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.
IT Service Provider University has a rare 10% off sale.
Over at IT Service Provider University, we offer the best, most comprehensive selection of courses to help YOU build a great Managed Service business - starting with a great team.
We have more than twenty classes designed specifically to help IT Service Providers and Managed Service Providers build great teams who understand the managed service business model.
Pathways include . . .
Sales & Marketing
Each course is FIVE units of one hour each. We deliver ten courses live each year. All other courses are available on demand. And best of all, once you register for a course, you can re-take that course at no additional charge. This is particularly important because our industry changes all the time!
Each course is only $299 and includes lots of downloads and practical advice in addition to five hours of education.
We almost never have a sale, but now through November 30th, you can save ten per cent on all classes and certification. Enter the code sale2211 at checkout.
There is no limit to your savings . . . but you need to act now.
I recently published a video with LOTS of advice for people who are starting their own Managed Service Business (or any IT consulting business, to be honest). It was in response to an email I got from Jermaine. He’s looking at taking the plunge, so I thought I’d give him some tips and tricks.
If you know someone who’s moving from being an employee to running their own business, please point them to that video or this post.
Old people like me always get asked the question: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be. I’ve been giving advice for more than fifteen years, so I have lots of advice. But let me start at the top and give you some advice for anybody who is taking the plunge and starting their own It consulting business in 2023, or maybe even this year.
The first piece of advice I would give you is to read Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth Revisited. This is literally THE book for new small business owners. See link below.
If I could, I would make every business owner of every small business in the world read this book. Gerber looks at why businesses succeed and why they don't, which businesses succeed and why they do. And he gives some really amazing advice. I was blessed by being turned onto this book when I first started my first business.
I read this book at least once a year for the first ten years that I owned a business. And then I've been reading it every other year or so since then. So, I'm not kidding you when I tell you, go get this book. It will change your life and it will improve your business on day one.
And I'll just give you one little bit of advice from this book. You are a great technician, but right now you are in what is called an entrepreneurial fit. You think that because you're good at being a technician, you're going to be good at being a business owner. But they are not related to each other! I'm not trying to discourage you, but here's the important thing you need to know: You have to go into this with your eyes very wide open, and you have to know what you're getting into.
Second, If I were to give you one piece of advice, after all these years of experience as an independent consultant, my piece of advice would be take every piece of advice that you ever hear and try to integrate it. Some of it you'll be resistant to, even though you'll know day one that you really need to do it. Some of it you'll glom onto it and say, oh, I totally have to do that. And then you'll be very excited about it.
Some of it you won't know how to fit in with what you're doing, but you have to start reading. Whether it's Gerber or me or anything, you have to start reading.
Third, if I'm going to give you one piece of advice, it's this go get yourself an account at Amazon.com, or Barnesandmobile.com, go get yourself an Audible account. Go get yourself a Kindle reader or iPad. Start consuming books. And I'm sorry if you've been one of these people who has always hated going to school. If you're going to be good at business, you have to go to school.
I could walk you through the thousands of books I have on business, but there's no point. You need to do this yourself. Read every business book that you can get your hands on. If you can try to read one book a week, even if that means it's on Audible and you listen to it. And, every week, just do whatever it takes to get through one book.
Personally, I love Audible because I can listen to a book while painting a fence or doing chores. I normally listen to a book three times because I might be driving and I'll be turning a corner, trying to not hit somebody right at the moment that an important thing is said Or I doze off, or I start paying attention to birds in the yard, or whatever. We don't have a perfect attention span, you and me. So Audible allows me, at no extra charge, to listen to a book three times, and then I get the information.
Unfortunately, I'll tell you the truth, whenever I listen to a book on Audible or read a book on Kindle, and I really like it, I'm the kind of person, I want to go buy the physical book so that I can mark it all up and take notes and highlight all the stuff that's important.
You should gobble up books as if they are food, because knowledge is ultimately the food of your business, right? And you need all the knowledge you can get.
