Saturday, July 22, 2023

Is Microsoft Trying to Poach Your Clients?

M365 "Business Assist" is the latest attempt to maximize the money Microsoft gets from your clients. But there's good news, too!

I've received a few emails, and been involved in a few online discussions about Microsoft's new service offering. Please note: This is NOT managed services. 

The basic plan is described here: That link is guaranteed to change, so you'll need to Google "Microsoft Business Assist" when the link stops working.

Basically, the program is available to businesses who 

1) Already have a Microsoft 365 account, and 

2) have 25 or fewer users. 

So, it's intended to focus on small business, and that means 95% of all the businesses in the U.S. and a higher percent in the other countries where it's available (Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa).

Note: I bought one license for this service even though our company has five M365 licenses. The commitment is for one year and may be paid $60 up front or $5/month. The one license must be associated with a specific user.

I could not find any written agreement or formal description for the service, so I may actually have purchased nothing but empty promises. I did find a link to the general Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement. See It makes no mention of the service I ordered.

I'm not a genius, and have never had luck finding the details of any offering at Microsoft (or most large corporations). But I have been around the block a few times. So I feel confident that your clients will not be able to find a clear description of what they actually get for their $60 commitment.

On a separate topic: Transparency of agreements with large corporations have not improved during my lifetime. And I'm old enough to remember 8-track tapes.

The Promise . . .

The info page linked above has a video with lots salesy, feel-good promises. It's only ninety seconds, so you can go consume it above.

The video basically says, We [Microsoft] understand your challenges around growing your business, managing your staff, and serving your clients. Microsoft is here to help you with expert advice, dedicated support, and personalized guidance.

The "engagement" begins with a contact where Microsoft will learn all about your business, then help you with

  • Geting devices up and running
  • Setting up branded email
  • Setting up an Online customer booking web site
  • Ensuring your data are protected

Plus lots of great advice on other Microsoft products and services that will help you to give even more of your money to Microsoft.

The Reality . . .

Obviously, Microsoft cannot fulfill any of those promises. They stopped trying to understand small business about fifteen years ago. But O365 has almost 350 million users, so if they can get an extra $60 each out of ten percent of those, that's a cool two billion dollars. Chump change to Microsoft, but every billion counts!

Why do I say that Microsoft can't deliver on these promises? Because even if they outsource the human labor to the lowest qualified, cheapest call centers on earth (which they will), five dollars just doesn't go very far. My guess is that this is their attempt to see how far they can take scripting, large language models, and AI chat bots.

My guess is that the customer experience here will be horrible. And, unfortunately for the customer, it's all good news to you.

This Is a Win For You

First, and foremost, you have - or should have - a real, legitimate relationship with your clients. They should recognize you, your team, your logo, and your way of delivering excellent service. They want to call YOU. They've been able to call on Microsoft (Dell, HP, Intel, Cisco, Viewsonic, Sony, Brother, Logitech, etc.) forever. But they pay you to manage their stuff and they like it that way.

There's an old truth that small businesses need to always remember: Small businesses like doing business with small businesses. Ask any of your customers to list the ten worst customer service experiences of their life. It's almost a guarantee that telephone and cable providers will make up the top four or five. Furthermore, it's likely that all ten are stories about big businesses, national chains, and companies we've all dealt with. 

And it's also a guarantee that your company will not be on that list. Your clients want to do business with YOU. And if you told them that they have to call Microsoft, they will not be happy. (Note: You can't "call" anyone under this plan. More on that below.)

Second, I repeat that Microsoft is not offering managed services. They are not offering to take care of all the client's technology. They're not really going to build a relationship. They're not really going to know the challenges of your clients, or the personalities that are involved in running their business - or managing their IT.

Microsoft will not sit down with your clients to hold regular Roadmap meetings to plan for the next year or two, and discuss a schedule for moving to new technologies as the company changes. You can, and should, do this. Microsoft never will.

And I assure you: Their "advice" will never include investing in technology or services created by anyone other than Microsoft, even if it would be in the client's best interest.

Third, the really good news is: This is a GREAT marketing opportunity for you.

For many, many reasons, I believe the best marketing your SMB IT consulting company can do for the next five years is to highlight the fact that you run a small business. You know what it's like to run a small business. You know the challenges of making a payroll. You know how hard it is to stay secure on a budget. And so forth.

So far, Microsoft hasn't pushed this program much. And it will probably quietly cease to exist after a year or two of losing money. But IF your clients ask about it, you can simply be honest. 

