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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.

Wiser Minds in IoT (Part II of II)

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO. SMB Nation - 

Last week I painted the IoT picture and enjoyed fantastic feedback. This week I share insights from wiser minds about IoT that I met at the recent AllSeen (www.allseenalliance.org) conference in Seattle.

I walked away from the annual gathering impressed with the momentum of IoT and wanted to learn more. Ergo my conversation with these two gentlemen below.

Greg Whelan is the principal of the Greywale Insights (http://greywale.com/) consultancy. What immediately struck me was how he wanted to pivot the conversation. It was like having an intellectual conversation with Jeff Middleton (sbsmigrations.com) back in the old Small Business Server days when he’d proclaim “let’s turn that argument on its head.” Whelan proposed we refine service providers as “outcome providers.” That’s how he sees the role of the MSP/computer guy in an IoT world. “Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) want OUTCOMES from a provider. IoT is a whole bucket of tools and services for the outcome provider to “provide” to SMBs.

“The outcome provider will have a role in helping IoT standardization. Currently it’s a DIY market without a set of standards. For example, you can’t utter “Good Night” today and have everything in the smart house respond such as lights, heat, and security.” Whelan shared. “The main point with today’s status is silos. The DIY can buy bits and pieces at Home Depot, Best Buy et al.”harrybiot edited

Whelan’s forward looking statements continued with thoughts concerning standardization. It’ll take web companies who can scale and the outcome provider will deliver agnostic services, not just a Google House or an Apple House.

Which leads to my second conversation about scaling. I spoke with Eric Bozich (Vice President – Product and Marketing CenturyLink). CenturyLink is a sponsor of AllSeen. Bozich’s interest is to provide elements of the IoT value chain that go beyond telecom. “One thing we’re asking ourselves is how our customers are going to consume IoT. IoT will be about solving business problems and consuming services. Bozich stated. “CenturyLink will add value by proactively participating in the development of IoT solutions.”

You heard it here first.

BTW – in my resources below, you can watch a video of Whelan and Bozic. ;0)

I’ll end my two-part series with this thought. If only Radio Shack could have held on! It was IoT before there was IoT. Readers will recall the demise of Radio Shack (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RadioShack). It could have been the IoT Store!

AllSeen Resources

Service Provider Panel Video, featuring Greg & Eric
AllSeen Alliance Events List
AllSeen Alliance Membership Tiers & Companies Participating
Full list of keynote presentations, slides and photos from the AllSeen Summit 2015

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Better Call an MSP Part 7: How to Best Navigate MSP M&A Activity

By Shannon Mayer, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed IT Services

The seventh installment of a monthly blog series offering tips and best practices on various ways MSPs can help their SMB clients work through the most challenging daily business issues.

In the last installment of, “Better Call an MSP,” we offered tips on staying ahead of the game when it comes to malware and virus attacks. Let’s switch gears and discuss the recent M&A activity that’s occurring on the enterprise and SMB levels. This type of activity is becoming more prevalent with both vendors and MSPs as they grow with the market. For instance, just recently, Dell acquired EMC, Barracuda purchased Intronis, and Solar Winds was acquired by two private equity firms. The same goes for the various MSPs that have been acquired or have joined forces to merge into one larger company to better serve clients.

What does all this mean for MSPs? First and foremost, transformation, now more than ever, is a necessity, rather than a proactive measure because as the market consolidates, competition increases. As an IT solutions provider, it is critical to deep dive into your business, looking at where you can add opportunities to set yourself apart from your competitors; this includes everything from offerings and services, customer service and value proposition. Let’s examine this closer.

1.) Increase Services/Increase Value Proposition: This is a good starting point, especially since there are specific focuses currently on certain services. For instance, security is currently at the forefront, and there are many opportunities in this area, such as password management, managed print and telecom. One way consolidation can be a positive for MSPs is by partnering with another firm that has the expertise and resources you want to add. For instance, if you want to add managed print, but don’t currently have a solution, seek out one of your peers who might have this area solidified. I have heard of several MSPs (including Continuum partners) who have partnered to add telecom and vice-versa; all of which have led to positive results.

When it comes to value proposition, separate yourself from your competitors to stay current and unique. This is especially important as you don’t want your services to sound too much like everyone else’s. How can you overcome this hurdle? One way is to perfect your “elevator pitch.” Can you honestly tell a potential customer what your value proposition is in 30 seconds or less? If not, then think about how you can be clear, concise and to the point without any added jargon or “filler” material.

