Archive for the 'IT Business' Category

Two of the most obvious secrets to success
Posted: 10:22 pm
November 29th, 2014
IT Business

That nobody talks about because nobody can get paid off of them.

holeIn my new life in the cash business I spend bulk of my time exchanging ideas with some very smart people that spend a lot of time pouring over government employment and economy reports, of which this past week was full. Long story short, it sucks to be poor in America and it’s going to suck even more. But I don’t want to talk about bashing the poor, I want to talk about the business practices that will keep you out of the hole. Namely, two of them:

Avoid Envy

I’ve never really understood the passive complex of sitting around and expecting someone else to give me a cut just because they are doing better than me. If anything, it’s always been a mentality of finding out who is doing well and trying to do what they are doing.

If you’re sitting around in the paralysis over comparative analytics (which is what many of you that went out of business constantly questioned me about).. just stop. Worry about your own business. Beyond knowing what is working and what others are charging it’s on you to build a profitable business. Otherwise just go buy a franchise.

Be Flexible

There are tons of opportunities out there. Tons of really great paying jobs. Great career advancement possibilities and perks. The only trouble is, nobody wants to move to Buttfuck, South Dakota or #holyshittherentishowmuch, San Francisco.

Far too many people get hard headed about things other than making money and then wonder why they eventually can’t make more than scraps. The line of “forget the cloud, I’m making thousands in margin on every Cisco device I move” is stretching around the unemployment office (where you’ll find those same masterminds). 

Long story short

Find out what others are doing and if they are doing well, copy them. Even if it’s uncomfortable, little money is better than no money and I don’t care what the late night infomercial or unemployment IT festival speakers told you: making money is hard. So just come to terms with it that nobody is going to cheer you up, everyone will try to beat you down – and unless they are about to do your work for you f em and just keep on working.

Do those two and everything is gonna be alright. Or preoccupy yourself with the circus and you’ll soon find yourself in it.

Your choice.

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Conflicting Messages
Posted: 10:26 am
August 20th, 2014
IT Business

Personal note: Sometimes I lose sight of how many new people come to Vladville every time I post something – god bless social networking, folks forward stuff around and like a boomerang I get buried in an avalanche of emails from a new audience. I’d venture to say at least 95% of my communication about this blog and the IT/SMB community in general flows through so feel free to email me but sometimes.. honestly.. I just delete it all.

The other day I wrote about the #1 Problem the MSP Industry faces and in a nutshell it’s that nobody is interested in doing the low level grunt IT work of dealing with the mess businesses have with poorly thought out technology process and purchasing. This is a threat to vendors because there will be fewer people selling their junk, threat to service providers because there will be fewer talent interested in a career of IT plunging (get the visual?) and the entire ecosystem can collapse. I’ve gotten enough feedback on that post to write a thousand blog posts but instead I’ll just try to address some of the misconceptions.

“How can you be so negative on the MSP industry yet so positive on the MSP prospects?”

My buddy Norb actually laughed at me for calling it an industry. And yes if you go to an event it does look like the gong show.

There are two perspectives First, those of you new to Vladville may have misunderstood – I’m not a journalist. I’m a CEO of a technology company (ExchangeDefender) so I have an insight into what people are buying, what people are getting rid of, I talk to thousands of partners around the world and I also offer a free business management platform at Shockey Monkey. So I obviously have a business bias and a very large footprint of actual business data that I draw conclusions and opinions from – I’m not a research company analyst pulling numbers out of thin air because my English major college education left me mentally incompetent to tell what software and hardware business executives are lying to me about.

Second, I have a very large following through Vladville and a massive worldwide audience that I may not do any business with at all – so lots of IT employees, Shockey Monkey users, people I met at shows. This is my reality gauge, what are the people that don’t think exactly like me doing.

Explanation: We tend to form our opinions based on the evidence we only have direct access to and see with our own eyes. Hence my negativity towards the gong show, deception, lies and degeneration of leadership to people that should have a warning label on their face. But I have my business which is growing, I have numbers at Shockey Monkey which are growing, I’m investing in new and different services and I see a ton of potential for a way to make money.

“I’m still around so the notion that the business model of dealing with old technology is bad is wrong”

This argument is so old and so pointless I kind of don’t even want to touch it but I’ll say it again: If you go to a Radio Shack you can still by a VCR tape rewinder. Yes, Radio Shack is still out there – when was the last time you went to it? And yes, people still both build and sell VCR – so yes there is money in it but only like two companies do it and all thanks to scale. So maybe nothing really dies when it comes to technology, but just because something isn’t dead doesn’t mean companies should follow the same plan.

For tons of reasons. First, it’s hard to find lots of talent that will be excited about working on the legacy IT. Second, it’s hard to finance a technology that is slowing down in influence – so a startup or a small player doesn’t stand a chance at all. Third, the talent needed for it and third party support are hard and expensive to find (hence the $105k for a AIX / DB2 admin ad in the newspaper; their current DB admin is 90 years old and about to die and they need a replacement). You can go on for days.

