Friday, December 27, 2019

Register Now: My 11th Annual "State of the Nation" Address for Small Business IT

Karl's 11th Annual Annual "State of the Nation" Address 

Wednesday, January 15th
9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

NOTE: This webinar is recorded and you can view at

Mark your calendar now and don't miss this once-a-year webinar. This will be my 11th Annual "State of the Nation" address for small business technology providers.

Don't worry - No Politics Here!

No cost. Just register and tune in.

Paste that date into your calendar so you don't forget!

Topics Include:

  • Highlights (low lights?) from 2019
  • Windows 10, Server 2019, Azure, Cloud Everything . . . and what's next
  • The Economy
  • The Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
  • Podcast updates
  • Speculations about 2020

2019 was a great year for small business IT. And 2020 is looking good as well. As always, I'm going to spend the year committed to helping IT service providers build successful businesses that look to the future of technology and guarantee their success moving forward.

Tune in to learn more!

Technology is always a changing environment. And with IoT, drones, Cloud Services, and all the other emerging technologies, it's no exaggeration that there's more opportunity in our business than ever before..

Are you getting your share of all the new recurring revenue opportunities?

Tune in to learn more.

Karl's 11th Annual State of the Nation Address for SMB IT
January 15th
9:00 AM Pacific
NOTE: This webinar is recorded and you can view at

- - - - -

This is always a very popular webinar - but don't worry. I have 500 seats available and and will buy more if we need them.

One of the things I've learned is that there's about a 50% drop-off rate when things are free. If registration reaches 1,000, I'll buy the extra seats.

Plan to log in early, though, to guarantee your seat.

See you then.

This session will be recorded.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I Don't Like Justifying My Finances . . . But I Have To

I just got off a Zoom call with my outsourced bookkeeping company. I'm pretty good with my finances. But it is still never fun.

Financial people care about things like balance sheets. I look at my balance sheet when they force me to, or when I'm having my taxes done. And to be honest, I don't really look at it with the tax guy.

Financial pros want me to keep my books in a format understood by financial pros. I don't want to keep my books that way, but I get a little closer to their methods every year.

A lot of their questions are about things I don't want to answer. Why is no revenue from this source in February? Where did these payments go? Why doesn't this balance? How come this number is $10,000 higher in July?

As a long-time business owner, I don't want to justify my finances and my decisions (and my processes and habits) to anyone. And certainly not to someone who is educated and knows a lot about how money flow in, out, and around businesses.

Much of what they want to see is related to the overall valuation of a business. Here's an example: When I do payroll, I want to put entries in QuickBooks that look just like the "checkbook" entries created by the payroll service. That is, Net Pay, Employer Liabilities, etc. But the bookkeeper cares about gross officer compensation, staff compensation, deductions, and other details that need to be calculated and are not easily visible in the checkbook.

Their method takes a little more work, involves invisible journal entries, and is useful on the day I sell my business. My method is much better for running the daily operations.

I wouldn't say I argue with them a lot . . . but they might.

The old man in me wants to say, "I've been doing this for twenty-five years, with several successful companies, and making a good profit along the way." But I know this whole uncomfortable process is good for me - and my business.

As a very small business, I could isolate myself, do all the finances myself, and never discuss this stuff with anyone. I used to go over this with my wife for about fifteen years. And when I've had someone else running a company, I always included them in financial discussions. Why? Because justifying my decisions is good for me and the company.

Sometimes, people you pay to help you are brave enough to disagree with you. And that's usually a good thing, because it helps validate your thinking. This is particularly important with finances because they are a critical measure of the success of all your decision making. And "in the end" (as they say), good finances will drive the value of your enterprise.

Who do you justify your finances to?

-- -- --

Related Topic: Register for the free webinar on your End of Year Checklist.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Free Webinar: Your Year-End Checklist

Your Year End Checklist

Best tips to improve profit, build your culture, and finish the year with a bang.

Ready to push strong at year end? Join me on a live webinar:

Wed., Dec . 18th
9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern

-- -- --

UPDATE: Recorded Webinar is Here

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Are you ready for one last webinar?

You know I'm all about checklists. So why not have a checklist for the end-of-year?

We'll try to balance three core elements of your EOY strategy: Profit, Culture, and ending this year by launching next year.

My goal is to do about 45 minutes of presentation, followed by as much Q & A as the crowd wants.

(Realistically, I'll stop when the webinar hits the two-hour mark. So get your questions in early.)

I know it seems odd to cover three topics. But I assure you, I'll bring it all together to help you with a great year-end strategy:



End with a Bang



Thursday, November 21, 2019

Relax Focus Succeed Gets a Major Refresh!

We are happy to announce that has a great new look - and lots of  amazing content.

This site revision is long overdue.

In fact, I have tried to assign the revision to a few different people over the years. This time, I asked Kara on my staff to take on the task - and she did a great job!

The site includes hundreds of blog posts that go back to the early days of "Relax Focus Succeed" - 2002!

There's a certain symmetry with the RFS site right now. The most recent blog post is a nod to the fact that my personal battle with rheumatoid arthritis started twenty years ago this Fall. And that personal challenge started a series of personal and professional changes that led to the RFS site, blog, and book.

If you are not subscribed to my RFS Newsletter, I encourage you to visit the Relax Focus Succeed web site and subscribe today! Many people in the tech community may be surprised to learn that the RFS newsletter has about 11,000 subscribers - more than the 10K that subscribe to my weekly technology newsletter.

The core philosophy of Relax Focus Succeed is simple: You need balance in your life. To that end, you need to take time to stop working and recharge your batteries. Taking time off is critical to your energy level, your productivity, and your ultimate success.

Many people don't buy into this for a simple reason: We believe that working harder is the only way to succeed. I address this square on in Chapter Two of the book Relax Focus Succeed. Chapter Two is on Workaholism - and you can download it free on the site.

