Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rules for Managing Outsourced Labor - Part Two

A few posts back (See Part One) I talked about some of the things you can outsource and shared some places to get started. This article will cover some basic rules for actually managing outsourced resources and give some ideas about things you cannot outsource.

General Rules for Outsourcing

Interestingly enough, managing outsourced "resources" is a lot like managing W-2 employees in your office. After all, they are people who need to communicate with you, and potentially with your clients. They need to perform tasks efficiently. And they need to report back to you.

If any of that fails, it's partly your fault. Just like any other employee.

I only have a few rules for managing outsourced resources. They are all in support of the goals just stated.

1) Be very clear what you want. You have to define the desired outcome in order for someone to be successful. It might be to call down this list of prospects, configure a firewall, install a printer remotely, or produce marketing graphics. It could be just about anything, but you need to be super clear what you want.

Example: You cannot assign a task that simply says, "Fix the Router." Just as with your own technicians, you need to define the problem and the desired outcome. And the more steps you give them the better. In some cases, you might say that you don't know what the problem is. Maybe port 3389 looks open but you're not getting a response via RDP. Tell them everything you know.

At other times, you might know exactly what you want but you just don't want to do it yourself. For example, you want them to open port 3389, forward it to an internal machine, and verify that they can access the logon screen. Of course you'll also want them to back up the configuration before they start and after they finish - to a specific location.

2) Define one task per request. Just as you do with your ticketing system, you need one task per request. This is especially true if you are connecting primarily via email. It becomes a disaster if you have seven tasks in a massive email string that gets longer and longer as you work your way through totally unrelated activities.

Use a good "title" or short description. Then have a clear longer description of what you want. For Example:

Subject: Calldown for Lunch and Learn
Content: Download the "Friday Lunch and Learn-Chamber" excel spreadsheet. Add a column for your notes and comments. Call each person on the list using the script on the second worksheet. Add "Yes," "No," and "Maybe" notes to the attendee worksheet. Let me know if you have any questions. Due by Wednesday 5PM Pacific time.

3) Agree on Reporting. How will the outsourced resource report to you? Email? Via your CRM logon? Inside the Upwork tool?

This is particularly true of longer projects. If you use email, also use some kind of filters so their email doesn't go missing. You can filter outsourced resource emails into a specific folder within your "inbox" - or whatever works for you.

Remember, reporting goes both ways. When they ask for feedback or clarification, don't wait a week. You'll start wondering what they're up to and they'll start wondering if you really want the work done. As I mentioned above, management comes down to actively managing.

Related to this: You need to hold your virtual assistant (or whoever) accountable for what they agreed on. You need to hold up your side of the communication system, and they need to hold up theirs. If they're good, they'll be busy. So you need to work on making sure you agree on timing and feedback.

4) Agree on Data Exchange. Everyone has a place in the cloud where they want to store stuff and exchange information. You need to be in control of which tools you use. If they throw something on an insecure, free hosted drive, you have no idea how secure your data are. You need to have a tool and you need to give them access. In some cases, that costs money.

Go slow. Be careful. Make sure you all agree on where things get put or exchanged. I'm not a fan of email for this stuff, but lots of people still use it.

5) Use checklists whenever you can. Whether it's configuring a firewall or agreeing on graphic design, the more you can define exactly what you need and the order you need it, the better.

Humans have an amazing capacity to assume information that is not present. We literally fill in the blanks. You might assume that "anyone" would do it your way. But someone else might ask why you think this is related to that. To combat this, it's your job as the manager to fill in the blanks and be as clear as possible.

Good outsourced resources might have their own checklists. They will also help you refine yours. The result is a process that becomes easier and easier to outsource with better results. Embrace the checklist mentality!

6) Pay promptly. Whether you pay by PayPal, check, ECH, or credit card, pay promptly! People who work virtually are almost always independent contractors and small businesses. They are not large corporations. You want to be paid promptly. So do they.

You already know this, so I won't go on and on. Just do it. It's great for the relationship.

- - - - -

What Can't Be Outsourced?

A few years ago I posted an ad for an in-house administrative assistant. In the add, I said please don't reply if you're not in Sacramento. OMG! This opened an amazing storm of virtual assistants pummeling me with complaints that I don't understand how much they can do.

