Once upon a time in the long long ago, right after college, I went for an interview with a Fortune 50 company and after a few interviews for an engineering job they went with someone else. About a week later they called me back and wanted me to come in and discuss a VP role. Quote: “You just seemed too sociable and too friendly to work in engineering long term and we think you’d do better leading the place”; few more interviews, all day meetings and calls with different offices later they again chose someone else. I was pretty bitter about that for a long time but it was good to be crushed at such an early age:
High profile jobs, with few exceptions, are not given. They are earned.
That’s not the lesson, I’ll get to that in a moment. Bringing in outside talent to an already thriving organization breeds disloyalty and crushes the corporate culture that is built on climbing the ladder. Why climb at all? Because to lead effectively and grow not just the profits but the team it’s about far more than just being qualified. It took me a while to figure that out.
Now.. what I’m about to tell you is not something a book can be written about because it’s not glorified feel-good bullshit people tend to seek out while they fantasize their way out of the daily struggles to manage and grow a business. Here is the truth.
Making money is hard. Sustaining it over the long haul it’s extremely difficult.
And that’s the way it should be.
The sooner you accept that – the better off things will be. It’s hard, it’s brutal, it’s without external motivation and very few people are cut out to do it. That’s business.
I have disagreed on this topic with many of my ex employees. Among the more triumphant failures I’ve tried to mentor are scores of stay at home moms, SEO experts, multilevel marketing sales frauds, sandwich flippers, family business part timers and other lifescapers who thought they knew better. I wish them all the best. But in so many ways I feel sorry for them and for the day when they look for a real job again and realize what HR does to resumes that have large holes between jobs and how hard their “willingness to work” will be questioned some day. But that’s their problem, not yours if you are trying to build a strong organization.
In a workforce full of dreamers is the reality of overworked and underpaid people who channel their frustration into solutions and success. If you think about what it took to build your business, that most certainly describes you. And while peons and dreamers will come and go, the people that can make it through the thick and thin are the ones that will be there for the long term and will ultimately succeed in the long term.
Not really a feel good motivational tidbit, is it? But it’s the truth. While people are stuck daydreaming about working at Google and being given a free paycheck and time to go find themselves on spiritual journeys through Indonesia (of which I’m almost certain there are like 6 people with those choices just for the sake of PR) the rest of the people are grinding it out like everyone else.
Don’t dream. Work. It doesn’t get easier, you just make more money. People that win have the mentality that it isn’t about the temporary annoyances but about smashing long term expectations.
And that pursuit, of overcoming adversity while excelling at your craft, is what careers are made of. And damn it feels good when you finally make it. Maybe it’s for you, maybe it’s not but I’ll tell you what – earning something always beats being given something and it sure as hell beats holding a sign asking for $15 an hour for a job that people beat you down at.
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That nobody talks about because nobody can get paid off of them.
In my new life in the cash business I spend bulk of my time exchanging ideas with some very smart people that spend a lot of time pouring over government employment and economy reports, of which this past week was full. Long story short, it sucks to be poor in America and it’s going to suck even more. But I don’t want to talk about bashing the poor, I want to talk about the business practices that will keep you out of the hole. Namely, two of them:
I’ve never really understood the passive complex of sitting around and expecting someone else to give me a cut just because they are doing better than me. If anything, it’s always been a mentality of finding out who is doing well and trying to do what they are doing.
If you’re sitting around in the paralysis over comparative analytics (which is what many of you that went out of business constantly questioned me about).. just stop. Worry about your own business. Beyond knowing what is working and what others are charging it’s on you to build a profitable business. Otherwise just go buy a franchise.
There are tons of opportunities out there. Tons of really great paying jobs. Great career advancement possibilities and perks. The only trouble is, nobody wants to move to Buttfuck, South Dakota or #holyshittherentishowmuch, San Francisco.
Far too many people get hard headed about things other than making money and then wonder why they eventually can’t make more than scraps. The line of “forget the cloud, I’m making thousands in margin on every Cisco device I move” is stretching around the unemployment office (where you’ll find those same masterminds).
Long story short
Find out what others are doing and if they are doing well, copy them. Even if it’s uncomfortable, little money is better than no money and I don’t care what the late night infomercial or unemployment IT festival speakers told you: making money is hard. So just come to terms with it that nobody is going to cheer you up, everyone will try to beat you down – and unless they are about to do your work for you f em and just keep on working.
Do those two and everything is gonna be alright. Or preoccupy yourself with the circus and you’ll soon find yourself in it.
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I don’t know about you;
But I know I don’t want to be an old man in a retirement home some day content at how well I balanced my life and held back.
Each day is a gift. Find what you love and give it 100%. In business. With family. With hobbies. In life.
You don’t know when your time will come, all you know is that you don’t have enough of it so don’t let it slip. It moves way too fast.