Sometimes you're going to read a book like Good to Great, for example. That's a great. Great book. And you're going to love the book. And then you're going to think, “It's really hard to apply to my very small business with one employee and just trying to make enough money to get through the week.” And then a year later you'll read Great By Choice, and you'll say, “Oh. This is much easier to apply to my business.”
Part of what happened is, it's been a year. You've been running a business. You've got some experience under your belt. It makes more sense. It's easier to apply. So, read or listen to every book you can find on business. Sometimes, let's be honest, a couple of chapters in, you won’t be motivated to go on. It will be difficult or boring. Don't throw the book away. Put it on a shelf and come back to it in a year. Come back to it in two years. Try.
If you can't do a book a week, that's cool. Do a book as often as you can. If you love audio programs, check out every single thing done by Brian Tracy. He likes to call that audiobook collection 55 miles an hour University. That is, as you drive around doing your chores Saturday, or whatever. And in the course of a year, you will be able to consume enough books to be equivalent to getting a four year degree at a college. So your university is going to be educating yourself on every single aspect that you can find with regard to your business.
Now, here are a few more recommended books just for you.
Next up, the Small Biz Quickstart Guide. This workbook is something that I wrote in 2020 in response to a friend who said, “I want to leave my job and I want to go start another business. But before I do that, Mr. Checklist, I need you to give me the ultimate checklist of every single thing I need to know.” So I wrote down every question I could possibly think of that he would have (How to open up a bank account; how to get a business tax ID; how to find an accountant; how to figure out what's going to happen to your 401K; how to figure out what do you do about insurance between job and self-employment; and which kinds of taxes do you have to pay.)
All of those questions are in here along with the recommended answers. In this book, I basically divide your universe into three pieces. The first one is all the things you need to know and all the things you need to do in the one year before you quit. Now, if it's too late, you can use that to catch up.
The second group is all of the things you need to do in the month between quitting and starting a new job. Things like actually getting that tax ID, actually getting that bank account, actually getting your business cards printed.
And then the third section is all those things you need to do the first year. And there's a lot less hurry about that. But you should figure out your cash flow. You should know what a cash flow report looks like. You should know lots of things.
Overall, this is a workbook, intended for you to answer your own questions. So it's just a place to start. There are probably other resources, but if you look for this on Amazon or Kindle, then you're going to be able to find other references of other similar books.
I know this sounds self serving, but I'm just telling you, if you are in IT, you need to read Managed Services in a Month. This book is designed literally to change your business in 30 days.
I'm motivated to put out that video because Jermaine sent me an email and said, I stumbled upon this book and it really did an amazing job of helping me get all set up and ready to go, answering the right questions, being headed in the right direction, and avoiding some really big mistakes.
Managed Service in a Month is the best selling book ever on managed service. It's one of the first. I wrote the first, Erick Simpson wrote the second, and Managed Services in a Month is the third. It has been revised several times. It is designed for you to be as successful as possible with managed service. It’s a quick read and I recommend that IT professionals read it as soon as possible before (or after) you start your business.
Somewhat related to that, and often purchased at the same time, is Service Agreements for SMB Consultants.
If I could only give you one piece of advice, I would tell you is get paid in advance for absolutely everything. Another one would be to use a managed service model. Another one would be to have a service agreement. Sign a contract with every single person that you do business with. Sometimes you need just a one pager that's just got the most basic outline that says, “I'm going to bill you and you're going to pay me.” Sometimes you need something a little more complicated that says, look, we're going to have an ongoing relationship. What does that look like?
Your service agreement is absolutely not about your service. It's not about what you sell. It is not about your statement of work that gets stapled to the end. The service agreement is about your relationship with your clients. And to be honest, it's kind of like the fence in your yard. Nobody cares about the fence until there's a problem about something hanging over one side of the fence or the other.
When things go wrong with your client relationship, you need a contract. Nobody ever reads the contract until the day there's a problem. But you have to have that contract in place. Do not resist me on this. Just simply do it, because you're going to do it eventually. You might as well, do it now.