One even said she could do my filing. If I sent her the paperwork and the file cabinet, she would send it back in perfect condition, perfectly filed.


I hope she understands how thoroughly absurd that is. There are MANY things you need to outsource to a real human being who lives in your town. Maybe you need an employee. Or maybe you need a contractor.

Remember: Outsourcing does not mean you are sending work to another state or country! Here's a list of things I pay someone to do. If I have enough things to do over a long period of time, I will probably hire someone. But sometimes I need three or four different people to get all these things done. In that case, I will probably hire each of them separately as 1099 contractors.

Here's the list of things I don't outsource over the Internet:

- Filing papers in my file cabinet

- Putting gas in my car

- Scanning business cards into my database (This could be sent to a remote V.A.)

- Tiny jobs such as mailing a letter or box

- Packing my signs and handouts for a trip

- Print handouts, build folders, prepare name tags, etc.

- Install network cards (hard drives, memory, etc.)

- Onsite prospect network evaluations

Obviously the list goes on. The point is, you should make these lists. You should list out the things you CAN outsource. Once you begin outsourcing, you will find that you can do more than you thought.

Remember: YOU are someone else's outsourced resource. They hire you so they don't have to hire a technician in-house.

- - - - -

If you haven't read the first part of this two-part series, check it out.

This is the future economy. There is massive talent all over the globe, being connected more and more every day.

Outsourcing allows all of us to get more done, expand our offerings, expand our work hours, reduce our costs, and even help us get into new markets. Once you start delegating beyond your employees, you see that you really can expand your business dramatically!

Some people give me a bad time for sending programming work to India and the Philippines or for using Fiverr for finding graphic artists. All I can say is that I have access to amazing talent at a reasonable price. They're happy. I'm happy. And I think outsourcing will continue to be a growing part of our national and global economies going forward.

Expand what your company can do today and in the future: Embrace Outsourcing!

- - - - -

Comments Welcome.


Friday, April 14, 2017

New 5-Week Course Build a Highly Successful Appointment Setting Machine

Build a Highly Successful Appointment Setting Machine

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

For years we’ve labored with how to get in front of more prospects. We’ve gone through outsourced firms. We’ve hired friends and neighbors and even some strangers. It just doesn’t seem to work. Until now.

Josh will show you how to:

1. Build the internal processes

2. Hire the right people

3. How to compensate your appointment setter

4. Onboard them (hint: this is the most important piece)

5. Measure, manage, and motivate

6. Handle appointments that don’t meet your criteria

Delivered by Josh Peterson, IT Coach and Trainer.

Includes five weeks of webinar classes with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.

Register Now

Stop Thinking in Terms of Margin!!!

New video posted: SOP: Stop Thinking in Terms of Margin.

I'm very tired of hearing people say that they are forced to sell things for a low margin.

- Spam filtering is low margin
- Office 365 is low margin
- Anti-Virus is low margin
- Storage is low margin
- Voicemail is low margin
. . .  etc.

Important safety tip: It's only low margin if you sell it at a low margin!

Stop doing that.

How? That's easy: Bundles!

Bundle together all the technology your clients need - including services - and sell the bundle for a good price. This is easier to do every day. In fact, it's exactly the strategy we talk about at the SMB Roadshow events.

Too many people are still thinking that they need to buy "stuff" from distributors, mark is up 3-7%, and sell it to clients. Why do they think that? Because that's how they got started. Or that's what they've been doing for five years (ten years, twenty years, etc.).

Just because you did it last year doesn't mean you have to do it next year.

The road that got you here won't get you anywhere else!

One of the most powerful mind shifts you can have is to realize that the price you pay is unrelated to the price you charge. These two have never been related to one another. Don't believe me? Go to an Audi dealership and buy a pair of windshield wiper blades. Now go to a VW dealership. Exact same blades. Made to the exact same specifications. Same packaging. Made in the same factory. Audi price is 3x the VW price.

Price is determined entirely by the intersection of what you charge and clients who are willing to pay it.

