Personal note: Sometimes I lose sight of how many new people come to Vladville every time I post something – god bless social networking, folks forward stuff around and like a boomerang I get buried in an avalanche of emails from a new audience. I’d venture to say at least 95% of my communication about this blog and the IT/SMB community in general flows through firstname.lastname@example.org so feel free to email me but sometimes.. honestly.. I just delete it all.
The other day I wrote about the #1 Problem the MSP Industry faces and in a nutshell it’s that nobody is interested in doing the low level grunt IT work of dealing with the mess businesses have with poorly thought out technology process and purchasing. This is a threat to vendors because there will be fewer people selling their junk, threat to service providers because there will be fewer talent interested in a career of IT plunging (get the visual?) and the entire ecosystem can collapse. I’ve gotten enough feedback on that post to write a thousand blog posts but instead I’ll just try to address some of the misconceptions.
“How can you be so negative on the MSP industry yet so positive on the MSP prospects?”
My buddy Norb actually laughed at me for calling it an industry. And yes if you go to an event it does look like the gong show.
There are two perspectives First, those of you new to Vladville may have misunderstood – I’m not a journalist. I’m a CEO of a technology company (ExchangeDefender) so I have an insight into what people are buying, what people are getting rid of, I talk to thousands of partners around the world and I also offer a free business management platform at Shockey Monkey. So I obviously have a business bias and a very large footprint of actual business data that I draw conclusions and opinions from – I’m not a research company analyst pulling numbers out of thin air because my English major college education left me mentally incompetent to tell what software and hardware business executives are lying to me about.
Second, I have a very large following through Vladville and a massive worldwide audience that I may not do any business with at all – so lots of IT employees, Shockey Monkey users, people I met at shows. This is my reality gauge, what are the people that don’t think exactly like me doing.
Explanation: We tend to form our opinions based on the evidence we only have direct access to and see with our own eyes. Hence my negativity towards the gong show, deception, lies and degeneration of leadership to people that should have a warning label on their face. But I have my business which is growing, I have numbers at Shockey Monkey which are growing, I’m investing in new and different services and I see a ton of potential for a way to make money.
“I’m still around so the notion that the business model of dealing with old technology is bad is wrong”
This argument is so old and so pointless I kind of don’t even want to touch it but I’ll say it again: If you go to a Radio Shack you can still by a VCR tape rewinder. Yes, Radio Shack is still out there – when was the last time you went to it? And yes, people still both build and sell VCR – so yes there is money in it but only like two companies do it and all thanks to scale. So maybe nothing really dies when it comes to technology, but just because something isn’t dead doesn’t mean companies should follow the same plan.
For tons of reasons. First, it’s hard to find lots of talent that will be excited about working on the legacy IT. Second, it’s hard to finance a technology that is slowing down in influence – so a startup or a small player doesn’t stand a chance at all. Third, the talent needed for it and third party support are hard and expensive to find (hence the $105k for a AIX / DB2 admin ad in the newspaper; their current DB admin is 90 years old and about to die and they need a replacement). You can go on for days.
Explanation: There are two wrong assumptions in the IT business – that you must chase every new fad and that you can build a massively growing and profitable business on a dying technology. Typical scare tactic “If you don’t get into this right now you will go out of business” and “There is still a ton of money in Windows XP upgrades that you can’t afford to miss” both ignore the fundamental need for every business survival: being rational about how money is spent and how easy it is to get a new profitable client.
“Why do you constantly beat down the very same people that give you money?”
Some people are just negative by nature. So they look at my criticism of certain things here and they consider it to be a destructive force. I can’t really explain that, how exactly does a blog someone writes in his spare time produce a real and actual negative business impact? It’s just words.
Something I wrote got you butthurt? Good!
If something I wrote here makes you feel so insecure about it then work on fixing it. I don’t wake up every morning high fiving myself about how awesome I am, I look for areas in which I can improve and what I can be doing better.
World has enough insincere cheerleaders. They want you to feel good so you can buy their crap now – they have quarterly numbers to hit. I on the other hand want you to be better and build your business for the long term.
Explanation: Just because things are good doesn’t mean they can’t be better. I am not a cheerleader and I don’t write for the sake of my personal pleasure or for the hits – I write this blog because I can’t respond to thousands of emails that come to me and I’m tired of having the same conversation. I am trying to help IT and SMB folks grow and avoid mistakes and commit to discipline and long term improvement. If that sounds like a beatdown… perhaps you shouldn’t be reading this blog.
