A blog for Small Business IT Consultants and the vendors who serve them. It contains Opinions on business success, News in the consulting community, and Information on what I'm up to. All material Copyright (c) 2006-2023 by Karl W. Palachuk unless otherwise noted.
Paste that date into your calendar so you don't forget!
Highlights (low lights?) from 2020
Technology Updates 2020 . . . and what's next
The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Speculations about 2021
Building a Success Plan for the Year Ahead
2020 has been one we'll never forget - even though we might want to. But, strangely enough, it was a pretty good year for most small IT providers. 2021 will be even better, if you plan it right. As always, I'm going to spend the year committed to helping IT service providers build successful businesses that look to the future of technology and guarantee their success moving forward.
Tune in to learn more!
Technology is always a changing environment. And with IoT, home networks, Cloud Services, and all the emerging technologies, it's no exaggeration that there's more opportunity in our business than ever before..
But 2020 was also a year filled with ransomware, legislation, regulation, and increased insurance rates. The barriers to entry continue to rise. What will this mean for you?
And: Are you getting your share of all the new recurring revenue opportunities?
Tune in to learn more!
Karl's 12th Annual State of the Nation Address for SMB IT
Believe it or not, your security tools are probably cutting into the productivity of your entire team!
Security can no longer be considered a bolt-on feature to other services. In the 2020s, MSPs need rock-solid, total solutions that provide unparalleled security while also enabling users to go about their business.
Join me along with Acronis Channel Chief Evangelist Amy Luby for an in-depth look at delivering security that enables you to streamline operations, increase productivity, and build a service offering that’s secure by default.
• Expert overview of the status quo
• Details on different challenges and opportunities for better operational efficiency
• List of action items and strategies to improve productivity
Our full panel (besides me) is:
Amy Luby, Channel Chief Evangelist at Acronis
Craig Joseph, Group CEO, Teknov8
James Slaby, Director of Cyber Protection at Acronis
The Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community meets by Zoom every Thursday. And on the Third Thursday of every month we have our official "Monthly Meeting." Today, we announced the winners of our annual Community Awards for 2020.
We had quite a lot of great people to choose from. We have many very active members and Community leaders. But we finally picked the winners. With no further delay - here they are:
Our Community Member of the Year for 2020 is Laine Kohama from Giga Island. Laine has been an active member from the minute he joined. He attends almost every class, every call, every Roundtable, and every other thing we do. In addition, he always participates fully, offering advice and asking questions.
At one point, he didn't show up for two meetings in a row and Kara emailed him to make sure he was okay. Laine's response was that he was too busy with new clients - thanks to what he learned in the Community.
Our Community Leader of the Year for 2020 is Amy Babinchak. Like Laine, Amy attends almost every meeting. Amy is a worldwide leader in the IT community, and we know she has a full calendar. So we're honored that she would make our Community a priority.
In addition to simply showing up, Amy gives us great advice and is always very transparent about how she has built her company over the last twenty years. When folks ask for special information or attention, she always steps up. I guess the same qualities that made her a Microsoft MVP also made her a great leader in our Community.
Last but not least, our Small Biz Thoughts Employee of the Year is Kara Schoonveld. Kara is our Community Manager and primary web developer. In 2020, she has achieved an amazing collection of milestones. I haven't counted them all, but I think she made major revisions to about twenty of our web sites this year, including totally revising our store and the Community site itself.
Kara is always quick to help members with all requests, large or small. We have a group email. More often than not, if I reply to a member request, I get an email saying that Kara already took care of it. And just in case anyone is wondering: Kara really enjoys working with the Community.
And somehow, in the middle of all that, and in the middle of a pandemic, she moved across country to Michigan this year. And I doubt that any member noticed that she was "offline" for the move.
We really do have an amazing Community. I personally thank all of our members, especially those who show up week after week for our "Community Confab" calls. We started those calls in March when the economy was shut down. I wanted to make sure that members had a place to connect with others and help each other during the unusual circumstances. Due to popular demand, we have continued those calls all year.
You'll save $100 right now - and lock in that price for life.
We created the community two years ago with one simple mission: To make YOU as successful as possible. My personal mission is to help IT consultants be better at the business part of their business. Obviously, this is a good fit.