I mentioned that you should get paid in advance for everything. Guess what? That's one of the Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery. The sooner you do that, the better. That, again, is one of those pieces of advice that will change your business. I wish somebody had told me on day one to get paid in advance for absolutely everything. It would have changed many, many elements of my life and made me a bunch more money.
I'm actually working with a coaching client right now to help transition from being paid in arrears to being paid in advance. And let me tell you, that transition makes you a lot of money. But if you're just starting out your business, start it out on the right foot and get prepaid for absolutely everything you do. This book is filled with lots of other great rules about how you run your business. For example, we only work with people we like.
As silly as that might sound to you when you're starting out, when you think you need to take every nickel that you find, the truth is that you have to work with people that you can sustain a relationship with. If you find somebody who just irritates you every single day, you are not going to have that person as a client for ten or 15 years. So you might as well not have them as a client on day one. Another couple of other rules in here that are huge for people just starting out.
You do not have to help every person who needs help and you do not have to pick up every nickel you find on the sidewalk. Too many people starting out make the mistake of saying, “I have to work. I have to scratch and claw. I have to take every job because I need the money.” If that's the situation, you need to stop, rethink a whole bunch of your business and schedule a 20 minutes call with me.
I really will talk to you about your business and why you think you need to take all this money even though it leads you to making bad decisions and it leads you to mold your business in the wrong direction.
I don't want you to think that I'm just trying to sell you a bunch of books. You may be reluctant to believe this, but Small Biz Thoughts and all of my businesses are literally dedicated to making IT professionals as successful as possible. That is the mission I have for my personal life and for my business life.
That is why I'm here. That's why I do what I do. And these books are not that expensive. That's the beautiful thing about books. At $20, $30, or even $40 a piece, you can buy an unlimited amount of books, and every one of them should pay for itself with one job, with less than one half hour of labor.
Books are the greatest investment you can make in your business. Education is second.
Now I will pitch you something, which is the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Communityincludes all of the books I've ever produced in one big bundle, plus all the videos, all the training, and all the audio programs, plus all the slides, all the checklists, and everything I've ever done. It's all in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community.
Also consider The IT Service Provider University. We now have 20 classes that are 5 hours each (five units each). And all of those classes are included in the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community for one low price. And by low I mean 10% of what you're probably thinking, because everybody in this industry seems to think that you have an unlimited amount of money. I don't think that. I think you do have a limited amount of money.
And when you're small and you can only change one thing at a time, you need to spend a little bit of money, make a change, talk to some friends, get some advice; then change one thing, talk to some friends, get some advice, etc..
Almost every program that you'll find in this industry charges 10, 15, or 20 times what I do in a year. And it's not because I don't need the money. It's because I want to help you.
That's my primary goal. And I don't want to bankrupt you by having you pay all this other money. Right now, the Community is only $1,199 for the year. We're going up to $1,299 for the year in July of 2023. So there's not a huge hurry.
But you get literally every book I've ever written, plus 20 classes. That’s 20 times five or 100 hours of education. It's all included.
Bottom Line: I want you to be in this business and I want you to be successful.
If you can only buy one book, buy The E-Myth Revised by Michael Gerber. If you can only buy two, buy Gerber's book and then buy Managed Services in a Month.
But if you can go through the books that I mentioned in the order I presented them, I really believe it will help you get your business launched in the right direction, day one.
Also: Get on my mailing list. I'm going to put a link down below to the mailing list. It is mostly filled with information and tidbits and a calendar of events in our community.
Here are the books and products mentioned:
E-Myth Revisited - Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It - by Michael Gerber
Good to Great - Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't - by Jim Collins
Great by Choice - Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All - by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen
Small Biz Quickstart Workbook - The Ultimate Guide for First-Time Entrepreneurs - Karl W. Palachuk
Managed Services in a Month - Build a Successful, Modern Computer Consulting Business in 30 Days, 3rd Edition - Karl W. Palachuk
Service Agreements for SMB Consultants - A Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services - Karl W. Palachuk
Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery - How to Manage Your Business to Maximize Customer Service, Profit, and Employee Culture - Karl W. Palachuk
Ali emailed me with a question that's very important right now:
His business has three employees. "I closed our only physical location during the pandemic and started working from home. Now, I have a small budget and wondering how important is to have a physical location instead of a residential address. Does it affect our trust in customers? Should I lease or not?"
