Next chapter: Dubai
Posted: 9:00 pm
April 18th, 2014
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Boss

IMG_1444As 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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The worst thing about being nice
Posted: 8:09 pm
April 17th, 2014
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GTD, IT Business

buddhaGotta 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.

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Cool Stuff That Happened This Week
Posted: 11:14 am
April 4th, 2014
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Misc, Mobility

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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What’s on my mind lately..
Posted: 9:20 am
March 31st, 2014
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Uncategorized

It’s been about a month since I last blogged so here is an attempt to catch up by covering some of the stuff I’ve been reading and some of the things I’ve been discussing with my partners on the phone. It’s kind of funny that way, the opinions on topics range but the same topics and concerns are somewhat uniform around the globe.

Microsoft Gives Up on Windows
In the eyes of many financial analysts and those of us that listened to last weeks launch of Office for iPad – Microsoft is seemingly trowing it’s weight behind it’s Office cash cow and trying to make it more relevant in the new mobile world. With the new CEO and the 2% market share by the Surface it’s clear that Microsoft was never going to make any future play in the world of business productivity if it didn’t embrace the iPad completely.

If you recall, the reasoning for keeping the Office as an exclusive Microsoft property was the key reason for OEMs to build Windows tablets – except then Microsoft decided to compete with the said OEMs and none made any significant progress in becoming a viable brand. If you recall the WPC presentation about Windows 8 a few years ago, Ballmer was surrounded by what according to many of us that played with Windows 8 gear is a floating island of garbage – between convertibles, tablets of all different sizes, rugged tablets, AIO, netbooks – Microsoft couldn’t find a single winning product in the bunch. The decision to put everything behind Surface – right up to including the full version of Office and a free 8.1 upgrade was the real all-in moment for them.

It ended last week. Even the Google Chromebook branded cheap “laptops” outsold anything even remotely related to Windows and Microsoft.

Now with the new CEO and a new strategy, Microsoft is clearly thinking about becoming the business solution. Though as Microsoft knows really well, habits are hard to break: It’s what kept them as the most dominant platform for business for 20+ years. And this iPad move may be too little too late. You see, I also installed Office on my iPad the day it was released and it’s nice. It’s really, really nice. They have done a great job. But since then, when I needed to take notes I used Evernote. When I wrote stuff and viewed stuff from my staff, it happened in Pages. There is no reason for me to open Office on the iPad any more than there is a reason for me to open my Surface which sits on my nightstand, fully powered as a digital picture frame.

It’s too early to guess what the new Microsoft CEO will do with Windows, it’s definitely unfair to project it based on a single conference that covered the launch of a productivity platform for the dominant home and office productivity gadget. But what is fair to assume is that Microsoft is rapidly losing the battle with it’s own OEM effort with Surface, it’s Mobile offering is all about the camera and it’s competitors with Android and the cloud are getting far better with each passing day. They got Xbox though – and XBONE is incredible.

Bitcoin
This is a more international topic than something a lot of people in USA deal with but for something so plagued in scandal, mistrust, mystery and outright theft you’d think the Bitcoin was a work of US Congress.

The “digital currency” which IRS ruled last week was property not currency… sounds like an immigrant telling you about a brilliant business idea involving his home country. It sounds pretty good but everything about it sounds borderline illegal and you don’t want to die in a Bolivian prison. It has the potential to dethrone the US dollar as the worldwide Internet currency, yet even it’s largest exchanges are filing for bankruptcy after misplacing $200 million “in an old wallet it no longer uses..”

It’s somewhat interesting to watch… on one hand you can buy Virgin Atlantic tickets and a Tesla with it. On the other hand, you have that suspicion that bulk of it is used to pay for items you really don’t want to show up on your credit card.

We read your email but we’re not going to do it again
NSA reads your email. Damn government overreaching, we should accept free market capitalism absolutely – make everything a private enterprise! No more big brother!

Except when the private enterprise ends up spying on Outlook.com accounts to find out who is leaking Big Blue Microsoft’s secrets. Woops! So much for wasting millions of dollars on a Scroogled campaign (to promote something everyone already knows, that freemail Gmail scans your emails to embed context-related ads) and the safe and secure trustworthy Microsoft turns out to be KGB.

But don’t worry, you can trust Microsoft. They even put up a newsletter explaining how they won’t do it again. Even Obama is out proposing severely limiting the NSA spying operations to just somewhat unconstitutional.

