Happy Thanksgiving Folks! I hope spending time relaxing, hopefully with family and the ones you love is recharging your batteries and making you look forward to cracking that SMB Microsoft Challenge I asked you to think about the other day. If not, hopefully this will:
First of all, if you’re taking a blue colar approach to IT business (I’m small, love small, always will be small because I can’t/won’t lead/hire/manage/work full time) or if you are not an entrepreneur (i.e., you see the end game being a “good job”) then this is not for you. Go back to the turkey. See ya.
Now if you are still reading this you are probably an entrepreneur and you are shaking in your boots over what the competitor with $30 billion a quarter is going to do to your business. Fear, uncertainty, uneasiness, reservations.. are perfectly natural and normal. Only arrogant fools that are about to lose their heads can go without those qualities (see: .com bust) that make someone face difficult and uncertain terrain and overcome it. It’s a part of leadership, its a part of you that people are willing to follow. So relax, take a deep breath, Microsoft or Google or GM or Walmart will do what they do, you can’t control them – but you can control yourself and what you do.
I hope you took a moment to read why this is happening. Read Karl’s excellent overview of “What are we worth to Microsoft” to get an even bigger picture. I hope that at the end of reading both blog posts you have somewhat of an understanding of how big business works and that its just as ambitious, just as greedy as you and I. Again, this is not something you control, not something you can change and not something you ought to spend your time worrying about.
Remember WHY you got in this business to begin with. I got into it because I thought I could make more money by providing a better service than the people I worked for at the time. I can guess your story may be similar to that, but it is you who stepped out and thought you were the component that will make the difference. So focus on you and what you can do – not what Microsoft does, what BestBuy wants to do or what the vendor whose stuff you sell is telling you to push.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s that simple. You need to be cognizant and aware of what the others are doing and preparing yourself and your company to do it better, faster, more in tune to your customer base.
I run an ASP, Application Service Provider. We manage 14 data centers full of servers, network gear, etc. Some applications we write, some applications we buy, some applications we rent, some applications are brought in by the customer and we just watch over their servers, their networks, their homes, whatever. Bottom line, our expertise is network infrastructure beyond a SOHO router and a T1.
Microsoft is my biggest friend out there because it enables me to do what I do and to scale it in ways that I could not do on my own. In particular, I am talking about Small Business Specialist program. Microsoft is training, filtering, financing and enabling an army of people that I can count on when I do my projects. Be it Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, London, Bonn, Vienna, Hong Kong, Adelaide or Honolulu, Microsoft is working on my behalf as a filter separating self-enabling IT folks from the charlatans and pretenders. It’s not a great filter but its a better filter than I am and more importantly, it’s a free one. I consider the filtering and enabling capability of Microsoft their primary quality.
In a far distant spot is Microsoft’s ability to design software that can interact with the garbage Dell or HP shipped to the customers site. I can offer them a whole suite of Microsoft applications to fit their need and sell myself above and below that layer. Under the Microsoft layer I am the company that knows the current state and future condition of their network and their technology business. On top of the Microsoft layer I provide guidance as things change. Nobody likes change, but everyone loves a new cell phone. How’s that for a contradiction of needs?
Finally, and perhaps key for me, is Microsoft’s inability to react to the market (see: live.com, System Center *.*, Vista *.*, etc) and its growing bipolar disorder between a company that only designs software and enables third parties to integrate it, or an integration company that eliminates one partner at a time. This uncertainty in their business model is enabling me to remain agile, to grow my solution stack, to keep on adding clients as fast as Microsoft alienates them.
Big picture, as far as I am concerned, is increasing revenues and profits and client base quarter over quarter through a larger solution portfolio. I am not struggling to keep myself in a box, to think smaller or more efficient – I am struggling to grow, to reach more, to offer more and be more helpful. This is where I bump heads with some MSPs who think the only way to sustained profitability is through automation and optimization. After all, look at Microsoft – they didn’t become a $30 billion a quarter company by building a better, more secure operating system – they did so by expanding the features, even if broken, expanding markets, even if unprofitable, expanding the reach, even at the cost of angering their partners.
What drives me is seeing our solutions work for our customers and always thinking of a solution to the new problems our partners and customers identify. We provide our services at a cutthroat discount to our partners and sell them at an exponential profit margin to the direct client base – my partners help us build our products, my clients help us build our company.
What Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, GM, Best Buy or others do is relevant, but inconsequential. In 2004 I had job offers on deck from some of the above and the decision I had to make was what would make me a bigger millionaire. You can see my answer here every day, if you’re traveling in the same direction you may want to ask yourself the same thing.
Enjoy the turkey.