Fri, 28 December 2018
Richard speaks to David Allen, author, speaker and coach and creator of 'Getting Things Done', a tool to improve productivity and overcome procrastination, about how he came up with GTD and how to make the most of the system.
Sun, 23 December 2018
Richard speaks to Chad Savoy and Daniel Camara of Spanning Backup, a SaaS data protection company.
Sun, 16 December 2018
Richard speaks to Fred Voccola, CEO of Kaseya, an IT management and software solutions platform.
Sun, 9 December 2018
Richard speaks to Kevin Lancaster, CEO of ID Agents, based in Maryland, who make Dark Web and identity monitoring systems that protect organisations and employees.
Sun, 2 December 2018
Richard speaks to Christian Nagele & Ian Van Reenen of Datto, a business continuity and management platform.
Sun, 25 November 2018
Richard speaks with Matt Richards, Chief Marketing Officer, Pete Jaworski, Product Manager, and Adam Stewart, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Datto, which provides business continuity and management.
Sun, 18 November 2018
Richard hosts a panel session with CompTIA members who own or work with IT businesses about the future of the MSP.
Sun, 11 November 2018
In this episode, Richard talks to Bob Burg, author and keynote speaker, about his books, The Go-Giver philosophy and dealing with difficult situations.
Sun, 28 October 2018
Richard speaks to Michael George CEO, Bob Kocis CRO and Fielder Hiss, VP of Product, all at Continuum, who support MSPs with a range of tools to help them grow their businesses.
Sun, 21 October 2018
In this episode, Richard talks to Daniel Welling, of Welling MSP, based in Marlowe, London.
Sun, 14 October 2018
Richard speaks to Ted Stone, Chief Executive of Customer First UK, based in Doncaster and owner of the 'putting the customer first' standard.
Sun, 7 October 2018
Richard talks to Paul Green of MSP Marketing Edge, in Milton Keynes, which supports IT providers and MSPs with their marketing.
Wed, 26 September 2018
Richard talks to Leigh Wood, Director of Node IT Solutions, based in Biggleswade.
Tue, 25 September 2018
Richard talks to Geoff Nicholson, performance coach specialising in the field of high performance, resilience and stress management, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Mon, 24 September 2018
Richard talks to Jon Honeyball, Contributing Editor to PCPro Magazine and owner of Woodleyside IT in Cambridgeshire.
Sun, 23 September 2018
Richard speaks to Tiana Wilson-Buys, owner of Talking Business, a coaching and consultancy business in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Sun, 26 August 2018
Richard talks to Steve Duckworth, CEO of Harmony PSA, about how their automation software can help IT businesses and the four different ways that MSPs can use it to sell.
Sun, 19 August 2018
Richard speaks to Norb Doeberlein, CEO of Netzbahn, about successfully running an IT company in a niche and the challenges of managing client security requirements.
Mon, 13 August 2018
Richard talks to Mostyn Thomas about how he deals with the challenges of providing IT solutions in a small area and the tools he uses to make his Managed Service Provider (MSP), Astrix a success.
Tue, 7 August 2018
Richard talks with Paul Dippell of Service Leadership about his recent research into master MSP use and the surprising results he found.
Mon, 30 July 2018
Richard speaks to Doug Hazelman, Vice President of Technical Marketing at CloudBerry Lab in Florida, who provide built-for-cloud backup software.
Sun, 29 July 2018
Richard speaks to Arlin Sorensen, Founder of a wildly-successful USA-based MSP as well as Heartland Technology Group, a peer mentoring network.
Sun, 29 July 2018
Richard speaks to John Jantsch, author, speaker and expert in marketing and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing System.
Sat, 28 July 2018
Richard speaks with Melissa Saar, Partner Success Manager at IT Glue, a SaaS-based documentation platform.
Thu, 21 June 2018
Richard speaks to Rob Rae, Vice President of Business Development at Datto, about the merger between Datto and Autotask and what this means for MSPs worldwide.
Mon, 18 June 2018
 Adam Nash on why cyber security is so important and how Webroot's solution helps MSPs stay protected
Richard speaks to Adam Nash, Sales Manager EMEA of Webroot, a next-generation, cloud-based cyber security company.
Thu, 31 May 2018
Richard and Rick talk about how Zedsphere came about, how they help MSPs (managed service providers) and how they differ from the more traditional distributor model.
Thu, 31 May 2018
Richard talks to James Kimbley of Kimbley IT about Google's latest developments for its range of online tools.
Thu, 31 May 2018
Richard talks to Craig Fulton, Chief Product Officer at ConnectWise, about their integrated suite of products and getting your customer services right.
Thu, 31 May 2018
Richard speaks to Arnie Bellini, CEO of ConnectWise, a community-driven software company which helps MSPs manage their businesses more effectively.
Mon, 12 March 2018
Richard speaks with Bob Kocis, Chief Revenue Officer of Continuum, an outsourced Network Operations Centre (NOC) provider.
Mon, 12 March 2018
Richard speaks with Michael George, the CEO of Continuum, an outsourced Network Operations Centre (NOC) provider for MSPs.
Sat, 10 March 2018
Richard speaks to Brad Benner, founder of Berlin-based SmileBack on how MSPs can improve their customer feedback.
Mon, 5 March 2018
In a special episode, Craig Sharp delivers a presentation on "How to be a Remarkable MSP" at the Continuum Partner Event in London.
Sat, 3 March 2018
CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) is a not-for-profit trade association and a peer community. At their EMEA (European, Middle Eastern and Asian) Conference in London, the biggest event outside of the USA, I spoke to four attendees to find out why they think CompTIA membership is a must for IT companies and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who want to grow their businesses.
Direct download: TubbTalk_-_16_-_What_is_CompTIA_and_how_can_it_help_your_IT_company.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:34pm UTC
Sat, 3 March 2018
In this episode, Richard talks to Phylip Morgan of The Networking Group: www.nbg.co.uk. They discuss how the group supports the members, whether they’re Managed Service Providers (MSPs), retailers or vendors.
They also discuss the idea of Managed Service Retailers, giving customers an all-in-one solution for all their technology needs, and how this can work to benefit the businesses too. They mentioned Nest, a home automation provider (find out more here: https://nest.com/uk/), and the Internet of Things (click here for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things)
Direct download: TubbTalk_-_15_-_What_is_a_Managed_Service_Retailer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:09pm UTC
Mon, 22 January 2018
Richard talks to George Bardissi, CEO of Bardissi Enterprises (https://www.bardissi.net/) and BVoIP: (https://www.bvoip.com/). They discuss the challenges MSPs face, as well as how George got started in the IT industry.
Sun, 15 November 2015
What is upside down accounting and how is Cloud accounting changing the way companies do business?
In a special hour-long episode 13 of TubbTalk, I speak with Paul MacNeill, MD of Australian based MSP Virage and co-founder of Wise-Sync.
Paul and I discuss:-
Wed, 11 November 2015
What can an IT Managed Service Provider learn from McDonald's burgers and UK crime drama, The Sweeney?
In episode 12 of TubbTalk, recorded at Old Trafford Stadium, home of Manchester United Football Club, I speak with Andy Pope, a former MSP owner and the Managing Director of The Consort Group.
Andy and I discuss:-
Richard Tubb: Hi everyone, Richard Tubb here and today I'm joined by Andy Pope of the Consort Group. How are you doing, Andy?
Andy Pope: Not bad, thank you.
Richard Tubb: Andy and I are currently on the MSP Raise Your Game road-show going to cities across the UK. And today we’re here in Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, probably the world’s most famous football team.
Andy Pope: Well….
Richard Tubb: As an Arsenal fan, you disagree?
Andy Pope: Well, we’re going to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow so…
Richard Tubb: Well, there we go.
Andy Pope: There we go, we’ll see the difference then but…
Richard Tubb: We’ve had good audiences of MSPs, aspiring MSPs, and IT companies talking to us. Tell us a little bit more about your background within the MSP industry and what led you to being the MD of Consort Group.
Andy Pope: Well, I came from a retail background. I put back in at the beginning just to say that I kind of am able to speak to people and understand what customers want. More so than from a techie background. So I came in to IT from that way.
And I’ve actually been the MD of an MSP, as they are now for the last 15 years. I’ve recently left them and that’s something I’ve done by myself, and left them to do their thing with their owner which is great. And during that process we went from—if you like a classical, I don’t call it “great fix,” I call it “Sweeney Support.”
Richard Tubb: Ok, tell me more.
Andy Pope: Well, Sweeney, the car door’s open, the engine’s running outside the office, as soon as the phone rings it’s down, “Go! Go! Go!” Everyone slides across the bonnet, gets in the car and off they shoot to remove a newspaper from a keyboard. That’s actually a true story.
One of my first days there suddenly the phone rang, “Oh, there’s a strange noise coming from my PC.” They we’re based in New Market which is about a 45 – 50 minute journey for someone to go up there and literally take a newspaper off the keyboard to make the funny noise go. So there we go, that was the challenge but yeah, we successfully moved them from Sweeney Support to—
Richard Tubb: And I was going to say, for any of our American listeners who’s watching you and not familiar with Sweeney, I’ll put it in the show notes, you’re in for a treat.
Andy Pope: Yeah.
Richard Tubb: Sorry, Andy, continue.
Andy Pope: So yes, we managed to do the right thing and moved them from Sweeney to Managed Services. And during that process we’ve come across—there’s been a lot of changes in the IT industry since then. I think the first PCs that we were putting in were either clone build-yourself PCs valued at roughly ₤1,500 - ₤1,200, now ₤250. And the margin’s gone from that completely.
Software again has changed an awful lot. We’ve gone through lots of changes and now Cloud is here. So the industry has changed an awful lot and we’ve been able to change the business to see that as well.
Richard Tubb: Tell me a bit more about the Consort Group. Loosely understood it, collaboration, collective of IT companies. Share a bit more, what’s the benefit?
Andy Pope: Well, the benefits of being a member of the Consort Group is that it’s a member’s organization for the members. So it’s non-profit. The idea being is a collaborative partnership between all of the members. We can all sit together and share information on technical, on sales, marketing.
And it’s kind of non-competitive environment as well. So there’s no one there really competing for anyone else’s business. We all get on well, have a couple of beers, and enjoy ourselves which is great because you tend get an awful lot of collaboration done the night before the Board meeting.
And of course, it gives us one voice to go and speak to specific vendors. They want to come and speak to us because there’s ten wise men sitting in the room. I have to say that if they’re listening. And it’s good for them to actually pitch themselves against us and our experience as well. So we do get a lot of interesting vendors who want to come speak to us as well. And obviously, we want to speak to vendors and get prices down, and better terms, and better partnership, and better collaboration with them. That tends to work very well.
And the core services around Consort of things like marketing, training, sales training, customer service training, access to lots of different contractual documentation, and the shared, combined knowledge of a lot of techies across the country. We do get an awful lot of, “Guys, I’ve got this,” or “Guys, I’ve just discovered this security issue,” and sharing that type of information which is great.
Richard Tubb: Makes a lot of sense. Clearly, lots of things have changed in the industry over the past few years. What do you think have been the biggest changes and how should MSPs cope with that?
Andy Pope: Well, I think one of the biggest changes is the difference in skill sets required these days. So if you’ve, for example, decided that all you’re going to do is put Office 365 and Cloud-based products, so therefore your clients no longer need servers, and these are broad assumptions but there’s a logic behind that.
So therefore you don’t need servers anymore, so therefore you don’t need a Server Engineer any more. Someone that can support the exchange, why would you go to market and find—unless you’ve got clients that pick up this guy’s salary. I don’t know, an Exchange Engineer is going to cost you ₤25,000 per year plus.
Richard Tubb: And the rest, pretty penny, yeah.
Andy Pope: Yeah. So you’ve got to be delivering, or you’ve got to be having in Exchange Support contracts worth ₤25,000 that he uses and everything else that sits around that. Then you’ve got to support them, someone else has got to look after that when he’s on holiday or sick. And it just doesn’t stack up anymore.
So we hear a lot about skill shortage and I wonder whether actually that’s the wrong question. It’s a skill difference. Looking at who your workforce now is, I talk about digital migrants and digital natives. Digital natives were born with a mouse in their hands, basically. And actually, support these days is more about device support rather than service support. Especially if you take the Cloud model.
So therefore, you need people that are friendly, good bedside manner, can go out and hold conversation, listen for sales opportunities whilst they’re there.
Richard Tubb: Attitude comes before technical skills?
Andy Pope: And be able to support devices. And I think that’s one of the biggest difference these days is that with Cloud, it does take away that whole area of IT. Now, again, through transitioning—I’m not saying ditch all your server clients because someone else is going to make some serious money out of them when you do—but just consider what happens in your business over the next four, five years and where that’s going.
Are we going to go in a cycle and go back to servers? I don’t think so. So what does that look like? And it becomes more about bedside manner that it does about technical skills, I think.
Richard Tubb: So let’s talk a little bit more to that point then. As an employer, what do you look for in people when you recruit? Because I’m hearing that technical is probably a little bit further down that list than people skills.
Andy Pope: Well, there’s this mythical beast in the IT world and that’s a technical person that is also a really good salesman, doesn’t want to get paid an awful lot, and doesn’t want sales commission. If you know where they are, tell me because from a recruitment point-of-view we can put them in lots, and lots of different places.
But essentially, what you’re after is you’re after that—I personally think that someone that understands business, and understands what the client is going through. Now, some of that you can do by training. So from a training point-of-view, teach your staff about what makes a business tick.
So what challenges do you take on a day-to-day basis? So therefore they can start thinking along that lines, applying IT to that. And then looking for those solutions. Obviously, you need someone with technical skills but recruit for attitude, train to skill.
Richard Tubb: Yeah, I’ve always said myself, I’d much rather recruit somebody based on their good attitude and to train them up on the technical side because it’s very difficult to hire somebody with great technical skills and teach the man to be a good person.
Andy Pope: Yeah, yeah, and McDonald’s, if you take McDonald’s, I’ve heard that they’re a burger chain. I’ve never eaten in a McDonald’s before.
Richard Tubb: Bear in mind the herculean physiques, we…
Andy Pope: Absolutely, yeah.
Richard Tubb: Our bodies are temples!
Andy Pope: So I’ve heard about this place called McDonald’s and what they do is they—wherever you go across the country, and we’ve done quite a few miles over the last few days, and I’ve seen these McDonald’s on the road, they all have the same menu. And they all have the same standard. So a cheeseburger should be the same cheeseburger whether it’s in Edinburgh or North London, and all the way in between.
So how do they do that? Well, they’ve got a process for that. So in the same with your IT Support, actually can you deliver a process that says when a client comes in with a support call, we deal with it this way; we then do this, we then do that?
And actually, you can break a lot of the skill down—let me go back a step—a helpdesk engineer needs to know lots of different things other than just how to fix the problem. He needs to know how to dial in. Where do I find this customer’s detail? Who is this person? Is he the boss or is he the cleaner?
So there’s a lot of knowledge that is difficult to capture and difficult to train. Where if you can actually do the McDonald’s and break it down to its lowest common denominator, you also write a Visio chart of “This is what we do,” pictograms, keep it simple. That’s what McDonald’s do, you go into a McDonald’s and if you want a cheeseburger, the burger goes on, then the piece of cheese, this amount sauce goes on. Then the bun goes on. It’s wrapped in a certain way, and it’s delivered in a certain time.
So if you can try make as many things in your organization process-driven as possible, and again, PSAs and remote-management tools help you do that, then I think actually what you’re looking for in a support person is slightly different. And maybe slightly cheaper as well so therefore profitability wise, that’s better.
Richard Tubb: Yeah. Up to your point, I really like the idea of sharing the business model with your staff. So many IT business owners that I speak to they tell me that the engineers are focused on helping the clients first and foremost. And actually, that’s only half the job. I mean, it’s an admirable trait but you’ve got to help the client and be profitable. Otherwise, there’s no business there.
Andy Pope: Yeah, and actually, a really good point on that, we interviewed for an apprentice recently and one of the guys come in, you ask him the standard questions. He was 16 years old, he’s quite fun; “So what’s your strength? What’s your weaknesses?”
And this guy says, “My weakness is that sometimes I jump to Google too quick to find the solution.”
And I said, “No, that’s actually a strength.” In academia, I completely understand that. But in business, actually, what I want you to do is to clear that problem as quick as possible. Because the simple thing from an IT support point-of-view is I don’t want you to phone me for IT support, I just want to earn money from having that service. And the customer’s thinking I need value from it so when I do phone I need quick response and such and so forth. The idea is to get them off the phone as quick as possible and move on to the next one.
And actually, not even wait for the phone to ring, using remote management, go in and actually see what problems, and really work on issues, and understand it, and that sort of thing.
And again, around that process-side, sorry, is if you look at what products you sell and have a kind of best-of-breed policy, so why do we have five different backup solutions in our business? Why have we got five different anti-virus solutions? Why is there such a difference in hardware across the board?
And try and standardize because again, it’s easy to train knowledge-based wise you can share things between one. You can fix one on one machine then you know the—it’s an anti-virus issue where you need to tweak an exclusion on Sage, you know ten of your other clients have got Sage and they’re using the AV so go in and do it and sort it out. And then just email the client and say, “We’ve done this by the way.” That’s value.
Richard Tubb: Yeah. So let’s pick on your experience again. Despite the fact the fact you’re only looking at 21 you’ve been in the IT industry for years and years. If you were to start an MSP again today, what would you do differently? And I guess, my question really is, for MSPs who are starting up in this new client, what advice would you give to them?
Andy Pope: I would really go for this trusted advisor role. If you’re a techie, unfortunately, people still view you as this kind of geeky person. And actually you’re ok with a screwdriver and you come up with some good pearls of wisdom all the time, I’ve seen it in so many places where I’ve gone in and the web designer or someone that’s involved in their marketing is now starting to give them IT advice which I thought was my domain.
And actually, it’s good sound business advice. And they don’t come to me because I’m the IT guy. So we very much focus on new business around being the trusted adviser, being the business adviser who will help you get the most out of IT rather than the IT guy who can help you solve some business problems.
Richard Tubb: Yeah, makes a lot of sense.
Andy Pope: Another key area for, if you’re starting a new MSP, is choose what you’re really good at and stick to that. Become this man-of-all people. So if what you’re really good at is supporting desktops, well, just support desktops. Don’t do servers.
And the reason for that is there’s other people that you should actually look at partnering with rather than competing in the local area. Obviously, there’s a trust issue, there’s all sorts of things going on. But for me, it’s about we do Cloud, that’s what we do. So if anyone wants something that isn’t in that area, I’ll either try and sell my solution or if they won’t change, if they won’t do—“We want as it were,” then we’ll suggest they go elsewhere.
Richard Tubb: Yes! So you’re looking for the customers that are the right fit for your business than trying to bend your business model to suit—to do all things for people.
Andy Pope: Yes, that’s correct.
Now that is really brave to do for an existing IT company. Because the existing IT company probably has two of those exchange engineers sitting there, and they’ve got four helpdesk staff, and they’ve got a fleet of vans and they’ve got this, and they’ve got that. So their overhead is very high.
So to transition from they still need those capital projects and those one-off things to still carry on paying the bills. But when you start a new business you can say, “Ok, well, I’m just going to grow my staff when I get the monthlies in to do so.” And you can actually keep your costs in line with your monthly income. A lot easier than transition from one to another.
And that is why it’s always going to be the biggest challenge. That might mean there’s going to be cash flow issue. So that’s why getting things on direct debit or automatic payment preferably upfront is a good way of just going about and doing that sort of thing. But yeah, that’s it.
