Friday, October 23, 2020

SBT Roundtable: Jay McBain on Research that Reveals Surprising Truths

I am VERY excited to announce that Jay McBain from Forrester Research has agreed to join us on the SBT Roundtable, October 28th at 9:00 AM Pacific.

Jay is the principal analyst for global channels, partnerships, and alliances at Forrester – one of the most influential global research and advisory firms in the world.

Our topic is: How to Do Research that Reveals Surprising Truths


This is a members-only event. If you are not a member of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, that's okay. Join us and you can join us for the Roundtable.

Members sign up here.


Our goal with the SBT Roundtable is to look at interesting things from a different perspective. That fits perfectly with this month’s guest. If you don’t follow Jay’s blog, you should. Check out https://go.forrester.com/blogs/author/jay_mcbain/.

(Note, also, that Jay's blog is one of the blogs I have on my "blog roll" to the right.)

Jay has been in and around our community for a long time . . . even though he looks very young. And, unlike anybody else I know, Jay jumped into the SMB IT community by trying to define the greater community from a “macro” level. He wanted to know who the biggest employers are, who the biggest influencers are, what the definitive list of news sites is, what the major companies are, and so forth. He wanted to understand all the details of all the variables that make up our community. As a result, he probably understands the greater SMB/MSP community than any other person on earth!

And the really scary part is that he has a lot of this information immediately available at his fingertips.

Please sign up for this Roundtable and send in your questions.

And, of course, join us live!

—–

Jay McBain is one of the most visible and respected thought leaders in the global channel. Named to the Top 40 Under Forty by the Business Review as well as numerous channel magazines top influencer lists, he is often sought out for industry guidance and future trends. He has spent his 26-year career in various executive channel sales, marketing, and strategy roles within IBM, Lenovo, and ChannelEyes.

—–

For more information on the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, please visit https://www.smallbizthoughts.org.

:-)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Way You Do Anything . . .

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

— Tom Waits


I love this quote—even if it’s not always true. It goes hand in hand with “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone does judge a book by its cover: That’s how we decide which books to buy. 

And by default, your clients and prospects will believe that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. If your sales process shows you to be inaccurate or difficult to communicate with, they will believe that that’s how you are in other things.

That’s why I put so much emphasis on process (You can’t control people, but you can control your processes). When you think about “your way” and your SOPs, it’s important to note that everything you do in your company falls into one of two categories:


1) Behaviors you created with intention

2) Behaviors that emerged on their own

It’s extremely important that more of your behaviors fall into the first category. This includes technical processes as well as culture and the softer (human) side of your business. There are three periods during which you need to be attentive to that long list of “everything” you do: Before the sale, your first job for the client, and your ongoing relationship.


Before the Sale

Whether you realize it or not, your sales process tells a story about how you will be to work with. Do you have pre-printed forms? Do you give a written estimate? Are you easy to get ahold of by phone or email?

I intentionally mention that we have a process for everything when I’m in a sales cycle. I always use the phrase “We like to see . . .” to describe what we would do with the prospect’s network. We like to see a business class firewall. We like to see a monthly test of the backup. And so forth.

This casually lets the client know that we have a process. And it subtly says that we expect them to follow it.

Whether you like it or not, you will be judged very broadly based on your sales process.


The First Job

In the Managed Services Operations Manual, I have a whole chapter on the first job. Basically, this is the most important job you do for the client. It sets the tone for everything that will follow.

This will be the first time you show up for a work order. How do you show up? What do you wear? How do you greet the client? How do you explain what you’ll be doing? How do you manage the money and the paperwork?

If you’re working from a quote, it’s very important that you charge what you said you would charge. Avoid a change order at all costs, if you can. 

If you haven’t thought about it, you should. What do you normally do on a first job? How does it go? How do you control as much of the process as you can?

It’s particularly important that you don’t let the first job morph into a big, messy, catch-all job. Do exactly what you agreed to and make it as successful as possible. Then create a service ticket for each additional item the client wants to add to the list. You don’t need to say no, but you do need to say, “Not now.” If you allow scope creep on the first job, you can expect it on many jobs after this.

I know some of you are thinking that this is “bad” service because I’m not running around trying to get ten hours’ worth of work into a two-hour visit. But there’s a good reason for this policy: You need to establish a pattern of support that is sustainably profitable.


The Ongoing Relationship

This is where the real payoff is. You need to practice consistency in all things. This is very important as you grow your company. When you are a small shop (five or fewer), every client gets to know every technician. As you grow, that becomes harder to do. 

One time I was talking to a former client and we were discussing the various technicians we experienced over the 20 years they were my client. She mentioned one guy who really stood out—for the wrong reasons. Apparently, when he started, people in her company weren’t sure they liked him or his personality. 

“But,” she said, “we know you and we know the kinds of people you hire. And we had faith that he would do a good job.” And, over time, he won them over. More importantly, the consistency of our performance over time won them over.


In all these things, you need to steer the ship. Wherever you are right now, you need to make sure that you are attentive to the “everything” and move it in the right direction. If a process is well-defined and exactly what you want going forward, make sure it’s documented and everyone is trained on it.

If a process is poorly defined, or your company doesn’t consistently do it the way you want, then you need to define how it should be, and train everybody up on that. Little by little, all processes will improve over time. Documentation and training are your best tools.

I have said on many occasions that employees and clients are like dogs: They will do whatever you train them to do. This includes training by not training. If you train employees to do whatever they want at the client’s office, that’s what they’ll do. If you train clients that they can call you in the evening, they will. 

I highly encourage you to have a formal documentation process. Keep your documentation in a place where everyone can get to it. Train employees to look for a written process first and to follow it. Train them to update the process if necessary. The last item on every checklist should be to update the checklist.

I guess the way you document anything is the way you document everything.

:-)


— — —

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Absolutely Unbreakable Rules

For more great tips on your personal and business success, please check out my new book:

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery

Available on Kindle or in Paperback.

More information at

www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Why You Should Join this CompTIA Community


I am honored to be on the Executive Council of the CompTIA Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community.

CompTIA is always helping technology professionals to increase their skills. (Everyone knows about the CompTIA exams, and they're even used as curriculum guides for many schools.)

There are plenty of communities at CompTIA. I belong to several. After all, I want to see what's happening with managed services, security, drones, emerging technologies, etc. But I'm on the EC Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community because I want to be actively involved in helping people get into tech jobs, move up in tech jobs, and promote a more inclusive environment all around.

