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Which business systems can you automate today?

I was chatting with an IT Consultant recently, a “one man band” who supported the IT infrastructures of a number of local small businesses. We were discussing how he, like many other IT businesses I’ve spoken to recently, had seen an upswing in enquiries from potential clients.

In fact, the demand for him to meet with potential new clients was so great that he was struggling to balance them against the demands of supporting existing clients.

“And so it’s even more frustrating” he shared with me “when I arrive for client meetings and they’ve forgotten we were scheduled to meet!”.

I could feel his frustration. I’ve been there myself. Turning up at a client sites to fix an issue or have a scheduled meeting, only to be told “It’s not convenient right now” is a waste of time, especially when you have so many other people and places you could have been spending your time with instead.

Interestingly though, when I asked the IT Consultant what he was doing to mitigate against this waste of his time and energy, he told me that “I really should telephone ahead on the day of the meeting to make sure the client remembers, but I’m often too busy to remember to make that call!”

This is a prime example of a system created to solve a problem which then fails because of one crucial factor – the human element.

The human element

Tape DriveYou’re probably familiar with the human element within your client’s businesses. How many clients do you have who have a data backup strategy that requires somebody to change a USB Hard Disk or a DLT tape each day? How many times does that backup fail because somebody has neglected to change the USB drive or the tape — especially on a Friday afternoon when their mind is focused on trying to get out of the door and go home for the weekend?

Any process that involves the human element — a requirement for a person to do something — is prone to failure. Why? Because we, as human beings, easily forget things, especially when we are busy or distracted.

The answer? Automate these processes to remove the human elements wherever possible

Automating Processes for efficiency

Move your clients from a manual process of backing up to USB Hard Drive to automated on line backup software, and watch as the reliability of backups increases. Sure, there is a cost involved — but I’d encourage you to consider the cost to your business of remediating backups that have failed due to the human element. Count the minutes (and hours) that you spend on this each month, multiply by the cost of the staff time involved, then compare it the cost of automating the solution. Chances are that you’ll actually be saving money through automation.

In the example of our IT Consultant, he knows he’s losing time and money by not confirming appointments with clients, yet his solution — to call the client on the day of the meeting — is a process that also fails because it involves the human element, he often fails to make the call himself.

Instead, he could try using an online calendar such as Timendo for bookings that sends out reminders via email and SMS. The process of contacting the client on the day of the meeting would be automatic, and would save him wasted time travelling to meetings that should have been cancelled. It’s a step he could take today and start reaping the benefits of immediately.

Automated systems = Trust and Professionalism

These type of automated systems often engender a feeling of trust and professionalism with clients too, giving you a competitive advantage as well as a cost saving.

If you need convincing of this, consider yourself and compare any courier business you’ve recently used either for personal or for business.

I’m willing to bet the courier companies you are a fan of are the ones who allow you to track where your package is, and then send an SMS or email to your Smartphone when the package is due to be delivered. Those other couriers who don’t use these automated systems? Even if their service is good, I’m going to guess you don’t view them as favourably as the company who communicates more effectively through automated systems.


Which business systems can you automate today? Which systems or processes do you have in place which could be made more robust by removing the human element and replacing with an automated system?

Calculate the actual cost of the human element in any of your existing systems. Be realistic. Then look at the investment required to automate any of those systems. The cost savings can often be surprising.

Using an MSP Sales System – An Interview with Paul Lloyd

Paul Lloyd of TreemountAsk any small IT Solution Providers or Managed Service Provider (MSP’s) what their top challenge is, and 9 times out of 10 they will tell you that it is getting new business through the door – sales.

But on the flip-side of the coin, ask any IT Consultant or MSP which business activity they struggle the most to master – and it’ll be sales.

If sales is important to your business, but you still find sales an uncomfortable or difficult process – then you will find my conversation with experienced IT sales professional Paul Lloyd of interest.

Paul made his first sale in the IT industry providing an Apple II with a bespoke delivery note system to a Coal Merchant. Since that time he’s worked at highly recognisable industry names such as ICL, Specialist Computer Centres and Fujitsu as well as a raft of US Tech Start-up companies.

In short, Paul is one of the most experienced IT sales professionals you’re ever likely to come across.

Paul now runs Treemount, a tactical marketing and lead production business that helps IT Solution Providers and MSP’s to win more business. You can find Paul on LinkedIn and Twitter.

In my chat with Paul, we discuss why so many MSP’s waste time chasing business they were never likely to win, how you can qualify business at each stage of the sales cycle, and we explore Paul’s system for minimising wasted time and maximising closed business.

