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.

Start-ups Fueled by Young-ins!

There is no age discrimination in the entrepreneurship community. It’s a line of reasoning that cuts both ways. You can be a 50+ year old white collar tech exec who is “yes sir-ed” through the back door in the tech community StevenAldrichbecause of ageism but still have credibility as a start-up entrepreneur. Likewise, you can be a millennial in the new gig economy who embraces start-ups. It’s a big tent and there is room for all.

Recently GoDaddy released an extensive study on how millennials are fueling entrepreneurial growth.

The end of the story is that young people don’t know what they don’t know and that is an asset in taking the start-up plunge. Contrast that with my friend, a sales rep at a Big Pharma company, who is 55YO and risk adverse. Combine that innocence with a “gig economy” view and you have what GoDaddy calls a new entrepreneurial era where 1-in-3 millennial professionals intend to pursue their own ventures in the next ten years. And that plays very well into GoDaddy’s SOHO and SMB focus of delivering light weight IT solutions such as web pages, domain registration and Office 365 subscriptions.

I spoke with GoDaddy’s Chief Product Office Steven Aldrich, pictured, recently about is new study and here is what I learned.

Fueled by technology that has made entrepreneurship easier than ever, a strong desire for autonomy, and start-up role models such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the two book-end generations of global workers – Millennials and Baby Boomers – are driving a huge spike in the number of professionals looking to create their own business or be self-employed, according to a new global survey commissioned by GoDaddy.

The research found that 36 percent of people plan to either start a small business or be self-employed within the next 10 years. This is especially true of Millennials, with 50 percent saying they plan to be entrepreneurial during the same time period. In fact, 24 percent of Millennials started their current business while they were still in school. That makes them six times more likely to pursue entrepreneurship as a career than their Baby Boomer counterparts were in the 1960s and 1970s.

“We’re entering a Golden Age for entrepreneurs across the world. The combination of accessible technology, cultural acceptance of startups, and the desire for more flexibility in our lives, is causing people to pursue their true career passions at a rate never seen before in history,” said GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving. “The sheer volume of emerging entrepreneurs speaks to a fundamental shift in our society toward ownership and controlling one’s fate.”

Conducted by Morar Consulting and Vrge Analytics, the research surveyed 7,291 professionals, including 2,707 current small business owners or self-employed individuals, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Technology Eliminates Jobs, Creates Growth
Workers say technology empowers. 81 percent of those surveyed said that technology made starting a business easier, and more than half (56 percent) prefer the “do it yourself” model for handling their tech needs. 58 percent said websites and social media are the most attractive channels to customers. As more people have become comfortable with new technology (cloud, social media, mobile) this decade, they are applying it to their entrepreneur ambitions.

Respondents are also aware that technology can put pressure on their jobs, leading to a potential reduction of hours and layoffs. The loss of jobs is a contributing factor leading many workers to take the small business plunge: 18 percent of small business owners said they started their venture after losing their job. 30 percent of respondents said the introduction of new technologies over the last 3-5 years has negatively reduced their work hours.

Avoiding the Corporate 9-to-5
The survey found that autonomy is the #1 driver to become an entrepreneur. People want the ability to work when they want, where they want, and how they want. Flexibility (41 percent) trumped money (17 percent) and not worrying about corporate layoffs (17 percent) by a wide margin.

Overall, the global research painted a picture of our oldest and youngest generations of workers looking to seize the initiative and control their destiny:
· 36 percent of professionals plan to either start a small business or be self-employed over the next 10 years. Including those who plan to moonlight with full-time jobs, that number jumps to an eye-opening 45 percent.
· Millennials are taking the plunge and starting new ventures at a pace never seen before, with 50 percent indicating they intend to start a new business or become self-employed in the coming decade. In the United States alone, that means 37.7 million new entrepreneurs in the workforce.
· Baby Boomers aren’t planning to stop working in their Golden Years — 21 percent plan to start their own venture within the next 10 years. In the United States, that equates to more than 15.7 million new entrepreneurs.
· 13 percent of Millennials said they were laid off because of new technologies. 36 percent of Millennials said the introduction of new technologies reduced their work hours.
· 7 percent of Baby Boomers said they were laid off because of new technologies. 25 percent of Baby Boomers said the introduction of new technologies reduced their work hours.
· Many would-be entrepreneurs in the United States point to their parents (39 percent) and Mark Zuckerberg (27 percent). But Zuckerberg (40 percent) clearly tops parents (30%) among Millennials. Just over one percent looked up to socialite Kim Kardashian’s method of building a brand.
· Entrepreneurs demonstrate a no-fear attitude. 59 percent of entrepreneurs would try again if their current venture failed. They say grit and determination (76 percent) are more important than having a great idea (53 percent).
· Presidential candidates take note: In the U.S., 60 percent want government to do more to promote small business and entrepreneurs vs. 24 percent who say government should stay out of business all together

