or 11 PM -- even if they're full. And when the plane lands at 10:30 PM . . . tough.

Another nicety is munchies. Airline "food" now consists of either a cobb salad for $9 or a "snack pack" of M&Ms and canned chicken salad for $6. So I'm ready for anything resembling real food.

And what do I find at 11:30 PM? Really great nachos!

I have to say: really great nachos are cheap and plentiful in old Sacramento. But on the road in L.A., New York, Cleveland, New Orleans . . . Not so much. And in Dallas of all places: Non-existent!

When I'm on vacation, travelling for pleasure, nachos and a beer late at night are not part of the equation. Extra towels. Hot water. Great view. Those are pleasure travel measures of success.

Lesson: The measure of quality is relevant to the situation.

(Here it comes.)

The same is true with your clients.

When everything's going right, there's one measure of success. But when stuff goes wrong, a very different measure of success takes over. And, of course, it is different for each client.

When everything's going the way it should, one client loves you because of the even, predictable payments. Another one loves you because of the quick response.

And when stuff goes wrong?

One client is irritated with slow response time. Another client wants better communication.

So, the work, and the attitude, and the measure of success that put you in good stead with your client is NOT directly related to the measure of success when things go bad. It is great to have that good will "in the bank," but you need to be prepared for a different measure of success when things go south.

It's like a lot of other things in life. The talents and skills that got you here are not the same as what you need to excell now that you are here.

Here's a great want to look at it: Something's going to go wrong. That's life. How will you and your team respond? You can choose NOW how you'll respond then.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Spare Advice

If you have any spare advice that no one's using, I'll take it.

Here's what I mean.

In the last few months I've had an odd set of similar interactions from people. They each told me about advice they had given to a friend, a coworker, an employer, or someone else. But, they said, the recipient didn't take the advice.

In each case, I found the advice very valuable. In one case, it inspired me to outline an entire project I now have to pursue.

Where do we find inspiration? Wherever we can!

Why does good advice bounce off one person and stick to another? Probably 80% happenstance.

You have to be ready, in a mood, and capable of taking in advice. If you're busy, overwhelmed, or focused on something else, then your "receptors" are not working.

We all get huge amounts of advice that we ignore. Most of the time, that's probably a good thing.

But I recommend being open to inspiration. Carry note cards and write down good ideas. Stick them in a folder. From time to time, go through that folder and bring out an idea or two.

You may not have been in a situation where the idea made sense "back then." But maybe it makes sense today.

It also helps to talk to a lot of people -- including people outside your core circle. One of the great things about travelling all over the place meeting new people is that I get exposed to lots of ideas.

You have to have a filter, of course. But the more ideas you're exposed to, the more GOOD ideas you're exposed to.

So if you're walking down the street and a shady character says "Hey, buddy, got any spare advice?" that's probably me.

SMB Conference Call - Hosted Kaseya

Join me today at 9:00 AM Pacific. I will be chatting with Stuart Selbst from Secure My Company. They provide Hosted Kaseya for MSPs that want to use a great tool without committing to 100 or 250 or 1,000 licenses.

The basic concept is simple. Stuart's company will host the Kaseya server. Your information is secured from other clients' data. Other than than, it works just like having your own Kaseya server in-house.

- Monitoring

- Patch Management

- Scripting

- Auditing

- Remote Control

- Agent-less monitoring and updates

- And More!

Here's how Stuart summarizes it:

Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

Hosted Solution

Partner Branded Web Based Portal

Free Technical Training with Best Practices Guides

Free Sales and Marketing Resources from industry experienced professionals.

No Contracts or minimum purchase required

- - - - -

Join us today at 9:00 AM.

For conference call info, see The SMB Conference Call page.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Do You Target Clients?

There are a couple of ways to define targeted clients.

First, there's Dun and Bradstreet. To quote our marketing plan, our ideal client fits the following profile:
  • Physical Metro Area = Sacramento, CA

  • Industry SIC Codes = 60-67 (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and 70-89 (Services). Due to current economic issues, we are eliminating clients in real estate, construction and automobiles. And, of course, we're not targeting technology firms.

  • Employees Total: 25 - 249

  • Annual Sales: $5.0 - 99.9 million

  • With "A" credit ratings.

Second, there's the "softer" side of business. Once we start screening clients, we look for people who are used to signing service agreements. We also look for people who are nice to work with and who value long-term relationships.


Those aren't our only clients. But that's our ideal client. In a perfect world, every new client would fit in this model.

The money side determines who gets on our short list. The personal side determines who we actively seek as our next client.

And we're looking for . . . four new clients per year. We don't want to grow too fast because we want to maintain good response times and a high level of customer service.

We also need to balance the resources needed to support the new clients with the resources we gain from passing off certain clients to other consultants.

On the topic of weeding your client garden, see

We firmly believe that the never-ending pursuit of every available new client leads many a consulting company to ruin. Or, at a minimum, it wastes so many resources on un-focused activity that reliable profit is nearly impossible to achieve or maintain.

You do not need every nickel you find on the street. You do not need every client that shows up at your door. And if you add ideal clients on one hand, you should seriously consider weeding out less desirable clients on the other hand.

It is possible that you will add clients and not drop any. But from time to time you should at least evaluate the clients you are keeping, and justify to yourself that you should keep them.

Ideally, you have only the clients you want.

But just make sure.