Richard Tubb: Fantastic. I’m going to pick up on some things that you mentioned earlier on. And these actually fit into the theme of the Consort Group. You said too for MSPs to focus on their core competencies and to buddy up, to team up with other providers in that.
Let’s take that forward a little bit. So we’re here at Old Trafford, Manchester. We’re here for the Raise Your Game roadshow and some of the feedback I’ve heard from the MSPs in attendance today is that it’s actually first exposure to the idea that not every IT company is a competitor, that you can collaborate. Why do MSPs join say, the Consort Group which is a very tightly-knit group of peers collaborating? What’s the benefits to their business?
Andy Pope: I think there’s different benefits. The overriding benefit is what we class as—we have these core services, if you like—but the overriding is that you’re meeting with peers and you’re able to share information in a non-competitive way. And that all sounds very grand but it’s true and it does work. And that is some of it is because geographically they’re dispersed but we have got kind of a smattering, a clustering in the Northwest.
And they’re very careful to share information. There’s been many times where one of the member’s client has phoned another one of the members and there’s been a tip off going back and forward through. So it’s that shoulder-to-lean on or cry on, if you like, is actually at the heart of it.
And then that split down into a sales advice; “This is how we sell this.” Kind of the compliance and the legal advice. “Look, we’ve just spent a lot of money on this, producing this set of IT contract documentation, does anyone else want to share it, we’ll go halves on the cost with me or whatever from there.”
And technical skills, being able to share ideas but also pool technical resources especially when it’s product development, developing new things and new services, sharing that within the group. And then that voice to vendors, being able to go to vendors and saying, “Actually, there’s now 350 who’s between this week’s support coming up to 250,000 devices so let’s talk about a decent rate.” And that type of thing. But I see that as a secondary rather than the first of that kind of peer collaboration, and support between the group.
And the core services, things like shared marketing, so we have a Business Talk Magazine that goes out once a quarter to prospects all over. And it has that kind of thought leadership piece. And it’s the same that goes to all of the members. Obviously, with their own kind of contact details, and logos, and bits and pieces on there.
For things like customer service training, we share between, sales training, and lots of other—if you like, core add-ons to it from there. But essentially, it’s that peer collaboration. In our blurb, “it’s a member organization for the benefit of the members.”
Richard Tubb: Good. Makes a lot of sense. And from what I’m hearing as well, a part from the nice to have’s; the collaboration, technical collaboration and the shared marketing, there’s an impact on the bottom line isn’t there, for the companies that are part, clearly so.
Andy Pope: Yeah, so there’s a membership fee but we tend to find that depending on how you have your operation running, and your kind of operational tools, that sometime depending if they’re the right ones that we’ve got the discounts that tends to pay the membership.
Richard Tubb: Yeah, in it of itself, membership has an impact on the bottom line, I’m going to presume it’s a very positive impact.
Andy Pope: Absolutely, yeah.
Richard Tubb: Based on learning, your constant sharing also.
Andy Pope: Well, just marketing, if you look at the quality of the Business Talk that we send out if an individual’s to do that it would cost them the same to do it for ten members as it does for one member. So it’s just to print—the difference in print, which is nothing really. So from that point-of-view, yeah, there’s definitely benefits in belonging to the group.
And also, we found that guys have been able to punch above their weight now so they’re being able to go out and have a little bit on their proposals or on their website that says, “We’re part of the Consort Group. That means we have 350 engineers across the country.”
Because we have kind of an intercompany charge rate between the group. So, “Guys, I need someone down in Bristol,” from the company up in Stirling, in Scotland because that’s one of their satellite offices where clients, you know the story. So our member down in the South will go and send someone over to Bristol for that. Or the one from Rex, whoever is closest. And there’s an internal charge mechanism for that. So that really helps as well to be able to go out and win new business and to tender for new business that you wouldn’t typically have done before.
Richard Tubb: Makes a lot of sense. So for somebody who’s business was built off the back of peer collaboration as my MSP business was, I would highly encourage any MSP and IT companies watching this, get out there, find local user groups and speak to your competitors, create the strategic alliance. Speak to organizations such as CompTIA and Consort. Get together with your peers. You know that old phrase; “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is absolutely true.
Andy Pope: Yeah, and you will find that people are happy to network. So they’ll go to a beer night or Chamber of Commerce event and various things like that. And so you’re already doing networking but actually, look at networking within your marketplace. You really don’t have to compete with people.
Yes, there are core services that you do compete on. You don’t have to share that information but I tend to find there’s enough business for us all anyway. Even if it’s just servicing your own customers. If you’re being aggressive, and going out, and trying to steal other business from elsewhere, you’ll soon find out that no one wants to collaborate with you. And there are better ways of doing that; let customers make their decision rather than you trying to steal business.
Richard Tubb: And Andy, to fear that I have to hear from IT companies who don’t collaborate in that, “If we collaborate, if somebody does steal our client,” but it’s a self-selecting mechanism isn’t it?
Andy Pope: Yeah.
Richard Tubb: Because if they do, nobody collaborates with them anymore.
Andy Pope: Clients aren’t stupid. It’s not like they’re sheep where someone would just go in and say, “Oh, they’re not looking. That shepherd is not looking, come and join my flock.” There tends to be a reason why they want to leave that flock in the first place.
So even if someone is stealing your business, you’ve got to ask yourself the question, why are they stealing my business? Is it price? Is it value? Is it service? All those sorts of things. But that’s for another day, maybe.
Richard Tubb: Makes a lot of sense. And I feel as though we can talk about this all day.
Andy Pope: Yeah.
Richard Tubb: I’m conscious of your time. We’re going to go back to doing some speaking in front of audiences. Before we go, how would people who want to find out more about the Consort Group and to reach out to you directly, how would they get in touch with you?
Andy Pope: So the best thing to do is to go to our website which is consort.IT, simple as that. All the information you need is on there. And my contact details are on there. Drop me an email. Give me a call and I’m happy to have a conversation, chat. What I’ll probably do is point you to one of the members that are closest to you so you won’t just hear it from me, you actually hear it from the members and see what their story is and why they decided to join the group.
Richard Tubb: Fantastic. Just before we go I’ve got one burning question for you. I know you’re a comic book geek the same as me, so Superman or Spider Man, who’s best and why?
Andy Pope: Well, it’s easy, Superman, every time.
Richard Tubb: Wow, you’re wrong but we don’t have time for me to tell you why that is. Make my Marvel every single day! Andy, thanks very much for your time really appreciate it.
Andy Pope: It’s been a lot of fun.
Tue, 1 September 2015
Can Social Media really be used by small businesses to find and win customers locally?
In episdode 11 of TubbTalk, I talk with Chris Marr, a Social Media and Marketing expert.
Chris and I discuss:-
Direct download: TubbTalk_-_11_-_Chris_Marr_of_Learning_Every_Day.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:32am UTC
Sat, 4 July 2015
Why is documentation so important to IT businesses and how it can it have a positive impact on the bottom line of any IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP)?
Chris Day on the importance of IT documentation
In episode 10 of TubbTalk I speak with Chris Day of IT Glue, an IT documentation platform, and the CEO of one of Western Canada’s biggest MSP’s, Fully Managed.
In our conversation, Chris and I discuss:-
Richard: Hello, everyone. Richard Tubb here and I’m speaking today with Chris Day, the CEO of Vancouver-based managed service provider, Fully Managed. Fully Managed is one of the largest MSPs in western Canada. Chris is also the CEO of IT Glue, a software-as-a-service solution to the problems of IT documentation for IT companies.
Now, among his recent honors – Chris has been awarded the 40 Under 40 award for his individual success as a CEO. Fully Managed, as a business, had been named Alberta’s Best Workplace and British Columbia’s Small Business Best Employer as well. I’m delighted that Chris can join us today. Chris, how are you?
Chris: Doing very well. Thank you, Richard. Thanks for the wonderful intro.
Richard: You’re welcome. How’s Vancouver today? I know it’s early in the morning for you.
Chris: You know what? It’s a beautiful day here. Sunny which is unlike Vancouver, which is known to be like Seattle — very, very rainy — but it’s been beautiful, so I can’t complain.
Richard: Excellent. Sounds a lot like Birmingham in the UK where I’m calling from this day. We’ve got an absolutely gorgeous day, and that’s a rarity.
I’ve mentioned that you’re CEO of two companies, a managed service provider much like many of the listeners to this podcast, and also a company that provides solutions for MSPs in IT Glue. Perhaps you can share a little bit about how you ended up running not one, but two very successful businesses.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. The last couple of years have really put me through the ringer, I would say. There’s a lot that goes into – it’s just mainly starting a new business, in general. But particularly with IT Glue, where we have been on a very, I would say, aggressive growth curve. It’s been absolutely nuts.
The good thing about Fully Managed is that it’s a fairly established business. It’s been around since 2002, and I have a partner in that business – Charlene. Thanks to her. She’s the president and then I have another, basically a VP of Ops andSales. The collective three run the business, essentially.
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to take the last two years and focus, I’d say, 95 percent of my energy on IT Glue. The five percent – Fully Managed has been really more on quarterly strategy meetings and annual strategy planning meetings. I’m very thankful for that.
Richard: IT Glue, I’m intrigued. I know a little bit of background of IT Glue. I understand IT Glue came together as a result of peer pressure, for lack of a better word. Perhaps you could explain a little bit more about that.
Chris: It was. Probably like yourself, I spent a lot of time in the ConnectWise community back then. Obviously, I’m spending time in both the ConnectWise and Autotask communities now. We were in HTG. We were in service leadership peer groups. I was doing presenting at Microsoft events. Through a lot of those initiatives, I would always be talking about documentation, and I would be pulling up screenshots. I would have the structured information that I would show people. Every time, they would say, “What is that?” It’s not SharePoint and it’s not Word documents. It’s not a Wiki.
I guess it was honestly just enough people saying to me, “You should really sell that software.” This is probably starting five, six years ago that people were saying that. The story about IT Glue is that my brother and I developed a software initially just as a standalone tool just for Fully Managed. We did that probably nine years ago. It just evolved into the point where we were paying – we almost had a full-time developer just working on features just within Fully Managed, on that tool.
Eventually, it just came to a point and that was probably about three years ago, where I decided, “You know what, I’m going to actually start a company.” It was completely separate from Fully Managed.
I spun up a team, found a developer-partner, and I guess the rest is history. It took about two years to build the app from sort of what I would consider a prototype or a nine-year beta test to the point where it is today, where it’s a software-as-a-service platform and hundreds and hundreds of MSPs using it. Crazy.
Richard: Fantastic story. I want to talk a little bit more about IT Glue as our conversation goes forward. But I really want to look upon Fully Managed now and your history with that just for thirty minutes.
Richard: You’ve very publicly shared – in your own words here are – and to quote, “Driven by the tireless pursuit to inspire, improve, create peace of mind, and build a successful, world-class global brand.” I think that’s a fantastic sort of tagline there. That in itself is an inspiring vision.
Now, most IT businesses I know of tend to think locally, tend to think to certain geographical area. They certainly don’t think globally for the most part. Chris, what drives you to think globally about Fully Managed?
Chris: With Fully Managed, we always had this vision of 10 million in 10 cities. We’re nowhere near that vision yet, I’ll be honest. But we’re around 55 employees today. We always thought that – partly just with the name, we really believed in the purpose of the company. The “creating peace of mind” was – I’m sure a lot of companies have gone through this exercise with Simon Sinek, understanding why you’re in business and not what you do.
That was a big profound thing for us in Fully Managed in understanding that we wanted to instill and create emotion through our service, not just be a service provider that we’re fast and we give you a good strategy. It was like, “What do people feel when they engage with our brand?”
Then, not thinking so small as single city. We were able to take that to the next step and have a second city. Then we got a third city in the last 18 months as well.
I think we’re executing on that vision slowly. I don’t know that Fully Managed is going to be global. In the end, maybe Canada-wide would be the extent of our vision. There’s just so much business available even inside of Canada that I’m not sure we would need the global challenge. Certainly, a different beast to the software-as-a-service business like IT Glue which is very, very much international and global.
Richard: Understood. What would you say the biggest challenge you face as being the CEO of not one but two quite different businesses?
Chris: The challenge would always be considered time, I guess. Again, I’ve mitigated that largely by having a great team. Certainly, time and like, “Where does your passion lie?” I would say, for me that would be the other piece. Where do I get the most inspired?
I’ve been in the IT provider space for a long time. I started the company probably 13, 14 years ago. For me, the MSP space – I’ve been there and I really value being connected to that world because I still get great insights. I meet and talk with MSPs every single day – probably, five or six different companies every single day.
The things that I learned or things that I can share – the challenge is definitely how much value can I still add to Fully Managed when I’m spending 95 percent of my time on IT Glue. That’s a good problem to have, but certainly that’s probably the largest one.
Richard: I agree. Just some parallels with – you know I’m the former owner of a managed service provider business myself, and now I work with the owners of IT businesses. After I sold the MSP, there was a big concern over – I know it can become irrelevant. I’d say this stage certainly not because I’m fortunate enough to work with some really cutting-edge MSPs doing some great things, and that keeps me grounded, keeps my foot in the industry and understands what’s still going on. It sounds like that’s very much for you with running IT Glue and running Fully Managed as well.
Chris: It is. It’s exactly that. You’re right. You’ve seen it as I’ve seen it. There’s some companies doing some incredible things. In every area of the business that are just so dialed-in that I would aspire for our business to be that dialed-in in that area. It’s really interesting what you run across.
It’s very difficult to get all those levers working at the same time and generating the bottom line and everybody’s looking for that. That’s a big struggle still. Nobody’s got it perfect yet.
Richard: Definitely. Let’s change gear for a minute then, talking about levers. How would you say running a SASS business in IT Glue different to your experience of running a managed service provider?
Chris: That’s a great question. I would say there’s a number of things that are different. The thing that’s very similar, which I love about running a SASS business, is that I’m still connected with the CEOs, the executives, the owners of these businesses like I was with Fully Managed. Selling to that same level which we did and generally the same size of companies, which is very interesting, right?
I would say the predominant – I’m sure 80, 90 percent of MSPs are below 50 employees. I would say 80 to 90 percent of the MSP customers that we would sell to are below 50 employees, maybe a little bit higher but very similar anyway, in terms of the size of companies that we sell to.
What’s different, I would say, is certainly the scalability of a SASS business. The fact that we have days, where we brought on 20, 30 customers in a single day. Try doing that in MSP world.
Richard: Oh, yeah.
Chris: It may not fly.
Richard: I’m just thinking about that, but yeah.
Chris: Then the other thing that’s really, really cool about the SAAS business is – and some of the MSPs have figured this out, too — is we’re selling to a vertical. I very much understand the pain points and the value proposition for an MSP for the software that we sell for documentation.
In the MSP world, given our markets that we’re in, we’re not in very large markets. We don’t have that capability of going super vertical. You’re not tailoring your managed services to legal or to accounting or to manufacturing. We actually have to take all three in order to have enough of a market to get us the growth that we want. With that come the challenges of not being vertical-focused. You can’t be as good if you’re spread on verticals.
That piece, it really highlighted for me. It was actually only in the last couple of weeks that I realized, really, it’s such a vertical — IT Glue so vertical. It’s MSPs that we sell to that everybody has the exact same challenge. You can really hone the software, the solution set to that vertical.
Richard: Makes a lot of sense, makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk about IT Glue. Let’s talk about IT documentation a little bit more. A while ago, I wrote a book entitled The Top Five Mistakes MSPs Make that Cost Them Time and Money. One of those five mistakes was lack of documentation. I’m getting that sense of you agreeing with me, Chris. Why is IT documentation so important to MSPs?
Chris: It’s actually crazy that this part of the MSP space hasn’t been a focus until now. It sounds like until your book. The thing about documentation is it’s one of the top factors in being able to run efficiently. If you run efficiently, you make more money.
There’s a statistic, which if I ask a room full of MSPs this question, almost everybody agrees. “Do you think that IT people spend at least 20 percent of their time looking for information?” Everybody’s hand will go up. I’ll say, “Leave your hand up if you think it is maybe 30. Leave your hand up if you think it’s maybe 40 percent.”
It’s shocking. There’s still quite a few companies with their hand up at 40 and 50 percent.
Richard: So true.
Chris: I’ll ask the flipside question, “Who would rate their documentation skill of one to 10 higher than a five?” In a room of 200 people — I’m not kidding — there’ll be like five hands. Even those guys, they’ll say they’re no higher of even maybe a seven.
It’s very interesting because I think that our industry was really focused on the technology and the tools for so long. My view is that maybe that was necessary, because we were really struggling with a lot of the tools. Servers were still blue-screening, the backup software wasn’t reliable, the RMM tools didn’t work that well.
There’s all these things that needed some maturing. I feel like a lot of those things have happened. Now, their next logical thing – they always say there’s three keys, three levers to business success: people, process, and technology. I think everybody understands the value of good people. I think everybody understands the value of good technology, and then there’s this last bucket of process or process. If you’re in Canada, you could say either one, but in the States, it’s process.
It’s left to the wayside. It is like, “Yeah, we understand that’s important.” Then I would drill into these examples and say, “If you sit me down in your company today and you’ve got a new service request for Company X, and I have never seen that company in my life, how long would it take me to be up to speed and be able to support that customer?”
Then you run through scenarios. Then they’ll say, “Oh, no. We’ve got all that information. We’ve got guys that know that.” I said, “Yeah but that costs you time and money.”
If I have to ask somebody, “How does that virtual environment set up?” If I have to ask somebody, “What is the DHCP server over there?” or “How is that server being backed up?” or any of these scenarios that really are the necessary pieces of great documentation, very rarely do most MSPs have a good handle on that stuff.
The outcome is it’s burned. It’s time burned. You take that 20 percent of wasted time and you multiply it by your staff count, and then you multiply that by the cost per hour of those employees. That’s your actual soft cost. Then you take, let’s say, 20 percent of that time. What would those people have been doing with that 20 percent of their time? Have they not been wasting it?
All of a sudden, you realize, “Oh, my goodness. The cost of bad documentation and bad process is astounding.” It’s like for a five-person company, it can be a quarter million a year.
Richard: Wow. You’re absolutely preaching to the converted here. I’m melting away as you’re saying this because it’s so true what you’re saying.
Chris: I would say it’s not sexy documentation. In IT Glue we wear the shirt that say “I love documentation” on them. Everybody laughs. “Who likes documentation?” You know what, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s the only way you can scale a business.
In my case, I was able to extract myself from the day-to-day running the nuts and bolts and extract all those key high-level players that are inside the business, the very technical rocket scientist types. The better the documentation, the less need you have for those people, the faster your people get their work done.
In our case, in Fully Managed, we were able to take tasks that used to require Level 2, Level 3 engineers. We were able to push those tasks forward to Level 1 engineers.
That is good for everybody. That’s good for the business owner. That’s good for the Level 2 and Level 3 engineers because they’re thankful that they don’t have to do those mundane tasks. It’s good for the customer because they prefer working with Level 1 engineers, because they’re generally happier and more customer-focused, I would say.
There’s so many benefits to it. But at the end of the day, when I look at anything in my documentation, I look at this as an investment. I look at things as an investor. I want to produce higher returns in the business. That’s what process and documentation will do.
Richard: Absolutely makes sense. I’m sure there’s going to be lots of IT business owners who are listening to this podcast, who absolutely agree with it as well. Well, let’s keep off with our theme for a minute. Most technicians I know and I’ve employed in the past and that I know within MSP businesses now are pretty much driven by a desire to help end users.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Most engineers enjoy being seen as the hero. They get a kick out of helping people with things. It is really an admirable trait to put clients first. But in my experience, it does mean these technicians often dismiss documentation as something that’s time-consuming and gets in the way of them actually helping clients. What’s the benefit of good IT documentation to an MSP’s client? How can the business owner sell good IT documentation to their engineers as something they should be really doing?