Some people believe there's not much you can do about "diversity" in a very small company. But as an industry, there's a lot we can do. It starts with making sure we have good training programs and onboarding. But the most important piece is making sure that talented people stay. When talented people feel that tech jobs and tech conferences are "not for them," they take their talents somewhere else.

I personally know several people, including people close to me, who have chosen not to go into tech-related fields because they didn't want to feel out of place. These are people with great skills, high SAT scores, and amazing ambition. Personally, I think we as an industry lose out when we close the doors and make people feel unwelcome.

Please check out the videos below. Nothing too exciting, but we're trying to let folks know what we're up to.

And then wander over to our page at CompTIA: https://www.comptia.org/membership/communities-and-councils/advancing-tech-talent-and-diversity-community

Join us! Get on the list and stay informed about upcoming events, webinars, podcasts, and more.


Meet Community Leader: Yvette Steele, Directory of Member Communities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4MwomVP8nk


And here's a quick "Why we joined the EC" video with Paige Reh and me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8Pl96dRk_s


Feedback welcome.

:-)


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Managed Services in a Month - 5-Week Course Starts Oct. 20th

 

Managed Services in a Month - Applying the Book

Instructor: Karl W. Palachuk



- Five Tuesdays: Oct 20 - Nov 17 -- Register Now

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

You're guaranteed to learn something that will make or save you the price of admission!

This course will cover the process outlined in the book - to build your managed service practice in a month. In this case, five weeks. :-)

Managed Services in a Month is the best-selling guide to turning your "computer consulting" business into a recurring revenue machine!

This course is designed to walk you through the process outlined in the book. AND your registration includes a free copy of the book in the format of your choice.

Updated Information on Tools, Cloud Services, Per-User Pricing, Creating Bundles, and MORE!

For more information on the book, see www.managedservicesinamonth.com.


It's not too late! YOU can get into Managed Services -- in a month.

Even if you decide not to become an MSP (managed service provider), this course will help you establish some great best practices when it comes to running your I.T. business.

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!

You will learn


  • Computer Consulting in the 21st Century
  • What’s Different About Technology Consulting Today?
  • Cloud Computing in the Small Business Space
  • The Managed Service Model
  • New Consulting Business vs. Existing Business
  • Managed Services in a Month
  • Integrating Cloud Services
  • Making A Plan
  • Starting Fresh with No Clients to Convert
  • Create A Three-Tiered Pricing Structure
  • Bundling Services
  • Per-User vs. Per-Device Pricing Models
  • Putting Your (New) Business Together
  • Weed Your Client Garden and Finish The Plan
  • Write a Service Agreement; Have It Reviewed
  • Overcoming Objections
  • Desktops and Managed Service
  • Executing the Plan
  • Client Sit-Downs
  • After The Sale
  • Key Points to Remember for Profit
  • Running Your New MSP Business
  • The Right Tools for the Job
  • Your Standard Offerings (Your Catalog of Services)
  • Building an Action Plan that works
  • and MORE!

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.





A Few Details . . .


  • Each course will be five one-hour webinars
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class webinars will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

Questions? Email concierge@smallbizthoughts.com

:-) 

Monday, October 05, 2020

You May Have Missed This . . .

If you only read this blog, you may have missed some of the other stuff I do. I put a list of recent activities in my weekly newsletter (signup here)


But here's the really weird part: I estimate that about 10% of those who follow something I do are subscribed to my weekly email. So for all the rest of you, here are a few things you may have missed . . .


Small Biz Thoughts Blog:
https://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/

The ASCII Group Appoints Jessie Devine as Director of Channel Development 

Documentation and the E-Myth  

Is Upgrading a Line of Business App Included in Managed Service? 


Relax Focus Succeed Blog:
https://www.relaxfocussucceed.com/category/all/

Never Stop Learning 

Success is a Habit 

You Need Rules for Success


SMB Community Podcast:
http://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/

How Security Awareness can Finally Start Working for MSPs 

Vendor Fatigue? Here’s a better way to manage your technology stack

Monetizing the IoT opportunity through monitoring connected devices and IoT systems


The Killing IT Podcast:
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/

Episode 79 – Dark Web Arrests, Underwater Servers Update, and Microsoft RMM

Episode 78 – Disrupting higher ed, expanding broadband, and Section 230 revisited

Episode 77 – Smart Devices in Court Evidence and Bitcoin Electricity Usage


Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community:
https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/

SBT Technology Community News - October (video)

2021: Year of Intention – Class and Workbook – Members Only

Jay McBain Joins Us for the Next SBT Roundtable!


YouTube Videos for IT
https://www.youtube.com/user/smallbizthoughts

SOP: Financial Reports - Weekly, Monthly, Annual

SOP: Do You Really Need That Tool?

SOP: Registering Client Software and Hardware


YouTube Videos for Relax Focus Succeed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBubYfkP0og&list=PLC8KYKhZTqAOVjWAPS3UYSeIUVfI63ddW

Expose Yourself to New Ideas

Balance Never Happens by Itself

Thinking Differently About Success


Classes! Great Little Seminars - 5-Week Classes
https://www.greatlittleseminar.com

Managed Services in a Month - Applying the Book - Starts Oct. 20th

Automate Your Accounting with QuickBooks Online and Integrated Apps - Starts Nov. 24th

Powerhouse of One: Be a Super Successful Sole Proprietor - Starts Jan. 12th, 2021



. . . More to come!

There's always more to come. Connect with me on all these platforms.

. . . And have a great October.

- Karlp

:-)


Friday, October 02, 2020

The ASCII Group Appoints Jessie Devine as Director of Channel Development

BIG congratulations to ASCII for bringing Jessie Devine onboard as Director of Channel Development. Jessie is one of my favorite people, and ASCII is one of my favorite groups. So this is totally awesome!

Here's the official press release:


Bethesda, Maryland – October 2, 2020 – The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, MSSPs, VARs and solution providers, is pleased to announce the appointment of Jessie Devine as Director of Channel Development. In this role, Jessie is responsible for developing key alliances while creating new channel strategies for ASCII’s vendor partner program.


A recognized face in the channel community, Jessie previously held a customer facing role with MSPs as Community Engagement Manager with QuoteWerks.

“Jessie is a terrific addition to the ASCII team, and she brings a blend of channel experience along with customer success to both our members and partners,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.  

“ASCII continues to create and deliver services that help the IT solution provider community grow and improve their businesses,” said Devine. “I am thrilled to join the ASCII team and to continue to build on the solid foundation that they have developed over the last three decades.”


About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs, 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 www.ascii.com. 