Yes. You can sign up for that. It's only $60 per user. Support is available by web link, email, or inside the Office 365 apps. It will probably be as good as any other company with hundreds of thousands of employees and trillions of dollars in revenue. 

You can even tell clients, "Hey, try it and let me know." I'll be impressed if you have a quick, appropriate response, great customer service, and a fast resolution. 

But also tell them, "If you don't get the fast, friendly help you deserve, remember that we're also here to help."

Bottom Line: Someone's going sign up for this. It may be nothing. I mean, literally. This may just be "Customer service" as usual and they're just trying to not lose as much money as they already do on customer service. If that's the case, then Microsoft won't actually change one single thing. They'll just get an extra $2 Billion to offset the cost of delivering the customer service they already provide.

Oh. On the Poaching Question:

Microsoft is not trying to poach your clients. They literally don't want them. They don't want to do any of the hard things that take time, talent, brain-power, and building a real relationship in the real world. All the human elements that you bring to your business are what makes business worthwhile to you and me.

But those human elements don't show up anywhere on a balance sheet. You can't report them to stockholders. 

You sell a recurring business based on service. Products plus service. Apps plus service. Monitoring plus service. Relationship and service. Microsoft can't do that at scale. And they don't want to.

This is an attempt to collect a little more money. But pretty much any human involvement makes it unprofitable.

So, no. Microsoft doesn't want your clients. They want the small change that falls in the parking lot when your clients are getting out of the car. That times 350 million adds up to "enough" to go after.

We shall see.

Feedback welcome.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Join Me at XChange in Nashville - August 20-22

I'm headed to Nashville - and I'd love to see you there.

Join Me at XChange!

August 20-22, 2023 

Nashville, TN

Register Now

XChange is the premier event for IT professionals – where innovation, networking, and industry recognition converge to shape the future of the IT channel landscape. 

* Discover cutting-edge technologies and strategies to elevate your business

* Forge partnerships, share ideas, and network with industry peers.

* Get inspired by keynote sessions from visionary leaders and industry experts.

* Celebrate excellence and honor outstanding individuals and companies at the XCellence Awards.

Seats are limited and filling up fast – secure your spot now!

I'm going to represent the National Society of IT Service Providers. I'll have a booth in the vendor hall AND I'm doing a presentation on the 22nd. I'd love to see you there!

Get all the information and details at


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Join Me - and NSITSP - at SMB Techfest Next Week

My longtime friend and sometime collaborator Dave Seibert puts on an amazing show for IT consultants every quarter called SMB TechFest. The Q3 show is next week: July 27-28.

Join me - and a few others from the National Society of IT Service Providers - in the vendor hall. Dave has graciously donated a table for the NSITSP. Look for our new sign. And the familiar logo. 

You can register now at

In fact, you should register even if you can't attend in person. The event is being streamed and you'll be eligible for the recordings afterward IF you're registered. Tell 'em Karl sent you.

Two Presentations

I'm going to do a quick presentation on the National Society and what we're up to. Plus I'll be around all day in the Vendor Hall to answer all your questions. I look forward to seeing you there.

I am ALSO doing a presentation on Service Delivery: In particular, I'm going to focus on some of the surprising truths that can make your business more profitable in short order. Don't miss it! I've never given this presentation before.

Get all the information and details at And I'll see you in Irvine!


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

All-New Class: TCP/IP Troubleshooting

I'm doing a mini-series of courses over at the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. The goal is to give everyone on your team a basic understanding of TCP/IP - the most important protocol in the world!

The next course is 60-90 minutes, depending on questions.

TCP/IP Troubleshooting - A Very Practical Workshop

July 26th

9:00 AM Pacific

Members register at:

This quick training builds on a fundamental understanding of TCI/IP and DNS from the previous intro-level courses. Strictly speaking, those classes are not required. But for super-newby beginners, they're pretty helpful.

Register today!

. . . and while you're at it . . .

The next class in the series is pretty stand-alone: 

Building the Basic Small Business Network - A Very Practical Workshop

August 16th

9:00 Pacific

Members register at:

This will start with nothing but one computer and show how to build and document a new network from scratch. Again, this is intended to give new-comers a basic understanding of the small business network, base on TCP/IP and modern configurations.

-- -- --

These trainings are for members of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. ALL of the resources mentioned here are members-only. Please start by logging into your account at

The following related classes are already in the Community:

DNS Training: What You Need to Know - A Primer for IT Service Providers

This recording is one hour, 17 minutes and will give everyone a great introduction to DNS. This training is not required to get value of the other TCP training, but it wouldn't hurt!

