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.

MSFT SMB Partners – Shelter in Place!

IT’s the mean season at Microsoft with targeted SMB-related layoffs in the reorg wave and then the “how does it play out” conversations at the annual partner conference underway in Washington DC (now called Inspire; formerly Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC)). Here’s my take on it: shelter in place until the next quarter starting October 1, 2017. 
 
During the 4th of July week, and the start of FY18, Microsoft made long-anticipated announcements concerning layoffs and reorganizations.image1 Proper PR communications suggested it was in the sales and marketing roles primarily overseas. The reality is different. 
 
Cindy Bates. I can now confirm that Cindy Bates, VP of SMB (US) has left the company. In her role she oversaw Partners, Customers and Distributors. She did not oversee the Microsoft Stores. On an individual basis, Bates is a friend and I’ll know she’ll do fine and land right-side up. Sources indicate she has already been invited to join two Boards of Directors. Say what you must but the departure is significant as she was a legendary force in the SMB practice area at Microsoft. 
 
Cindy Bates Team. Sadly, there are other critical exits underway. Steven Fielding and his team are out. He reported to Cindy and was a key SMB Cabinet member in the PR, communications and messaging area. Other departures are expected and I’ll keep you posted. 
 
SMB State Department. With the Microsoft Inspire conference being held in Washington DC, I cannot resist a political analogy. It seems like Microsoft is dismantling the US SMB business organization. Much like the current president and administration are starving the State Department. So, what does this look like? It means we’ll have SMB embassies without Ambassadors. SMB diplomacy will screech to a halt. One long-time SMB Nation partner from SoCal whom I spent time with here at Inspire is bamboozled about Microsoft’s commitment to the beloved old timy SBS crowd (yes – he wants his on-premises server back). Microsoft’s action were not a vote of confidence.  
 
What’s My Job? Internally my Microsoft blue badge sources indicate that things aren’t clear yet. There are likely two more layoff waves in the next six months. People have new roles as of last week without guidance. It’s akin to the White House being paralyzed over the Russia thing. This will take the summer to sort it all out. 
 
SMB Acronym Missing. I listened intently to all of the keynotes. I personally didn’t hear the acronym “SMB” once. I heard the term “Small Business” and there was even a keynote reference on Day Three to “Small Business Server” but the term SMB has become persona non grata. I stopped counting how many times I heard the term “Inspire” after 100 instances. 
 
Lead Generation. The One Commercial Partner initiative is a highlight. And within this simplification and consolidation strategy, the lead generation service is the crown jewel. Readers might recall I spent two years in a Seattle-based Big Data startup called LeadScorz so I’ll dig deeper into this area and report back. I can tell you an SMB Nation member never met a warm lead she/he didn’t like! 
 
This is my first report from Microsoft Inspire in Washington DC. Keep it right here for more analysis. 
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7 Mistakes First Time Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them

We have all seen it happen to at least one good person…

Rather it is in politics or small business – someone makes a huge mistake and loses it all.

But, the ironic part about the entire situation is that the mistake was totally MistakesbyFirstTimeEntrepreneursavoidable. And, as an outsider, you could totally see that.

However, the person making the detrimental mistake is an insider – they don’t see what you see, hints as to why they didn’t avoid the mistake in the first place.

So, as you look into beginning your entrepreneur journey for the first time, I am here to be the person that offers you the advice you need to avoid those big, obvious mistakes…

As an entrepreneur for the first-time, a few big mistakes you can make (and also avoid) include:

1.    Falling head-over-heels in love.

Mistake: Young, or just first time, entrepreneurs often fall into one trap – they get bit by the love bug of the business industry. Don’t fall completely in love with your business idea; you will lose focus. Falling in love with your business idea could blind you and keep you from seeing that it might not have any profit-generating avenues.

How to avoid it: Be subjective. Always keep a list of your pros and cons, to remind yourself that if or when the pros outweigh the cons, it is time to move on to a new idea.

2.    Lacking support.

Mistake: This can encompass lacking technical, emotional, and/or financial support – trust me, you will need it all. While you can’t always get everyone in your corner, there is always someone. Especially financially, you will need this support to even get started.

How to avoid it: Create your own support group. Only keep the people you trust in your close circle, but be sure to keep it free of all the “haters.” Discuss business with people who truly believe in you and foster those friendships.