We have hundreds of downloads - processes, procedures, audio programs, video training, and every book I've written (plus every new book is automatically added to the community before it's made available to the public). Plus a lot more.
We are an online community of dedicated managed service providers, and IT professionals who want to be managed service providers. We get together online in forums, on Zoom calls, and in classes to help each other to be more successful.
You might be saying, "We're not big enough for that." Or maybe, "We're not small enough for that."
Neither is true! We have members who are just one-, two-, and three-person shops. We also have companies that have 50 and 60 employees. At the end of the day, the things you need to be successful are pretty much the same no matter what size your business is.
Almost every company I have ever coached needed the same things: Processes, procedures, and accountability. That's what we offer in the SBT Technology Community.
Now . . . for today's real topic:
How to Maximize Success in 2021
We've identified seven things that will help you be successful.
I believe 2021 is going to be a difficult year. There's no way around that. A lot of us did really well in 2020, because we spent a lot of time helping clients to move out of their offices into their homes, keep it secure, and keep people connected.
A lot of people took that opportunity to move many, many resources up to cloud services, which is awesome. And we helped clients have a very positive experience with all of that that.
We need to continue that into 2021, but we have a different set of challenges. First of all, the economy still has to hit bottom before it can bounce back. The recovery will probably take another three to six months.
At the same time, dealing with the pandemic and the vaccine, we will probably not see significant changes with regard to the pandemic for at least two or three months. And then it'll be a few months after that before things finally get back to normal.
I have no crystal ball, but I'm hoping that by the second half of 2021, things will be pretty much back to whatever normal is, or the so-called new normal, or "next" normal.
No matter what happens, there are challenges to your business that you have to pay attention to. So what can you do to make the most of this situation that you know is going to be difficult? Let's look at seven things to help you make the most of 2021.
First: Training. You have many options for training. You need to you makes sure that your staff is up to spec on new technologies, on new services that you're offering, on new resources that are out there, and on ransomware and fighting the bad guys.
One way that you can get that training is inside our community. So we have a lot of members-only training.
Second: Great Little Seminar. Community members enjoy HUGE discounts over at GreatLittleSeminar.com. Great Little Seminar hosts ten classes a year, and we charge $299 per student. Annual subscribers to our community you get ALL of those classes at no addition charge.
If you join now, you pay $999 for an annual pass and you get $2,990 worth of classes! That's pretty much a no-brainer. Monthly subscribers to the SBT Technology Community still get a huge discount. They receive $200 off each class, for a savings of $2,000 per year. And that's still way more than the cost of membership.
Third: Books. I have written ALL of the best selling books on managed services and cloud services. Plus, I've written lots of other books to help IT consultants to be as successful as possible. When I started the SBT Technology Community, I put ALL of the books inside the community. So, all members get access to all of my books in all formats at no additional charge.
I am also adding in all of my checklists, all of my forms, and all of my SOPs. AND we are developing new members-only content on top of all that. I'm putting every single thing I've ever done into the community. Members get it all for one price.
This is a huge, massive resource. In fact, this is literally a resource that nobody else can offer because these are the materials I've created over the years.
Fourth: Community Forums. We have Forums inside the Community. This is a place for you to bring up questions, talk about challenges you have with other people.
Fifth: It's the people that matter. The other people in the community are people who have your business model. They're in the same industry as you. They have the same challenges. They're looking for the same tools. They're looking for the same resources. They want to talk about those vendors. They want to talk about the experiences with certain technology.
They want to help each other find things like web cameras during the pandemic!
Basically, it's a broad community worldwide that you can rely on to help you as you face challenges going forward.
Sixth: Regular Community Calls. This obviously follows on the people piece. We have a monthly meeting with our community members. In that, we get together and present some information, then have an open forum with Q&A. Any member can bring up anything and we discuss it as a group.
We also meet weekly on Zoom. During the pandemic, we started doing weekly calls and those have become super popular. So we just continued it.
Kara (our Community Manager) guides us around here and there, but basically, the conversation goes however the community wants it to go. Sometime, there are coaching type questions for me, but most of the time, it's members asking each other questions.