Chris: I can mention a few ways. But one of the things that I know has been a big struggle for documentation, in general, it was this idea that, “I want you to update the documentation.”
Even in our business, there would be a project plan and at the end of it, it would say “update documentation”. That was part of the billable scope of the project. We’d scratch our heads and go, “What does that exactly mean?” Generally, the project would get closed off and that was that.
The reason that that’s always been the case since the dawn of time, as in an IT provider space, is that I think there is generally a desire to do documentation. I think that if the system doesn’t support the ability to very easily, quickly, and efficiently maintain and create that documentation, then you’re right. It’s an obstacle to getting work done.
The software or the platform that you’re using to track the documentation, it has to be something that you can do in the line of fire that’s not going to prevent you from getting the work that you need to get done, done. That’s the first thing. In terms of selling it to a customer or selling – for us in Fully Managed, this is a major part of our sales process.
We show our customers how transparent we are with the documentation, how detailed we store everything. We’ve got all of their information on file — from passwords, to how the backups are configured, to the network, to applications. It’s all there.
For the customers, they really get peace of mind from that because they say, “Well, this company is not the type of company that’s going to hold us hostage for information. In fact, they’ve given us a login, and we can look at our documentation at any time.”
The customers definitely see it. The other things that the customers see, in my experience, is the consistency, which is another serious problem in IT. Something like creating a new user account could have 28 steps. Depending on who gets that service request, there could be a significant or at least some variance in the outputs of that request. That is something that the customers feel and obviously something – they don’t love it when you miss a step in a new employee hire technical process.
We have found that having very consistent procedural documentation to go with each customer drives a better customer experience. They say, “Wow, it’s really cool that Jim or Sally can both do that type of task, and it’s very consistently done.” Even the email template that we get at the end, it’s all the same.
Not that you can’t achieve that with brute force, in other ways through great management, but certainly having a system that supports that effort. For example, every request that we do in our service desk — our service desk has probably 28 to 30 people now, so quite a few people just in the service desk team. It just allowed to perform a technical task without following a standard operating procedure (SOP). Those SOPs are linked, and they must be referenced inside the ticket notes that they do.
That means that if there is not an SOP, then one must be created. That starts to drive very consistent service delivery which – even though you used to get long awaited answer to your question, but the engineers that may be not believers, generally, if they truly believe in providing a very consistent experience, we have found that they will create those SOPs, and then they will refer people to those SOPs. That actually sort of creates a, “You know what, that documentation is already there. Just follow the procedure, and then I can get back to work.”
We found that the main problem, in a nutshell, is that nobody wants to work on a crummy system or go update a SharePoint page or a Word document or some file somewhere. Because they don’t believe that anybody else is ever going to see it or use it, so it’s kind of a waste of time.
Richard: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a great answer, by the way. While you’re talking about that, I was just thinking, some MSPs that I speak to, they ask the question, “What’s a good way to get started with IT documentation?” For anybody who is maybe retaining information in their head, or they’ve got a key employee who knows all about the clients but nobody else does, what advice would you give to them, Chris, on where to get started with IT documentation?
Chris: There’s really two sides to documentation, and I think this is one of the things – not to toot our own horn – but this one of the things that we nailed with IT Glue.
There is the structured documentation. This is like the field-driven, “What does that server do? What does that device do? What is the DHCP server? What is the backup scheme?” Everything is structured — its drop-down list, its tags, that kind of stuff. That is, to my mind, 70 percent of what’s very critical. It’s sort of I can understand a customer’s environment at a glance without having to ask anybody anything.
That is from a ROI perspective in terms of inputting documentation – one of the quickest, fastest, easiest, and highest ROI ways. You’re looking at probably an hour to two hours on average to produce that documentation for a single customer.
If you’ve got 25 customers, then you’re looking at 25 to 50 hours to produce that documentation. That’s inside of your team. That will give you a huge lift in terms of your peace of mind, I would say, and also in terms of the ability to start to shuffle customers and allow other people to work on different customers, bring new people in and all that kind of stuff.
The second part – the last 30 percent – is what I would say is the long tail part of the process. That will be the procedural documentation: the steps, the screenshots, the here’s-how-to-do, here’s-the-SOPs for this customer or that customer. There are essential articles that are more generic like, “How do we deploy our backup platform? How do we deploy a new firewall? How do we deploy a switch? How do we upgrade our RMM?” You know those types of articles that are centralized.
I think that the biggest ROI is in taking your largest customers, documenting them first, getting all that structured information. It’s kind of what they talk about in ITIL, which is the approach we follow for documentation that the idea of a service catalogue. What are all the services? What are all the applications that are running on this network?
Once you’ve got that, you can then start to build the more detailed procedural documentation around it.
Richard: Fantastic, really good advice. It reminds me of a story – back when I was running an MSP. We used to document just about everything. I was actually quite OCD about it, I guess. Even as far as in Comms rooms, we document it, the make and model of the air conditioning unit.
Going back to what you said earlier all about consistency and quality of service you deliver to clients, I remember that one day, we actually had a phone call from a client saying that the air conditioning units in the Comms room were leaking. There was water all over the floor. They were in quite a flap, in a panic about it. “What do we do,” turning to us for advice.
We have it all documented. We knew who’d installed the system. We knew who to go to for maintenance on that unit. Within a couple of hours, we’d made the phone call. It was an engineer there and the problem was resolved.
Now, that doesn’t sound very much like IT when I tell that story to people. But the end result was the client thinks we’re absolutely fantastic. We’ve got all the information we need. Anything, basically with a plug on, we can have them out waive on that. It gave so much credibility to us as a business. You can take IT documentations to the nth degree, but really I think most things are probably better off documented at people’s heads and down on paper than it is just floating out there.
Chris: It’s unreal how much of that information – there’s just so many examples. I will often say, just almost as a test, I’d say, “Let’s pick a customer and bring the engineer on the line that knows that customer best.” Then I’ll ask them a random question from the standard set of services that would be on that network. I’ll say, “What’s the webmail URL?”
They will just shake their heads, “I have to go look it up.” Then I look at them and I say, “Exactly. That’s exactly what the problem is.” The way this is running.
There’s a million of those examples. Big part of my feeling on documentation is there is a – it’s like the common ROI, ROE (Return on Energy) thing. There’s probably 20 percent of the work that you can document that would give you 80 percent of the return. You don’t need that much information to be a way further ahead than most IT providers are right now.
Documenting something like email, you could certainly document 30 or 40 fields if you wanted to. But even just getting six or seven key aspects of email documented for every customer provides an immediate lift. Then you can always do a Round 2, add more documentation later.
Richard: It makes a lot of sense. It does give you a competitive advantage over your competitors, who are not documenting this stuff, who are carrying the information around in their heads, isn’t it?
Chris: It does. It absolutely does. It’s peace of mind. The teams surprisingly – it takes away one of those things, one of those differentiators between people within the company, where this guy has got all the information, so he’s sort of the big man on campus walking around. From my experience, it created just more of a team vibe where everybody knows that everything is in there. Everybody can just focus on delivering great service instead of, “What do I know?”
Richard: It actually protects the MSP business, I think, as well. I’ve come across multiple scenarios or situations, you should say – examples where there’s been one senior engineer within the business who has known so much about our clients, none of it documented. Then the MSP ends up in an awful situation, where that senior engineer either leaves or worse, goes to work for a competitor. It’s panic stations. It’s like, “What are we going to do about this one of these big clients that we’ve got, when this guy knows everything about the clients, and we know nothing of this business really?
Chris: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I never mentioned or used those things in our ROI calculators that we have for IT Glue, but it’s very true. I mean, one customer walking away for something like that is far more expensive than anything we would possibly charge.
It’s really true. That’s one of the things we talk about is getting rid of the risk, the risk associated with bad documentation. That’s one of the key risks.
Richard: Cool. I suspect we could talk about IT documentation as a subject. We’ll have to invite you back for a second podcast. I know people are going to be interested in talking about this.
Let’s revisit IT Glue, just a little bit there. You recently announced integration with Autotask. I know that your background is similar to mine. You’ve got a background within the ConnectWise community as well. What else is on the horizon for IT Glue upcoming?
Chris: Well this summer, we are working on our next series of integrations, most of the RMM tools. We’ve got LabTech, AEM — we’re not sure about the API on that one, depending if they release it — Kaseya, N-Able, Continuum, and a whole bunch of other ones that we’re looking at.
One of the reasons we called ourselves IT Glue was that with the more systems that we can connect to and sort of bring relevant information into the documentation, the better. We started with the PSA tools, Autotask, and ConnectWise mainly because that’s a great asset database to begin with. But now, we’re going to start to overlay more network information on top of that.
That’s huge. The integrations are huge. The other thing that’s on the horizon, we actually just sent out a survey to customers yesterday, which we’re pretty excited about is the idea — I had mentioned this to you, Richard — but documentation as a service.
We are in the early stages of putting a program together, where we would actually help do the documentation, given access to the right tools by our partners. For example, give us access to your RMM tools and we can go in and do some of the documentations.
Because one of the biggest challenges we hear from our MSPs is just preventing them from getting documentation done, even the ones that are already customers, is lack of time. We’re thinking, “Well, maybe we can help with that.” Because a lot of the documentation that needs to be done is very standardized, and we can pretty much do it with access to RMM tools.
Anyway, that’s a very exciting thing that’s on the horizon for us.
Richard: Very cool, documentation as a service. When can we expect that to come to market? How far forward are you with that?
Chris: Well, we’ve rounded out what the key elements of that service would be. We’re now going to go into a beta group with five or six companies. We’re going to just see how it goes. We would expect probably in the next two months or so to have the results of that, and then hopefully launch it on a larger scale.
Richard: Cool. Well, I should certainly keep an eye out for that. I know that’s going to be of interest to lots of people. Many MSPs I speak to, when I talk about IT documentation, they roll their eyes a bit and they say, “Yeah, Rick, as soon as we get the time for it.” I can see that definitely be a good one. It’s cool.
There’s going to be people listening, and they want to find out more about IT Glue. Where would they go to?
Chris: The best thing to do, obviously, is just hit our website ITGlue.com. What we generally do is we have a certain – some people say it’s a little regimented but we like it this way. We have a regimented sales process. Watch it. There’s a 15-minute product overview, which we like to get people to watch in advance of really starting to chat with us. It covers off most of the key features in a very short time frame. You can get access to that by filling out the request demo form on our website.
Once you’ve watched that, we generally do a live demo then just to allow more interaction, ask questions, and show me how to do this or that. Then from there, we can unleash a 7-day trial, which people can use and sign up at any time.
From there, once you sign up, we reach out to you. We have an on-boarding project manager. All of our sign-ups include a consulting and setup package, which is basic consulting from our side, to help people get off on the right foot.
Richard: Surely, that makes a lot...
Chris: Yeah, schedule those seven to 10 days out from sign-up.
Richard: Makes a lot of sense. I think one of the reasons I perceive you as being so successful is you do a really good job with qualifying and on-boarding people. That’s probably no surprise for most SASS businesses that are successful. You do that really, really well. It sounds like you’ve got a great process in place for doing that at the moment.
Chris: Yes. It seems to be. We didn’t use to do it at the beginning. We learned that that was just absolutely critical. I always say this, too. Don’t sign up if you’re not ready to commit to doing this in the next quarter, because you’ve got to understand the value of good documentation. It shouldn’t be something that jumping at the chance to get this done. Because it delivers, it gives you time back. If you just simply don’t have the time to do it, then it’s probably not the right time.
Richard: Absolutely. But there are going to be some people that are listening to this and they’re going, “Chris, shut up and take my money.” I know you’re being very generous. You’ve got a step further than that. For people listening to the podcast, you’ve actually got a code haven’t you, that they can receive a discount on the setup fee?
Chris: I do, yeah. The setup fee is USD 495. We’re providing for all of Richard’s partners a discount of $50. The code is T-U-B-B-1-5. T-U-B-B-1-5. If you sign up with that code, you’ll get a $50 discount, which we generally don’t do. If anybody is so inclined and wants to sign up, it’s very quick ROI. Again, if you’re not ready to sign up, just engage with us, and we will certainly work with you directly on that as well.
Richard: Fantastic. Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you how people can find you and Fully Managed online as well. Are you present on social media?
Chris: Yeah. I’m hiding behind the IT Glue Twitter account most now. That’s the one where we’re having most fun, but it is @ITGlue. Fully Managed is @fullymanaged. Twitter’s the best at this point. Obviously, our website, FullyManaged.com.
A lot of people have told me that this site’s been out for six or seven years, the Fully Managed site. But we got a lot of feedback — quite honestly, a lot of plagiarism on our website. People say it seems to – it’s the idea of putting the customer first. Check it out.
Richard: It is a really good website. Absolutely. Chris, I’m really, really appreciative of your time today. I think this is going to be valuable for anybody listening, so thanks so much. I’m sure if you’ve got the time, listeners would love to get you back for another podcast, perhaps where we can talk about qualifying customers, sales process, and talk some more about IT documentation.
Thanks so much for your time, Chris, really appreciate it.
Chris: Thank you very much.
Tue, 16 June 2015
How do you manage a hosting and software development company that has staff in three different countries and two different time zones, all while you’re in a different country yourself?
Richard: Hi everyone, Richard Tubb here and I’m joined today by Marc Gadsdon. How are you doing, Marc?
Marc: Very good, thanks, Richard. Nice to be here, thank you very much.
Richard: So, you are the owner of InTuition, a London-based hosting company. Tell me a little bit more about InTuition.
Marc: Yeah, so I’m one of the directors of InTuition Networks. We’re a long-time provider of email, both email security and email collaboration. Zimbra is our key product, our services are based on Zimbra. We chose Zimbra in 2006.
We were looking around for an alternative to our POP3 infrastructure that we had quite a few POP3 mailboxes and we didn't want to go down the Exchange route because last time, Microsoft Exchange was a difficult product to manage at scale.
And we found Zimbra, it's a new solution built by a bunch of really clever engineers in Silicon Valley. And pretty quickly grew quite fast. We became one of the early partners in 2006. And we started hosting it, build a platform in our London data center.
And Zimbra was sold to Yahoo!, Yahoo! took it off the scale in terms of numbers of users and it powered the Yahoo! Mail service for quite a while, quite a long time. And then it was bought by VMware, VMware took it into the corporate space. All the time, we're still partners of each identity.
And over the years, we've now become one of the go-to partners in the UK and Europe for Zimbra when they've got somebody that wants to do something with Zimbra on a hosting basis. So, we tend to get involved with a lot of projects that white label and the people that want to host a solution.
So we've got customers from small IT companies that we've been here talking to today, and we've got really large sort of more servers provider type of people who don't want the cost of and hassle of running their own infrastructure, so we do that on a white label basis for them. So that's really what we're doing in a nutshell.
Richard: So, I’m fascinated by Zimbra. So you gave me a demonstration of the product and blown away by just how simple it is and let alone, low administrative overheads to it. I guess Office 365 is the bigger gorilla in the market.
Marc: It sure is, yeah.
Richard: Hosted Exchange before that. Lots of IT companies, people watching this video are going to be very, very familiar with Office 365 and Hosted Exchange.
What does Zimbra offer that maybe Exchange doesn't? So what about feature compatibility? Talk a little bit more about that. And also, maybe things that Zimbra does that Exchange doesn't do, whatsoever?
Marc: Yes so, I mean, it's a question that we get a lot. And I think people think if it's not Exchange, it's going to be some sort of third-party, third-rate solution.
The first thing is, when you give someone a demonstration and explain to them that, "There's your Outlook running with Zimbra at the back end." "Oh, I didn't realize that that was- I thought that was Exchange," because you've got, pretty much, feature priority.
Now, Zimbra is an Exchange server. It's a completely different solution, it's not trying to be Exchange server. Zimbra's set out to redefine the way that email works; that we consume email.
In 2006, we're one of the very first Ajax front end. So before HTML5 was around, before you could really do much in a website, Zimbra's interface was very rich and you could do everything - you can drag and drop, move things around - and that was at the time when the Outlook Web Access was pretty ropy, and you know, wasn't a nice solution to use.
Zimbra came along and said, "You know, you don't need it a client. You can use the web mail as your primary client," and certainly, a lot of people do that. We've got some really big installations just doing webmail only, so Gmail type solution.
But the point is, most businesses, I think, still really want to integrate with Outlook and with their iPhones and their Android phones, etc., and all of that supported out-of-the-box. Some of the things that Zimbra can do that Exchange can't, I mean, you know, it's a different solution. It looks different; it works differently. The sharing is very straight forward. There's an in-built document management solution called the Briefcase which allows you to upload and download documents. It's a bit like a share point portal I suppose, a basic share point portal, but it's really simple and it's and it's built in as part of Zimbra.
You can share that amongst a group of users or departments or company-wide, etc., depending on how sophisticated you want to make the sharing permissions. And it's very easy then to share files. And there’s versioning so you can see whether, find out better file, you can see that it's been changed by me, which version, etcetera and you can revert to different versions.
So that's a feature that's been quite interesting. And something that's coming very soon is Zimbra, I’m probably jumping ahead now…
Richard: No, no, please do, because the next question I was going to ask you is about this feature that's upcoming aboutcollaboration.
Marc: Right. So the Sync and Share solution is Zimbra's new, I guess, extension of the Briefcase which gives you Dropbox-like features inside your private installation of Zimbra. So, you can still share with external users but the data's controlled within your installation.
So if you're on our Cloud, our Cloud’s hosted in the UK, so the data will stay in the UK. If you've got your own installation of Zimbra because you can buy license for Zimbra and you can install it in your office, which, believe it or not, people are still interested in doing, and particularly in industries where that sort of thing matters. You can share your documents and know that the control isn't going outside the organization, which I think is a big concern for the consumer-based file-sharing solutions.
And then, there's various other things coming down the line, Zimbra making great strides with the architecture and they're making it really easy for us as service providers to provide an always on solution, and to scale it out to massive scales.
I mean, one of the biggest partners in the US has got over 40 million mailboxes on one installation, so you know, that gives them some experience to do some quite clever stuff. So yeah, that's where-
Richard: And it's not just email, is it? So we've already talked about the Briefcase and the Dropbox-like facilities but of course one of the questions that is immediately going to come up is around calendaring. Talk to me through the calendaring features, is it comparable to Exchange?
Marc: Yeah, I actually, I really enjoy using the calendar and I’ve really found it improve productivity. Because, for instance, one of the nice features if you're in the web client, you can drag an email on to your mini calendar and it instantly creates an appointment, and it includes you in the meeting invite, it puts the body of the email into the details of the meeting.
And there's also things called, sorry, before I jump into Zimlets – there's things about the calendar that make it really easy. There's a fish-eye view, so when you're looking at your month, you can click on the day and it expands to show you the full day. So just some really nice usability of the calendar.
You can share everything in Zimbra. So, if I wanted to share a work holidays calendar, I can set that up. And just like with Exchange, you can have it auto-accepting, you know, shared results. You can have it auto-accepting meeting requests or deferring the meeting request to the administrator.
It’s terribly sophisticated. It's got what you'd expect from grownup collaboration solution. It isn't third-rate in any stretch of the imagination.
Richard: Definitely not, from everything I’ve seen of it as well. It looks like, you know, I was blown away by the demonstration you gave and how well it came across.
So I guess which begs the question, is the Zimbra one of the industry's sort of best-kept secrets? Why aren't more IT companies offering it, because it's clearly an enterprise-ready solution?
Marc: You're actually, you're right. I think it is a best-kept secret. It's a great solid solution. And I think, Zimbra are addressing that with a new, they recently bought out as a management buyer from VMware and they've created their own company.