3.    Working with friends.

Mistake: Friends are just that. Friends. Friends and business should always remain separate. When working with someone so close to you, a level of respect is often lacking in your relationship which could lead to issues and tension in the workplace.

How to avoid it: Scout out talented people at networking events. Ask other people in the industry for recommendations – maybe some of their former employees would be a good fit. Always look for neutral parties to add to the team.

4.    Attempting to capture everyone.

Mistake: There is a big sea of people out in the world, and capturing the attention and likings of them all is impossible. You will never make everyone happy and intrigue everyone enough to buy your product, so why waste your time trying?

How to avoid it: Designate a target audience, then, refine your message and target specific niches that relate to your target audience.

5.    Using personal credit cards for business expenses.

Mistake: Several experts in entrepreneurship say you should only risk what you can afford to lose. There is no guarantee your business idea will work, so don’t risk it all just hoping that it will. Putting business expenses on a personal credit card is a good sign you can’t afford whatever you’re doing – and now, you are paying interest on your debt to credit card manufacturers and companies.

How to avoid it: Start a savings account. Continue to build the balance up with the intentions of it being your business funds. Then, use those for business ventures. You already had it set aside for that purpose, so you aren’t risking tour livelihood.

6.    Failing to test the market.

Mistake: While your idea might sound pretty intriguing, it isn’t fail-proof. Just because you assume the market will eat it up, doesn’t mean that they will. Testing the market could also lead to valuable advice that could improve your product for better sales.

How to avoid it: Test your product and get feedback from the market rapidly – before starting your business. Pass the product out to friends, family and anyone else who is relative to your target audience.

7.    Being the single founder.

Mistake: You will have far more responsibilities and tasks than you realize. You will suddenly find yourself overloaded with tasks that you can’t possibly get done.

How to avoid it: Learn to delegate tasks. Have a co-founder, or two, that you can hand some of the responsibility.

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The Importance of Performance and Protection – The Fortinet UTM Solution

John Maddison, Fortinet Senior Vice President of Products and Solutions

Fortinet’s UTM solutions have been positioned in the leader’s quadrant of Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant for Unified Threat Management for the 8th time in a row.

Fortinet has maintained its position as the leader in this market by delivering the banner ad SMB gartner mq utm 220x150 1broadest, most powerful, and highly-automated UTM security solution available, designed to protect all points in the network – from the IoT to the cloud, physical and virtual networks, and wired and wireless environments with a wide range of powerful security and networking tools.

We believe your customers should never have to choose between performance and protection.  Which is why Fortinet’s UTM solution consistently provides the best price to performance ratio in the industry. Our UTM devices are built using our patented series of security processors, and by offloading CPU-intensive security inspection and decryption functions to specialized silicon, our latest SOC3 (System on a Chip) processor is able to provide the most cost-effective, high-performance solution on the market.

The Leading Solution for Small to Medium Businesses and Distributed Enterprises

The Fortinet UTM solution enables you to protect your customers across the entire threat spectrum with integrated high performance next generation firewalls, web and email filtering, data loss prevention, and more. And unlike others in this market, Fortinet’s UTM solutions also enable you to address networking needs with extensive routing, switching, access control, Wi-Fi, LAN, and WAN capabilities.

These capabilities are all administered through FortiManager’s unified, single-pane-of-glass management console. It automates the provisioning and management of devices, centralizes policy distribution and orchestration, and helps maintain regulatory compliance to reduce operational burdens, so you can operate efficiently while providing superior service to your customers.

Learn more about our SMB security solutions on www.fortinet.com. If you’re interested in going to market with the industry leader, become a partner today!

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Meet Veeam

This week we focus a Veeam - a deidcated community sponsor who get's SMB Nation! Here are seven ways to leave your lover and come over to Veeam! 


01 - Availability vs. Legacy BackupVeeam

is a solution that was specifically designed for the modern, highly virtualized hybrid cloud world. It allows you to meet aggressive SLAs for IT service recovery that can be measured in seconds and minutes versus the hours and days often required by legacy technologies.According to the 2017 Veeam Availability Report, Veeam customers meet their recovery time and point objective (RTPO™) SLAs 90% of the time compared to only 69% with their previous legacy provider. Veeam was built to manage the amount of data found in the data center of today — not the ones of yesteryear.

