SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Look Back: Partner to Partner Motion

Reflecting back on the recent Continuum Navigate conference (October 2017, Las Vegas), what has stuck with me is how community is still alive. As Mark Twain famously said “…reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I offer two use cases to demonstrate how partners are speaking to partners: one was a speaker and another was an interview.

Josh Weiss (president and founder, L.A. Creative Tech). Weiss delivered “Strategic Thinking: vCIO and Consulting Services for Growth” to a handsome audience where he emphasized the opportunity to enhance MSP offerings by providing strategic consulting and holistic solutions that can scale productivity for clients. In short, Weiss spoke towards thinking outside the server box. It’s a popular speaker’s paradigm as the stark reality of being a “percentage of recurring revenue” sales agent for Microsoft’s Office 365 solution has quickly proven to be an unsustainable business model.

“We’re at a time where business strategy and technology strategy have converged.” Weiss started. “There really is a need to understand how technology is inseparable from business strategy. A former General Electric CEO said at a recent technology conference, ‘IT Pros need to stop being so passive…the role of technology is THE most important function inside a company’ and I believe it.”

joshweisspic2

Figure 1: Weiss speaking at the recent Continuum Navigate conference in Las Vegas.

Weiss went on to deliver three main points in his speech supporting the above opening.

  • Create and sell productized vCIO services that will add value to your current portfolio. Take away real service wireframe overviews you can start delivering straight away.
  • Think strategically in order to provide creative solutions and tools that give you a competitive edge. Weiss shared an example of a cost of downtime ROI calculator (several SMB MSP ISVs offer this) where you can show a business is losing something like $10,000/hour when the IT infrastructure is “down.” One caveat – I challenged Weiss about the downtime calculator with respect to recapturing the downtime. That is, if Firm A is down for an hour, can said hour of productivity be recaptured over the course of a year (say 2000+ business hours). It spurred a good audience conversation and one expert shared that, regardless of the ROI downtime calculator is that “we’re talking” as in talking business matters with the client.
  • Most important - talk business instead of tech; one of the essential requirements to shift from technician to consultant.

One highlight was how Weiss involved the audience. I drew the short straw and was summoned to the stage (as a small business owner) to participate in a quick exercise with Raj Goel of Brainlink International (acting as the MSP) who asked me “Harry – what things would you like to do less of and would make you happier?” I offered that less time focused on operations and more time focused on business development. Goel asked what is business development to me. The answer is easy: attending conferences, social events at night, and external business meetings. Goel suggested that I needed to read “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss. Not only have I read the book, tolerating a large Ferriss ego between the pages, but I’ve used his methodology in running SMB Nation to free up my time to make outside portfolio investments beyond the SMB MSP tech space, but that’s for another day entirely.

James Harris (President at Xlingshot). Leading by example, Continuum suggested I speak 1:1 with one of its partners. He’s focused on verticals such as not-for-profits. We had a non-agenda, open dialog with no scripted talking points. Harris emphasized his use of Continuum has allowed him to have a high utilization rate. “Use the tool; not babysit the tool” Harris said. a first-time attendee running a 15+ year old MSP practice, Harris shared that he’s used the RMM solutions from Continuum for just over three years.

Community involvement. Harris participates in the MSP community via HTG and ASCII. “I see a lot of benefit from it.” Digging deeper, I discovered Harris is a big participant in the former Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) program with speaking engagements at the Colorado CPA society, etc. Harris has enthusiastically attended the Denver Tech Expo that is promoted by Platte River Networks (another Denver MSP) and it’s go getter David DeCamillis. In other industries those two might consider themselves competitors (which I guess they technically are) but the SMB MSP community still has cooperative mojo and thus my blog theme of partner to partner.

Bottom-line: I concluded that Harris has grown his thriving practice with a commitment to ethics (a lost art). “At Xlingshot, we believe in fair and honest business practices.” Harris concluded.

PS - I have another SolarWinds missive HERE where I interview SMB friend and now SolarWindws executive Greg Lissy!

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Datto/Autotask Merger: Sophisticated Investors Only

In late October, fellow MSP blogger Joe Panettieri broke the story, in advance of the public announcement, that there was a merger between Datto and Autotask. I’ll briefly review the multiple transactions that made this happen. It’s surprisingly sophisticated. This almost reads like a Russian spy novel with all the players LOL. Let’s start by following the money and then I’ll offer some community comments.

