Archive for the 'IT Business' Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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 more info
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.
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I’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
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
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!
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It’s the new year and the opportunity for every blowhard to blindly toss their darts on the wall of IDC and Gartner data and proclaim the next cash cow. And with that in mind, the future is robots and drones which through a innocent mistake by the summer intern flip the bit from delivery to repossession and Amazon ends up with everything you’ve ever bought for them. And they’ll need it – in 2014 Amazon gets hacked beyond belief and needs to fortify it’s headquarters to keep angry customers who lost their life savings in the identity theft. Google comes out with a car that can drive itself around the obstacles placed in the road by Bezos & Co and Microsoft naturally responds by adding smartphone functionality to a NERF foam rocket launcher, marking it’s most significant innovative contribution to the field of security since retiring ISA.
I don’t know about you, but that’s sort of how I feel when journalists that don’t work in the IT industry take guesses about the industry. Kind of how like I’m a world class chef because I’ve seen Mario Batali cook a trout on Food TV.
That said, here is how I’m spending my money.
Unemployed on Easy St
The bottom of the IT world has fallen out and it will continue to erode. There can only be so many Verizon employees out there and IT ain’t hiring: If you’re only capable of answering simple technology questions and following a simple cookie cutter process this is going to be a rough year.
The reality of our industry is that everything that is easy is getting automated and everything that is automated and measurable will be controlled by the vendor in order to eliminate third party middleware from becoming a part of the picture.
It’s not just mobile, it’s the variety
So many people predicted that BYOD and MDM were going to be the biggest change and indeed the solutions arrived with a massive thud of indifference. Truth is that everyone is concerned about the mobile and sees it as a major game changer in corporate IT – but the reality that nobody wants to spend a lot of money for something that doesn’t manage 100% of the end-to-end solution is the rude awakening to the dream of controlling everything and anything – especially when the corporation doesn’t actually own it.
Going forward, the challenge will not be “managing” these devices but pointing out the issues and addressing them before they become a problem. This means having data to back up issues related to how the work gets done and reacting to changes quickly. A year ago it was all about getting a handle on iOS or Android, now it’s a matter of a lot numberswiki.com
more than just two mobile operating systems.
It’s not maintenance, it’s project
Getting paid just because stuff works is no longer a viable future business model when stuff doesn’t actually break a lot. If you’re in the camp of “But my clients still have XP, it will take a long time for…” I hope you’re actually investing those profits to be ready for the future that not only doesn’t have Windows XP but has a built in video help system that came for free. Would you put any of your techs in front of a webcam and stream them to your users?
The area where IT talent will continue to be massively profitable is projects with organizations that made massive investments in IT and need to keep it up. There are still ads for AS/400 admins out there.
I like a lot of what Vlad says but I don’t agree with all of it
Translation: “I only like the opinions that fit my own biased view but the rest of it is just crazy.”
The way we look at the rest of this decade, as far as where we can play, is to focus on the backend services that will help consolidate the massive surge in different services people rely on. Email remains the single sign on protocol of the Internet and also the single point of transaction records or backups (everything relevant to what you do on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc is also emailed to you) – not by accident either, all these services need to find a way to keep dragging you back to their sites – and if you aren’t typing in the URL or launching the app then they need to prompt you to do it: Facebook wants you to wish someone a happy birthday, LinkedIn wants you to congratulate someone on their new job, Pinterest thinks you’d like to turn an empty roll of toilet paper into a cable extension organizer and the former Prince of Nigeria still needs your help to get his billions of dollars out of his war torn country.
We are aligning our business (ExchangeDefender) with our partners and taking over mindless tasks related to email migration projects. We are extending the service management to include these new communication protocols. In a way, we’re using our size to grow the portion of the business that doesn’t have very exciting long term prospects in order to have a larger deployment base for the service that helps manage multiple communication and notification networks.
Truth is I can’t build a Nokia and I’m not brave enough to launch a drone: But I know that business gets done through talking and so long as I can make sure people can talk (and can keep the content of their conversation secure) I’ll be alright. All the gadgets, fads and hype in between is just noise and we don’t get paid for that.