Where are you getting training? What products are you training on? Which vendors are you looking for? Which vendors are you moving away from? All those things that you see, but here's the best part about this community.
Best of all: You know that every one of these people is successful and has committed to their own success by buying a membership in this community. You have probably seen the old cartoon from the 1990's:
On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.
Well, on the Internet, you can go to a lot of forums and get advice from a lot of strangers. And you have no idea whether they're super successful or complete failures sitting in their parents' basement.
In our community, we know who these people are. We know know that they have invested in their business. We know the challenges they're facing because we meet with them week after week after week.
And it really does make a difference to be surrounded with people who are successful and are moving in the direction within your own industry.
Some people say, "I don't want to talk to my competitors." I think that's a silly argument. For more than twenty years, I owned IT consulting companies in Sacramento, California. In all of those years, the only time I ever saw any of my competition was when we got together for a monthly IT professionals meeting.
I just didn't feel like I ever competed against these people. And here's a fun fact: Sometimes I meet people out in the world and they ask me, "Do you know such and such?" And I no, I've never heard of them.
Oh, they say, "They're one of the biggest managed service providers in Sacramento."
Look, Sacramento is not that big, but we just don't compete with each other. We really, really don't.
One of the Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery is that your competition really is irrelevant and you need to know that. The more attention you focus on your competition, the less attention you are focusing on your clients.
So, I recommend that you just completely and absolutely ignore your competition. Other people do not compete for your dollars. There is enough money; there are enough clients in the world that you literally have no competition as long as you're good at what you do.
Focusing on the quality of service that you give and the education level of your employees is far more important than worrying about whether somebody across town is giving $10 off on some service.
Seventh: Kara - Our Community Manager. One of the greatest assets in our community is we have Kara as our full-time community manager.
She monitors when people have questions about stuff. She helps members I find thing. She is constantly monitoring things. AND she's our primary web developer.
When Kara gets an idea, such as gamification, she makes it happen. She's really great at managing the community. She is the first line of support, and she's really fun to work with. She has a very positive personality. We love having her in the community and we think that you will too.
So the best thing that you can do in 2021 is to join the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. And here's the important safety tip.
The price goes up January 1st.
We're raising the annual subscription to $1,099 a year, up from $999.
I know it's only one hundred dollars a year, but if you join in 2020, you will lock in the lower price for life. Really. Every member is locked in at the price when the joined.
Note: We are not racing the monthly price, which is only $119. And if you join at that rate, you will also lock in that rate for life. There is a 12 month commitment, of course. But, if you want to make the monthly payments, you can do that and that price will never increase for life.
We do not let folks test-drive the community, BUT you can see everything we have inside. Our community search engine is completely open to the public. If you browse to https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/all-resources/ you can search for books, checklists, client-facing downloads, audio programs, training, live events, SOPs, whitepapers, and more. You'll see the result instantly.
But, obviously, clicking on a resource will bring a login screen.
Please feel free to visit www.SmallBizThoughts.org and check it out. We would love to have you join us and to help you be a successful as possible in 2021.
This is my 2,000th blog post on the Small Biz Thoughts Blog.
This blog was launched in February 2006, thanks to Susan Bradley. I don't think Susan actually knows that.
Way back in 2005 (October), I attended SMB Nation in Seattle and met Susan. She was wearing a shirt that said, "I'm blogging this." I didn't let on, but my brain was asking, "What's blogging?"
Well, shortly after that, I noticed that every time I Googled anything remotely related to Small Business Server, there was a link to the SBS Diva blog - Susan's blog. So I began to think . . . what other blogs are out there?
I found that there were LOTS of technical and how-to blogs. But within our industry, I didn't find any business-focused blogs. So I decided to start this blog, focused on helping IT consultants to be better at the business side of business.
So here we are 110 months later. That's just over eighteen posts per month!
From this blog, I ended up writing Managed Services in a Month, Cloud Services in a Month, and many other projects. Thanks to you and all my readers, I've managed to make my way around the world a few times, meeting people, holding events, and speaking at various conferences and gatherings.
