THE ORANGE BLOG

Thoughtful Thursday: Practicing Slowness & Being Present

In our rush to get through the tasks of our day, to complete our errands and answer emails, to look at the next video or Facebook post … when do we think we’ll find happiness?

If it’s not here right now, when will it come?

Maybe we think it’ll come when we improve our lives, or meet our goals, or succeed at our business. Maybe it’ll come when we go on that next trip, or when we find time to relax. Maybe tomorrow.

Or we could try this:

  • Slow down instead of rushing.
  • Pause to savor the current moment.
  • Really notice everything about the moment, and find small things to appreciate.
  • Be grateful for what there is right here, right now.
  • Allow the things that are bothering you to just be in your life, without fighting with them, without pushing them away.
  • Don’t allow little things to offend you. They’re not worth ruining this moment.

These are all things we already know. But we don’t actually do them. The key here is practice.

If you don’t practice being present, slowing down, enjoying the moment right now, when will you practice? What are you practicing now instead?

Start your practice this moment.

‘When you live completely in each moment, without expecting anything, you have no idea of time.’ ~Shunryu Suzuki

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[LIVE WEBINAR] “How Forward-Thinking MSPs Are Using LinkedIn To Keep Their Sales Pipeline Full”

FREE Executive Webinar for MSP Owners, Marketing Managers
and MSP Sales

 

“How Forward-Thinking MSPs Are Using LinkedIn To Keep Their Sales Pipeline Full”

WHEN: Thursday, November 19 at 1:00PM EST

SEATING IS EXTREMEMLY LIMITED!  CLAIM YOUR SEAT TODAY!!

Here are the full details and registration: http://linkedinformsps.com/linkedin-for-msps-webinar/

During this event I’ll be covering important new information on what you need to know about how to maximize LinkedIn, as well as:

  1. How to develop a LinkedIn OIL WELL
    Learn how busy MSPs like yours can create a SYSTEMATIC approach to convert cold prospects into warm leads.
  2. The Exact Script
    I’ll be giving away the exact script that you can use to achieve a 70% hit rate even with the most high-level decision makers.
  3. Getting Targeted Referrals
    step-by-step strategy for getting targeted referrals and how effective it is at opening conversations with potential clients.
  4. Staying Top Of Mind
    How to stay TOP OF MIND with the most influential people in your network for years to come. When they need IT expertise, you’re the ONLY one they think of.

If you want to make sure you have a LinkedIn strategy as part of your 2016 marketing plan, you need to be here:

http://linkedinformsps.com/linkedin-for-msps-webinar/

This event is free to you, but you must register
soon because seating is limited.

SEATING IS EXTREMEMLY LIMITED!  CLAIM YOUR SEAT TODAY!!

Here are the full details and registration:
http://linkedinformsps.com/linkedin-for-msps-webinar/

Hope to “see” you there.

Andrew Moon
Orange Nomad | LinkedIn For MSPs

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[WARNING] In case you missed it last week: Here’s the story of my wild ride as an MSP

Last week I had a chance to chat with Joe Panettieri, Co-founder, Content Czar at ChannelE2E.  He’s covered the #MSP channel for quite some time.  We’ve recently connected via social media.  He had heard about my wild ride in IT for the past 20 years.  Telling my story to someone outside my family was quite therapeutic.  I hope there is something fellow MSPs, entrepreneurs, or anyone who wants to learn a little bit about the people behind their IT can take away from my story.  I welcome comments, feedback and snide remarks 😉  Enjoy!

Story originally posted at: https://www.channele2e.com/2015/10/30/after-the-exit-one-msps-wild-ride/

——————————————————————–

After The Exit: One MSPs Wild Ride

Andrew Moon has faced major adversity at least three times. The long-time entrepreneur and IT service provider navigated the dot-com bubble of 2000, the financial crisis of 2008 and his own health scare about a year ago. So what did he learn along the way? Perhaps most of all: It was time to get to know his son.

Moon’s IT journey began in the late 1990s. A veteran of the car industry, he built an IT service provider that rode the dot-com wave — until his dot-com customers all imploded within three months of each other in 2000 or so. Suddenly, “there were no clients, there was no revenue,” says Moon.