The global survey of 7,291 respondents was conducted from August 11-August 21, 2016 in eleven countries.

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Get Social: Chocolate-covered Bacon

Old school SMB Nation fans remember our love and affection for BACON! Who can forget our “Save Your Bacon” campaign back in the day promoting StorageCraft? (Remember the bacon bit muffins at SMB Nation Spring?) So

when I attended Simply Measured’s LIFT – Social conference in Seattle last week, I was instantly at home when liftsocialChocolate-covered bacon was on the afternoon snack cart.

But this isn’t a foodie review, rather it’s a look at social media analytics. The context is this. If you are reading this blog and seeking to “start-up” a technology business with legs, I’d offer the world of social media and the use of analytics in this Market 2.0 era demands your consideration.

LIFT Social is an ongoing annual conference sponsored by Simply Measured, an analytics ISV in the social media space. Basically it is in the business of providing tools to measure the impact of social media campaigns businesses might execute. For example, Trek was there talking about the use of the analytical tools to measure success in building the Trek bicycle brand using numerous social media tactics such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

First a few takeaways from the conference and then a few observations.

Engagement is not revenue. Towards the end of the conference, I don’t know if I heard a dirty little secret in the social media space or if the speakers were being completely transparent. Loosely translated, the number of likes (Facebook), friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter) and connections (LinkedIn) doesn’t mean jack snitz when it comes to revenue. I’ve always suspected this. Social media is good for brand building but it’s not transactional by its nature. I’ve seen this in several ways. First is our beloved Karl Palachuk of MSP books fame in the SMB space. Karl has worked very hard to build his brand and hit the 5,000 friend limit for a Facebook personal page. And his brand building has resulted in overall success for his book sales. However, if engagement had a direct correlation to revenue, he’d be a billionaire and I’d be shining his shoes. Another example is how I’ll nudge people to attend our weekly webinar. When I post into an Office 365 LinkedIn group with over 90,000 members about a relevant webinar coming up soon, I’ll pull anywhere from zero to a couple new attendees. Several speakers at LIFT Social shared similar disappointments. Such is the state of the Social Media union.

Attribution. Having spent time in the Big Data predictive analytics space, there is always the issue of attribution when working with leads (affiliates and aggregators). Basically the issues surrounding getting credit for driving traffic. Who drove the click? What timeframe does the attribution apply (immediate or forever)? And so on. Simply Measured announced what it claims to be the first attribution measurement tool for social media campaigns. I’ll be meeting with the Simply Measured executive team in a couple weeks to dig deeper into this.
Spying. One speaker named Skylar delivered an impressive speech on competitive intelligence gathering using the Simply Measured tools. It amounted to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Best speech for me.

Sources. The C-level executive at Hubspot demonstrated sources of customer traffic and Google ad words was way low on the scale (below 10%) with sources like Instagram and YouTube fairing much higher. That was an eye opener. I confirmed this later with my 18YO son when he affirmed a media buy to target millennials would be best on Instagram, not Facebook.
Young at Heart. Finally, in the start-up mentality, I found the demographic at LIFT Social to be dramatically different than SMB Nation. Women attendees outnumbered men 2:1 whereas SMB Nation events are 95% male. The average age was significantly lower than our late 40s SMB Nation member. That’s OK as it made me feel young at heart LOL.

I end with a question? Why do these social media millennials end every sentence an octave higher (riser) with the word PERFECT? Not everything is PERFFECT in social media analytics but it’s getting closer to the precise measurements we can gather today with email and adwords campaigns.