“The way I see it, complexity and mess means profits! Less competition? Good!”
Indeed. Except things don’t work like that in reality and that’s exactly the wrong kind of a business you want to have in the technology field unless you are a sadistic person that loves daily dose of pain and punishment.
For example, working with Windows XP. And not the pretty part of paving and reinstalling a box ravaged by a stream of viruses and no backups – I mean the ugly migration of a third party app that has to work with the specialized printer or other equipment that is obscenely expensive and way out of support. If that’s your dream job, rock on, carry on my wayward son. If that’s what you want to do till the day you die or retire…
Profits? Complexity means something entirely different in the IT world. It means very specialized, extremely expensive and time consuming to train workforce. It means long hours, uncertain project deadlines, anything can go wrong at any moment and oh god please tell me we’re charging for this by the hour.
Most IT companies don’t get lawyers wages. Most don’t have enough of that highly specialized workload to keep them busy which means that their most expensive labor is on a contract employment basis. And the profits are skinny.
Less competition being good sounds like it would make sense but.. in a slowing business opportunity cycle it’s cheaper and easier to acquire businesses to grow than it is to market and win new clients. Less competition also means less talent that could potentially work for you. Smaller ecosystem = bigger growth problems.
Explanation: Where most people have a hard time understanding this conflict is in their business process design. Are you building a business model with a 5 month or a 5 year expected life cycle? Some people don’t even think about a month out because they have a service business and their profit margin is fixed – so they aren’t making an investment in people, technology, training – hence the confusion. There is another twist here: growth. Are you building a business that’s going to grow at low single digit percentage or double to triple digit percentage? Depending on all these, you may have a different perspective.
Carrying on from the previous comment is a business model: I Just Wing It as a Service.
No shame in that, it’s a business and if it makes you money, I’m happy. It’s like that consulting meme – if you’re not a part of the solution there is good money to be made in prolonging the problem. Don’t mean to crap on you at all.
But again, perspective and business design. The goal is to build a long term growth business that can survive without you and that can be massively profitable without additional work. And that “scale” doesn’t come when you wing it, it comes when you invest.
There are two things you need to do in business (yes, only two): 1. Get paid. 2. Pay bills. Getting paid is something you can get creative about – but not paying your bills will get you messed up quick. So most businesses need to have a very predictable and very reliable cash flow. For almost all of us, that is dealing with legacy solutions that we are good at, that don’t change much and that we have minimized costs in over time.
Remember what I said about being rational – you can’t ignore things, you can’t irrationally chase everything, you can’t not invest in the future and you can’t have a business without a plan and a business model. If you think you can then go become a plumber – much better hours and people are actually happy not to fight over your rate if you’re holding the plunger and their office smells like shit.
Highly profitable businesses have 3 lines : legacy cash cows, currently developing operations and future investments.
For us, legacy is SPAM filtering. Currently we’re making a killing in hosted exchange and cloud services. The future for us is in service and business management / collaboration auditing. But that’s me – and believe me, I’m making a ton of money killing SPAM.
Most businesses fail to take the future investments seriously. Why? Well, it’s hard, it’s expensive, there is a great deal of risk and uncertainty. And they never build massively profitable companies. Why? Because the reward for that risk is being the first mover and making the legacy cash cow really, really, really fat faster.
Namely, people that pushed Exchange and the cloud stuff when I started to in 2007 already have tens of thousands of seats that they just collect payments for. Meanwhile guys that are fighting for them right now are getting those lazy businesses, with tons of baggage, difficult IT and tons of other problems – causing them more issues, more desktop time, etc. Could the investment in their marketing and deployment of Hosted Exchange been the same as betting a business on virtualization? Sure, and they would have been screwed. That’s why you don’t follow every idiot standing on the stage pretending they know your business better than you do. But hey, if you don’t know your business well enough to be able to make investments then you shouldn’t be running it. Back to the plunger.
Explanation: Some people are just risk averse. It’s a personal preference. Majority of the people I deal with though aren’t trying to defend their Windows XP business with a spork though – they want that cash cow that they don’t have to feed daily. The only way you get there is with long term planning, investments and risk. Don’t like risk, don’t want a fast paced fast growing company – that’s your choice and it’s not a bad thing. But most people I talk to want a new boat, longer vacation, Ferrari, paid college tuition, etc. Getting there is hard and that’s what I try to do.