He retreated to the car industry but by 2004 Moon and his wife had a son. The 70- to 80-hour work week in the car industry wasn’t conducive to family life. So he regrouped and did a personal pivot. Again. Back into the IT industry and a reboot for his Network Logix business.

Starting with Manage Services

For about six to eight months in 2004 and 2005, Moon experimented with flat-rate services pricing. It was the early days of managed services. He reached back into the 1990s, and tried to apply some classic software like PC Anywhere to the emerging MSP model of 2005. But it wasn’t really a fit. He also dabbled with RMM (remote monitoring and management) and PSA (professional services automation) tools. Through trial and error and research, Moon discovered Autotask’splatform by mid-2005. “I was done tracking things manually,” said Moon. “It was a key turning point for me.”

The next inflection point or pivot arrived around 2008. The Wall Street financial and housing crisis was just starting to spill over into Main Street, U.S.A. The good news: Moon wasn’t losing any customers. The bad news: He wasn’t gaining any, either.

That’s when Moon discovered Robin Robins and her Technology Marketing Toolkit. The toolkit helped Moon to refine his marketing messages into a specific niche — apartment associations in and around Network Logix’s target region of Ohio. Moon already had a few customers in the multi-family housing industry. He started showing up at related events, learning the industry pain points, and speaking at gatherings. The typical result: Three inbound calls for help, with a 66 percent conversion rate into paying customers.

The Exit and the Pivot

By 2013 or so, Moon couldn’t keep up with his business momentum. Network Logix was a micro business by design — leaning heavily on outsourcing many tasks to contractors. It was time for another inflection point and pivot.

Fortunately, Moon had options. Peer IT service providers within the Robin Robins network had expressed interest in his business. There were also local options. One of them turned into an M&A deal. In June of 2014, System Care Inc. acquired Network Logix, and Moon joined the new ownership.

But then came the next inflection point. It was late 2014, and some health problems cropped up. At the same time, Moon’s son was growing up fast — now around age 10. By December 2014, Moon exited the business and concentrated on his health and family.

Fast forward to the present and Moon is back on his feet. Through his latest company (Orange Nomad), Moon works behind the scenes — helping peer MSPs with sales, marketing and other strategic tasks.

Looking Back and Ahead

The takeaways? There are plenty. For starters, macro-economic forces (a dot-com implosion, a Wall Street financial crisis) can emerge at any hour. And manual tasks will kill you. Even if you manage to automate much of your business, time doesn’t stop at home while you’re away at work. And at some point, your body will reject a tireless work ethic.

Moon learned that and more over the past 20 years. But he’s sounding healthy these days. And the Orange Nomad is once again on the move — helping some key MSPs to avoid the life-work mistakes he’s made along the way.

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lesson 7 run it to sell it

7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 7: Run It Like You’re Going To Sell IT

When you are starting a business as an entrepreneur, you don’t really give a whole lot of thought to your exit strategy, let alone selling your business.  You are too excited with the challenge of building a great company.  You’re finally living the dream!

Your new company becomes your child in a sense.  And, let’s face it, you typically spend every waking hour taking care of it.  (If you’re like me, you dream about it too. It’s 24/7.) You forgo sleep whether intended or not.  But, you know that all the sacrifices will be worth it.

When your child is born, you don’t immediately start thinking about the day he/she moves out.  However, when you start a business, you need to plan your exit strategy from the very beginning.  Let’s face reality here.  Most of us won’t have an IPO in our future.  The more likely scenario is a sale or merger.

2004 was a year I had two “kids”.  My son was born in May, and Network Logix was reborn in September that year.  So, for me, the “child” metaphor takes on double meaning as I write this post.

Your child soon learns to walk and then to run.  It falls down and gets banged up.  Welcome to life kid.  Your “child” goes through all of life’s growing pains, and you continue to worry 24/7 like a normal “parent”.  But, you know that all the time, effort and energy will be worth it.

Soon the day comes for your kid to leave home.  In this case, the day came for me to sell my business.  That day came on June 30, 2014.

