Monday, January 25, 2021

Why I Give Away Valuable Information

 I was bragging a bit on Facebook the other day about how much traffic we're getting on our YouTube channel - https://youtube.com/smallbizthoughts. We have reached 7,000 views per month!

One of my longtime Facebook friends, David, made the following comment:

"Karl, it comes as no surprise to me. Unlike many others in your field, you provide very valuable content with no financial commitment. Many others seem like they are just trying to lure you in to buy their latest training series for $.

I realise you also offer paid for content, but you are one of the most generous contributors to the SMB IT community."

I know that many people are suspicious of "free" stuff - especially if they don't know me. Those who've known me for ten or fifteen years are far less suspicious.

So I thought I'd expose my thinking about giving away information free of charge. It begins with this view of the IT Consulting community (click to enlarge):

Like everyone else, I started my company as "just me." Unlike many others, I had deep experience with very large organizations' IT infrastructure, including managing teams of twenty-five people (and more) to take care of almost ten thousand endpoints.

I grew my business from just me to more than a dozen people. Somewhere along the line, I was one of the early adopters and proponents of what we now call managed services. I went on to advise larger and larger organizations with multi-state operations and over a hundred employees.


Sharing and Growing - in the Community

Along the way, I shared my knowledge. At first, it was online in forums and newsgroups. Then in in-person local meetings. Eventually, I spoke at SMB Nation and many other conferences. I wrote books and toured the world training IT consultants. Sometimes I trained them on specific technologies (e.g., Microsoft servers); sometimes I trained them on my philosophies and techniques.

All along the way, I realized that there are different needs for different kinds of companies. 

I also noticed that almost everyone providing services to IT consultants wants to talk to and help the larger companies who have mostly figured out how to be successful already. These folks basically charge for everything. They either charge you - the attendee - or they charge the vendor who wants your attention.

My experience has taught me that the smallest companies need the most help. I learned how to put this in words thanks to my friend Don from Australia. He pointed out that "little guys" like him (he's easily a foot taller than me) can only work on one thing at a time. So it makes no sense to buy into a big training program. He literally cannot send the service manager to one set of classes, the sales manager to another set of classes, and the customer service reps to a third. He is all those people.

At any given time, the types of companies illustrated above exist in some mixture.

  • New consultants enter the market. Nowadays, these people might be called "managed service providers" - but they don't call themselves that. How could they? If you think you're a computer consultant, the term managed service has no actual meaning. So you're not going to call yourself that or Google it.
  • Eventually, these folks learn about managed services and try something. But they need to learn more about the business model. LOTS of them try a few things they read about online, but do so out of context. So they don't have much success.
  • Many are simply never convinced that managed services will work for them.

I want to help these people! My personal mission for my life and for my companies is to help as many people as possible to be successful. For these folks with one-person companies who are trying to figure things out, I have lots of free resources. 

Note: About 70% of the contents of my four-volume Managed Services Operations Manual is available for FREE on my blog. And, in fact, I've indexed a lot of it at www.sopfriday.com. So you can get a lot by reading the blog and never spending a penny.


Growing Companies

As companies grow, they face new challenges they didn't have before. And they need just as much help. With luck, they have a little money to buy some books, buy some classes, and maybe buy a membership. Again, my goal is to help as many people as possible.

The biggest challenge for these companies is staying focused on what matters: Profit! All too often, they get side-tracked into discussions about how much revenue they have or how many employees they have. And, all too often, they are not profitable. They lie to themselves about growth and investing in their future. They convince themselves that they'll be profitable tomorrow or next year.

And, to be honest, they join peer groups that encourage these behaviors. In some of these groups, people get together and lie to each just so they don't lose respect from each other. They are barely getting by, going deeper into debt all the time, and bragging it up with their friends.

For these folks, I offer classes and books and membership. But more than that: I offer honesty that no one else is giving them. 

Too many people in this business are losing money and afraid to face it. They are digging themselves into debt and growing poor instead of growing rich. I am committed to helping these people straighten out their companies and their personal finances. 

I'm not perfect. I've been through some really bad finance experiences. So I'm in no place to judge. But I've also built a number of successful companies and helped a lot of people grow their companies to new heights.

These growing companies can and should be saved by the magic of recurring revenue! As many people have experienced, recurring revenue reduces a lot of stress. First you make $1,000 per month. That's enough know that the system works. Then you make enough to cover rent and utilities. Eventually, you make enough to cover payroll. But all along the way, you have some extra cash flow and the ability to try new things.

In a business that completely redefines itself every five years, trying new things is a requirement. But if you're scratching and clawing to pay the rent, it's much easier to keep doing the old stuff that got you where you are - even though you know it doesn't work.