If RFS and the site are known to you, I would appreciate it if you go to the new site and let me know what you think. I always appreciate your feedback.

If all of this is new to you, then I highly encourage you to drop in, read a few blog posts, subscribe to the newsletter, and join the conversation. I think you'll like it and stay.

All feedback welcome!


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Check Out the SMB Community Podcast - Seven Years and Going Strong

I started posting to the SMB Community Podcast in July of 2012. Check it out today at

As of today, we have posted 231 episodes. I don't know if it's the oldest, but it's certain one of the longest-running podcasts in our industry.

Recent topics include:

  • Andrew Lassise - A Self-Made and Sober IT Entrepreneur
  • Culture, Motivation, and Jacob Juicebox Wellman
  • Backblaze: Heating Up the World of Backup
  • Chris Wiser on Running a 7 Figure MSP
  • TaskTrain – Pragmatic Process Management
  • Nigel Moore – Package Price Profit
  • Killing IT with MDF – Market Development Funds
  • Vince Tinnirello: Climbing the Mountain to Work-Life Balance
  • Richard Tubb: How to Increase Productivity When Running a Business
  • How to Start and Run a Successful I.T. Company – Without Using your Shirt

After all these years, podcasts have moved up to a new level of popularity.

For most of the life of this podcast, I have used a service called Libsyn to publish the podcast. As a result, over 190 episodes are available on iTunes, Stitcher, and most of the other pod-catchers.

If you look for "SMB Community Podcast" and don't find it on your favorite pod-catcher, drop me a line and let me know!

In the meantime, check it out now!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

ASCII Announces Speakers and Content for 2020 IT Success Summits

Press release from The ASCII Group:

The ASCII Group Announces Keynote Speakers and Content for 2020 IT Success Summit Series

Bethesda, Maryland – November 13, 2019 – The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce the featured speakers for its 2020 North American ASCII IT Success Summits. The agenda for the Summits reflects a heightened focus on education, providing attendees with strategies and best practices on how to grow their IT companies while best servicing their customer base. The 2020 events will have more emphasis on MSP-driven education sessions (featuring ASCII members) and our most popular Keynote speaker returns for a special security discussion.

Keynote Speaker – Frank Abagnale, Security Briefing: The Art of the Steal

In this unique session, con man turned crime stopper Frank Abagnale provides the latest information to protect institutions, associations and corporations from embezzlement, forgery, counterfeit currency, check fraud, identity theft, and Internet fraud. He describes white collar crime techniques, liability concerns under the new Uniform Commercial Code, and demonstrates the latest document features and equipment. Abagnale combines his expertise with anecdotes from his time as one of the world's most successful con men for a timely, insightful and informative presentation.
Additional MSP peer education and industry speakers include:

Bob Coppedge, Simplex-IT – The MSP Survival Guide to Co-Managed IT Services

Can Managed Service Providers (MSPs) work harmoniously with internal IT departments? Historically the answer has been “no way”. In this session, you will see that it can be done without having to recreate your traditional MSP offerings. In fact, MSPs can directly market to organizations who have internal IT departments and create a unique selling proposition. By crafting a mutually supportive relationship between internal IT employees and your MSP organization, both parties reap the benefits and can build a strong, long-term relationship. This session will show you how to do this without reinventing your existing MSP practice.

Corey Kirkendoll, 5K Technical Services – The Ultimate MSP Check List for Bulletproof Internal Security

Over the past year, “security” has been one of the most highly talked about subjects in our industry. However, there is one element vital to the success of MSPs that hasn’t been broadly discussed – internal security measures. Corey Kirkendoll, CEO of 5K Technical Services, has been aggregating best practices from within the ASCII and vendor community into a definitive guide to help MSPs lock down their environments from future attacks. Corey will present this information, highlighting the top things most MSPs are not doing that leave them vulnerable to being breached. The content created for this session has been a collaborative effort for our industry and the findings are vital for any MSP to hear.

Dawn Sizer, 3rd Element Consulting – Going Vertical in Municipal Government and Law Enforcement is Not a Bidding War

Building trust and delivery of IT services for first responders is no small task and leading the charge in this sector of the market is Dawn Sizer, CEO of 3rd Element Consulting. Dawn has focused almost exclusively on this vertical as well as local municipalities. With over 12 years in delivering IT services, Dawn has stood out because of solid processes and knowing the nuances of this market and what it takes to be successful. With 0% client loss, 3rd Element Consulting provides 24/7 support which extends to the office, outside of cars in the field, to the station, and into the cloud. Plenty of people say it’s too hard to get into this vertical, but it’s knowing how, and the right staff will qualify you, or disqualify you.

Shannon Mayer, The ASCII Group - How MSPs Can Drive New Business through Live Events

Events are a proven way to generate business and heighten your company brand. Building an event takes more than just figuring out the logistics aspect though – it requires an understanding of marketing and repeatable strategies for success.  Shannon Mayer, ASCII’s VP of Channel Development, has produced over 150 events, and in this session Shannon will go beyond the basics and help you determine the best approach and strategy to help you produce your own local, live event to drive new business and retain customers.

Jerry Koutavas, The ASCII Group: MSP-Client Retention Strategy Study

With its most recent industry study, ASCII breaks down the data exposing specific strategies that leading MSPs are using to increase customer retention. As MSPs continue to drive recurring revenue and automate processes that would lessen the need to have a physical presence at their client sites, it is vital to have a strategy to increase touch and awareness with your customers.  Jerry Koutavas, President of The ASCII Group, digs into the specifics as we help you compare your current business strategy to your peers as we discuss the most recent data on which approaches outperform others to maintain customer revenue.

For over 20 years, the Success Summits have been the leading conference in the channel and bring together over 1,500 IT solution providers, cutting edge technology vendors and key industry thought leaders in a two-day format.  ASCII hosts events in nine major cities across North America and the series focuses on areas to help MSPs advance and move their businesses forward through the power of community and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.