Understanding TCP/IP - A Very Practical Introduction

This recording is one hour, 10 minutes and is a great intro to the basics of TCP/IP. Note, also, that true newbies will want to watch the recording at .75x speed - and maybe more than once. 

Using TCP/IP to Take Over the World

This is a recorded webinar. Zip file includes the MP4 and MP3 recordings, and the slides in PDF format. As more and more technology becomes cloud- and network-based, those who understand networking have great advantages over those who only know specialty technologies.

-- -- -- 

Some folks have asked how to get access to these great sessions without being a member of the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. I have to say, there is no way. You need to be a member. Our membership is guaranteed to have a real value in excess of $10,000 just for the training available to members. PLUS all of my books, all of the community resources.

Consider joining today. There is a one-year commitment of $1,299 - but I promise you will get much more value than that if you simply take some classes and apply yourself.


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The ASCII Group Fuels Channel Growth for Up-and-Coming Technology Vendors

From my friends over at ASCII . . .

Bethesda, Maryland – July 11, 2023 – The ASCII Group, a renowned membership-based community of independent North American Managed Service Providers (MSPs), is pleased to announce a unique collaboration with ConnectWise, the world’s leading software company dedicated to the success of IT solution providers. This initiative aims at helping emerging technology vendors that are involved with the ConnectWise PitchIT accelerator program to further connect and establish robust partner channels by leveraging the ASCII Edge MSP Conferences held regionally across North America.

With a rapidly evolving technology landscape, up-and-coming vendors face numerous challenges when trying to penetrate the competitive MSP market. The ASCII Group recognized such struggles faced by these vendors and provided an exclusive opportunity for them to be showcased at their events and build sustainable channel roots. With a focus on business education through best practices, networking opportunities, and collaboration, ASCII Edge events provide the perfect backdrop for these companies to engage with MSPs.

As a trusted authority in the channel community for nearly 40 years, ASCII offers a wealth of resources and business opportunities for technology vendors seeking to forge partnerships with MSPs. Through its extensive network, which spans across North America, The ASCII Group provides a fertile ground for vendors to showcase their offerings, connect with influential decision makers, and establish meaningful affiliations. Additionally, the vendors learn at the street level what MSPs would like to see and how to improve their products at a very early stage, which is better for the industry and end user clients.

“We are thrilled to help bridge the gap between these early-stage technology solutions and the MSP community. The ASCII Group remains committed in supporting the growth of the MSP community, and working with strong technology partners is a key component to that,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

This joint effort aims to alleviate the barriers faced by technology vendors, ensuring their innovative solutions gain the visibility they deserve in the MSP marketplace. By fostering collaboration and dialogue between vendors and MSPs, this initiative will empower vendors to unlock new growth opportunities and establish fruitful partnerships.

"We totally get it, tech vendors have a tough time breaking into the MSP market," said Sean Lardo, Economy Evangelist and PitchIT Owner at ConnectWise. "By teaming up with The ASCII Group, we can create a unique environment where PitchIT vendors can show off their solutions and boost their success. This collaboration is going to be a game-changer for innovation in the industry."

To learn more about ASCII Edge and to engage with ConnectWise PitchIT partners, register for an event at

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers. The Group has 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 to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit



Tuesday, July 04, 2023

I'm Done with Twitter

I joined Twitter in 2008 and quickly started using it to promote my business. Since then I've gained almost 6,600 followers. I have enjoyed the platform for fifteen years. But the time has come to say goodbye.

I consider myself very tolerant. In fact, I get a fair amount of hate mail from both conservatives and liberals because I tolerate almost all speech and I embrace a complicated set of beliefs that don't fit nicely in a box. As a result, I have tolerated the political hyperbole of the last decade pretty well.

But now I am seeing things on Twitter that I don't want to see: People being killed.

Most often, the films are super quick. As you scroll, you see someone walking down the street and get smashed into by a truck, or some object flies in unexpectedly and kills them.

A close second is people being seriously injured. I'm not talking about slap-stick images of a pie in the face. People are finding entertainment in the actual pain and suffering of others.

If I see something like that once a year, I pay no attention to it. But now I see these videos almost every time I visit. Today I saw three within just a few minutes.

Ultimately, I do not want to get used to seeing people die or be seriously injured. That has never been part of my daily experience and I don't want it to ever be something I get used to.

Some will just say I'm a wimp or a snowflake or whatever. I don't care. I can make a simple change and eliminate something from my online life that I find disturbing. So I will.