P.S. Particularly to my fellow friends and partners in business. I’ve made so many of you a lot of money. Use it. As entrepreneurs we live in an environment where nobody encourages us – because nobody has anything to gain from it. It’s just an ever revolving circus of scam artists and crooks parading around to exploit your insecurities – about what you aren’t doing, about what you don’t belong to, about what you should be thinking, how your wife will leave you because you work too hard – and not a single one of them gets to live your life or pay for your mistakes. So go do what makes you happy and give it your all. If you’re lucky, you get to do it again tomorrow. And fuck anyone who tells you otherwise
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As some of you know, I graduated from the University of Florida and contribute a bit of $ to their general scholarship fund on a frequent basis. I was fortunate enough to get a free ride thanks to the people that failed at elementary school math (aka “Florida Lottery” aka Bright Futures Scholarship) and it’s one of the ways that I like to give back. But one of my friends suggested I’m not really helping the poor:
“You’re giving money to people that already have decent enough standard of living that they managed to make it through high school, apply and enroll at UF, make their way to Gainesville and you’re just offsetting low interest loans they would otherwise be stuck with.
So you’re doing more about the middle class here than the poor.”
Indeed I am. At which point my buddy was a little perplexed and bewildered. And without taking any more of a shot at the poor, I feel that the government taxes should help cover food, shelter and other assistance for the truly poor in our society – they are pretty much the only ones with infrastructure and policy control to do so. I’m happy to pay more in taxes as well.
From middle class to poverty
Nobody in the third world would look at the standard of living in United States and consider it anything less than lavish. And if there is anything you have an opportunity to do here it’s the opportunity to live “The American Dream”
Unfortunately for far too many people that means expecting to live the American dream without the ability to afford it: We’re bombarded by the notion that everyone can afford a new car, carry an iPhone, Louis Vuitton purse and rock designer sunglasses. That everyone can live in a very nice neighborhood, take a two week vacation, save for retirement.. and hell, while we’re at it why not also a vacation home and heck one of us can stay at home and hang out with the kids. Hey, I know, let’s go to Vegas and push our luck at gambling too! #whatcouldgowrong
The numbers just don’t add up. Only actually rich and extremely well off (and stable) can manage to do that. Unfortunately, too many people indulge in that lifestyle but forget to save, forget to build and are instead left with that empty feeling that no matter how well things are going they are never quite good enough. Cause the guy down the street has more and damn it I need more too! So then they go into debt, whether voluntarily or due to an unforeseen emergency or setback.
I can’t help these folks either.
I’d like to help people that have a chance and ambition
Way too many people out there are working really hard and are one bit of bad luck away from losing it all. One rent payment away from being homeless, one big car issue away from losing their job. When you look at the numbers, an astonishing number of educated people have no savings and carry student loan debt that will take them nearly a decade to pay off.
And nobody gives a shit about them. Because they are young, “stupid and have the whole life ahead of them to learn” as I’ve heard often.
I’ve built my company and a major chunk of my wealth off that crowd so that is where I choose to make my contribution. In hope that some of those folks can start saving, can start putting away debt, can start building businesses and productive assets that will put them in the same place I’m in.
I don’t do it to be selfish or narcissistic to only look to support the people that are like me – It’s just that it’s the way that I’ve lived and lucked out so I feel it’s my responsibility to increase those odds for others. You can’t help everyone but that doesn’t mean you can look down on any kind of a handout. Help is help.
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Forgive me the lord for I have sinned. It has been 3 weeks since my confession. Apparently, some of you have noticed, so when I hinted I was working on something my buddy Julian nailed it:
“Vlad’s (de) Motivational Blog… Woo… Another face full of sand kicked in your face by the man at the top of the pyramid…”
Words are so very unnecessary – but I’m getting constant requests for info and business advice or money that one way or another always makes my advice sound like just too much hard work and bullshit that will take too damn long. So here is the cycle:
Cycle of Vlad Advice
I suggest something that everyone else isn’t doing. Immediately condemned as something that won’t work for edge case clients. I start building and proving a business concept. Further dismissed as too difficult, too unproven, too immature. I make myself and tons of my partners millions of dollars. Get accused of being too early, working too hard. I continue to do this for years, under the same flag, with one project after another. This apparently makes me abrasive, rude, disrespectful towards people that doubted the advice, ignored the advice, failed and now can’t handle the reality of what running a business is actually like. It’s easy to know what to do, it’s difficult as hell to actually pull it off, consistently, over time.
Which brings me to the question, lately, of why it’s worth to put out stuff in the open in the first place. For me, it’s a self serving process that opens up my stupidity and gathers enormous amount of feedback which eventually helps me beat the odds. But why the hell are you reading this? As a Fox News-like distraction is the most entertaining answer for me because I’d really like to stand in front of a chalk board and compare Google to Stalin & Hitler. But I digress.
