Friday, December 26, 2008

Rethinking Tools - Part 3: Miscellaneous Products

As part of our year-end procedure, we are re-evaluating what we sell, who we partner with, and which tools we use.

The first post in this series is here.

The second post is here.

and now . . .

Your Line Card

One of the things I stumbled onto this year is creating a Line Card for KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist). That is, the official list of products we use and rely on most frequently.

I suspect everyone has the same thing, though perhaps not organized into a binder with tabs. :-)

I love binders.

In a nutshell, here's the vast majority of what we sell:

- HP Servers
- HP Workstations
- HP Desktops
- HP Monitors
- HP Thin Clients
- HP Tape Drives (various)
- HP Printers
- APC UPSs (various)
- Sonicwall Firewalls
- Sonicwall CDP

- MS Windows Server
- MS Windows Small Business Server
- CALs as needed for all software
- MS SQL Server
- MS Exchange Server
- MS Windows
- MS Office (various)
- Trend Anti-Virus
- Symantec Backup Exec
- Diskeeper defragmentation

- Brand-name Cat6 cables
- Brand-name tapes (various)

- Reflexion spam filtering (not "sold" very often as we include this in Platinum managed service)
- Domain registration through SRSPlus (Network Solutions reseller)

Now, that's not everything, of course. We sell the ocassional network card, video card, memory upgrade, KVM switch, Adobe suite, etc.

We also like Watchguard firewalls. We're looking at the new BUDR product from Zenith.

But we don't attempt to know or carry every brand of computer on earth. We don't change brands at the drop of a hat.

Keeping our Line Card consistent over time maximizes our relationship with the vendors we choose. It also increases our knowledge of those specific products, including our knowledge of their marketing promotions, rebates, etc.

Of all the products on this core list, we have only made one change in 2008 and one change in 2007.

- - - - -

If you don't have an official line card, I recommend it. All you need is a skinny 1/2" binder. Collect the current SKUs for for the products you sell the most. If there's a current promotion, put notes in there. But be sure to clean it out on a regular basis! This is not just another junk pile.

It's also a good idea to make notes about preferred sources. You can use a tool like quotewerks to compare prices at different suppliers, but you also need to know about buying direct, current rebates, sales contests, etc.

The truth is, the smaller you are, the less likely you are to participate in the promotions being put on by your vendors. We all know that larger outfits get some serious "kickbacks" because they take advantage of all the promotions and programs. At the same time, we have limited time and this stuff adds a layer of bureaucracy.

Even if you can't take advantage of all the programs out there, look at them from time to time. Try to do a few of them. Gradually, you'll work your way into some good deals.

As for the line card generally: Just do it. Almost zero administration, and it will give you a good sense of what you sell and a sense of consistency over time.

- - - - -

Side Note on Changing Tools

My friend and fellow blogger Stuart Selbst asks the question of how much sense it makes to switch tools when what you have works. Fair enough.

Here's the great thing about the 21st Century: There are lots of tools that work. Once we have the mind set of working with tools, and trusting our business to them, we get to focus on the next level of evolution -- The strategic use of tools.

Kaseya works great. We actually have no problems with Kaseya. But we're re-tooling to take greatest advantage of our infrastructure, our current investments, our employee resources, our future investments, and the flexibility of the tools available today.

The combination of Kaseya and Zenith got us where we are today. But if you spend much time with Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Laural Langemeier, Brian Tracy, Karl Palachuk, Robin Robins, or any of that ilk, then you've heard this phrase:

Doing what you do
Got you where you are.

If you want to be somewhere else,
You need to do something else.

That's true whether you're in a good place or a bad place. Obviously, if you're in a bad place, you want to be somewhere else.

But if you're in a good place and you want to be in a better place, it's still true that you have to change what you do and how you do it.

Jim Collins wrote a great book based on the truth that

Good is the enemy of great.

Good is good. So why keep improving if everything is good?

We're happy and honored to be "good."

Now we want to be great. That means we need to keep changing.


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