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4 Pillars to a Stable, Sustainable, Scalable and Profitable Business March 8, 2011

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business, Promotions.
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gscoachThere are 4 Pillars to a stable, sustainable, scalable, profitable business. Our friend, George Sierchio, who did a very well received presentation on this material for SMBTN at SMB Nation this year has now laid it all out for you in a quick Ebook he is giving away for absolutely nothing to SMBTN members.

A taste of what you’ll learn:

  • Positioning your company as the "go to" people to create effective marketing, shorten sales cycles, make a well deserved profit and stop leaving tons of money on the table with each client.
  • Laser targeting the correct audience to eliminate wasted marketing time and dollars.
  • Understand what and how processes and systems are keys to profitability and productivity.
  • Get the real skinny on what pricing services and products in any business model is all about and how to go about doing it the right way to make sure you will never lose money on a deal.
  • Learn how profits are properly calculated and what they mean to your business BESIDES deserved cash in your pocket.
  • Realize how all 4 Pillars work together and why a weak or missing Pillar can put a low ceiling on your company’s growth potential, keep it on shaky versus stable, and outright kill your business instead of maximizing profitability.
  • Plus a little extra item at the end that you will love…

The most meat you have ever seen in 30 pages… for absolutely nothing.

Pick it up here: http://consultantscoach.com/ebookfree.php

SMBTN Releases Autotask Template November 16, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in Benefits, Finance, IT Business, Marketing, Tools.
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Just a little over a month after announcing that it would standardize on the Autotask platform, the SMB Technology Network has officially released its new template for the platform. This release is just a starting point for us. We are committed to making consistent improvements to this platform that integrate industry best practices and SMBTN partner offerings into a professional services automation platform that fits the needs of our membership. Currently, the SMBTN/Autotask Platform offers the following:

  • A customized Autotask Template for SMBTN Business Members
  • Integration with a variety of Managed Services platforms, including hosted Kaseya from Virtual Administrator, Level Platforms, N-able, Zenith Infotech and others.
  • Integration with SMBTN’s Virtual Assistant partner, TelAssistant.
  • Integration with SMBTN’s Outsourced helpdesk partner, Cloud Services Depot.
  • Integration with SMBTN VitalSigns Financial Dashboard by CoreConnex.
  • Integration with the latest release of the SMBTN Community Toolbar.

SMBTN also understands the importance of integrating its member’s websites and marketing functions into their back office operations. With this in mind, SMBTN has begun working with Pronto Marketing on Autotask forms integration which it hopes to have available for its members in the first quarter of 2010.

Finally, SMBTN will also host its own forum on the SMBTN Community for peer support, sharing best practices and gathering ideas about future improvements to its Autotask platform.

Pricing for the SMBTN/Autotask platform starts at just $99 per month for a single user (through the end of the year) and includes Autotask Pro with the SMBTN template, Outlook integration, Client Access Portal, Quickbooks integration, Corelytics Lite Financial Dashbaord and the SMBTN Community Toolbar. For more information, visit the SMBTN Community or contact SMBTN Member Services.

TelAssistant Offers Virtual Assistance to SMBTN Members November 16, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in Benefits, IT Business, Productivity.
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TelAssistant Virtual Assistants for ITDo you ever wish you had a real, live person to answer your phones, track you down in an emergency or just enter a service ticket into Autotask or Connectwise for you? Ever had a client complain about getting your voicemail or a delayed call back? Most IT professionals would like to have this kind of support but fear that they cannot afford it. However, much like managed services and outsourcing has changed the way we do business as IT service providers, it has impacted the way offices run in general too. Many businesses and professionals are beginning to outsource the work of receptionists and assistants to virtual assistant companies like TelAssistant.

TelAssistant is the nation’s premier provider of remote receptionist services for small to medium IT companies, entrepreneurs, small businesses and home-based businesses. SMBTN recently partnered with TelAssistant in order to permit its members to focus on taking care of clients and growing their businesses, knowing that they have a professional support staff behind them to make sure no important opportunities are missed.

TelAssistant uses the latest in technology and tailors their service to your needs. They will greet your callers, announce calls to you, route calls to any number you designate, schedule appointments, fill out work order tickets, take sales leads and even follow scripts that you put together. Best of all, you can have this level of professional support staff for less than $10 per business day.

TelAssistant Features:

  • Fast & Easy Setup: Use your current phone number or select a new one.
  • Work Ticket Completion
  • Dedicated Account Manager
  • Unlimited Talk Time
  • Voicemail to Email: Listen to your voicemail right from your email.
  • Other Included Features: Call Screening/ Announcing/ Routing/ Patching/ Auto Attendant, Appointment Scheduling, Sales & Work Order Form Completion, Local or 800 Number.

Best of all, SMBTN members can try this service for two weeks without obligation. Setup is complete in just 3 easy steps. For more information on how to take advantage of this free trial, please check out the details of this offer on the SMBTN Community.