Short Answer: All small businesses should put off getting an office outside the home for as long as possible.
Longer Answer: Great question. Unless there's a specific reason to have an office outside the home, you probably don't need one. There are several reasons for this.
It’s a huge expense. In fact, the expense is larger than you project. Once you have an office, you'll invest in furniture, a workbench, tools, and probably a rack for computer equipment. You'll buy a refrigerator, office products, a workgroup printer, etc. You think you won't, but you will.
Again, when the time comes, you'll need all that.
I operated for almost ten years with a home office. It was when we started to grow that meeting with technicians at a local coffee shop became impractical. We quickly went from four people to twelve, so an office became a necessity.
You probably don't need the office for prestige. I think we had one client visit us one time in 25 years. In our business, we either work remote or we go to the client’s office. Today, there is no stigma about working from a home office.
In my last MSP business, and in my current incarnation, I have turned my front room into an office. We have three desks plus work tables, shelves, and printers in that office. Employees only show up enough to keep in touch and build the culture. Very little work needs to be done in the office.
A UPS store is a great asset for home offices. I've always had a UPS store mailbox, even when we had a real office. You can get the smallest mailbox and still get access to all their services. This gives you a “business address” and you can send all business stuff there. It has the bonus that you can have all your packages delivered there. Someone always signs for them, and they keep the boxes safe until you pick them up. This is handy and frees you up to work and do sales without being tied to your home/office.
Also, if you think you need a specific city address for prestige (e.g., the big city rather than a suburb), you can get a UPS Store mailbox inside that city. Then just check for packages once or twice a week.
I loved having an office. I started by renting space in another consultant's office. Ironically, they had signed an expensive lease deal and ended up barely using the space at all. We got one large room to put three/four people in, plus use of the kitchen and meeting space. From there, we moved into a much larger office as we added staff. We kept the larger office for almost nine years.
When I sold that business, I continued to work with them in a special role. Mike moved us out of the big office into a much smaller office and had techs show up as needed. It cut the rent by about half. I got the "garage" space as my office. :-)
When he sold that business, I started my second MSP business in my home office and dedicated one bedroom for my office and another for Monica.
You need to be strategic about the office move. Most small businesses invest in an office long before they need one. Once you commit to that rent, increased insurance, internet, etc., you increase expenses quite a bit. So please consider all the variations that might work to keep you "at home" for as long as you can.
You may have personal reasons for getting out of the house. Some people simply cannot work at home. They can't stay focused. They can't stay out of the kitchen. They can't work with kids or spouse around. So, you have to have the right temperament to successfully work from home.
These are just a few things to consider, especially if you think we're going into a recession. No matter how mild, a recession is a great opportunity to conserve cash as much as possible.
Four of your fellow Canadian MSPs have created the Information Technology Service Providers of Canada (ITSPC) whose goal is to help create standards within Canada for IT Service Providers. This is a place for all Canadian IT Service Providers to have a voice and help develop this before the Canadian Government starts making decisions for our industry.
They sent me this memo:
What we are not
• Not focused on legislation but will be a voice to inform government as standards emerge
• Not a cybersecurity standard but support a baseline for CyberSecure Canada readiness
• Not a global organization but cooperate with international groups such as NSITSP and Tech Tribe
• Not an imposed professional certification but instead we provide a voluntary organization-wide standard that informs the IT industry
• Not limited by vendor bias but recognize that their participation is needed
• Not a profit-making vendor, an incorporated non-profit, but not free
• Not an exclusive club for larger MSPs with unaffordable/restrictive requirements
• Not a training or coaching group like The Tech Tribe
Our mission is to create an IT Services Delivery standard that can be a baseline to inform Canadian government standards as they emerge.