The part that worries me is that these are the crimes that we know about. What else are they doing that we don’t?

Cloud Bubble
I was fortunate enough to live through the first .com boom and bust and the very same stuff is happening today. Quickly scrapped together companies, launching without significant revenues and coming out of business incubators, are taking their one hit wonders and cashing out the venture companies as fast as they can get to Wall Street.

The real harbinger of doom – a company whose mascot is more popular than it’s product and earning potential – has not yet appeared.

In the IT world
To be honest, I have been pretty preocupied with what we are doing over at ExchangeDefender to pay attention to the rest of the community. As a matter of fact, I am heading to my first (and last) networking event at CompTIA AMM. I’ll be on the panel discussing the changing face of a technology buyer. Unfortunately, too many of my MSP friends are sadly aware of this trend and it has put many of them if not out of business outright into a more unprofitable situation.

On my agenda is going global, perfecting our service delivery (more and more people are realizing they want nothing to do with email so we’re in charge of their email migration, support as well as everything underneath it from SPAM to hosting), extending our portfolio to the many integrators, developers, resellers and folks just trying to offer email solution more affordably as a part of a different puzzle. Personally I have a few other projects that I can’t talk about yet, I’m looking for a COO/zookeeper to run OWN on a day-to-day basis and really… to be honest, enjoying my life. I’ve spent the past decade on “we must do this, we must launch this, we need just one more thing” and with last years launch of migrations, support, encryption, compliance, Shockey Monkey HR, accounting and even the Unicorn there is no new “big” thing on the horizon – so at the end of March I’ve spent more time out of the office than in office. I hang out more with my kids, spend more time with my partners than with my employees, work on my other business ventures, read, run, drink.

Life is good.

And when you don’t have things pissing you off daily, it’s a little bit harder to find motivation to write about them and help people overcome the same problems I’ve faced in my career. If you want to know something, call me :)

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Service Compromise as a Service
Posted: 4:16 pm
March 14th, 2014
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IT Business

Ikea-2

Sometimes as a business owner you have to put your foot down and say: No, I will not do stupid things. But then you realize just how many stupid people are walking around with stupid amounts of cash and the only stupid thing is your ignorance and unwillingness to take it out of their pocket. As many of the people who have worked for me will gladly say: “Vlad never met a dollar he didn’t like.”

A while ago we announced that we are working on making changes to our Exchange Essentials product and we’ve spent the past few months looking at what our partners do with the service, how they sell it, how they position it and what we could do to help them out. I have my own opinion of the people that compete on price, but the reality is that there is a market for people that don’t have critical email needs and we can make money by adjusting our price and service points to fit the special needs.

Not to mention that this product has been growing a lot and with the upgrade to 2013 it made a lot of sense to take it much more seriously. So we did. We talked to people that sell the crap out of it, we talked to people that sell Office 365 and Google Apps, we talked to people that previously asked us about Zimbra, and we talked to folks that wanted Exchange Essentials but with full ExchangeDefender.

Then we went all IKEA on it – started with the price and talked about what we could include to hit that magic number. Then we spent a few minutes trying to figure out what our value proposition should be. We came up with the following:

  • Our platform will never go down, thanks to ExchangeDefender LiveArchive and Emergency
  • We do not compete with our partners, we will not try to sell any services to your clients
  • Your client remains your client: You market to them, you support them, you choose what to bill them

The first point was our own – we know what happens when you stick all your Exchange servers into a single data center; so we threw in several different business continuity solutions to be able to say that no matter what happens you will always be able to send and receive your email. That right there ought to kill any “so how is this different from Microsoft/Google” questions.

Then we looked at the list of reasons why people did business with us. After we eliminated all the “Because Vlad is sexy as hell” comments, the rest of them were typical business competition on price: We want to bill the client and we don’t want you to try to sell Office, Xbox, laptops, bags, phones or any other flea market grade electronic to them. Fair enough, I will do my best.

If you’d like to find out more, there is a webinar about this in a few weeks:

ExchangeDefender & Exchange 2013 Essentials
Wed, Mar 26, 2014 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/896377176

We haven’t announced the pricing but it’s basically head-to-head with what Microsoft and Google are doing. Which is what everyone really wanted.

I aim to please

Hope you enjoyed the infomercial. I know, everyone loves that fine ExchangeDefender SPAM but here is the real deal. For literally a year random people on my team would come up and ask why we don’t put together an Office 365-type product.