My for-pay programs are great for these growing companies for one big reason: I provide the training you can assign to the service managers, the sales managers, and the customer service reps. When you're ready to change ten things at once and super-charge the whole organization, our program is perfect. We probably don't charge enough for it. But I'm okay with that. I've never felt good about memberships where everyone paid a different price. So mine is priced for the smaller companies.


Large Companies Need Love, Too

One of the great frustrations of my life is that larger companies think they've got it all figured out. If fact, I know from experience, most of them haven't figured out much at all. I've coached companies of all sizes, and I can tell you, they ALL have the same problems. Companies with two employees don't have good processes and procedures. Companies with a million in revenue don't have good processes and procedures. Companies with fifteen million in revenue don't have good processes and procedures. 

These companies call on me from time to time. I always help them out. But they ALL could do themselves a great big favor by just going through my programs and saving about $50,000 in coaching.

In fact, starting last year, I now include my Community membership in my coaching program because I spend so much time telling people to read this chapter or take that class. I didn't want them to think I'm just trying to sell more stuff, so I raised the price and included everything I've ever written.


. . . So you see . . .

I give away lots of information to people who need it the most. They can only do one thing at a time. So a blog post or a YouTube video works great for them.

And I don't worry that larger companies will gobble up all this free information and never buy anything. They are convinced that nothing free is worthwhile, so they pay me to give them the same information in exchange for money. That way they find value in it and feel good about the transaction.

Never feel guilty downloading the information I give away for free. But once you start to grow, I would appreciate it if you buy a book from time to time. Or take a  class. Or join my community. We'd love to have you. https://www.smallbizthoughts.org

:-)

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Special Webinar: PPP 2021 Update with Rayanne

I am pleased to announce a very special webinar for all US-based IT consultants. It features Rayanne Buchianico and Rich Freeman.


This Webinar was recorded:

January 12th

You may view it here, on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh8vWGn6c18


Rayanne is well-known as an instructor, MSP, and accountant. She has been a great source of knowledge for our community on all things related to PPP and EIDL over the last year.

As we know, Congress has approved a "second round" of benefits for small business, with new requirements. Rayanne has been studying this and is ready to give us an update.


Rich Freeman is the Executive Editor at the ChannelPro Network. He has been following the PPP/EIDL story for the last year and is well informed on how these programs have been used by IT consultants of all sizes. 

We will start with an update from Rayanne, and information about what the new programs look like. Then Rich and I will join in for a panel discussion.

We will be taking questions from the audience. So prep any questions you have. 

Free, of course.

Additional site mentioned by Rayanne: https://abcsolutionsfl.com/resources

Post questions and comments here!

:-)


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The ASCII Group Announces Keynote Speakers and Content for 2021 Events

This flew in through the transom from my friends as ASCII . . .



The ASCII Group Announces Keynote Speakers and Content for 2021 Events

Bethesda, Maryland – January 5, 2021 – The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers, is pleased to announce the featured speakers for its 2021 Event Series. The agenda for the events showcases an enhanced focus on education, providing attendees with new approaches and best practices on how to grow their IT companies while best servicing their customer base. The sessions will feature more MSP-led education content from its presenters (including ASCII members), bringing even more value to attendees.

Keynote Speaker – Mike Michalowicz, “Fix This Next”

Deemed the top contender for the ‘patron saint of entrepreneurs’, Mike Michalowicz, has helped thousands of businesses use his techniques to better their overall operations. Considered one of the leading business makeover specialists, Mike has authored the ‘Pumpkin Plan’, ‘Profit First’ and will be discussing how businesses can determine what to do, in what order, to ensure healthy, fast and permanent growth with his latest book ‘Fix This Next’.

Keynote Speaker - Robbie Kellman Baxter, “The Forever Transaction”

The Forever Transaction is a ready-to-use game plan for running a successful and sustainable subscription business. A veritable blueprint for success in the new subscription-based economy, Robbie’s approach is a must-do for organizations of any size; it’s a true game-changer. From initial start-up or testing of a new model, to scaling the operation for long-term growth and sustainability, to revamping your culture so everyone works together to optimize customer lifetime value. Learn how to build lasting customer relationships that are the very foundation of business success – today, tomorrow and forever.

Additional MSP peer education and industry speakers include:

"Be Heard! Why Your MSP Story Matters Now", C.J. Ezell, Founder & CEO, Cross Bay Digital Marketing

"How MSPs Can Best Manage & Solve Growing Pains", Stephen Monk, CEO, Noverus Innovations

"How to Build a Winning Client Advisory Board", Vince Tinnirello, Managing Director, Anchor Network Solutions

“Now, more than ever, the goal of ASCII events is to provide the MSP community with actionable content that can be easily implemented into their IT businesses,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group. “In addition to a relatable keynote speaker, and a showcase pavilion of best-of-breed technology, attendees leave ASCII events with business intelligence they can use.”