The ITSPC is a federally registered Canadian non-profit business.
We strongly believe that IT service standards need to be created by the IT Community. We are building a strong and active IT Community in Canada that will professionally create and peer review IT standards.
By developing these standards together, we ensure all size businesses are represented and have a chance to share their vision. Together we will build a baseline of standards that empowers Canadian business and guarantee a minimum standard of IT service delivery.
As the Canadian IT space evolves, we want our voices to be heard by the government of Canada. In addition, we want to create an organization where Canadian businesses can trust its members deliver high quality IT services.
We welcome and encourage your participation.
Join us for a year at no charge before the end of 2022 with code ITSPCFREE
Latest Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud release further democratizes advanced security solutions with effective protection for data, applications, and systems under one centralized platform.
Miami Beach, FL, November 7 – Live from their annual #CyberFit Summit, Acronis, the global leader in Cyber Protection, today introduces its new product, Acronis Advanced Security + EDR for Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud. Advanced Security + EDR delivers an innovative approach to effective threat detection, containment and remediation by reducing the complexity present in other EDR solutions
Following industry-established standards and mapping to the MITRE ATT&CK® framework, Acronis Advanced Security + EDR simplifies the complex solutions required to keep pace with today’s sophisticated threat landscape. It does this by leveraging its unified platform approach which allows IT teams to detect and understand advanced attacks, and then recover rapidly using features like attack-specific, one-click rollback. By correlating events, analyzing attack chains and presenting human-friendly, guided interpretations, companies dramatically reduce the time-tax on highly specialized (and expensive) security analysts and the time-to-remediate (TTR) for business operations.
This announcement follows a string of developments from the company starting with the reveal of their innovative, behavioral-based DLP product at RSAC 2022 in June and more recently, their earned Approved badge from AV-TEST for Corporate Endpoint Protection on macOS.
“Acronis has been a great fit for us for solid endpoint protection,” said Dave Millier, CSO at Quick Intelligence. “The single agent playing double-duty was a key deciding factor in choosing to go with Acronis. We’re super excited to see that EDR is coming to that same agent as it will help us take our customer’s cyber protection to the next level, without having to rely on another vendor and another agent. Acronis just keeps innovating and we keep benefiting.”
Acronis Advanced Security + EDR is part of the Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud platform that enables businesses and their Service Providers to deliver holistic protection across the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework Core. This new entry adds to Acronis cyber defenses with:
•ML-driven event correlation and interpretation with attack chain visibility mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK®
•Integrated response capabilities including one-click, attack-specific rollbacks
•The ability to investigate, remediate, recover, and close security gaps integrated with more features across the Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud platform
•Reduced complexity and cost via rapid turn-up via the single Acronis console and unified agent offering advanced security at just a click away - without deploying more agents or the operational challenges of integration with disparate, third-party products
In addition to its innovative approach to ensure all businesses have more access to sophisticated technologies for better protection, Acronis is uniquely poised to enable their extensive, global network of managed service provider partners to offer MDR services to down-market clients at healthy margins and compelling client price points while avoiding the high-end, licensing costs and MDR competition for their clients from pure-play security vendors
Marco Monaco at Acronis Partner and Italian Managed Service Provider, MEGABIT shared, “Since the protection is well priced and the performance is good, we are extending Acronis more and more among our customers since it offers with just one agent practically every service available – which is a beautiful thing, especially for us MSPs. We are excited about EDR and can’t wait to try it.”
According to the August Acronis Cyber Protection Operation Centers Report, global ransomware damages are estimated to exceed $30 billion by 2023. Ransomware continues to be the number one threat to large and medium-sized businesses. Acronis is putting a large dent in the success of ransomware attacks with its holistic, NIST-approach to business continuity, and in the number of phishing, malware, and advanced attack URLs, blocking 21 million URLs on endpoints in Q2 2022 alone.
“EDR technology is an essential addition to any cybersecurity stance,” said Candid Wüest, VP of Acronis Research “For example, we know that previously unknown zero-day exploits account for 80% of breaches.1 We’re facing this down by focusing on real-world security and business outcomes for our customers and partners as our top priority with fast and easy remediation being of the utmost importance.”
