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.

:-)