Over the past few months I have had discussions with many of you as the race to the cloud picks up pace. This post is not so much about the cloud as it is about encouraging you to manage your technology business correctly.
First: Come to terms that the future of your business depends on your ability to manage a business, not IT.
Second: Peer up – you need a wider view of the industry than your office walls. With respect to the IT gurus, coaches, legends, experts and grandmasters, many of them have barely been successful at one iteration of IT – few have ever been able to transition that success into the next wave of technology (which kind of goes without saying; if they knew it they would be doing it not trying to sell you advice).
Here is the not-so-secret secret: Your current lines of business need to finance the emerging technology training and marketing. As one line of business sunsets the profit margin on it should be significant and can either operate on a skeleton crew or be farmed out to someone else for profit.
Your business needs to become more about marketing technology than fixing technology.
This is a very stark contrast to how most traditional IT Solution Providers got here. Many sold hardware with a huge margin, deployed software and management service for that software at an even bigger margin and dealt with a handful of vendors. Fast forward to today: margins are tighter, there are tons of vendors, IT personnel is unqualified or extremely expensive and everyone is starting to compete for the larger piece of the puzzle.
So what can a small company do that Microsoft, Amazon or IBM can’t?
Microsoft doesn’t do house calls.
IBM doesn’t do them unless you can put a lot of zeros on the check.
Personal service still has an immense value but it needs to be focused and structured.
For example, Arnie Bellini’s Modern Office concept was a good suggestion a few years ago when he talked about looking at your clients office and trying to manage all of the technology they buy. Today the very notion of “office” is changing – with mobility, collaboration and productivity – companies are far less interested in buying stuff and far more interested in getting things done. Many of you are facing the same frustration when you try to do your own pitch for the modern office pie – you often find the device is already managed by someone else, would be unprofitable for you to take on and sometimes the very vendor that brought it in is pitching for your IT services pie.
Even though this process is frustrating – and companies are buying less stuff – they are spending a lot more (more than ever before) on services. That is where you need to be. Coincidentally, “services” tend to displace “stuff” and there is far less comparable shopping among services because they don’t come with a SKU and an MSRP.
So which service do I start offering?
Whatever Vlad Sells.
Whatever you can explain sufficiently enough to sell to the client and make someone else do the hard work without you spending any money.
Start a newsletter and a blog covering things on Mashable. Focus your time as the CEO at being the rainmaker of these technologies in your region, industry, vertical, audience. Explain how these services make sense for small/medium/your business and tell them that you’d gladly help them make it work for their business.
Why should anyone hire you? Couldn’t they just go and do it on their own? Yes, if they are one man shops with nothing to do between browsing freeones and lunch they would. What you find in most companies is that people have jobs in order to perform a given task. If they aren’t performing that task (and have time to goof off on mashable) then why are they working here? Let’s get some better employee monitoring software!
Companies are desperate to manage the growing amount of unmanageable information that they need to stay on top of. Technology is becoming more mainstream and the security of that information is soon going to become a big deal for many.
When Microsoft killed SBS it didn’t really kill a product as much as it just removed a crutch so many small business IT consultants held themselves up on – truth is so many of you are selling so much more than SBS/Windows/Office as was the case in the early 2000’s. There is far too much stuff out there and nobody wants more of it. They want new solutions – even if they don’t make as much sense even if they aren’t cheaper even if the experts are against them – because they have gone as far as they can down this road of accumulating stuff and they want something simple. They want something disposable. They don’t want stuff that needs to be managed and babied – they want crap they can get fast and dispose of quickly when they no longer need it.
I have been fortunate enough to receive many bad pieces of advice in my business life – listening to my clients about the solutions they want to buy has rarely sent me in the wrong direction. Do likewise.