Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rethinking Tools - Part 5: Relationships

I mentioned that we're examining more than tools. In addition to what we sell, we're looking at who we partner with.

The first post in this series is here.

The second post is here.

The third post is here.

The fourth post is here.

Now we turn to Partnering and Relationships.

(Note: This is not about me personally, or Great Little Book, or SMB Books. These comments relate to decisions of KPEnterprises, our Premier I.T. Consulting company in Sacramento, CA.

Your mileage may vary.

In addition to using this tool and that tool, we also thrive based on our relationships -- with individuals and companies. The weird thing about relationships is that they're sometimes hard to translate from one organization to another.

My experience with a product can be different from yours. You get good tech support and I get horrible tech support, etc.

But relationships are that times 100. If two people have a personality clash early on, they may never get over it. Some people can put up with more crap than others. Some people just hit it off.

Our philosophy is: If something works, embrace it. Grab onto it and see how fast we can make positive things happen. Some things seem good and fizzle out; Other things skyrocket.

We're slower to drop things that aren't working out. Slower than we should be. I think that's just being human. But eventually we move away from unproductive relationships, especially when they cost us money.


Perhaps the most important thing that separates newbie sole proprietors from successful, established professionals is their understanding that there's more power in a web of relationships than there is in a single person.

You might be the best technician and the best business person in the world. But you'll be more successful with a good collection of friends, relationships, business partnerships, alliances, and other connections to your chosen profession.

Granted, I love meeting people and sucking their brains dry. That's not for everyone. But everyone can join the right groups, hang out in the right forums, and interact with people in the business.

Here are some partnerships we intend to (continue to) embrace in 2009, in alpha order:


I still need to blog about their amazing insurance program. ASCII membership literally pays for itself every month. We got enough discounts on Kaseya licenses to pay for ASCII membership for ten years. We recently saved enough on worker's comp insurance to pay the ASCII membership for more than four years. Really.

ASCII folks are extremely easy to deal with. Their boot camps are great events. Everything I've seen of this organization is great.

HTG - Heartland Technology Groups

After much delay, we joined an HTG Peer Group in 2008. In addition to the promise of financial rewards, this group has introduced me to some great people, new friends, and an endless supply of great ideas.

In addition to my group, there are gatherings of people from various groups. And coming up in January is the big group of all groups.

Arlin Sorensen is a great guy, but HTG is not about Arlin. HTG is filled with great people. The meetings are 90% about sharing ideas. If we ever have time to implement them all, it will help us tremendously.

MSPSN - Managed Services Provider Services Network

Amy Luby is the face of MSPSN, but she is not all there is to MSPSN. This group put on one of the two conferences in 2008 that stood clearly above every other conference for the year (the other was SMBTN). They provide training, mastermind groups, and other resources.

Every interaction I've had with Amy and MSPSN has been positive. They put on great events, have great services, and are true leaders in the managed service space.

Right now we are making some changes to our service delivery vision and MSPSN's NOC support will be part of that. They give us additional capacity and flexibility.

MSPU - Managed Services Provider University

Erick Simpson is the face of MSPU. But, again, he is not MSPU. He and Gary have created a spectacular resource for the community. I'm constantly running into people who are on the "program" at MSPU.

This organization is truly committed to helping people be successful and reaping the rewards that come with that.

In addition to Erick's Books, MSPU provides a mind-boggling collection of webinars, seminars, recorded trainings, white papers, and more. Some is free. Some is for sale.

It is literally all top-shelf stuff.

Robin Robins

I wish Robin would call her program the Total Over The Top Amazing Complete Success Program, but she insists on focusing on marketing.

Her marketing stuff is wonderful. But it is really just a small part of her overall program. Her monthly audio CDs are some of the best informational and motivational materials available anywhere -- and they're aimed straight at our business.

I only have a few things that I absolutely pore over completely in detail every month. Robin's monthly mailing is on that short list.

Whether it's marketing or generic success-related stuff, I get value every month from this material.

SMBTN - SMB Technology Network

SMBTN grew out of the user group communities. And today their focus is on the individual company and the community. It's interesting how different groups have different personalities. Some focus on products, some one services. SMBTN has products and services for their members, but the focus is on membership in a broader community.

This group put on one of the two conferences in 2008 that stood clearly above every other conference for the year (the other was MSPSN).

SMBTN just went throuh a major expansion of resources and benefits. I'm looking to see what they come up with next.


In addition to the partnerships above (some of which have conferences attached), we are also solidifying our conference schedule for the year. Here are two more conferences we don't intend to miss. In alpha order.

SBS Migration

Now, Let's be honest: Jeff Middleton IS SBS Migration. He is the Swing Migration guy and the SBS Migration guy.

Jeff's conference in New Orleans is a don't-miss event.

As with several others on this list, I've never had a bad experience dealing with Jeff. His event is truly community built and community driven. It is by and for the community.

Jeff continues to give more than he receives from the community and we're grateful to have him around. I look forward to doing more things with Jeff and his organization as we all evolve to the next level.

SMB Nation

Harry Brelsford gets a HUGE amount of credit for starting all this community stuff in the SMB space. In addition to a relentless schedule of travel and appearances, Harry and SMB Nation host the mother of all conferences for the SMB space: SMB Nation.

This is a conference filled with key people and products focused on our space. Walking the vendor hall is educational all by itself. Walking the hallways between presentations is enough to give you the connections and ideas you'll need for success in the year ahead.

I'm glad SMB Nation comes late in the year. It more or less wraps things up before everyone gets into end-of-year mode.

Not Easily Categorized

There are also a bunch of people, events, blogs, and "stuff" that are not easily categorized. I have a short blog roll and changes from time to time.

I'll alway keep an eye on people like Vlad Mazek (Own Web Now, Shocky Monkey, etc.) is up to, as well as Susan Bradley.

Luckily, we have an amazing community filled to the top with people are willing to put information and help out for the rest of us.

KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) will take advantage of all of these whenever we can. :-)

Disclaimer of Sorts

Everyone knows several of these people and I are friends, and that colors my evaluation. But that's what relationships are about.

Nerds have a reputation of being stand-offish, shy, and "loners." But get three of them in front of some piece of cool technology and they come out of their shells pretty fast.

In isolation, we whither and decay. As part of larger groups, we thrive.



  1. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Thanks for a great series, Karl. I echo your and Arlin's thinking on the importance of relationships across the board - with other service providers as well as with manufacturers, vendors and distributors. Our 12 person organization simply could not do what it does for our clients and the broader IT community without leveraging all of our relationships.

    ...and the best relationships are the ones that grow into friendships - thanks again, Karl!

    Erick Simpson
    MSP University

  2. Karl - This series of posts continues to be very informative. Thanks for the insight!

    Eric Clemens
    Acroment Technologies

  3. Another great post in this series Karl. I hope this one really hits home with your readers about relationships and not being an island as a means of success. It's a tough concept to wrap your head around but now more than ever you will be able to see those who "get it" in the technology world.

    George Sierchio


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