“Our goal has never changed, provide the ASCII MSP community with an event unlike any other, with actionable business content, a nationally recognized keynote and the showcasing of top technology that is helping MSPs drive new revenue,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.  “Attendees leave the events with business intelligence they can use and new partnerships they can leverage to further build recurring revenue for their business.”

The Summit series is designed for qualified Managed Service Providers and is targeted towards those looking to increase revenue and enhance their current business model.

The locations and dates for the 2020 ASCII IT Success Summits:
Long Beach, CA February 26 – 27
Houston, TX March 25 – 26
Washington, D.C. April 22 – 23
Chicago, IL May 27 – 28
Cincinnati, OH June 24 – 25
Toronto, Canada July 29 – 30
Atlantic City, NJ August 26 – 27
Boston, MA September 24 – 25
Orlando, FL October 21 – 22

MSPs and solution providers interested in attending the Summits can visit For more information, follow ASCII on Twitter @asciigroup and #ASCIISUCCESS.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The Group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national and international reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more.  ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of leading and major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit



Tuesday, November 12, 2019

New 5-Week Class: Powerhouse of One - How to Be a Super Successful MSP (or Solo Entrepreneur)

Next 5-Week Course - 100% New

Taught By: Lori Hardtke, MSP and Peer Advisor.

- Five Tuesdays - November 19 - December 17, 2019

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

Register Now

You hear it all the time, you need to work "on" your business not "in" your business. You need to hire staff and delegate in order to grow.

But what if you could grow your business to $300K or more without any additional full-time staff on your payroll?

Tired of sitting in traffic to make that meeting across town and filling up at the pump every few days? What if you could master running your MSP practice remotely nearly 100% of the time?

Ever dream of having no monthly A/R and no debt?

Then this class is for you!

Here's what you will learn:

  • How to pick the right vendors to do a lot of the heavy lifting
  • How to position your micro MSP practice to prospects and clients as though you have an army of employees behind you!
  • How to sell additional technology services that are pure profit
  • How to land new MSP contracts without leaving your office!
  • Tactics on raising rates and going after low hanging fruit
  • Ideas on how to package and price your MSP offering
  • How to streamline your sales process
  • Technical Business Review checklist
  • Finances - the bottom line
  • How to Live Your Business Dream
  • …And more tips-n-tricks to help you be different and think different!

Lori has been a managed service provider for many years and runs a successful two-state business with no employees.

Five Tuesdays, starting November 19, 2019
9:00 AM Pacific - All classes recorded

Details and Registration at

Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community Members: Register for only $99. See the Deals and Freebies forum for the code you need.

Members who renewed their annual subscription attend for FREE. Email the Community Concierge for the code.


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Mini Class: Social Media Super Charge – starts Tomorrow

Automate your social media marketing. Presented by Karl W. Palachuk.

Click for Details

I create about 125,000 social media touch points every month. How is that possible? I’ll show you exactly what I do. Join me live!

There are three pieces to a successful scheduling and automation process. I’ll show you what they are, how you automate these processes, what they cost, and more. Plus we’ll answer all of your questions.

And, of course, you need to have someone echo all the social media posts again and again. That requires a human (administrative assistant) and another tool.

In this three-week mini class, I’ll show you the strategy, the exact tools I use, and the processes and procedures that make this a LOT easier than it looks like.

Social Media Super Charge

November 7, 14, and 21
8:00 AM Pacific / 11:00 AM Eastern

Each class is 30-60 minutes, depending on questions and other interaction

NOTE: Three week mini class are now exclusive to Small Biz Thoughts Community members. Members can attend for free.

Members Register Free

Special Offer:
Non-members pay only $999 – and receive one year of membership at no additional cost!
Non-Members Join Today


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Two New Recorded Seminars in the Community

Over in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, we posted two new seminars:

The Execution Gap – Audio Program
Exclusive to the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community

100% NEW Audio Program:

Did you ever make a “decision” and then not implement it? I know I have! This presentation gives some hints to making decisions, committing to them, and executing them.

Audio program with slides. Sixty Minutes. Delivered in a zip file.

Recorded live: October 2019.

Streamline Your Managed Services Business – New Audio Program

How can you increase the productivity and profitability of your managed services business? Are you always in search of the secret sauce? Well, as this seminar explains here, there is no secret sauce. But I cover the good, solid strategies you need to make your business fast, efficient, and profitable.

Audio program with slides. Sixty Minutes. Delivered in a zip file.

Recorded live: October 2019.

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Saturday, November 02, 2019

Save Your Money: There Is No One-Time Miracle

I have seen a certain kind of desperate spending creeping into our industry. It's not completely new or unique to our industry, but I believe it's becoming more common. Here's what I mean.

Sometimes,  you just need to take action, and you don't know what to do. So you decide to try just about anything.

For example, you might want to sign one more client. Or somehow get ahead of the cash flow crunch. Or just hire another tech to handle the workload.

And so, you decide to invest in any exciting $1,000 (or $2,500 or $5,000) program that looks like it will solve your problem. And so you spend time jumping from one thing to another.

And guess what? None of them work.

Well, that's not fair. In reality, all of them probably work if you stick with it and stop jumping around. If you just picked one thing and worked it like crazy, you would almost certainly find success.

I am seeing a growing trend in our industry of folks offering quick-fix solutions that cannot possibly work for most people. And I can from their marketing campaigns which books they've read and which tools they've subscribed to.

As someone who sells into this industry, I have been tempted down that road. But one big thing stops me: I hate it when people return purchases. Almost all quick-fix programs can expect a 25-50% return rate due to buyer's remorse.

I never want buyers to have remorse. So I try to only sell truly useful products and programs.

People always email me, asking my opinion of various programs designed to help IT professionals make more money. The truth is: I know of ONE person who is a sham and has taken money but never delivered results.