This was a bittersweet day for me.  Every waking (and sleeping) moment over the last 10 years spent thinking about my IT company had finally come to end.  It was an extremely emotional time.  But, I didn’t have much time to think about it.  I now had more work to do in order to make the transition smooth for our clients.  No rest for the weary!

As I’ve done with the other 6 posts in this series, I’d briefly like to share what I learned.  It is my hope that this information can help at least one person learn from the good and to avoid some of the pitfalls I found along the way.

My Takeaways From Selling My Business

They say that, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”  I agree with that for the most part.  Things that you learn after the fact should have been obvious all along, yet they are not always apparent when you are in the heat of the moment.  Here are the top 3 things I learned from going through the process of selling the business.

  1. Build your valuation early.  This is always the sticky part of getting a deal done.  What is your company really worth?  The short answer; your company is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  The core “Asset” of an MSP (Managed Service Provider) is the quality of MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) and client relationships.  Fortunately, we started as a pure-play MSP in 2004, and MRR was built in from the beginning.  We did very little break-fix work, and most of our clients were with us for nearly the whole decade.  Having Raving Fans is a huge asset.
  2. Have your books and records in order.  I’m not an accountant, nor do I pretend to be one.  (I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night)  All revenue and expenses should be clearly broken out by service type.  Solid, long-term agreements with clients proves very helpful.  Make sure they are assignable too.  Non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements with employees are also key.
  3. Hire A Broker.  When it’s time to sell, find a business broker to help you.  (I’m throwing this in as a hindsight lesson.)  Having a professional broker will help eliminate any personal feelings and miscommunications, and reserve it for what it is, a business transaction.  Selling your business is an emotional thing.  Remember, it’s your baby.  Emotion can cloud your judgement, so let a broker do his thing.

If you base success on a single event as an entrepreneur, you will be disappointed.  As I look back, I have found that the most joy I derive from the last 10 years has been the journey.  The journey of building, creating, learning.  It was a wild ride, and I still have a few war wounds, but it was worth it.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  If you found it useful, please share with a friend or colleague.  Until next time….

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7_Lessons_I_Learned_from_My_IT_Business eFolder

[Webinar] eFolder Partner Chat: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I’m excited and honored to be a guest with one of my favorite partners, eFolder.  Please join me Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 2:00PM EST where I’ll be giving away all the things I learned from building, growing and eventually selling my MSP practice.  Register here: http://www2.efolder.net/7LessonsILearnedFromMyITBusiness

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Focus on your top clients

7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 6: Focus All Your Attention on your TOP clients

One would think this lesson should be a given.  There should be no need to write about.  It should be a no-brainer. Take care of my TOP clients.  Duh!  Unfortunately, this was not the reality at times for me, or for most IT providers or entrepreneurs.  Let me explain.

“The customer is always right.”  We’ve all heard this expression.  This is one of the biggest fallacies in business.  Think about it for a minute.  What would that actually mean for you if it were true?  If the customer (i.e. everyone who wants to do business with you) is always right, how can you possibly serve them all well?  You might be able to keep some of them happy, but when you try to cater to everyone, you just end up being stretched too thin.  I speak from experience here.  I exhausted myself trying to keep everyone happy.  I ended up making mistakes and letting people down.   No matter how good my intentions were, no matter how determined to make good on my promises, I was overextended at times.  Overextended entrepreneurs inevitably drop the ball.  This was unacceptable for me and my clients.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose any of my top clients, but it served as a wake-up call for me.

Back in Lesson 3, I mentioned the Pumpkin Plan book by Mike Michalowicz.  (If you haven’t picked it up, I highly recommend it.)  In Chapter 7 of the book, “Play Favorites and Break Rules”, Mike wrote that playing favorites is simply good business, and is mandatory for your success.  “Your mission is to keep your top clients so happy you obliterate the possibility that they would ever leave you for the competition.”  That’s exactly what I wanted, and I think that’s how we all feel.

You probably have a few favorite clients, the people you’re always glad to see and hear from, the businesses you’ll bend over backwards to help because you actually like them, and want to do a good job for them.  (Go figure)  I did too.  I had clients that I would go to the ends of the earth for.  It didn’t matter what time of day, or day of the week, I was on it.  They always went to the front of the line.