First, people read the written word and make opinions and impressions based on their own mood, experience, circumstances, etc. This is not the word of god, this is the word of Vlad and it’s just my opinion.
Second, I’m not a braindead cheerleader. My passion is helping people improve and grow, not give them a false sense of security and a free tshirt so they’ll like me.
Third, perspective is important – I write for and I’m the voice of the people I interact with. Lot’s of people. Around the world. In different industries.
And they are all looking for a way to grow and reach a level of financial security. So we have two options – we can all throw our $ on a big pile and start buying lottery tickets. Or we can slowly help each other improve one day at a time and make $ in the long term.
Now turn it up!
Have a great day
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Still on vacation so I haven’t been jaded enough by the daily grind to offer much of an opinion on Vladville but I did chat with a friend that attended a conference over the summer and he offered the following observation (paraphrased):
So there is tons of opportunity out there in tons of different directions.. but the only thing I haven’t been able to find is a large number of successful business owners that have launched into these new tech fields – just one or two vendor prize cows that I’m sure are more there for a free vacation..
In a nutshell, even though the MSPs and VARs have been dying in droves, few have found a way up the food chain or fish in the wide blue oceans many industry experts fantasize about: and the #1 threat to the entire MSP ecosystem is as follows:
Nobody wants to do any actual IT work anymore.
What automation didn’t kill off in the terms of IT personnel – well, the cloud has been finishing off. Meaning the only good MSP food is the most poisonous one: dealing with the clients that have neglected their IT, that received bad advice, that are extremely or unreasonably cheap or limited in their willingness to touch new technology. And once you do try to untangle the mess you’re mostly stuck looking like the bad guy who broke a perfectly functional car made out of glass and ice cream.
The problem for the vendors is that without the new blood coming in to do the grunt work the pipeline dries up, the acquisition of new accounts becomes more difficult and you see what we have now: Vendors with limited prospects getting acquired for close to nothing (ie: “Financial terms not disclosed”) to private or venture interests with hopes of going IPO in the industry that isn’t growing rapidly. In other words: the greater fool theory.
Real Grunt Work Sucks
Technology solutions come in two ugly and unappealing ways for the MSPs. The first is the easy/cloud/appliance model that completely eliminates the MSP in virtually all areas. There is literally no business model to be built on this and the relationship is typically large-Fortune-500 direct contract with the client. Some like to play on the edge (“We’ll manage your iPhone for you”) but most are finding very slim profit margins and more PITA – so they do it for the sole purpose of keeping the account.
The other model – grunt work – is still there but more often than not gets off on the wrong foot due to the complexity in the existing infrastructure. Things sure were easier when everything wasn’t connected to everything else, huh? There are seemingly two ways of doing it: Plan excessively and kill your profits up front or plan and roll out in stages and kill profits and opportunities over time as one thing explodes after another. I kind of like this model because it funds my business model but the real problem for MSPs is..
Do as I say, not as I do..
Bad leadership. You can hit up Vladville from 5 years ago and read about how the Master MSP thing was gonna work out. When you saw those things folding up and those folks getting jobs or becoming
unemployed coaches you could have concluded, as I had, that the model just doesn’t scale and the only massively profitable way out was through the greater fool theory. In this sense, the biggest fool on the block was Best Buy.
Time to despair? If you’re an MSP, hell no. It’s important to have perspective and it’s important to understand your best interest. It is in your best interests to minimize costs, maximize profits, scale and replicate the business model far and wide. But that’s not what you’re going to get from the stage full of vendors – because that is not in their best interest – they need you to get the solution in and get out of the way. They need you buying more tools, getting more stuff, more seminars, more training, more expertise and more SWOT – don’t spend money scaling your business and getting more clients, how the hell does that pay the guy who makes you think that you just need to turn into a Walgreens and sell everything and double up your income from the existing client base that already thinks they are paying way too much for IT and hate seeing you at the top of their A/P every month?
If you have a bleak outlook on the technology business you’re either in the wrong business or you’re listening to the wrong people. And they are
coaching experts lowlevelvendormanagement unemployed for a reason.