They also merge with a social media enterprise, a social media provider, and so there's some integration of social media aspects, of enterprise into Zimbra and that's definitely, we all know that email is changing from a standard "I send you an email, you reply," to a more of a conversational-based thing with IM and all that…
Richard: Today, Marc and myself were having a conversation saying, blowing the minds of some of the resellers saying, "Do you realize, younger people don't use email? They use Instagram and they use Twitter and things like that."
Marc: So certainly, long-term and Rob Howard is the CTO of Zimbra, he came from the social media entity and he's taken over control of product development and so on. He's a really smart guy and he's got some really great ideas about how to move forward the whole email workflow and how to really improve that. So, quite excited to know what's going to come and I think that's where things are going to really start to branch out from.
Zimbra's a great base product now and we've got feature power with Exchange in many areas. But it would be quite nice to move away from the conversation about Exchange, because actually, Zimbra in its own right can offer some real value and I think that's going to start to become apparent soon.
But coming back to your earlier point about what is it that, why should IT companies be selling Zimbra and in a way swimming uphill, because obviously clients are demanding 365 and I do get that. But I think, one of our colleagues in the meeting earlier on brought up a point about, the successful IT resellers are people that really build relationships with their clients and that really have a solid support ethos and they really look after their clients and provide a great service.
And I think that if you've got a relationship with a client, why give your client to Microsoft or to Google or to any other of the big place? Because you know, you can't control what they're going to do. And in our model, the way we sell our services, we sell to you as the reseller, and the reseller sells on to the client. We don't know anything about your client, it's not our interest. Our interest is in providing a great email service and a utility that you can go off and sell on.
So I think that it's building value in your business. It is the key thing, and I think that's what IT resellers need to think about, is you know, "What is the long-term value of my business? And what am I doing?" And you know, sometimes it's harder to do things that what everyone else is doing but long-term, it pays off.
And I guess you have to decide, "Do I want to just be selling what everybody else is selling? Or do I want to differentiate a little bit and actually build something of real value?" And you know, it takes a long time to build value but it's worth it in the long run.
Richard: Continuously surprising me, I guess a little soap boxfor me, but when Microsoft's small business server was retired by Microsoft, there was people up in arms. It was like, "Oh, you're removing my business. You're taking away my business."
And of course, the reality is, there was lots and lots of alternatives to Microsoft's small business server. And I think it's probably the same for hosted email for Exchange and things like that. There's so many good alternative options out there. So I’m flabbergasted that more IT companies aren't investigating solutions like Zimbra and seen how they can package it up, wrap it around, value around it and sell it to clients, that's all. Make themselves a little bit different from everyone else in the industry.
Marc: I mean, I think it's challenging because you know, Microsoft have gotten a massive marketing machine and they do a really great job. Their pricing is very, very aggressive. You've talked, I’ve read your blog post about increasing your prices not decreasing your prices to compete in the marketplace. And I think there's a limit to how cleverly you can get with pricing. You need to be fairly realistic.
But I think it comes back to what value you're offering. If you're offering great value and a great service, then IT should be in the background and it should just function for the people that want to use it. We shouldn't be worrying about what the technology is. Does it serve a purpose and does it do the job? If it does the job for the customer, then the reseller can look at, "How is it fit for my business? Does it give me a long-term future or am I giving my customers to somebody else?"
Richard: So with all that said, let's talk about pricing a little bit. So lots of people who are watching this video are going to be working in the SMB space, where clients are typically cost conscious or price-sensitive. So how does Zimbra matchup in terms of cost? In broad figures, sort of a, in brand figures, against Exchange and the alternatives.
Marc: Well I think, really competitively. I mean, we've worked hard with Zimbra to create some really competitive packages in the market. We're channel-only players so we don't give out pricing to, retail pricing etcetera. Our partners set the prices that they think are appropriate for their market. And they tend to bundle in other services and support, etcetera. So that's how that works.
But you know, definitely highly competitive and there's definitely a cost-saving there over 365 for instance. And we've got various packages starting from sort of basic package POP3 to allow – a lot of our partners, we find have got couple of hundreds, three hundreds POP3 accounts that are hosted with one-on-one or fast hostor something.
Clients are saying, "I need better services. I need to read my email on my iPhone. I want it to sync. I want to be able to send an email on my iPhone and see it in my Outlook on my desk," you know, classic thing. And believe it or not, people still haven't gotten that functionality.
And so, we provide a basic package that has partner to migrate in, give them the same POP3 service. And then, it's just clicking a button to upgrade them to the high-end packages which makes more margin for the reseller. It also saves them headache of having to run the POP3 service which a lot of these hosting packages can be a bit unreliable and can cause problems.
Richard: And talking about reliability, tell me a little bit about the back ends, where are the data centres, where are the data stored? Because a lot of people are going to be, are very interested to see where the data is stored. What does your back end look like?
Marc: Okay, easy now, Richard.
Richard: In the sense that it was made. [laughs]
Marc: So, right, so we got two data centres, one in Manchester and one in London. London's our primary data centre. And we've got our own, everything’s hosted in our own equipment. We're not buying in Amazon EC2 instances, or something like that. This is all done properly.
We use Dell kits. So we've got multiple Dell servers running virtual infrastructure. Obviously, we've got a VM infrastructure. In fact, we've been doing that since the dawn of virtualization and it's helped us achieve a lot of economies of scale and power saving and so on, its much greener.
But yeah, we've got multiple servers and Zimbra's set up in such a way that we've got multiple servers across the platform. So we've got a highly reliable hosting platform, data storage, and etcetera. And we're pretty careful about data backups because, you know, it's the lifeblood emails, the lifeblood of the organization. And I think we save for every one gig of data stored in the mailbox, we're actually storing 8 Gig in total in terms of replications. So every Zimbra server has a partner where all the data is replicated across to that partner server.
And then, we also backup our data in our own data center. We encrypt it and we send out of the data center, encrypt it. So we're storing multiple blobs of data and we're able to restore up to 30 days, mailboxes. And there's a self-restore feature in Zimbra which is really nice, so users can recover even after they've deleted from the trash folder. They can still recover.
And one of the common things they do is they right click their inbox and go 'empty inbox,' and you know, all their mails disappear but they can get those back. And also, because of our backup infrastructure, we can do that.
And again, I think that's one of the things that differentiate us. You can get on the phone to us or email us and we'll respond; we'll do something. You know, we had a reseller panicking the other day because one of their major clients had deleted couple of mailboxes by mistake. In fact, it was a bit more harmless than that, someone had left and deleted some mailboxes and we're able to recover the mailboxes really quickly for them and it was all sorted, no dramas. And I think that, some of the bigger providers are, you don't necessarily get that level of service. It's one of our differentiators.
Richard: What's some really interesting points, actually, especially when you'd look at the lower ends of the market where people are shopping basically on cost, they don't factor in, I guess what you call the total cost of ownership. You don't factor in, "If something goes wrong, is this going to come back and bite me in the bum? Am I going to be able get my day to day work done? So, reassuring to know that you've got those facilities in place.
Marc: Yeah, I mean we've been running this since 2006. And we do little things, like we host all of our Zimbra primary volumes and we keep them under a terabyte in size, and we just have multiple versions.
It means that, if we need to restart our mailbox server and there's a discrepancy check, which if you get forced to run a discrepancy check, you've got to run the discrepancy check otherwise, you're playing with fire. And if you've got multiple terabyte volumes, this can take some hours to scan and even some days in certain cases. So little things like that, experiences taught us to just sort of be cautious and we're very cautious.
We test our new upgrades extensively and we've got a great relationship with Zimbra. We have a bi-monthly call with them, the VP of product development and support, and he feeds back to us anything that's going on and we feed back back up to him. So we got a great two-way relationship and we always know what's going on before we do any major upgrades and so on.
Richard: So Zimbra rate's comparable to Exchange? Feature comparable, in fact it's got some features that Exchange doesn't have. It's just as reliable, it's cheaper.
Marc: Yup, so why aren't they doing it? Exactly, Richard, thanks for the sales pitch.
Richard: Let's switch gears a minute from Zimbra, then, because one of the other areas of InTuition is WordPress hosting, something that I might, my blog is running on WordPress. I run another couple of sites on WordPress. Alright, tell us about the WordPress hosting aspect of the InTuition business.
Marc: Yeah, so we're really excited about WordPress actually. We've been doing WordPress hosting, probably like every other person in the country and well you know, hosting company. We host WordPress sites and we have a development team we use, we power our own stuff with WordPress, our own public-facing websites, etc.
And we came across company, a startup in Canada. And to cut the long story short, we've done a really interesting partnership with them and we've formed a new business to run a WordPress hosting front called easyPress. And the team from easyPress in Canada and ours, we've come together, so they've already got two hosting sites in Canada and America. We've built a brand new hosting facility in our datacenter in Manchester, and we've got replication into London. So we've got a really solid WordPress platform and everything's automated so we can scale out very quickly if we need to add more WordPress service, etc.
We've built a full, it's a full managed WordPress solution, so you've got caching layer; you've got content delivery networks; you've got some security; you've got the ability to lock the site down 9with just a single button click. You can basically change all the permissions to really improve the security.
And I think, most importantly, it's backed up by amazing support. And I think, you've got some experience of migrating to us and…
Richard: Well, I'll happily give a testimonial at this stage.
Marc: Sorry, I wasn't pushing you into giving a testimonial but you know…
Richard: I'm absolutely going to, so I have moved a couple of my WordPress websites across, and moved from a very well-known US hosting company, you know, for the volumes, the data work, all the volumes of business that I get.
For the entire process, fantastic, you know, no down time, everything works seemingly.And Victor and the team in Canada, you know, you got some real stars there because they're real WordPress experts and they know what they're talking about.
I think the proof of the pudding for me is in, I was doing a before and after tests. I like to measure everything and see the difference. So previously, my website was loading around five seconds which feels like an eternity in modern age. And it's actually down to just over one second at the moment. I don't know, you and I, me and Victor talked about it as well and there's probably some tweaking to be done there to get it down.
So, absolutely no change in code, the site moved across as it was, and shaved about four seconds off. So you know, I'm a convert already.
Marc: Yeah, great, and I mean, that's great, and it's exact experience because that's what we found as well with our own sites. They improved exponentially and other people have said, "God, the speed is amazing." And in fact, without even asking, I was telling to someone the other day that moved their site, "God, the admin section is so fast, just click, click, click."
Richard: That's the real thing, In WordPress, the admin section, you know, just flies by. And you know, I’m not a WordPress guru by any means but I tend to spend a lot of time in the admin section and it just absolutely flies.
Marc: Makes a big difference, doesn't it?
Richard: It does.
Marc: Well you know, we've invested a lot of money in hardware, and Victor and the team have really, Victor's a WordPress guru. He's been using WordPress for years and he's created the ultimate, in his mind, the ultimate WordPress stack, if you like. Because, you know, it's not just the case of installing WordPress and PHP, etc., there's all sorts of things that go on the background to make it really fast.
And I think, combined with our experience of running hosting platforms and networking and so on, we've got a really great data centre set up in Manchester, fantastic networking with really good bandwidth and so on.
So we've got a really solid proposition, I think, and we're looking forward to taking it out there and getting on a lot of clients to make a success out of it.
Richard: Good, well, I'm going to follow that story with interest, and I got no doubt you can be successful, amongst other things.
Richard: Now, again, I want to change gears just a little bit. So we've mentioned, the office is in London, we've mentioned the data centre in Manchester, the support team in Canada, I think it's going to be-
Marc: The WordPress guys in Canada, yeah, and mixed it with the guys in the UK as well, before we freak anyone out.
Richard: Yeah, and then, on top of all that, I think people are finding it very interested that you're located, as one of the directors in the business, located out of Andorra, which you call home. I'm intrigued to hear how you, how to manage the team? Just distribute your team across the world, your thoughts on that?
Marc: Yeah, they manage themselves. So, I mean, our team goes back. Matt, who's in charge of our platform, he's worked with me since, pretty much came out of university, so that's, I don't know, I’m guessing 14 years or something.
We started off in a small office in Sussex and we had a data centre under the stairs. So built a rack with some Dell computers running on a 512-kilobit leased line, when leased lines were all the rage, and that's how we started hosting, and we had a development side of the business as well. So we've always had development and hosting and we ended up majoring on hosting and that's where we ended up, becoming into Zimbra partnership and so on.
But, yeah, so Matt and I, head of development call in, both have worked for the company for a long time, and the rest of the gang are all people that have been around for a long time.
And then, I think share the same values about what we want - we want to build a solid company and a team who take responsibility for what they're doing so we don't need to see each other regularly. And we communicate via phone. We've got a great voiceover IP phone system. That means we can keep a line open for low cost. That works really well, so we can, if we're working on a project together, we can just get the line open. We've got Skype, obviously. W Well, I’ve noticed that there isn't a lot of video conferencing going on in a technical company. No one's particularly keen on video.
We use Basecamp project management fairly extensively and we just look into improve that with some, sort of slight more hardcore project management solutions, probably something like Pivotal Tracker or one of the tools from Atlassian. I can't think of the name, Jira, I think it is, isn't it? Just looking around right now for some slightly more grown up agile-based project management solutions.
But we do, I think, email, probably, instant message and Basecamp is the kind of cornerstone of how we run the business these days. And we have regular meetings just like you would in a normal company, but they tend to be a bit more focused because you're not worrying getting cups of tea and messing about, just, you know, on the phone, get the meeting done with and we're pretty focused.
And the great thing about Andorra is its got fantastic communications with Fibre to the door in every house, which…
Richard: I guess we should say, where Andorra is at this point, for those people who don't know.
Marc: So Andorra sits between France and Spain. So it's in the Pyrenees and it's a place of about 70,000 people and a very small principality ran by the co-princes of France and Spain, and it's an independent, democratic parliament with its own constitution, etc.,
And it's not part of the EU, so it's outside of the EU. Going through an enormous change at the moment. There's big, big stuff happening in Andorra. It's really becoming modern, it's a place that was cut off from the world, and mountain people have lived there, and it's changed in the last 40-50 years. It's gone through literally, probably, some people never seeing outsiders to, is now becoming a big commercial hub and the government is really trying to improve things.
So it's an exciting place to be and interesting times. And really easy to communicate, you can get on a plane from Barcelona and be in England in no time at all, so yeah, great lifestyle.
Richard: Yes! And why not? Why not? The technology's there, the team's there, you can manage a business of this nature from anywhere in the world, really. As we've sat here, it's just started snowing outside here in the UK. Why would want to sit here in the cold when you can be sitting in beautiful Andorra?
Marc: Yeah, well, I mean it's been sunny every day since, literally, I think we've had three days of cloudy weather and snow since Christmas. So I mean, it's been sunny every day and yeah, it just really helps, you know. Everyone thinks that I’m spending all day skiing, which is completely untrue.
Richard: Not all day.
Marc: Actually, a friend of mine and I headed out and probably skid less than you will if you went skiing on a holiday. Because you know, we work really hard, really passionate about what we do and really excited to, sort of with the stuff that's happening in WordPress. Some you know, you end up working a lot and that's what actually one of the dangers I think. Because you're a bit divorced from things, you can focus much better and you end up probably working too much.
Richard: I want to touch upon one thing, so obviously one of the downsides to living in a different part of the world is when you want to come back to the UK to see your friends or family, the travel-
Richard: So you've said the flight is not too much trouble but, we're both big fans of Tim Ferriss and some of his travel tips, and I’m fascinated that you've been travel caching.
Marc: Yeah, I've been trying to get the travel caching thing sorted out.
Richard: So for the people who are not familiar, maybe tell them what travel caching is and how you've utilized it for your travels.
Marc: Yeah, so the idea of travel caching is that you know, I hate having loads of luggages, it's just, it's such a pain and being in and getting on the plane and just with a small rucksack and the essentials is ideal because it just means you can get on and off much more quickly and you can sit right at the front of the aircraft. Before, designated seating, I used to sit right at the front because you get off really quick.
But yeah, I think travel caching is where you basically arrange, you know, if you're going to spend a lot of time in a particular place, you arrange some sort of cache of your essentials and I think Tim Ferriss goes as far as caching food, you know, for breakfast because he eats some bean combination or something like that. I’m not going that far, I like my fried breakfast in the hotel.
Richard: We're not quite in the four-hour body shape, you know what I’m saying?
Marc: No, no, no, we haven’t achieved that, have we? But you know; that's going to come later in the year. So yeah sure, what I’ve managed to set up is a location where I can hang my suits and shirts and underwear and suit shoes and things. And it means that, I’ve also got an arrangement with the hotel. Lucky enough that my stepdad was, he made me a member of a club that he was a member of before he passed away, and it's one of the best things he's ever done for me because it just means, it's so convenient and it's in Central London. I can get into London, the room rates are really reasonable and I’ve got a locker there that I can stash my stuff in.
So it means, I can, I came out the other day with a rucksack, a laptop and few essentials and I got my wash kit, all my clothes for the weekend, and then put it back, they wash it, iron it, dry-clean it, etc., and then next time I come over, it's all ready to go.
Richard: That's fantastic, I love it. So you live in Andorra, one of the most beautiful parts of the world. You don't even have to go for the real pain of travel that most of us do, picking up luggage and things. A lot of people watching this are probably going to be getting angry at you at this point in time.
Marc: It's not all bed of roses, and you know, it's taken some years to get to this point where it's got it set up and. It has its down sides, I mean, I’m not sure what they are but…
Yeah, I mean, if somebody says, "Hey, can you come meet us," and it's a really important meeting, you know, that's a day travelling eitherside, and you know, you lose some spontaneity. It does make you plan a bit better.
But I used to be really nervous about it, you know, I was worried that customers might think, "Oh, you know, the service is going to drop off," etc., but I think more and more companies are proving that you don't need to have an office these days.
You know, the people behind WordPress, automatic, they've got a massive business and making massive revenues and they're completely virtual from what I understand.
Richard: It makes much less of a difference nowadays where you're located in the world and any type of people you're working with. So I'm in awe with all you've achieved with the business, with InTuition, blown away by the Zimbra platform. I think it's a real opportunity for IT companies to look into as an alternative to Exchange. So thank you for your time today.
Marc: It's a pleasure. Thanks for your time.
Richard: Really appreciate it, if anybody watching or listening wants to get in touch with you, to talk about Zimbra or WordPress hosting, or even travel caching, or what it's like living in Andorra, how would they reach out to you?
Marc: So probably the easiest thing to do is to hit up the website: in-tuition.net, that's InTuition with a hyphen between the in and the tuition, and just go to contact form and/or give us a ring, and I’ll see most of the contact request come through, so yup, easiest way to get in touch. You've got my contact details, probably.
Richard: Absolutely, I’ll make sure this goes to the show notes as well. You're on Twitter as well?
Marc: On twitter, yeah, so gad0, or gadd0-
Richard: We'll work it out, we'll put it in the show notes.
Marc: Can't believe I forgot my own Twitter handle. So yeah, I'm on Twitter and I’m on Facebook. I tend to use Facebook more for personal stuff but yeah, it would be great to engage with any of your readers and chat about anything.
I'm always keen to talk about technology and or skiing mountains, etc., and food, generally, are the three things we tend to talk about quite a lot, and we haven't really gotten into the food thing.
Richard: Maybe that's for the next installment of the podcast. Well, Marc, thanks so much, really. It means a lot. Cheers.
Marc: Richard, thanks a lot. Really appreciate your time. Cheers.
Fri, 27 March 2015
In episode 08 of TubbTalk Richard speaks with Derek Brown, the Managing Director of Pronto Marketing, who specialise in providing a flat-fee, all-you-can-eat web site service for MSP's and IT Service Providers.