02 - Innovation vs. Status

QuoVeeam is an innovation leader with a proven history of being first to deliver market-defining capabilities, support of the latest platforms and the most comprehensive and forward-looking cloud vision in the industry.Legacy solutions were designed to protect the workloads of decades ago but still lack some of the key capabilities that Veeam invented, such as Instant VM Recovery® without limitations, SureBackup® and SureReplica, Virtual Labs, 2-in-1: backup and replication™ and many others! 



03 - Growth vs. Uncertain Future

Veeam is one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies today. It is a privately held rocket ship on target to reach $1 billion in yearly sales by 2018 with freedom to innovate. Recognized by Gartner, IDC and Ovum as a top choice among data protection and Availability solutions, Veeam’s forward momentum is in stark contrast with the lagging innovation and in many cases, the declining market share of legacy backup providers. As these providers impose mass layoffs and struggle to stay relevant in the modern data center, one can only speculate what additional steps will have to be taken to right the ship. Veeam’s growth shows no signs of slowing down — adding more than 4,000 new customers every month and new powerful capabilities with every release.

04 - Simplicity vs. Complexity

Veeam’s straightforward approach to licensing combined with a near-effortless scalable architecture and deployment gets you up and running in minutes. With no agents to protect virtual workloads or applications, two out of three Veeam customers spend 35% less time managing their Availability infrastructure which frees them up for more productive tasks.Compared to legacy solutions that impose antiquated capacity licensing requirements, myriad agents and separately licensed products, the choice is clear.

05 - Powerful Capabilities vs. Lack of Important Features

With industry-leading features such as instant, agentless recovery for tier-1 Microsoft applications, built-in WAN acceleration, secure end-to-end encryption, an innovative Scale-out Backup Repository™, deep integration with leading primary and deduplication storage arrays and advanced replication capabilities that enable near-continuous data Availability, Veeam’s capabilities are unrivaled by legacy backup solutions.

06 - Reliability vs. Guess Work

“It just works” – that is the feedback from Veeam customers. Veeam customers report substantially less downtime and fewer backup and replication failures than with legacy backup solutions. In fact, it’s the #1 reason enterprises select Veeam! Patented automated backup and replica testing AND recovery verification for 100% of your workloads, combined with Veeam’s industry-leading customer support will help you sleep better at night.Legacy backup solutions, on the other hand, have no infrastructure monitoring and no automated backup testing and recovery verification — leaving you vulnerable to potential data corruption and restore failures.07 - Customer Satisfaction vs. FrustrationVeeam’s customers are overwhelmingly satisfied with our product features and functionality, ease of use, technical support and sales effectiveness. With a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 2x the industry average, 9 out of 10 Veeam customers WOULD recommend Veeam to their peers.Former legacy backup users tell us they switched to Veeam for the stable, hybrid cloud-focused, high performance that their previous solution couldn’t deliver.07+1 - One more reason to switch from Legacy BackupVeeam Agents for Windows and Linux built to protect your physical and public cloud (AWS, Azure, Google, etc.) workloads are FREE for 6 months and Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 is FREE for 12 Veeam Backup & Replication is one of those rare solutions that surprises you right out of the box. I’ve been in the industry for more than 15 years, and I haven’t seen a product that has surprised me as much as Veeam has.

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How to NOT be “THAT” Co-Worker 5 Tips to Building NOT Repelling Office Relationships

Shorr Success

By:  Lisa Shorr, Certified Image Consultant & Brand Building Specialist

You all know them, THAT employee in the office or colleague that just doesn’t get it.  That person who rolls their eyes or always responds to your questions in an exasperated, angry tone.  Are you picturing “that” co-worker in your mind?  I knew you were!  Every office has one or maybe two.  I call them the “Culture Crusher.”   

In the IT SMB world, the Culture Crusher is often ignored or tolerated because there is always a client or some other pressing emergency to deal with.  Taking the “I-will-deal-with-it-later” approach often leads to much greater issues.

I employed a Culture Crusher. Full disclosure, I’ve had a few of these challenging employees over the past 25 years.  As tech-savvy as this Engineer was, his people-skills, or lack-thereof, ultimately cost us a managed services client. We kept justifying his behavior because he had the tech skills our organization needed.  Had we known then, what we know now!