2004-2014
Autotask raises at least $10M in four funding rounds (see Figure 1)

autotaskfunding

Figure 1: Autotask started taking the money in 2004.

2014
Autotask acquired for $99M by Vista Equity Partners.

2015
Datto completes a funding journey that started in 2013 and ended in 2015 raising $100M. At the time I wrote of Datto being a “unicorn” as it claimed the $100m stake resulted in a ten percent share and a market valuation of $1B.

dattofunding

Figure 2: Datto’s funding rounds.

2017
June/July: I circled back into the Datto orbit by attending the DattoCon conference in Denver in June 2017. In this blog at the time, I opine that the “E” (‘exit”) word has to enter the Datto lexicon because private equity money is not patient money and has to be put to work. I further drill down into the mind of Austin McChord, Datto CEO in a 1:1 interview HERE in early July at the Datto HQ in Norwalk.

austinandharry

Figure 3: Harry’s 1:1 with Datto CEO Austin McChord where M&A thoughts surface.

October: Here’s where things speed up. Vista Equity Partners acquires Datto. Then it merged Datto and Autotask together. In reality, this amalgamation results in a relationship hierarchy. If it were the wild world of Craigslist personal ads, this hook-up would have Datto as the “Dom” and Autotask as the “Sub.” Of course financial terms weren’t disclosed LOL.

Analysis
The merger makes sense in the mature and contracting SMB technology sector. Cloud has squeezed out the value chain many old timey server-side Big Iron fellas remember well. Consolidation is a natural act. The hierarchy with Datto on top (McChord becomes CEO and Autotask’s Mark Cattini will exit) makes sense as I believe Autotask took the smaller SMB MSPs in the beloved SMB Nation community for granted like Clinton viewed traditional core Democratic constituencies in the 2016 presidential election a year ago. It felt like the past few years Autotask courted its big donors ignoring the working class man (this isn’t just my opinion but that of other bloggers and community members – in a recent outreach by myself to the SBS group on Facebook concerning this merger, the responses were a resounding “Meh” reflecting Autotask had lost mindshare in the SMB Nation community. )

So when I had a 1:1 with Datto CMO Peter Rawlinson last week while I was literally on Wall Street (see Figure 4) and Rawlinson was in the Datto HQ in Norwalk, CT, I zeroed on the conflation of the Datto and Autotask partner communities and what that means for our “Joe the ‘puter guys” getting a love tap in the yet to be renamed combined company.

girlandbull

Figure 4: How fitting to be on Wall Street for my chat with Rawlinson.

“Now with a combined partner base of over 13,000 SMB MSPs, we are absolutely making a commitment the smaller MSP and the SMB Nation audience persona.” Rawlinson emphasized. He went to round out the context of the merger. “This is a merger for growth, not cost cutting.” Warning: ten dollar word ahead. What Rawlinson is suggesting is that this merger is accretive which is a fancy way of saying 1+1 =3. My conversation with Rawlinson ended with a couple of unknowns: the new brand name and whether there will be an HQ1 (Norwalk, CT) and/or HQ2 (Albany, NY).

Dilutive v Accretive

My big question moving forward is whether the product overlap will effectively result in portfolio dilution and partner contraction. Other wiser minds in the SMB media have minimized the product overlap so in this sense the merger works. But what about ConnectWise partners that use Datto or Autotask partners that use a different BDR solution such as efolder? I’ll monitor the potential MSP partner churn-and-burn rate from this merger over the next year and report back. [If you’d like insights into the Datto product road map, watch my vid interview with Datto VP, Networking John Tippett here.]

Competition
Michael George (CEO, Continuum), who I’d offer lives life out loud, didn’t lack words about the Datto/Autotask merger. “Consolidation of this nature should come as no surprise to anyone in the MSP market. Standalone vendors are finding it increasingly difficult to compete as MSPs move to the few key providers that matter most to them. Today’s news should galvanize MSPs to focus on one or two key platforms, rather than trying to price-optimize with standalone independent vendors.” George said.