Enjoy our chat!


Thank-you Paul for your time!

Did what Paul had to say strike a chord with you? What key takeaways did you receive that will affect the way you approach sales?

Please feel free to share with us!

TECHNICAL NOTE: If you’re having problems listening to audio here, disable any Ad-Blockers and make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash. If you’d like to download an MP3 audio copy of this interview to listen to away from your keyboard, then click the download button above or visit

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Advice for increasing the value of your IT business

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Book CoverI received a lot of feedback to my blog post about the book I called the Managed Service Provider “Bible” – The E-Myth Revisited, with many of you sharing how the E-Myth had set you on the path to business growth, as it did for me.

Another book I often recommend to IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) – especially those MSP’s who are growing their business rapidly – is Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm.

Written by Verne Harnish of consulting firm Gazelles and based on some fundamental business ideas that have existed for a hundred years or more, the book explores the three most common barriers to growth amongst all businesses:-

  • the need for the executive team to grow as leaders in their abilities
  • the need for systems and structures to handle the complexity that comes with growth
  • the need to navigate the market dynamics that businesses face as they grow

In my role providing help for IT companies, I’ve rarely come across a growing MSP yet where the business owner or management team aren’t finding challenges in managing their team or getting the best out of their colleagues. They normally don’t have the time to concentrate on improving this situation because they’re typically bogged down “doing the work” rather than building ways for the business to scale more efficiently.

The book is a fantastic resource, very easy for a time-poor business business owner or manager to read, and with links to a lot of resources – such as the “One Page Business Plan” – that businesses will find of value.

So if you’re the owner of or a manager within a growing IT Solution Provider or MSP – do yourself a favour, and make some time to read “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”.

Trust me when I say it’ll be time and money well spent!

Tubblog at 500 Posts – My Tips for Blogging Longevity

It was way back on August 14th, 2005 when I wrote my first blog post entitled “To Blog Or Not To Blog?” where I wrote that I was going to “try blogging and see if it is interesting to me”.

6 years later, this is my 500th blog post. I’m guessing I can now say that yes, I do have an interest in blogging!

Why do I blog?

I'm Blogging This T-ShirtI often get asked why I blog. The simple answer is – I blog because *I* enjoy it! Back in March 2008 I commented on a report from Australia that stated that blogging actually makes you feel better. Whilst “Blogging The Blues Away” isn’t for everyone, for me it serves a number of purposes.

Firstly, I find it very therapeutic to put my thoughts down in writing. Those who have maintained a written diary at some point will probably agree with me in that when the mind is whizzing with a dozen ideas, focusing on writing about one thought alone gives a sense of clarity to work from.

Secondly, over time my blog has turned into something of my own personal Knowledgebase. There have been a number of times when engineers who have worked with me have told me they’ve been researching a technical problem and that a blog article I wrote in the past came out in a Google search and provided them with the answer! It’s even more amusing when it happens to me personally too!

Thirdly, I’m a lazy, lazy man. Whenever I see an opportunity to systemise something for future efficiency, I will. Being in the fortunate and flattering position where people regularly approach me to ask my advice, I like nothing better than pointing them towards a blog article I wrote on the subject they’re asking about and then offering my help with any follow-up advice I can offer after they’re read that article. I’m able to spend more time helping more people this way.

Social Networking

Finally, and probably most importantly, I’ve met a LOT of people thanks to blogging. Before “Social Networking” was even a buzz word, I used to write blog posts and wonder if anybody even read them (this was way before I started using WordPress with its fancy analytics to track reader metrics!). Then a strange thing started happening. As I attended User Groups, Trade Shows and Conferences – people used to walk up to me and say “I read your blog”. They spoke to me in such a friendly manner as though they knew me well, even though it was the first time we’d met. I realised that in a way they did already know me – because as I tell people when I’m delivering presentations on Blogging and Social Networking nowadays, producing content on-line gives people a chance to get to know you from afar – and what’s more it builds trust in you and your services.

Likewise, I’ve found blogging helps introduce me to like-minded people. I always bang on about “community” – well I consider myself to be a part of a worldwide blogging community in which I’ve built some great friends in all corners of the world.

Changing focus of a blog

The content I write about has changed over time as I’ve changed as an individual. Visiting those first posts in 2005 when I was working as an “IT guy” – fixing PC’s for a living, I wrote about anything and everything from concerts, to computer games, to what I’d been up to that week.

