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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As I wrote here before, I am on CompTIA’s Cloud Executive Council and several of us are helping CompTIA come up with a Cloud Trustmark that would help IT Solution Providers determine, in a nutshell, how credible the cloud service provider happens to be. The following are my opinions and impressions and do not represent CompTIA, other members of the executive council or any other entity. I hope this information gives you a perspective for the hard work that is being done in our industry and encourages you to participate.
First a little bit of background – I originally objected to the idea of the Cloud Trustmark for the simple reason that the same executive council spent nearly a year just to come up with a well rounded definition of “What is the cloud” and creating a unified certification of the same would be either expensive or meaningless. The point of the association though is not just to sit and object to things that are difficult but to craft something that would be useful. Here is the summary of the major discussion topics:
Should we require a physical visit? Some felt that the certification would be neutered and meaningless without verifying that the physical location of the servers was not confirmed in person. The concern was rejected because the effort would be too expensive to execute, wouldn’t be relevant for a large number of cloud service providers that do not have a physical server infrastructure or had a very large footprint (multiple data centers).
Should we certify security or financial information? This was a broad discussion over what financial and security processes could be identified, verified and how they would be reported. For example, should the certification conduct a PCI-like scan and if so what would be done if the company had no PCI-requirement. Does a company pass or fail the certification solely on their extensive backoffice infrastructure or does lack of one create a liability? As you can tell, this was a long discussion that revealed the complexity of even CompTIA’s ability to effectively report on the credentials of a service provider.
What should the certification include? Should the certification be a pass/fail, a checklist of applicable criteria, score based or something else? The complexity of the cloud service provider business models lead us to the final question:
What would be valuable to the VAR/MSP/consulting community? The entire meeting included only vendors and CompTIA staff. While we know what helps us position our solutions, are those necessarily the same components that you would value? This is why it’s so important for IT Solution Providers themselves to be a part of CompTIA AMM and annual meetings and voice their needs (in part writing posts like these is to solicit your opinion and encourage you to). The decision was made for the CompTIA research team to conduct a poll of service provider members and gather some feedback.
I will keep you up to date as this develops further and encourage you to both send me your feedback and attend the CompTIA Cloud meetings and conferences. There are Cloud Café’s at major IT conferences this year, please get involved. Yes, it’s free.
My personal opinion: CompTIA has no footprint/legitimacy in the cloud so the Trustmark as an endorsement wouldn’t be meaningful on the same level as many other industry standards that evaluate security, credit card transactions, accounting standards, operations management and so on. Where CompTIA does have a foundation to build a certification on is it’s relationship with the IT workers and in my opinion the true value of the certification would be in helping IT staff compare cloud providers on equal footing in terms of which standards they comply with, which industry standards are being met and so on. Passing a trademark for the sole purpose of having another trademark that less than a few dozen people would be interested in only cheapens the value of other established trademarks and CompTIA’s reputation in the IT industry, if you feel that there is a need for this certification to exist and can clearly demonstrate the criteria that are important I implore you to join us and help us build it.
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As you may have heard, I have significantly reduced my day-to-day involvement at Own Web Now Corp and my sole position with the business is that of a CEO. Meaning, I will only be involved in strategy and international expansion of our products and services, less of day-to-day problems and staff issues. I still have a great passion for what we do at ExchangeDefender and Shockey Monkey but the services and announcements you will see from us over the next few months will explain the simple detail that…: We’re going to Dubai.
Every so often you get an opportunity that is so ridiculous it would be crazy to turn that down. In 2001, when I graduated from University of Florida, I should have moved to the valley. For a number of reasons and many excuses, I moved to Orlando (a move that I rerated professionally but truly appreciated personally as I have a wonderful family that will live on long after my business ventures). But now I am taking my businesses truly global and United Arab Emirates are key.
I love Florida, I love United States, I am proud to be an American. But in terms of international business, there is a new king. When I discussed this with my friends I often get looked at sideways but if you have just 30 seconds.. please watch this:
Fast forward to 4:20 and just give it 30 seconds.
If that doesn’t line up with your ambitions you’re not an entrepreneur. When the Sheik is asked “Why are you in such a hurry” the response is native to every aspiring business owner and driven person in the world: Because I want it now. I want to be the best. Not in 10 years. Not in 30 years. I wake up every day wanting to make sure my life, the life of people that work for me, the life of my family in the generations that live on is better and easier than mine was.