But I know a couple dozen programs and individuals that work their butts off to deliver exactly what they promise. It all adds up to this: YOU have to do the work. Signing up for a marketing program will not create a flood of new business; following the program religiously for six months will.

Brian Tracy has a great line about employees who ask for raises: "Your raise will become effective when you do."

It's the same way with improving your business. Your success will become effective when you stop bouncing around, trying a new thing every month, and focus on one thing until it works. As your company grows and you can delegate tasks to various people, your company will be able to focus on two things, and then three, four, and more.

A great deal of the sales techniques we are seeing originated by selling useless vitamin supplements over the internet through "new" techniques that were massively profitable - despite 50% return rates. These techniques are not pyramid schemes (mostly), but they rely on a very temporary success method.

They basically expect the average customer to make a big purchase and follow one of three paths:

1) Ask for your money back

2) Never purchase again

3) Buy into an even higher-level program that's even more expensive

Here's the interesting part. Almost everyone who takes option #3 turns out to be extremely successful. Why? Because they picked a path and stuck with it. When you're paying a large monthly fee, you tend to take it seriously, take action, and follow the plan.

Bottom line: It's better to spend $2,500 per month on the same program over and over than to spend that money on a new program every month, starting over and over.

Remember, almost anything you do consistently over time will bring you success.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Killer Tips for Inbound Marketing - from an Old Friend

My friend and former Marketing Manager Monica Caraway wrote a blog post recently, reporting on the InBound conference in Boston. Check it out here: 11 Actionable Marketing Tactics We Learned from Inbound 2019.

Monica is now a Marketing Consultant with Orange Marketing  -

And while the blog article says there are eleven actionable tactics, several of these have several bullet points. So there's lots of good stuff here.

In addition to just summarizing great tips, Monica reposts the relevant slides decks, if they're good. I love this.

Personally, I was a little irritated when she sent this to me - because I totally have to make a checklist to implement TIP #1. And that means there will be lots of other great tips, and lots of work for me to do.


If you read that, you'll see that I haven't implemented tip #1 yet. But I promise I will, but it makes perfect sense.

Anyway - check it out. Bookmark it. Share it.

And implement it.

Thanks, Mon!


Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Business of Drones Takes Off

Over at the Killing IT Podcast - - we are constantly talking about what's new, what's next, and what it means for IT consultants.

One of our recurring topics is Drones - specifically drone aircraft. In fact, our Tuesday podcast includes a story about UPS developing (and getting a license for) a drone airline. After all, they already have their own airline for cargo delivery by plane.

Again and again, people ask me at conferences, what has any of this to do with US - with IT professionals. Well the simple answer is A Lot!

The drone industry is growing up fast.

With this move, UPS will start deploying drone deliveries in "campus" settings such as medical campuses and college campuses. To make this successful, they will need to develop a great deal of sophisticated controls, procedures, and safety protocols. But my guess is that they'll be hugely successful.

Of course Google (Alphabet) is in the race as well, as it Uber.

As with any technology, solving a big problem such as this (massively coordinated deliveries in a control environment) will also solve many related problems in the larger market. This includes creating designated flight paths, collision prevention, and even theft prevention.

It also means that lots of technicians will be needed to deliver, program, deploy, and repair these drones. This might mean companies like yours, if you have the skills.

CompTIA has a new drone community.


The CompTIA drone advisory council is looking at the evolution of this industry, how partners are making money, and how opportunities are emerging to make more money going forward. Their first online community meeting was last month. The next one is this Thursday - October 17th at Noon Eastern. You can register here:

Bottom Line: There's opportunity here! It's definitely not too late to get into drone technology. And it's certainly not too soon to start making money with drones.

Action Steps:

1) Listen to the Killing IT Podcast on your favorite pod catcher

2) Join the CompTIA Drone Community and watch that webinar Thursday

Keep watching this space. I've been pushing these emerging technologies for years. Now they are entering the stage of commercial adoption. Make sure you get your share!

-- -- -- -- --

For the news article on the UPS drone airline, see


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Don't Assume You Know What Clients are Thinking

(I almost entitled this "Don't Assume Clients Know What You Go Through")

I had an interesting conversation with a Lyft driver yesterday. Dude was telling me that he sometimes gets a ride that's fifteen or twenty minutes away - and then turns out to be a seven dollar fare. He says he always gives those people one star because they should have cancelled.

I said, Whoa! That's not fair to the rider. They requested a ride. It takes time to get there. It's not their fault that you're inconvenienced. In fact, it's the app's fault.

He said that riders should use common sense. They have two minutes to cancel without a penalty. They should see how far the driver has to go and cancel the ride as a courtesy.

I see his point. But, the fundamental problem with this logic is that it assumes the client has both the same knowledge and the same perspective as the driver. Both of these are very unlikely.

Many people have cancelled a ride and paid a fee. To the rider, there may be confusion about whether that was Lyft or Uber. And, of course, they may not know that they cancel within a certain amount of time. And is that two minutes or five? The driver knows all the rules because he does this all day long. The rider is far less likely to pay attention to all the rules, or have them memorized.

As for perspective, it's natural that the rider has a different perspective. There's an app. You push a button and someone magically shows up at your door. It's not the rider's job to think about where the driver came from, how long he's been driving, what mood he's in, etc. And she certainly can't know that he'll give her a one star rating because she requested a ride and took it.

All these lessons apply to your business as well. By definition, the client's perspective is not your perspective. Their knowledge is not your knowledge. Because of these facts, what you consider common sense is not what they consider common sense.

We sometimes bundle all the things we do into a category called "Service" sector. But there are lots of different kinds of services out there in the service sector. Lawyers, accountants, and bank tellers are all in the service business, as are receptionists and checkers at the grocery store.

IT is a very different animal, though. In addition to doing some consulting (like attorneys and accountants), we need to look after a lot of things our clients are not aware of or able to understand.