Edit: I kind of forgot to wrap it up there – my point is that the biggest problem the IT industry faces is the fact that nobody wants to do any actual grunt IT work because bulk of the promotion at the shows and other outlets is on simplicity and easy business. And if it were easy everyone would be doing it, not going out of business. The faster you come to terms that your rapid growth depends on your willingness to get dirty, the faster you’re going to grow. This is what we embraced at ExchangeDefender a year ago when we announced we’d do migrations to our hosted Exchange for free – yes it’s more expensive for us to pull off and it is about as glamorous as working the fry machine – but we’re growing and that’s not something you hear a lot out there these days. My motto is actual $ over opportunity to make $, any day, every day, all day long.
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Working a trade show is a mental exercise in itself – but if you can see it as a form of free entertainment then even the slow times can be filled with fun. With that in mind, here are The Top 10 IT Booth Personalities for you to meet on your next event.
Swag Hearder – You can tell someone isn’t up for a conversation when they don’t even make eye contact or even look at the display or brochures. This beast is on a mission, two empty bags in tow, to collect everything that isn’t bolted down to the cement. Holding a handful of “Free at VistaPrint” cards with no real contact info, this collector will make several passes in your booth faking ever increasing levels of interest in “whatever it is you do that sounds interesting”.. hey, can I have that pen?
BO Man – You can smell this one coming from miles away. Literally. Cause nothing gives more street cred to an IT guy stereotype like not taking a shower since Microsoft launched Windows 95. This specimen commands space and attention like no other – perhaps because you want him away from your booth as fast as possible but also because his scent makes other attendees stand a few feet behind him in a semicircle. And just as the vinegar spiced aroma is about to knock you off your feet he starts to talk, revealing nothing but contempt for toothpaste and love of vinegar. I give up man, take anything you want just gtfo!
Sales Guy – Straight out of Toby Keith’s I’m as good once as I ever was this former copier/toner salesman doesn’t need a booth to sell, he just needs to establish rapport and get the contact information of people that are real movers and shakers in your business – cause he has the idea, the connections, the business and well.. he sold ice to the Eskimo once and he sure can sell anything to your boss. Oh, and btw, can you validate parking or do you know how to get some free drinks around here?
Antisocial Genius – Nothing screams “I hate being away from my monitors” like trying to read a trade show booth display from 30’ out. After they have sufficiently analyzed what you do, and no other attendee got shanked in the meantime, they cautiously approach your booth like a Zebra about to be eaten by a crocodile in a National Geographic movie. With the sound fidelity and volume of a broken 1980’s Walkman they gently ask how the whole thing works, mostly to see if you’re a booth babe or someone that may actually answer a technical question they have. As they get more comfortable the conversation turns into an MCSE exam.
Parallel Universe IT – This beast made it’s millions in car wash or appliance rental enterprises and bought the IT business looking to be the next IBM. He is here, with his henchmen/investors, to see how badly you want to be a part of the next mega MSP to shock the world and scale out. Because an IT business isn’t really that much different than a vending machine, it’s all about volume/turnover and we know how to build scale! Not really interested in buying a product or a service as much as they are looking for enthusiasm for figuring out the missing pieces in their otherwise brilliant scheme.
Broke Millionaire – “Fake it till you make it” to the core this dude opens up the conversation about how awesome he is. Don’t let the Folex blind you as you try to figure out if this is an actor doing research for his role or an actual schizophreniac – just play the game of numbers and watch them change every time you ask how many users, companies and endpoints they have along with how many they expect to have a year out. This one guy IT enterprise, in a vendor branded polo giveaway, may be managing 10,000 seats right now but they are on pace for quarter million next year!
Up Close and Personal – These dudes mean to seal the deal by any means necessary and if you’re uncomfortable with a conversation 5” from your face how are you going to handle the abuse you get during a sit? Huh? Huh? Nothing spells meaning the business like leaning in for these guys, your only hope is that they aren’t a relative of the BO man or spilling their drink on you as they tell you about their big plans.
Professor and Historian – This guy was in IT before the electricity. Remembers the good old days and takes you on a journey in time, Knows everything there is to know about IT except the past few years, those aren’t on the radar at all – but it reminds him of this one company he knew out of Texas that…
One Man Theater – You may think you’re at a trade show to introduce a product or a service, but to a one man theater you’re just a captive audience forced to listen to a soliloquy of just how poorly this person perceives your product/service/industry. With an endless stream of “oh one more quick question” this bastard will suck up your peak traffic time with an incoherent stream of questions that make you wish you were a Benihana chef about to chop their business card into thousand pieces and light it on fire because the conversation is killing what you’re actually there to do!
