Contact Richard:   +44 (0)121 663 0223 +44 (0) 7703 355045

A list of User Groups for UK Managed Service Providers

Shaking HandsHere is a list of User Groups for UK based Managed Service Providers and IT Solution Providers that I hope to keep regularly updated.

Peer and User Groups are a fantastic way of accelerating your learning and building your business, and I highly encourage you to get involved.

Need more convincing? Here are 3 good reasons to attend your local user group.

 

CompTIA UK Channel Community

The community was formed in an effort to provide a platform for resellers, distributors, and vendors to focus on developing best practices, business education and resources for companies engaged in the delivery of IT services in the UK.

The community meets face-to-face four times a year, and the LinkedIn group keeps the community in touch between meetings. There is no requirement to be a member of CompTIA to join the community, and attendance at the community meetings is free.

Further reading:-

 

UK IT Small Business User Groups

A number of user groups regularly meet around the UK to discuss both business and technology, to share ideas and to network. Many of these groups were born from the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) and members of these groups are typically the owners of SMB IT solution providers and Managed Service Providers.

Further reading:-

 

Microsoft Office 365 UK User Group

Meeting the first Thursday of each month alternately in London and Birmingham, the group is dedicated to IT companies who work with Microsoft Office 365.

For more details, contact group lead Matthew Hughes or visit the Office 365 UK User Group web-site.

 

SQL Server User Groups

The Midlands SQL Server User Group meets every other month in Birmingham. For more details, check out the SQL Midlands web-site or follow @SQLMidlands on Twitter.

The Leicester SQL Server User Group meets three times a year in Leicester. For more details, check out the Leicester SQL Server User Group web-site.

 

Autotask User Groups

There are a number of worldwide Community groups for users of the Autotask Service Intelligence tool, including a group in the UK.

Autotask User Group meetings are typically open to all-comers, not just Autotask users, with industry wide as well as Autotask-specific education.

If you want to know more about the Autotask User groups then contact Len DiCostanzo, Senior Vice President, Community and Business Development at Autotask.

 

ConnectWise User Groups

There are a number of Community groups for users of the ConnectWise PSA tool across North-America, Australia and there is also a group named Five Hours Ahead that regular meets in London for the UK.

If you’re a ConnectWise user who wants to know more then contact Amy Hodge, Community Director at ConnectWise.

 

Heartlands Technology Group

The Heartlands Technology Group (HTG) is a peer group for IT businesses that lives by the mantra “Business and Personal growth driven by execution”.

HTG 11 is the UK chapter of the peer group and meets once per quarter. Find out more details about Heartlands Technology Group (HTG).

 

Other Groups

If you have a User or Peer Group you’d like me to list, then please contact me.

 

Image used courtesy of Garfield Andersson under Creative Commons license.

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

Do Givers Gain?

The Go-Giver Book by Bob Burg and John David MannA couple of years ago, I read an awesome book co-written by two authors, Bob Burg and John David Mann. It was entitled “The Go-Giver” and was an unusual book in that it is published primarily for a business audience, yet it is written in a fictional story – almost parable style.

If you’ve not read the book, then I highly encourage you to do so – it’s an easy read and inspirational too.

The Go-Giver Philosophies

I won’t spoil the story for you, but there were five key values that you can come away with:-

  • Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  • Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  • Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  • The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  • The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

This book really struck a chord for me. For many years I’d believed in striving to deliver great service not only to clients, but to anyone I came into contact with – hoping to leave a great positive impression upon them that they’d remember me by – remarkable, you might say.

Be The Connector

Additionally, I’d always looked to be a connector – introducing people to one another, even when (or especially when!) it would be unlikely I’d do business with either of those people directly.

Plus, of course, I’m a believer in the power of social media – writing blog articles, using Twitter and LinkedIn – providing information that I hope will be of value to others. Or as one person, another IT provider locally to us who didn’t “get it” told me – “Giving away all your trade secrets!” :-).