Why is http different from https, and why should I care?

I pay a lot of money to be safe, so how come I'm not safe?

We need to understand the client's perceptions and perspectives. IT really isn't their job and you can't expect them to care about it. Now, having said that, when you warn them about things and they take no action, you also can't take the blame for that.

I've always used the line, "You pay us a lot of money to give you advice: You should take it."

I used to have a client (an attorney) who never saved or closed his Word documents unless he had to. One time, we needed to kick everyone off the network for some reason. His office manager went into the attorney's office and started closing out Word documents. There were over 100 documents open! Some had not yet been given a name.

As the office manager was patiently saving and naming files, I asked whether the attorney had never lost any data. The answer was no. The reason he pays us is to keep bad things from happening. So I asked, don't bad things just sometimes happen? No, he said. The guy drives a BMW, buys only top shelf, and expects everything to go right.

That's a great approach and a great attitude. But it also means there's a lot of pressure on my company to take care of him where he won't take care of himself. And for the right price, that's what we did.

Now, that's not a normal client. But the behavior isn't completely unheard of either.

What habits and practices do you have in place to understand your clients' perspective on technology?

For me, regular roadmap meetings go a long way. In addition to helping me see the client's perspective, they build a relationship that will hold up when other things fall down.


Tuesday, October 08, 2019

5-Week Class: Make the Most of QuickBooks Desktop in an IT Service Business - Start October 15th

Course 5W12

Make the Most of QuickBooks Desktop in an IT Service Business

Taught By: Rayanne Buchianico

October 15, 2019 - November 12, 2019
Tuesdays, 9:00 AM PST

Register Now 

QuickBooks is QuickBooks, right?

Well . . .

QuickBooks has to be set up right. Then it has to be used right. Then you need to have specific processes for the kinds of things you do in YOUR business. QuickBooks has some great interview-based setup parameters that differentiate between a "service" business and a storefront.

But QuickBooks does NOT have a configuration setting tailored specifically for a technology consulting business! There is no "MSP" option when you install QuickBooks.

In this class, Rayanne walks you through several processes that are geared toward the kind of business you run.

This class provides unique content from a unique teacher! Rayanne is a managed service provider from Tampa, FL. She is also an accountant and an Intuit certified ProAdvisor. In addition to her MSP business, Rayanne helps I.T. consultants to take control of their finances and understand their own business at a deeper level

Topics for this class include:
  • Set up your Chart of Accounts to manage your MSP
  • Read and understand your financial reports
  • Set up and track KPIs and service-level metrics
  • How to track and claim a credit for sales tax paid to vendors on products for resale
  • Maintaining HAAS equipment and recording income and expense properly
  • Tracking direct labor and overhead payroll expenses
  • Creating and maintaining a purchase order system
  • Managing customer deposits, retainer payments, and unearned revenue
  • Action plans for success
  • . . . and More!

Delivered by Rayanne Buchianico, Financial Coach and QuickBooks Advisor. Rayanne has been an MSP - managed service provider - for many years and advises MSPs on how to get the most out of their QuickBooks and PSA integrations.

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.

SBT Community Members: 
You must use a code to receive the discount.

Go to the SBT Community "Offers and Deals" Forum to find the discount.

If you have questions, email concierge at Small Biz Thoughts.


Thursday, October 03, 2019

It's All About the Questions

This week I was a guest on Laura Steward's It’sAll About the Questions radio show.

She send me this note:

"Thanks for being on the show my friend! You totally rocked it. I loved how you were willing to play with me to create an organic show that shares so much of who you are and the work you do and wisdom you have learned! My engineer in the booth told me after you hung up that he enjoyed the show as have others who have reached out to me who heard the show live. And many thanks for making me laugh. A lot."

The recording is up on Laura's Blog, website, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify and Stitcher, etc. 

Here are the additional links. If you enjoy the show, reviews and likes are greatly appreciated.


Status vs. Status

As a frequent traveler, I belong to all the "award" programs. Platinum this and Gold that. But unlike most frequent travelers, I'm not very strategic about it. If a conference is at a Hilton, I stay at the Hilton (not the Marriott across the street). If it's at a Marriott, I stay at the Marriott (not the Hilton across the street).

Some people are rabid "points" aficionados. They go on and on about how this credit card gets you these benefits, these passes, these upgrades, etc. My brain gets tired just trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B without sitting in the back of a small plane.

I have to admit, I've been Delta "Platinum" for a few years - but I have no idea how to work the system.

I'll easily fly another 30,000 miles between now and early December. So I'll have the miles I need. But I don't think I'll spend enough money to get past Gold. The same thing happened last year, but some stars aligned and I renewed the Platinum.

The reward programs refer to this as Status. What's your status? Are you Silver, Gold, or Platinum?

Of course this isn't real status. You don't buy real status: Your earn it.

As a non-coupon-clipper, I find all the complicated rules too much trouble to keep track of. (This is the same reason I don't follow sports.) In the long run, here's what I think is really going on:

  • If you can afford to always fly Business or First Class, and you fly a lot, you might reach the top tier.
  • If you get the airline credit card, and spend lots of money on it, you are much more likely to get the top tier.

Both of these strategies consist of buying your way to "status." After all, the airlines are in the business of making money. They don't award status points based on your good looks or zip code.

In a separate realm, I'm not a huge believer in credit cards. I'd rather pay cash in advance whenever possible. As a result, I'm never paying $500 for a credit card just so I can get a jump up on the race for status.

No exaggeration here: I will forget to use the benefits. I always do. I am ending 2019 with five suite upgrade nights and a free night at Marriott. Every year I give up a companion pass on Hawaiian because I forget it's there. So if I added a gaggle of additional paid-for benefits with a $500 card, I would forget those as well.

Here's what brings me value (Inside my head. Your mileage may vary.):

1) When I book airfare, I buy it as far in advance as I can. That gets me a great price.