:-)


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Documentation and the E-Myth

Perhaps the luckiest thing that happened to me in 1995 is that I read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber for the first time. (I have re-read it many times since then.)


A friend heard that I was going to quit my job and go into business for myself as a contractor. He recommended the book. It was very consistent with how I had managed departments and corporate offices in my job, so it made perfect sense to me. But it also starts out with a story about a one-person company and tells the tale of how you set up that company for a successful future.

Gerber looks at why companies fail and, more importantly, why some companies do not fail. Most (like 80%) small businesses do not last five years. And of those who survive, most don’t make it another five years. So, if you’ve been in business for five or ten or fifteen years, you must be doing something right.

Overwhelmingly, one key to success is documenting your processes.

Perhaps the most important element in my success, with every business I have built or managed, is my insistence on documentation. My writing career has been dominated by helping people document their processes. Some related books include:

  • The Network Documentation Workbook
  • Managed Services in a Month 
  • Cloud Services in a Month
  • The Network Migration Workbook (with Manuel Palachuk)
  • The Managed Services Operations Manual—four volume set
  • Project Management in Small Business (with Dana Goulston)

All of these are filled with forms, processes, and procedures.

One time, I was flying home and sitting next to a friend of mine. I was writing a chapter for The Managed Services Operations Manual on how to use Velcro.

She looked at me as if I was from Mars. “Your readers don’t know how to use Velcro?”

Well, I suppose everyone can figure it out. But to me, there’s a right way and a wrong way. 

Little things like this truly separate the pros from the newbies. Every profession has “little things” that you learn over time from trial and error—or working with a pro. Clients may never notice the little things. But they will benefit from the little things. And sometimes, as with Velcro, they will notice if you do it wrong.

Velcro has two components—one is scratchy and one is soft. The single most important rule of using Velcro to mount equipment is that you ALWAYS put the soft side on the bottom of the equipment. I go into more detail in the SOP, but the primary reason is that if the equipment is ever placed on a wooden desk or other “nice” surface, it won’t scratch it up.

Also, from time to time, you will need to stack some equipment. When you do that, you will always need to have one side of the Velcro on the top and another side on the bottom. Whichever side is on top must always be on top. And whichever side is on the bottom must always be on the bottom. That way, anything can be stacked on anything and you don’t have to think about it.

Similarly, if you are mounting equipment on a shelf of a wall, the same side must always be on the shelf of the wall. And thus every piece of equipment can easily be moved to any shelf or any wall—because it’s consistent.

The only reason I point this out here is to make the point: Everything needs to be documented—no matter how small it is! If you have Your Company Way of doing something, that needs to be documented.

And it gets better!

You can never document one hundred percent of everything, but you can get close. The world changes too much to ever maintain one hundred percent, even if you could reach it. If you can document eighty or ninety percent, then the rest can often take care of itself.

If your employees understand and follow your SOPs, they will understand a bigger picture that represents your company. So, when they are faced with a new, undocumented task, they will probably do what you would have done. They know how you operate, how you approach service delivery, how to talk to clients about it, etc.

So when they have to make something up on the fly, the chances are very good that they will make the right decisions. 


Processes Are Branding.

Branding Is Everything You Do.


I have done a lot of work with franchises. There are good franchises and bad franchises. The best franchises have the most detailed handbooks.

One of my favorite examples is Subway sandwich shops. How did Subway get to be the largest food franchise in the world—run by a bunch of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds? Standard Operating Procedures.

Let me finish this post with another great book by Michael Gerber: E-Myth Mastery. In this book, Gerber spells out the mindset that will help you build a truly great organization. The key element is simple but profound: Build a business that is bigger than you are.

What does that mean? It means that your business won’t die just because you do. It means your business will hum right along when you go on vacation for two weeks, or two months. It means that your processes and procedures are so well-defined that any single person in your company can be replaced and the organization will still be successful.

And brings us right back to where we started: Documentation.

A great organization documents what they will do and what they have done. They document how things are done, and why things are done that way.

Think about the evolution of a business. Here are some stages to consider.

1) Nothing is documented. Therefore, things are not very standardized. Clients and employees do not expect consistency. The owner makes all the decisions.

2) Some things are documented. Some things are standardized. Clients and employees expect some consistency. The owner makes almost all the decisions.

3) Most things are documented. Most things are standardized. Clients and employees expect consistency. The owner makes sure the process is followed.

4) Everything is documented. Everything is standardized. Clients and employees rely on consistency. The owner checks in with the managers who make sure the processes are followed.

I hope you see why I insist that “branding” is everything you do. It’s not just that you greet people in a friendly way, but that both customers and employees understand that there’s a certain way you do business.

The Way cannot be locked inside your head. The Way permeates every aspect of your business. It can be known. It can be shared. It creates your culture. It is your brand.

:-)

— — —

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Absolutely Unbreakable Rules

For more great tips on your personal and business success, please check out my new book:

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery

Available on Kindle or in Paperback.

More information at

www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Is Upgrading a Line of Business App Included in Managed Service?

We get letters .  . .

John asks, 

I understand that your definition of managed services includes operating system and software maintenance only. We have a client with a line-of-business application that has a client-server structure. When the software vendor releases an update for the application, it requires significant installation time (multiple hours) on the server and on every workstation. Would you include this in MSP as “software maintenance” or would you recommend charging an hourly rate for the work?


This is a great question because it gets to one of the biggest problems I hear about making Managed Services profitable. Rule number one is: You need to be profitable! Managed services is not intended to make you poor or make you struggle. In fact, it's intended to make you more profitable, and more predictably profitable while providing better tech support.


I always tell people: You need to draw clear, dark lines around what's included in your plans!

That will keep you profitable. This one step is all you need to know to avoid so-called "all you can eat." AYCE means there are no lines around profitability.

There has to be a limit on what's included and what's excluded.

As John mentions, I believe managed services is based on maintenance of the operating system and software. Maintenance is important for a couple of very important reasons.

First, clients understand the concept. Maintenance is to keep things working. That's why we change the oil in the car and rotate the tires. Other work is either a project or add/move/change. Replacing your ugly stock wheels with fancy, expensive chrome spinners might be important to you, but it's NOT maintenance.

Second, you can get pretty good at estimating the amount of time and money you will spend on maintenance. For example, you might estimate 60-90 minutes per server per month, averaged over twelve months. Some will be a little more and some will be a little less, but you won't lose money if you use that estimate. (That's an example; use your own estimates based on your experience.)