Technology Marketing Made Simple November 16, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business, Marketing.
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If you’re like most of us, your To Do list is long and clients come first. Marketing tasks like updating your website or putting together a newsletter always seem to be something you’ll do “next week”.  This is why we are very pleased to announce a new alliance with Pronto Marketing. Not only will they take care of your website and newsletter but they will do it for an affordable monthly cost.  Derek Brown, the CEO of Pronto Marketing, likes to think of it as “Managed Services for Marketing” but prefer to call it “marketing-as-a-service.”

Whatever you call it, Derek is the guy to deliver it. What makes him so special? Well, let’s start with the fact that Derek spent over twelve years at Microsoft, many of those leading the Windows SBS Product Marketing Team and visiting SBS user groups. Prior to his time at Microsoft, he held technology marketing positions with Tech Data, some software start-ups and value added resellers. Thus, Derek knows both our channel and its marketing challenges extremely well.

What’s unique about Pronto is their focus on execution. We’ve all got boxes of marketing materials from vendors or programs we’ve signed-up for and big plans gathering dust back in the office somewhere. If this sounds like you then I invite you to take a moment to check out Pronto Marketing and see how they can get your marketing on track for a very low cost.

The complete Pronto online marketing program is only $247 per month – but the SMBTN Business Member discount price of $197 saves you $50 per month.

  •  Professional Website–Based on the WordPress platform and customized to meet your business requirements and branding. We proactively update your website each week with new content or as you request. In addition blogging tools are integrated right into the website.   
  • Original content – our team of writers and editors create compelling content for the newsletters and website – we don’t repackage other content.
  • Monthly e-newsletter–We manage the whole process including your offers and news and all production and list management.
  • SEO and Analytics–Placement in local directories, optimized for local search and reporting on email and web
  • No Term Commitments & No Hidden Fees–Pay as you go month by month and cancel anytime. Our price includes all design and content, updates, hosting and emailing fees – everything.
  • Learn More–Get the details on the SMBTN Community.

In these times, we all need to be looking at ways to grow and strengthen our businesses. Hence, I strongly encourage you to check out what Pronto has to offer.  However, nothing is more reassuring than the successes that other SMBTN members have had with Pronto Marketing:

“It all starts with a filling out a simple questionnaire and in a short period of time you have a something that is customer ready with minimal effort on my part. I can now focus on what I need to do and that is helping my clients solve their business issues.”

Alan Helbush, MCP, SBSC –  Where To Start, Inc.

“Pronto Marketing is fast, efficient, well-organized, professional and does great work.  Our newsletter and website development have been a terrific success.  Pronto makes us look great and we would be happy to recommend them to others.”

Eric A. Adkins, CTO – Adkins Technologies

We are also working on new integration between Pronto Marketing sites and the SMBTN/Autotask Platform that will permit you to capture information about visitors to your website in your Autotask PSA software. We hope to have this ready in the first  quarter of 2010.

For more information about the Technology Marketing offering from Pronto Marketing, please visit the SMBTN Community or the Pronto Marketing website.

Review: Support from ThirdTier is Top Notch September 21, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business, Productivity, Reviews.
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thirdtierOver the past several months, my firm (AxonTech) has had the opportunity to use the services of ThirdTier on several occasions. The first was more of a test to see what kind of support they could provide to one of our workstation techs on an Exchange issue that our network engineers were not available to work on. We contacted ThirdTier and David Shackelford (an Exchange MVP) walked our technician through the process. Follow up was excellent and we were very happy with the results and the price we paid for the service.

I have personally used ThirdTier on a couple of other occasions related to Exchange and Small Business Server. Each time, I have had excellent results, a quick response, good follow-up and paid a reasonable price.

When I contrast this with the support I receive from Microsoft and other vendors, it is like night and day. I have successfully scheduled call back appointments with ThirdTier that were actually kept on time. I can’t say that for the “competition”. Furthermore, the folks at ThirdTier actually value the information that I provide to them. I don’t waste time proving the basics to them like I do with a Microsoft technician that I have to wait up to four hours for to call me back.

The bottom line is that I spend less time and close tickets faster when I work with ThirdTier than I do when I work with Microsoft. That is unfortunate but true all the same. I was told recently by an IAMCP member that I just need to know how to “work the system” in order to get the results I want and  in all fairness, he might be right, However, I really don’t think that I should have to manipulate the technicians at Microsoft into transfering me to an appropriate person in the USA to deal with my issue. Hence, I look forward to using the services of ThirdTier as my third tier support until Microsoft can compete with their service.

Congratulations to Amy, Eriq, Chad and David on putting together a top notch service. I highly recommend that anyone that is frustrated with the time wasted on Microsoft technical support, give them a try. You will not be disappointed.

Check out ThirdTier today at http://www.ThirdTier.net.

CoreConnex Announces Partnership with Service Leadership September 15, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business, Partners.
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Corelytics Financial DashboardLast Fall, we were very proud to announce our affiliation with CoreConnex and their excellent Corelytics Financial Dashboard. Frank Coker and I really seem to see eye-to-eye on the importance of financial benchmarking for IT service companies. Today, CoreConnex made a great product even better by announcing a new alliance with Service Leadership, Inc. (See full press release: CoreConnex, Inc. and Service Leadership, Inc. Announce a New Partnership).