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My head is spinning from all the amazing conversations I’ve had this week and I wanted to offer a bit of an explanation regarding my animosity towards VC involvement in the SMB space. As I hinted previously I am working on building another business and have had the “pleasure” of spending some time with the attorneys and consultants that specialize in the financial world. On one hand I’m incredibly thankful these folks exist, on the other hand it makes me long for the good ol’ days of $500/hour IT and corporate law attorneys charge. Yes, my butt hurts.
And on the subject of anal rape, why the hate towards the VCs? First of all, I don’t have a problem towards the model itself – venture has a place in the world helping larger companies get even larger, helping fund projects banks would otherwise refuse to undertake, helping finance complex deals and provide the means for all sorts of debt reduction, leveraged buyouts, etc.
Which in short is the exact same reason no small business (let’s say under $100m) should ever deal with one. But don’t take my word for it: Go talk to someone that has taken funding without a clear exit strategy that involved the IPO. What they will inevitably tell you is that even though the VC typically steers away from day to day, they shackle the kind of big picture and strategic moves that help small companies make it big.
But how could this be? Isn’t it common knowledge that VC is the very fuel that helps companies grow in the first place? Yes. Big companies. That you can count on your hands – the rest of them are in essence private money that is putting the money on either red or green and only hoping for the ball not to land on black. They’ll take losses and they’ll take big wins but nothing in between works. You can’t just build a highly profitable business with a long term strategy: You have to blow it out of the park so they can either win big or cut their losses.
Now that you know..
What is the lifecycle of a funded company that doesn’t go public?
Well, they’ll let it ride forcing big moves and expenses. While the illusion of grandeur (most of the time a delusion) makes things look amazing the course is to make even bigger and bolder bets.
But once things slow down a little, things get ugly. The employees that are working below their market worth get antsy because they want to be bought out. Things are always on track, everyone is winning (except the employees) and you’re just one step short of retiring to your own private island. But then your boss starts getting really interested in your expense report. And your hours. And your conversations. And increasingly trivial big projects while the costs are cut left and right. How can a company be blowing up big time and at the same time selling it’s Aeron’s on Craigslist? Because it’s being gutted, books cooked and working towards being served to a scrap buyer that might make more with it than the sum of it’s parts.
While this may sound ugly and heartless, this is the norm and this is the process. These folks aren’t evil, they are after returns. I ain’t mad at them.
But the part I don’t like is when a small company, who let’s face it lives or dies on the passion of it’s founders, is shackled and distracted towards someone else’s agenda. This is not VC’s fault: they aren’t funding you to believe in the magic of your dreams. It’s more of a steroid shot.
Borrow money from the bank: It’s your name, your credit, your decisions, your call all the way. But get taken over by the VC and well, for the convenience of not having absolutely assessed risk you are trading away your ability to control your own destiny. Yes, even if you own 49% you’re still a minority and now you work for whoever owns you.
That is my beef with the VC world: People do business with people. And when that trust is broken and it’s a matter of customer vs. logo and everything else be damned, the small business and innovation loses it’s spirit and it’s potential. I have seen so many friends and so many great business and ideas get ruined in this process.
And it’s that process of killing a successful long term business that I mind the most: When people take a shortcut that both mathematically and business-wise leads to a fundamental change in the values. Because people aren’t throwing money at you to keep on doing what you’re already doing well, they are doing it to maximize the leverage and get their returns to grow faster than they would than if they gave you a loan.
Money is simple that way: It just wants to make more money.
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Thanks for your concern, I appreciate it.
Pretty misplaced though. Things have been going so well that it’s hard to believe and I’m one of those folks that doesn’t really get much easy in business: so when everything is going well I try to figure out the ways it could all go to shit in a heartbeat and stay ahead of it.
The migrations business we introduced in October has been insane. We will be launching a hiring spree in January that will likely double us in 2014. Shockey Monkey and our mobile solutions have been maturing and due for a huge release shortly. Ditto for the Unicorn remote support and monitoring tool.
That said, the move from a pure software to a service business has not been easy. Far from it, unfortunately. Even though it’s been a grueling, grunting, bruising exercise it’s what gives me faith that we will more than double and become an irreplaceable component of our partners strategy in 2014 and beyond. Here is why:
Every time we get burned on some service aspect I hear the following: “We need to better define what we will not do and not touch so we don’t have to do this again.”