But you cannot estimate project labor months or years before a project pops up. And you cannot estimate adds/moves/changes. One project might be ten hours and one might be fifty. On a whim, a client can ask for thirty hours of changes. That's hard to guess months in advance across all your clients.

Maintenance is included. It is limited by its nature. It is predictable. There is NO excuse for a maintenance contract to be unprofitable.

So . . . the question about drawing nice clear lines is all about profit based on predictability.


Software Updates and Line of Business Applications

The obvious question becomes: How do we draw the line between tiny, easy, simple, patches/updates and long, complicated, major upgrades? Remember, rule number one is to be profitable. So you need to think about this before it happens.

One of the core components of maintenance is keeping things patched and updated. After all, if you have a problem with any hardware of software, the first question is going to be: What's the version level or service pack level? In other words, is it up to date? If not, tech support says to go apply all the patches and updates before you call back.

Why? Very simply, we all know that patched, fixed, updated systems have fewer problems. You probably won't call back because the problem will probably go away.

Okay. Here's where we are: Patches and all those little updates are included in managed service because they're part of maintenance. And, since these things generally require you to check for updates, apply updates, and maybe reboot, this process is small and know-able. So you can predict the time it takes, and you can roll that into your estimates when you create your plans.

But we all know there are major version updates. Whether it's a big service pack or "R2" update, these big changes take a lot more time. They may involve taking the system offline. Sometimes, you have to uninstall a previous version of either the core software or a database engine. You need to back up the data and potentially re-import it.

Sounds like a project, right? And you probably don't have a good idea if this will be a one-hour job or a three-hour job until you've gone through it. So you can't easily include these updates in the maintenance part of the agreement. Major upgrades, such as version upgrades or annual upgrades should only be included if you have a very good idea of how long they will take!


Line of Business (LOB) applications fall into this category. Examples include American Contractor, ATX MAX tax software, Autodesk, and every other kind of "practice management" software. 

For an LOB with significant work on the upgrade, there are two basic options. One is to estimate the number of hours this takes each year and work that into the overall annual cost. This works great for software with regular, annual updates. For example, the MAX software used by some accountants must be updated every year for tax season. 

The other option is to say that major upgrades (for example, Microsoft’s “R2” updates) are not included. So little patches are fine, but major version updates are outside managed services. This would apply to most line of business apps, in my opinion.


Notes

If you have a really good niche market, you may see a certain software package a lot. That gives you a better idea of what their upgrades involve and how long they take. After you go through several years of these updates, you will be able to work that time estimate into your managed service contracts and still guarantee profitability. But be very sure that you have good estimates!

In my Service Agreements book, I require that the client maintains a maintenance contract on all major software, so I can talk to the LOB tech support at times like this. This limits my need to know the details of a product, especially the un-knowable problems during a version upgrade. Without a maintenance contract, 100% of my labor is billable.

Finally, remember that the goal of managed service is NOT to provide 100% flat fee service. That will always reduce your profitability and we want to increase your profitability. The legitimate goal is to provide flat fee maintenance. The client should always know that there's a flat-fee component and an un-knowable component. 

Remember, in all pricing, to make sure you have nice, dark lines around what's included and what's extra!

Questions welcome.

 :-)


Friday, September 25, 2020

Nominate Someone (including yourself) for CompTIA's Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Executive Council

I have been honored to serve on CompTIA's Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Executive Council for 2020. There are several positions open for 2021.

If you've opted out of competing for the Nobel Peace Prize, you can still jump in contribute something to our community.

As I mentioned back in August, Diversity Isn't Just for the Enterprise! Our entire industry needs to increase diversity and make everyone feel welcome. This CompTIA community is working to make that happen. 


Here's the somewhat official announcement (suitable for sharing on social media):

Change the world. In the tech industry, we often talk about how our technology can change the world. But it's the people in tech that drive the change. Now more than ever, there is an opportunity to drive systemic change across the entire industry, an opportunity to make it more diverse and inclusive. 

CompTIA, the leading technology trade association, is seeking nominations to join the Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community executive council. Get to know more about our work here: https://www.comptia.org/membership/communities-and-councils/advancing-tech-talent-and-diversity-community,  learn about the nomination process here: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/393a24a6928543e4be3de1e82c1b08fc, join us as an ally here: https://www.comptia.org/join-now/register?c=ADVTECTLTDIV

 

If you're not sure what the community is all about, but you're interested, please get in touch!

Check out the Community page here:

https://www.comptia.org/membership/communities-and-councils/advancing-tech-talent-and-diversity-community

Please connect with me if you are interested, or connect through that site.

My email is karlp@smallbizthoughts.com. Please put "Comptia" in the subject line.

Thank you!

:-)


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The KPE Way

Hewlett Packard (HP) has a very famous set of guiding principles they refer to simply as “The HP Way.” You can search that term and find a couple of different variations. These guidelines help employees, managers, sales people, and administrators to have a common framework.

The HP Way is short and to the point. But it guides how people treat each other, the role of profit in decision making, morals, integrity, teamwork, and more. And, of course, the title of David Packard’s autobiography is The HP Way.


Early on in my first company (KPEnterprises), I started using the term The KPE Way. After all, there is a preferred way that I want employees to talk to each other and our clients. There’s an emphasis on working with clients we enjoy being around.

Yes, money and profit are on the list as well, but profit needs to come in the context of a broader business strategy. As you’ll see with the Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery, our guidelines cover as much on the personal side of business as the practical side of service delivery.

There is also a connection between our “rules” and our standard operating procedures (SOPs). For example, we have an SOP on how to talk to a client on the first service call.

Your branding consists of everything you do. That means, the way you treat other employees is part of your brand; how you invoice is part of your brand; how you manage projects and work orders is part of your brand. Everything. Everything. Everything.

Here’s a story that makes this point.


Two Electricians

Several years ago, I moved into a new-to-me old house. The electrical was definitely not up to twenty-first century standards. I knew I was bringing in several computers and other electronics, so I needed good, well-grounded electricity. I also wanted to install my hot tub, which requires a 50-amp dedicated 240-volt circuit.

So I called several electricians and got bids from three.

The first and second electricians were the two extremes with regard to branding. The first guy showed up in jeans. I told him what I wanted, which included two new 30-amp circuits plus the hot tub. He went around and inspected the circuit breaker box.

His recommendation: Well, the breaker box is completely full, but we can make it work. We’ll replace a bunch of full-size breakers with half-size breakers. The 50-amp circuit is a bit of a stretch, but we can make it work. 