As entrepreneurs, we want to be nice people.  Sometimes we are too nice at our own expense.  We feel guilty giving preferential treatment.  My parents taught me to play fair.  Let’s get real.  Life isn’t fair.  That’s part of the reason you’re an entrepreneur.  You get to make the rules.

Playing favorites is nothing to feel guilty about.  (I can say that with straight face because I was my dad’s favorite out of six kids.  Love you pop!)  Playing favorites is a winning strategy because your top clients are your favorite clients, and they need special treatment.  How else are they going to feel special?

At times however, I found that some rotten clients were eating up the needed time and energy to focus on our top clients.  I needed to fix that.

After going through the process of defining our Rules of Engagement (Mike calls them Immutable Laws) and completing the Assessment Chart, I now had a pretty good idea of who our top clients were, and what they had in common.  I went through the process of Firing the Rotten Clients, and only our TOP clients remained.  Phew!

Next the fun started!  I now began to focus on taking care of the clients that made getting up in the morning pure joy.  I now had a different approach for our top clients.  We pushed them to the front of the line whenever they put in a service request.  It was kind of like the wristband you pay extra for at Kings Island or Cedar Point to go to the front of the line.  (Yeah, I loathe those people too when I’m standing in the 95 degree heat because I’m too cheap to pay the extra money.)  I was always looking for new and better ways to serve them.  I accommodated their special requests, and even made trips to the cell phone store so they wouldn’t have to.  Most importantly, I always went out of my way to help them grow their business.  I wanted to discover all the right things I could do for them so that I was significantly better than my competition could dream of being.

In the process of doing these things, I found that our top clients were a lot alike.  And, because they shared many of our Rules of Engagement, they were a lot like us.  It actually became easier to serve them.  I knew that I wanted more clients just like them so I could keep growing our top-client list, and that’s precisely what I did.  I stopped taking clients that didn’t fit our business, and focused all my time, effort and energy on our TOP clients.

“The customer is NOT always right, but…

The right customer IS always right.”  Thanks Mike!

It doesn’t take much more effort to have all your clients see you as their world-class de facto provider, and have raving fans for life.  I’d like to think I did something right over 10 years of running my IT business as most of our clients were with us nearly the whole decade.  That’s nearly unheard of in the IT industry.

You don’t need to create elaborate plans to take care of your top clients.  You simply need to be a little bit better, a little bit more helpful, and little bit more creative at solving their problems.  You need to be willing to do the things that others can’t or won’t do.  Don’t get stuck, just get started.

I’ll leave you with one final thought from Jim Rohn: “One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.”  Everyone thinks they need more clients, and they spend an inordinate amount of money to get new ones.  From what I’ve seen, the secret to long-term success is taking good care of the TOP clients you already have, and clone them.

My final lesson in this series #7: Run It Like You\’re Going To Sell It is coming up next week. I’ll be sharing a few tips I learned from the actual sale of my business.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  If you found it useful, please share with a friend or colleague.  Until next time….

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7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 5: Document and Systematize All Processes

If you were to talk to any CEO/entrepreneur/manager/Executive that has been able to scale his or her business, most of them will tell you the secret of their success in one word: consistency.  Nothing can be fine-tuned until it’s first consistent.  How do you become consistent?  Process.  How do you develop processes?  Document and systematize everything.  Boooring!  I know, this isn’t a sexy topic at all.  But, stay with me.

I was recently interviewed on this subject by my friend Mike Michalowicz for his Profit First Podcast: Click Here or listen below.

In my last post, Ruthless Productivity, I talked about the daily game of Whac-A-Mole that was daily life for me for too long.  If you are worn out and completely exhausted from running your business, please keep reading.  If you are even mildly frustrated, please keep reading.

In the beginning, I was like most other small IT providers.  I was a one-man-band doing everything.  Sales, marketing, support, project management, etc., etc.  I had a ‘way’ of doing things.  I had everything documented… in my head.  Bad idea!   I realized that, as I tried to grow, I had to pass along the knowledge of how to do things to others.  Otherwise, I would be stuck doing everything forever.  If you haven’t figured it out, you can’t do everything and grow.  So, stop trying. It’s pretty difficult to share everything in your head.  (My head is a scary place.  My wife can attest to this.)