Bundles make it so much easier to show clients the value of your total services. Instead of literally nickle and diming clients with ten different services, throw them all into a bundle with labor. You have simplified technology for the client and made their life easier.

Watch the video. Feedback welcome.


Friday, April 07, 2017

Job Posts that Screen Themselves

I have long used a series of screening techniques to get good job applicants from Craigslist (and other sites).

The problem is: Job recruiters and people who teach others to find jobs give HORRIBLE advice. They basically tell job seekers to spam the universe with their resume until someone magically sees it. The result might eventually get you a job, but it is very unlikely to get you a great job that's a great fit.

This is so bad for job candidates. What you're not doing is looking for that one perfect job where you can make friends, enjoy your work, grow professionally, and stay for a few years. Instead, you become a pain in the ass for people trying to hire - because 90% of your resumes go to places that would never hire you.

Disclaimer: I know it is super frustrating to find a good job. When times are bad it's very difficult and even more frustrating. But that doesn't mean doing the wrong thing over and over will find you a better job.

Here's what happens. I put out a standard ad for a service tech. Because of the bad advice they've been given, I get over a hundred resumes from people with no experience, SQL programmers, people seven states away, etc. In other words, these people have followed the bad advice and sent their resume to every ad that might remotely be related to what they actually want to do.

That puts the burden on me (or my admin) to screen through hundreds of resumes to find the handful that might actually be right for this job.

My Process for Hiring a Good Technician

Instead, I do all the filtering up front. First, I tell them straight up - Do not send a resume! Second, I give a thorough description of the job. The example below is from one of my coaching clients. I wrote it and am screening applicants for him.

I know it's hard to find a job. But I am looking for someone who will read that ad. That's someone who is serious and detail oriented. They're not spamming the universe.

Third, I ask them to send me a paragraph describing why they want the job. The instruction is, "Send 1-2 paragraph description of why you are passionate about technical consulting." Now, they may or may not be passionate about technical consulting, but if they submit a paragraph, at least I know they can write and follow directions.

In modern tech support (meaning since 1990), we need to use a ticketing system and put good notes in the system. Knowing how to install a motherboard is no longer a relevant part of this job. Knowing how to describe what you did is far more important.

Fourth, I send them an extensive "skills matrix" that lists the kinds of technology we use and asks them to rate their level of knowledge on this. It's not a test and it may not even be accurate. It is their own self assessment. I will still ask them to prove themselves along the way, but it gives me some sense of what they know and what they can do. You'd be surprised how many people admit they know nothing about anything related to the job!

Again, there's a huge filter there. Depending on the job environment, I might get 100 responses, 25 of which send a paragraph and are asked to send a resume. Of those, 10-15 will fill out the skills matrix. So instead of slogging through 100 applicants, I only look at the 10-15. And the best part is: I already know these folks care enough to jump through a few hoops, they can follow instructions, and they're actually interested in the job!

So if I'm willing to train, and they have some aptitude, I know I can turn them into great technicians. Plus, if I'm super lucky, I will find someone who turns out to be an awesome service manager or super star technician.

Some of the best technicians I ever hired were because of this process.

Here's that job ad.

- - - - -

Sample Job Ad for Technical Support

Job description
Position: Level I/II Technical Support
Location: US-CA-xxxxxxxxxx

Employment: Hourly - W2 - Full Time
Compensation: Starts at $20/hr. Will go up with experience and specific certifications.

Note: Please read through this ad and do not send a resume unless requested to do so. We will not look at unsolicited resumes.

Excellent opportunity for goal-oriented, independent, high-energy, knowledgeable IT Specialist with outstanding customer service skills. 

We are looking for a top-notch field technician to join an established, nimble, fast moving team. Renowned for its superior technical skill and unrelenting dedication to its customers, this stable and long-standing company offers a secure position. A comprehensive compensation plan includes financial support for professional certifications, medical insurance, mobile devices, and mileage reimbursement/fuel allowance. 

This position offers the chance to be an integral part of the strategic growth of the company and is ideal for candidates seeking to be part of a small and responsive team in a work-hard, play-hard atmosphere. 