As time went by, my articles focused more on Technical topics. Microsoft Small Business Server featured heavily as I became a part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.

When I started to move away from being the “IT Guy” into becoming a Managed Service Provider (MSP), the content changed again and became more business focused. Slowly, the business articles outweighed the technical articles.

Now the articles are typically about my thoughts and experiences as a business owner. They’re primarily aimed at my peers, who I want to help to grow their businesses in the same way that I did.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, that’s now what I do for a living as an Independent Consultant – working with my peers to help them.

I remember my friend Susanne asking me who my blog was aimed at. I answered “My peers… I guess?!”. The uncertainty over my answer was simply because I just wrote whatever I fancied writing, without any “grand plan”. If it looks like I intentionally ended up in the position I’m in, then I can assure you that’s just a fluke!

Considering finishing blogging?

I’ll admit I’ve flirted flirted with giving up blogging. Firstly due to micro-blogging site Twitter – which I wrote about in January 2009 under the title “The Death of Blogging?”. Later due to haters who I let upset me with negative comments and feedback. Once I got back to the fact I enjoy blog writing primarily for me, I was off writing again.

I’ve recently started writing White Papers and getting involved in some academic studies. I’m finding it a challenge to adapt my “conversational style” of writing – which I’ve had a lot of people comment that they enjoy in my blogging – to the dryer less chatty style required for White Papers. I’m told most people struggle to go from dry to chatty – not the other way round – so hopefully I’ll adapt too. The point is, I write my blog the way I enjoy writing it – there are no right or wrong ways on the style in which you should write your blog – just write it.

Finding the time to blog

The question I’m most asked about blogging is “Where do you find the time?”.

The answer is simple – like anything that is important to me, I make the time.

I don’t have a set schedule, and I don’t block out time in my diary to write blog posts.

However, I do write whenever the urge takes me and I don’t always publish blog posts in the sequence I originally wrote them. If I get an idea, I’ll either add it to a list of blog posts I want to write about in the future, so that when I’m feeling less inspired but want to write – I’ve got something to work on.

If I’ve got time then I’ll begin to brain dump my ideas down into Windows Live Writer there and then. This makes it easier for me to flesh out a blog post later.

Ideally, and time permitting, I’ll write the blog post from start to finish as the idea comes to me. Often, I’ll save it as a draft, and then publish it some time later when I’ve had time to go back and reflect upon it. This can be important, especially when I’m writing about something that I’m passionate about. It’s similar to the tactic of never responding to an e-mail when you’re angry. Always wait some time, re-visit what you’ve wrote and revise once the emotion has had time to settle.

Of course, if you read many of my blog posts from years gone by (which I never delete, even if I cringe to read them now) then you’ll see this is only a technique I’ve recently adapted… Smile

Nothing to write about?

As to the second most common question (or statement, I guess) I hear about blogging from those who are interested in it, but are not writing, is “I wouldn’t have anything to write about”. To them I say this. The stuff I write about most often are things that I experience. It could be a technical challenge, it could be somewhere I visit, somebody I meet, advice I’ve been given and acted upon, advice I’ve ignored, stuff that makes me happy, stuff that makes me upset. Basically, stuff in my everyday life. If you’re stuck for what to write, just have a think about what you’ve done recently and use that to get started.

Who will read it?

If you’re worried that nobody will read it, then realise that to begin with – nobody will. Most people give up writing a blog within the first few weeks because they don’t receive any feedback. I kept writing because as I’ve already stated, I was writing for me alone. Over time, I realised people *were* reading. Consistently publishing blog posts will see you pick up an audience sooner or later, but just be aware it might be later.

What’s more, all those old blog posts you wrote and nobody read at the time suddenly find a new audience as time goes on. The blog post I wrote about “Using SSL Certificates with SBS 2003” hardly got any visits when I first wrote it, but is now in my top five visited articles each week. People stumble across your blog posts via search engines, word of mouth, forums and the like – but they can only stumble across it if it’s there in the first place.

At the start of 2011 “I Got Freshly Pressed” – which saw a huge amount of new visitors. In both 2009 and 2010, I was nominated for the Computer Weekly Blog Awards in the “IT Consultant” category. In all three cases, hugely flattering, and it meant lots of new visitors finding my blog. All this from publishing articles I enjoyed writing!


So there you have it. If you’ve never blogged before – why not try it? Go visit or Blogger and you can get started straight away.

You never know, 500 posts on you may still be enjoying blogging too! Smile


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