I can't brag about having many good traits. But there's one thing I tend to do: If something works, I keep it alive. I like to write, so I can't say that writing this blog has been difficult. But it does take some effort. And when I look back . . . I've averaged more than 100 blog posts per year.
I don't see any reason why that will change in 2021.
Thank you all for your support. It has been a pleasure interacting with you on this blog and helping the broader IT community to grow!
If you're not a subscribers, now's a good time. Just sayin.
(BTW, Susan is still super active, writing for AskWoody, doing weekly patch updates, and is often featured in Computerworld. See https://www.computerworld.com/author/Susan-Bradley/. I'm honored to count her as one of my long-time friends in this industry.)
In case you missed it, I launch a big 50-Week video project called The Cheeky Sales Coach. It's "home" is at www.cheekysalescoach.com. I am posting fifty sales-focused videos on my Relax Focus Succeed YouTube channel. You can find that here:
1) Create captions or subtitles to your YouTube videos
2) Create "Chapters" within your YouTube videos
These are somewhat unrelated to one another, other than the fact that they both improve the usability of your videos and improve your video rankings in Google/YouTube searches.
Subtitles help people consume your videos without relying on the sound. This applies to people with hearing problems as well as those who simply wish to browse with the sound off for any reason. The text of the subtitles arrives in a text file with an .SRT extension. Because it is essentially a transcript of your video, it is very easy for YouTube (and Google) to search, index, and even place into the context of extended meta data.
Chapters also improve usability because they allow people to skip right to a specific point in the video. While you might think this reduces viewing time, it actually increases it because people can re-watch pieces of your video very easily. YouTube makes these chapters available in three different ways. First, they are listed in the video description. Second, the chapter titles appear at the bottom of the video. And, third, viewers can click the ">"to display chapters and chapter thumbnails to the right of your video. Examples of all of these are below.
You can view my video examples of all of this here:
The best place to start is with subtitles. If you use a script for your video, you can easily create your own subtitle (SRT) file. Basically, it's just a text file in the following format:
1 00:00:00,298 --> 00:00:02,881 (upbeat music) 2 00:00:08,470 --> 00:00:10,980 - Hi, this is Karl, with another SOP video 3 00:00:10,980 --> 00:00:12,630 for managed service providers. 4 00:00:12,630 --> 00:00:15,270 Last time we talked about removing a client 5 00:00:15,270 --> 00:00:16,620 from managed services.
When you edit your video in YouTube's Creator Studio, you can upload this file. YouTube will replace their automated captions with the subtitles you provide.
I use a service called Rev.com. They access my YouTube channel and upload the SRT files. As soon as they're done, the closed caption option on YouTube starts serving up excellent captions instead of the horrible default captions that YouTube comes up with. YouTube's default captions have no capitalization or punctuation - and they don't know how to spell Karl.
That's it for subtitles or captions.
Again, you can easily create your own chapters by simply listing titles with timestamps in the following format:
00:00 Removing a client from cloud services 01:07 Clients have lots of hosted services 02:11 "I didn't realize what we were paying for" 03:15 Longtime clients ... 04:24 Be willing to give this up 05:22 You can retain continuous revenue 06:25 Call to Action
When YouTube sees the 00:00 time stamp, they begin processing the text as chapter headings until the formatting changes. Once you enter this into the description and click Save, chapters are activated. Notice that you only list the starting time for each chapter. These numbers become a link to that spot in the video. You can see this on the example video above:
Once chapters are in place, the following subtle changes appear at the bottom of your video. When you mouse over the video timeline, upright bars appear at chapter breaks and chapter titles appear. To the right of the chapter title is a greater-than sign ( > ). If you click that arrow, it expands a list of chapters to the right of the video.
This functionality means that both YouTube and Google (Google owns YouTube) will index the chapters of your video as well as the whole video. So, in addition to addition keyword indexing, you get extra potential traffic based the individual titles.
Now, here's the juicy goodness that binds these two upgrades together: Once you have the SRT file, you have a text document with time stamps and the text of your video. It's super easy to edit that text file and simply copy/paste it into your description.
Again, see the description of this or other videos to see an example. It literally looks just like the "timeline" example above.
Trust me. This is really, really easy. The second time you do it, it will take less time than it took to read this blog post.