“Today’s merger brings together two critical categories in the channel: RMM and BDR. That’s a clear signal that a unified approach to these services is in demand from MSPs, and that’s why Continuum offers partners these solutions as the cornerstone of our platform.” George commented. “But, to stay relevant over the next three to five years, the next major play is security. We anticipate that the next market consolidation will come as MSPs look to acquire the tools and services to secure their clients amid today’s heightened threat landscape. That’s where we’re already moving with our new security offering launched this month, and we can expect that standalone vendors will begin to beef up their capabilities to meet that demand, and MSPs will take notice.” If you’d like to read my recent 1:1 interview with George, look HERE.

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All Hands on Deck! Small Business Saturday Nov. 25th

It’s the bestest holiday most folks in our SMB MSP space have never heard of. You’d be amazed how, over the years, we’ve carried the Small Business Saturday flag – an event held right after “Black Friday” (the over-the-top retail shopping day), but the MSP mindshare is lacking. You can review our past coverage here and here.

History
Over ten years ago, American Express created Small Business Saturday to promote “Buy Local” and “Shop Small” as well as increase the use of American Express card transactions (of course). I’ve argued this special day, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, should be placed in a not-for-profit in order to grow the participation base and offer increased legitimacy. Great idea with props to American Express but, again, I think it should be an “open” holiday. I love the concept but hate the fact so many SMB MSPs (a) haven’t heard of it and (b) don’t participate is shocking. So here is my plan to change that right here, right now. This unofficial holiday is supported in the US and UK.

Small Business Saturday Signup Procedure
It’s been said the odds of winning the lottery are dramatically improved if you buy a Lotto ticket. Same with Small Business Saturday – you gotta sign-up to play in this reindeer game. This is business development folks!
Here is the participation procedure:

 

  1. Sign up here.
  2. Click Get Involved in the upper right.
  3.  Make the decision with respect to how you want to participate

a. Small Business Owners. Select this if you’d like to have your SMB MSP entity fully participate in Small Business Saturday. This makes sense for anyone in our SMB Nation crowd. For example, if you have a retail store front at street-level and want to proudly display your participation via the extensive display collateral (more on that in a moment), this is the option for you. But perhaps you are in snazzy office space that doesn’t have street-level exposure. You can still select this option and, I’d offer, hold an open house with bagels and coffee for your SMB clients on Saturday morning before they go out to shop local. I’ve selected this option for SMB Nation (More on that at the end of the blog). 

b. Neighborhood Champions. This “cheerleader” role is another option for SMB MSPs. Signup with this option and then go to one of your small business clients and consider a pop-up with Small Business Saturday branding/information. It’s your way of giving back to the community that has given so much to you (file this away in living theology). 

c. Shoppers. Well this option is for EVERYONE. We can all shop local on Small Business Saturday. Hint: a pint of dark stout at your local pub counts!

4. Assuming you selected Small Business Owners, select the Create Materials button on the next page.

5. On the We need just a few details page, answer fields related to your business name, what customers love, type of marketing materials (Social media, Online, Physical location), whether you want some materials in Spanish and whether your business accepts American Express cards. Click Continue. See Figure 1 below.

 

fig1 sbs setup2

Figure 1: You must provide basic information to create the marketing Bill of Materials (BOM).

6. On the Okay where can we send your materials page, you will provide information to complete the following fields: First Name, Last Name, Email, Confirm Email and Zip Code (Optional). Agree and select the Terms of Participation checkbox and click Download.

7. A *zip file titled “CustomMaterials” will be download. Read on to discover how to use this good stuff!

The Good Stuff!
I’m impressed how the download resulted in marketing collateral for the following uses:

  1.  Social Networks: Banner ads of different sizes promoting your participation in Small Business Saturday. In Figure 2, observe art customized for your business.
  2.  Store: Posters (one shown in Figure 3), “Save the Date” cards, an offer sheet, etc. for in-store use.
  3.  Website: Several art graphics are provided for your website and email. Observe the banner in Figure 4.

fig2

Figure 2: Digital art customized for you for use in your social networks.

fig3

Figure 3: Full-size poster for a window display.

Fig4

Figure 4: Customized web banner.

Keep It Simple!
Now that we got our geek on with the above procedures, it’s time to remember a few simple Small Business Saturday points as shared by Melanie Gass, host of the popular Expand with Tech podcast. Recently she held a show dedicated to Small Business Saturday HERE that is required listening. When I spoke with Melanie, she offered these important points:

  1. It's free!
  2. You need to take AMEX cards to list your website in the Small Business Saturday directory
  3. The Small Business Saturday marketing materials are free and offered in 2 flavors...plain and tailored with your business Info as you outlined
  4. Neighborhood champions “status” are available for MSPs to hop onto, and even donate a raffle prize for visibility!
  5.  If MSPs have a newsletter, there is the opportunity to socialize Small Business Saturday, evangelize it!