The Squatter – Who doesn’t enjoy long walks on the beach and conversations about the weather? You know you’re dealing with the squatter when you’re in your booth fantasizing about ordering Taser swag just so you can kick these @#% out of your booth. The squatter has no objective other than taking up your time and small talk – with the conversation that goes nowhere. It’s like being forced to stand there and watch the worst sitcom ever made.
Life is all about little pleasures you get from people who don’t mean business – but act it 200% – but produce an eventful show and ability to draw a crowd. Let’s face it, without these characters it’s just standing in uncomfortable shoes on cement, have some fun with it.
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Being on a vacation, both physically and mentally separated from work, allows one to step out of the daily grind and really look at the things that work and things that don’t work. Problem with habits is that they are hard to break and if you don’t get a decent long one (ha!) it’s usually easier to fall back to the daily grind than to really change your approach. The most important of those approaches comes in dealing with assholes. If you’re unlucky to be the boss, your calendar is likely filled with assholes that try to flush their frustrations off on you.
Here is how to deal with them. I don’t have the time for top ten so here is the top two.
Equilizer Jerks – These guys, for better or worse, are assholes for no apparent motivation other than they feel they have been wronged somehow and now they need to waste your time even though nothing will make them happy other than someone hearing them out.
Power Jerks – This specimen is unique in a sense that it’s trying to build status and rapport in all the wrong ways – by forcing themselves into a situation they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed into.
So what do you do?
Few people know this but most of the Vladville lessons that aren’t about me are about the jerks that line up to ruin my day. And my favorite compliment is when assholes tell me “I love Vladville but I don’t agree with everything you say” – which is a safe way of saying:
“Listen, I’m an asshole too. But I hate it when you call me out on shit I try to pull.”
Nothing but love, brothers and sisters, you’re among friends.
But fuck you – and here is how.
Mitigating Equalizer Jerks
Like I mentioned, the assholes who feel your company or you personally have wronged in some horrific way are just poor bastards that need therapy or a time travel machine for their mom and dad to slap the shit out them because they raised a pussy. These folks will just whine and complain all day long about everything that went wrong in their life as a result of one of your actions.
Who knew that your daily job was ruining peoples lives? It was a surprise for me as well.
So you can’t say anything because any apology from you will prompt another insult begging for another apology. The more sincere you get the more annoyed they get because they want an opportunity to vent. They don’t want you to fix it because their stunted mental development has made it impossible for them to deal with issues and come to a rational solution themselves. So god help you if you propose one – it will just make them angrier. And try to walk them to the logical conclusion even they cannot reject – oh my god will they get angry!!!
A while back we had a client who had a rollout issue with ExchangeDefender. And then a little bit later his same client, through a full fault of their own, had another issue. “Vlad, he is begging me to cancel this service!!!” But when he was pointed out by multiple levels of management that this issue was a fault of the client not on the service he came back with the unresolvable problem – he can’t tell the client that he is wrong! So what do you do to fix this – offer service credit? offer a free trial?
I told him in very few words to go fuck himself because if his client is incapable of understanding their own issues it’s like wondering why you can’t swim out of a lake with cement shoes.
Dealing with equalizer jerks in all the wrong ways is giving them an option to continue arguing. Don’t. Tell them to go fuck themselves.
But Vlad, they will tell someone else! Fantastic, let them tell people we don’t provide great psychiatric support service.
Mitigating Power Jerks
Power jerks, and we’re all a little bit of one, are ones that irrationally request that their problem be handled by god almighty himself. I demand to speak to your supervisor!!!! Yeah, you know you’ve said it before.
What these guys are really after is not the solution to their problem because there likely isn’t one. They just want to win even a little by shaming an employee or staffer that has nothing to do with any of it.
At ExchangeDefender we have a number. I don’t really want to say what it is but it goes like this and it’s drilled into every employee during their orientation: Nobody under $X revenue a month gets to talk to Vlad. I don’t give a shit if it’s the fireman here trying to pour water on Vlad’s burning body in the middle of his fucking office. Not sure if that’s the specific language.
How do you deal with someone that is just ridiculously irrational? You inform them of your process and policies. Take away one sword they have until they figure out what will actually make them happy.