ASCII events are the leading conferences in the channel and bring together over 1,500 IT solution providers and MSPs, innovative technology vendors, and key industry thought leaders in a two-day format. Designed for qualified Managed Service Providers, ASCII events are targeted towards those looking to increase revenue, enhance their current business model, and network with peers.

ASCII MSP Connect Live 2021 (Virtual Events):


Canada - February 24 & 25 

Rocky Mountain Region (USA) - March 17 & 18

 

ASCII Success Summits 2021 (In-Person Events): 

Bethesda, MD - May 19 & 20            

Cincinnati, OH - June 16 & 17  

Chicago, IL - July 21 & 22    

Raleigh, NC - August 18 & 19     

NY / NJ area - September 22 & 23   

Orlando, FL - October 27 & 28 

Houston, TX - November 3 & 4   

Orange County, CA - December 8 & 9 


For more information, visit www.asciievents.com and www.mspconnectlive.com.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

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

###

:-)


Lori's Awesome Class is Back! Powerhouse of One: Be a Super Successful MSP

Powerhouse of One: How to Be Super Successful MSP (or Solo Entrepreneur)



Taught By: Lori Hardtke, Community Leader and Coach

- Five Tuesdays - January 12 - February 9, 2021

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific


Register Now

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

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

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

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

Then this class is for you!

"The class Lori did was simply awesome.  

I learned so much.  She is what I want to be when I grow up!"

- David Streit, Stephill Associates, LLC


Here's what you will learn:

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

…And more tips-n-tricks to help you be different and think different!


 Delivered by Lori Hardtke, MSP and Peer Advisor. Lori has been an MSP (managed service provider) for many years and runs a two-state business with no employees.

Includes five weeks of Zoom 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.


The Modules: 

Unit 1 Week 1 - Vendors/Affiliations/Peer Groups

Unit 2 Week 2 - Selling Services That Are Pure Profit

Unit 3 Week 3 - Sales Process for Website/VoIP/Cloud Desktops

Unit 4 Week 4 - Plans, Pricing & White Glove Services

Unit 5 Week 5 - Finances


Details and Registration at https://www.greatlittleseminar.com/course/powerhouse-of-one-be-a-super-successful-sole-proprietor/

Only $299

:-)


Monday, January 04, 2021

WOW! We really put out a lot of info in the last 30 days. You missed some of this ...

You May Have Missed This . . .

I somehow managed to post 110 posts to this blog in 2020. That's about nine per month. Many people primarily get information about what I'm up to on this blog. Others, primarily through my newsletter (sign up at https://www.smallbizthoughts.com/newsletter/), and still others via my YouTube channels.

So, no matter how you get information, you're bound to miss something. I always put a list of recent activities in my weekly newsletter. But even there, I don't cover every little thing.


Here are some recent Mentions by Others and appearances on various forums in the last month.


Paul Green's Growth Guide. You can see it here: https://mspgrowthguide.com/

- Hard to read and impossible to print. But it has lots of resources!


Paul also hosted Nigel Moore and me on his podcast. This was a great way to end the year. It started with Nigel and I in Santa Barbara in January. So it was great to close the year out with another event with Nigel. This one was interesting to record since Paul is eight hours ahead of me and eleven hours behind Nigel. A truly global podcast!

https://www.paulgreensmspmarketing.com/podcast/episode59/


Acronis sponsored an "MSP Town Hall" discussion with Amy Luby, Dave Sobel, Amy Babinchak, and Erick Simpson.

Replay here:
https://acronis.zoom.us/rec/play/6SQYAFIOTEg0BKNQovMCT9dyGB00EmrX8H8MzswyAJuAb2SqG5iu1D53oce_MMUcO_fxWUlH3iiwvkTv.qfpknaDmYLVCPCr_


Here's the stuff I produced in the last month, other than this blog.


Relax Focus Succeed Blog:

Work ON Yourself, Not Just In Yourself
https://www.relaxfocussucceed.com/2020/12/work-on-yourself-not-just-in-yourself/


SMB Community Podcast:

Common Misconceptions with Google Ads
https://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/2020/12/common-misconceptions-with-google-ads/


Richard Tubb on Continuous Awesome Marketing
https://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/2020/12/richard-tubb-on-continuous-awesome-marketing/


New Book: Tech Up or Lose Out
https://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/2020/12/new-book-tech-up-or-lose-out/


How to Effectively Communicate Your Brand Story to Generate Leads
https://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/2020/12/how-to-effectively-communicate-your-brand-story-to-generate-leads/


Manuel Palachuk and the “IT Confidential”
https://www.smbcommunitypodcast.com/2020/12/manuel-palachuk-and-the-it-confidential/


The Killing IT Podcast:

Episode 92 – End-of-Year show: 2020
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2020/12/episode-92-end-of-year-show-2020/