2.) Build Customer Service: Regarding commodization of the MSP space, customer service is critical to your success. Did you know that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one? Think about the financial aspect of this, not to mention the time it takes to obtain and then onboard a new customer.

We’ve also spoken about pricing in this blog series, specifically when it comes to competitors trying to undercut each other. However, if your customer service goes above and beyond expectations, then you are more likely to retain your current customers (and also add new ones at the same time). In fact, according to global management consulting firm Bain & Company, “A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related rather than price or product related.”

3.) Cultivate Relationships: Aside from always ensuring your customers are well taken care of, also show your appreciation for their business—not just when they have a problem that needs to be addressed. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive if you want to be unique in your business model. Don’t wait for a customer to call you when they are at the point of their system shutting down. Set up monthly check-ins to see how things are running; get to know them and what their needs are for both the long and short term.

Another way to do this is by “showing” rather than “telling” them, possibly on a quarterly basis. Lay out on paper what you as the MSP have done to support their IT efforts; numbers speak louder than words, and if there are specific instances of ROI that you can share, then make sure to highlight those components. This way, they can visibly see where their money is going and how it’s being utilized toward their business. If you need guidance in mapping out a strategy for these types of reports, look to your vendor partners for guidance and tools that can help. Many MSPs often are not aware that their vendors are always there to help and educate them, as well as providing products and services.

Letting your customers know you appreciate them doesn’t always have to be all about business. You could also let them know they are important by holding a local “meet and greet” type of event where you can socialize and they can get to know you and your staff in a casual setting. Other gestures like a special gift during the holidays or other company milestones can go a long way as well. You could also establish a loyalty program in which customers earn points that they could use toward services and product discounts.

Whether you start with implementing one of these components, or all three, remember that the key is to think of areas where you can position yourself as a unique market leader, ensuring you stay competitive, while providing the highest level of customer service to both current and new clients.


Shannon Mayer is Continuum's Senior Product Marketing Manager and is directly responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging as well as business intelligence. She manages the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonjmayer.

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Born Again – IoT Evangelist (Part I of II)

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

So where did I stray? I started my geek life as a young ham radio operator in Alaska. Yep – had to pass the test having memorized Morse code (kids won’t get that!). Then it was a software lifestyle and all that brought including a 15-year run with Small Business Server (SBS). All good.allseen seattle edited 1024

But lately, since the demise of SBS, myself and other SBSers have been lost in the wilderness, asking huge questions about the meaning of life and why are we here? We’ve lost a few brothers and systems along the way. But I’m here to say that I’ve been saved by the Internet of Things and you can too!

What led to my being saved by IoT? It was a simple email from Tcat. Many readers recall Tcat is a frequent SMB Nation speaker and author over the past ten years (“New Success Secrets” and “Success Teams”). But there’s more to the story. Tcat was on the original SBS development team in the mid/late-1990s at Microsoft Redmond and owned the early Internet Connection Wizard (ICW) that allowed you to select approved local ISPs for your (ekks) modem-based Internet connection. We become fast friends and have stayed in touch ever since. Tcat always seems to land on his feet whether he is living in Egypt, Mexico or Georgia (true stories).

Tcat’s email was simple. He was in Seattle at an IoT conference called AllSeen (hosted by the AllSeen Alliance). It was a next generation geekfest just a few blocks away and AllSeen had selected Seattle this year for its big show. So I strolled over at Tcat’s recommendation and obtained a press pass so I could attend and report back to my loyal readers.

Findings

Here is what I found.

• IoT is the next great thing with silly numbers ($1.9 trillion) in future economic impact.
• IoT is just starting. You can see it for yourself with disparate home electronics “parts” at HomeDepot that don’t talk to each other over a common standard.
• The show was, in my opinion, more enterprise players such as OEMs and service providers (e.g. large telecoms) trying to figure it all out.
• The IoT paradigm is being defined right now, so there is a spoils go to the early bird mentality (sign me up – early is good).
• We’re creating the IoT community as I write this. Think of this as 1998 in SBS-land when folks like Grey Lancaster started a SBS BBS (yikes…modem-based) inside a local school he served in South Carolina). This is your chance to say you were there at the start and I’d encourage you to look into the IoT-friendly trade association Electronics Technicians Association- International (ETA) [http://www.eta-i.org/] which has served as an above reproach accredited vendor-neutral entity since 1978. (More on ETA in a future blog). Seen in the pic below is Joe Maher from the ETA (center) and Tcat (right).

eta and tcat 1024

                                                        Enjoying networking after the Seattle AllSeen conference.

