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.

3Q2016 MSP Report

Last week we enjoyed our largest audience of the year on the weekly webinar for good reason: it was the 3Q2016 MSP Report with industry updates and forward looking statements. I was joined by respected blogger and analyst karl and harryKarl Palachuk as we talked about yesterday, today and tomorrow. Here are some select findings (to capture the entire conversation – please replay the webinar here).

Big Data
Even in the SMB sector, you can have the larger conversation about Big Data. My own thoughts including using this as a “gateway drug” to get embedded into other departments at your clients. For example, technology decisions are increasingly being made in the Marketing department (where the money is as Willie Sutton said about bank robbing Many of us have a SQL Server background and know Excel well. Those two cool tools translate very well to Big Data analytics and visualization so you are well on your way to going from “Computer Guy” to “Data Nerd” and making a few bucks along the way.

Karl’s take on Big Data was different. He contends that the RMM tools are collecting snitz loads of operational data the is predictive for MSPs. You can forecast maintenance based on mean failure rates and the like to proactively serve your clients. Huge value adds.

Finally, our friend Anurag at TechAisle, our research partner, is blogging up a storm on the Big Data opportunity for MSPs from a business model vantage point. You need all three opinions (myself, Karl, Anurag) as you explore this potential new line of work.

Part of the report was to share our more of our annual survey results. I covered off on education, income, economic attitude and our demographic. Karl really keyed in on how our majority of our community is skewed to the “mature” side to put it mildly. We’re landing in the 45+ age range folks. And as Karl articulated, we’re not getting younger nor is the partner community. We’re not attracting youngins’ to an IT Pro/MSP lifestyle. Karl has literally started a populist uprising proclaiming that ageism has to end and we need new blood and new communities. You can listen to Karl on this topic by replaying the webinar here).

Other topics in the webinar report include

  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Gossip
  • Industry Earnings
  • 2nd Half Trends
  • And a Veeam moment
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Microsoft Angst

Microsoft Angst

Some weeks it feels like it’s always something. With the end of the Microsoft fiscal year upon us, there are, at least for SMB Nation, renewal deadlines upon us. For example we have to renew our Office 365 E3 partner plan as part of the Action Pack membership level. Understood.

But what I didn’t understand was how my pivot from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to the hosted version would trigger a one-month payment penalty. Let me explain.

During the life of SMB Nation, we’ve gone from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 1.2 to NetSuite to Salesforce and back to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (v7.x) and now to Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premises hosted. Why? In the first couple of conversions, life happened. But the most recent Microsoft Dynamics CRM pivot from online to hosted on-prem was driven by a few factors.

Hidden costs. There is a dirty little secret to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online: storage costs. After you exceed 5GB of storage (not hard with email tracking), you have to buy additional 1GB increments at $10/month (or $120 per year). Not only does it add up but it’s typically of CRM and ERP vendors (as you can ascertain, we know ‘em all above) cost creep. And it pisses me off. The pivot to on-prem instance gives me 25GB storage right from the start. Thank you!

Partner-2-Partner power. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t falling in love with “Her,” the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online edition. As a point of reference, if you missed the subtle joke, I’m trying to create an analogy to the popular 2013 movie “Her”  starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and directed by Spike Jonze. So we hired one of our own, well-known Microsoft partner Grant Thompson (MG Technology Group). Essentially I’d rather give my money to a SMB Nation member and friend of the family then Redmond to host my CRM. I’m not necessarily saving money but I receive a hellva lot of value adds from having a real partner attached to my Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance. For example, Grant (who has a heart of gold) implicitly provides free wisdom as a natural trainer. He is working with Jenny at SMB Nation to create an event registration form that flows right into our CMR instance instead of us using a commercial event management program at $5 per registration and creating a split database.

Many readers will recognize Grant as he is our long-time expert trainer on the Office 365 roadshow. As an aside, there is a chance for YOU to talk to Grant about what you’d like to see in the next nine (9) workshop cities here.  

So why am I angry at Microsoft? 
For the first part of this tale, I’ll take ownership. We migrated around Memorial Day weekend in late May 2016 and ran both CRMs in parallel for a few weeks (just in case we had to rollback). Apparently, with the end of the Microsoft fiscal year and some renewal deadlines that impact SMB Nation, our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service “automatically renewed” on June 23, 2016. My bad as I wasn’t attentive to the fact we had auto-renew turned on. I discovered this on the June 25th and promptly terminated my service. I was greeted with a one-month service charge as a termination fee as seen in the pic (actually the pic shows the same condition for my termination of the Office 365 E1 SKU, but it’s the same point). Really? Seriously Microsoft? Shame on you! I felt I’d been oracled in my orifice by MSFT when this Article 50-like clause was invoked on my Brexit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.


