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How embracing digitisation can help an SMB business grow

Fibre OpticIn my last blog post, I talked about why your MSP should resell Broadband Internet services. Selling Business Grade Broadband to your clients helps you to reduce support costs, increase recurring revenue and it helps your clients to avoid expensive downtime.

But what if your client doesn’t believe Business Grade Broadband – such as that provided by TalkTalk Business – is an asset to their business? What if they believe that it is, in fact, simply an unavoidable cost?

Many of you will have experienced working with clients like this. If they don’t see the power of digital, how can you help to educate them otherwise?

What makes companies grow?

When you take a look at the ingredients that go into helping an Small & Medium Sized Business (SMB) grow – the case for embracing a strong digital infrastructure is huge.

In their report entitled “This Is for Everyone: The Case for Universal Digitisation”, leading global management consulting firm Booz & Company found that  highly digitised SMB’s tend to grow at a faster rate than less-digitised SMB’s. The benefits for the SMB include reduced costs through back-office automation and electronic communication, faster growth due to effective marketing and wider geographical reach, and improved customer service through improved levels of customer satisfaction, service and retention.

In fact, to dig into the report deeper – thanks to embracing digital services, 62% of SMB’s attracted more customers and 58% believed their marketing was more effective.

Conclusion

It’s obvious that embracing digital services is key to an SMB’s growth – and as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) providing technology support and guidance to SMB clients it is your responsibility to ensure that they are aware of the opportunities this brings – including offering business grade Broadband Internet such as TalkTalk’s business broadband.

I’d encourage you to check out the report from Booz & Company – it is a useful tool for helping to educate your SMB clients as to why they should embrace Business Grade Broadband and enable them to see digitisation as a valuable enabler to their business growth plans.

And if you’re an SMB who doesn’t currently work with an MSP – consider doing so. Such partners can be much more than the “IT guy” to your business – that can be your trusted guide through enabling your business through digitisation.

 

This blog post is advertising in association with TalkTalk Business.

 

photo credit: machernucha via photopin cc

Managing For Success 2012 – A 3 Day Online Conference for Computer Consultants

Managing For Success 2012 LogoI often speak about the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to learn my trade from some of the best people within our industry space. Both here in the UK, as well as in North America, Europe and Australia, there are some individuals who have been incredibly generous with their time and experience in sharing their knowledge with me and in many cases, the wider Community.

Karl PalachukAt the top of that list of individuals is Karl Palachuk. As well as writing what I consider to be the premier blog within the SMB IT industry – Small Biz Thoughts – Karl is a prolific author and has shared countless hours of knowledge through his blog posts, webinars and Podcasts that I personally have found invaluable, and I know many others have too.

Karl is now trying something new by hosting a 3-Day Online Conference specifically for Computer Consultants, in June 2012. The conference will focus on building successful business processes and will feature some of the best business and technology speakers in the U.S.

The online conference – Managing for Success 2012 – is the first event of its kind targeting technology providers and computer consultants.

Two of the keynote speakers at the Conference are Stephanie Chandler and Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Chandler is the author of seven books, including Own Your Niche on the Internet and Beyond. Her Business Info Guide web site – www.BusinessInfoGuide.com – is an extremely popular destination for small business owners. Patrick Schwerdtfeger is an internally recognized authority on social media marketing and the author of several books, including Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed.

Other speakers include some of the most influential pioneers and opinion leaders in the world of technical consulting. But this is not a technology conference. As Karl says “This is a business focused conference for I.T. Professionals. We want to help computer consultants to be better business people, with a vision for the future and strategies for success. That’s why we named the conference Managing for Success 2012. Conference sessions will cover managing a business, marketing a business, creating standard operating procedures, building a strong team, and even buying up your competition.”

The conference is online only and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM EST on June 26-28, 2012. Whilst that might mean some late nights for those of us in the UK who will be participating, I’m more than confident that the content will be worth it and as attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions – you can revisit anything you miss. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days.

The conference registration and information site is now available – so if you’re interested in learning from some amazing presenters, I’d encourage you to check it out.

Good luck to Karl and everyone involved in the event!

Surround yourself with Success

I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you act a certain way, pretty soon it’ll stop being an act and that’s just how you’ll be.

  • Nervous when doing public speaking but want to be a good public speaker? Act in the way you think a successful public speaker would behave, including the way they dress and hold themselves on-stage.
  • A bit of a wall flower, but want to be a better business networker? Act like you’re the best networker in the world, asking the questions a good networker would ask, and responding to the answers you receive as a good networker would.
  • Have a desire to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Act as though you’re already a industry subject matter expert, read the books such an expert would read, do the research an expert would undertake, talk about the things an expert would engage others in conversation about.