The Acronis Advanced Security + EDR early access program will be available in December for Acronis partners and generally available in Q1-2023.
1 Ponemon Institute, “The Third Annual Study on the State of Endpoint Security Risk,” 2020.
Acronis unifies data protection and cybersecurity to deliver integrated, automated cyber protection that solves the safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, and security (SAPAS) challenges of the modern digital world. With flexible deployment models that fit the demands of service providers and IT professionals, Acronis provides superior cyber protection for data, applications, and systems with innovative next-generation antivirus, backup, disaster recovery, and endpoint protection management solutions powered by AI. With advanced anti-malware powered by cutting-edge machine intelligence and blockchain based data authentication technologies, Acronis protects any environment - from cloud to hybrid to on premises - at a low and predictable cost.
Founded in Singapore in 2003 and incorporated in Switzerland in 2008, Acronis now has more than 2,200 employees in 40 locations in 19 countries. Acronis Cyber Protect solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by over 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.
I asked Kara, my Community Manager, what the most-requested content is for the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community (www.smallbizthoughts.org). She didn't pause a second: Finding and Keeping Great Employees.
So, I'm doing THREE things to help you figure this one out. Obviously, my community members will benefit the most, but everyone in the SMB IT community should get value from this.
FIRST - I'm doing a survey to gather some data on what you're actually experiencing in the employment market, and what your current plans are for 2023.
It will take ten minutes or less. I'll report the results in this blog and in the first webinar listed below. Also: Please spread the word. I would love to get as much data as possible from the SMB IT community.
Next, I'm doing a two-part webinar series December 7 and 14. So that's the other two things.
Finding and Keeping Great Employees in 2023 is part webinar and part conversation about the realities of our current employment environment, with some thoughts about long-term and short-term strategies. With a bit of employment philosophy thrown in.
NO Vendor Sponsor - I'm calling this No Vendor December.
The December 7th webinar begins a conversation about the realities of our current employment environment, with some thoughts about long-term and short-term strategies. And it will have a bit of employment philosophy thrown in.
I will share some strategies for finding those great employees that are in short supply - and will be in shorter supply in the years ahead.
This webinar is open to all, and all related handouts and materials will be shared with all attendees. It will also be posted for viewing after the event. Register now so you don't forget.
For both webinars, I'm planning to leave time within the 60 minute slot to answer questions. But I'm also planning to go to 90 minutes if the questions keep coming. Some folks will drop after 60 minutes to get to their next meeting, but I'll stay as needed.
In the December 14th webinar, I'll take all the leftover questions from the first webinar and then proceed to talk about all the SOPs you need to have in place before the new employee's first day on the job. This includes creating job descriptions, job ads, candidate questions and evaluation forms, getting ready for employee onboarding, and more.
This second webinar will be open and free to everyone, BUT the recordings, handouts, slide deck, and written SOPs will only be available inside my community. In other words, if you're not a member, you better attend in real time. (Or join, of course.)
Don't worry: I promise you will get great value out of both webinars, even if you're not a Community member.
So, your 1-2-3 calls to action are:
1) - Complete that survey
2) - Register for the webinars and attend December 7th
3) - Attend the December 14th webinar in real time so you don't miss a thing!
Webinar info is:
Dec 7, 2022 09:00 AM Pacific Time
Dec 14, 2022 09:00 AM Pacific Time
Topic: Finding and Keeping Great Employees in 2023
The National Society of IT Service Providers has completed election of all officers. Now we're looking forward to an amazing 2023! And that kicks off with our November 9th All-Member Meeting.
In the meeting, we welcome the newly-elected Board of Directors and Committee members. Our first elections took place in September and new officers were seated in October. So this will be the first meeting after the election.
We’ll talk about the challenges ahead and how the NSITSP is working to make changes, improve the reputation of our industry, build professionalism, and respond to whatever’s going on in the world that affects us.