He started talking about a $1,200 price tag. But as we talked more, he talked himself down to a $900 price. And eventually he said he could do it all for $800. I never asked for a discount. He literally talked himself down.

I had already checked out his contractor’s license online so I knew he was licensed and bonded. In absence of any other information, I took his quote at face value.

Enter Electrician Two. Well, Electricians Two. Two guys showed up in uniforms. They put on booty covers to cover their feet as they entered the house. I told them what I wanted. They immediately demonstrated that they were miles ahead of the competition.

First, they took off some receptacle cover plates and looked inside to check out my assumptions about the grounding. They used a ground fault tester to verify that some outlets were not grounded properly. I had done this with a basic tester that simply said “ground fault.” But they found some grounding, which means that incomplete grounding was taking place due to the wiring practices of the 1960s. The outlets had three-wire Romex, could be grounded easily, but were not grounded.

Second, they looked at the breaker box and said that it needed to be replaced. They recommended a 125-amp box, which could be gotten at a reasonable price. BUT it meant that they had to patch the wall where the old one came out. AND they would need to upgrade the connection to the electrical utility.

Third, we had a lengthy discussion about the wiring options for the hot tub. They recommended setting it up so that any hot tub we bought could be connected legally and safely.

Fourth, they said that we didn’t have to add all the circuits I originally asked for. They recommended setting up three sets of outlets (as I wanted) but putting them all on one 20-amp circuit.

Fifth, they wanted to set up a ground system that brought the water heater and HVAC into alignment with modern code and safety standards.

Total estimate: $8,300. Yes. Ten times more than Electrician One.

The second electrical company got the bid simply because they started the engagement by doing everything the right way. I did talk them down about ten percent, but I had to do the talking. 

Electrician One is very much like the consultant who starts with some false assumptions.

False Assumption One: It’s all about the money. I don’t want the house to burn down. I don’t want a half-baked job. I don’t know all the troubles that could come my way. And if the second quote was a few hundred dollars different, I might go with the $800 quote. But the difference was so dramatic that I had to take the higher quote seriously.

False Assumption Two: The buyer wants to make the old equipment last longer. If the old box had five open slots and was in great shape, things might be different. But it was already full and I didn’t know what he had in mind to make it expand to fit my needs.

False Assumption Three: The buyer knows what’s going on and what needs to be done. I knew enough to know what I think I wanted. But, on one hand, I was asking for more than I needed. And, on the other hand, I had no idea what I already had. The grounding issue turned out to be minor. But Electrician One didn’t do the simplest test to verify that I knew what I thought I knew.

Electrician One made this all about money. And left a potential $7,000 on the table.

Electricians Two were far more professional in every way. They worked from assumptions of success.

Successful Assumption One: We’re going to do the job right. There is a right way to do this. It’s in the client’s best interest to do it the right way. Avoid the discussion of “Can we do it cheaper?” until the client brings it up.

Successful Assumption Two: Know what you know. Unless your client is in your business, verify that what they tell you is accurate. It’s not that the client’s lying, but they simply don’t know. (And even if they’re in your business, it’s still good to verify.)

Successful Assumption Three: Deliver your pricing very matter-of-factly and without apologies. This company actually had a very good technique: They pre-printed several common tasks and listed a high/low range for each. Then they quoted the low end of that range.

Electricians Two also added an overall air of professionalism in how they presented themselves and their work. There was no talk about cutting corners. They didn’t say so, but I found myself comparing their professionalism to their competition.

I did get a third quote around $4,500, but decided to go with the more professional, higher-end contractor. In part, it’s because their overall approach is very much in line with mine. They can be passed over in favor of other contractors and still be okay. Why? They can get rejected for nine jobs at $800 each and still come out ahead with one job at $8,300.

They work from a mentality of abundance and not a mentality of scarcity.

(See my original post about this here.)


“Your” Way

So what’s the “Your Company Way” that defines your branding? What guiding principles do you use for employee onboarding, sales, service delivery, billing, and every other thing in your business?

In the next chapter we’ll talk about this with a focus on documentation. You might be tempted to say, “We have no SOPs,” or “We don’t have a consistent way of doing things.” But that’s rarely true. You do invoicing: How do you do it? You hire people: How do you go about it? You deliver services: How do you do it?

As you go through this book, I encourage you to start collecting ideas that reflect your way of doing things. Perhaps keep a folder or a document on your laptop or tablet. Start with my Absolutely Unbreakable Rules and work from there. Cross out what doesn’t apply, edit some, add others. Make it your own.

And it’s okay if some of these are aspirational. That is, you want them to be your rules even though you don’t follow them today.

My Absolutely Unbreakable Rules are included in the downloads that accompany the book. Go to www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com for more information.

:-)

— — —

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Absolutely Unbreakable Rules

For more great tips on your personal and business success, please check out my new book:

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery

Available on Kindle or in Paperback.

More information at

www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Podcasts on Amazon

 Today Amazon announced Amazon Music Podcasts. And, I'm happy to announce, our podcasts are available there!

[Side note: The word "music" in that description is simply because that's the division of Amazon doing the distribution. I'm sure they'll change the name at some point.]


We submitted the SMB Community Podcast and The Killing IT Podcast some time ago.So, we were happy to see them magically appear among the podcast in Amazon's inaugural offering.

Free of course.

I'm sure Amazon will figure out how to make money from the more popular podcasts. Today, they have not announced any advertising of fees.

I signed up right away. Of course, I also signed up for several others (Dave Sobel's Business of Tech is also pictured here).

We shall see whether this pod-catcher becomes one of the big podcast distributors. My suspicion is Yes. After all, Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla of online content.

SMB Community Podcast - September 2020
As you can see, Apple and iTunes are the ultimate podcasting system.

The name pod-cast comes from the days of the Apple iPod. It was not the first MP3 player, but quickly became the most popular. And with the RSS protocol, you can subscribe to a podcast and have it automatically show up on your device when a new episode is published.

I've never seen stats from a podcast that did not attribute at least 50% of listenership to Apple/iTunes.

-- -- --


SO: Amazon has their work cut out for them. But if anyone can contend as a newcomer to this space, it's Amazon.

My podcasts each list several other options for subscribing. You can check them out here:



- The Killing IT Podcast

However you list, we appreciate it! Feedback is always welcome.

:-)


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Past Performance IS a Predictor of Future Actions

Do you want to know something very simple you can do to reduce stress during an unexpected "emergency?" It's surprisingly simple: Be a good partner who is good to work with.