My response is always the same: No. It just means we need to ask more questions and define a better process for it the next time.
If you can sufficiently define the scope of what you’re willing to do and not there is no limit to the amount of business you can lose. And in real life people don’t grade on the curve or love you for what you do for them – they judge you by how often you’ve failed them and how many mistakes you’ve made. Trust me, I’ve got refund checks to prove it.
So how do we move this forward? Well, as I discussed in this weeks webinar it’s all about surrounding our partners with the end-to-end solution: marketing that makes sense, process and support that extend it beyond just tech work, mobile strategy, support strategy and coming soon – a training strategy.
The strategy of the service business is simple – do whatever it takes to get the user to the cloud, once there make sure they leverage the power of the cloud. This has been a bit of a tough bargain between me and some partners that want their clients to be limited and kept in the dark on many of the features but what’s the sense of going to the cloud if you’re going to keep the same crappy process that’s gotten the on-premise solution to choke in the first place? A lot more on this later.
Although I haven’t had the time to blog here as much as many of you would like, I did also hear and notice that the “channel” has been kind of quiet too. It’s a sign of maturity – by now all the hype has kind of died down and only a handful of vendors have proven themselves to be trustworthy and capable of innovating and moving their partners up.
The rest are being unwound, cost controlled and being financially book cooked for a sale (garage or rollup); it’s a natural progress of any business particularly the short sighted one.
As far as I can tell, IT in SMB is doing really well or it’s going out of business entirely. It’s somewhat polar: few really big winners and many losers. And when you’re doing really well but see the carnage of Marketing-In-A-Can and Indian-In-A-Box MSPs and VARs all around you then you probably thank your lucky stars and try not to brag too much about it.
I of course wouldn’t really know much about the humble part but I know this much: It’s one thing to be a perpetual hype machine and quite another to be a valuable revenue generator. Any jackass can throw a great show and be the next big thing, but after the champagne bubbles out and people go back to work and start solving true business challenges they are back to dealing with the real world problems and people problems. That’s where we’ve been for years and that is where we’re moving to become even more valuable in 2014: It’s just a whole lot more work. But given the choice of more work or unemployment is an easy one: None of you would make it working at a Verizon store.
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Before I share some seemingly pessimistic and insensitive commentary, that is written in a hope of helping motivate you, let me say that I understand and I relate:
I too am pissed off about not getting stuff I don’t deserve. I don’t like many aspects of what I have to do in order to obtain the kind of life I want for my family.
But I have no other options. I’m just not pretty enough for porn.
Now that we have the Vladville tone firmly established, let me share a post from Facebook that I thing highlights the challenge of compromise in corporate America – and how it transcends the plight of minimum wage and is even present in every day mental handicap of many people you may have working with you across all levels of income.
Mixed feelings on this one… Yes, it’s sad. Yes, that is what happens on minimum wage and it’s sad. But if that is not the incentive NOT to stay at the bottom and show 0 effort then I don’t know what is. No, not everyone can be a CEO and not everyone is going to get to waste 4 years in college, but “I do my job, give me more than you agreed to pay me for it” is not going to end well. That IMHO is the true “entitlement” in USA, expecting more for not doing more — not the food stamps that help people that get stuck in minimum wage temporarily.
Now every time you post something about doing the bare minimum the defense points from the more compassionate people are always the same: 1. Minimum wage is not livable wage 2. Many people cannot afford to move to a place where there is more demand and thus higher pay for unskilled labor 3. Employers should just pay people more. Fair points but unrealistic in the economy and legal system we have – income disparity is in place to reward people who can maximize profits. End of conversation, you can disagree with it and bitch and moan about it’s unfairness but it’s all about the highest score at the end of the game and nothing else matters.
Now, I shared the above in the typical Vlad compassionate way and was told the following:
“This store is 5 minutes from our house, and it says a lot more to me about opportunities here, than Walmart’s wage structure. We are a community engulfed in brain drain, it’s not that people don’t strive to provide for themselves, but far too many of them have to leave here to accomplish it. I’m sure you are not often accused of being an optimist Vlad, but incentive and hard work don’t seem to be worth as much here.”
The key word is “here”: If your work is not being rewarded then you need to get the fuck out of “here” and move elsewhere.