2) I also balance price with convenience and comfort.

3) When it makes sense, I buy airfare and hotel together on Travelocity. The price is often amazing, but you get zero rewards for the hotel nights.

For example, on my recent trip from San Jose to Manchester England to Seattle to LAX, I bought the tickets five months in advance. I paid $930, and was either Comfort Plus or First Class the whole way. BUT the airfare portion of that trip, without the taxes and fees, was just under $360. As a result, it did me very little good toward renewing my Status.

Some people make points runs in order to get status. So, this time of year, they are looking at spending $3,000 or $5,000 in order to get the dollar spend needed to reach Platinum. Inside my head, that doesn't make any sense.

This wouldn't work for me because I would insist on staying wherever I go. I'd spend at least four days at the location before heading back. So that adds hotels, taxis, and food to the spend.

Because I buy tickets far in advance, I can buy legroom and comfort for $50-150 per leg of the trip. It takes a LOT of hops to spend the extra $3,000-$5,000.

The bottom line for me: I'm not buying status. I'll take what I can get. And if I end up paying for my own upgrades next year, I'll be just fine.

No points runs for me.


Monday, September 23, 2019

My Web Guy - Ruben Young

This is a shout-out for one of my web developers.

Most of you probably don't know that I mange almost two hundred web sites for my business. In addition to the blogs, podcast sites, and "major" web sites (,,,, I also have at least one site for each product. Multiple sites allow me to do A-B testing of advertisements.

Anyway, I have been working with Ruben Young on many web sites for more than five years. He had helped me with major re-designs of many sites, and is the designer and implementer of my membership site at

Here is Ruben:

You can find him at

If you need some web (or other) design work for your business, I recommend you contact Ruben.

Earlier this year, Ruben sent me a note. He has been drinking the Relax Focus Succeed Kool-Aid. He told me that working with me has convinced him to raise his rates, take more confidence in his work, and stop working crazy night and weekend hours. As a result, after 20 years in business, he is more balanced and more successful than ever.

I'm not saying he's expensive. He's not. He does excellent work, is very responsive, and is able to come up with great ideas to push the "creativity" side of the development work.

Twelve years ago, I built (had built) a membership site with pretty much the same features as the Small Biz Thoughts Community site. It cost me about ten times as much as what Ruben charged me to build the current site - and the newer site is ten times more attractive and functional.

So if you need a good developer or just someone to consult on your web or print design, I encourage you to contact Ruben.


Not a paid advertisement. Just spreading the good word about a good guy I work with.

P.S., My in-house designer, Kara Schoonveld, also does excellent work. She is currently working to revamp several other sites. More about her soon.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

24 hour Zoom Room Available to Community Members

We all love Zoom, right?

Well now we are taking our Zoom engagement to a new level.

Effective immediately, we are making our Zoom Room available to all SBT Community Members 24 hours a days, seven days a week!

Why and What? Here’s what we’re up to:

Members Click Here to Access the Link.

Whenever you want to chat with someone in the community, you simply go to that link. Your video and microphone will be OFF by default, but you can always turn them on. Recording of the session is also OFF by default.

If you’re ever just hanging out and wondering if anyone else is hanging out, we encourage you to log and engage.

Note: This is the same Zoom room we use for classes and Community meetings. So if you’re hanging out and we crank up a class or meeting, we will (politely) let you know that we “need the room” for an hour or so.

We are VERY open to ideas you have about how we can use the Zoom Room.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

NexGen Conference - Free on Me Oct 23-24

From my good friends at NexGen:

NexGen Conference  2019

Complimentary General Admission Pass for October 23 & 24th
Use Promo Code SmallBiz
Anaheim, CA - Anaheim Marriott

Managed services are at the heart of the IT solution provider business, generating a staggering $158 billion in sales. Partners at the forefront of managed services are rapidly expanding by offering customers new services and solutions. NexGen caters to this critical segment of the channel, with a conference custom designed for elite services-led and cloud-focused managed services professionals.
MSPs attend NexGen to:

  • Stay ahead of technology services and industry trends
  • Identify strategic partners to fuel their growth
  • Engage with peers for feedback and validation of their strategies

This year-s featured sessions include:

  • The X Factor of Customer Centricity
  • Max Out SaaS Sales to SMBs
  • 3 Ways To Sell The Cloud 
  • Securing The Customer: Taking Relationships to The Next Level
  • Google Cloud Pros & Cons
  • Using AI to Measure Customer Satisfaction Levels

View the conference agenda


Monday, September 09, 2019

The Real Cost of Travel

As some of you may have noticed, I like to travel. A lot.

Travel is a great example of why "cost" is a relative thing - and why the cheapest looking price is often not the cheapest at all. Remind your clients and prospects of this when they want to talk about pricing.
My apartment in Edinburgh

Here are some of the key costs of travel that people ignore.

1) Travel by car is not cheap!

Many people think, "Oh, it's cheaper to just drive." Why? Because they look at the cost of fuel in isolation from everything else. It may be cheaper, but you have remember all the associated costs. Many conference hotels charge $20-30 per day to park. More if you use their valet. Plus you have to stop for more food during your travel than a you would with a quick plane ride.

2) Published hotel prices are all fictional.

You need to dig into the real total here. Many hotels add "resort" fees even though the resort consists of the workout room with three pieces of equipment. Hotels also don't always include taxes and fees in their pricing. So an advertised room at $129 might end up costing you $170 when the total bill comes. (Plus parking.)

3) Food, especially breakfast, is a huge variable.

Many mid-range hotels (Courtyard, Townhome suites, etc.) include a very basic breakfast with your stay. This can save you $10-20 over the cost of breakfast at a higher-end hotel. Of course, if you're Platinum or some other expensive metal, then you can eat for "free" in the executive lounge. But your room will be in the $169 range rather than the $139 range.