Here's a recent example from my own company. We recently experienced a concerted attack on one of our web sites. This is a site that generates revenue, and which people rely on daily. In the middle of upgrading WordPress from 5.4.x to 5.5 and then 5.5.1, a new malware hit the systems. 

My primary web developer did a great job of tackling problems with a combination updated security programs, patching and re-patching, and tracking down the "real" problems. With the primary system upgrade, plus patches, plus reboots and clearing various layers of caching, it was quite a job to make sure you are addressing the real problem and moving things forward.


As you can imagine, it was very stressful for my developer. 

. . . and she was in the middle of a move.

On Friday, I told her to focus on her move. After all, she'd scheduled the days off. There is no need for this issue (series of issues) to interfere.

Why? Because we have a very understanding audience. They know us, they trust us. They will forgive us. And I have ways of helping everyone get what they are looking for, no matter how finicky the web site is.

I know you've heard the concept of a "bank" of goodwill. Well, it's true. You make deposits with every single interaction you have. That includes interactions with clients, employees, vendors, and strangers. Over time, people know whether or not you are good to deal with, and whether you fulfill your commitments and keep your promises.

If you do all those things, people notice. And when things go sideways, they forgive you - quickly and easily. 

It also helps a great deal if you are honest, open, and even a little vulnerable. When people know that you're a real person, working hard and doing your best, they give you a little slack. And that goes a long ways.

To be honest, this is much easier in a small business than in a large business. We have a closer relationship with our clients. We also have easy ways to fix problems and get people what they need. So, we can manually perform every task that should be automated in a perfect world.

In this case, we're experiencing the first real problem with this web site in almost three years. Everyone knows we'll fix it and fulfill all of our commitments. And that faith in our past performance goes a long ways.

As I texted to my web developer: Relax Focus Succeed. :-)

:-)


Monday, September 14, 2020

The ASCII Group Announces National No-Cost Health Service

I received the following press release from my friends at ASCII:

-- -- --



The ASCII Group Announces National No-Cost Health Service to its Members

Bethesda, Maryland – September 14, 2020 – The ASCII Group is pleased to announce the launch of its exclusive new ASCII Telehealth Service, available to the ASCII community at no charge. The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, MSSPs, VARs and solution providers, has partnered with a national agency to provide 24/7 virtual access to local board-certified physicians.  

The collaboration will allow ASCII to provide telehealth access to its community across the country. This includes a consult with a doctor licensed in the state of where the business owner or their employees reside, by phone, secure video, or app, with wait times under 10 minutes. Physicians have the ability to write prescriptions in all 50 states. In addition, family members of employees are also covered under the no-cost program, exclusive to ASCII members.

“The number one business request we receive from the MSP community is providing our leverage to lower the cost of health care for business owners and their staff,” said Alan Weinberger, Chairman and CEO, The ASCII Group. “We are thrilled to be able to provide this important service to the industry for the first time, and see this as a pivotal moment to enable the service sector of the IT industry to become more profitable and have employees priority needs addressed in a new way.”


About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs, 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 www.ascii.com

-30-

:-)

Friday, September 11, 2020

Stop Worrying that Everything is "High" Priority

I'm a huge advocate of working from highest to lowest priority for everything - in both my business and my personal life. For this reason, I have a task management system that uses priorities. If you have a PSA or service board, you can manage all your tasks there. If you find it useful to keep tasks separate, you might have a task tool as well as a PSA.

I have tried several tools. Most of them do too much. I don't need to manage the construction of a hospital or build a supersonic jet. I need to make sure that my social media campaigns are executed in a timely manner. That's about 1/1,000,000 as complicated. So I don't need to pay $99/month for a system that does everything. I don't do everything.


Most recently, I tried Asana.com. But it lacks the single most important feature: Priorities! There are convoluted ways to set up priorities, but they're not a native feature. As a result, sorting by priority is also convoluted.

We finally settled on Clickup.com. Priorities are enabled by default. And the defaults - Urgent, High, Normal, Low - are just fine. I have always preferred this four-level system:

Emergency = Priority 1 - Can only set itself

High = Priority 2 - Generally applies to a company-wide problem

Medium = Priority 3 - The default priority

Low = Priority 4 - Schedule it when you can. Don't go out of your way.


So, Urgent, High, Normal, Low is an easy conversion. I can change these system-wide, but there's no real need to.


Fear: Everything is High Priority!

One reason I've heard over and over again for not adopting a priority system (or for letting clients set the priorities) is that everything will be set as High Priority. And, as we all know: If everything is high priority, then nothing is high priority.

And that last piece of wisdom is actually the key to why the system works. When people start creating tasks and assigning priorities, they realize that they can't make everything high. Some things just need to be medium or normal. This is actually a powerful lesson that they teach themselves as soon as they start putting tasks in the system. When someone goes to enter ten or fifteen tasks, most of them naturally fall below the "high" threshold.

Note, also: Priority, Importance, and Urgency are not the same thing!

Let's use the example of printing payroll checks. The check printer is very important. Getting out payroll on time is very important. If the payroll check printer breaks, then getting it fixed is very important. But if you have two weeks before payroll, the ticket is probably set at High priority - not set as an emergency. And, if the printer breaks several times a year, then the ticket might actually be set to Medium priority since you know the fix and can get to it any time in the next twoo weeks.

If time drags on, the ticket will become more urgent (not more important, just more urgent). When it gets to be two days before payroll, the ticket will be Urgent and an Emergency priority will make sense.

Here's a simple best practice that will help you see the difference: When a client creates a new ticket, ask them how urgent it is. You'll be amazed at how non-urgent things can be, even if they're very important. In fact, something can be important and high priority and still not be urgent. Your income tax falls into this category. It only becomes urgent if you ignore it until filing day.


Here's my best advice: 

1) Use priorities

2) Create a task or ticket for absolutely everything that needs to be done!

3) This allows you to work from highest to lowest priority at all times

4) Let clients choose the priority of tickets. Give them guidelines to assist in making choices.

5) Train everyone in your company to assign priorities, pay attention to them, and work according to them.


The long-term benefit of using priorities is that stress will automatically be reduced. Why? Because again and again, you will find that almost every task you create is Normal or Medium priority. Almost nothing is high priority. This happens automatically over time.

One of the Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery is "slow down, get more done." One way to apply that is by using a priority-based system.

Comments and feedback welcome!

:-)


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Revised 5-Week Course: The Most Important Checklists for Any I.T. Service Provider - starts Sept. 15th

The Most Important Checklists for Any I.T. Service Provider – W508

Totally Revised!