I’d send them away to do the research, calculate the compromises and then sell me on it. So they did.

And then they came back and tried to navigate me through the modern world interpretation of Dante’s circles of hell.

“So with these people you basically get the email to contact when the email goes down.  But they are super sure that it never will so don’t worry.”

“OK, this package here is an awesome deal but you have to prepay for a year and promise not to grow beyond 20 users. If you do, you have to blow the whole thing up and rebuy the next one up.”

“This one sounds great but their support chat gave me 3 different answers so I’m not sure what’s what.. but it sounds great.”

So I sat there and laughed at them as one idiotic compromise after another came up, pretty much getting ready to dismiss the whole thing. Until this line:

Now here is the funny part – what kind of an idiot would buy this? A reckless and uninformed one – and @#% makes a billion a quarter from them so here is what we are going to do:

Whenever I talk to my partners I either have someone sophisticated that layers a top of their own stuff on top or they are bitching about how @#% stole their client and they pretty much had nothing else to put on the table at $4.99 and they are out of the picture, permanently. So let’s stop comparing this to the kind of a product we sell here and build another product.

Half of this product is the solution itself. That has to be rock solid. The other half is the sales process. If anyone came into my office and told me they are going to cut me a really great deal on a mailbox at $5 and that the solution was only down about 3 days last year depending on which services you consider critical… I’d dropkick them in the face. But I’m not the guy trying to save $2 on email because I live in it. Many others don’t.

So let’s talk about marketing. We can make money on this? Let’s make money at this. But marketing this – it’s also not the same marketing for the kind of a product we sell. The marketing for this product is training partners how to explain to the business owner the extent of a compromise they are about to undertake. Making them think about how long they are willing to wait to get a response to a support question. Whether they want someone to be there for them on the phone or via email.

Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer to pick the solution they want. We build our services and products for our clients. Without them buying these solutions we’d be doing something else. So we’re building a product for a wider range of people.

Everyone aboard with that? You have one objective: Make sure the client actually signs off on the solution that they picked, so when they wish they got something else in the future… we can gently remind them just how much $ they are saving.

The moral of the story is, would you rather be right or be paid? We’re in business of getting paid, we have a process and a strategy and we push forward with that.

But if we have an opportunity to create another line of business.. who am I to discriminate against green presidents? Smile

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Internal Monologue On Compromises
Posted: 12:37 pm
March 4th, 2014
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Uncategorized

Porsche 911 is not just the longest running production vehicle, it’s also one that thrives in it’s niche as a flexible sports car and a versatile daily driver. In continuous production since 1963, this car continues to improve every year and take advantage of seemingly doing more with less, something that has become a matter of tradition. As have continuous pricing increases, with even entry level trims costing nearly $100,000.

2014p911

Part of Porsche 911 appeal are numerous PCA racing clubs in which Porsche owners regularly get together and spin their cars around the track for fun. So a guy goes and watches these 911’s scream around the track, he gets excited and decides this is something he’d like to do on his weekends. Time to get some adrenaline. So a guy goes to Porsche ready to race.

Guy: I’ve been a fan of Porsche 911 for years, I see them everywhere on the road which makes me think it’s a decent car I can drive to work, and I love the idea of racing.
Porsche Sales Guy: Oh yeah, you’ve come to the right place. Porsche has a long history of racing and as a matter of fact I have a few 911 GT2 and GT3 models over here that would fit that perfectly. But you said you’d like to drive it to work as well?
Guy: Yeah, drive during the week, race during the weekends.
Porsche Sales Guy: Ok, in that case you may want to consider the 911 Turbo – it’s a fantastic race car with tons of power but also tons of luxury and it’s easier to handle as well. I have one here for $146,000.
Guy: American? Does it come with this building, I just want the car? Oh dear god, no no no, that is insane – how much is the less luxurious model?
Porsche Sales Guy: Well this GT2 has a few tasteful addons and it comes in at $162,000.
Guy: Oh my god!!! You are insane! I don’t intend to drive this car 200 miles per hour, I just want a fun weekend car… What is this smaller one over here, I see those a lot as well.
Porsche Sales Guy: Well, that is a Fiat 500 Abarth, it’s a turbo charged race spec..
Guy: Yeah, yeah – tell me it’s not $100,000!!
Porsche Sales Guy: Well no, it’s actually $16,000 but it’s not even clos..
Guy: SOLD! Listen, I love the Porsche, it sounds great, but it says here this will go 120mph? That’s a ton and it’s all I’ll ever need on the track!
Porsche Sales Guy: It’s actually not something I would even..
Guy: Listen, it’s got the same looks, Fiat makes Ferrari’s so I’m sure this will be enough for me.