4) Wi-Fi. Get the real deal before you book.

As a very frequent business traveler who works from the road, I always need good Wi-Fi. And very often that means I have to bring it with me. In most countries, I can use my T-Mobile phone and just add a data package. In some places, I buy a local Mi-Fi device or even a low end cell phone with a data package. If you have to constantly upgrade your Internet access, it can cost you as much as $10-20 per day. Make sure you know what you're getting into.

5) Local transportation can range from free to expensive.

Once you're on site, you need to get around. So, for example, if you stay in the heart of the tourist district, you might be able to walk to everything you need. Of course, you'll pay a higher price for your hotel if you do that. It's cheaper outside the tourist area, but you'll end up driving and paying to park, or take Uber and Lyft everywhere. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy the more expensive hotel room.

6) Air fares are NOT all about the price.

Cheap airfare is one of the most expense things you can experience. With very few exceptions, airfares are very well coordinated with experience. You pay less; you get less. If you don't care about legroom (or side room), then cheap fares will get you in the back, middle seats on almost any airline. Just don't whine about it: You chose that experience. For $25-50 more per hop, you can get a good seat on almost any airline. Also, some cheap fares now exclude any carry-on baggage. Once again, look at your total price. AND cheaper flights often include extra stops and much longer total travel time.

7) Local meals and entertainment can vary dramatically.

In most places you travel, there are meals and bars that range from cheap to expensive. But not always. If you're going to eat out every meal, make sure you have local options. It may be worthwhile to pay a bit extra to be within walking distance of reasonably priced food.

8) Plan WAY in advance and save.

I try to buy my airfare and make hotel reservations months in advance. As a result, my airfare is usually super cheap, and my hotels are reasonably priced. Buying flights 4-6 months in advance can cut the price by half or more.

My current trip from Oakland to Manchester (UK) to Seattle over about two weeks cost me $932 all in. I took the train to Edinburgh and will take a train to Newcastle. Buying way in advance, both cost less than $60 USD. Similarly, my trip to Australia next month was paid for back in April and will cost about $1200 round trip.

Bring it all together: Expect to pay more than the advertised price.

For my current trip I booked an apartment above a bar in Edinburgh for about $160/night. With that location, I have no local travel expenses and lots of options for local eating and drinking. And, of course, no parking. I did buy an extra data package from T-Mobile for $35, but it's good for the entire trip.

In general, I guarantee a certain level of "quality" travel by following a few simple rules.

  • Start by avoiding the cheapest price. I buy main cabin airfare and hope to get upgraded.
  • Check a variety of housing options. I start with and then Sometimes I get a deal with the airline while booking flights (especially Delta and Hawaiian airlines). But bundles with Travelocity are also excellent.
  • Consider alternative travel. For Americans that means trains, light rail, ferries, and even buses. 98% of non-US mass transit is reliable and reasonably priced.
  • Plan well in advance.
  • Plan to pay 10-20% more than the advertised fee on hotels and cheap airlines.

Note: Your clients have experienced all of these things when they travel. So when they want to talk pricing or want to compare you to low-cost IT providers, but remind them of the last horrible "cheap" flight or cheap hotel.

Cheap never is. And the experience leaves much to be desired.

Don't be cheap.


Tuesday, September 03, 2019

5-week Course - The Unbreakable Rules of PSA - Starts September 10th

The Unbreakable Rules of PSA – IT Service Delivery in the 21st Century

Taught By: Manuel Palachuk

Register Now

Five Tuesdays - 9:00 AM Pacific

September 10, 2019 - October 8, 2019

Course 5w11

Everyone needs a PSA - Professional Services Automation tool. But in addition to simply having a PSA, you need to set it up correctly and use it wisely.

In this course, you will learn how to double your value to clients and increase your profit with these powerful golden rules of PSA Service Ticket Systems.

Coach Manuel focuses on the direct connection between your service delivery system, the value you give your clients, and your profit, and how to maximize each. He also gives an overview of Agile Service Delivery, an emerging method you must learn to stay competitive.

Whether you’re a one-person shop or have fifty employees, to be consistently profitable, you must have guidelines for how to break down the work in an organized fashion and how you will communicate with the client along the way.

You don’t have to be an MSP or even use a PSA to work efficiently and be profitable, but you do need a system and a method. These "golden" rules can be the seed for your own system if you have none, or you can adopt them in whole to enrich your existing methods. Either way, this is your opportunity to take your service delivery and your profits to the next level.

The course includes a thorough discussion of the unbreakable rules of service tickets as well as covering quality communication with every client. It will be time well spent!

Whether you're a new "Computer Consultant" or an experienced Managed Service Provider, you need to create successful processes that will propel your company forward. Nothing is more critical to making profit than having the right processes and procedures in place!

Delivered by Manuel Palachuk, author and business coach.

- 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.

$259.00 - Purchase The Unbreakable Rules of PSA - IT Service Delivery in the 21st Century
There are no modules in this training course.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

How to Email Files Into Your Kindle

One of the basic features of the Amazon Kindle device is the ability to import files via email. Most people probably see and ignore this ability when they first get their Kindle.

If you need a refresher on the official instructions, visit

Basically, you can email many kinds of files to your Kindle. Once you log into your Amazon accounts, you can browse to your Kindle and find the "Send-to-Kindle" email address for your specific device.

Supported File Types include:

  • Microsoft Word (.DOC, .DOCX)
  • HTML (.HTML, .HTM)
  • RTF (.RTF)
  • JPEG (.JPEG, .JPG)
  • Kindle Format (.MOBI, .AZW)
  • GIF (.GIF)
  • PNG (.PNG)
  • BMP (.BMP)
  • PDF (.PDF)

Note: If you send a PDF and wish to convert it to Kindle format, use the subject line "convert" to automatically enable conversion. This will allow you to use variable font sizes, annotations, and Whispersync.