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Channel Check-In: Atera’s YTD Report Card

Everyone loves a success story. So hang on fast as Atera, a seasoned start-up, is making fast moves in the SMB channel. You’ll recall we extensively covered it’s “Hello 2016” launch at the start of the year. There is ample evidence suggesting nine out of ten start-ups fail (of course) but I’m more interested in learning what makes the ten percent successful like this Forbes article did. Needless to say I count Atera in this top ten percent. So what’s it’s secret to success as an all-in-one SMB RMM/PSA/Remote Access ISV?

First – the word is out. Atera has enjoyed outsized publicity and coverage because of its market timing to provide a right-sized all-in-one RMM Software, PSA and Remote access SaaS solution for the SMB channel partner. “Our target market are the smaller VARs and MSPs.” Gil Pekelman, Atera CEO, shared during a far reaching interview. aterasept“Our pricing model of $89 per technician is both a fraction of the cost of an existing RMM player (not to mention PSA) and the fact that it is not Agent based pricing makes it totally disruptive.” As a privately-held company, Atera doesn’t release financial information but I can attest that its growth rate is significantly ahead of plan, having reviewed some internal information.

Second – Continuous Innovation. “We launched The Benchmark: This is an industry first – utilizing big data analysis we provide our users with Data (KPI’s) that can guide them if its business is on the right track. For example, we just released within our new billing module a comparison between the contracts the MSP has with his customer and the industry median hourly price.” Pekelman added. In a future contribution about Atera’s SMB channel journey, I will dig much deeper into the analytics topic.


Third – Community Feedback. A day doesn’t pass where I’m not promoting the authenticity of the SMB Nation community based on our geek roots dating back to the beginning of time (the release of the Small Business Server product in the late 1990s). Money and time haven’t changed us as we remain a bona fide grass roots community still committed to changing the world. Here’s the good news. Atera thinks like us too! Pekelman proudly “peacocked” his open feedback approach. “It’s an open/transparent/Internet model – You know what we have, what you will pay and what we are working one….” Loosely translated, Pekelman is saying that Atera’s innovation is based on community feedback.

This transparent community paradigm has allowed Atera to gleam insights into its VAR/MSP customers. “For the small guy what did we do? We changed his life.” Pekelman declared. “He can now afford an all-in-one MSP Software platform (or save a lot of money on the system he has). The system is so easy and automated that he can actually use it without hiring PSA/RMM implementation consultants. He has a unique Offering – Unlimited Agents vs. all those MSPs that are stilling using an agent based product. We are giving him a compass to run his business and guide him to a healthy one.”

Finally – design. I can attest to the simplicity of the Atera solution. I reviewed that aspect earlier this year .

Over the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track Atera’s success. It’s one to watch.

PS – If you downloaded and used Atera in a trial several months ago, DO IT AGAIN! It’s rate of innovation is amazing so the version you worked with a few months ago is different today!

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Fast Forward into Fall: NetConnect

 Since NetConnect splashed on the US MSP scene in 2Q, I’m monitoring the chatter and am finding that MSPs, while sincerely intrigued, still have more questions about this “Workspace as a Service” (WaaS) solution

designed to implement at SMB customer sites. The purpose of this blog is to dig deep and steep to offer additional WaaS insights. First things first. Take a moment to review prior NetConnect missives here and here.

Once NetConnect is installed and configured, customers are able to access your environment from any device you like; in practical terms, this means you can access that netconnectold, legacy application from the latest iPad!

In fact, customers who use behind-the-times business critical programs get a new lease of life by mobilizing with NetConnect – if the application vendor can’t provide a solution to fit with the modern way of working, NetConnect can step up to the plate. For staff, who need to work offsite and are struggling with the headache of setting up VPN connections or fixing an RDP shortcut that’s inexplicitly stopped working, can now access straigt from their browser-even better, you can do this on a Mac or PC.

This is important. As an added bonus, the unique approach to printing allows user to print to any locally accessible printer with no configuration, driver installs or setup. The company doesn’t have to worry about threats to their network, as no device ever connects to the environment; NetConnect acts like a clear pane of glass.

I can offer that best of all it integrates with Active Directory, meaning there’s not additional accounts to be setup, no additional point of management to be considered for day-to-day tasks and users get single sign on to their applications or desktop - simple. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Next steps
Northbridge Secure runs an active partner program to support NetConnect partners at every possible turn.