Explanation: There are two wrong assumptions in the IT business – that you must chase every new fad and that you can build a massively growing and profitable business on a dying technology. Typical scare tactic “If you don’t get into this right now you will go out of business” and “There is still a ton of money in Windows XP upgrades that you can’t afford to miss” both ignore the fundamental need for every business survival: being rational about how money is spent and how easy it is to get a new profitable client.  

“Why do you constantly beat down the very same people that give you money?”

Some people are just negative by nature. So they look at my criticism of certain things here and they consider it to be a destructive force. I can’t really explain that, how exactly does a blog someone writes in his spare time produce a real and actual negative business impact? It’s just words.

Something I wrote got you butthurt? Good!

If something I wrote here makes you feel so insecure about it then work on fixing it. I don’t wake up every morning high fiving myself about how awesome I am, I look for areas in which I can improve and what I can be doing better.

World has enough insincere cheerleaders. They want you to feel good so you can buy their crap now – they have quarterly numbers to hit. I on the other hand want you to be better and build your business for the long term.

Explanation: Just because things are good doesn’t mean they can’t be better. I am not a cheerleader and I don’t write for the sake of my personal pleasure or for the hits – I write this blog because I can’t respond to thousands of emails that come to me and I’m tired of having the same conversation. I am trying to help IT and SMB folks grow and avoid mistakes and commit to discipline and long term improvement. If that sounds like a beatdown… perhaps you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

“The way I see it, complexity and mess means profits! Less competition? Good!”

Indeed. Except things don’t work like that in reality and that’s exactly the wrong kind of a business you want to have in the technology field unless you are a sadistic person that loves daily dose of pain and punishment.

For example, working with Windows XP. And not the pretty part of paving and reinstalling a box ravaged by a stream of viruses and no backups – I mean the ugly migration of a third party app that has to work with the specialized printer or other equipment that is obscenely expensive and way out of support. If that’s your dream job, rock on, carry on my wayward son. If that’s what you want to do till the day you die or retire…

Profits? Complexity means something entirely different in the IT world. It means very specialized, extremely expensive and time consuming to train workforce. It means long hours, uncertain project deadlines, anything can go wrong at any moment and oh god please tell me we’re charging for this by the hour.

Most IT companies don’t get lawyers wages. Most don’t have enough of that highly specialized workload to keep them busy which means that their most expensive labor is on a contract employment basis. And the profits are skinny.

Less competition being good sounds like it would make sense but.. in a slowing business opportunity cycle it’s cheaper and easier to acquire businesses to grow than it is to market and win new clients. Less competition also means less talent that could potentially work for you. Smaller ecosystem = bigger growth problems.

Explanation: Where most people have a hard time understanding this conflict is in their business process design. Are you building a business model with a 5 month or a 5 year expected life cycle? Some people don’t even think about a month out because they have a service business and their profit margin is fixed – so they aren’t making an investment in people, technology, training – hence the confusion. There is another twist here: growth. Are you building a business that’s going to grow at low single digit percentage or double to triple digit percentage? Depending on all these, you may have a different perspective.


Carrying on from the previous comment is a business model: I Just Wing It as a Service.

No shame in that, it’s a business and if it makes you money, I’m happy. It’s like that consulting meme – if you’re not a part of the solution there is good money to be made in prolonging the problem. Don’t mean to crap on you at all.

But again, perspective and business design. The goal is to build a long term growth business that can survive without you and that can be massively profitable without additional work. And that “scale” doesn’t come when you wing it, it comes when you invest.

There are two things you need to do in business (yes, only two): 1. Get paid. 2. Pay bills. Getting paid is something you can get creative about – but not paying your bills will get you messed up quick. So most businesses need to have a very predictable and very reliable cash flow. For almost all of us, that is dealing with legacy solutions that we are good at, that don’t change much and that we have minimized costs in over time.

Remember what I said about being rational – you can’t ignore things, you can’t irrationally chase everything, you can’t not invest in the future and you can’t have a business without a plan and a business model. If you think you can then go become a plumber – much better hours and people are actually happy not to fight over your rate if you’re holding the plunger and their office smells like shit.

Highly profitable businesses have 3 lines : legacy cash cows, currently developing operations and future investments.

For us, legacy is SPAM filtering. Currently we’re making a killing in hosted exchange and cloud services. The future for us is in service and business management / collaboration auditing. But that’s me – and believe me, I’m making a ton of money killing SPAM.

Most businesses fail to take the future investments seriously. Why? Well, it’s hard, it’s expensive, there is a great deal of risk and uncertainty. And they never build massively profitable companies. Why? Because the reward for that risk is being the first mover and making the legacy cash cow really, really, really fat faster.