Daily activities require an individual to be capable of handling both routine and complex troubleshooting activities: working in office, utilizing remote diagnostics, or jumping in the car to head to a client's site. This is a critical, front-line position that requires interaction with customers, and rotational on-call hours. 

Key Responsibilities include: 

Upgrading, migrating, and installing Windows Server 
Desktop support - Microsoft Windows 
Malware/Virus troubleshooting and resolution 
Running routine back-ups for network servers and desktops 
Installing and administering IPSEC and SSL based VPN networks combined with thorough knowledge of TCP/IP, DHCP, DNS, LANS, WANS and Routers 
Configuring, deploying, migrating and troubleshooting Windows Server, client PC, networking, printing, and related hardware and/or software issues

Desired Skills and Experience

Candidate Requirements: 

Two- or four-year degree in Information Systems, Computer Science, or related field 
CompTIA A+ Certification or a Microsoft certificate plus experience in lieu of degree 
Minimum of two years' hands-on experience in a business environment 
Prior experience directly supporting customers on-site or remotely 
Must be in good standing with DMV and have valid driver's license 
Ability to commute to customers in own vehicle (mileage reimbursement/fuel allowance) 
Pass a 7-year felony/misdemeanor background check and drug test
Ideally the candidate will also have hands-on experience with hosted services such as Exchange and Office 365
Experience with Autotask or another PSA very desirable
Experience with remote monitoring and management services
Good communication skills - with people and with writing service notes

Technology certifications are a PLUS, Microsoft or other.

Physical Demands
Must be able to stand or sit for extended periods of time
Must have the ability to stand, sit, squat, bend, kneel, twist, crawl, reach, lift, balance, push and pull as required for an IT position.
Must be able to lift 50 lbs/ frequent lifting and/or carrying objects weighing up to 100 lbs with assistance.
Must be able to drive to client locations.

For the right candidate, there is tremendous opportunity to grow in this company. We are in a growth mode. That means it's a fast-paced environment and opportunities will grow as the company does.

Special Notes:
We place a strong emphasis on Top Quality, Experience, and Customer Service. 

- Do not send a resume until requested to do so. We will not look at unsolicited resumes.
To apply for this position, send the following in response to this ad:
- 1-2 paragraph description of why you are passionate about technical consulting
- We will send a technology self-assessment to people who stand out. Some of these people will be asked to submit resumes.

We are looking for a long-term employee who will grow with the company as we evolve into offering some new and very cool technologies. If you want to work on known technology and just collect a paycheck, you won't fit in here.

This position is in XXXXXXXXXX. Please only apply if you are in the XXXXXXXXXX area or plan to move to the area.

We are looking for someone who is willing to learn *our* way of providing top-quality customer support. You will learn great trouble-shooting skills and be exposed to a wide variety of network setup and internet operations.

- - - - -

Comments Welcome.

Managing Outsourced Remote Labor - Part One

I think I've been doing "serious" management of remote people since about 2005. The origin is a bit fuzzy because it's the kind of thing you step into a little at a time.

I managed the technical side of the Work from Home program for HP's Roseville, CA plant in 1995-1996. I didn't manage any of those remote workers, but my team configured and serviced the laptop (and desktop) machines that were used by remote workers. Prior to that I had been a remote worker, managing employees in three states even while I traveled. So my personal remote experience goes all the way back to 1993.

[Insert old man stories about the equipment we used back then.]

But as far as managing people for MY OWN company, that evolved in the mid 2000's. Some of it was the standard business of working with my own technicians on the other side of town. But then we quickly evolved to have a help desk in India (Zenith/Continuum), higher-end support from Microsoft MVPs we had contracted with, graphics people and web developers in the U.S. and Philippines, and so forth.

I think I will have remote assistance of one kind or another forever. After all, why should a web designer, SQL programmer, or social media assistant have to come to my office? The truth is, they are probably more efficient and effective from their home base.

Here's a quick overview of the kinds of resources you can outsource. Of course this is the tip of iceberg, but it will get you started.

Remote employees.  Okay, if they're real employees, they are not really outsourced. But they need to be managed almost identically.

1099 (contract) workers. Many people don't consider these folks outsourced either. But if they're not your actual employees, contract workers are the very definition of outsourced employees.