Taught By: Karl W. Palachuk & Manuel Palachuk

- Five Tuesdays - Sept 15 - Oct 13, 2020 -- Register Now

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern



Checklists are critically important to creating SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures - for your company.

This course is intended for managers and owners of a managed service business. It covers many facets of the "checklist mentality" that the instructors have used at a variety of successful I.T. consulting businesses.

In addition to building hundreds of checklists and standard processes for KPEnterprises in Sacramento, CA, the authors have both written books, trained individuals, and coached teams on successful processes and habits for running a modern, successful managed service business.

This course will cover daily the use of checklists in daily operations as well as the "larger picture" of running the entire company. It will address both internal checklists for running your own company and external checklists for managing client relationships and client technology.

This is an intensive live webinar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.


Delivered by Karl Palachuk and Manuel Palachuk, authors of the Network Migration Workbook and many other books for MSPs - managed service providers. 

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.


Only $299

Register Now


Week by Week Overview of the Course

  • Week 1: What is a Checklist / Sample: Daily Backup Monitoring and Maintenance
  • Week 2: Employee Hiring Process / Exit Process
  • Week 3: New Client On-boarding / Client Off-boarding / Quarterly Client Roadmap
  • Week 4: Monthly Maintenance Checklist / New PC Checklist
  • Week 5: The Pre-Discovery Checklist / Class Summary


Sample Handouts for this course:

  • Class Syllabus
  • Slides from all classes
  • MPI Checklist Template
  • MPI Doc with TOC Template
  • NMW Discovery Checklist
  • NMW Remote Workstation Migration
  • How To Document Any Process White Paper by Manuel Palachuk
  • Personnel Folders
  • New Hire Checklist
  • Hiring Folder (ZIP)
  • Employee Goals Template
  • Employee Evaluation Template
  • Client Onboard Checklist
  • Client Removal Checklist
  • Roadmap Questionnaire
  • Roadmap Template
  • Roadmap Meeting Notes Template
  • Monthly Maintenance Checklist
  • New Workstation Checklist
  • New User Checklist
  • Welcome New Employee Orientation
  • The Big Pre-Discovery Checklist
  • Troubleshooting and Repair Log
  • Time Stamp Version Standards

Questions? Email concierge@smallbizthoughts.com


A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five webinar classes (50-60 minutes each)
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class calls will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

Only $299

Register Now


Remember: Members of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community receive huge discounts. More details at https://www.smallbizthoughts.org - or email the Community Manager.

:-)

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Top Rated Videos Are A Great Introduction to Managed Services

I was looking through my statistics over on YouTube. I have almost 1,000 videos posted there. Over 250 are "SOP" (standard operating procedure) videos for IT service providers.

As I was browsing the most-viewed list, I realized that there's power in the so-called Hive Mind. What people are viewing most turns out to be a great introduction to some of the most important things you need to know to run your business well.

So, if you're new to IT consulting, new to managed services, or just want a little tune-up, here's a list that will give you a good introduction.

(If I were a classic 21st Century marketeer, I'd bundle these into a an Amazing Master Class - and sell it for $1,000 or more. But I'd rather give you all this for free in hopes that you'll decide to join my newsletter, buy a book, or join the Small Biz Thoughts Community.)

Enjoy.

If you like something, please give it a thumbs up, share it, and subscribe to the channel.

Thank you.


Most Popular SOP Videos for IT Service Providers



1) Service Manager Roles and Responsibilities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cUSnVZHRU4

2) No One Needs a Monkey Hook

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0gHl1RBoNE


3) Service Agreement vs. Service Level Agreement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygAs7sKGTWg

4) Vendor Management

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtJqFQfgork


5) Basic Sales Script

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYnG7Ev-4PI


6) Front Office Responsibilities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd1NbSqpPWw


7) Scheduling within the Service Department

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cOXlfuT0_k

8) Monthly Maintenance Checklist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPtnPfQcUrM


9) Client Visit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtwqXOAov0g

10) Network Documentation Binder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4vE4xgEQb4


11) Network Checkup and Sales Process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QfFq4V9ffQ


12) The First Client Visit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CskuNH8PGho


13) Don't Answer the Phone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LENWJ3htWjc


14) Service Call Process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psROs7mEsAk


15) The Slow Sales Process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZbSeL5sTJU

- - -

Feedback Welcome!

Thank you.

:-)


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Next Roundtable: The Power of Asking the Right Questions

Over at the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, we have a special get-together we call the SBT Roundtable. In September, our topic will be: The Power of Asking the Right Questions. This is a members-only event.

Our guests are two genius-level life coaches: Debbie Leoni and Jenifer Novak Landers. They are recognized as a couple of the elite life coaches in the U.S. But wait - that's not all. They are both entrepreneurs and published authors. 

Here's the twist: This discussion is NOT about life coaching. I want to talk to these women about their super power - asking the right questions. A lot of the training life coaches focuses on finding the right questions. Questions help us get to the root of issues. But they can also be used to encourage people to look at problems from a different perspective.

Our goal, of course, is to bring a unique perspective to your business. Sometimes, you need to just stop working-working-working and think about your business. Please register now and join us . . .


September 23rd

9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern

Members will find the link inside the community here.


About Debbie Leoni

"Fearless"

PCC, Master Coach, Speaker and Author

As an entrepreneur and dreamer, Debbie Leoni has always been influenced and intrigued by the human psyche and what it takes to succeed. Debbie’s passion for success led her to become a small business owner in her early 30’s and since then she’s become an international coach and speaker, assisting hundreds of small business owners. Debbie supports her clients to unleash their power by recalibrating their mindset towards high performance and an enhanced ability to accelerate personal growth resulting in success.

Links:

www.debbieleoni.com 

www.facebook.com/beingfearlesscoaching


About Jenifer Novak Landers


"Fully Expressed" 

Coach and Publisher

Jenifer is a professional coach specializing in entrepreneur coaching and the creative process. She is certified through JFK University and established her business, Fully Expressed Potential in 2005 to help professionals with business and personal growth.  As a speaker and workshop leader, she brings 20 years’ experience as a business owner to inspire a thriving entrepreneur lifestyle. Jenifer is the author of Fully Expressed Living, The Guided Meditation Coloring Book. As an award-winning illustrator for children’s books, Jenifer established a publishing company to support authors to realize their dreams. 