Our client called our office one day requesting a different Engineer because the one we assigned to their account, made them feel “stupid.”  Probing the upset client further revealed that this Engineer had a condescending tone. This tone carried over into our office and included eye-rolling, when a co-worker did not understand a tech issue.  Our Culture Crusher put a kink in my otherwise well-oiled chain.  He not only cost us a valuable client, we also lost productivity because his co-workers did not want to approach him when they had a tech issue, that only he could answer.  Are you the business owner nodding your head feeling sick to your stomach?  Or maybe the co-worker, who fell behind on completing a ticket and got into trouble because you did not want to approach your Culture Crusher, for fear of being berated?

Whether your office is a one-man band or 50 plus employees, behavioral awareness always makes the difference between building trust or burning a bridge.  A true leader is not necessarily the C-Level Executive, it is often someone who focuses on these skills:  

  1. Friendly Phone Skills – How many client IT issues can your company resolve remotely?  Cloud solutions have changed the dynamic from needing to go onsite to needing to pick up the phone to work with your clients.  It is more important now to pay attention to your tone of voice, volume and how fast you talk.  Do you or a team member have an engaging tone, sound happy and confident and speak at a slow enough pace to enunciate each word?  A phone call is often the only experience a client has with your company.  How you handle the phones sets the tone for building a relationship. 
  2. Choose Your Attitude – Don’t be the angry guy!  IT is a very emotional industry.  One-minute a client is singing our praises, the next they are screaming at us because “you (our IT provider) lost our files!”  Yes, we get blamed for all tech issues, even if they were out of our control!  This emotional rollercoaster takes a toll on our nerves.  An inspirational leader, takes this ride in stride and tries hard to consciously maintain a can-do, let’s deal with this attitude.  It’s easy to let this pressure seep under your skin and ooze out of you in the form of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  This hairy green monster, often hits a plateau in their career growth due to lack of maturity and a perceived inability to handle challenging problems. 
  3. Notice YOUR Nonverbal Behavior – Did you know, “We listen with our Eyes?”  Before a person utters a first word, their on-looker has surmised their wealth, health, hobbies, and whether they are management material or not.  We make “value judgements” based on what we were taught during our childhood.  Those ideas of what you “should” wear and how you “should” act, shape the way we view the world today.  In other words, people’s perceptions create their reality.  Take ownership of your actions.  Appear groomed and professionally dressed.  Stand tall versus slouch. Smile and make eye-contact.  Send the message to your client, prospect, employee that you genuinely care about what they have to say. 
  4. Adapt to Team Culture – Here is a secret:  A key component to a thriving, fast-growing business, is a cohesive team culture, an environment that fosters collaboration. Each team member appreciates the positive contributions of the extroverts and introverts alike. Listens to the hard-chargers and is thankful for the great peace-makers.  Makes a concerted effort to share corporate values and resolve issues based on the needs of the team and company versus having their own personal agenda.  There is no “I” in team!
    5.    No Geek Speak – Know your audience!  If you are speaking to a fellow techy, then go ahead and use technical jargon.  Talking to your client who doesn’t know the difference between a hard drive and a thumb drive, requires an entirely different approach.  An empathetic leader has the ability to describe a technical issue or resolution and be understood by all.  Your mission is to make others “feel” calm, comfortable and validated, not inadequate in any way.  
      

The next time you communicate with a client or co-worker, think, how do I want to be perceived by others?  Cultivator or Crusher, the choice is up to you.

To learn more about Perception and Image in the Workplace visit Lisa’s website:  http://www.shorrsuccess.com

About Lisa Shorr:
Lisa has spent over two decades in the sales and marketing arena. She is certified in Advanced Image Consulting from London Image Institute and owns two businesses, Shorr Success and Secure Future Tech Solutions. She has delivered Professional Development and Corporate Branding workshops and seminars across New England. She has styled many professional women and men on photoshoots, T.V. shows and in the privacy of their own closets! Her articles on style, career development and IT, have been published in notable magazines and newspapers including PC World, Providence Business News, GoLocalProv, Rhode Island Small Business Journal, So Rhode Island Magazine and Trade Secrets Magazine. Lisa is Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Association of Image Consultants, NY-Tristate Chapter.

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