The Governance Committee is almost done with the next version of our membership program. We'll talk about the proposal and answer all your questions. And I promise, we'll take all your feedback!
We've also launched the new Vendor Partner Program. We'll talk about what that means.
For more than fifteen years, my friend Erick and I have been giving strong advice to fire clients from time to time. We have different strategies, but the big picture is the same: You have to prune your client garden if you want it to be healthy.
I have heard people resist this and say it only applies to larger companies or already-successful companies. But that's kinda the point: How do you get to have a larger, more successful company? You act like larger, more successful companies acts.
I'm working on a book on customer service, and it really struck me that there's a different way to look at this issue: Branding and Culture.
But first a note on how we got here. I was listening to the ChannelPro Podcast on YouTube. Erick Simpson was standing in for Rich Freeman, who was in Thailand with me. They got on the topic of firing clients due a blog post Erick had written.
Well, it starts with customers. In fact, everything in your business needs to start with the customer. Too many people in IT fail to consider WHO their customer should be. And by too many, I mean about 90%. Maybe more.
I firmly believe that you cannot give great customer service if you don't define your ideal customer first. You can give decent or good service, but not great service. Why? Because great service requires you to intentionally redefine what the customer believes they are buying and how it's delivered. And you can't do that with just everybody.
Note: You can give great service to random businesses after they've been with you for five or ten years, because in that time period you HAVE redefined what they think they're buying. They would never go to just another IT consultant and buy generic support.
There are many examples, but let's start with one of the best examples of doing things differently: CostCo. CostCo is a warehouse club. You can't get in the door without a membership. Most things are sold in monstrously large packages. And they don't want you to come in all the time. In fact, they want you to come in once a month, spend $500-1,000, and don't come back for another month.
If you're really new to CostCo, then you know that you have to learn how to be a good shopper. It's way too difficult to drop in to CostCo to buy one pack of gum. No. That's not how you shop there.
CostCo had to train people how to use their services. First you need a membership. Then you need a big cart. Aisles are not labeled, so you should probably walk up and down every aisle to make sure you didn't miss anything. This is very different from Target or other stores.
And here's the important part: CostCo is not right for many people. Some people want to buy in small quantities, go to the store every day, and find well-labeled aisles with the same selection of merchandise every day. So, CostCo is not a good fit for them. CostCo cannot give them "excellent" service by the standards of their other shopping experience.
It's okay for there to be a mismatch between buyers and sellers. In fact, the only way excellent customer service exists is because of this mismatch. Great service at Krogers is great for Kroger customers. CostCo customers would not be impressed. And vice versa.
Now for your business . . .
Once you define you ideal clients, you need to gradually move to serving primarily those people. This has three components. First, you need to actively attract people who want to do business YOUR way. Second, you need to train existing clients to do business your way. Many will be working out fine already. Third, you need to drop clients who do not fit your model.
You can do it slowly over time, but the "bad fits" need to go. Why? Because they're a bad fit, you cannot provide them with excellent service. You are probably not making as much money from them as from good fits. They're not as happy as they should be, and you're not able to serve them as well as they deserve.
Let me give a few examples to make this real within your business model. You probably want clients who:
- Are willing to sign a contract
- Pay their bills on time
- Are willing to create tickets
- Prepay for services on a monthly fee
- Treat you and your staff with respect
- Take your advice
I know that sounds simplistic, but think about it. You've had clients in the past who didn't pay on time, didn't take your advice, refused to use your system, etc. They were not fun to work with, and you didn't make as much money as you should.
So quite definitively, you could not provide them great service according to their needs. And they made your job an unnecessary pain in the butt.
How do you improve this situation for everyone? Stop serving those clients and send them to another IT service provider who will do business the way they want.
One final example. Does a restaurant create an atmosphere to serve the patrons have or the patrons they want? First they decide who they want as patrons. Then they create an atmosphere to attract those people.
IF great customer service requires having the right clients for you business model, then weeding your client garden is critically important. You can't give great customer service if you have the wrong customers!
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.