So the guy drives away in his Fiat and feels great about it. “That sales guy tried to take me for $160,000? What kind of a fool does he take me for? And listen to that engine roar!!!!.” It’s Saturday, guy takes his Fiat to the race track and lines up behind the Porsche “suckers” confident both in his car and in his ability to have a thrill and do so within the budget. So cars start piling out of the pit and the Fiat is right there with them “Boy, this is going to be a ton of fun!!!” but as the road widens and the others race away from his almighty Fiat the realization that this is not quite the same starts to set in. So the guy clears the curve and punches it on the clear straight road ahead of him. 80.. 90.. 95.. 100.. “I’m flying now,” as another Porsche pulls up right behind him, “How’s my smog taste back there in your luxury race car Mr. 911?” But just as he is about to high five himself they reach the curve and as the track starts to bank the car starts inching up towards the wall. Slam on the brakes! Turn towards the track! Sadly, it’s a little too late and the mighty Fiat races towards the wall ending in a crash and significant damage.

Next day the guy calls Porsche to yell and scream at them for selling him a broken race car. He threatens a lawsuit, asks for a loaner Porsche and claims he will even lose his job because he doesn’t have a car to take him there. Porsche must have been angry at him for being so smart and negotiating such a great deal that they messed with his brakes, suspension, airbags, safety equipment… “I came to Porsche to buy a race car and you gave me something that nearly killed me! I don’t understand why I need to pay for a Porsche when Fiat fits my needs perfectly – you guys must have messed with it!”

Now substitute MSP for guy, Vlad for Porsche Sales Guy, IT solutions for race track and the Fiat 500 for.. well, I don’t want to offend the fine people at Fiat by comparing them to what I see passed on as “cloud” out there.

The Backup Costs Too Much

This car dealer scene happens on my phone daily… Millionaires want a high end product that will give them productivity and the peace of mind but spending $2 extra month breaks the budget. Besides, what could go wrong? Until something actually does go wrong – and they are back losing millions and millions of dollars with every hour of outage sitting there in utter disbelief that technology could possibly fail and spending half the time yelling at a support person and half of it with their lawyer trying to figure out how to take a $2 compromise into a lawsuit to cover the millions they are now losing as a result of clearly negligent outage… in the middle of the day nonetheless!

Two weeks later they are back.. with the same sob story.. I need to make this happen but I can’t sell it at $15.. the client saw it for $3.

My internal thoughts are always as follows:

1. You can’t sell. You can’t explain the difference? You shouldn’t be in this business at all.

2. How the hell did I end up on a phone with someone that wants to sell IT to a customer that can’t make $20 a month in their budget? Why have I not hung up yet, even if this goes through with financial stability like that there is no way they stay in business.

I rarely say that out loud and I usually polish it up a bit but I’ve been burned so many times by stupid compromises that every time I am asked for one I immediately look at the worst case scenario. Not because I’m a pessimist but because I know that I will only hear it when their compromise turns out to have been misguided – and then it will be my fault.

So… I try to be polite, offer the value propositions and then I move on to people that are going somewhere. That’s my prerogative. But ExchangeDefender is a business with lot’s of people and lot’s of different opinions and target markets worldwide. So I am constantly pitched ideas and I want to introduce you to the unfiltered thoughts on how this sounds to me.

Vlad’s Inner Monologue

So we are being pushed to provide a cheaper solution so our partners can compete with others on price?

OK. Can we make money doing it? Yes? But not nearly as much and we’d be diluting our offering.

Well, what kind of ridiculous compromises would we be making? … Seriously? But that’s worthless, who would run their business on something like that? … OK.

So we make them sign a contract or prepay? Why? So we can be financially stuck to this bad decision for a while?

Oh, you mean by cutting our support levels on the product? So that the only time they actually need us they will be even more pissed off at us?

What’s the point of it at all, to have them upgrade to a better product down the road? That won’t happen if the very experience we thrive at and are scored the highest on is the very one you want to strip from the offering to make it financially viable.