When I’m back in the saddle early this week, I intend to look into this with Microsoft starting with some internal connections. I want my termination fee back!

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2016 Salary Survey Results – Part III: Forward Looking Statements

2016 Salary Survey Results – Part III: Forward Looking Statements

Time to look forward to the future in the SMB partner community. You will recall that we have presented two prior installments on our annual salary survey in past issues (Educated and Income) I’d encourage you to refill your coffee (or your beer), review those prior installments before proceeding further. I’ll wait here.

Welcome back! 

If anything, entrepreneurs are optimistic. I use that label because, in our past installments (read above), you are the founder and owner of your partner practice (MSP, CSP, consulting practice, reseller), etc. But even I was surprised how positive you are right here, right now. When asked if you expected positive compensation growth in 2016, 62% of you replied affirmative. The positive growth categories ranged from +1% to +50%. The greatest positive response grouping was 1% to +10% growth. The “break-even” crowd came in at 27.27%. The “Nabobs of Negativity” forecasting income contraction only amounted to 10.92%. While I’m no Nate Silver who is arguably the world’s best statistician, I can predict positive growth with a 90%+ confidence level in 2016. You can take that to the bank. Hell go out and buy a new car!

Your overall economic sentiment strongly correlated to the income assessment above. An even greater majority (62.44%) weighed in as Moderately Optimistic/Optimistic). The break-even crowd was 23.64% and the pessimist totaled 14.55%. To be clear, economic sentiment is more of an emotional measure.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! 

Studies show that over 70% of “employees” are unhappy at work (Gallup). But “we” in the SMB partner community are exactly the opposite. A whopping 89% of you enjoy your job as a partner, MSP, CSP, VAR, reseller, consultant…whatever the heck you call yourself! I’ve always said that to outside observers. You guys love what you do first and foremost. And as I alluded to in my roadshow article here, you entered this business as a technical professional and you still like to geek out at workshops. Only 11% of you don’t like your work. We know who you are (yes – we’re watching you!).

In my next installment of the annual salary survey, we’ll dig a bit deeper into company and customer size and discover if size really matters.

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1h2016 Roadshow Wrap-up; 2h2016 Coming Soon!

1h2016 Roadshow Wrap-up; 2h2016 Coming Soon!

Whew! That was a long haul. We’ve just completed nine (9) cities in the first six months of 2016 for our Office 365/Windows 10 roadshow across the US. Jenny and Grant did the heavy lifting (THANK YOU!) and the technical content was universally adored. We’d offer that, in the immediate SMB partner community, we are the MOST TECHNICAL workshops in market!

We hosted more one-day workshops in 1h2016 than our two nearest friendly SMB communities combined (ASCII = 4, ChannelPro = 2). Add competitor SMB TechFest (2) and we still win the workshop delegate math LOL! A look back at where we’ve been this first part of the year is: Redmond, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC, Charlotte, LA, SF, Phoenix). Our approval rating consistently exceeds 90% (“awesome” shout out to Grant who is rarely stumped; “Jenny is the best”). Our content morphed over the six months to add Office 365 Security and Azure while diminishing Windows 10 (yes – we listen to your feedback). And our sponsors consistently commented that we are attracting a new crowd, not just the same old tired old guys. I’d also offer its not the same old “High School clique” where all too familiar friends can finish each other’s sentences. We cultivate new faces from new walks of life where new friendship bonds are being forged. Everyone loves a first date!

Your Input Needed
So onward and upward for another nine (9) cities in 2h2016. We want your input on where to go and what content to deliver. Please complete the survey here.

Finally - attending our workshops is a fantastic wayt to start over and reinvent yourself! 

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What happened to SMB Nation?

What happened to SMB Nation?

Recently a friend of SMB Nation asked what’s going on at SMB Nation? The question created an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past few years. And it offered insights that we need to be louder in trumpeting our accomplishments (forgive the pun). 