Next Steps

If you aren’t sold yet on your participation in Small Business Saturday, there isn’t much more I can do. However, keep your eye on my Facebook page on Small Business Saturday as I’ll be loudly leading the parade include using the Facebook Live broadcast feature. And guess what? Jenny Hallmark and a surprise guest will be joining me on Main Street (Winslow Way) on Bainbridge Island. Join us!

PS – Humor ahead. Small Business Saturday is called “SBS” (#TrueThat) which of course was the acronym for Small Business Server.

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Database leader FairCom releases c-treeACE V11.5

FairCom’s latest release includes new search, resync and schema-change functions

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- (Nov. 8, 2017) – One of the most trusted names in the database management Faircomindustry, FairCom Corporation, today announced the release of the latest version of its flagship multimodel database software. c-treeACE V11.5 boasts enhancements that allow users to enjoy increased performance, dynamic schema management, full-text search, enhanced replication, robust interface support and greater data integrity for SQL, NoSQL and a combination of both database models.

FairCom is a pioneer in the database software industry dating back to 1979. That tradition of innovation continues today with c-treeACE by FairCom: A one-of-its-kind multimodel database solution that can operate on a wide-range of platforms. c-treeACE features unique No+SQL technology that facilitates high-performance NoSQL and industry-standard SQL access within the same application, over the same single instance of your data. Due to its speed and reliability, more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100 have trusted the c-tree family of database solutions for database needs.

“In today’s demanding and fast-paced business environment, a fast, efficient database technology is not a luxury, it is a necessity. c-treeACE enables companies to have a database that meets their unique business challenges,” said Alysha Brown, FairCom’s chief operating office. “c-treeACE V11.5 provides new capabilities to organizations that make their databases more powerful, giving them peace of mind knowing that their valuable data is being processed quickly and reliably.”

c-treeACE 11.5 enhancements include:

  • Full-Text Search: A tokenized index of a table’s text fields allows users to efficiently and quickly find records containing specific words and phrases.
  • Hot Alter Table: A capability that allows users to perform schema changes on-the-fly so multi-hour file conversions can be accomplished in seconds.
  • Replication Extensions: User-defined functions that allow extended replication management via custom callback functions - data aggregation, conflict resolution and “on-the-fly" data manipulation such as extract, transform and load (ETL) functionality.
  • Replication ReSync: A feature that allows users to resynchronize a target “replica file” based on the current “source file” with minimal impact on the runtime.

c-treeACE performance has been enhanced right out of the box. In addition to selected feature-level enhancements, numerous functions have been enhanced for developers to use to further gain performance within their applications without the need to manually change the system.

According to FairCom Vice President of Engineering Services Randal Hoff, c-treeACE V11.5’s benefits go beyond the speed, reliability and performance that the company has been known for since its founding. “We understand that choosing and implementing a new database is a process that should not be taken lightly. Because a database is a long-term investment, c-treeACE V11.5 is designed and built to evolve with our customers as their business needs and technologies change,” said Hoff. “FairCom offers engineer-to-engineer support from the same developers who built the product, not an entry-level employee.”
Detailed product information about c-treeACE V11.5 is available at FairCom.com or by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-234-8180.

 

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US consumer spending posts largest gain since 2009

 
Consumer Spending
 
(Reuters)
 
WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer spending recorded its biggest increase in more than eight years in September, likely as households in Texas and Florida replaced flood-damaged motor vehicles, but underlying inflation remained muted.
The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, jumped 1.0 percent last month. The increase, which also included a boost from higher household spending on utilities, was the largest since August 2009.
Consumer spending increased by an unrevised 0.1 percent in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending increasing 0.8 percent in September.
The data was included in last Friday's third-quarter gross domestic product report, which showed that growth in consumer spending growth slowed to a 2.4 percent annualized rate after a robust 3.3 percent growth pace in the second quarter.
The moderation in consumption was offset by a rise in inventory investment, business spending on equipment and a drop in imports, which left the economy growing at a 3.0 percent rate in the third quarter after the April-June period's brisk 3.1 percent pace.
 
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