Virtual specialists. This includes "virtual assistants" of all stripes. Some are primarily office administrative assistants. But some are also bookkeepers, accountants, graphics professionals, layout artists, copywriters for advertising, marketing companies, etc.

There's a big bucket that falls under the term VA, but there really are a lot of specialists. I outsource two different graphics people, each of whom specializes in specific services. I also have people who perform very specific services related to book publishing. And, of course, I've used help desk and escalation services such as Third Tier.

These outsourced resources can be divided into three broad kinds of businesses. First, there are individuals who provide their specific skill set, generally for an hourly fee. Second, there are small companies (1-10 employees) that will provide services. These usually have one primary person you deal with. And of course, third, there are larger companies. These tend to be the nameless, faceless companies that we all know, such as SalesForce.com, AppRiver, Intermedia, etc.

Some Resources

Looking to find outsource opportunities for your business? Here are a few places to start. First, let's look at "generic" resources that any business could use. Then we'll look at IT or MSP-specific resources.

Any business might find value in these outsourced resources:

- Upwork (formerly Odesk and Elance) - www.upwork.com
This is the ultimate place to find pretty much anything you want. I have used Upwork to find SQL programmers, web designers, video editors, graphics designers, voice over artists, and more. You can filter by talent, country, cost, and many more options. If nothing else, it's worth browsing this web site to see what's available.

- Craigslist.org
Hey, don't laugh. It's actually amazing who you will find on CL. I have hired several "local" web designers over the last fifteen years from CL. Only two of them ever came and worked in my office. The others worked from home and were totally outsourced. I just happen to find them through CL. Remember, just because you want to outsource doesn't mean they have to live in another country.

- Referrals.
My primary book cover designer, my primary virtual assistant, my transcriptionist, and the person who does all my book layouts came to me as referrals. In other words, I asked someone in a meeting, or on social media, or in a mastermind group if they knew someone. You want work through referrals, right? Well, so do lots of other good people.

Now let's look at a few IT-specific recommendations.

Third Tier (www.thirdtier.net)
If you're in I.T. and you get stuck, you have about three options: 1) Call the hardware vendor support line; 2) Call the software vendor support line; or 3) Call Third Tier. They have a stable of really smart people who can handle pretty much any problem you've got. Don't know PowerShell? They do. Afraid of Active Directory or defragging an Exchange database? They're not.

You get the point. Sometimes you're just too busy or overwhelmed. A couple years ago, I had a client with an Exchange issue and I had jury duty. I probably could have got out of jury duty, but I put in a ticket with Third Tier and they just handled it.

Continuum (www.continuum.net
Okay, you need to be a Continuum RMM subscriber to take advantage of their help desk. But if you are a subscriber, please be sure to use this service! They do some amazing work. Even little stuff like analyzing blue screens. You look at two a year. They have a team that does nothing else! Trust me, they'll find the problem faster than you.

Other Outsourced Help Desk
As for other options, this is a growing market. Google "resell outsourced help desk service" to see. The prices are going down, down, down. You could potentially have a business where all you do it take support tickets and assign them to someone else, paying a flat fee per month.

Your New Reality

Many of us got into "computer consulting" because we like to play with computers. We like to fix stuff. Some like to program or do scripting.

Today those are hobbies.

For your business to grow, to improve, and to move forward, you are going to be doing more outsourcing. And, to be honest, you're going to be selling more cloud services.

One answer to having someone else take care of an Exchange server is to eliminate the server and pay Intermedia or AppRiver a low monthly fee that you bundle into your offering. You manage "accounts" but all the technology is somewhere else. Someone else patches and fixes it. Someone else keeps it secure. Someone else backs it up.

You take money from the client and give a small piece of that to the hosted Exchange provider. You handle the client side of things and resell the technology piece.

- - - - -

In the second article on this topic (next Friday), I'm going to talk about how to manage outsourced resources and what can't be outsourced.

Comments Welcome.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Join me at TechFest April 20th - Free!

I'm planning a great presentation later this month at SMB TechFest.

Join me for free with the link below.

April 20th - all day. And my buddy Dave Seibert is always good for some amazing food.