Because here is a newsflash – they don’t know. They just want to complain as far up as they can until their irrational argument gains enough gravity through the involvement of people that know nothing about the original problem.
Case and point, I knew this dumb fuck who at Microsoft WPC took upon himself to write a 6 page essay to be escalated up to Ballmer himself. He looped in everyone he could grab along the way until everyone took a second to look around and say WTF?
Escalation has it’s place. But people whose first course of action is: I demand to speak to someone with a clue.. Should be reprimanded to the layer below that of an office receptionist. Hire an answering service and send them over to it. Ask them to bounce calls between as many reps as it takes until the motherfucker dehydrates and drops dead at his desk or runs out of quarters in the payphone booth and hangs his dumb ass.
Perhaps when they wake up, refreshed, they’ll have a better perspective of what they wanted to have addressed and if it was such a big deal in the first place.
How do I know?
Well, as the Chief Excrement-cleaning Officer, I get to deal with these assholes all day long. And sometimes, though rarely, I tend to be one of them. But every now and then you drink enough at your desk that you just can’t keep your head up on the phone and it falls forward fast and hard and the occasional idiot-induced concussion does wonders for the soul.
So go forth and fuck with them. Tell them Vlad sent ya, I’ll send them a tshirt.
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Enjoying my vacation.. Been out for a few weeks now thinking about random stuff but mostly just trying to keep myself from planning to so something. And it got me thinking about one of the key qualities you need to have in order to succeed (or fail spectacularly, depending on your ambition): willingness to handle risk.
Everyone that goes into business on their own has a certain amount of tolerance for risk (or no other employment opportunities whatsoever) or they would take a job, any job, at the first sign of a gut wrenching failure. So you take on risk, you accept that some of the things you do are not going to work out, some employees will be duds, some clients are going to be unreasonable, some problems will be unsolvable. The key is to only take on so much risk that you have a chance to win or at least live on to fight another day in the worst case scenario.
This also explains why so many people fail in business: they become so guarded in their risk taking that their victories never pile up high enough to tolerate the shit that is bound to blow up for no reason at all. They freeze their ability to act, to respond to market changes, to deal with problems that they try to avoid them. It’s kind of like running out in the middle of the street half way and stopping, hoping that a car doesn’t hit you.
People become so self involved in their process and perfection that they barely take the time to actually build a business. I’ve been guilty of this at times as well, comes from losing perspective: it’s not about squeezing every bit of efficiency out of a very small system, it’s about scaling and growing your system so it produces exponential returns. But that is far harder and far more difficult than the safe and riskless process of being an operations micromanager that double checks everything and everyone, seeks third party review and approval, goes through every single scenario good or bad, tests things on a small scale, holds back, slows down… Basically marks time until the opportunity has passed them entirely.
Don’t be that loser. Having gone down that path at time, trust me, it blows. Because as gratifying as the feeling you get from achieving absolute perfection happens to be… The knife in your forehead when you realize nobody else gives a shit.. Well, can’t paint it any more painfully than that.
Experiment. Try. Do. Trust others and get the hell out of the way. It’s the only way shit happens – yeah, good and bad things will happen. But isn’t that what got you into business in the first place, the chase for the opportunity of what you could become?
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Summer session of VladCamp is in full force starting today. Here is the brief summary of it: Hong Kong, Macau, Amsterdam, Belgium, Copenhagen, Berlin, Talin, St Petersburg, Moscow, Helsinki, Stockholm, Belgrade, Athens, Cairo, Frankfurt, Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska cruise and then back to Orlando for a week of theme parks to sear it all in.
I am immensely thankful for my team that makes it possible for me to do this. Thank you guys!
I am also thankful for so many industry friends that serve as a constant bouncing wall for ideas, suggestions, complaints, frustrations and hopes. Whether you love or hate Vladville, I love how much I have gotten out of this blog personally and professionally.
Over the next few weeks I will be taking you along for the ride. Hope you enjoy it
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Have you’ve ever wondered why I don’t get murdered or beaten in public on a regular basis about the stories I write in public? It’s primarily because I have one rule here: If it can’t be made funny, I won’t write it. This is entertainment – we already have enough faux journalists and pretend experts dispensing their brilliance from a basement of their rented homes and Starbucks – I’m not that IT coach.. And I don’t pick people apart here (though many people have low self esteem and self-identify with the matters discussed here). Part of my job at ExchangeDefender is helping our partners position the cloud effectively (meaning: profitably) and far too often I get to hear rather sad stories about the struggles and issues that I too have faced in my career. So every now and then… I will write a “Real” blog post here and you’re welcome to skip it.. because everyone likes to laugh at a joke at someone elses expense – nobody wants to look at the mirror. So with the disclaimer out of the way.
