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.

Show Us Your...

Show us your newsletter that you send to customers! Here is the official story:

Harry here. I need your help.

I'm researching how MSPs, consultants, IT Pros and good old fashioned 'puter guys communicate with customers (small business owners).

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There are a couple reasons for my research. Too often we spend far too much time researching recurring revenue and how to get you to sell more stuff for vendors. I am on a mission to see if we can strengthen the organic relationship between a service provider (MSP, etc) and the SMB customer.

My ask is this.

Please both SEND me and SUBSCRIBE me to the customer facing newsletter you send to your customers. Kindly use the following email address as I anticipate the response to be a large sample size: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I'll publish the results of my research and analysis. One offshoot I'd like to discover is, based on how you communicate with your real world end-user customers, can we craft a better level of community engagement for Small Business Saturday in late November 2017?

Thank you for helping me. Your participation makes us a better community - even 18-years later since our humble start in the early days of Small Business Server (SBS) in the late 1990s!

Enjoy the ride....harrybbb
Harry Brelsford
206-201-2944 (yep - that's my real phone number!)

UPDATED: I've receive a number of great responses, samples and sign-ups since I announced this matter last Friday, March 17, 2017 (THANK YOU). I'm amazed at the innovation by wiser MSP minds out there. For example - one franchise organization provides newsletters for its franchise holders. Another MSP only sends print newsletters. So far this has been really interesting research.

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The boom in boomer entrepreneurs: Why older workers are finding entrepreneurial success … Or not

February 23, 2017 Posted by US SMB Team

When you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what image springs to mind? Mark Zuckerberg in his hoodie? The young Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage? The familiar faces of entrepreneurship are those of brilliant young men who are tech-savvy newsmakers.

In reality, however, today’s entrepreneurs are a much more diverse group, including those who traditionally might have been considered “ready for retirement.” Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, are redefining the marketplace as they rely on decades of experience, talent and passion to launch and grow businesses.

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What’s behind the boom in Boomer entrepreneurs? Consider that some of them may:

Finally be giving life to long-held dreams by turning in corporate badges to hang out their own shingles.

Be energized by working and staying active. Many Boomers say they simply are not ready to put an end to their work lives.

Need or want work/life balance that the corporate world doesn’t offer. Caring for a loved one, or simply volunteering or enjoying leisure time, can become possible for people who lead their own businesses.

Need to replace or supplement income. Corporate downsizing closed some doors for older workers. Plus, many pensions and retirement accounts took a beating in recent years.

Long Live the Boomer Economy

The growing percentage of Americans working past age 65, the rise in life expectancy and the fact that about 18 percent of workers older than 65 are self-employed suggest that Boomers’ impact on the economy will be felt for years to come.

During the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation‘s sixth annual State of Entrepreneurship Address at the National Press Club, Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies outlined the economic impact of both Millennials and Boomers. Citing research from a Kauffman report, “The Future of Entrepreneurship: Millennials and Boomers Chart the Course for 2020,” Guillies stated that the United States doesn’t just need economic growth. It needs economic renewal, renewed mobility and a renewed notion of shared prosperity and sense of possibility. One of the best and most effective ways to achieve those goals is entrepreneurship — the creation and growth of new companies.

And there are encouraging signs. According to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, “Startup activity rose in 2015, reversing a five-year downward trend in the United States, giving rise to hope for a revival of entrepreneurship.”

Notably, the percentage of firms created by Americans ages 55 to 64 grew more than any other age demographic, up 11 percent to 25.8 percent in 2014 versus 14.8 percent in 1996 .

Why Boomer Entrepreneurs Succeed

Many Boomers are finding entrepreneurial success. At least in part, that’s because they:

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He’s Gone! Superstar MSP Jamison West Exits

In this era of click bait headlines, this one is true both geographically and business-wise. Long time SMB Nation member Jamison West is undergoing a life reset. He has recently completed the transition from his MSP practice (which was acquired by Aldridge just over a year ago that I wrote about HERE.)

West and family looked in the mirror and decided time in the sun would be the right next move. As I write this, Jamison is moving to Summerlin, NV from drippy Seattle so that they can be near his wife’s extended family and the children can settle into new schools. Jamison has new professional plans in the works that we’ll report on in coming weeks. All good.

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Now the good stuff
Steve Banks’ venerable Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) group that still meets on every third Thursday night hosted a going away party for West. In a wide ranging free flowing community conversation, West shared his view of the world with reality-based real facts. He should know. He’s been there and done that over 20+ years as an MSP in Seattle.

Future Speak
West made forward looking statements along the lines of “If I was starting out today…” that focused on the three things you can do in 2017 as an MSP. It dovetailed into our “start over” editorial theme we’ve been preaching from the pulpit to the pews for a few years. West specifically shared these three pillars to focus on.