I’m happy to do this for the people that are working like crazy on stuff because it isn’t easy. The whole “We choose to go to the moon because it’s hard” notion implemented in small business is about being the first, about informing and guiding clients, about implementing things nobody else wants to and being able to help move things forward instead of whining about why things aren’t working.
So if you’re doing it and it works, turn up the speakers and hit play. If you’re doing it and it’s not working, turn up the speakers, hit play and work harder. If you’re just sitting around, trying to break up a slow Monday, wondering what you’re missing and why stars just aren’t aligning while you’re dealing the crack from your vendors that have a gun pointed at your head.. well, hate on.
In case the embedded video doesn’t work, click here.
A. B. P. ALWAYS.
And sometimes blog something
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I’ve hinted about this on the blog over the past few months.. but the news is that I’ve completed my scaling back/out of the day-to-day operations at ExchangeDefender. I’m still the CEO, still the owner, still here almost every day of the week – but I’m no longer the person that will be here obsessively & compulsively involved in anything and everything you do.
Such a person is necessary in every small business. But once it matures and the foundations of a management team are built, an OCD person at the helm is no longer necessary. The process, operations, documentation and everything that makes that business grow and building & scaling that business is done differently.
In other words – I’m dedicating all my time to what I’m good at and empowering the great people that work for me.
Now that I have the Dilbert-style bullshit out of the way.. the truth is that we’ve become a big company and that I’m no longer a 20-something that had no problem working 80+ hour weeks to buy a Ferrari. Today I’m the CEO of ExchangeDefender, I’m working on Shockey Monkey and I started a financial business. I’m also a father and I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to be a weekend dad or if I wanted that responsibility 7 days of the week. I had a wonderful summer vacation with my two boys and I made a decision that being involved more in their lives and raising them right was more important than leaving a few more 0’s in their trust fund.
On a mental level, and this is so retarded I feel like bitchslapping myself for writing it, managing a big business is not what drives me. When you luck out and make an obscene amount of money, the tolerance for bullshit that you need to put up with to make just a little bit more feels enormous. And it’s not just the day-to-day stuff, it’s that for the most part things we do take weeks-months-years to play out and I just don’t have that attention span anymore. How do you know you’re no longer fit to be the most important person in the business? When that business serves people and the sound of the phone ringing is seen as an annoyance. I hate to say it but it’s true.
The summer off was a great test run for what this place would look like with me only being a CEO. It passed. The people that surround me are better at the job than I am, the direction we are moving in requires scale and man hours, the opportunity we have now (since most of our competitors are either gone or struggling) is greater than it’s ever been and I look forward to navigating it.
I took a long honest look at what I’ve built, where we are going and whether I had it in me to put in the kind of effort I used to put in. And as I’ve written here countless times, you can’t halfass it. The people that work here and our customers deserve better than what I felt I could deliver… so I’m making it happen – by bringing more aboard and pushing it forward.
What’s this actually mean?
1. I’ve already resigned or pulled out of all the industry/association/peer group/advisory council/feedback monkey/development forum/yadayada.
2. I’ve told my team not to expect me to go to industry events. No, not even the ones that come to Orlando. I know that sounds embarrasing but if someone wants to see me our place is very easy to find, we’re in the tallest building in the city.. Unless it’s a cool vacation spot, visiting Vegas in the summer and Boston in the winter is just not happening.
3. I will not be involved in day-to-day operations. So if you ping me at 4 AM on Facebook asking what’s going on with X, Y and Z I’ll go through the very same process you go through – pick up the phone and give a guy a call #putpagagac
4. I probably won’t be answering the phone. I’m sure lots of people are laughing at this one – but if you need me I’ll still be here send me an appointment request.
5. I will let my monkeys get a lot more social. Up until now people had a bit of freedom but whenever something serious was being discussed they would bring it up to me or get my approval. So things should move a bit faster now that they aren’t waiting for me.
P.S. Why not just sell? At our size, few places could afford us. And the strategic play for an acquired company with high profits is to cut the expenses (read: shittier service) and either load up with debt or roll up. That’s not what I sold my clients – and I think that strategically underestimates the opportunity that we have with the corporate communications demands. Why are other MSP vendors being acquired left and right for pennies on the dollar and why are MSP geniuses getting jobs left and right? Aside from running their businesses like it’s 1999, it’s because the pool of MSPs is shrinking and the number of opportunities is becoming limited as well. Why is Vlad not spending all his time talking about his migrations service? Well, because we are doing it, and because (if you attended any of those webinars) you’ve already heard me say the following: I don’t need all of you to jump aboard on this. I just need one person per area code. With the ExchangeDefender migrations business we go from desktop to server to mobile and do the hard grunt work for our partners – which gives them speed, scale and growth others have to build organically or overpay through the M&A – and really, to what end? I’ve made my thoughts on VC and industry direction quite clear on this blog for the past decade – and in just about everything I’ve been proven to be right on the money. So why would I want to give that up? What I didn’t count on.. is that one day I’d grow up and that I’d have more passion for different things.
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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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