The Solution To Economic Class Warfare
Walmart is not an inherently evil corporation, it is an American corporation that behaves in the same soulless way that they all do: their job is to maximize corporate profits that are reinvested in further growth or dispersed as dividends to it’s shareholders who spend it, donate it, reinvest it or otherwise. In order for Walmart to continue to grow it needs more demand and more people.
Raising pay would be a suicidal move for Walmart because it would impact it’s margins or raise the cost of goods sold which would make it less competitive with Target/etc. So don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
The only way Walmart, McDonalds and other minimum wage sweatshops will raise their wages is if there is less available labor that is willing to work for minimum wage. And how do people stop working for Walmart? Education, moving to an area with more opportunities, starting up a business, etc – it starts with people not willing to put up with shit deciding to make a change.
But most people don’t want to be inconvenienced: I like where I live. My family is nearby. I don’t have the time to get a degree or enroll in a vocational program. I don’t want to move. I don’t like those hours that pay more because I want to spend time with family. Insert $WHINING $BITCHING $MOANING, it’s someone else’s fault.
And you see, fellow Walmart Associate and everyone else unhappy with their pay, it is not someone else’s fault that you are making excuses instead of doing something. That is not injustice, that’s your inability to accept inconvenience and sacrifice. If you look around a little and see a whole bunch of people doing better than you.. unless you are surrounded by Kardashians, those people had to go through a lot to get where they are and they feel very little sympathy for you.
Wishing and hoping and praying may make you feel better but that temporary comfort will not change things or make them any better. As much as it may appear that some folks have it easy, barring something illegal, in this country we work for rewards. Yes, the more you work the more disproportionately you get compensated eventually compared to those who show no effort at all, but knowing that fact.. right now.. you have the opportunity to do absolutely nothing or do something.
An optimistic person would tell you the truth and implore you to work harder towards what you want. A pessimist would blame something instead of doing anything.
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Diet mountain dew and obsessive attention to detail can be a blessing and a wonderful combination. I recall chatting with someone a few years ago about plans and goals on MSN Messenger a few years ago and talking about how I wanted to get married and start a family and a whole bunch of other stuff. Some came true, some not so much, other stuff way above what I could have expected.
Which brings me to todays topic: You gotta have a plan.
Not too long ago this was one of the most hectic weeks in my life. I had to coordinate and micromanage every little minute of it and often ended up with 20+ hour days. No, I didn’t have to – someone else designed and produced the collateral, managed the schedule, lined things up – but I was involved in every little tiny detail of it all. Not because I didn’t trust my staff, but because I had a plan and I wanted to make sure we did exactly what I wanted to. I rewrote the marketing copy (a few times), I tried to track people down for meetings to get feedback on what we were doing, I for some dumb reason even worried about the booth..
In 2013, this week is just another week. I’ll be doing my actual job as a CEO with an hour or two of showing my face during the ConnectWise reception and the party on the last day. The rest of it will be handled by my team, much like it is done every other day of the year.
I’m not gloating here, nor will I be sitting on a beach sipping a mojito out of a watermellon, all I’m trying to say is that all this didn’t happen by accident. This was planned, took tons of excruciatingly long workdays and unwillingness to give up through a lot of failure. I didn’t find any magic products, I had no amazing epiphanies along the way, I didn’t invent anything. It was just hard work and not drifting too far away from the plan.
And I’ll highlight this because I think it’s important:
One of the most disappointing things about this industry is the lack of respect for hard work.
I love this industry. I think we’re among the smartest folks out there. My criticism towards it’s less than reputable (or outright criminal members) makes some people think I’m a dick – and fuck them, they are entitled to their opinion. But I have not and never will have any respect for people expecting a shortcut or a handout.
If you’re stupid enough to think peering up, copying bad ideas from people who are no longer in business, attending events that are only designed to sell you junk you don’t need, are always on the lookout for the next big thing while refusing to grind it out for the opportunity that is right in front of you… then you deserve nothing but to be robbed by the people telling you that you don’t need to work.