  1. Year of the Cloud Directory Services. With Active Directory (AD) dying (if not dead), the opportunity is to master single sign on and encryption. This was presented in the context of Azure, which is another editorial “beat” at SMB Nation this year.
  2. Voice – Skype for Business. West presented and defended his thesis that this is the year of Skype. I confronted West on these assertions as I’ve had mixed Skype experiences over the years and continue my long journey towards acceptance. But West laid out some compelling customer evidence from the real world to support his beliefs.
  3. Dynamics 365. This conversation was one for “get ahead of the curve” as Microsoft is consolidating its CRM, ERP and accounting portfolio to be an online service that will be a game changer, even in SMB. The audience had a range of opinions on the future of Great Plains Dynamics perhaps being slated for an end-of-life motion in favor of NAV. In a future blog, I’ll show how innovative ISVs such as Versium are creating predictive analytics snap-ins for Dynamics 365 but that is for another day.

MSP M&A

West shared his wisdom on both organic and strategic growth – he’s done both. His M&A journey, both the good and the bad, was shared openly in the spirit of transparency. Takeaways? Focus on understanding the Guaranteed and Not Guaranteed elements of a merger and acquisition scenario.

My Advice?

Consider reaching out to Jamison West via LinkedIn here and arrange for him as a speaker at your next event. It’s a wise investment to tap into Jamison’s wisdom.

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Is Passion Good For Business?

Mike Kappel,  Contributor

 

Passion for Business

Passion is important in business. All small business owners need passion for their work if the business is going to succeed. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 30 years, and I’ve created several successful businesses. How did I become successful? The number one thing that drove my business success was passion.

When I started out, my passion was to start a business and succeed at it. My passion for succeeding and avoiding failure caused me to learn things I didn’t want to learn or do, like public speaking and writing. Because I was so passionate about success, the things I disliked about business became my friends.

Passion in businesses is important if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. But, is passion necessary?

Passion in business can help you succeed

Do you have to be passionate about your product or service? No, but having a passion for business does help.

While you don’t have to be passionate about “what” you’re selling, you can be passionate about starting a business or being self-employed. That’s what I was passionate about; I just wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was passionate about succeeding, no matter what. I wanted to be a successful business owner.

Passion is what drives you. Passion keeps you going despite the difficulties that your business will inevitably come across. I had many opportunities to throw up my arms and simply give up, but my passion caused me to keep going. I couldn’t think about anything but making my business succeed.

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How to Validate Your Business Ideas Without Spending a Dime

Here are two extremely cheap (read: free) ways to test ideas.

ways use big data drive repeat sales

NATASHA CHE
CONTRIBUTOR
Founder of Soundwise. Host of Founders Nextdoor podcast.

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

Last night in the shower, you had an ingenious idea for a new business.

You rushed to the desk to write it down, with water still dripping down your back. Your [insert the brilliant thing] is going to change the universe! It’s time to call up investors, assemble a team and . . . stop! Stop right there!

Before plunging into execution, you should confirm you’re solving a problem and/or meeting a need that people want to pay for. (Unless you’re Beyoncé. Then you can make money selling the air you breathe.)

Idea validation should be done on both macro and micro levels. And if you do it right, you won’t need to spend your PayPal balance on any of that. Here are some extremely cheap (read: free) ways that I and other entrepreneurs I know have used to test ideas.

The macro test
Before testing the specifics of your new venture, validate the big picture first. How large is the market? Who are your potential competitors? Are you differentiated enough? Google will answer all of those questions for you.

Start by searching the keywords related to your idea in both Google search and Google Trends. For example, when I had the idea for starting Soundwise, a mobile platform for audio courses, I researched around keywords such as podcast, audiobook and e-learning. Need more keyword ideas? Sign up for Google AdWords and use the Keyword Planner tool for inspiration.

You should also Google “XYZ industry report” or “XYZ market analysis” to get stats and data about your market. Pay attention to the related search terms Google shows you at the bottom of your search result page. For more updated information, filter the search to only include results from the past year.

Think of at least one company that offers a similar product to yours. Do research on that company and on its competitors. How do you know who its competitors are? Just Google “product X versus.” The competitors’ names will pop up, as there are legions of articles written online comparing every minute detail of every product: Pepsi vs. Coke, Target vs. Amazon, chihuahua vs. chow chow . . . . How do people find time to write those? I don’t know. Ask Google.

What you want to find at this stage is not necessarily a large market size, which often comes with the side effect of competitors galore. Ideally, what you want is to be able to say yes to all of the following:

Is there an upward trend in search volume and industry growth related to your idea?

Can you find existing players in your market that are already doing well to demonstrate there’s indeed market demand?

Are there meaningful differences between what’s in the market and what you’re thinking of offering? (We don’t know that for sure yet. “Seem to be” is good enough for now).

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