  • Workshops. We host a workshop every two (2) weeks on average annually. That’s a lot of motion to roll-out approximately 26 events in 12-months. It keeps us busy. Our events average 100-attendees. The topics, typically presented by Grant Thompson are technical first, moneymakers second. Our customers have a high bar about learning something they don’t know (and how can I make money from it). I’ve yet to see Grant stumped so I think we’ve reached that goal. In the second part of the year, you can look for a “Tour de Cloud” workshop tour highlighting Azure and security topics. Anyone up for analytics? Lemme know.
  • Webinars. We host 30+ webinars per year. Backing out holiday weeks and fishing season, it’s a once-a-week cadence. We work closely with our community sponsors to provide insightful content and not just speeds and feeds. It’s a tough conversation to have but we’ll keep pushing for your best interests.
  • Content. I personally write 100+ blogs per year. It’s harder than it looks. Try it sometime.
    Newsletter. We publish 48-editions of the newsletter every year. ‘Nough said.

Here is a Throw Back Thursday (TBT) pic of me in high school. I’m with Charles Wohlforth and we were entrepreneurs. We would both go by Dean Whitter (stock brokerage) and invest in options before school. I imported digital watches into Alaska. Charles had other business endeavors including writing articles.


The times are changing and so are we. We honor the geeks in our workshop and webinars. But increasingly in our digital avenues we are telling a different story about either starting up (something new) or starting over (reinventing yourself). It’s one of those times in our industry. A recent article in the New York Times had the former AT&T chairman commenting that his landline business disappeared in three years – PUFF! Few would deny time are changing. Some critics have commented that SMB Nation has lost its way. We’d prefer to say we’re headed in a new direction. Change is necessarily disturbing. But we take comfort in these comments this week from Jeff Bezos at the Code conference.
"As a public figure, the best defense to speech you don’t like is to develop a thick skin. You can’t stop it. If you’re doing anything interesting in the world, you’re going to have critics. If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting."
- Jeff Bezos

So here’s hoping you’ll pivot with us and lead the parade. See you on the other side!

PS - Here is a partial list of the workshops we delivered over the past few years. I'm not listing closed events (where we acted as a event manager) or our annual Geek Picnic, etc. :) 

2016 Office 365 and Windows 10 Roadshow for MSPs/CSPs/Resellers (1H2016:

  1. Redmond
  2. NY
  3. Atlanta
  4. Chicago
  5. Washington DC
  6. Charlotte
  7. LA
  8. SF
  9. Phoenix
  10. PLUS Additional Nine (9) Cities in 2h2016!

Office 365 Resellers/MSP Tour 2015:

  1. Bellevue
  2. Silicon Valley
  3. LA
  4. NY
  5. Chicago
  6. Dallas
  7. Washington DC
  8. Charlotte

2015 Windows 10 launch events for resellers/MSPs  (5 events):

  1. New York City, New York – June 2nd 2015
  2. Los Angeles, California – June 9th 2015
  3. Redmond, Washington – June 16th 2015
  4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida – June 23rd 2015
  5. Austin TX – June 25th 2015

2014 Worldwide Modern Tour  (24-cities in 23-countries: )

  1. Auckland, New Zealand 3/27/2014
  1. Bangalore, India 6/10/2014
  2. Cape Town, South Africa 5/22/2014
  3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates 5/8/2014
  4. Dublin, Ireland 4/23/2014
  5. Hong Kong, China 3/21/2014
  6. Istanbul, Turkey 5/13/2014
  7. Johannesburg, South Africa 5/20/2014
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 3/17/2014
  9. Madrid, Spain 5/6/2014
  10. Manila, Philippines 3/19/2014
  11. Mexico City, Mexico 4/1/2014
  12. Milan, Italy 6/13/2014
  13. Mississauga, ON, Canada 6/4/2014
  14. Montréal, QC, Canada 6/6/2014
  15. Moscow, Russia 5/22/2014
  16. Prague, Czech Republic 5/21/2014
  17. Reading, United Kingdom 4/1/2014
  18. Sao Paulo, Brazil 3/20/2014
  19. Singapore, Singapore 3/14/2014
  20. Stockholm, Sweden 5/27/2014
  21. Sydney, Australia 3/25/2014
  22. Taipei, Taiwan 4/29/2014
  23. Warsaw, Poland 6/4/2014

2013 Windows XP EOL “Million Mile" Tour (44-workshops in 22 cities)

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