Combining the Corelytics™ Financial Dashboard by Coreconnex with the Service Leadership Index™ significantly streamlines and extends the depth of solutions offered by both companies, providing a one-of-a-kind, best-in-class solution for the owners and executives of IT Solutions companies to maximize their profit and value.
 
Subscribing companies can update their data monthly with a single click and then see how they are progressing toward S-L Index™ best in class benchmarks for their business model and against the goals they set for their business, enabling them to monitor and manage their financial performance on a continual basis.

We look forward to working with CoreConnex and Service Leadership on a revised version of our SMBTN VitalSigns program and hope to be able to offer even more meaningful financial information to our members.

How will Oracle’s Acquisition of Sun Effect SMB’s? April 21, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in SMB News.
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This morning I got a call from eWeek  asking me to comment on Oracle’s recent acquisition of Sun and how I thought it would effect small-to-medium sized businesses. My primary comment to the author was that it could only help, as I do not think Oracle made much of an impact with its SMB offering. Hence, I don’t think that SMB’s will see much immediate impact at all.

You can read the article here but I am really interested in your comments and thoughts about the subject. What does the acquisition mean to your business?

The Concept of a Public CTO Council March 13, 2009

Posted by raviprocompare in IT Business, SMB, SMB Trends.
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The SMB IT services market is so fragmented that there continues to be a challenge, even in today’s environment, in finding the right IT expert or consultant for a given project or set of tasks. In many cases, IT consultants at small businesses wear multiple hats – telecom, Windows server, network, etc. It’s difficult for one person to have all the answers on all these topics. As such, the advent of multiple forums on the Internet for raising questions and getting answers has helped tremendously.

The question at hand is how beneficial would the concept of a “Public CTO Council” be. In other words, the development of a specific forum/network of experts across various skill sets  who would be:

– Solely focused on SMB technology (software, hardware, and IT services).
– Have expertise in specific skill sets / categories that are clearly identified from a pre-selected list of what matters for SMBs
– Be on call and available (similar to the GLC Councils’ Expert Network model), possibly on a subscription basis, to other IT consultants working in firms for specific questions / to help address specific situations
– The forum could include telephone or email consultations, in-person meetings, reports or possibly even educational presentations on certain topics

Organizations like SMBTN and others already have some experts and thus the seeds for this concept – it may be a matter of leveraging existing platforms and building up the platform to allow this to happen more easily.

Preparing for the Upswing January 19, 2009

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business, SMB Summit.
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summit2009_lgo1The SMB Technology Network has selected “Preparing for the Upswing” as its theme and focus for 2009. Obviously, we all have concerns about the current economic crisis. With this in mind, we have decided to dedicate not only our SMB Summit Conference to the topic but to make it our primary focus for the year.

Our goal is to provide your business with insights and best practices for a changing economy that permit you to continue to grow your business in 2009. We hope you will derive a great deal of value from this and would enjoy any comments that you would like to make on the topic.

Versioning Your Business December 9, 2008

Posted by Jim Locke in IT Business.
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I got a bit of flack from my peers when I announced the arrival of SMBTN 2.0 at SMB Nation this year. However, what started out as an offhand remark, really sparked some interesting communications both internally and amongst the membership. Of course, my intent was simplyto  announce that we had made some major revisons to our programs, services and procedures and communicate that in a succinct manner.

Anyway, the whole situation got me thinking about the fact that versioning may actually be a good way for IT providers to  think about their business in familiar terms. All businesses go through revisions, just like software. The goal is to create a better product or service with each release that brings more profit to the bottom line and more value to your clients.  

As we head into 2009 with lots of questions about the economy and how our businesses will be effected, perhaps, now is the time to begin reflecting on what the new version of your business will look like.

  • Will you offer new features, products, services, etc?
  • Will you redesign your client interface by changing polices and procedures?
  • How will ou alter your sales and marketing efforts?
  • What markets will you go after?
  • What clients will you keep or give up?
  • How will you handle the current economic situation?

I propose that you take some time this month to design the 2009 version of your business. Put it in a place where you can see it every day and take action on it. Don’t be surprised if you end up rewriting portions of your plan. That is what interim releases are for.

In fact, you should probably consider revising your plan each month (or at least once a quarter) and giving it a new release. I plan to use OneNote for this purpose and use YYYY.MM to identify the current version of my business. For example, in January, I will check my progress on the plan I created for 2009 and revise it as version 2009.01.

The point is that versioning your business puts things in terms that you are already comfortable with and can easily relate to. Hopfully, it forces you to develop a business plan for the coming year and places you on a path of continuous improvement.

So what version is your business in today and where do you see yourself this time next year? Will you be upgrading your business to a new release, or will you still be in the same place you are now? Make a plan today to upgrade your business to a new release!