So we can’t make enough money at this. It is clearly against our value proposition and everything else we sell. Our partners are digging a hole for themselves. Nobody can think of a single way that this realistically plays out well. The upgrade and upsell potential is limited. OK. Why the @#% am I being pitched this again?

Because our partners are losing out on deals that they shouldn’t be inking in the first place.

So our business model, of offering end to send secure messaging with tons of integration, service, support and single provider everything is going to be priced down to help people that can’t say no to something they know is a terrible idea?

At times I feel less like a CEO and more like a drug dealer enabling people to harm themselves even further. Now is one of those times. Now can someone please tell me why we’re debating a suicidal path over talking about our top tier partners and how we can help them?

Oh. Because we’re a business and in business people need variety.

Reality

My responsibility is to the team at Own Web Now Corp and their families. We don’t have shareholders – we have business partners – and our business partners are asking for something I strongly disagree with. But that’s the thing with partnerships: I am here for you even though I think what you’re asking for is friggin stupid. So I’ll help. All I ask for is that you don’t get mad when things don’t play out the way you had hoped and I send you to this blog post instead.

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How many value propositions do you need?
Posted: 6:22 pm
February 7th, 2014
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IT Business

Long story short: one. Is your business a highly skilled technology provider or a flea market with a bunch of random crap? Because, shocker, only one of the two is a high paying / high margin enterprise.

fleamarket

On my world tour with ExchangeDefender I’ve discussed this with a lot of partners as they list one obstacle after another that is holding them back and keeping them from breaking out to the next level. For most, perfection is the enemy of good enough: Remember how many people bought a Celeron-powered SBS server from Dell with 2GB ram just because it was on the back of a magazine? How about Windows Me and Vista and 8? In business you are constantly facing challenges and disappointment be it with technology or people – but the goal is to keep on moving forward.

One of the things that I am proudest of in my career is what we’ve been able to do with Shockey Monkey – we gave so many people the tools and services to help them establish an MSP practice and grow a process oriented technology business for free. Now I’m doing it again with the ExchangeDefender migrations, taking the annoying bits of work that IT people shouldn’t be doing in the first place, and giving partners that much needed influx or revenue and client base that can be serviced at a higher level. It’s all about defining your value.

Value Proposition

You only need one.

I’ve met many partners that get confused by garbage marketing toolkits and marketing copy in a trashcan or whatever the current hip name for writing essays as marketing happens to be. But Vlad, it works and it keeps me accountable! Yeah, but what kind of people does it bring in – cheapskates with essay like technology problems.

Your problem typically isn’t that you don’t offer enough value points. It’s typically that you offer the one that the clients care about the least.

Simplify it.

Why did the client call you. Unless you’re a mind reader the best way to figure that out is by saying the following words: “How may I help you today?”

MSP sales are ridiculously complex but the business decision (as in: the problem the guy who owns the bank account cares the most) is quite simple:

We have some IT problems that we don’t have the time to deal with and we want the problem to go away without causing others or costing us more.

Building your value tagline out of that problem should be relatively simple.

But if you hit someone with a 50 point bullet list like you’re Microsoft trying to sway someone away from buying Vmware… all you’re really doing is shooting yourself in the foot. The business owner is sitting there thinking: I don’t have the time for this 50 questions shit, I thought I called these people to sell me on saving me time from dealing with tech problems but it seems like I just got another inquisitive idiot employee. Hold on, let me let you talk to our technical person. If you ever got that treatment, you lost.

Business values are simple as is a company mission – be it one employee, ten or hundred. You exist to serve a certain kind of customer and solve certain kids of problems. Don’t try to copy someone you are not or market with the content that doesn’t appeal to the kind of a client you don’t want.

Define yourself and let the market come to you.

IT Business | Comments Off


Fixing Stupid
Posted: 9:31 pm
January 16th, 2014
1 Comment | Post a comment
Boss, Misc

Can you fix stupid? Can anyone, externally, fix stupid? Correctional facility system seems to think so. I don’t. Yesterday one of my friends offered her opinion on this topic and I felt it would be valuable to offer mine… because I often get asked what makes an ideal employee and what sort of qualities we look for.

stupid

First let me offer you my definition of stupidity:

Unwillingness or inability to learn and adapt.

Your definition may be different from that but as the university system has proven through so many MBA diplomas issued to people that wouldn’t be trusted with the fryer at McDonalds.. Just following basic directions and ability to regurgitate facts does not make you smart. It just means you can follow direction. Without someone beating you into learning, you would remain incapable of growing mentally.