Community Correlations

So what’s it all mean for the stereotypical tired old male SBSer, who won’t sell anything (according to old school SMB vendors LOL)? It’s a second chance. Most SMB Nation readers were born as geeks and will be buried as geeks. This is your chance to be born again, return to your roots, get your geek on and tinker and toil on the next great thing. Welcome home!

PS – That cool chick in the cover pic? That’s Tenaya Hurst @LininoWoman at the Seattle AllSeen conference. She’s one of us!

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Tcat’s email was simple. He was in Seattle at an IoT conference called AllSeen (hosted by the AllSeen Alliance). It was a next gen... Read More
Wednesday, 28 March 2018 01:23
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10 Great Apps Every Leader Needs to Be Effective

BY SHAWN MURPHY, CEO and founder, Switch & Shift - 

It's not enough for twenty-first-century leaders to focus on getting things done. They must also connect with employees to inspire performance. Digging deeper, top management today needs to marry purpose and meaning to each employee's contribution. Amid these expectations, and these are but a handful, it's easy for a leader to overlook herself.Apps

A leader depleted of energy is no good to anyone. Turning to digital for solutions, the list below recommends apps to help you be more effective in your life professionally and personally.

The recommended apps are broken down into six categories to increase your leadership effectiveness.

Personal Growth: Deepen your skills through personal development
Communication: Increase clarity, awareness, and understanding within your team
Productivity: Get more done and have energy left to be who you need to be to people important in your life
Inspiration: Know how and why to inspire people
Creativity: Add fulfillment in your work through creating solutions to business problems
Collaboration: Strengthen how you get things done through others. Work is a team sport.

1. Personal Growth

The Leadership Challenge: Hands down the best leadership app out there. Developed by the authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner and based on their best-selling book of the same name, this app gives you tangible actions to grow your leadership according to five leadership practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, Encourage the Heart. Excellent app if you want to grow as a leader.

Igniter: There's a saying, "Know what you stand for, or you'll fall for anything." To accomplish the first part of the saying, you need to know what your personal values are. Igniter, from Luck Companies, takes you through an automated process of identifying your core personal values. You ought to know what you stand for. Values are your true north.

Day One: Keep track of what's important to you. Capture ideas. Record memories. Day One is a journaling app to help you develop a routine of reflection. The best leaders take time to reflect.

2. Communication

Slack: My team of seven is completely virtual. Rather than overwhelm email with small requests or updates, of which there are many in a day, we use Slack. Think of Slack as texting on steroids. You can sync many other apps to Slack: Dropbox and Drive, for example. Try /giphy for some fun. Decrease unnecessary meetings and emails. Free up time to focus on higher-value leadership actions.

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michinal
All these apps are really cool. You can get all these apps for free on tutuapp store. All paid applications are available here for... Read More
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How To "Suk" At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses

Story by Avinash Kaushik - 

Facebook, at last count, has 1.5 billion monthly active users. YouTube has 1.2 billion users (watching 6 billion hours of videos!). Instagram has an estimated 400 million users.violets

Those are some big gigantic numbers!

I believe that every human with time to spare, and a connection to the web, should be on social media. The benefits are numerous. Facebook allows you to stay close to people you choose to. YouTube has democratized entertainment and education. Instagram allows you to express your creativity, and soak up expressions from others. Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, others have a role to play as well.

Humans, check.

But, what about businesses? Companies small and big? In India or Japan or the United States?

It comes down to two important questions: 1. Do the big gigantic numbers imply that your business should use these social media channels? 2. If yes, should your participation be the same as regular humans?

I believe that we have never answered the first question. Businesses were told: "The numbers are HUGE!" The second question was never answered either, but because all businesses know is how to pimp that became their default strategy.

The assumption is: Big Social Audiences + Big Pimping = Big Social Profits.

Big mistake.

You know that of course because for your business, after five solid years of investment, this has not proven to be true. Even the people who powered your investment in Social Media, the Gurus, have, reluctantly, accepted this reality.

I believe that it was erroneous not to answer the two questions above, it was erroneous to be tempted by the Big Numbers and not understand how Social Media channels actually worked (streams, home pages, personalization, rankings and more).

So, let's fix that error.

In this post let's look at each Social Network, see what B2B and B2C brands are doing there today, from that draw lessons as to 1. if your business should be on that network and 2. if yes, what should your content (and marketing) strategy be.

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