SMB Nation Day 3: The Wrap


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So here I am at JFK getting ready to head home and I wanted to update you on everything that went down at SMB Nation yesterday and a nice look back at the great event that it was. No pictures, just text. 

As I mentioned, SMB Nation day two for me was all about the business track, working with the vendors and trying to find yet another way to involve IT professionals with the gurus that can help them grow the business and enhance IT skills. At one point during the day I was chatting with the guy in charge of CA’s products for small business and he was surprised that when he went into the tech session people were talking about business but when he went into the business session they were talking about technology. Paradox? Not quite. This is what its like working with the business consultants. When your professional role is recommending and supporting technology you have to evaluate both the technology and the implications it will have on the business where you will deploy it in. So when we’re talking about CA suite the guys in the room are not completely clueless as to what the product does, they are just trying to find ways to fit it into the business environment of their clients. When we’re in a business session like one Arnie gave on ConnectWise and consulting the questions tend to go in the way on how to implement the technology. IT Consultants are good at recognizing the problem because they have to deal with it every day but they are first and foremost going to have to deploy it before they take full advantage of all the process automating tools. One head, many hats.

I’ll be seeing Jeff at TechEd so I decided to skip that speech and go into a session with Ramon. Useful and very entertaining because he spoke about many personal skills everyone needs to have (or develop) to become successful. The question from the audience that really caught my attention was in regards to being personable and able to relate to people on more than technology. One of the attendees described himself as very shy and nervous when facing big crowds. He was not sure if he spoke too soon and wanted to know if these “personal” skills are inherent (something you’re born in) or if they are skills that can be developed. The response: absolutely, you can do it. 

If my personal experience will make you feel any better, I was always and perhaps will always be a systems engineer that ran networks, not people. I dealt with business people but I was first and foremost an engineer. When I was asked for advice I looked at it as an engineer: there is a problem, I am looking for a solution and I have to provide a specific response with both positive and negative impacts that are obvious. Yes, I’m shocked nobody tried to knock me out because I work with people like this today. The answer is yes, yes you can become personable. Yes, you can relate to people on more than technology. The answer is ALWAYS it depends, it is not an if..then..else..elseif {}. You do need to be persistent about it. If you doubt that, look at all the mumbles, punctuation and grammar errors and my unwillingness to use spell check. Think it stopped me from writing 500+ posts on this blog? Think its not successful? Well, you’re reading it.

After this presentation I went on to tape a few videos with the SBSers around the world. I was in some videos, they were in some of mine. Same principle as the SBS Show if you recall. The reason we even had the SBS Show to begin with was because so many people were shooting themselves in the foot with Exchange 2003 SP2 simply because they didn’t read the documentation. Well, Inside SBS by Microsoft PSS guys probably could not  level with people as effectively as we can in public: Hey, dumbass – RTFM. But we knew it wouldn’t work, so I figured “Hey, if they can’t read perhaps they can listen.” – few hundred line tests with Chris Rue and we pushed the first podcast out the door and it turned out to help thousands and thousands of people. Now I’m going to try it with video. Karl Palachuk was taping as was Beatrice Mulzer as was Harry Brelsford – I hope that you get to see these live, sooner than later. Look for the first one at some point this week. 

After lunch more business sessions followed. Arnie from ConnectWise talked about consulting. After his presentation Arnie had a dozen or more folks in front of his booth watching the ConnectWise presentation – what an amazing product. Alex from CA talked about the SMB Bundle product. I have to say that CA had almost a flawless performance until Alex started talking and he put it right over the top. I told him earlier that day to cut out the BS: “Do you think there is anybody in here NOT deploying an antispam, antivirus, antimalware solution for their customers? Cut out the BS and show them the product, you have to impress them to have it move to their customers” and he did. Matt did an encore presentation of his SLA which during the first presentation was packed and standing room only.

As I mentioned, CA was a nearly flawless host. Here are the complaints we had just to give you an idea. This is a security company – there was no Wifi – but it gave Bill from D&H to come in as a hero and give everyone that asked a free CAT5 cable. There was some confusion over which exits were to be used, but every time we had a question there was a CA person to escort us around. Could have used a bit more protein with the breakfast but I didn’t come here for free food so that’s a copout. Everything else was incredible. As I’ve mentioned over and over, this is the best SMB Nation I’ve been to. I mean, where else can you get this many experts to speak for $350 and get all the time you want to ask them followup questions, network with professionals all over the place. I was impressed. The size was just right. The location was even better – Dana and I even hiked back to the hotel one day instead of waiting for a bus – and we’re not little guys. CA guys were so nice. Honestly, for a security company they were remarkably hospitable and helpful. I wanted to record Andy Goodman and we couldn’t find a spot – CA guys gave us a room to use for the SBS Show taping. The network was down and they brought the whole thing up. Pretty much everything we asked for we got. 

The other upshot – this conference was so incredibly social. It was business by day, party by night. CA and ASCII treated us to an excellent launch party on Wednesday night. Amy celebrated her birthday here as well. Schrag beat up teenagers in trivial pursuit at a bar. Harry treated us to dinner in Manhattan. There were people crowded around talking and having a good time at every turn. I don’t think anybody was thirsty or hungry the entire four days we were here. There were productive conversations… everywhere and about everything. Got to learn a lot about technology, about business, about video recording, about mixing audio from a radio pro and I bet you don’t know what the fellow Security MVP Dana Epp is good at in addition to security? No, not pool. $5 to the first one that can guess it.

All in all, this was well worth the time and a priceless experience to take back to Own Web Now. If you’re in SMB as a consultant, as a programmer, as a techie or even as a vendor – you can learn something from this bunch.

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