Call to Action: Subscript to my YouTube channel and click that thumbs-up on pretty much everything you watch. Thanks.
Long-time community leader and Microsoft MVP Amy Babinchak has been doing some training over at Third Tier (thirdtier.net) under the title, "Don't Miss This Setting." Now she's offer an awesome three-part training with the course title
(You know Microsoft likes to change the name of things just to make sure no one knows what they're talking about. EndPoint Manager is the new name for InTune.)
Microsoft's next big move is "Lighthouse" - until they change the name to something else. Lighthouse will allow managed service providers to manage services across several clients. If that sounds like an RMM, it just might be.
Anyway, Amy's training will lay down some great groundwork for managing Microsoft services and provide great background for the implementation of future technologies.
The course is designed for technicians that have some familiarity with Azure Active Directory and Group Policy.
The course includes, a pre-recording of the M365 Admin: Don’t miss this setting! session on Endpoint Manager, 4 hours of live instruction, recordings of each session, and any materials shown during class.
I say it's a three-part training because the first session is already recorded and you should download it as soon as you register. The live sessions are:
The difference between managing a device and managing an application and how the state of the device in Azure AD can determine what options you will have available. There are two options for getting devices into Azure AD.
Pitfalls are EndPoint Manager: You will learn how to force a sync of policies to a machine and the schedule that Intune uses to automatically refresh those polices
The importance of setting up groups on Azure AD and standard set of groups to get started with.
Setting up the EndPoint Manager portal
Configure your first policies: compliance, configuration, and application
Session 2 December 28th 1pm – 3pm eastern
How to export and share policies between tenants
We will push an application to a device
Class choice. We’ll gather a few policy requirements that you have and configure those.
We receive the following press release regarding Groove and Salesforce.com:
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Groove Launches the First Sales Engagement Platform for Salesforce Financial Services Cloud
New platform enables banks and wealth management advisors to strengthen customer relationships and accelerate sales productivity post COVID-19
December 7, 2020 - San Francisco, CA - Groove, the leading sales engagement platform for enterprises using Salesforce, today announced general availability of their first industry-specific product, Groove for Salesforce Financial Services Cloud. The new sales engagement platform is currently in use at a major multi-national bank to help them accelerate sales productivity and build stronger relationships across their retail and commercial banking operations in the United States.
According to the Salesforce State of Sales 2020 report, 82% of salespeople in Financial Services say that their digital transformation has accelerated since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has further fueled this trend, as banks and wealth management advisors look to quickly transform their old way of doing business into a digital-first world, with fewer in-person meetings, fewer branches, and fewer retail locations.
“2020 will be remembered as a watershed moment when B2B buying and selling changed forever,” wrote Mary Shea, principal analyst for Forrester Research in the recent Wave report on sales engagement. “While the digitization of the buying and selling process has been underway for some time, the hardships from COVID-19 have dramatically accelerated this trend.” According to the report, “sales engagement is poised to meet the moment.”
Twenty of the top twenty Financial Services companies use Salesforce, according to the CRM industry leader. Built on the word's #1 CRM solution, Salesforce Financial Services Cloud comes out of the box with all the core features of its Sales Cloud, plus new custom fields and objects modeling financial accounts, assets, liabilities, and goals for both individual clients and across entire households. This means advisors no longer have to spend time and money customizing their CRM to speak the language of their firm.
“Salesforce Financial Services Cloud provides an integrated platform that can be tailored to any financial services organization’s high-touch relationship model,” said Chris Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of Groove. “We are aligned with Salesforce Industry Clouds’ vision to help their customers accelerate digital transformation and realize time-to-value as quickly as possible. This is why we are bringing to market the first sales engagement platform that has been tailored to meet the specific needs of the financial services industry.”
Groove for Salesforce Financial Services Cloud is unique in that it aligns with the custom data model and hundreds of industry-specific workflows in this cloud, so that banks and wealth management advisors can quickly realize time-to-value, without a heavy lift from their IT team. Groove’s unique architecture is also highly secure and ensures that sensitive client data remains in Salesforce as the system of record.
