Sunday, April 19, 2009

HTG Prep

I finished all my preparations for my HTG peer group meeting this week. I'll be heading to Dallas on Tuesday.

I won't say the hard work is over, but the part that takes "preparation" is over.

HTG (Heartland Technology Group) members are often asked what we do in our meetings. Rest assured, there's no great conspiracy going on here. We're just helping each other take over the world!

HTG Member One: "What do you want to do tonight, Brain?"

HTG Member Two: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world!"

- - - - -

And how do you go about taking over the world?

Well, there's a lot of work involved. It starts with a realistic evaluation of what your company is doing today. how do you operate? Are you making money? Are you making enough?

We share with each other our standard operating procedures. Now, we're not all geniuses, but collectively we see the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn't. Every once in awhile someone will "I'm changing our procedures on Monday."

There are plenty of Ah-Ha moments.

We talk about how we get new clients, how we market, how we hire and fire, and how we do just about everything else.

Now, truth be told, if you've attended a few conferences, you've had these kinds of conversations in the hallways and at the bar. But this is different because we dig down an extra layer or two.

Rather than a conversation about "How do your find clients?" we dig into specific techniques. We share forms, marketing materials, costs of acquisition, and success rates. And we share our failures.

At the bar, you'll hear success stories, but rarely the failures. "Oh, yeah. we dumped $5,000 into a campaign that went nowhere." But we DO share such failures because we're all working to help each other replicate success and avoid failure.

It is an environment in which members can safely ask for help and share their weaknesses. A surprisingly large amount of success consists of recognizing and analyzing failures in order to improve.

We talk about trends and standard practices.
- Managed Services
- Cloud computing
- etc.

We share tools that make us more successful. This ranges from the "biggies" such as Zenith and Autotask to the little things we use at point of service, such as DNS Stuff and

At the end of each meeting we set company goals for the next three months. We begin the next meeting my reviewing these goals and seeing who did what.

We help each other to be accountable for the goals we set.

And while we cover . . .

- Disaster Recovery Plans
- Managing After Hours support
- Employee compensation
- Our local economies
- Business Plans
- Marketing Plans
- Processes for standard business activities
- Credit and Customer Financing
- Help Desk policies
- etc.

. . . NONE of these is a casual conversation.

Our process is structured so that we give each other the truly useful information (good, bad, ugly) in order to help make each others' businesses more successful.

And the relationships continue after the meeting is over. We call each other during times of success and stress. We ask each other for advice and help each other out.

- - - - -

Now, do you need HTG for all that? No. Absolutely not. In fact, some people are doing all these things anyway. But having a Peer Group goes a long way toward making sure you do these things -- and are held accountable for doing it.

So far we haven't made a dent in taking over the world.

But it's a great way to improve our businesses at the local level!


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