In other words, you can’t fix stupid. You can inform a stupid person but when there is no willingness and no drive in them to continue improving.. all you’re really doing is creating a more dangerous idiot. Microsoft and CompTIA have a certification system and prove this fact daily by giving one moron after another the inability to understand technology and just enough skill to possess a license to kill IT & productivity.

So what’s the difference?

I hate to sound like the meme version of me but if you have to ask that question you are an idiot. If your boss sent you this blog post, s/he probably thinks you’re an idiot too.

The difference is that stupid people have a false sense of security that assures them they need no further knowledge or further ability/skill to deal with the world around them. You know “set in his ways” kind of a person. Stupid people are happy and even proud of their ignorance, they feel like they know everything they need to.

Smart people can’t stand feeling stupid and put effort towards improving and better understanding things around them. They don’t stop because they got a diploma, raise, promotion, reward – because it’s not about that. It’s about solving problems. Stupid people don’t solve problems, they wait for someone to tell them what to do.

It’s not merely a matter of initiative either, it’s a matter of passion. There is no end game at which you become “smart” (or “learned”) and that in part is what we look for when we hire people. We look for people that won’t sit there and stare at the screen waiting for something to happen, we look for people that see and understand the inefficiencies and try to do better.

But Vlad, I’m a janitor, not everyone has the authority to do stuff to improve the.. <shut up>

There is no point at which you start or stop being a problem solver. Problems are everywhere and everyone faces them: Yet a very small part of the population tinkers and changes and attempts to change things from the way they are. Road signs are out there because too many stupid people walked in front of a bus. Smart people spent a lot of time going over data for the criteria for the threat that shows the likelyhood that stupid people will kill themselves. They determine when to place signs, how to make them stand out, how to orient them. Then they send some dumbass to dig a hole, pour cement and stick a pole in it.

In my opinion, you can’t fix stupid. I’ve had a lot of stupid people work for me and all I’ve ever been able to do is make them more dangerous. I’ve also had a lot of smart people work for me – they came dangerous and through education they managed to become less lethal.

And that’s the difference.

Boss, Misc | 1 Comment


WTF is wrong with Vlad
Posted: 12:02 pm
January 14th, 2014
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IT Business, IT Culture

Today I had a remarkably good day, the kind you only dream of as a business owner. I hung out with my kids and my wife in the morning, got in to work at about 9am, had a few meetings and by noon I was on my way out of the office in a convertible to hang out with friends at Disney.

Naturally, I shared this on Facebook. Of course, none of this ever saw the day of light on Facebook. In all honesty, I have two Facebook profiles just to keep my real life separate from the industry life that so many people are either cheering or hating. To further illustrate this, I did txt a pic to an actual friend but asked him not to mention it on FB and got the following response that is pretty telling:

Hahaha I hear you man and perception is crazy different. I catch so much shit from people who think I don’t work which is far from the truth. I just don’t post about it because it’s not interesting!

You don’t take pictures of yourself when you’re sad and you tend not to be thrilled to share the rockstar events such as setting the budget and reviewing project progress. But why is there such a fascination with people that seemingly do nothing? Why is that the celebrated goal of business ownership – to not work?

I’ll spare you the rest of the post if you’re busy: You’re being conditioned by sales charlatans to believe that success is not found in work but in not working. If you truly and honestly believe that then you seriously need to consider your career choices. Now read on for some fun ranting:

Why is social media so deceptive?

Because it is used to sell everything from lifestyle to political arguments; and much like anything you read on the Internet you will percieve the message according to your own mood and not neccessarily in the light that the writer intended. If you’re having a bad day “Good morning” can sound an awful lot like “I hope you get hit by a car” when you read it online.

But why do people percieve that there is relatively little work getting done? Mostly because we have been conditioned to believe that the hard work is a suckers bet.

Why should you work smarter not harder?

Because unless you challenge the fact that success is an outcome of hard work you cannot scam people into buying a get-quick-rich scheme that is so prevalent out there.

Don’t get me wrong, you need cheerleaders. But they should be motivating you to overcome the reality that earning money is indeed difficult, not dumbing you into a false sense of security (another Facebook post):

Looking for a way to be more successful at anything? Hang around with, associate with and engage with people who are SUCCESS-minded people. People who focus on positive achievement and HOW to achieve success, NOT who find every cynical reason why something can’t be done…why it’s too hard, too expensive, too good to be true. Befriend people who don’t constantly gripe, complain and find fault. Listen to people who focus on SUCCESS rather than failure, the positive WINS rather than the struggle. These are the people who encourage you and BELIEVE in YOU in the moments in life when you don’t believe in yourself. Here’s a little exercise: Honestly assess what you watch and read…are they a fountain or a drain?