Pronto Marketing exclusive discount for listeners of TubbTalk
Richard: Hi everybody, Richard Tubb here with another interview. And today I'm joined by Derek Brown, the managing director at Pronto Marketing. Now, Pronto Marketing creates and manages all the moving parts of your Internet presence without it costing a fortune.
In the previous life, Derek actually worked at Microsoft where amongst of the roles; he was the director of product management for small business server. Since homing Pronto Marketing, Derek and his team in Thailand had helped hundreds of businesses with their website design, copywriting, SEO, social media and more.
Derek thanks so much for joining me today. How are you doing?
Derek: Good. It's a pleasure to be here Richard.
Richard: Fantastic. Now, you and I had known each other for a number of years now. In fact, I think my MSP was one of Pronto Marketing's first clients here in the UK. And you really helped my business to – the best way I could put it is to stop procrastinating about getting a good quality website live and doing what it should do, generate leads.
So, for anybody who's not familiar with yourself or with Pronto, perhaps you can give us a bit of background, share who you are, where you'd come from and a little bit more about what Pronto do.
Derek: Okay. As you mentioned, my background before founding Pronto, I was at Microsoft for 13 years. When I left, one of the things I've thought a lot about, I wanted to start a copy in. I thought about a need out there.
I actually went back to my experience when I was responsible for Windows small business server and how small IP service companies struggled with marketing. And I would go out and do road shows and user groups and SMB Nation and all these sort of things. I would hear that same thing about struggling in marketing and the number one reason you would hear was lack of time.
So when started Pronto Marketing, we thought about how we could we help a small business execute on their marketing. The same thing was also true just in life outside of SMB of MSPs.
If I was at a barbecue with a friend who owned a small business on Sunday, he said, "What should I do?" and I would say, "Send a newsletter." I would be a 100% sure he will never do it. He wouldn't have the time and he'd get busy and he'll have clients on Monday morning and you're in the tornado and the work doesn't get done.
Our idea when we started Pronto Marketing is we really wanted a do-it yourself service so that for some portion of small business marketing activities, we take responsibility and work like an extension of their team. So from designing a website to writing a copy to hosting, developing it, doing updates, posting blog post, sending out email newsletters, optimizing SEO, adding new blending pages or forms when they're needed; to do that in a subscription based service. It was affordable and a full service for the small business. Today, we have over a thousand clients and the vast majority of those are some flavour of ITs servers provider or MSP.
Richard: Got it. Now, as I alluded to, my MSP used to be a client of Pronto Marketing way back in the day.
Richard: And the reason why we worked with Pronto Marketing was because frankly Derek, we were procrastinating about getting a website up there. And I don't think that's unusual you know, there's not a day goes by when I go to a networking event, meet an IT business owner, he hands me his business card and he says, "Oh, and ignore the website. It's a work in progress."
Why do you think so many IT companies seem to struggle or procrastinate when it comes to developing their website?
Derek: I think there's a couple issues. I mean, again it's the first is it for every small business owner, your first and foremost a technician or an expert and whatever it is you do, be it a baker or an IT guy. Anything outside of that is going to be a lower priority.
I also think there's sort of an allusion in some respects that a website should be easy. And I think especially if you're an IT and a technical guy, you sort of it's not totally abstract; you need a server and you need to do these things. And you got and go down that do-it yourself path and I can just find you don't have the time, it's hard to keep up, it needs to be updated and it's hard to be good at something that you don't do very often.
So it becomes this frustration and then many times the alternative is like, "Well, we need to get help" or you're going to go to an agency and maybe they're either very expensive or they do parts like, "Yes I'll develop your website but you need to have someone write the copy" or they'll do pieces of it that you have to put together. And then at the end, they'll just hand it back to you and say, "Okay. Now, update and take care of your website."
I think, it's that struggle of time and managing those resources and a little bit of the allusion that it should be easy when in fact it's not.
Richard: Indeed. I speak to a lot of IT businesses who probably classify themselves as like a jack of all trades, anything that's got a plug on the end of it; they expect to be experts in. And of course, even though most IT businesses would know how to put together a website. You hit the nail on the head actually, finding the time to do it and to keep it going is incredibly difficult.
Moving forward then, what's the typical result of business should they expect to see when they got their website in order?
Derek: Right. Well, I'll just give you an example. At Pronto, when clients come on board, they give us their link to their Google Analytics account so we can track their performance and the great things in the website. Typically, if they had a website for some time, we have the historical data at all.
On average our clients see about a 51% increase in organic search traffic within about six months. Most of that or all of that I would say is not anyone big thing, it's frankly not rocket science, it's about doing a lot of little things well; just getting the website setup right and doing things right and the content right and Google local places right and lots and lots of little things.
I think an expectation should be, that your traffic increases and you want your leads to increase but if you want more leads, you need more traffic. First and foremost, to be getting that traffic and then secondly, to get a website that's converting leads.
Richard: Got it. Now, of course it's all well and good; building a new website and putting it out there, but in a very short period of time it becomes stale. From your perspective, how would you keep a website fresh and how'd you keep it generating good quality leads?
Derek: Yeah. I think it's important to be doing updates on a regular basis; that's why we setup our service around and “All you can need. Tell us when you want anything updating and make it easy.” Because if it's hard, like even if you a new team member joining your team and you want to update the R-team page but you need to crop the photo, you need to write the bio, you need to remember how to put it on the webpage and of course there's been a dozen get done.
But, the first part of that process is you want to be updating your site on a regular basis; you change your service, you added your services, you added a person, either of that or an open blog aside for a second. But those website refreshers are important because they keep your website fresh in the search engine.
Our process is been that made that easy, "You know, we just hired Richard. Here's his picture, here's his LinkedIn profile. Put him on the website." And we write the bio, get the picture right and create it.
The other piece is keeping your website fresh in terms of content and that can be blog content, it's great for that. It's not just from an SEO's perspective but it's also a perspective of people coming to your website. It's a first impression on your business. Nothing looks worse than you come to a website and there's like a new section or a blog section and the last updated 2013. And, I've seen worst.
What does that say about your business? So this guy is really on top of things. What's going on here? Are they going to be focus? Are they on top of their business? So I think it's really important to watch what you buy off, you do it in a way that people are seeing things really fresh and updated and it's clear; it's a reflection on how you're on top of your business.
Richard: It's so important isn't it keeping up to date for that impression you get. Just a side-note; I was chatting to a PR company here in the UK, they should remain nameless. I'm really impressed with the conversation I had with them but when a way did my due diligence, looked at their website and of course the new section haven't been updated since 2011.
As you say, immediately all those questions popped into mind you know; are they on top of things? They talk but do they follow-up with actions? That type of things.
Richard: Yeah. That keeping content fresh is very, very important.
Derek: You know, some things that I hear sometimes is some way, "Well, my business comes from referrals." And you know, if you're doing your job well in a business like an IT server provider, it should be. But, you know that always underappreciates.
How many referrals did you get where the referrer said, "Hey, you should go check out their website. Here's the website. Bob's doing a great job for us." And they go to your website and they decide you know, I respect the referral but I don't, this pace is kind of like what happen you with the PR company.
And they walk away. You don't know what you're losing even if you feel like you build your business referrals, that it's unfair. You could be the best IT guy in the planet but if your website sucks; there's immediate connotation about the quality of your work that you might do for them. That's greater fault.
Richard: Absolutely. You probably never get to hear about those leads. They just never get in touch do they?
Derek: Right. No.
Richard: Yeah. When we're talking about contents and keeping the website fresh, in your opinion having worked with lots and lots of manage server providers and IT solutions providers, what type of content should be featured on their MSP website?
Derek: Right. I think one we've gotten strong about is like I kind of put it in three parts and the first is the home page. Really for a kind of lead generation business professional services; your ideal scenario is it that homepage close this lead and they pick up the phone and call you or send you an email or fill out a contact us form.
You know, you just want them to come to the website and goes, "This company will solve my problem. I need to get in touch with them." They don't necessarily need to read lots and lots of inter-page content on services.
First and foremost, I would have a compelling homepage that tells your story; "Here's who we are. Here's our value preposition. Here's what we're good at. Here's a testimonial or few from clients. Here's how to get in touch with us." Then as a second level, I do think a certain amount of, what I'll call inter-page content; "You know, we do this kind of network services. We provide these kind of security services. We're active in these verticals." Those can be important because x number of people want to go to that next step like, "Okay. It looks like a good company but do they address my issue or my need?" And will go do that kind of next step of due diligence. I think it's important to take them through that step.
I would say the third piece of content is more as it relates to marketing you're doing is if you're doing any kind of ad words or email marketing or display marketing or anything like that; you really should be building or having someone build landing pages for you that their specific to that advertising and that offer.
You don't want to just like say you have an offer, get your free security audit and you'll land them on a homepage that may have something about security audit but they got to kind of scroll through and look through a lot of information. You want them to land on a specific landing page that's got a form right there, that's got a picture and the security audit and it capture those leads.
I would say it's those kind of three pieces: a home page, that you hopefully just closes the deal right off the bet; inter-pages, for the people who want to dig around and get some specific info, also could help us specialize SEO sort of queries; and then do the extra work if you're getting SEO marketing to have specific landing pages to capture those leads, it makes a huge difference.
Richard: Got it, makes a lot of sense. Now, you touch upon it a little bit earlier in our conversation about blogging. Most MSPs when they think of content, they think, "Well, I really haven’t got the time to be doing blogging, to be writing blog post." Why should a business be blogging in the first place?
Derek: I think there's a couple of reasons for it. One that we talked about earlier; it's a great way to keep your website fresh and just kind of showed that you're being updated. If you're doing original blogging of your own, it always helps with SEO, those things get index and the more activity in content, the search engine see that's better. It's also an opportunity for you, to position yourself as an expert; and it's you writing about such and such topic.
I don’t think you have to do it a lot. I mean, really a well written once a month blog post would be about a thousand times better than no blog post. I think if you can't commit to it let's say once a month, then you do risk that looking out of date, but I don't think it’s something that you have to feel like you're doing even on a weekly basis. I figure one or two at a month, I think that's probably realistic and doable.
Richard: Its interesting Derek. You know, I preach the virtues of blogging. I would say, I built my entire business off the back of blogging and the MSP business before but interestingly people say, to me they say, "How do you write so much content for blog post." The secret is, I don't actually write that much
I think there's almost, once you start doing consistently, like you say once or twice a month; it actually gives the allusion that you're generating a lot more content than you do because you can reuse that content and share it in different ways. Which I think, brings me on to my next question which is, the role that social media plays in generating traffic for a website. Talk to me a little bit about how Pronto help people on the social media side things because they do go hand in hand nowadays, don't they? Social media and the website?
Derek: Yes. It's important to get those things setup and have an integrated kind of presence and branding across them. That's something we setup and take care about all our client when we get them started. Social media, it can depend, and for business and professional services, how much traffic comes from that?
Again I think it’s important part of the checklist. I would say for most professional services, I wouldn’t over invest in there but I will keep it fresh and I will keep it active, it's not that hard to do; just pictures of what you're doing or things little news about clients and stuff. I think it all just takes a few minutes here and there to do that. I think it's important and part of the online presence for any small business.
Richard: Understood, so you were telling me out there a little bit about how you might manage some of your client's Facebook profiles for instance. To what degree do you actually manage that Facebook profile? I'm presuming you help them post content but maybe when it comes to Christmas party pictures and things not so much.
Derek: Yeah. We kind of have a couple levels of the service. One is, getting everything setup right. Two, we can make sure that if there's content or syndicated content or blog content or things that we can manage for them, we keep those feeding into their page. But on third piece, we often call our social media program one plus one equals three, which is we need you the client to provide some things like those Christmas pictures that we can't provide.
Its social media and you should be showing that kind of face of your business and your people. And so, it's not really that hard; you just kind of get it setup right in the beginning and then kind of put it on your tick-load list to update periodically.
Richard: Yeah. You can action some of it but obviously you can't act so sure everything about the process, it still need that personal touch. But I guess when it comes to producing good quality copy blog post and other market material that's on your website and that. How important is a good quality copywriter for a website?
Derek: It's really important because it's perhaps underappreciated but a good copywriter can encapsulate your story and write it a way that's both pleasing and well written to read and clear; so someone can go through a few sentences. I'm not going to read a book about you but a few sentences and go, "Okay. I get where this person started, where they're coming from, what they're expertise is, why should I trust them."
Our copywriters are well-trained and they have their kind of checklist and things that they need to say and points they need to made. It's a professional discipline. Some people have a real talent for being able to do that.
Richard: Absolutely. I mean, I pretty much write for a living now but I still re-chat some copywriters. It's fascinating when I introduce MSP clients to copywriters. They typically do an interview. The MSP tells the copywriters what they're trying to say, copywriter gives the text back and the MSP says, "That's exactly what I was trying to say." But it isn't as simple as that really, isn't it basically?
Richard: Yeah. Cool. Quick question, you know I mentioned that you're based in Thailand now. How would you even ensure that the content you generate at Pronto is your client is (I guess the best way I put it) geographically specific?
Derek: Yes. We have a majority of our copywriters happen to be Brits, so that helps. In every client, we got to know their business enough to speak to things that might be regional things apart or the vernacular that might be used to say we're in the tri state area or something that even a somewhat local copywriter might not be quite aware of that phrase. We take a little time with the client both us our on boarding process as we write and as view with them, to make sure we've got the tone right of what they want to say, that it sound appropriate for their market.
For that part of our business, we employ native English speakers; that along with the discipline to just communicate with a client, it gets it right.
Richard: Understood. We talked a lot about outsourcing website. There's going to be some MSP, some IT businesses that are listening to this and think, "Well, I got a decent website. Not really sure I need to outsource it." In your opinion, what are the signs that businesses should be outsourcing their website design and maintenance?
Derek: Well, I think there's a couple; is your website really up to date? And not just up to date with content, but are you for instance optimize from mobile 30, 40, maybe 50% of your traffics come in mobile these days Is it working? Are you really integrating it into your activities? If you were a campaign and you want it a landing page; do you know how to do that and would it get done and who would do it? I think there's those elements that are important.
I also think about the cost to solo working with Pronto and I think about the value of the MSP's time. Yes, you could do it but of all the things you could focus on today or in this week, is that actually the highest and best use of your time? Should you be talking to some clients or trying to get some referrals or recommendations or following-up on a sales lead or something like that? I think it's a combination of the two; of what's the value of your time and also realistically, are you going to get things done in a right way.
Richard: Makes a lot of sense. We touched up on the value that Pronto bring and we'll come to you for just a second. Now you got a special offer for listeners of the podcast as well. But before we do that, I just want to close off really (to understand) what do you think are the most common mistakes that you see MSPs making with their website?
Derek: I would say a couple common mistakes that we see: one would be getting over ambitious in terms of website and this is the website that often either never gets done or has inter-pages or places on the website that are under construction. If you're going to do it yourself or if you go out to someone else to do it; keep it as simple as possible. A website is never finish, so don't try to feel like every page and everything and every use and every widget you ever imagine you wanted has to be on that website in the beginning; get the few critical pieces right and then kind of step by step go forward.
Richard: Yup. Makes a lot of sense. I see a lot of MSPs treating their website. I guess they're trying to answer all questions, when of course a website should be a little bit like a CV. It shouldn't try and give the whole story. It should give an introduction to pique people's interest and ask them to follow-up and get in touch for more questions.
Richard: Yeah. So Derek we eluded a little bit earlier but you put together a special offer to our listeners of the podcast. I've got, you're allowed to share but perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about the special offer.
Derek: Sure. The way that Pronto service works is we have a one-time $500 setup fees. That's all the design, copywriting, social media, everything we’ve been talking about here. Then 30 days after that it's $247 a month, for the all you can need service.
What will do for the listeners today is if they click on that URL, it will take them to a special page and they can get $250 off or 50% off on the setup fee for being one of your listeners.
Richard: Fantastic! And I've got the URL here; its http://tubb.co/prontomsp. Using that link listeners can get 50% off the setup fees for the service.
Derek: That's right!
Richard: Fantastic! Well I appreciate you're extending that offer to everyone; that's really cool. As I've said, for everybody listening, I've known you for a long time Derek and I used to use Pronto Marketing for my own MSP business quite back in the day and lots of my clients use Pronto Marketing at the moment. So it really is a great service, very light price for anyone that's procrastinating your thinking about how to they're going to get a website, I've been running and it's a service that I would recommend.
So, thank you so much for your time today Derek. I guess if anybody is listening they want to find out more about Pronto Marketing, they'll find you on social media, how would they find you?
Derek: Well, just search for Pronto Marketing and we'll pop-up at the top at the top of search results.
Richard: There you go. You were practiced what you preached, you got everything down for the SEOs. Well, Derek thanks again for your time today, really appreciate it.
Derek: Sure. Thank you for your effort. It's great opportunity to be on the show. Thanks.
Tue, 17 February 2015
We're all familiar with attending business networking events and being given 30 or 60 seconds to talk about your business -- often referred to as an elevator pitch -- as well as regularly being asked by others "What do you do?". Are you confident with the response you typically give in these situations? Just as importantly, are you sure your response accurately conveys what you do without people switching off?
How To Create a Great Mini Marketing Message
In episode 7 of TubbTalk I speak with public speaking coach and trainer Alan Matthews on how to create a great mini marketing message. In our discussion Alan and I talk about
Sun, 23 November 2014
Richard speaks with 3 of the top MSP Vendors at the 2014 CompTIA EMEA Conference in London to understand how their tools can help IT Managed Service Providers (MSP's) help their clients and make more money.
Richard Tubb: So I'm here at the CompTIA EMEA Conference with Ben Lange of Rummage. How are you doing Ben?
Ben Lange: I'm very well, thanks. How are you doing?
Richard: Good! So tell us a little bit about Rummage.
Ben: Rummage is a fast search organization tool. We did some research when we had problems ourselves and that was when it comes to at managing, organizing and finding your data it can be very difficult. And more and more of this day and ages, technology creeps into our lives and we're making files, we're sending files, we're sharing them and we're storing in all sorts of different areas.
And a lot of the time when it comes to surfacing information, trying to get them back and just organizing all, it takes a lot of time to do so.
What Rummage does, it gets to know you a little bit, it understands your contacts and sucks them in from LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and these sort of mediums. And it also analyzes your file and folder structure within your organization. Gets to know your projects and your clients and it automatically generates tags.
We found that if you're a meticulous organizer, so that's fine, you can find things but often colleagues are sending them, they're sharing them, they're storing them in locations and other people can't find them when they want to. And they waste time at work when it comes to looking for this information. And so we created a typing engine, it's an automatic typing engine that it will go through all your files, gets to know what's important to you and tags everything appropriately.
Richard: So you mentioned that it brings you files from lots of different locations so for instance myself, I'm a Google Apps user, I use Gmail, I also use Google Drive, as well as Dropbox, and I’ve got a local NAS with files in there. Would Rummage help me to sort it out those type of files?
Ben: Absolutely would. What we've been developing the past year is the alpha, and that works at the moment, it works on a local machine. But that includes you know, you've got Dropbox folders there, you've got Google Drive's folders there, you've got your local email, so currently, the free version out now today will do all that and will scan these mediums. What we're working on now is bringing even more things to the front, to the forefront. Where we will index your cloud services.
Everything, all in one place is what we're aiming for, so if you do use Dropbox, you do send attachments, you do have things locally, or on shared drive, or in the cloud and don't waste time looking for it. Rummage has done that hard work for you and just use that.
Richard: And how much time would you estimate people do waste looking across these various services of files?