You must send emails from the email address associated with your account and device.

For more information, instructions, and details, visit that page: and check out the Help Page linked from their.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Why You Need to Track Outstanding Time in Your IT Business

Free Webinar:

Why You Need to Track Outstanding Time in Your IT Business

Mark your calendars for August 15th at 9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern.

This event was recorded. You can find the recording here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the live webinar on Zoom.

This is a great webinar for service managers, but it's also important for technicians and everyone on your team to understand why we need to track all time - especially time inside your ticketing system.

No sponsors. No advertising. Just information you need!

One of the big challenges in tracking time is that most PSAs fall short on this. YOU have to make up the difference. That means using QuickBooks and Excel, or similar tools.

Outstanding time in your system - "Backlog" - is one of the most important types of time you need to track. We'll show you why, and then talk about what you can do about it.

Join us for an education and practical discussion of tracking time inside your IT business!


Thursday, August 01, 2019

How to Email Busy People

When I hire new employees, there's always a "break-in" period around communication. This is true no matter what age they are.

Everyone wants to communicate in their own way. For some that's Facebook messenger. For some it's text message. For a handful it's still telephone. But the most voluminous method is email. Good old email.

So, lesson #1 is: This is how we communicate. Internal business communication is not by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. And with few exceptions, it's not by text message.

Email can be easily filtered, so I know all employee and outsourced staff email ends up in a specific folder. I can manage that folder.

Next, when it comes to email, don't waste my time!!!

Lesson #2: Don't cc: me on every little thing. Correlate: Don't thank me for every little thing. I hire people so I don't have to do all the work myself. In fact I wrote a blog post about this many years ago called Please Don't CC The Boss.

That applies to gratuitous "Thanks" emails. I wish I could figure out a rule to determine whether the only communication in a reply email is "Thanks" and just move all those to the deleted items folder.

Many people are in this habit. It's a bit like that friend who absolutely must have the last word no matter what. Instead, read the sometimes-lengthy email thread. When the conversation is over, let it go.

I sometimes joke with employees that, if they insist on doing this, I am going to assign them the task of opening my in-box, searching for their own emails, and deleting everyone that contains no communication beyond Thanks or Thank You.

Lesson #3: Keep the subject line relevant. When you've moved from one subject to another, update the subject line or start a new thread. I hate being asked about next Tuesday's networking event under the subject line "Zoom Cloud Recording is Now Available."

Email is about communication. Use the tool to achieve that simple goal. That means keeping the subject line relevant.

Lesson #4: One item per email, whenever possible. (This is actually the reason I'm writing this post.) Let's assume the busy person you're emailing glances at the email subject and first sentence before they decide to open the email. Don't bury the lead, as they say in the news business.

Example One. I often receive emails from readers, followers, and people who just found me while cruising the Internet. By often I mean every single day. Generally, their email falls into two categories. One is a quick email with a quick question. They usually get a quick answer.

The other is a long email with lots of reading to do and several questions. This is something that will take my time. I have to do all that reading, try to figure out how best to help them, and then answer a series of questions. Emails like this almost never get a quick response. In fact, they get moved to a folder called "Reply when you can." I often answer these within a year or so.

Example Two - The reason I started writing this post. DO NOT reuse an old subject line, have a first sentence that looks like it will take some analysis, and then bring up a totally unrelated and important subject at the end of the email

A few days ago, I received an email from a part-time employee who was having trouble with a simple assignment. She was replying to an email I'd sent with a request. The fact that she was having trouble was clear from the first sentence. So I didn't open the email for three days since I knew she was coming in that day.

And there in the middle of the email was a note to the effect of: Oh, and by the way, I found another job.


The fact that she resigned in the middle of an unrelated reply email is a good indicator that she wasn't a good fit in the first place.

- - - - -

I know we all like to complain about so-called common sense and we wish everyone had our version of it. But there really are some basic guidelines for communicating with people at work.

Your guidelines for email may be different from mine. But you should have some guidelines. After all, you can't control other people. You can only control your own processes. So you should have processes.

Comments welcome.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Financial Processes for the I.T. Services Firm - Class Starts August 6th

Financial Processes for the I.T. Services Firm

A VERY popular class, taught by Rayanne Buchianico.

August 6 - September 3, 2019

Start Time: 9:00 AM PST

5-Week Course

There are few things more important than the finances of your business. But most technology consultants didn't get into business to run balance sheets or figure out cash flow.

This class provides unique content from a unique teacher! Rayanne is a managed service provider from Tampa, FL. She is also an accountant and an Intuit certified ProAdvisor. In addition to her MSP business, Rayanne helps I.T. consultants to take control of their finances and understand their own business at a deeper level.

Topics for this class include:

  • Learn to read and understand your Balance Sheet and P&L Statements
  • Create a chart of accounts that makes sense for your business
  • Separating out information on the P&L for management decisions
  • Entities and tax considerations - understanding how your entity is taxed. Handout is a tax projection worksheet for 2017 taxes
  • Cash flow forecasting - Handout is a cash flow projection spreadsheet to forecast revenues and expenses
  • Understanding margins and ratios - Deep dive into the P&L and Balance Sheet to understand how the numbers work together to make decisions. Handout is a worksheet on calculating and understanding the ratios & margins.
  • Use margins to price your services for profit
  • Calculate billing and burden rates
  • Action plans for success

. . . and More!

Delivered by Rayanne Buchianico, Financial Coach and QuickBooks Advisor. Rayanne has been an MSP - managed service provider - for many years and advises MSPs on how to get the most out of their QuickBooks and PSA integrations.

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 Owner or Operations Manager.

Week One: Introduction to Your Company’s Finances
Week Two: Cash Flow Forecasting
Week Three: Margins, Ratios, KPIs, and Breakeven points
Week Four: Jobs, Budgeting, and Internal Controls
Week Five: Planning for Taxes