Reading “The Go-Giver” book validated to me that thankfully I wasn’t crazy, that living your life in this way does has a genuine purpose that can be understood – and that is, whilst you don’t undertake these activities looking for a direct return, that in the grand scheme of things human beings naturally look to help others who help them.

Don’t keep count

It’s not as obvious as simply “returning a favour”. For instance, I know I’ve made many more connections and referrals for people than I’ve ever received back directly (or even been thanked-for), and I’ve written many more LinkedIn Recommendations than I’ve ever had given to me, but that I’ve been fortunate enough to be provided with some amazing and often huge opportunities over the past few years, many times from people I’ve never helped out directly or that I don’t know well, but who have read my blog for a long time, or have connected with me thanks to an introduction from someone else.

In a nutshell, I love the fact that a system based on human good nature really does work!

ROI?

Of course, this isn’t for everyone – for me, it’s the lifestyle that I find a most naturally comfortable and rewarding fit for me – but for many other individuals I’ve heard the question “What is the Return on Investment (ROI)” of all this?

The best examples of answers to this difficult question can be given by my friend Jeremy Epstein over at his blog “Never Stop Marketing” – where he talks about Community Driven Marketing and how in the modern world it trumps “old school” marketing – and my favourite analogy, that of “Santa Math” from Seth Godin – (go and read it, I’ll wait here).

BNI say Givers Gain

That said – I have recently become involved in BNI – a breakfast business networking group – which works on the motto “Givers Gain”. Admittedly it’s a bit more of an artificial environment for creating relationships and passing referrals, but the theory is still somewhat similar – that if you spend time looking to provide great value for other people, that value will find you too – albeit in this case, through business referrals from other members of your group.

I’ve heard truly polar opposite opinions on BNI, for some people it works incredibly well, and they receive lots of referrals, but for other people, they simply don’t “get it” and therefore don’t get involved.

For my own part, the BNI groups here in Birmingham that I’ve been a part of have struggled to grow, as we couldn’t find enough people who “get it”. The reasons for not getting involved I’ve heard from people range from “It’s all American clap-trap” (great to see that the US-UK “Special Relationship” is as strong as ever!) and “It feels forced”.

Smaller is better?

I know that a smaller groups of focussed “Go-Givers” can work – BNI has many successful established groups that I’ve visited and the IT peer-group HTG is essentially a group of “Go-Givers” in the form of IT providers helping one another out on a very close level. I think the answer may be closer to the fact that people who think predominantly in a “Go-Giver” way perhaps aren’t in the majority amongst us on a day-to-day basis, and so it can be difficult to organise groups of such individuals on a local level.

Social Media

And that’s why I love the Internet and Social Media. The world is a huge place, and people of a like-mind tend to seek out one another, so the ‘net makes it much easier to connect with people who share the same values as you. Even your chances of finding like-minded individuals locally increase, as thanks to the exposure of the Internet, the chances of finding somebody who both shares your values *and* lives locally to you are increased.

Conclusion

I’ll continue to try to be a “Go-Giver”, as it’s just what I feel comfortable doing, but I’d be fascinated to hear people’s opinions on why local groups such as BNI often don’t work. Is it because it’s difficult to find like-minded people locally, that Brits don’t like “American” concepts, or something else?

Do leave a comment below, drop me an e-mail, or reach out to me via Twitter!

Live Meeting – Four Plans That Can Change Everything

One of (if not the) biggest influences on me as a business owner in the past 2 years has been HTG – the Heartlands Technology Group. I’ve spoken about HTG before, but in a nutshell it is a peer group that helps raise the bar for all members by helping them form goals and holding them accountable for those goals.

One of the interesting things is, planning for these goals is not purely business related – very often the plans deal with your Life/Work Balance, your personal goals, your goals and aspirations for your family, and even planning for after you are no longer able to read this blog – and by that I don’t mean you’ve got no 3G signal on your iPhone… :-)

Making these plans has been one of the key drivers in helping me grow as an individual and in turn, helping my business grow.