If you got the money honey, we’ve got your disease.
Business process problems? Buy our PSA.
Too busy doing manual IT resolution? Buy an RMM to automate it.
Not growing as fast as you want? Marketing toolkit, sales coaching.
Insecure about competition? Join our peer group.
How is it possible that so many businesses are thriving and so many others, year after year, seem to be stuck hopping from one solution to the next and never breaking out of the same pattern? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a program, a person, a product, a service… that could leapfrog you past the struggle and finally push you ahead of the market for once?
There is a person that understands what you are going through & sees thousands of people just like you each year. They can help and they have great results: They are the sales person at virtually every MSP and VAR vendor out there. Their chief service: Separating you from your money. In many, many, many instances they may in fact be very helpful. But if you’re having problems – it’s unlikely that the problem is external to the company (or that can be solved with external help). It’s quite likely just you.
I see some people, with perpetual problems, at 3 different shows each year. Just trying to stay on top of things, just trying to figure out what is next, just checking something new out. And how are you doing? Oh, it’s been a bad year.
Stop. Stop buying software and services. Stop purchasing advice and recommendations. Stop trying to figure out what you could be doing better and figure out what you are doing wrong.
No sane vendor will recommend this so I’ll do it on the behalf of our industry:
Pick the next event you were going to. Cancel it immediately. Book a few nights at the local Motel 6 or equivalent cheap motel and bring your books, your strategy, your problems, your issues and lots of pens, highlighters and paper.
Start going over what is working and what you are good at. Be honest about the problems. Come up with a plan and a strategy to maximize the good and fix the bad.
And if you find someone that tells you the above is wrong – run. Your vendors need you in the long term – people that are just going to rob you now and move on to the next victim have short term on their mind (like sales people and quarterly performance targets) and to them it doesn’t matter if you live or die in 2015.
You probably care a bit more than that.
If so, start acting like it.
No coach, no platform, no service, no software, no solution, no peer group, no event, no boot camp, nobody is going to care more about your business than you do.
And here is the hammer: If you think you need all that to make it, you’re probably not cut out for this. If you can’t focus and mentally support yourself to fix the problems you cause to yourself how in the world are you going to address the problems your employees cause, your clients pin you in, the neverending change.
In all my time working with partners I’ve seen many ways in which people in this business succeed. Yet I’ve only seen one in which they fail: They think they are special and that rules don’t apply to them. Tech business is no different from any other business – and if your ego is so big that you think there is a substitute for hard work and growth and problem solving – then the odds are against you.
Stop. Think. Work. Win. It’s not going to happen until you decide it’s going to happen.
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As I mentioned over the past few months I have been scaling back my responsibilities at ExchangeDefender to only a part time affair (about 30 hours a week; and trust me, that’s part time here). I’m just a CEO these days – meetings, phone calls, clients and a few trade shows. I also started a new business this year so don’t worry, I’m not bored.
This summer – from late June through late August – I will be on vacation. Multiple continents, cruises, countries and so on. Timmy and I are packing our bags and doing what we do best – getting lost. And I’m taking you with me (virtually, sorry wifey doesn’t approve more adoptions). If you’re not following me on Facebook, feel free to add me / follow me.
Listen… Over the past 17 years I’ve built and sold multiple multimillion dollar lines of business. I have a great team that runs the show and makes me look good. I don’t owe anyone anything, I’ve got more cars and bikes than I know what to do with and I have made more money than I’ll be able to spend in this lifetime unless I decide it’s time to build a Ferrari collection. I get to work when I want to on what I want to and I apparently get to take a 2 month vacation.
I’m not gloating
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. It didn’t come without sacrifice. And most frustratingly: nobody cheers the workaholic. You don’t get to have a bad day, you’re working too hard and need to take a break. You don’t get to complain about problems, you’re working too hard and need to take a break.
Oh, and people tell you that your wife is going to leave you. A lot.