United States is undoubtedly the king of worldwide commerce, it will remain the headquarters of the global financial system, the land of freedom, the most consumerised economy on the face of the earth – but when it comes to opening the door to the rest of the world, our leaders are leaving us more and more isolated. Our overwhelming special interests are creating a more close minded, judgmental, business-unfriendly environment that is seriously threatening our future.
In my opinion, from what I have seen with my own eyes, the rest of the world wants what we have in United States. And they are no longer just happy to come for a visit, they want it there.
Seemingly, it all goes through Dubai. So that is where I’m off to.
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Gotta vent for a sec because I keep on running into this.
The worst thing about being nice is that you get no credit for it. But you get exploited for it at every turn.
When I fuck up, even mildly, I am on the hook. Customers can choose which bits and pieces of the services was so critical to them that they can avoid paying the entire bill or cancel and go elsewhere. Every little minor detail is picked on and perfection is the expected norm. Don’t even think about living it down either – you get reminded about it till the day you die. If you’re particularly lucky to also be surrounded by assholes, your failures will turn into a running joke.
When someone fucks me over, I have to sit back and seriously weigh just how much of a dick I want to be about it. Is the damage significant enough that I want to pick a fight over it, or is it easier just to chalk it up to a lesson learned and move on? Is the point of dwelling and dragging on negativity, with attorneys fees and distractions piling on, really worth just for the egoistical need to be right? Or does it make more sense to just move quickly onto the next opportunity and win bigger?
Maybe I’m just nice or naïve, but being a dick is hardly a profitable position to take in life. The way I look at it, if someone just screwed me out of $1,000 I’m not willing to sink another $1,000 to prove my point at the chance of recovering $1,000 with another lawsuit and then, after wasting tons of time and energy, break even. And then hope they pay the damages. I guess the bigger the amount gets the more you have to take a stand.
Reality of business is that there are processes in place to make things “fair” but really they just end up damaging both sides. Nobody, except lawyers, wins. And ultimately, nobody is happy – because the sustained business isn’t about one side screwing the other disproportionally. So that’s your lesson for the day – if you’re going to be a nice person and don’t want to allow people to take advantage of you, be friendly with a lawyer first. The rest of the universe will fall into place. Like a twisted take on Buddhism.
, IT Business
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I was out of the office this week and for the most part hanging out with partners and vendors around the clock – so here are a few things that happened this week that I thought were cool from the geek standpoint.
Amazon released their own Apple TV. One of the things I love about Amazon is that they act like a total badass – no matter how big the leader happens to be they take them on – books, retailers, Google, Netflix, Apple, colocation/data centers – they are just a beast. And this week they came out with their “me too” device to compete with Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast…. With one little difference – you can buy a game controller. While everyone is fighting over taking over your living room with crappy radio that is virtually indistinguishable from everyone else, Amazon tries to take on Xbox and Playstation. Balls.
Microsoft Office for iPad downloaded 12 million times. I did it too! And man, it’s pretty. It’s really pretty. Templates are awesome too. But on my flight back from San Diego I wrote a document in Pages, updated my notes with Evernote and haven’t touched the Office suite ever since I installed it. It would be a tragic irony if the very thing that kept Microsoft Office as the standard people were used to is the same thing that keeps it from becoming as widely used on the go.
Microsoft taked about Windows Phone 8.1. It will have Siri. And they’ll give it away to OEMs for free on screens under 9”. And they’ll give you your desktop back if you’re unfortunate enough to be on Windows 8. I’m not sure how I feel about this – either the impossible has happened: Microsoft actually started listening to it’s clients. Or worse, they are recognizing just how hard their ass is being kicked by everyone they tried to “compete” with using halfassed products.
Galaxy S5 comes this month. Even though I am never more than inches away from my iPhone 5S, the Galary S4 is by far the coolest gadget I’ve ever used. The new features coming in G5 are insane. But it had two giant downsides: It’s giant and it’s keyboard just sucks. It’s kind of like when Windows Phone fanboys can’t stop talking about how it’s a great smartphone because it has a great camera- Great, I’ll keep that in mind when I need a digital camera. I really hope that Samsung got a better keyboard with G5 and I can’t wait to see if the G5 mini has the same geek candy drool factor.
The IT these days is pretty much about the gadgets and services – and PC/server model has to a large extent been removed from the public discussion. It was an interesting week to be out with IT Solution Providers and IT vendors who were all tied to their gadgets and computers but not really very consumed in a business model around it. There is a reason for that (not because they are morons) in a sense that business computing is turning into a utility instead of a tactical investment. But more on that later.
Have a great weekend!
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