If you’re wondering where to start with all this planning, then you’ll be interested in the Live Meeting being held by HTG’s founder and CEO, Arlin Sorensen, tomorrow (24th March 2010) at 1600 GMT (9AM Pacific):-

***

Arlin Sorensen, CEO and founder of Heartland Technology Solutions and HTG peer groups, will be hosting a live meeting on March 24th for Microsoft as part of the 5W25 series on four plans to provide a well rounded look at life and business. The plans we will discuss are:
– Business plan
– Leadership plan
– Life plan
– Legacy plan
Joining for the live meeting will be Jamison West from JWCS and Brad Schow from Compudyne.  The event is code WES36PAL and it will be held at 9:00 AM Pacific that day. The session is titled Four Plans That Can Change Everythingand that is exactly the potential outcome from the session.

If you learn to use these plans, you can change the result of your life and business. Without planning, you leave things up to chance and quite honestly have far less opportunity to achieve your dreams or succeed.  We often spend a lot of time focused on our business plan but neglect the things that may be more important.  Never forget your life will leave a record, a history and a legacy.  Planning can help make sure those turn out as you would like.

Invest an hour and join me for this webcast. To register go to www.mssmallbiz.com/trainingand select the appropriate session. There are many other great sessions available as well. Hope to meet with you online that day!

Arlin Sorensen

***

I’d highly encourage you to take an hour out of your busy day and join this Live Meeting – the content had a profound effect on me as I planned both my business and personal life, and I know you’ll find it useful too.

Additionally, if you haven’t already, you can check out Arlin’s blog at peerpower.blogspot.com – it’s simply one of the most useful blogs you can read.

A great example of Microsoft Partners collaborating to deliver value

Shaking HandsSince the first day I opened the virtual doors for business here at Netlink IT, we’ve always looked to partnerships with fellow technology companies to enable us to provide greater value to our clients. Partnering and collaborating with peers and other like-minded businesses has always felt natural to me, and I’ve never cared for the old school attitude of keeping so-called competitors as far away from your own business as possible. I’ve always believed there is enough clients for everyone!

Collaboration for one man bands

In the early days of the business and being a typical “one man band”, collaboration meant actively involving myself within the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community – writing a blog, attending user group meetings, building relationships with other Small Business IT providers, and offering advice from my limited experiences where possible, but mostly keeping my ears open and listening to experienced individuals within our Community who had faced the same challenges I was about to deal with. Acting upon their generous advice made growing a business just that little bit easier!

Strategic Alliances

It also meant looking for Strategic Alliances – keeping eyes and ears open for opportunities within our client base wherein the client might need a service or product that we didn’t offer, but who we had a technology partner we could confidently refer them on to. Before long, those Strategic Alliance partners were doing the same thing at their clients and referring work back our way too.

As the business grew and I started to face up to the reality that Richard Tubb alone couldn’t work 24x7x365, I turned to some of these trusted partnerships I’d built and we worked together to solve mutual problems – issues such as sickness and holidays started becoming manageable instead of impossible, working with clients in geographical areas outside the standard became logistically possible, and those larger projects we’d previously shied away from as being “too big” started to look possible to tackle. As well as growth through taking on staff, our business naturally evolved to the stage where we treat our trusted partners very much like we would an employee – with induction programs, training plans and shared opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Peer Groups

Peer partnership was taken to the next level last year when Netlink IT became a part of HTG – the Heartlands Technology Group. HTG is an organisation built on collaboration between trusted partners, and has both accelerated our own growth and helped us build new and valuable relationships with others.