Namely, people that pushed Exchange and the cloud stuff when I started to in 2007 already have tens of thousands of seats that they just collect payments for. Meanwhile guys that are fighting for them right now are getting those lazy businesses, with tons of baggage, difficult IT and tons of other problems – causing them more issues, more desktop time, etc. Could the investment in their marketing and deployment of Hosted Exchange been the same as betting a business on virtualization? Sure, and they would have been screwed. That’s why you don’t follow every idiot standing on the stage pretending they know your business better than you do. But hey, if you don’t know your business well enough to be able to make investments then you shouldn’t be running it. Back to the plunger.

Explanation: Some people are just risk averse. It’s a personal preference. Majority of the people I deal with though aren’t trying to defend their Windows XP business with a spork though – they want that cash cow that they don’t have to feed daily. The only way you get there is with long term planning, investments and risk. Don’t like risk, don’t want a fast paced fast growing company – that’s your choice and it’s not a bad thing. But most people I talk to want a new boat, longer vacation, Ferrari, paid college tuition, etc. Getting there is hard and that’s what I try to do.

In Conclusion

First, people read the written word and make opinions and impressions based on their own mood, experience, circumstances, etc. This is not the word of god, this is the word of Vlad and it’s just my opinion.

Second, I’m not a braindead cheerleader. My passion is helping people improve and grow, not give them a false sense of security and a free tshirt so they’ll like me.

Third, perspective is important – I write for and I’m the voice of the people I interact with. Lot’s of people. Around the world. In different industries.

And they are all looking for a way to grow and reach a level of financial security. So we have two options – we can all throw our $ on a big pile and start buying lottery tickets. Or we can slowly help each other improve one day at a time and make $ in the long term.

Now turn it up!

Have a great day Smile

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The #1 Problem MSP Industry Faces
Posted: 11:43 am
August 18th, 2014
IT Business

Still on vacation so I haven’t been jaded enough by the daily grind to offer much of an opinion on Vladville but I did chat with a friend that attended a conference over the summer and he offered the following observation (paraphrased):

So there is tons of opportunity out there in tons of different directions.. but the only thing I haven’t been able to find is a large number of successful business owners that have launched into these new tech fields – just one or two vendor prize cows that I’m sure are more there for a free vacation..

In a nutshell, even though the MSPs and VARs have been dying in droves, few have found a way up the food chain or fish in the wide blue oceans many industry experts fantasize about: and the #1 threat to the entire MSP ecosystem is as follows:

Nobody wants to do any actual IT work anymore.

What automation didn’t kill off in the terms of IT personnel – well, the cloud has been finishing off. Meaning the only good MSP food is the most poisonous one: dealing with the clients that have neglected their IT, that received bad advice, that are extremely or unreasonably cheap or limited in their willingness to touch new technology. And once you do try to untangle the mess you’re mostly stuck looking like the bad guy who broke a perfectly functional car made out of glass and ice cream.

The problem for the vendors is that without the new blood coming in to do the grunt work the pipeline dries up, the acquisition of new accounts becomes more difficult and you see what we have now: Vendors with limited prospects getting acquired for close to nothing (ie: “Financial terms not disclosed”) to private or venture interests with hopes of going IPO in the industry that isn’t growing rapidly. In other words: the greater fool theory.    

Real Grunt Work Sucks

Technology solutions come in two ugly and unappealing ways for the MSPs. The first is the easy/cloud/appliance model that completely eliminates the MSP in virtually all areas. There is literally no business model to be built on this and the relationship is typically large-Fortune-500 direct contract with the client. Some like to play on the edge (“We’ll manage your iPhone for you”) but most are finding very slim profit margins and more PITA – so they do it for the sole purpose of keeping the account.

The other model – grunt work – is still there but more often than not gets off on the wrong foot due to the complexity in the existing infrastructure. Things sure were easier when everything wasn’t connected to everything else, huh? There are seemingly two ways of doing it: Plan excessively and kill your profits up front or plan and roll out in stages and kill profits and opportunities over time as one thing explodes after another. I kind of like this model because it funds my business model but the real problem for MSPs is..

Do as I say, not as I do..

Bad leadership. You can hit up Vladville from 5 years ago and read about how the Master MSP thing was gonna work out. When you saw those things folding up and those folks getting jobs or becoming unemployed coaches you could have concluded, as I had, that the model just doesn’t scale and the only massively profitable way out was through the greater fool theory. In this sense, the biggest fool on the block was Best Buy.