Visit her websites:  

www.fullyexpressedpotential.com

www.fullyinspiredpublishing.com   


-- -- --

Previous SMB Roundtables:

- John Armato - Creativity and Finding Your Authentic Voice

https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/member_content/sbt-roundtable-creativity-and-finding-your-authentic-voice

(Members only)


- Ryan Morris and Manuel Palachuk - Agile Methodology in IT Service Delivery

https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/member_content/sbt-roundtable-agile-methodology-in-it-consulting

(Members only)


:-)


Friday, August 21, 2020

Have You Seen My Blog Roll Recently?

 One of the odd things about modern technology is that many people don't read my blog on my blog. Huh?

Well, blogs have become a bit like podcasts. You put up an RSS feed (such as http://feeds2.feedburner.com/SmallBizThoughtsByKarlPalachuk) and anyone can re-broadcast your blog in real time as it happens. 

So, some people read my blog on the ChannelPro Network site. Some on Blogorama. And so forth. An RSS feed is, after all, really simple syndication. And that means it's also really easy for me to create a list of my favorite blogs.

If you want to read the things I try to keep up on, a good place to start is my Blog Roll. First, go to my actual blog - https://blog.smallbizthoughts.com. On the right side, you'll see my blog roll. Here's a picture from yesterday.

I change this from time to time, but it's pretty consistent. I had some blogs listed here for years, but they slowly evolved. 

If a blog goes silent for a few months, I put it on the watch list (or maybe the don't-watch list). Eventually, I feel obligated to remove blogs that are no longer active.

Note: If you have suggestions, I am happy to consider adding your favorite blog to this list (even if it's yours). Just note that those who disappear will disappear. 


So, who's on the list?

Well, some folks are active more than once a day. 

On the top of that list is ChannelE2E. My old friend Joe Panettieri does a pretty good job of writing something every day. Yes, a lot of is is rah-rah stuff for whoever bought advertising. But that's the game. There's a lot of good news there as well.

Of course I cover my own stuff, including the SBT Technology Community, the SMB Community Podcast, The Killing IT Podcast, and my Relax Focus Succeed blog.

Hey, it's my list, right? :-)

Other great news, commentary, and information sites include Jay McBain's Forrester blog, the ChannelPro Network blog, and Richard Tubb's Tubblog.

Note: Good vendor blogs are included when appropriate. If you have a vendor blog you can't live without, I'm happy to consider it. Let me know. A link is always appreciated.

Another category is thought-leader stuff. On one hand, this includes technical information. Net Sciences, Robert Crane, and Amy Babinchak are on the top of that list. One the other hand is business related info. Killing IT, Erick Simpson, and Manuel Palachuk top that list.

The intention here is literally to give you a starting place when you don't know where to start. If you were getting in this business today, I think you would do well to read each blog on this list. I do.


Not on the list.

Two kinds of blogs have been removed over the years. I think Susan Bradley's was listed here for more than ten years. But she started blogging on another site, more commercial in nature. And, to be honest, my primary focus is on the business side, not the tech side. So we eventually dropped it.

Other, similar contributors have moved outside my primary focus.

Saddest of all, I would say, is Microsoft. We used to list the SBS blog. But, of course, that product died in the last recession. The Exchange blog was awesome for a long time. Eventually, even Microsoft stopped posting to that blog. And when the Windows Server blog went fives months without a post, we dropped it.

One reason I blog: So I don't have to drop myself from the list. :-)


-- -- --

Note to vendors: If you want to buy yourself onto this list, pick a number with five zeros after it and send me an email.

:-)


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Survey Results: Designing Conferences So Women Feel Welcome

 I just finished reading a report from Ensono entitled

Speak Up 2020

Redesigning tech Conferences with Women in Mind

See https://www.ensono.com/resources/speak-2020-redesigning-tech-conferences-women-mind.


The report, released two days ago, is based on two primary collections of data: An audit of eighteen major tech conferences from around the world (See the list Here), including a review of speaker data for three years; and a survey of five hundred women from the U.S. and U.K. who attended a tech conference in the previous twelve months. In all, the conferences surveyed had a total of more than one million attendees.

Note: These data were compiled before the pandemic, and before most in-person conferences were shut down for 2020. 

-- -- --

A handful of key findings stand out. I would be very interested in hearing responses from women in the SMB IT community about their experiences. Put comments below - or on your own blog, and point me there.

The big points where conferences are getting things wrong, according to the report, are:

  • Discrimination - both on the basis of sex and race. 62% of female keynote speakers said they have experienced discrimination at tech conferences. 

  • Facilities - for speakers. Speaking environments are often set up for men "by default." For for example, tall bar stools on the stage are not a good choice for women in skirts. Microphones that pin to a man's blazer may not work well on a dress. 

  • Facilities - for attendees. A lack of mothers' rooms and even restrooms can make it more challenging for some women to attend.


These things - and others - can make women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. One thing that can go a long way to helping "next year" is to include questions in the conference evaluations regarding experiences about discrimination, harassment, and facilities.

It's obviously good that more women are on stage at presenters and panelists, but we also need to make sure the female attendees have a good experience and will come back to the conference in the future. And, we have to acknowledge that we're all in this together. If someone feels uncomfortable and unwelcome at one, or two, or three conferences, they may choose to just stop going to conferences. That's not good for our industry.

The report had some good suggestions for conference organizers, and for companies sending women to these events. One obvious tip is to complete the feedback loop. Companies can ask attendees about the conference, and pass that feedback on to the conference organizers. 

As a checklist nerd, I wrote a big comment in the margin: A checklist would be good.

I have worked with many conferences and conference organizers. It is my impression that women are very well represented among the conference organizers. In addition to picking the facilities, they have great input on the furniture that's used, the AV equipment, and other facilities.

Some improvements need (eventually) to come from the facility managers. Clearly, the conference organizers could do much to publish rules of conduct and make it easy to report problems. 

I sat on the CompTIA executive committee for Advancing Women in IT last year, and I sit on the EC for Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity this year. So, I've had a lot of conversations about this topic over the last few years. 

Our industry has a great imbalance that needs to be addressed. As events get smaller, the percentage of female attendees decreases significantly. In many ways, this reflects the participation of women in our industry nationally and globally.

If we want to improve the balance, one big step is to make women feel welcome and comfortable at our events. And this includes making gender enough of a "non-issue" that the big take-away is about education and getting value from the event. 

And on a personal note, I would add that this is not a "women's" problem. This is an industry issue. It won't be solved with women talking to each other about what's wrong. Everyone needs to be in the conversation, including the men who attend the conferences.

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Thanks to Ensono for doing this research and publishing the results. As always, I welcome your feedback.

:-)