Check out the agenda and join me in Anaheim!

- - - - -

Be my VIP guest and see me live at SMB TechFest.  SMB TechFest Q2 is coming up on Apr 20.  See me present along with other industry experts in sessions to grow your business.  Also engage in the IT Mixer, Expo Hall, and prizes included in this exclusive no-cost VIP pass for you. 
You can attend onsite in Anaheim, CA or online from anywhere worldwide via the live video broadcast.  In-person allows you to network better so join me live.  I have a limited number of complimentary VIP passes and they’re first come first serve. 

Limited free passes so register now

SMB TechFest Highlights Watch the 2 minute video

Accelerate at SMB TechFest
Accelerate your business and experience high-speed exotic cars.
Car onsite.  Don’t miss this raffle.
Lamborghini Huracan

Don’t Miss This Event

  • Grow your business with leading speakers
  • Expand your solutions at the Expo Hall
  • Network with 250+ partners and IT Professionals
  • Win Prizes
  • Enjoy the Lamborghini on the show floor
  • Socialize with peers
  • Hosted bar and hot Hors d'oeuvres
  • Parking Included (in/out privileges)
  • Includes breakfast, lunch and hot Hors d'oeuvres
  • Great for partners & IT Pros of all industry focus
  • Always a high-value packed agenda
  • Any doubts?  View our 100+ attendee testimonials.

Get Focused for Success

·    Market Direction & Trends; what you need to know
·    Cloud Vision and Pivotal Directions
·    MSP Marketing; reaching the decision maker!
·    Partner Panels -  Answers from top partners
·    Many topic experts providing content and road maps
  • Profit with Network & Security Assessments
  • SolarWinds new solution suites
  • Don’t miss Kendra Lee – MSP Sales Guru
  • Don’t miss Jamison West – 3x Merger/Acquisition partner
  • Don’t miss Chip Reaves of Bigger Brains
  • Increase your cloud offerings through CSP and CloudSolv
  • And more…


See you at the Event!

www.smbTechFest.com/Events   * 949-266-1650  *  [email protected]  

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Schedule Success and Work on Balance

My motto, as you may know, is:

Nothing Happens By Itself!

That includes everything. Over on my Relax Focus Succeed blog, I just posted a video entitled Balance Doesn't Happen by Itself. More specifically, that blog post is about how we un-balance our own lives.

I also posted a new "SOP" video on YouTube about Scheduling Your Success.

Both topics address an important common theme: Living with intention. What does that mean? Basically, it means you need to take control of your life and create the life you want. If you don't take control, someone else might. But even if no one else does, you're still responding to the world around you.

There is a dramatic limit to how much success you can have (personally and professionally) if you only respond to the rest of the world. Obviously, extreme success will simply not "happen" to you. At a much lower level, you may have luck in some piece of your life. But even if you're the luckiest person in the world, there's a limit to how much success will just show up at your doorstep.

Think about all the changes you know you should be making. For me, it's easy to say I should exercise more and drink less. We all know what we should be doing more of or less of. But for whatever reason, we just don't always do what we know we need to do.

I recommend you start by making a list of the things you do right. What are you good habits? How did yo get those habits? Why are they more successful for you?

That self-assessment will help you examine where your strengths are with regard to creating good habits. For example, I have a habit of writing every day. Sometimes it's after meditating in the morning. Sometimes it's hand-written, sometimes on a computer. Sometimes it's outside. But whatever it is, I write every day.

I got that habit because I wrote down one day that I want to write more. Then I made it a priority. And the truth is, I failed a lot. It took me months to go from writing in spurts to writing several days per week, and eventually to every day. Even now there are days when I don't write. But most days I write every day. :-)

This year I'm trying to tackle that exercise deficit. Not every day. But I want to consistently exercise two or three times per week. I used to do that. I know I can do that. And I know I will do it again.

Exercise is a perfect example: Exercising three times per week is never just going to happen. I need to make it a priority and I need to make it happen.

One final note about making improvements in your life: Go slow. Be kind to yourself. And don't take on everything at once. Start with one thing - when big or small. Focus on it. Write it down. Develop a plan. Create your success!

It won't happen by itself.