Everyone in the IT chain knows what needs to be done, they know what the clients ask for and are both smart and creative enough to make it happen. Few of them make millions of dollars while the remainder of the crowd makes millions of excuses for why certain things don’t fit their model, don’t have enough margins, don’t have enough time and make no sense. So they troll through life, barely making a single digit percent worth of success year over year, still “working on it” while fawning over the bullshit mill and the few successful people that say the same thing – it’s all about effort.
To those of you that are in Orlando this week – welcome. I hope I bump into you. Carpe Diem – you won’t find anything new today that will drastically change your fortunes, the good thing is you already have everything you need all you need to do is stick with the plan. Good things happen.
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One of the more annoying themes in IT is the lack of understanding that anything valuable and complex takes time. We recently launched a new service at work and I’ve spent the past month on the phone talking to people and discussing some common problems and issues we have with the business / people and the fallacy of impatience.
I need huge margins and immediate results. I understand, I need to lose 50lb in one day but the only way for that to happen is if I chainsaw myself in half. Nobody wants to clean that up – and I’m pretty sure it would be less of a legal challenge than if you took that chainsaw to your clients Exchange server. Yet many people want to do just that. Ain’t nobody got time moment.
Since this is likely to only be valuable to people that don’t have a long attention span I’ll make it quick: Nothing good happens fast. If you have no experience and you think you can fix a problem in a split second because everyone around you is an idiot, grab a buddy – use them as a human shield when you earn your “experience” and something blows up.
When it comes to complex issues, particularly the ones involving the cloud and infrastructure / process shift, it takes time. You won’t be a millionaire by the end of the week. Or month. Or a year. But that doesn’t mean you just turn your back to it and wait for it to errode you out of business – ask all the Geeksquad MSPs how well they are doing next time you visit them at Target, Car Max or another IT vendor job – ignorance is not a business model. It takes time to build, promote, sell, implement and sustain a new business line or a new product and if you’re just hoping to find that next “set it and forget it” piece of IT then it’s going to be a rough winter.
I have (a lot of) projects that fail. I don’t want to give you an impression that I have any magic solution to failing, just my process for handling failure.
1. It starts with planning. All new ideas come with plans, tracks, stages, estimates, priorities, outcomes, scenarios and so forth. Most crackheaded ideas don’t even see the light of day.
2. It’s sustained through monitoring. You have to stay on top of your plans and you have to keep on checking how things are going. Everyone at every level of management will tell you that their reports are task avoidance ninjas, trained in the art of avoiding any hard prolonged work. Quick bursts of output, no problem. Repetitive mindless droning, got it. Six week project with deliverables, unknowns, research, etc – it’s due in six weeks, right? We’ll worry about it in 5, I’m stalking something on eBay. If you aren’t paying attention to your business nobody else is.
3. It lives and dies through evaluation and persistence. How is the plan progressing? Has anything changed? Do we make changes or push forward?
Ineffective people fall on the opposite parts of the spectrum: They either get consumed in their projects and never get anything done and don’t know how to quit… or they quit at the first problem they encounter and don’t give their projects enough time to develop.
I want it all and I want it now. But I don’t want to take the time to get there and I don’t want it to require hard work. Who am I to say you can’t dream?
But waking up in the IT services landscape we have today paints a picture of ridiculously complex and overpriced infrastructure that never lived up to it’s billing, competing with a cloud infrastructure that is seemingly free and easy but it’s really neither. The challenge of bridging the two for a business is a difficult, painstaking and process oriented task that will be neither easy nor quick. And that’s your job. Embrace it, take it and build a business around it.
Or look at the alternative: It is quick and easy and nobody needs you. Your call.
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While we haven’t yet officially announced the biggest thing we have on deck this year (because we want to talk to our partners about it first and there are many of you and most of you don’t pick up the @#%@ phone) the details of things that are coming along with it are starting to pop up as is the usual partner chatter and the never-ending bitching from my competitors who just can’t get enough of my missteps to make it seem like “we’re not listening to our partners”.
But you know what.. record numbers came in again. Record month, record quarter, record year. And I didn’t have to suck Arnie’s dick for it.
So with all due respect, kiss my ass.
Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way..
Let’s discuss something that has been on my mind all year and that is the subject of vendor responsibility and the right fit for the MSP.