Time to despair? If you’re an MSP, hell no. It’s important to have perspective and it’s important to understand your best interest. It is in your best interests to minimize costs, maximize profits, scale and replicate the business model far and wide. But that’s not what you’re going to get from the stage full of vendors – because that is not in their best interest – they need you to get the solution in and get out of the way. They need you buying more tools, getting more stuff, more seminars, more training, more expertise and more SWOT – don’t spend money scaling your business and getting more clients, how the hell does that pay the guy who makes you think that you just need to turn into a Walgreens and sell everything and double up your income from the existing client base that already thinks they are paying way too much for IT and hate seeing you at the top of their A/P every month?

If you have a bleak outlook on the technology business you’re either in the wrong business or you’re listening to the wrong people. And they are coaching experts lowlevelvendormanagement unemployed for a reason.

Edit: I kind of forgot to wrap it up there – my point is that the biggest problem the IT industry faces is the fact that nobody wants to do any actual grunt IT work because bulk of the promotion at the shows and other outlets is on simplicity and easy business. And if it were easy everyone would be doing it, not going out of business. The faster you come to terms that your rapid growth depends on your willingness to get dirty, the faster you’re going to grow. This is what we embraced at ExchangeDefender a year ago when we announced we’d do migrations to our hosted Exchange for free – yes it’s more expensive for us to pull off and it is about as glamorous as working the fry machine – but we’re growing and that’s not something you hear a lot out there these days. My motto is actual $ over opportunity to make $, any day, every day, all day long. 

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Time To See The World
Posted: 11:01 am
May 16th, 2014
GTD, IT Business

As I mentioned over the past few months I have been scaling back my responsibilities at ExchangeDefender to only a part time affair (about 30 hours a week; and trust me, that’s part time here). I’m just a CEO these days – meetings, phone calls, clients and a few trade shows. I also started a new business this year so don’t worry, I’m not bored.

This summer – from late June through late August – I will be on vacation. Multiple continents, cruises, countries and so on. Timmy and I are packing our bags and doing what we do best – getting lost. And I’m taking you with me (virtually, sorry wifey doesn’t approve more adoptions). If you’re not following me on Facebook, feel free to add me / follow me.

Listen… Over the past 17 years I’ve built and sold multiple multimillion dollar lines of business. I have a great team that runs the show and makes me look good. I don’t owe anyone anything, I’ve got more cars and bikes than I know what to do with and I have made more money than I’ll be able to spend in this lifetime unless I decide it’s time to build a Ferrari collection. I get to work when I want to on what I want to and I apparently get to take a 2 month vacation.

I’m not gloating

laferrariGetting to this point wasn’t easy. It didn’t come without sacrifice. And most frustratingly: nobody cheers the workaholic. You don’t get to have a bad day, you’re working too hard and need to take a break. You don’t get to complain about problems, you’re working too hard and need to take a break.

Oh, and people tell you that your wife is going to leave you. A lot.

So listen.. building and running a business isn’t easy. It’s not without sacrifice, hard work, risk, worrying, mental anguish and emotional bullshit employees and clients put you through. But I am a living proof that you can make it without screwing people over, without winning the lottery and without an IPO. All it takes is time and persistence and the ability to filter out bullshit.

So if you’re struggling right now and trying to build great things.. hang in there, work hard.. I’m taking you on a vacation with me. Let it be a motivation that some day soon you’ll be in the same spot.

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Would Jesus eat brisket on Sunday?
Posted: 10:43 am
May 5th, 2014
IT Business

Conversation I often have with my wife:

Katie: What’s on your mind?
Vlad: I have to get this done by tomorrow.
Katie: Aren’t you the boss? Turn it in late?
Vlad: Nah.

What “Nah” actually means

Part of being the boss and being a part of the team is that it’s 100% on you to set the agenda and see it through. If you don’t feel like working, if you don’t feel like deadlines matter, if commitment is variable on your mood, if it truly doesn’t matter.. then perhaps you shouldn’t be the boss and moreover, perhaps you shouldn’t be working at all. Further question than becomes: Who would want to work for you and who would want to rely on the company that’s managed as a side hobby?

brisketFor example, I’m a creature of habit. I like to give money to people that treat me right. If I wake up on Sunday and I feel like eating brisket, I go to my favorite BBQ place. If that BBQ place is closed, I go to the next BBQ place. Guess what’s my new favorite BBQ place? Not the one who took their own personal needs and preferences over mine.

Business is about self-interest, you are in business to make a profit. But you will never make a profit without customers. While nobody will know how hard you work at maximizing the benefit on both sides of that equation, if you aren’t pushing the organization forward then who is?

Anyhow, that’s at least the lie I tell myself to keep on going.

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The worst thing about being nice
Posted: 8:09 pm
April 17th, 2014
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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Service Compromise as a Service
Posted: 4:16 pm
March 14th, 2014
IT Business


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

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


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.

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WTF is wrong with Vlad
Posted: 12:02 pm
January 14th, 2014
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 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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Our Community Initiatives 2014
Posted: 2:43 pm
January 8th, 2014
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

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.

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