So listen.. building and running a business isn’t easy. It’s not without sacrifice, hard work, risk, worrying, mental anguish and emotional bullshit employees and clients put you through. But I am a living proof that you can make it without screwing people over, without winning the lottery and without an IPO. All it takes is time and persistence and the ability to filter out bullshit.
So if you’re struggling right now and trying to build great things.. hang in there, work hard.. I’m taking you on a vacation with me. Let it be a motivation that some day soon you’ll be in the same spot.
, IT Business
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I’ve worked with some people that whole HR books could be written about (heck, half of ours was written just based on actions of one person) but there is nothing worse than….:
The worst employee ever: Stupid employee not aware of how stupid they are.
This is not a typical Vladville post used to burn something idiotic. Instead, it’s hopefully a little bit of parenting and career advice all rolled up into one.
Now I don’t know how or what empowers and instills some folks away from a lifetime career in front desk or fast food, but every now and then someone gets a lot of misconstrued encouragement and the university testing system of multiple choice questions and overcrowding gives the wrong people advantage of grading on the curve. It happens.
And there is nothing wrong with being stupid. For some roles it’s a requirement. If there were no stupid people, sales and marketing would suck – marketing folks would figure out they are liars and sales people would turn themselves in for theft. Thankfully, the intelligence bar is lower in some places and higher in others – so folks handling engineering and development can come up with ways to deliver on the near criminal lies you promised the client. Organizational dynamics.
So there is nothing wrong with being an idiot. As long as people like you. But what if you don’t even know that you’re an idiot? Here is a simple quiz that can help you figure it out:
- Someone sent you this blog post.
- You think you’re the smartest person in your company.
- You can solve all the problems you see.
- You are the only one that can seem to notice all the problems.
- You’re a natural born leader that speaks when everyone else is quiet.
- You have a “I’m a smart person” award or were in a club.
- You seem to be treated exceptionally poorly by your coworkers who are jealous of your intellect.
- You seem to be constantly reprimanded by your managers and bosses who are afraid of your potential to take their jobs.
If you answered Yes! to any of these questions.. I have some bad news. Here is what should be in your orientation book at the next job (don’t worry, you’ll be there really soon):
You seem to know everything – so try figuring out why you work for me and I don’t work for you.
The best piece of advice I can offer you: If you just got here and think you know a better way of doing everything – do yourself a favor and spend some trying to figure out why things run the way they do. You just might be a genius with the ability to understand all business processes, personalities, culture and customer expectations – but you’re statistically more likely to be an overreaching idiot with an extremely high assessment of self worth. So instead of alienating everyone from the getgo, take your time and actually build a successful track record to stand on.”
We’ve had a lot of people that fit this model work for us and they are infuriating. Thankfully, they show their colors almost immediately: Before they even know what their job is they can tell you everything that they can do better. For someone that has never owned or run a business they sure as hell know a lot about yours. And then you had them a simple task and watch them hit the wall like a windup toy. There is a reason you don’t take marriage advice from friends that are perpetually single, career advice from the unemployed or real estate advice from the homeless.
To an extent, we’re all idiots about something… But most of us have the capability to stop ourselves: If you can’t possibly think of any way how your plan/idea can go wrong you either have little skill or little experience.
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Conversation I often have with my wife:
Katie: What’s on your mind?
Vlad: I have to get this done by tomorrow.
Katie: Aren’t you the boss? Turn it in late?
What “Nah” actually means
Part of being the boss and being a part of the team is that it’s 100% on you to set the agenda and see it through. If you don’t feel like working, if you don’t feel like deadlines matter, if commitment is variable on your mood, if it truly doesn’t matter.. then perhaps you shouldn’t be the boss and moreover, perhaps you shouldn’t be working at all. Further question than becomes: Who would want to work for you and who would want to rely on the company that’s managed as a side hobby?
For example, I’m a creature of habit. I like to give money to people that treat me right. If I wake up on Sunday and I feel like eating brisket, I go to my favorite BBQ place. If that BBQ place is closed, I go to the next BBQ place. Guess what’s my new favorite BBQ place? Not the one who took their own personal needs and preferences over mine.
Business is about self-interest, you are in business to make a profit. But you will never make a profit without customers. While nobody will know how hard you work at maximizing the benefit on both sides of that equation, if you aren’t pushing the organization forward then who is?
Anyhow, that’s at least the lie I tell myself to keep on going.
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