Which in itself is a mindfucking misnomer because the job-hopping channel chiefs seem to be in consensus that all MSPs are pretty much the same and (if you kind of squint on their PSA/RMM/BDR choices). And as 100% of my former employees who knew how to run my business better than I do while being completely incompetent at the task they were given, I am going to offer some fucktastic advice for you to ignore as you try to decode the fountain of channel chief bullshit being spewed at a smaller and less occupied side room
To a vendor, you the MSP are the channel. That faceless, mindless, numbfuck ninja that can get past the executive gatekeeper / IT guy in charge through your cunning use of body odor and Gilden cotton shirt with a BBQ stain on it.
As the channel chief looks down on you from their elevated stool the airport Hilton facilities guy stole from the bar, s/he
(let’s not be sexist here, tits are tits) thinks the following:
What the fuck have I done wrong in the life to be stuck here??? I guess this is better than being back at home with the wife that hates me or the office that I can’t stand but how much longer can I keep up this shit show of having these idiots fail at selling my shitty half baked solution till the last of these morons gets a real job? What the fuck do I tell them?
I am here to help you make more money.
Sell this shit right here, your clients can’t get enough of it, your business needs more revenues.
And friends, they aren’t that wrong: The typical MSP is just an animal that needs to be optimized for a maximum sell-through. The only problem is that the animal farm MSP they think they are talking through/about died last decade. You can’t get people to sell more shit because the end user got a lot smarter and more informed while the MSPs diversified far from their RMM-watching days.
The industry got better. To be more specific: The part of the old VAR/MSP industry that thrived looks nothing like that stereotypical case-study guy that’s at every IT roadshow talking to you.. because he wants a job!
MSP / VAR / ITSP Perspective
You’ve heard the same sales pitches about the same crap a million times before. The only thing that has changed is the logo.
The reality of the MSP marketplace is that it matured in a way that many didn’t want it to – instead of the “come to your friendly local MSP pawn shop, we’ll sell you yesterdays technology at last decades price” – the smart people ignored “Just do anything for money and sell all of our shit because we came up with this cool 3D poster” and instead specialized in different things. Some went into health care, some into legal, some into VoIP and communications, some into mobile, some into…
This is infuriating to a software/hardware/solutions business that no longer has your complete and undivided attention and a cookie cutter mass sellthrough solution is no longer appealing.
The coming age of conflict, as has come up in many of my conversations with service providers over the past few months, is in the realization by the vendors that they will have to do a lot more work to remain a relevant piece of the puzzle because you have diversified your business away from what was traditionally seen as IT.
The traditional IT got commoditized by the MSPs (remember how we pulled the plug on the in house IT employees last decade) and the workstations/servers are rapidly becoming commoditized by the cloud and mobile devices. With less gadgets to monitor and patch you have to move up the food chain.
This natural evolution of our business has a casualty: the incentive to do the hard, ugly, difficult and messy “must not impact business operations during business hours” job is now not the primary revenue driver for most small business IT providers.
Simply put: The vendor community has a much higher incentive to do the hard work than your typical service provider who frankly isn’t interested in making cents on the dollar and is chasing 3 digits rates per hour.
Not everyone has received this memo yet. Hence the bitterness and misplaced anger.
The future of MSPs, just to arrogantly pile you under the same convenient panel moniker, is in working with vendors who effectively supplement the business model to eliminate headaches or boost profit margins. With the traditional IT becoming a commodity, this business is no longer about maximizing revenues “to keep your lights on through the effective use of an RMM platform that” – it’s about finding people who will do as little or as much work as needed to get the solution implemented. Smart and profitable MSPs are diversifying away from being the provider of the commodity service and are positioning themselves as the expert part of the overall solution. You’re just no longer dumb enough to be the conduit for it all that assumes the most liability while getting the least margin in return.
The vendor community now has to bend itself to fit into the MSP / IT Solution Provider business model and do so in different ways (branded, white label, full service, licensing only, software with support contracts; because different MSPs will rely on the same vendor for the same product at a different level of involvement depending on the client, business maturity, other business projects and opportunities, hiring cycle, etc)
Good for you. The line between solution providers and vendors is blurring. Which yes, brings some competition & friction, but elevates service levels and brings the common interest closer to the top.
As for the swag dispenser road shows.. Well, I don’t want to say anything rude.
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