Ben: That's a very good question. Actual fact The Wall Street Journal mentioned but recently, it's a phenomenal statistic. I can't quite remember but it says a ballpark of couple of hours a week.
Richard: Couple of hours a week.
Ben: Per person. Wasted just looking for data, just trying manage all those emails, manage all those files everywhere. It’s about surfacing information. And in this day and age, where we expect technology to work and we're busy, I need it now and Rummage provides.
Richard: Who were you working with to get the products out to end users? You're working with IT solution providers and managed-service providers. What is an ideal client look like for you?
Ben: That's good question. You know, an ideal client will be anybody in a small medium business who know where money is tight. They don't have enterprise-level solutions, they don't have enterprise-level search organization. And at of the moment, we've taken a sort of a low risk self- fund approach.
We’ve developed the idea completely in house and we now have the alpha out there. So it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to look for partners and talk to managed service providers and talk to the IT world and say, “Look, we've got a fantastic idea”. We produce the alpha, we’ve got downloads, we’ve got users, we're really kicking off and it's a great time to connect with us and talk about our product.
Richard: If anybody listening this, so this can tell where a busy conference, the EMEA Conference has lots going on around us. The conversations that you've had with IT solution providers and managed-service providers, what’s their feedback for Rummage?
Ben: Feedbacks been quite positive. Being really happy with the conversation I've had. It’s not for every MSP, not everybody wants to take a piece of software and then bundle it up with the package that they already produced. But then what I really discovered here talking to managed service providers is that here's a lot of differences on how they approach their profession.
I really think having some fantastic conversations that it is a tool that MSP's can get on board with because at the end of the day they’re providing service to their clients and that service is all about productivity, it's all about efficiency. Rummage is about that. It's about saving time for the end-user and essentially for the MSP.
We actually might be reducing the number of support tickets they get from clients if their clients aren't calling them up saying, “I've lost this, I don't know where my data is,” because Rummage helps you visualize all your data.
Richard: So helping the MSP to lower the cost of customer support?
Ben Lange: You can say that.
Richard: Fantastic. So if anybody listening to this wants to find out more about Rummage, how will they get in touch with you Ben, how will they look at Rummage on the web?
Ben Lange: Absolutely, we're on the main social platform so I'd say the best place is in our website and that's getrummage.com. And you can contact us directly through the website. Of course, we got Twitter and Facebook as well. So our Twitter handle is @getrummage and Facebook is www.facebook.com/getrummage.
Richard: I like the uniformity!
Ben: Thank you very much.
Richard: Well thanks for your time, Ben. Enjoy the rest of the conference.
Ben: No problem at all. Thanks for your time.
Richard: I'm here in CompTIA EMEA Conference with David Clarke of Benemen UK. How are you doing Dave?
David Clarke: I'm doing good actually Richard thanks so much.
Richard: Good. So tell us a little bit about Benemen UK and what you do.
David: Okay. We started recently in the UK, a Finnish based company. The business started at 2008. It's cloud-based telephony and it does a few sort of quite clever things. It integrates mobile fixed and unified communications in one platform. What does that mean? It means that all the devices you use for telephony or extensions of the same system.
So whether that be your mobile, your desktop, VOIP phone or if you're using Microsoft Link on your computer. As I said, it place everything together in one platform, so your mobile truly is an extension of the same network. Your link client is truly an extension of the network and call-center functionality can be delivered right through at that and there some extra things that can happen. You can have call recording on any device.
If you're in a different country and somebody rings you, you can take your call through your link client rather than on your mobile to avoid roaming charges. But people are still phoning your mobile number or you can be presenting a fixed line number whichever you choose. It's a lot of flexibility in the system.
Richard: What type of clients are actually using this system alone? So you got some great samples of somebody who’s benefited in this system.
David: We’ve got a number of organizations that had a large sales focus so they got people who work from offices or right from client premises. And for them it’s the flexibility of being able to use this wherever they are. But also there are reporting functionality within the system.
So if you got people like that, it's important to for them to know, who are their important customers? Who are their important conversations? There’s a lot of reporting built into it in the background. We've got other organizations that have small sort of offices in other countries so for them it's important for everybody to be included in the same network.
Richard: We're at the EMEA Conference and there's a lot of IT solution providers, managed-service providers, so which particular types of IT businesses are you looking to partner with?
David: We're not looking for huge numbers of partners. What we want to find is partners who have a similar view of the world to us, who perhaps are offering innovative services. So on the straight IT service provider’s side, people who are moving their business into managed services. They see telephony as an important aspect for their overall IT support that they're providing to those people. So people who are supporting installations of 50 to sort of 500 users maybe across multiple sites. That's on the solution provider’s side.
Then maybe other businesses who have a background of selling PBX systems and are now perhaps moving into cloud-based systems to replace those old PBX's as they become end of life and unsupported anymore. Or the vendor who made those things has been acquired for the 5th or 6th time by somebody and so their clients are looking for something A to replace what they've got but probably to add some functionality to the operation.
And there will be a lot of resellers who are selling link maybe as just a unified solution COM solution that people use in-house and we can actually add telephony to that and then perhaps build an overall service package from that.
Richard: And what about the barriers of entry for the partners, do you have certain levels that you look for or sales targets that you need to achieve. What does that look like?
David: The more important thing, the relationship. I was introduced to CompTIA by Mark from Pensar who I've known for some time and people like Mark have very progressive and collaborative view of the market place. And that fits really well with how we see the world. We have a number of partners in our business that we collaborate with and bring them in as the one that is required. And I think is that approach more than anything else that we look for rather than in the early stages, the hard numbers or the targets, so that kind thing.
The relationship is key because if we have a good relationship, then the way people do business is they do business with people like them and so their clients are going to be a reflection of a type of a provider they are and that's what we're looking for. That's the most important thing for us.
Richard: Makes a lot of sense, absolutely. So in terms of the benefits of the IT companies that you partnered with, what does the opportunity look like in terms of pounds and pence?
David: If you look at the moment in Finland and across some other countries, we're looking at sort of average revenues per user up in some instances about 60 or 70 pounds a user. And it’s going to be earning a good margin in that. So you could be talking on something like that. The potential to be earning a margin of perhaps 20 pound a user out of that. Which if you think of 50, 100, couple 100 users then that can build into something that is pretty substantial part of the business.
And we don't say to them, “This is what you got to sell this for,” because recognize more of the not, they’re probably going to be including maybe this as part of an overall package. And for us, if it can add value and they can add a premium to that, then so much are better for them.
Richard: And that's exactly where we met. It’s on Twitter – Follow Friday! So lovely to meet you at last, Dave. Hope you enjoyed the conference and thank you for your time today.
David: Thank you very much, Richard. Cheers.
Richard: I'm here at the CompTIA EMEA Conference with Mark Charleton of Distributive Blue Solutions. How are you doing Mark?
Mark: Today has been really good actually, it's a good opportunity to network with vendors, and some nice MSPs so I’ve had some good conversations.
Richard: Excellent. Just before we got on air, we're talking about App River. For the listeners on the podcast who have never heard it before. Perhaps you could explain a little bit why it‘s a benefit to MSPs.
Mark: So App River is one of our new vendors we have just signed up so there are a cloud provider, offering kind of anti-spam and web security in the cloud. And they’ve also got a good history with host and exchange. Got over eight million mailboxes worldwide, so got good heritage there. And they’re also one of the few syndication partners in the world. Particularly there’s only three with a two-tier distribution agreement, I wish we’ve got.
We now have access to the Office 365 portfolio, an importantly for partners it gives the partner the ability to own their relationship with the customer. It means we bill you, you add your margins to it. You retain the controller over the bill, the relationship and the support.
Richard: And what so benefits do you see the solutions bringing to an MSP ahead of what is a fairly crowded market?
Mark: Office 365 is obviously kind of a Microsoft driven product and you’ve got the alternatives from Google and you got to make your choice for end users what is appropriate. But a lot of the feedback in the channel was that they didn't like handling over the relationship to Microsoft, they wanted to retain that stickiness that was important to them really.
And on the advisor program, they kind of felt that they lost that closeness with their customer. So this agreement is exactly the same service, it's exactly the same screws, it's the same bundles running out the same data center. There’s no degradation of service or anything. It's just the relationship is yours.
Richard: So it seems to me, if a no-brainer why would MSP go with Microsoft when they can work with Blue Solutions to deliver this?
Mark: There's always resellers that feel there's an advantage buying direct from a vendor and maybe you kind of need the experience their kind of support offering and their billing process and decide whether it works for you or not. On the advisor program, there's many, many different stories of rebates and how much you get and you know when you get them our model gets you up front margin.
One of the great challenges with Microsoft as people are probably aware is they kind of change the rules so things start off looking really, really good and then they will reduce your margin. Your discount is reduced, your NFR is reduced and they recently just reduced the action pack down from 250 seats with office 365 down to five, you don't get that restrictions through Blue Solutions.
Richard: For anybody listening to this who wants to find out more about Blue Solutions as a distributor how will they go about that?
Mark: BlueSolutions.co.uk or call into the main sales team. I've got a product specialist that looks after the app services at Office 365, you can have a 30-day free trial with all those services, you get a call supervision with your customers.
Fri, 31 October 2014
Why do so many Managed Service Providers (MSP's) understand the importance of Marketing to help them acquire new clients and grow their business, yet don't make the time to consistently do effective marketing?
Effective MSP Marketing
In episode 5 of TubbTalk, Richard speaks with to discuss the biggest mistakes MSP's make when it comes to marketing, understanding why MSP marketing needs to be consistent, and looking at options to ensure effective marketing for MSP's.
Richard: Gemma, thanks for joining me! How are you?
Gemma Telford: I am good. Thank you.
Richard: Cool. Thank you for joining me today. Now, you have been in the IT arena for quite some time. Tell us a little bit about your background and where you come from before you set up the IT Marketing Agency.
Gemma: Okay I have been in the IT channel for a number of years now. I guess my first kind of big role was of a Head of Marketing at Ingram Micro. So I headed a marketing team there of about 15 people, looking after all vendor and reseller marketing for the UK Channel. And I left there a few years back now. I went back to Agency Land and then to IT Marketing Agency in the spring of 2013.
Richard: Cool. How have things gone since you set things up?
Gemma: They have gone really well and the business is good, going from strength to strength. We are now up to 10 people this year and we’ve got a number of clients on board that were working with across a whole range of things from strategy, to marketing execution, across content social, web marketing, and digital whole range. It has been actually a brilliant year.
Richard: What does a typical client look like for your business?
Gemma: We work across the channel so we work with vendors, and resellers, and DCs. I think the strength about what we do is we offer marketing as a service. So we have got a range of services that we can wrap around depending on what that client needs.
We are not prescriptive about how we do marketing. It is very much looking at how marketing and sales are aligned, and what the end goals of the businesses are and what they are trying to get to, and really helping them from a strategy down viewpoint to realise those goals.
Richard: Obviously, we have known each other for a while now and I am very aware of your experience within the IT market as a whole. But there are going to be some IT solution providers watching today and thinking, "Oh great. Another marketing person starting at their own marketing agency." Why is what you are doing different to any other marketing business out there?
Gemma: Because we center very much on marketing for the channel. I have been in marketing now for a long time but I think there is a real lack of marketing agencies who know the channel really well.
Obviously, having worked Ingram, I know the distributed channel very well. I have worked with a number of vendors independently and also worked with resellers. I worked with Network Group for a while helping them set up their strategic marketing. And I have worked with individual resellers.
And I think the good thing about the team that we have put together is they are real experts in the channel. We understand the dynamics of how the channel works and we understand how to leverage that to get the best out of it.
Richard: Let us talk about resellers, IT solution providers for a moment. In your experience, what are the biggest mistakes that MSPs and IT solution providers make when it comes to marketing?
Gemma: I think the biggest mistake that MSPs and solution providers make is not to do any marketing. Many businesses are set up by often a technical person and it is just not something they know about or they are not comfortable with. And apart from that I think really is a lack of knowledge.
What does good marketing look like? There is always that joke about marketing being the covering development, the branding, elements, and things like that are really important. But again for us, marketing is always linked to sales. And it is about getting that end result and the return on your investment. I think In terms of mistakes that people make, it is just one from not knowing where to go and what good marketing looks like.
Richard: What about the free resources that are out there? You come a from a vendor world, from the distributor world there’s many available from marketing development funds. There is co-branded marketing. Current IT solution providers may--I could say may do--but can IT solution providers use this material and get good results?
Gemma: Yes, certainly I think there is a whole plethoraof different materials out there from vendors and distributors. And I am sure in a limited way that can certainly help resellers it’s certainly than doing nothing.
But I think there are a couple of problems around that. One is the vendor message is going out to market and that ties you into that vendor. And secondly, there is no targeting around your own businesses. No messaging about what your business does that is different to anyone else in that space. Why is solution provider is X better than solution provider Y? What do you do that is different? What can you bring to the party?
And I think the other danger is that some of the big vendor brands are sending out campaigns nationally all at the same time. So potentially, your end user customer might get exactly the same email from you and the competitor all at the same time. Again, there is nothing there to differentiate your business.
Richard: The vast majority of MSPs that I work with tends to be owner/managers who are technical in nature. And they almost feel, across the board, almost embarrass about putting themselves out there blowing their own trumpets. And that is existentially what marketing is, putting yourself out there and saying how good you are.
How do IT business owners overcome their reluctance to do marketing and that very British thing about not telling people how good you are?
Gemma: It is something that, believe or not, I sympathize. You got me to do this video and I am terrible at putting myself out there personally as well so I completely get that.
Working with a good marketing agency, what they’ll help you to do is to draw that story out of you. It does not mean sitting down in a room and you say, "Okay." What we do that is great is actually through a conversation you can help people to identify what are the strengths in their business. What have they done really well?
And often when you get them talking about clients that they have worked with or projects that they have worked on, it becomes clear that there are key things that they are doing right. And sometimes it is just as simple as saying, "Well, that was great wasn’t it?" And they go, "Oh yes."
Richard: In your experience for Managed Service Providers, what is the biggest challenge for them working with a marketing agency that might meet down their local BNI or breakfast networking group. What are the biggest challenges they might come across working with a marketing agency like that?
Gemma: I think the thing is that unlike case finder marketing agency who specializes in their arena. While the principles of marketing are the same regardless of which vertical you are in or which space. I think that someone that you meet at BNI would probably be doing marketing and branding for a number of businesses. They won’t have the in depth knowledge. They won’t have the technical understanding of what the solution providers are trying to get across. They won’t necessarily understanding from an end user point of view. What are the things that those end users are looking for?
Again, it is not just getting out the messaging about you and your business. It is understanding what the audience is looking for from you and helping to provide that content back to them.
Richard: What about when it comes to budget? A lot of IT solution providers would be thinking that, "We need new clients through the door. We wants new clients through the door." But it seems like an awful lot of money if we go to a marketing agency they are going to charge us the earth for these big productions, and these big campaigns, and everything. Realistically, from your experience in the industry, is that the case or working with marketing teams do you get a good return of investments?
Gemma: I think that it easy to spend a lot of money on marketing and a lot of that can be around doing things that look really good or thinking you have to have a professionally printed brochure and you need 5,000 of them. And actually it is straightforward these days particularly with social media and things like that to develop a core of content that works for you really well and works hard for you. And it does not need to be that expensive.
The other thing to consider about in investment in marketing is that it does a number of things for you so it can help you often cross sales and in your existing customers as well. You also need to consider what the lifetime value of new clients is.
So you might be investing 5,000 in marketing. But if it bring in five new clients, they are spending 5,000 pounds a year with you and they’re likely to be a costumer for five years actually when you look at that return on that investment it is much greater than your initial investment.
I think one other thing to consider is that marketing is not a quick fix. You do not send out an email and one month then you have five new customers. It is a drip feed. And actually some recent researchers showed that if a customer has never heard of you, getting from never having heard of you to buying process can actually take up to seven or eight touches. You need to be out there consistently with your messaging.
Richard: Which lead us to one of the biggest challenges that IT companies have in that they do not have a consistent pipeline. They typically think about marketing when times are getting tough. And by then it’s often too late is that true?
Gemma: Absolutely yes. Again, I think it is one of those things that something we talked about earlier is that some businesses are waiting until everything is perfect before they get going on the marketing push. But actually you can do things that have an impact immediately and everything does not need to be perfect but you do need to keep going out there the same as you do with your sales effort. You do not suddenly pick up the phone when you realize that there are no orders in that month. You need to be building those conversations and relationships overtime.
Richard: It is interesting something that you said earlier on about upselling. Most people think about marketing as bringing in new clients but of course, for Managed Service Providers watching and listening in today. Across the board, nearly everyone I speak to has not sold every solution that hey provide. Not nearly every solution to all of their customers. Talk to me a little bit about upselling and the amount of money that MSP is leaving on the table there.
Gemma: Yes, absolutely. The hardest part of any new customer or new customer win is actually the bit before you got them over the threshold. If you’re looking at your existing customer base and looking what else you can sell to them, those people already know you, they already trust you, and they already made the decision to buy from you.
Like you say Richard it’s leaving money on the table if you are not selling those solutions. But also, you want the best for your customers and perhaps there are things that they are not aware of that that they could be buying from you or that they should be doing for their business. Different services, manage antivirus, back up, and all these kinds of things.
They often go for one thing that’s your in but if you are not telling them about the other things that you are doing, you are doing them a disservice but you are also doing a disservice for your own business.
Richard: Indeed and a lot of the services that MSPs sell as well as increasing recurring revenue, it actually decreases their customer support. It lowers their customer support. MSPs make sure you are doing upselling to your existing client's market and to your existing clients as well.
Moving forward with your business now, you have got a new initiative that I am involved with. Would you like to tell everyone listening and watching a little bit more about that?
Gemma: Sure. We are launching the MSP Marketing Academy and it is basically a managed solution for Managed Service Providers. It is marketing and service. And there are a number of different options according to what people are looking for but essentially, what it delivers is a monthly marketing campaign which is then diagnostic and all the collateral around that.
With each campaign there will be an email, a landing page, a blog, some kind of thought leadership, or download document, and some suggested social media or output. And it is written by experts in the channel. It is UK based so people with lots of experience who understand those kind of issues. And it is available for people to take in as a campaign in the bottom push out themselves through their own systems or as a fully managed service.
Richard: Again, that is what we were saying about the upselling. It strikes me that it would be really easy for an MSP to pick up one of your campaigns and to use that to market in their existing clients.
Gemma: Absolutely yes. And that is definitely what we are hoping. And again, a number of the MSPs that we’ve talked to have said that they want to do that because there is a number of clients that are only buying one service from them. And actually reaching out to their existing clients and to new clients with professionally branded material which is going out through platforms that help to measure that return on investment as well and give you good intelligence coming back from that. It is really important.
Richard: For those businesses who are interested in the MSP Marketing Academy but again, their concern of maybe they have done marketing before and marketing does not work for us, they’ve had a bad experience perhaps or they are thinking, "Hmm, I probably haven’t got the budget for that." What are the options available to them? What they could they do instead of engaging with the MSP Marketing Academy?
Gemma: There are a number of options. Again, I guess, if they are wanting to do some kind of marketing, then they got the option of doing some vendor marketing if there are vendors that they are particularly engaged with.
And one of the other thing that we are offering as a part of the Marketing Academy is a quarterly meeting which we are calling the gathering which will be looking at marketing for part of the day and then the afternoon will be spent looking at some of the aspects of running a managed service business which are more general.
We will be having a selection of different speakers coming to those events. There will be workshop elements of those events so people will be able to come along, find out what is a value proposition, how do I go and create that for my own business, and then take that away at the end of the day.
There will be real value from those meetings. And then that maybe a stepping stone for them to get on to do some marketing for their own business or they may decide actually there is really no option here that we can just take in and get it done.