If you haven't wandered over to D&B's web site for building mailing lists (Zap Data), go check that out. Yeah, you gotta register. Get over it: That's the cost of "free" stuff.

Once you get to Zap Data, start building a list. The key variables (IMHO) are those listed above.

Think about the criteria you have for your clients.

The good thing about this exercise is that it makes you make some hard decisions that you've ignore.
  • You have to limit your geography. Start within 30 or 50 miles from your office.

  • You may need to learn about SIC codes. At a minimum, you realize that you should focus on "someone" rather than "everyone."

  • Size matters. When you start building a mailing list, will you really focus on clients with 1-2 PCs?

  • Size really matters. Do you want clients who only make $100,000 a year? No. How can they have enough profit to spend an extra $10K or $20K on technical support? Why would they even need it?

  • And for a few extra pennies, you can be sure your prospective clients can pay their bills.

The process of defining and narrowing down this list will teach you many things, even if you did it just a few months ago. When you make your first list, you might have 20,000 hits, or maybe only 2,000. In all likelihood, it will be high.

Once you consider doing a mailing to these folks at $.25 to $.50 each (USD), times three or four mailings, you see the cost approaching $1 per prospect for an ad campaign. Now it starts to look expensive just to do the basic marketing.

So you find yourself in a situation where you can't "focus" on everyone.


Now that you have to focus on someone as your client, who will it be?

Squeeze in a few miles. Drop the one-person tree-pruning companies. Don't go after "under five" PCs or "over 1,000,000" PCs. Squeeze in as needed. etc.

- - - - -

If you started out extremely small -- as one person -- then you've built your business on recommendations, word of mouth, and taking every job that came your way.

You were not discriminating. You took every nickel you found.

But when it's time to intentionally grow your buiness in a direction you choose, you begin to make choices.

So when you finally narrow down your list to a managable, affordable size, you're done with targeting the list.

Now you have to figure out the hard stuff: finding really good people that you want to work with for the next ten years.

New MSP University Web Portal Kicks Booty!

This year seems to be filled to the brim with activities, conferences, and announcements.

Well, here's an announcement to make your day (week/month/maybe year).

Please go check out the major revision of the MSP University web portal at

See Erick's announcement here.

The coolest new thing is that the site now has a member registration. You can get yourself a free basic membership, so you can view all the MSPU courses for free. The form is easy and not too invasive. Just basic contact info and you're in.

As Erick says, "This is a great improvement over our old system, which required visitors to complete a form each time they wanted to access newly-posted content."

In the Vlad Mazek marketing analysis model, this is the perfect Crack Peddler web site. The goal is that you'll spend time there, educate yourself, drink the koolaid, and talk yourself into additional for-pay services.

And that's fine. It's a great site. Nicely designed. Very attractive adn functional.

You can spend an hour or more exploring this site. Check it out today!

To top it off, Erick promises more content and more improvements down the road.

MSPU has become the premier training house for managed services. And this is another excellent free resource for the community. Thank you Erick!

Check it out today at

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Leveraging Your Resources

Have you heard of Archimedes? He's famous for lots of things, including running through the streets naked after having a great idea in the bathtub.

It was a simpler time.


Archimedes is also famous for saying:
"Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."

Unless what he really said is
"Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the world."

or some such.

Now Archimedes isn't the inventor of the fulcrum or the lever. That was a neanderthal named Ooog. The concept of a lever is so basic that we all understand it instinctively. Ooog put a stick between two rocks in order to move a rock. Today we use a 2x4 and a cinder block.

The funny thing, is that sometimes we forget to use a lever. For example, when you need to lift a trailer just one more inch, you might be tempted to "put your back into it" and lift that trailer. But it's much easier to stack some cinder blocks, grab a piece of lumber, and let the lever do the work.

Sometimes, when we're too close to the problem at hand, we forget to step back and use another method.

Many years ago, when I took my first vacation since starting my consulting business, I left a technician who was worried about what to do if something came up. I told him not to worry. After all, I said "You're smart, your talented, and you have Technet. You have all the resources of Microsoft behind you. If you need to, you can call Trend Micro, HP, or Microsoft. The answer is out there, and you can handle it."

Today we have even more resources. Newsgroups, Yahoo groups, and membership communities such as MSPSN's forums.

Sometimes the most under-used resources tend to be the one that we pay for. For example, I've asked people if they've used the free marketing campaign make-over that Robin Robins includes in her kit. Almost no one has.

Or I find people who are paying for Zenith but don't send hard jobs to Zenith. When we have a troublesome problem and need to analyze a memory dump, we just send it to Zenith.

We ourselves are guilty of not getting our full money's worth out of ASCII. We save enough on Ingram Micro orders to pay for the monthly fees, so we tend not to review the hundreds of other discounts. Although, Alan kicked me in the butt, so we're looking at their workers comp and E&O Insurance for technical consultants.

Sometimes, I know, it just takes too much time to actually use the resources you've already paid for. Erick, Matt, and I always run across people who have bought all of our books, but admit they haven't read anything yet. And sometimes they're so eager to get started on the road to re-vamping their business that they want to buy more. I think, if we had magic snake oil, we could sell it.

Maybe that's why audio books have become so hot. People have the book, but don't have the time to read. So they'll buy the same book on audio and listen to it in the car.

Please read the books!

We (the authors) don't make any more money whether you read the book or not. So, once you've bought it, you need to leverage the resource you have. You're the one who benefits at this point.

Don't be less resourceful than Ooog.