Beautifully said. When you turn off your skepticism, your instinct, your ability to assess risk there is no limit to what you will blindly spend your money on in your quest for the dream.

And that folks is why hard work gets a bad reputation: Nobody in their right mind would spend thousands of dollars on snake oil if it said you needed to break your back and even if you do everything right there are still odds that failure is possible.

Success isn’t found quickly by cheating and changing the odds.

Success isn’t achieved through blind faith and positive thought.

Success is found by overcoming constant adversity and setbacks, by refusing to give up at the numerous obstacles, dealing with difficult people and never taking your eye off the ball.

But you’re not going to fork over $1,000 to hear that bullshit. You want a turnkey business that’s an ATM that someone else magically refills with cash every month while you sip fruity drinks on the beach. You want to ski and sip cocoa in the winter, be on a yacht in the summer, work half days while your staff made up of expertly recruited flawless employees takes care of your never-difficult clients.

Wake. Up. Optimism, positivity, success-minded — it doesn’t mean what you think it means. It doesn’t mean ignorant of your problems, reckless with your money, irresponsible with your time management, disrespectful of your challenging clients and employees: It just means that no matter how big of a challenge you have ahead of you hard work is eventually going to make it happen.

And they don’t sell a bullshit kit for that.

IT Business, IT Culture | Comments Off


Our Community Initiatives 2014
Posted: 2:43 pm
January 8th, 2014
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ExchangeDefender, IT Business, Shockey Monkey

art-Qantas2-620x349I’ve made my opinions of the SMB IT events very clear in the past and given some of the humorous proposals we’ve gotten so far I can assure you we’ll continue to chop away at our schedule of 2014 conferences. I for the life of me can’t figure out why any IT Solution Provider would want to go to a large scale conference given how much of what conferences provide is now available online. That said, here is my travel plan for Q1:

Australia (Sydney & Melbourne) – February 3-8

Dubai – February 9 – 11

UK (London & nearby) – February 12-16

USA – All day every day Smile

Agenda in 2014 is primarily to help our partners grow faster by doing their migration and support business (why would you do all that work if someone is going to do it for you for free?) and in Q2 promoting the soon to be renamed Shockey Monkey for SMB.

ExchangeDefender 2014 Strategy Meeting

Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/164640976

Other Initiatives

This section is more appropriately titled “Count the ways in which Vlad was wrong” but here is the short summary: People don’t read anymore. When they read they don’t pay attention. Even those not easily distracted or otherwise occupied rarely take the time to implement what we deliver effectively. So all the support and handholding services that we’ve provided in the years past are effectively getting an axe.

Here is my math when it comes to business investment: If I have to spend $100,000 on salary and another $100,000 on promotion of the service/content and then burn another $100,000 supporting it all, I’m in $300,000. And ROI of this investment depends 100% on whether or not you read the documentation, attend the webinar, train and properly incentivize your employees to do their job instead of blaming us, etc.

Or I can just spend $200,000 on the entire project lifecycle and just do something for you directly. It’s on me to do a good job or lose the business and the return is nearly directly proportional to my effort not yours.

The math becomes pretty simple. I can either keep on burning tons of money trying to search the marketplace for the IT Solution Providers that haven’t heard of ExchangeDefender or try my odds at finding them on the month when their current provider did something to piss them off, or I could spend even more to go direct.. Or I could just focus on helping my existing partner base grow faster.

I can take what I save in this process and expand my other solutions into filling more holes in the product portfolio that businesses need and are paying for through inefficiency like crazy. One thing we’ve turned up in virtually all of the migrations we’ve done so far was a messed up and completely crackheaded way small businesses collaborate and manage correspondence. The way some route mail or assure responses or customer service is so insane it’s a minor miracle they are using computers at all. In my opinion and with a few tweaks all of these folks are potential Shockey Monkey clients and I have another solution that can print money.

For more details please tune into my webinar in two weeks. If you’d like to meet on my trip along the kangaroo route let me know as well!

Love, -Vlad.

ExchangeDefender, IT Business, Shockey Monkey | Comments Off







 

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