Vlad’s Lexicon

IT Business

I built my midmarket practice at Microsoft Across America tours. You know, the Microsoft Big Day / Microsoft Connections morning show that runs along with TechNet, MSDN and before TS2. Not ashamed to say it, for years I would get in my car and drive around Florida handing out USB drives, CDs that I cooked myself, flyers, newsletters, business cards – I hit folks up with every cheap marketing ploy I could use to get more contacts, more touches, more sits.. I often say how I copy Microsoft in my SMB approach because I spent more volunteer hours than anyone I know watching Microsoft pitch and seeing what customers write down, what makes them tick, what makes them roll their eyes. Want to know why I am so successful? Because I saw a few thousand SBS pitches land in sand before I ever had to deliver one myself – no, I haven’t lost and no you won’t find me writing a book about it. It’s not a big secret why we’re the biggest SBS shop in the world. This is why I’ll part with gold teeth to go to WWPC even though I get $0 leads from them, life is a lesson.

Microsoft Connection ends, being the nice guy that I am I’d always help the presenter collect the surveys, give away the swag, help the ladies with their printer to the car.. the usual “in the south” stuff that you’d never imagine me doing having read this blog. So eventually I would start staying for the TS2 stuff because Indy or Sean or JJ became friends as I was spending more and more time at these events. This is where I learned about the true Microsoft Partner breakdown, one of which Mike clued me in last week, so let me share it with you.

As usual, I am talking about YOU:

Are you an SPF?

SPF – Single Point Of Failure Consultant. Usually one guy but at times can have multiple minions around him. Easy to spot because in addition to selling IT services it also abuses child labor laws and also has six other businesses to go along with it. No business card though. Is a Microsoft Partner supporting hundreds of sites worldwide but has not heard of the Microsoft Action Pack.

MO: Sell & Bail. Sell SBS, hopefully illegal, destroy the network by taking it back to P2P and move on to the next victim.

SPF’s in my mind are pretty much criminal operations to being with. You’ve encountered them, you just don’t know them because they fly at night and do not have an identity associated with them. That guy, our accountants friend, the college IT kid, are the usual names associated with them. Not IT people, not in it to build a business, in it pretty to take a quick buck and move on. I look down on these people.

Are you Riff Raff?

Riff Raff – Legitimate IT operation but not interested in excellence or keeping up with times, trends or certifications. IT shop without appreciation for business, without appreciation for time value of money, scale of business and solutions in general.

MO: Know one product, know it well and will support it till blue in the face. Will sit at an SBS box for six days while business is down without calling PSS to fix it in 5 minutes “because you don’t learn anything by letting people fix it for you.”

Most of TS2 audience. I don’t look down on these people but their business model and my business model are completely opposite and I just can’t relate to them. I don’t think they are evil, they just need to be open to more ideas and suggestions and not be so stuck in their ways.

If you sold SBS to a rapidly growing company with 50 users.. you might be riff raff.

If you still aren’t a Small Business Specialist because you don’t need a certification to tell you that you’re a small business specialist (oh, and ignoring all the benefits of it).. you might be riff raff.

If you refuse to ask for help because you are the brightest thing out there.. you might be riff raff.

If you don’t know what a blog is and are too busy to learn.. you might be riff raff.

If you spend a majority of your day uninstalling spyware instead of learning how to manage it, users and businesses that get overwhelmed with it.. you might be riff raff.

*New* From Mike: IT Lifestyle Partners

IT Lifestyle Partner – Individual who makes a decent living off IT but is not interested in growth beyond what is neccessary to sustain their lifestyle. Not overly opportunistic, not sales or comission motivated, true asset to a small business because they take it first and extend their years of experience as almost an employee and only do whats in the best interest of the customer.

MO: Have a customer for life.

I am obligated to kiss these guys asses because they make up roughly half of my partner program. The age does not seem to be a factor in this equation (it’s not just retired folks) but hakuna matata plays a big part in their professional approach. They objectively look at customers demands, recommend what makes sense for the practice and just walk away with the check for their time. You will never hear/see these guys because they do not climb to the top of the partner programs because they are not concerned about forcing as many sales as possible in order to retain their Titanium Partner status within the organization. They have no sales goals, no Ferrari dreams, no pressure; they just make their living doing whats right and are compensated for their time. This is also why most don’t know about this tier at all, because advertising and pressuring folks like this into sales goals and product tryouts just does not work.


SPF-RiffRaff-ITLifestyle Mashup

I had a baaaaaaaaad day on Thursday. It is usually when I’d ring up a few folks and head to Margaritaville to drink my troubles away, but that just isn’t possible at 1 PM. So I got in the car and went to see my buddy JJ knock out 150 PPT slides at a TS2 event – gotta support the locals community and all. The absolute best part of TS2 are the impromptu polls, I ALWAYS turn around to see what people say. So, let’s do the numbers. Well over 50 people in the theatre (usually well over 100,200 when they hold it at Waterford)

JJ: “How many of you are SBSC’s?”

5 people raise their hand. Ok, so we’ve got 45 potential riffraff in this audience. At least they came out to see the show, right, at least some investment is being made into the business. Let’s give them a benefit of the doubt.

JJ continues the deck, goes through business opportunities with System Center Essentials, explains EHS, answers Q&A about MAPS, Partner Program, SBSC exclusive benefits.. bet you there are more than 5 next time around! Anyhow, the show ends. I walk up to chat with JJ, answer any audience questions as the Official CH (Community wHore) and the SPF comes to self-identify itself.