Episode 91: AI Doppelgangers, Google Outage, and Vaccine Apps
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2020/12/episode-91-ai-doppelgangers-google-outage-and-vaccine-apps/


Episode 90 – Pandemic Burnout; Modern Data Centers; Uber and Out
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2020/12/episode-90-pandemic-burnout-modern-data-centers-uber-and-out/


Episode 89 – Fighting Inequality with AI, Cheap Energy, and “Edge” Opportunities
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2020/12/episode-89-fighting-inequality-with-ai-cheap-energy-and-edge-opportunities/


Episode 88 – Robo-job Apocalypse Delayed; NATO Publications; and Facebook Algorithm
https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2020/12/episode-88-robo-job-apocalypse-delayed-nato-publications-and-facebook-algorithm/



Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community:

January Roundtable: The Hard Truth about Success
https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/january-roundtable-the-hard-truth-about-success/


Quote Me on This – The Wit and Wisdom of Coleman Cox
https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/just-added-quote-me-on-this-the-wit-and-wisdom-of-coleman-cox/


Community Confab Meetings
https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/posted-community-confab-december-3/


Year of Intention – Class Posted
https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/year-of-intention-week-1-posted/




YouTube Videos for IT

Community News - January 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI3rOi3XfOQ


SOP: The 10 Most Important Rules of Backup
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZXhiR8NNJY


Convert 230 Volt European Plug to US 110 Plug
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bfct9IVcZKk


Travel Adapter Power 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_8jiVCQBQ8


SOP: Firewall and Router Configurations
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QfaPufBcbk


How To Fix a Variable Resistor
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoD3y6NnBFY


SOP: Labeling Equipment
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrQw49WHGv0


How to Add Chapters and Subtitles to YouTube Videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3my9CCDUqoY


SOP: Removing a Client from Cloud Services
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqlZwnBRWiQ


Welcome to the SBT Channel!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krmsj7PYgH8


SOP: Removing a Client from Managed Service
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghe1-1hke0I


-----

And we'll keep pumping out new information in 2021!

If there's a topic you'd like me to cover somewhere, put a comment down below.

. . . And have a great January.

- Karlp

:-)


Sunday, January 03, 2021

Top SOP Videos for 2020

We've had a great year on YouTube!

We had just over 61,000 views - and more than 2,800 hours of total watch time. And we've added almost 600 new subscribers.

Our most popular playlist is SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures.

I always appreciate comments and questions on these videos.


#1 Video - SOP: Service Manager Roles and Responsibilities

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


I am actually very happy that this is the #1 video. The Service Manager role is perhaps the most important role in any IT company. In addition to being a mentor and trainer, the service manager has to be a customer relations expert, an enforcer, a strategist, and a great deal more.


#2 Video - SOP: No One Needs a Monkey Hook

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

A few comments suggest that people aren't happy with this message. But the bottom line is: You don't buy something because you need the thing; you buy it because what it can do for you. Your clients don't buy managed services because they need monitoring. 

Monitoring is your thing. It's what you sell. They buy security. They buy peace of mind. 


#3 Video - SOP: Vendor Management

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

This video was leading the pack for much of 2020. I think many MSPs are very interested in managing their clients' vendors - but they're not entirely sure what that means. This video gives you insight.


#4 Video - SOP: Basic Sales Script

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

This is a peek into my sales process. You have to start somewhere, right?


#5 Video - SOP - Service Agreement vs Service Level Agreement

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

When I'm speaking and someone refers to "service level agreements," I also point out that they probably mean Service Agreements. There's a big different. And ignoring it might cost you a lot of money.



#6 Video - SOP: Front Office Responsibilities

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

Like the service manager roles and responsibilities, many people are interested in what they would have an office manager or administrative assistant do. Trust me, after you've had one for a few years, you won't know what to do without them!


#7 Video - SOP: Scheduling within the Service Department

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

I rely very heavily on a priority-based system. But when coordinating your company with your clients, you have to schedule work. I also have a strong preference for a system that allows technicians to manage themselves as much as possible. But you still need scheduling!


#8 Video - SOP: Monthly Maintenance Checklist

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

Perhaps the single most important thing you do in a managed service business. At some level, if you're not doing monthly preventive maintenance, it's hard to argue that you are delivering managed service. What's your list of  tasks to perform at every client, every month?


#9 Video - SOP: Client Visit

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

I'm glad that this is a popular video. I worry that too many companies have no process for a simple client visit. There are just a handful of things you need to do to guarantee success and establish your brand. 


#10 Video - SOP: Service Call Process

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

Finally, rounding out the top ten is another "basic" but extremely important process. How you execute a service call defines you company in the client's eyes.


-- -- --


Please check out my YouTube channel by clicking on any of these links. I always appreciate a thumbs-up and a subscribe. 

:-)