An example

I was reminded of just how far we’d come along thanks to the partnerships we’ve nurtured during a recent large project we collaborated on with Aparion IT, an fellow IT Consultancy based in Nottingham run by my old friend and colleague, Neil Wykes. Aparion are an experienced IT provider with a number of members of staff. They had recently won a large project based overseas that was keeping them very busy, but had come across another equally large opportunity within a large multi-national Transport company operating within the UK that they were under-resourced to tackle immediately, but loathe to pass up on as an opportunity. Neil got on the ‘phone to us and asked if we’d be interested in partnering up to help deliver a solution. Partnering up in this way is always a big step, as you’re basically asking someone else to represent you to your client, and I’m grateful Neil had enough trust in Netlink IT to place his trust in us that way.

The project was a large IT Infrastructure refresh, and involved re-locating a number of servers and network equipment from a Data centre near London to a new location in Birmingham, the replacement and refresh of a number of services such as e-mail, firewall, Citrix services, VPN and remote connectivity, and biggest of all, the refresh of Desktop Operating Systems on nearly 200 PC’s and delivery of new servers at approximately 13 locations around the UK. Oh yes, and there was a strict 30-day deadline for the work to be completed…

More Resources Required?

As well as offering our own members of staff time and energy to the project, it became quickly obvious that we needed more resource and expertise to complete the task, and so we specifically utilised the relationships we’d built up over the years at Netlink IT to enable us to call in the right people. In every case, whether we needed a resource based on expertise, location, or both, we knew exactly who to call and had no hesitation in picking up the ‘phone to the best people – and to me that shows just how important and rewarding having strong ongoing relationships with trusted partners are to us at Netlink IT.

The first place we turned for assistance was to Rob Savage of RobSavage.com – one of those very trusted partners I’ve already spoken about. Rob is a Business Consultant with lots of experience within Project Management and Citrix deployment, and we already treat him like “one of the team” here at Netlink IT. Rob began to tackle the mountain of planning required and was the definite “Man of the Match” of this large project!

Geographic Coverage

We also needed more on-the-ground staff for those various UK site visits, and so we brought on-board Mick Davies of MAD Computer Solutions, another of those partners we have a long term relationship with and who, like Rob, is simply “one of the team” here at Netlink IT. Additionally, we turned to fellow Microsoft SBSC Paul Dadge of Stafford based PC Paramedic Solutions for some hard work and very very long hours from Paul and his colleagues, and we also had support from Tim Long of Tigra Networks, a Microsoft SBSC based in Wales – a part of the world where we needed experienced cover such as the type Microsoft MVP Tim is able to offer!

Then we highlighted the requirement for an unflappable cool head to look after things in the East Midlands, and Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions excelled our clients expectations with his quality service delivery in that part of the country.

High Calibre Partners

Finally, we had a special requirement for some high calibre service delivery in the centre of London, and so turned to fellow Heartlands Technology Group member Raja Pagadala of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, The Final Step. Raja’s staff have a reputation as the best in the business when it comes to exceeding client expectations in the bustling English capital, and they certainly deserve that reputation based on our experiences of working with them.

I can’t thank the guys involved enough for their efforts – they worked exceptionally long hours over many days, including one particular bank holiday weekend when I’m sure they’d all have preferred to be in a beer garden somewhere relaxing. However through persistence and professionalism, the work got done and the client was ecstatic with the results.

Conclusion

So that’s a complete IT Infrastructure refresh, include a dozen or more new servers and 200+ desktop PC’s, at 13+ sites across the UK – all work completed within 30 days. I’m guessing even one of the massive worldwide IT Consultancies that are out there would think twice about that sort of job!

Aparion IT now have a client who have huge faith in them to deliver, whatever the size of the project, and all the partners involved in delivering this project, including Netlink IT, have a very strong relationship built on trust and experience working together that they can leverage for future opportunities between them all.

All of this work was delivered on the back of partnerships built between companies delivering similar services that many would traditionally look upon as competitors who shouldn’t, or couldn’t, work together.

I personally think it’s the perfect example of how partnerships and collaboration can work at the SMB level and I’m pleased to have been a big part of it!

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