I have at least six witnesses to this so I am not using this lightly. These people came to the event. These people sat through 4 hours of technosales pitch on stuff that is about as close as you can get to TechNet. They asked questions took notes. These are people that fix someones computers, these are people that sell servers, workstations, IT solutions. What did the SPF ask?

SPFer: Every now and then my computer goes blue and starts writing memory to disk. I see it with customers too. What would cause that?

Now most people roll their eyes and try to take a seat, quickly, while I’m pulling out my SPF rubber stamp to nail a warning to this persons head. “Inspected by Vlad: THIS INDIVIDUAL IS A CRITICAL THREAT TO YOUR NETWORK.”

So, where do you fit?

17 Responses to Vlad’s Lexicon

  1. DMackie says:

    Mate as I said earlier today, many people may fit in a few categories, and depending on how they see different aspects of their business. I’m pretty happy that people can look for themselves, and have the confidence to see where they might head. Perhaps call it Core IO for Riff Raff heading from basic to dynamic one day at a time.
    Take care hope this week is better for you.

  2. BobMuir says:

    Hey Schrag, we’re no longer SPFs; now we’re “Lifestyle Partners”! We’re moving up in the world. Although… it kinda makes us sound like we’re into wife swapping. 😮

  3. Karlp says:

    The last story is hilarious.

    I think that guy was at the Launch even in Sacramento in February.

    Do you think he moved?

  4. Schrag says:

    Hey, Bob, glad you’re not the only one who thought of me after reading this post. I was wondering if I was being a little narcissistic. 8^)

    There’s an adult video and “novelty” store down the street from one of my clients called Lifestyles. Maybe they’ll give me a discount. 8^)

  5. vlad says:

    Maybe they’ll give you a volume pricing break 🙂


  6. juddspence says:

    SBSC is not a high priority for me.
    In fact, I can honestly say, I will never become one. I don’t need a printed document to prove I can implement SBS properly.

    Experience, to me at least, far beats certification.

    Of course if I did, I could work at Geeks. Or I could a get a job installing countertops.


  7. Schrag says:

    But Judd, of all the MS certifications/designations you can get, SBSC is one of the easiest. And there are tangible benefits (albeit not overwhelming ones). Just do it.

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  9. wmiwmi says:

    I’m not sure how I fit into this…
    So let me get this right… I’m not an SPF, not Riff Raff, not Lifestyle (I want my Ferrari)… I must be running a business… a rapidly growing business. Well, running, but not owning. Killing myself selling, keeping up to date technically, blogging, mentoring employees, doing cross-team projects, attending non-technical training…. Perhaps I should reevaluate why I do this. It seems that – according to Vlad – I should just be picking up my pay check. In fact, that was pretty much my takeaway from SMB nation last year… so many of the conversations I had started with… “what do you do… “, “are you an owner?”… and pretty much ended up with “You don’t really fit in here…”. And when I look around at TS2 events and 90% of the people fit into the SPF category, it really makes me wonder – how do I fit into this community?

    In fact, if you go back and read Vlad’s posts over the past few months that have something to do with employees, or business… they’re pretty de-motivating if you’re not an owner. So really, why am I doing this? If there’s no big payoff for me down the road… shouldn’t I just be a good employee? I guess I should. But I can’t help myself. It’s been about a year and a half since I got tuned into the SMB community. We’re growing at 250% annually… hiring people, doing new projects, new challenges… it’s exciting. Though I suppose it would be more exciting if weren’t running someone else’s business.

    So, does anyone else “not fit in” around here? I wonder where I should go from here…

  10. vlad says:

    My blog is not written for or by an employee so looking for an answer here will not get you far.


  11. wmiwmi says:

    Perhaps my comment strayed off-topic… should have blogged it. To your point… I realize that. I guess I should either put the entrepreneur hat on, or take it off.

  12. vlad says:

    SMB community, for the most part is a community of owners.. anything else you’re just a plain ol’ ITPRO to be honest, there is no difference between you and the guy that works for Bank of America watching after 4,000 seats.


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  14. wmiwmi says:

    “just an IT Pro”… I see your point. I work in a business owned by someone else, and run the SMB IT services business independent of the rest of the business. While we provide some services into the parent company, I’m primarily responsible for the SMB IT services client base… so wearing the “IT pro” hat, managing/adding staff and their loading, doing “sales/marketing” and lead conversion, managing scope and budget, pricing, negotiation, and so on. I “feel” like business owner… certainly stress and workload… just without the ownership piece. Still just a plain-old IT pro? Maybe… but I wonder where my skill-set would fit in a different organization. If my value-proposition is really just an IT pro, I should probably re-focus on being exclusively technical in order to get ahead, or be an entrepreneur… and what I’m hearing is that this middle-ground doesn’t make sense.

  15. vlad says:

    Oh, in that case I definitely misread you. You might want to talk to Chris Rue, he used to do what you do for a CPA before he lost his mind..

    Your role is basically called “golden handcuffs” and is a state where you’re sufficiently motivated and compensated to the point that you don’t want to risk it (handcuffs) to become marginally more wealthy (golden).

    I don’t know that there is a “community” for IT managers out there but I’m sure between the ITPRO and SMB you can get enough value from both.

    And don’t get me wrong, golden handcuffs are an awesome problem to have, there are days when I’d trade this whole place for a canister of gas and some matches, the grass is not any greener on this side. But it does have Ferrari tire marks all over it.


  16. wmiwmi says:

    Thanks for the direction… I’ll grep around Chris’s blog, and maybe ping him up for some input. As an aside, the cuffs aren’t quite so golden as to completely hold me back. I’ve put myself in a position where I can afford to fail, just need to work on an exit strategy… (fully realizing that not risking anything will just get me what I got). Thanks!

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