The Business Side of the Decision

I have always (2008-2023) use Twitter to promote my business and exchange some humor or niceties with friends, primarily on the business front.

But I will really only miss one thing on Twitter: Richard Tubb. I honestly believe Richard's posts are the greatest thing on Twitter. I have already sent him a personal note about leaving the platform.

My daily routine has been to catch up with Richard's posts, and then scroll down and "like" various postings from friends as well as cute and funny posts I come across. So I look forward to reading, watching, and catching up with Richard on some other social medium.

As for my business . . . 

We have been posting to Twitter for fifteen years. We do have something of a following. But this is not really a business decision. Besides, my ultimate marketing tool is my weekly newsletter. With luck, those 6,600 people are on that list already.

One of my "Absolutely Unbreakable Rules" is that we only work with people we like. That goes hand in hand with who we interact with online and how we interact with them. I tend to avoid nasty people, negative people, and people who are making social media unpleasant.

Anyway - It's just my decision. I don't think it will hurt my business, but I honestly don't care. If I have to rebuild some piece of my base, I'm willing to do that. Another rule I use is to do business the way I want to and then find people who want to do business my way.

I would love to have your thoughts. You are always willing to disagree with me. But please be kind.



Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery - New Class starts July 11th

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery – 5W20 

Taught by Karl W. Palachuk

- Five Tuesdays - July 11th - August 8th

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

- Includes the brand new book The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery in PDF format

This course covers the most important "rules" you need to follow to create a massively successful business. Based on Karl's 20+ years experience running successful businesses - and helping others do the same.

One of the most important things that you can do in your business is figure out why you're in business.

How can you guarantee that your company delivers great service, has a great culture, and still manages to stay profitable? You need to follow certain “Unbreakable Rules” for success. Best-selling business author and coach Karl W. Palachuk draws on more than thirty years of owning and running service-based businesses to present the rules his companies live by.

These rules will help you align your personal and professional goals while creating “standard operating procedures” to automate successful habits. Notice that “The customer is always right” is not on the list. Why? Because everyone knows that’s not true. Customers are frequently wrong, or would make bad decisions if we didn’t help them to make good decisions.

This class doesn’t waste your time giving lip service to worn out platitudes. Instead, we focus on building a great, successful business in the 21st Century. And since the rules are absolutely unbreakable, they will stand the test of time and the changing business environment.

In addition to the unbreakable rules, we give advice on identifying your own unbreakable rules. Branding, after all, is everything you do in your company: The way you hire, the way you greet customers, the way you document processes, the way you invoice, how you handle difficult conversations, and much more. Your business is a reflection of your beliefs and values. It should be built with intention, not something that “just happened.”

Some of these rules help you make money. Some of them keep your work standards high. Some build culture. All of them help your employees and client to understand the culture that's embedded in your brand. This book will help you identify and codify the core elements of your success. It will also help you build the definitive list of absolutely unbreakable rules that will guide your business going forward.

Top Five Take-aways:

1. Define YOUR company’s rules for greater success

2. Learn great “best practices” for your company

3. You will take actions to improve your business before the class is over

4. Improve your profit

5. Improve customer service


Week One - Why these rules?

  • Define your brand, and the guidelines that create it
  • Create rules that define overall behaviors of success
  • Learn to prioritize everything you do

Week Two - Client Rules

  • Learn to control your processes since you can’t control people
  • Learn to get accurate information from clients so you don’t have to guess
  • Stop being tempted by unprofitable habits
  • Define your overall approach to customer service

Week Three - Employee Rules

  • Assuming you have good processes, find employees who will do what you need them to do
  • Create clear communications around expectations, behavior, wages, and performance
  • Create a great hiring process
  • Create effective employee evaluation forms

Week Four - Finance Rules

  • Learn why you should be prepaid for everything, and how to implement this policy
  • Establish very profitable rules around billable hours and minimums
  • Know which money you should go after and which you should avoid
  • Establishing new financial policies over time

Week Five - Service Delivery Rules

  • Create a great definition of what’s covered under managed services, and train your clients and employees
  • Manage time from every angle (time billed, time paid, time off, etc.)
  • Sign service agreements with every client
  • Use your ticketing system/service board effectively
  • Document absolutely everything you do

Delivered by Karl W. Palachuk, blogger and author of Relax Focus Succeed (and lots of other books).

Includes five weeks of webinar classes with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for Owners and Managers.

Only $399
Register Now

A Few Details . . .

Each course will be five one-hour webinars

There will be handouts and "homework" assignments

If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours

Class webinars will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.