SUCCESSFULLFAILURE (opening of Dutch Identity at de Paviljoens in Almere)

Struggling to imagine a better you?

But if you’re like me, and perhaps have very little imagination (although I often act as though that isn’t the case) it can be hard work to “imagine” how you’re supposed to be acting.

One idea that might work is to put yourself in a situation where you can observe how people who are already successful behave, and then act that way.

  • Want to be a great public speaker? Make sure you’re regularly watching great public speakers, and making notes on how they dress and present. Take time to meet them after their presentation and introduce yourself. Ask them how they prepare for a presentation.
  • Want to be a better business networker? Get yourself to the best business networking events and watch how other attendees conduct themselves. Ask them how they got to be a good business networker.
  • Want to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Spend time with those people you respect as industry subject matter experts. Learn from them, understand how they view the world, ask them what they’re reading right now.

Once you start doing this, you’ll become comfortable at acting the way you want, because you’re around other people who are acting the same way. It suddenly doesn’t seem quite as strange.

Noticing the change

But another strange thing happens. When you start acting in this new way, the people you currently spend time with will notice it. Some will sub-consciously notice this and modify their own behaviour to match.

Others will actively point out they notice your changes and likely tell you that “this isn’t you” and that you acting this way will “never work”. They’re cynical that your “new act” will work.

Choices, Choices

You’re then left with a choice. Do you continue to spend time with the cynics, who rarely offer new ideas and tend to drag your own enthusiasm levels down, or do you politely walk away from those people around you who don’t support the changes in your life?

Conclusion

If you’re finding changing something in your life hard, try seeking out and surrounding yourself with people who you’ve already made that change, and start acting like them.

Once you start seeking people out who are successful, and walking away from those who are cynical, change becomes an awful lot easier.

 

Business – It’s all about relationships

I’m something of a computing history buff. I love reading books about the rise (and sometimes fall) of the people and ideas that shaped the Technology industry that I now work in. One such book I’ve read is “Dot.Bomb” by Rory Cellan-Jones, which examines the Dot.com bubble of the late 1990’s. The book, published in 2001, still makes fascinating reading today an a cost of just £2-£3, I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to go and grab a copy.

One interesting observation that the book makes is that at the time many people believed the Dot.com revolution was allowing everybody and anybody to make their fortune on-line. Certainly, it encouraged a culture of entrepreneurship as there were stories of everyone from Schoolboys to Graduates who were building web-sites around their ideas, which were often being valued at many millions “on paper”. But with the benefit of hindsight, there weren’t too many people who genuinely achieved great success or made a fortune thanks to those crazy times. In fact, Chapter 9 of the book features a paragraph which I’ll quote:-

“In the dot.com world, the key skill was not the ability to write elegant software, or understand the latest microprocessor architecture, or even draw up a convincing business plan. It was the people who knew how to network who stood the best chance…”

People do business with people they like

Only last week I gave a webinar presentation entitled “Finding Customers through Networking” (which if you missed, you can watch again at www.mspbusinessmanagement.com very shortly) in which I repeated the very familiar statement that “People do business with people they like”. I also mentioned that you could have the greatest business in the world, but if nobody knows who you are then you’ll not achieve great success.

Additionally, it was only last week that I talked about Social Networking vs Traditional Networking and concluded that they go hand in hand, and that doing one without the other isn’t making the full use of the tools at your disposal.

Making time for building relationships

One of the questions that I’ve had coming out of the webinar is “How do you make time for all this stuff?”. (“This stuff” often referring to Social Networking). My answer is – you make the time because it’s important.

Visualisation of Richard Tubb's LinkedIn ConnectionsMy former MSP business was built on the back of strong relationships, and the main reason my new career helping IT companies to grow is happily keeping me so very busy is mainly because of the many relationships I’ve formed in the past and the high levels of trust and confidence I’ve been able to build with people. (As a side-note, you can see a visualisation of my LinkedIn connections to the right. If you’re interested, you can build your own LinkedIn Map here).

Building relationships, be they with your prospective client base, strategic alliance partners, vendors, peers or even your competition isn’t a “nice to do” activity, if you have the time. Attending business networking events and using social networking isn’t something to think about once you’ve done everything else that’s important. Building relationships in this way is something you should be doing all the time, every day, as part of your standard day-to-day business activities.