Richard: Yeah just as they say marketing in the box and then get the clients coming through the door.
From a personal perspective I am really excited about joining. I really appreciate that you sent an invitation to me. One of the biggest challenges within my business of course is that I am just one person.
As much as I’d love to work with every MSP out there, I cannot. Most MSPs have come to me initially. Some have marketing is one of the big challenges so I think the MSP Marketing Academy is going to give them a good voice to do that. I am going to be a part of it. So I am about to speak with a lot of MSPs. I am really looking forward to that.
You mentioned about the gathering. That is going to be a good place for MSPs to get together with experts and their peers to learn how to do marketing. But what about those MSPs who are thinking, "I should be able to do this on my own. I should not.” What are the other options that are available to them?
Gemma: I guess that is one of the things that we hear most commonly, "I should be able to do that," or even with the best intentions people go and try to do some of this stuff.
I think the danger for most MSPs is that they do not do anything. You might read a book and think that is great and I will go away and I will have the marketing plan. But then it actually does not happen same as many things. Doing nothing is the key danger.
And then there is also looking at someone from your local BNI. Are they going to know your business well enough to do a good job for you? Therefore, do we get in to the marketing that does not work for me?
Richard: And typically costs as much as working with the IT Marketing Agency or anyone of concern.
Gemma: Exactly yes. I think another option is that you work with a specific agency. They create a lot of bespoke material for you and that is great but certainly the investment for that would be quite heavy.
And the last option is you look at employing somebody in the business. Again, there is a risk associated with that. There is cost associated with that and also in terms of the level of person that you go for.
You probably do not need a senior marketing person in the business so many people go for a junior or a graduate marketing person. And they may be great at some elements of marketing like social media but they perhaps don’t know the right copy. They do not have the tools available to do the design in house. There are still gaps in what you are trying to do there.
What we have tried to do with the MSP Marketing Academy is provide a route for the marketing of the service which is tailored for your business, which is diagnostic, which you can get out there really quickly.
Richard: It is interesting, is not it? The amount of MSPs out there, when they speak to their client, they say, "Hey, you did not go in to business to be an IT person." How are you writing after this what’s wrong with it. Why do you think that so few IT Companies have outsourced their marketing?
Gemma: I think it is one of those things that most companies perhaps do not know any better. They are not sure where to start. They are doing okay. So it is not marketing. It is not something that you urgently, suddenly have to do. It is something easy to leave.
I guess it is like going on a diet or an exercise program. You know it will be good for you if you do it. But actually, first of all, you have to take the first step and then you have to continue to do it to get results. I think there are two hurdles there that sometimes people just do not get over because they do not see it as an urgent need for their business.
Richard: And then leave it until it is too late until the pipelines-
Richard: Until the end of the pipeline and go at it blindly we’re going to go out and get someone. Let us do marketing and it will magically appears. It does not work like that.
For anybody listening or for anybody watching who wants to find more about the MSP Marketing Academy your new initiative, how do they find out more detail?
Gemma: We have a website which is www.mspmarketingacademy.co.uk or they can contact me on LinkedIn, or they can contact you if they know you. And we have a team of people who would be happy to help.
Richard: Wonderful. Well Gemma, thank you for your time today. I am looking forward to working with you on MSP Marketing Academy
Mon, 15 September 2014
Most businesses think of Social Media as a marketing medium. Jeff Hammerbacher, formerly of Facebook, once said “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads and that sucks."
Beyond Social Media Marketing
But Social Media can be so much more than a marketing tool.
In episode 4 of TubbTalk, Richard speaks with DK - a Social Media speaker and advisor who has consulted with some of the worlds top businesses on how to effectively use Social Media. DK is also the organiser of the TEDx Wellington event and a man who raises some interesting questions on what Social Media is and how it can be used. For instance, have you ever considered how Einstein may have used Social Media if he were alive today?
Thu, 17 July 2014
With close links to some of the worlds most prestigeous IT vendors, the Network Group has been able to leverage its buying power to benefit its members - IT businesses - and their clients.
In this interview Richard talks with Phylip Morgan, Managing Director of the Network Group and discusses its origins, its membership and its goals for the future.
Details of the Network Group can be found at http://www.nbg.co.uk
Fri, 11 July 2014
Richard gives his thoughts on all the news from Autotask Community Live 2014 in Miami and interviews 3 of the top MSP tool Vendors at #ACL2014
Interview with Phill Claxton of Desk Director
Richard Tubb: I’m here with Phill Claxton, the co-founder of Desk Director. How are you doing Phil?
Phill Claxton: Very good thank you very good. It’s nice to be talking with you.
Richard: You’re welcome. What does Desk Director do and how do they help the IT businesses?
Phill: It serves as a client experience platform. Really what that is, is a client portal. A portal for your clients to use to be able to view and access tickets. Really it’s been designed as a way to help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace by making it very easy to communicate with clients and deliver services that they value. Make it very easy to work with you.
Also we have a staff heads up display which is somewhat similar in its concept but it’s all about bringing all the information, your team together into one place where they can effectively work while they’re working a ticket. They can access other information at the time, speed up their process.
The two would harmoniously allowing things like presence. Your team while they’re making working a ticket would know whether the client is out of the desk at the moment obviously has benefits of knowing particularly if that ticket requires them to work with them or give them a call whatever. It’s going to be very handy to know that they’re actually sitting on their desk.
Predominantly and squarely around the client experience that’s a big place for us. We think not enough service providers focus on improving the client experience. Very operationally focused and that’s a big trend we’re seeing.
Richard: I’d have to agree with you so the clients that you’ve got using Desk Director at the moment what type of MSPs or what type of IT solution providers are they?
Phill: They’re predominantly what you would call MSPs and they range really anywhere from one to two men shops if you’d like right up to our largest of up to 250 staff. So really the whole gamete of what you would call MSPs, traditionally MSPs they’re providing outsourced IT service to their clients and using Desk Director as a way to differentiate that and make it easier for their clients to work with them.
Richard: The feedback you’re getting from MSPs that have implemented Desk Director, what impact has it had on their business and their relationship with their clients?
Phill: Sure absolutely. The feedback really is in line with what we were hoping. I’m supposed it’s worth mentioning that we are an MSP as well. It was born out of a need so we developed Desk Director for our own purposes and taking to market. The feedbacks from their clients at least is that it’s something that they kind of have been hoping for, for awhile.
They’re also seeing it’s just a nice, elegant way for them to be able to communicate and work with the MSP. And deliver a level of value what they’re seeing from that. A lot of our clients use it in new business work as well.
In fact that’s one of the big growth areas that they’ll use it while they’re out talking to perspective clients and present this at the way that they’re different. Something that you will get as a by-product of working with them as a provider. And something that they can use to better communicate with them but also provide them training, and learning and that sort of thing.
Which is a different kind of conversation from what we traditionally see.
Richard: So you’re saying Desk Director gives MSPs a competitive advantage over-
Phill: Absolutely. A big part of our decision internally when we originally wanted to crate Desk Director for our own purposes was about that we kind of set back and analyzed what we were doing and very critically realized we really didn’t present all that different to other providers in our marketplace.
We weren’t exactly making it very easy for our clients to decide on which provider they would go with. And notably our clients are getting more savvy as time goes on but they still don’t always understand what an IT service provider does for them.
We as an MSP present often this flat fee, this fixed fee to manage their IT environment but they don’t always understand what value they get from it. So we were looking for something that they could see, touch, and feel. That’s quantifiable with the value that they would get. That’s where it comes from.
Richard: Until that point, practically what does it look like for an MSP to deploy this and how do end users what do you they see?
Phill: Sure. The product is an application that they deploy. That brings itself some benefits but it deploys using the RMM products they have so an MSP would brand it for a start and then deploy it after their clients using RMMs like Continuum and [0:04:36] and the like.
Then it would appear on the client’s machine, runs in the system tray, it appears branded. The important thing is we want to make a tool that they can present as theirs. And so then when the client wants to access tickets, training material, quotes, all those sorts of thing that we deliver, they just simply get a tray. Easy to use application that’s set on their machine.
We have integration with active directory so the big drive for us also is to make it much easier for them to get into it. To help you drive adoption, the important thing to make it easy for the clients to use.
They’ll deploy it that way, it’s very simple to install and can be deployed on mass very fast. Similar thing on the MSP side the heads up display is an application as well. We purposely built it as an application because as an application we are a lot more aware of what we call context.
We can make the MSP aware of things like the machine the person sat at which with a web page is never going to be able to do. Equally we can integrate with active directory a web page can’t easily do.
Richard: There’s been a lot of announcements from vendors recently. A lot of interesting news going on in the MSP market. What’s new in Desk Director?
Phill: The newest thing at Desk Director for us we’ve built an integration with an online form provider called Wufoo. What that means for our MSP clients is that they can now present their client’s forms. What that really means is that a common challenge that we were hearing a lot from your partners is that it was great that the clients could much easily log tickets.
The challenge was they often had things like new user requests, change requests. Often the information they got back from a client wasn’t enough for them to effectively solve the problem or effectively make the change. Now with forms it means that you can present kind of a form for them to populate, very easy for them to work through.
You as the service provider can collect all the information that you need to effectively solve the problem. So really decreasing the back and forth that often happened. We’re seeing our partners use it for those purposes. Other ways to really innovate in the service delivery they’ll use it for things like on boarding.
New client comes on board they need to collect pieces of information from them during that on boarding process a form is a perfect way to do it. And by delivering it through Desk Director that’s a pretty easy thing for them to do. We’re iterating in the area of our learning center and making it easy to integrate with other products has been some of the key areas that have changed for us recently. Kind of a pretty active roadmap into the next six to 12 months.
Particularly driven around things like mobile, Mac, areas that a lot of things are coming back from feedback from our partners that they’d love to see in the product.
Richard: You mentioned some integrations earlier on with RMM tools and active directory which PSA do you integrate with?
Phill: Well currently we’re actually excited to announce that we now integrate with Auto task. Previously we connect wise only so very happy to be in the auto task community now. It’s connect wise and auto task for the moment at least.
With a desire going forward to look at others but very, very happy to be focused on those two communities.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Phill. I really appreacite it. If anybody listening to this wants to reach out to Desk Director how do you go about it?
Phill: Well certainly website’s a key place to go deskdirector.com. They’re welcome to email me individually as well I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more than happy to take emails from them, very happy to share information around Desk Director and happy to get on a call and do a demonstration if they want to know more.
Richard: Wonderful. Phill thanks for your time.
Phill: Thank you.
Interview with Dima Kumets of OpenDNS
Richard: So I’m here with Dima Kumets, you are the Senior Product Manager at OpenDNS. What does OpenDNS and how do they help IT companies?
Dima: Great talking to you Richard. OpenDNS is a cloud security provider. What that means is that we really rely on big data threat intelligence looking at the internet as a whole. For managed service providers we’re able to provide an additional layer of protection to catch all of the zero data threats, all the margining threats and all the other things that you really can’t get with signature based protection such as antivirus and firewall.
We’re really the guys trying to predict the threats and block them before they become a problem.
Richard: And what does that look like in practice for an IT company? How do they utilize OpenDNS to help keep their clients safe?
Dima: Excellent question. In terms of practitioner really we focus on user experience and making it seamless and easy. The deployment is as simple as pointing DNS to us and giving stuff like IP or deploying an agent. From that point it’s very simple controls so our standard security policy is the one that’s typically in use.
Block drive by downloads, advanced threats, bottom that’s all of those things. Really then manage the customization of the service such as making the block gauge well to your users. Putting your logo up making sure that the end user understands that this isn’t just something random on the web. That this is their IT provider saying whoa, you’ve just gone to a bad site on the internet and I’m protecting you.
This is for your own good and here’s how you tell me if you want to challenge that. I’m working with you as opposed to against you.
Richard: Got it. What type of impact does your service have for MSPs who are looking to increase their recurring revenue? Is this a service that they sell to clients or is it for them to reduce the cost of their support?
Dima: You know it varies, it really does. What I’ve seen from our top performing partners is they basically include the security aspect of the service to reduce their ongoing cost. And looking at the service boards and the hours logged by our partners we see 50 to 80% drop off, sometimes 90% drop off in terms of the number of hours they spend remediating. Whether it’s formatting or trying to restore systems from back up, or simply hunting down that piece of malware that keeps popping up.
The way that they can make money is with our service is very simple in terms of licensing. We include everything for our partners so they can add on granular web filtering by granular I mean the CEO gets to go wherever they want and the rank and file are restricted.
Or what’s becoming more common in this day is a co-branded reporting dashboard that they can expose to their end customers so they can monitor what employees are doign without actually doing filtering. The power of that is everybody has got a smart phone in their pocket with a 4G connection, you want to make sure your employees are productive by management as opposed to trying to solve everything through technology.
Richard: Got it. We’re here in beautiful Miami at the Auto Task community live it’s very hot for a Brit like me at the moment. But there’s lots of vendor announcements going on in the conference. What’s new at OpenDNS?
Dima; Well I’m very excited to announce our auto task integration at this conference and what better place to do it right. The auto product management which means I talk to our partners constantly, I’m looking for how do we make their experience with our product better.
The thing they’ve always said to me is I want tickets within my PSA. I don’t want to have to look in your system for alerts. Earlier I mentioned prevention and containment. If we’ve just done our job and prevented an infection taking place we’ll log that and then install that in product in auto task now so you can talk to customers and show value.
On the other hand if we’re containing something. Say crypto locker comes in via an email or some other way, we’re containing it so it can’t get the encryption key. But the IT professional, the service provider still has to do something. We’ll create the ticket and what’s elegant about this is rather than bombarding them with alerts we’ll just continue to update the ticket if the infection persists or if they continue to need to get additional data.
Richard: Got it, cool. Well thanks for your time today Dima. I appreciate it. If anybody listening wants to find out more about OpenDNS and get in touch with you how would they go about it?
Dima: Thank you so much Richard, if you want to find out more go to OpenDNS.com or feel free to me email@example.com
Richard: Wonderful Dima, thanks for your time.
Dima: Thank you Richard.
Interview with Eric Dosal of BrightGauge
Richard: I’m here with Eric Dosal who is the CEO and co-founder for BrightGauge how are you doing Eric?
Eric: I’m doing very well, happy to be here.
Richard: You’re welcome. So for those listeners who don’t know what BrightGauge do, who are BrightGauge and how do they help IT businesses?
Eric: BrightGauge is a business intelligence platform and we cater 100% to the managed service and IT service market. We help our customers visualize their data, bringing it in from different data sources that our typical IT service provider uses and just makes sense of their data so they can make better business decisions a lot faster.
Richard: What does the tool look like in practice? How is it deployed, what does it integrate?
Eric: There’s a couple of key areas that we’d like to talk to our customers about, number one is being able to pull in your data which a lot of our customers have a struggle with. The data’s in different silos how do I bring it into one location? Then to be able to customize it, and then to be able to consume it.
And the entire process is all web based so we’re a hosted solution. We pull in your data and it gives you the ability to really customize how you want to see it, and then you can consume it whether it’s on a report or if you want to consume it on a dashboard to us it doesn’t matter. It’s your data however you want to do it.
Richard: So where would that data be pulled from? RMM tools, PSA tools what types of areas?
Eric: Right now our focus is on RMM and PSA tools. Later on this year we’ll be announcing new integrations of financial packages. In August of 2014 we’re actually going to do a release where any single database you can pull in that data. We’re really just opening up so you can pull in whatever you want to see, however you want to see it, whenever you want.
Richard: Now I’ve seen a lot of the dashboards, they’re not static dashboards are they? A lot of them you can click on and drill into things.
Eric: So dashboards is really hot right now. Everybody’s talking about them, all the vendors are deploying them. We see them as great for us for awareness building. The dashboard, ours, allow you to bring in multiple data sources but then you can put them up on a TV screen, they refresh pretty rapidly so you get a lot more flexibility and customabilty.
Again you pull it into one location so it’s not just an in app view it’s all your data. Then you can see it on whatever device you want.
Richard; Give me some examples of some of the data that BrightGauge customers display on their dashboards?
Eric: Majority of the customers we work with are all around service related metrics. How can they improve their efficiency? At the end of the day if you’re looking at your PNL the largest cost is associated with your people.
How do I make them more efficient? Typical information they’re looking for is my team billable or not and what percentage is that? How can I improve that?
The tickets that my customers are bringing in like they talk about it like today about the customer experience being very important are we responding fast enough? How are we doing with our customer satisfaction surveys? Those tend to be the highest on the PSA side.
On the RMM it’s really just the monetary. Any server is down, when was the last time the server was down, patch management. High level things that could potentially cause an issue for your customers and then that just requires you to spend more time servicing them versus keeping it more simple.
Richard: What does a typical BrightGauge client look like in terms of an MSP? My gut feeling is only MSPs of a certain outlook who start to actually drill into figures and manage based on metrics.
Eric: The typical MSP that we work with I would say the makeup is 10 employees on the low end, and it will go up to several 100 employees. What we’re refining is the smaller MSPs, the single digits: three, four, five employees.
They’re saying we’re running around kind of like a chicken with their head cut off either they read something that I need to start looking at my data. I started putting up regular PNLs I’m trying to improved things. We’re starting to get more interest.
We’ve put together the packages for those companies to try to help them so that it’s not just hey it’s too expensive I’ll get to you when I get to a certain size. The majority of the folks we deal with tend to be service related or owners.
A lot of owners for a typical MSP owner is a technical person so they like the fact that they can get customized with their data. The biggest bang again is really around the service metrics. We’ve released about three months ago sales metrics and those are taking a little bit longer to kind of get adopted because the sales team isn’t used to using those techie tools.
The owners are more technical focused so they want service operations. We’re starting to see some traction in that area as well.
Richard: What does the implementation of BrightGauge look like? Obviously it’s very, very powerful but most of us myself included when we look at dashboards with figures it’s like okay this looks pretty bar, you haven’t got an idea where to start. What does an implementation look like?
Eric: Implementation actually is quite easy and that’s one of our kind of differentiators from some of the larger players. What it basically takes is if you’re connected to a hosted solution it’s put in the API credentials. If you’re on non premise load an agent that reads the data that we need.
Everything communicates to our data center, we crunch the numbers for you, we publish them out to you. The nice thing is, is we give you a jumpstart with about 10 to 15 template reports and about 50 to 70 depending on the integration, gauges, which are those visuals that you look at so you can kind of get started with them.
Use our templates or you can just clone, tweak the ones you want. We also have a team that’s dedicated to implementation and that gives them the opportunity to really help our customers.
Richard: Cool. Now we’re in beautiful Miami at the moment it’s very hot for a Brit like me. There’s been lots of enhancement from vendors over the last couple of days at Auto Task Community live. What’s new in the BrightGauge world?
Eric: What’s new in BrightGauge is really specifically around the auto task and comm live world is we release a bunch of new auto task gauges and visuals. Several of them around auto task sales where people are looking at hey what is my pipeline? I want to start planning resources those types of things.
We’re also talking with a lot of our customers, our community because we’re just a couple of weeks away from our next release which is our 4.0 which will include being able to connect to any sequel agent, any single database. Being able to do CSV, or excel uploads.
That’s really been kind of the focus that we’ve been talking to our partners. The other thing about our next release is we’re introducing the ability to do advanced calculations and layering. If I want to see utilization, or I want to see company and revenue, as well as tickets together you can very easily do that with our next release.
Richard: And for those listeners who don’t know who Eric Dosal is, what is your background and what was the motivation for building BrightGauge in the first place?
Eric: I started an MSP out of our family business in 2004 along with my brother who is the c-founder of BrightGauge. We ran that up until 2012 which when we sold the company to Konica Minolta.