Key capabilities of the new platform include:
Information technology teams can centrally manage an automated system for multi-channel communications around loan disbursement programs, mortgage lending, and other common workflows. Unlike marketing automation systems, all communications can be highly personalized and 1:1 in nature.
Relationship managers, advisors, and teams can deliver personalized advice at scale across any channel or device, surfacing real-time CRM information in the inbox.
Sales management benefits from real-time visibility into activity levels and outcomes, instantly logging emails, calls, SMS messages, and LinkedIn correspondence to custom objects and industry-specific workflows.
Over two-thirds of US workers are now remote post COVID-19, and with the economy and a path to a viable vaccine still unclear, it’s critical that financial services companies adopt technology systems that will enable them to manage important customer relationships regardless of where relationship managers, advisors, or customers are located.
Forrester Research recently published The Forrester Wave™: Sales Engagement, Q3 2020, an independent assessment of the top vendors in the market. Groove was among the select sales engagement platforms that Forrester invited to participate in the evaluation and received the second-highest Current Offering score of all vendors evaluated as well as the highest possible scores in the Workflows, Service and Support, and User Experience - Interface categories.
According to the report, “Groove's 92% renewal rate is among the highest in the industry.” The report also states that “its architecture eliminates data latency and sync errors and supports customized workflows. The platform is designed for full-cycle reps and has a UI that can adapt to role, division, team, and other unique requirements.” And that “Groove is an ideal fit for global companies that want platform customization and a high-touch customer experience.”
Groove is the leading sales engagement platform for enterprises using Salesforce, specializing in ease-of-use, ease-of-administration, and cross-team collaboration. Built for the needs of full-cycle sellers, Groove automates non-sales activities so that pre- and post-sales reps can spend more time building relationships and generating revenue. On average, Groove gives revenue teams 20% of their time back to focus on higher-value activities. Groove’s Salesforce-native architecture can be customized to align with industry-specific workflows while ensuring more accurate reporting and forecasting, lower compliance risk, and streamlined administration.
Over 50,000 account executives, sales development, and customer success representatives use Groove at some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing companies, including Google, Uber, and Capital One. Groove has earned the highest customer satisfaction rating on G2 in the sales engagement category for over two years in a row.
Groove was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces 2020 and is one of the 2020 Inc. 5000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. Groove also ranks #16 on the San Francisco Business Times' "fastest-growing private companies in the Bay Area in 2020" and #191 on the Deloitte 2020 Technology Fast 500 list. Founded in 2014, Groove is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in San Diego and Seattle. To learn more, visit groove.co.
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If you have a press release that's relevant to the SMB IT community, please send it to us with your restrictions (e.g., "Embargo until 12/25 at 5AM PST"). We never edit press releases and we certainly don't charge to publish them.
This four-volume set is the definitive guide to Managed Services. From the front office to the tech department, we cover it all. Every computer consultant, every managed service provider, every technical consulting company - every successful business - needs SOPs!
When you document your processes and procedures, you design a way for your company to have repeatable success. And as you fine-tune those processes and procedures, you become more successful, more efficient, and more profitable. The way you do everything is your brand.
How to Deliver Successful, Profitable Projects on Time with Your Small Business Clients
Small Business project management is simply not as complicated as project management in the enterprise. But small business projects have the same challenges as enterprise projects: They need to achieve their goals effectively, on time, and within budget.
They also face the same primary challenge – staying inside the scope of the project!
This great little book provides a simple process project planning and management process that is easy to learn and easy to teach to your employees, fellow technicians, and sub-contractors. You’ll learn to track any project, explain all the stages to clients and employees, and verify that everything is completed on time and under budget.
The authors show you a great technique for making sure that scope creep is a thing of the past! Make every project a successful and profitable project!
I make every attempt to honestly state what I believe and enjoy the freedom of posting whatever I feel like on this blog. This is a big complicated world and I have many interconnected personal and professional relationships.
I may in some way receive money or other benefits from any of the products, services, or companies mentioned in this blog as a direct or indirect result of my actions on and off this blog. Any experience mentioned here is just my experience and I have no knowledge about whether it represents a typical experience with any products, services, or companies mentioned.
Whenever it is possible to have both an honest and a misleading interpretation of my statements, please assume honesty.