Use a System

If you’re not a natural relationships person, then by all means use a system or a process – I consider myself a “people person” to whom relationships are very important, and yet I use many tools such as a CRM system to keep track of who, when and how – but the important thing is to ensure you build those relationships.

Because if you don’t then it doesn’t matter how much you know, or how great your idea or service is, history tells us that you won’t be as successful as you could have been.

Please S.W.I.P.E. away!

(I’ve had a few people ask me about the topic of this blog recently, so I hope this shines some light on the subject!)

It’s not uncommon for me to receive an e-mail commenting on a blog post or Tweet I’ve posted where I’ve shared an idea or a practice and somebody thought it was a good enough suggestion that they’d like to start using it themselves.

Once I get over the shock that some of you are crazy enough to listen to what I say and write, Burglar stealing from SafeI reflect that I’m always flattered to receive such e-mails. I respect that the sender thought enough of me as an individual to ask my permission to use the idea, especially when there is nothing stopping them just using the idea regardless.

My response to these nice e-mails is “Sure, SWIPE away!”.

S.W.I.P.E.

S.W.I.P.E is an acronym I first came across when I was a member of HTG – the Heartlands Technology Peer Group. Trust me when I say that for a relative newbie to the SMB IT community like myself back then, when you’re hanging around with some of the most successful people in our industry – as HTG members are – you spot a *lot* of fantastic ideas that you want to start using yourself!

I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I have had and e-mails I have sent to people where I said “Do you mind if I use that idea myself?”.

The answer was nearly always the same “Sure – go ahead and SWIPE it – I did!”

What does S.W.I.P.E. stand for?

S.W.I.P.E stands for Steal with Integrity and Pride from Everywhere.

Over the years I’ve SWIPED everything from e-mail signature lines (thanks Mark!), to out of office messages (cheers Dave!), LinkedIn profile headlines (ta Gareth!), to SQL and Excel reporting code (thanks Robert!), innovative uses of blog posts (ta Jeremy!), to methods for working with vendors (appreciate it Erik!) – but with one important caveat…

.. If I’m able to, I always ask permission to use the idea first (that’s the Integrity bit) – and when I’m asked in turn by someone else as to how I came up with the idea, I pass on the story of where I got the idea from myself.

SWIPE Examples

HTG themselves have actively embraced this idea. Most HTG groups around the world have a regular “Best Practice” competition where everyone gives a short pitch on an idea or practice that has saved them time or made them money, and then the group vote for the best idea. As a former HTG’er myself, I can tell you that you go into that session hoping that *someone else* has the best idea – because you want to go away having SWIPED something very cool!

The CompTIA UK Channel Community has a similar Best Practice competition too. Guess where they got that idea from? Ask them and they’ll not only tell you about where they SWIPED the idea from, but they’ll tell you how much they admire the folks at HTG for granting them permission to use the idea too!

Visit any user group such as AMITPRO and you’ll see people openly sharing ideas and experiences, in the knowledge that somebody may take that idea and run with it. The days of worrying about protecting your “Trade Secrets” are long gone in the SMB community – and it’s my opinion that those that think otherwise stand out from the crowd – for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t steal, SWIPE!

Of course, I’m not talking about plagiarism or Intellectual Property theft. You shouldn’t, for instance, copy a blog post word for word and pass it off as your own work – but many have been inspired by an article written by someone else and then wrote their own piece on the subject matter, citing the original articles author as the inspiration for the work.

Of course there are others who simply SE – Steal from Everywhere (I’m going to claim credit for that one. Feel free to SWIPE it, although I suspect it won’t catch on…) without giving credit. Everyone has a story of an idea they thought of being passed off by a boss or colleague who took all the credit and gave no recognition to contributors.

But we are all influenced by others, both in the way we conduct ourselves and the ideas we use. I think this is especially true in the IT industry. Based on that fact, I think it’s OK to not only acknowledge that you’re influenced directly by others, but to celebrate that fact openly!

Who would you prefer to work with? Someone who is old school and stands alone, taking from others where he can pinch an idea quietly, but unable to bring himself to ask for help as he feels it shows weakness, instead working to find his or her own solutions to problems that have already been resolved elsewhere, just so they can proclaim themselves a hero and say “I did it myself”!

Or would prefer to work with the individual who actively seeks out and incorporates the solutions, ideas and wisdom of others into their own perspective – comfortable with giving credit as they know this builds trust and further opportunities for learning, enabling them to get things done better and faster, grow more rapidly as an individual, and be open to new ideas.

So please, Steal with Integrity and Pride from Everywhere, and likewise, pass that knowledge on! Smile

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