  • There’s a certification process for both sales and technical staff as well as access to NFR licence for internal use and demonstration.
  • Northbridge support partners with setting up in-house demo environments, proof of concepts or adding applications to their own public demo to support your sales cycle.
  • Partners are given access to everything they require to independently identify, scope, quote & install.

One of the great advantages NetConnect has over a product like Citrix is the unparalleled access partners have to the sales and technical teams; Northbridge are in that sweet spot of being big enough to produce consistent, stable innovation and yet small and agile enough

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The Basics of Influencing the Technology Buying Decisio

By Pete Engler

With today’s emphasis on “modern” marketing, we’re told we need to understand who and where our prospective clients are so that we can help guide the decision-making process. Is it really possible to Peter Engler Digiuminfluence your customer’s buying decision? Who are your customers, and where do you find them? As a technology reseller, you’ve likely tried to answer all of these questions in an effort to increase sales. Here are some basic considerations for reaching and influencing your buyers.

When researching this topic, it quickly becomes clear that the vast majority of information about “who” the technology buyers are require that you classify buyers by their age, or generation: Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennial. This is probably not surprising given that we tend to believe buying habits vary greatly between the youngest (Millennials) to the oldest (Baby Boomers). If segmenting your customers solely by the generation into which they were born, then the next set of information you want to understand is which group makes the majority of purchasing decisions; are the decision-makers spread evenly throughout those groups; and how can these buyers be influenced? The next dilemma is how to reach the decision makers. Where and how to find buyers has changed, in large part due to the digital age. Buyers are now reached through social media, internet ads, product review sites, product reviews on vendor sites and others. These avenues have also contributed to making purchasing decisions easier and sometimes much quicker, because information is now at the buyer’s fingertips. But are these sources of information influencing like we believe? The only real way to answer that question is to talk to your customers; but research tends to confirm that technology buyers are heavily influenced by the online content they consume from third parties, peers and vendors (or brands).

Knowing how your customer base gets their information is vital in marketing to them. Using recent studies and blogs posted by the Arketi Group, MarketingSherpa and Techaisle, the findings show all tech buyers, regardless of age, use essentially the same methods for obtaining information to make purchasing decisions. The methods most likely used are traditional, such as product demos, vendor meetings, white papers, colleagues and referrals from industry peers. While the methods may be traditional, the delivery of all this content is vastly different thanks to the internet and social media. These are most likely the avenues where the information is found so vendors and VARs need to maintain strong online marketing efforts.

Another twist with marketing comes through word of mouth. While online peer review is an influential source of persuasive information, you cannot discount offline word of mouth referrals. As a reseller, your reputation in the local market is key as decision makers network and compare notes on VARs, vendors and solutions. In speaking directly with resellers, many still maintain a steady and growing business via word of mouth alone. Others say they rely on the founder, or sales and marketing teams, to figure out who the decision makers are in each target account and use traditional sales techniques to persuade them to purchase. When it comes to word-of-mouth influencing tech buyers, this is one area where you may see a generational difference. Unlike Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, Millennials have not been in the workforce as long and may not have the same network of peers and offline research avenues established as an older generation worker may have. So they may rely more on their colleagues for information.

When it comes time to locating and making contact with the business that is ready to buy, it may be tricky to identify the person who has ultimate decision-making authority. This is sometimes closely held information. Within any organization, especially across the SMB space, the individual who has the authority to buy and how they are influenced can vary quite a bit. The purchasing power may depend on the structure of the organization. For example, when it comes to IT-related technology, the IT manager may have the authority. Given the size of the SMB, the final decision could be left to the CEO, based on the input from the various department managers. Or if large enough a CIO spends as they see fit to support an organization within their budget. In some instances the decision maker may not know technically or functionally which is the best product or service the organization needs. Instead, a subject matter expert will outline the pros and cons with a few solutions making the final cut. Then pricing undoubtedly becomes the defining piece to win the sale.

The safe bet is if you are selling a specific product or service and don’t know who has the final say, find the owner of the corresponding department and they will either make or heavily influence the decision. There are many ways to find this stakeholder, from traditional, “old school” methods of calling the business, to more modern approaches such as using social media. LinkedIn, for example, can provide a complete employee directory, so to speak, and contact is made relatively easily through that social media site. In the end, even in the digital age the methods for reaching and passing information to prospects is a blend of the traditional and ‘modern’ marketing and sales approach.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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