Friday, March 06, 2009

Best Practice vs. Good Idea

At the HTG meetings, one of the main activities is the presentation of "Best Practices." Each person presents a "best practice" from their business. We all gain knowledge and insight from see what people are doing and how they do it.

One of the important rules is: This has to be a practice, not an idea. In other words, you need to be doing this in your business, not just planning to do it.

The difference is critical. A good idea is still just a good idea. When you go to implement it, you might discover that it takes too much time, too much money, or other supporting business practices. You might also discover that it sounds good but just doesn't work!

One of the greatest things you can do for your career is to attend conferences. And the more specifically focused on your business model, the better. This includes the Autotask conference that's right around the corner, the MSPSN conference, SMB Summit, SMB Nation, etc.

Go. Attend. Talk to people about what they do and how they do it.

If you're focusing on doctors, Realtors, auto dealers, then find people with the same verticals. If you're challenged by fax problems or VOIP, find people who work with those technologies. If you need marketing ideas and new clients, find people who are having success in those areas.

But, beware . . .

You also need to apply a filter here.

Many people seem to have really good ideas about everything. But when you scratch the surface you find out that they haven't done it. They've thought about it. Or they plan to do it. They may have spent money on training and are really ready to do it.

But if they haven't DONE it then it's a Good Idea and not yet a Best Practice.

For example: One time I did a presentation about Storage Area Networks. I was challenged by someone who went on and on about NAS devices and how he could integrate with the Windows security system and do "everything" with a NAS that could be done with a SAN.

He was insistant enough that I was actually impressed and wanted to see the operation. Well, it turned out to be a cheap off-the-shelf low-end NAS that couldn't possibly do 15% of what he said. And while he'd read about all the wonderful things you could do, he hadn't "yet" implemented any of them.

In other words, be bought a piece of junk and plugged it in.

But he talked as if he were the highest paid engineer at Boeing.

Let's be clear: He had some good ideas. And he probably had the know-how to implement them.

But he had not implemented them.

So he did not have a Best Practice.

How can you tell when someone's blowing smoke vs. talking from experience? Ask for details. "What tool do you use for that? Do you use the standard scripts or write your own?"

This is particularly good advice at conferences. When you find someone who is passionate about their solution, they're eager to talk details.

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Don't get me wrong: Exchanging good ideas is also a very valuable enterprise. But before you go jump in with both feet, you need to know whether you're talking about a good idea or a best practice.

Just a final thought for the week.

Have a great weekend.


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