But in 2010 what w were finding is we couldn’t do reporting for our customers so Frankie started to solve our own internal, kind of scratching our own itch. We had data in silos, we needed to report to the customers, everyone’s listening to this has probably dealt with it.
I got PDFs, I got excel files, how do I put it together to make it pretty? We built the software for ourselves internally to just integrate with two softwares and we able to send out the report to our customers. That we showed to our peer group, they liked it, we commercialized it and from there we kind of launched it.
We’ve been in the MSP industry since ’04. My father started a technology company in 1980 so technology is kind of in our blood and we love this industry.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Eric. If anybody listening wants to get in touch with you or find out more about BrightGauge where would they go?
Richard: Fantastic, thanks for your time Eric.
Eric: Thank you.
Thu, 19 June 2014
Tim Brewer of Evolve Leadership is successful entrepreneur and an acknowledged leader within the IT and Managed Service world.
Richard talks with Tim about his experiences and some of the key lessons he's learned along the way.
Richard: Hello everyone. I’m joined today by Tim Brewer from Evolve Leadership. How are you doing Tim?
Tim: I’m doing very well. Thank you.
Richard: Well, it’s a real pleasure to sit down with you. I heard your name mentioned in very respectful and revered for a number of years in the MSP industry. For anybody who’s not aware of you, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about who you are and what Evolve does.
Tim: I’ll get to Evolve and a little bit about my background. I hail from Perth, Australia which is the west coast of Australia. So I grew up in a place of a very laid back city, very much like San Diego in the USA, I guess if you’re from the USA. If you’re from England, a lot of people emigrate from England to Perth so you’re probably familiar with Perth as well.
I grew up in community services actually and a friend of mine ran an IT company and I was fortunate enough to invite me to become part of that. In time, I ended up becoming a partner and a co-owner of the business. It ended up growing for a series of years. Some by chance, we made a lot of errors along the way. We learned a lot of stuff. We’re really good with collaborating with other people. We weren’t afraid to sit down with our competitors in our marketplace or perceived competitors. We weren’t really. We learned how to do this managed services things better, this concept of managed services started coming out back in the day.
We grew, grew and grew. And in 2010 we ended up selling to a public real estate company. At the time we had about 50 staff in MSP. It was going very well. We were having a great time. I ended up working in that new company for three years. A year ago, we finished up with them as the operations director and spend the whole year living in the USA.
I got to achieve two great things in the USA. One was to offload all my knowledge within the industry both speaking and assisting a number of different countries around the US in the managed services space.
The second thing I did was I want to explore what I wanted life to look like for me going in the next stage of life. I’m just 36-37 years of age. I’m still fairly young and have a whole work life ahead of me.
I worked up both things while I was in the US. This year I’m back in Perth and I’m part of the Evolve leadership group, one of the directors with that company are best friend of mine. We do consulting and speaking in the managed service space but we also focus on governance and strategy and innovation, executive leader performance and business realization on where you want your business to go and what you do once you get there.
These are the things that we focus on helping businesses all over the globe both here in the USA and in Australia across diverse set of industries.
But on top of that as well, I have this portfolio of other interests companies like DeskDirector which is a great client experience platform, customizable innovative platform in the managed services space. I’m also director on a marketing company in Perth, Australia. I’m the director of managed services firm here in the US. I still get to speak to a lot of different places like Chartec and others when I get the chance.
Speaking is one of those things that you know that comes by invite so I try not to take it for granted. That’s a great privilege.
I’ve got a couple of other conversations going around the places as well. I end up with a portfolio of great people I’m working with, doing great things making a great difference. I think that’s where I’ll find my next number of years of work happiness.
Richard: So you’re going through the post-MSP stage.
Richard: Like myself I guess. You said you took that year in America to find where you’re going. How did you arrive at the decision of what you wanted to do? Clearly you’ve got a lot of things going on. How did you arrive? How did you get to focus to decide, yeah these are the things I want to do going forward?
Tim: I’m not sure if you and I have talked about this before but I know I talked about it when I speak. I’m like a really simple forgetful guy. I tend borrow things down just you know, a couple of points. What I discovered about myself last year or what I end up discovering in just a handful of points what is it that makes me happy and leaves me intrinsically motivated when I’m doing what I’m doing.
I discovered three things about myself. The first was I’m a better owner than I am an employee. Doesn’t mean I have to own the whole business, not at all. But it means I need to have a builder’s view when I’m doing what I’m doing whether not for profit or for profit. That help me understand kind of, I don’t want to go back into a C-level executive position for someone else. I want to be part of building something cool, something unique.
The second thing is that I didn’t have to be the main leader. I try to be a great – as I call you the ultimate business wingman. I just try to be a great business wingman for other people and a great partner in business. I’m constantly learning so I’m not saying I’ve got that right yet. If I get that right, I love coming alongside other people and help making them successful.
My experience consulting is that you’re consulting to aiding 20 people at the same time. It’s a lot of stuff to have on your plate. I’m really looking came into the view to have a small handful of things that I’m involved in that I can be a great business wingman with the people involved. I guess I’m on that journey to find that small handful of audience. I suggest probably this year I’m at planning to have that list of things sorted out.
In my spare time, I still get to get consult having the consulting business. That tends to be focused pretty around managed services space companies with 50-400 staff which we ended kind of my sweet spot, I guess in the industry. It’s the same way to use, I still get to spend time in businesses in MSPs looking at the spaces that are still there, problems that are still there to solve and the opportunity that they have maybe in the future.
Richard: Give an example, a typical engagement will look like for you. I’m going to guess it’s a long term engagement and quite a deep engagement as well. What types of companies, what problems they approach you with once they need help with typically?
Tim: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve done a number of different engagements over time. We tend to high energy, short burst engagements that then last over a period. That normally looks like 1-4 days onsite. Basically I really could ask tons of questions and turning over a ton of rocks and working out quickly what’s running well. I give that feedback, okay you’re running best in class, best in industry in this area of business. And then working out which areas of the business needs focus and needs energy and helping the owner of that business work how to apply that energy in that spot.
What we have worked out actually, we have like a spot/bootcamp/strategy sessions that we run. Its two days long with two consultants me and another one in the Evolve Leadership Consultants. We tend to go in and in that time work with all of the staff. We do a lot of pre-work. It’s called a due diligence and we have people comment that it feels like you’re purchasing my business. The depth of due diligence that we do before doing that engagement. We survey the staff, we survey their board and work with the staff and the leadership and the board to put down a strategy plan for a set period of time normally one to five years. Once that’s laid down we work at helping them stay accountable to achieving those calls. We just found that that works best.
That said as you pointed out, we got plenty of staff in our plate. We normally spend a lot of time working with people to make sure that it’s the right fit for them.
There’s a lot of great consultants that run a lot of training programs. If someone comes to us and says, “We got a real need in the area of sales,” for example. They have great planning as an organization, a great board and great operational excellence but just needs help with sales. We much prefer putting them in touch with someone to fill that specialization rather than just rather plug every hole in the organization. We try to learn to stick to our only thing, do what we do really well. And then where we can add and create an amount of value, we will consider and engagement.
Richard: It’s the same with myself. Stick to what you’re good at and deliver very high quality service than surround yourself with people who are a lot better than you in terms of the other stuff.
Richard: It’s interesting. I observed most of the very, very successful people in our industry and any industry for that matter yourself included, seem to have the ability to say ‘no’ frequently to opportunities. How do you go about saying ‘no’ to really good stuff that comes along just because you think, “I’m going to get pulled into too many directions at once.”?
Tim: For most of the people listening to the podcast, I’m guess they’re still running and manage service business. We don’t want to get too caught up in the handful of us that are post-MSP. It’s the same as saying ‘no’ to a client. And it’s really difficult when you got someone saying, “Hey, I want to pay you to look after our equipment,” to realize that they might not be a good fit for your business.
That really starts in my view theoretically understanding your client’s preferences and not all revenues is good revenue. My strategy at saying ‘no’ to people is to actually not say ‘no’. The way we do that is actually not offering them services until we’re convinced that they’re the right fit for us as a client.
By that I mean, I was actually on the phone with my business partner. He actually sits on the board with a massive manage service company out of Las Vegas. The CEO called me the other and said, “Hey Tim. I’ve been thinking about this whole marketplace fit,” that was part of their strategy document. “What does that mean? What are the key things that I need to consider that I need working at? What clients are right for us and what clients should we avoid?” He might know that but he can’t articulate that then all the salespeople are going to keep selling to the wrong people. I said, “Well, let’s look at a few things that might matter. We basically came down to this,” if someone doesn’t pay their bills on time. In fact, do you look in your finance system as a current client and they’re always 60 days late at paying. That’s the average. They’re terribly late payers and you always find them wasting horrendous amount of time doing that. He need to work out what things or what attributes will cause us to see that coming before they are a client of us? Sometimes it’s just a simple questions like asking, “What’s the methodology for paying your bills.”
We all have clients that we did the other day, they paid us before we left their site that afternoon. I’m like, “Oh my goodness. We have seven day terms. They can pay us in seven days.” They’re like, “No. We like paying when the job is done.” I’m like, “That client will keep me.” I’m happy to have deeper engagement with them. The other clients not so much. Respect. And if respect is a big thing for you as a company, working out whether or not someone is respectful and they’re respectful to their staff, their team.
We all have MSP clients that call us and abuse them. My argument should be well, respect to something that you don’t want as a client.
Long story short, we have a bunch of those criteria and we go through a series of interviews before we even offer services. Notice my language, we offer services to our clients. My catch would be to MSP is you’re not on the market. You’re not on a shop. You don’t sell products on a wall. You’re a consultant service. You’re a professional service. Good professional service companies offer services to the clients that will value their service and value them. Until you establish that a client is that client, my suggestion is you should not offer them services.
In that respect, you don’t really have to say ‘no’ to them. All you’re going to have is someone saying, “Hey, this isn’t the right timing for us to engage you. We chose to engage to someone else.” I’d rather that happen than offer services to everyone sundry and be in a position where we can’t meet the level of promises we want to make to all those people and end up with a bad brand.
The other day your brand is your brand. If you accept a client and they have rubbish equipment and it all fails when you take in the job, your brand is on the line. If they got some radical expectation or decide to go bad mouth you to everyone because you’re disrespectful, then that’s your brand on the line.
You got to do the right thing by your staff and the right thing by your shareholders and the right thing by your other clients by accepting people that fit your brand.
Richard: That’s wonderfully put. The other things that are on your plate, you mentioned DeskDirector. I had a wonderful conversation for a podcast with Phill Claxton.
Tim: Amazing guy.
Richard: I talked to Phill all day. How does DeskDirector fit into how much time you spend with DeskDirector and what are your aspirations for DeskDirector as a company?
Tim: Me personally, I spend a day a week on average over the year on at DeskDirector. It’s in bursts. We’re in a conference for the entire week. When I was leaving Anittel I got a call from our workers – let’s call him the inventor of DeskDirector. He’s running a great MSP in Auckland, New Zealand. They had this product they developed to improve the client experience. I really grated on them that with all the tools that they have, all the focus on tickets or invoices unlike their PSA tools or RMM tools that were very focused on the device or the service, they don’t really have a tool focused on the people that they look after and people accept checks and people accept contracts and so they went about trying to solve that problem.
DeskDirector is focused on client experience full stop. They do that through a number of different methods and I’d leave that up to the team and deskdirector.com if you want to go and have a look at that.
Our aspirations for that product is just to create a whole new way of helping manage service companies be unique, provide an outstanding client experience and increase the value that they provide to their clients and in doing so win more business, be more efficient and increase client loyalty from their clients. That’s our aspirations.
Phil is the main guy there at DeskDirector. He’s doing an amazing job. He’s just a complete legend. He comes out of manage services. In fact, all three of us come out of manage service industry. We’re just having great fun continuing learning, getting a lot to learn about software, marketing, strategic business development, all these things that I didn’t do a huge amount of back in the manage services days. We’re just having a great time doing it. It keeps me, if I was being honest with you, it keeps me with the manage services community. Even though it’s not my full time thing, it’s a real privilege to come out meet people at conferences again and geek out on IT services and manage services and it helps me get in touch with that. I haven’t obviously been in the industry for years, have a great affinity with that. I’m really glad that this isn’t something that I continue keep that connection with such great industry.
Richard: While you were out there at conferences talking to MSPs and working with MSPs, what are the prevailing trends or challenges you’re seeing for MSPs and where are people going with that business? What are things that people should be aware of?
Tim: That’s a fantastic question. People ask me that all the time. I kind of have a few caveat on my response by saying I think that my knowledge has a half-life and I think it’s about nine months. Technically, now I’ve been out of the managed service industry and running a company, I may have no current knowledge left. But I have a share of what I noticed.
I definitely think that the shift to Cloud is a real interesting one. The result and impact of dealing with – let’s talk about our journey as IT service providers growing up. We use to sell products. Everyone was making 50% off a PC and you’d sell a piece of hardware and we call that product transactions. You receive one invoice from your supplier, say Ingram Micro. You receive one invoice from your supplier and you send a device at to a client. You check that you got the right invoice and pay the right amount. If there’s a right margin and you reconcile.
That’s how we all grew up. Heavy on the hardware. One day we woke up, “You know what, it’s really not going to work. We need to find a better way of making money. Margins are reducing.” So we go into services and we started providing block hours or project work. Then, we started providing labour. And over time there was no systems to run. We’re running tickets in Microsoft Outlook. We were just having a heck of time and didn’t know what average hourly rate was and all these things.
Then, one day someone came out with the ticketing platform ahead of time and we were like, “Oh my goodness, this is ground breaking stuff.” There’s always complexity that came with that shift going from product to labour and then to managed services.
What I think my experience at Anittel taught me running all of the data centre infrastructure and online services group, is that going from labour and if you thought that was complex offering a fixed fee for a variable amount of time, wait until you do with bundled Cloud services where you’re getting multiple transactions line items comes through for every offering. Let’s talk about hosted machine and you’re getting charged per hour per amount of processing, per hour per amount of storage, per hour per amount of memory on a flexible basis and then you have to repackage them and bill that to someone. This is now no longer two points of variation in labour or one point of variation in product. You have hundreds and hundreds of items that need to be rated, re-rated and invoiced and billed out to a client. And if you bundled that as a fixed price service, it’s a huge amount of complexity.
I think there’s a number of things like that under the surface that are getting far more complex and no one’s really come out and solve the level of complexity that we need solved to scale.
I might notice that because we’re a very big company that we have a $12 million Cloud services business but I meet people at a time and ask them that question. I’m trying to check it in a spread sheet or I just can’t track it and just look at the end of the day and see in and out and make sure I’m making enough margin. I think that as we see the managed services tools improve, we’re going to see them give us greater capacity to manage those complex transactions maybe like the insurance industry do today. They are a lot more mature in that area.
I think that’s definitely one of the areas to watch, it’s the complexity created by Cloud. I have not seen anything ultra-compelling yet to solve that problem. That’s probably the biggest area. Other people are solving the problem. That’s the challenge. The really big providers are spending millions and millions of dollars on high end transaction billing systems, re-rating rating systems like Telco’s traditionally do.
The scary thing for me is look my hope is someone in our industry solves that problem so that one, two person MSPs can still sell those services and sell them easily without the admin overhead and pain. That’s one of the biggest areas I see as a need.
Richard: It’s a huge challenge, isn’t it? If you look at Microsoft with Office 365 for many years. We know for a fact that Microsoft sold it directly. My feeling is a lot of the reason why Microsoft did that was not to carve up their partner program at all. They didn’t really want to do that. It was the complexity of allowing MSPs to bill. If a big company like Microsoft struggle with it, you can imagine smaller MSPs where they’re going to find that a challenge.
Tim: There’s actually three parts. Since we’re on record I think it’s worth mentioning all three parts. Maybe there’s someone out there that’s going to solve this problem currently. You have the billing complexity in which we call that transaction billing or services billing. We have a product and we went to labour and narrow this line of services. Services billing has got to be solved. There’s up two other really important things that happen around that billing and that’s provisioning and de-provisioning or spinning up and spinning down services.
Same thing if 365 guys are loading into the portal, they’re creating the service, configuring the service in the active directory. In the ideal environment, we don’t go and order from over the phone anymore a piece of hardware. We transact with our online systems possibly automatically when using a coding platform.
But if you’re trying to go from a quote to a sales order and your sales order has some hardware, some labour services and some Cloud services on it and you’re wanting all that to be purchased or provisioned automatically or maybe some other services to be de-provisioned or used accounts increased. To get that automated is really where we need to end up so the guys aren’t sitting there manually configuring zero infrastructure and manually configuring Office 365. That should have start to spin up immediately following a quote going out. That’s the challenge is to be able to create that level of simplicity for our industry. I think we can get to that and the platforms that are out there can see past their own platform and understand that there’s this bigger problems that they have to work together in the industry to solve.
No one player is going to go and solve that. It’s about collaborating and working across the industry to do that. Because we don’t, there will be other industries that are innovators and we need to make sure we protect all these guys out there running managed services firms. We need to make sure it’s a long and successful industry to be in.
There are some serious innovations that need to go in and around that.
Richard: Absolutely. So we’re approaching the end of our time together. For you, what’s next on the horizon? What exciting projects are you working on?
Tim: What exciting projects? I’ve got a number of different things at the moment. I’ve got a really interesting project in Perth, Australia in a company called Red Meets Blue. The CEO of that company asked me in their board and invest there. The CEO of that company has just written a book called Building Great Brands. He’s basically in the process of working on taking his project based branding agency to a managed services model. I think that’s really fascinating like applying our learnings from this industry into another industry like marketing. I’m having a great time there. That’s been really fun.
I’m also working, I can’t disclose who is, he’s also another incredible education focused software and service company that I’m working somewhere around the world. They’re just doing amazing things. You know the greatest, we talked before about what we learned, taking a break and reflecting on what we done the day? The first thing is leaving everyone with some thoughts about this webinar will be work with great people. I think in this particular education start, I met some really great people. I really am very – have become a lot more acutely aware that if you choose to work with the wrong people, life gets unhappy fast.
The second thing is do stuff that’s intrinsically motivating. I think education as an entire industry not just as we know it in schools in the western communities but think about education across the globe for people that aren’t as fortunate as you are that even went to secondary school or tertiary college or university or college. I think education is ripe for innovation and for re-imagining. I’m seeing some of that happen in the discussions that I’m having in that industry and I find it so motivating and probably one of the coolest things in that pool of things that I’m doing around that education space. I can’t wait to see what happens there.
For all of your listening, make sure you work with people that don’t make your timely turn and you love working with and do stuff that’s intrinsically motivates you. If you do that, you wake up every morning and you’ll be out of work way into the night doing what you do if you can keep that intrinsic motivation.
Richard: Fantastic advice. Tim, I can talk to you all day about stuff. We only just scratched the surface of things. You shared so much wisdom in a really short period of time. I really appreciate it.
If there are any good people out there who want to get in touch with you perhaps about speaking or consultancy, how will they reach out to you?
Tim: I do have so many different ways. The easiest way to do it is go to www.timbrewer.com.au and there’s a spot there to get in contact with me. I spend my time on so many different things, it’s hard to give you – I know that will get through to me and that will get through to me efficiently. I try to spend time where I can to catch up with people at least once. I love learning from other industries and from people in their industry. It will be the best way timbrewer.com.au
Richard: Fantastic. Well, Tim really appreciate your time and I hope we can have you come back and talk about some of those other subjects that we touched on in the future.
Tim: Richard, it’s been great catching up. So good to finally meet you in person after so many Skype calls. People are talking about you in the industry, it’s a really great privilege. Thanks for your time.