In 2009, I attended a workshop at Sparkspace, an offsite retreat center here in Columbus, owned by my friend Mark Henson.  (This place is awesome by the way.  If you are ever in Columbus, you have to check it out!)  I was introduced to EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System).  Being an IT company, I worked with Operating Systems on computers all day, so I was naturally intrigued by an Operating System for my business.  I immediately bought the book where this concept originated, Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.

When I got to Chapter 7, The Process Component, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  (I was hoping it wasn’t the headlight of an oncoming train.)  “This component is the most neglected one, often taken for granted and undervalued by entrepreneurs and leaders. Yet the successful ones see what process can do for them.  By not giving this component your full attention, it’s costing you money, time, efficiency, and control.”  Like most type A personalities, I’m a control freak.  How about you?  If you are reading this, I’ll bet you are.

I was like countless business owners that complain about their lack of control or freedom, and yet, in the same breath, discount the value of process.  I was determined to change this.

A typical organization operates through six to 10 core processes.  How these processes work together is a unique system, your “Way”.  To systematize your organization through your core processes, you must take two major steps.

  1. You have to document the core processes
  2. You have to ensure that they are followed by all

I know what you are thinking right now.  “How the hell am I going to get all this done?  I just don’t have time.”  That’s exactly what I was thinking too.  But, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. (No, I’m not recommending you go kill a real elephant.  I don’t want to be accused of that.)

Don’t try to tackle them all at the same time.  Paralysis by analysis will set in quickly, and you’ll end up doing nothing.

Start with ONE process, then move on to the next.  This will take time and effort, so buckle your chin strap.  Nothing great comes easy.

I started with Sales.  (Big surprise since I like sales.)  I broke down how I wanted the Sales Process to go, and documented it on paper.  I then input this process as a Track in ConnectWise, our PSA tool.  (Geek for Customer Management System)  I now had a documented, repeatable process.  This led to consistent sales.  Remember the opening paragraph.  “Nothing can be fine-tuned until it’s first consistent.  How do you become consistent?  Process.”  (Yes, another light bulb moment for me.)

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I did this perfectly.  That would be a bold faced lie.  It was a struggle to put it mildly.  However, I never stopped working at it.  By strengthening the process component, I was able to gain more control.  By taking control, I learned to get better.  That’s what we all want, right?

Thanks for staying with me on this one.  There is way more on this topic for sure. Lesson 6 will cover Focus All Your Attention on your TOP clients.  I’ll give away how I created Raving Fans and had most of my clients for nearly a decade, which is kind of unheard of in the IT industry.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  If you found it useful, please share with a friend or colleague.  Until next time….

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lesson 4 ruthless productivity

7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 4: Ruthless Productivity

Being an entrepreneur can be a challenge to put it mildly.  The odds of survival are stacked against us before we even start the day.  Yet we press on undaunted.  In most cases we wear many different hats throughout the course of a single day.  The challenge is how to get it all done without losing our minds.  The word productivity seems to be an oxymoron.

Over the course of running my IT business for 10 years, that challenge was amplified by the speed at which our digital world changed.  Back in 2004 the iPhone hadn’t been invented, and we weren’t walking around with the Internet in our pocket.  There has never before been an age in which we could get so much done so quickly.  There also has never before been an age in we are so overwhelmed and exhausted with information and tasks, so bombarded with emails and things to read and watch, so stressed by the intense demands of daily life.

For many people these days, work is a constant stream of emails, of phone calls and instant messages, of Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Pinterest/SnapChat/[insert new social media distraction] updates and connection requests.  The day starts with an Inbox full of emails, and ends with an Inbox just as full, and each email is a request for information or actions that we don’t have time to fulfill.

Just because I ran an IT company didn’t mean I was immune to the same crushing stress.  If anything, hyper-connectedness was amplified due to the fact that I also had to manage our client’s incessant need to be hyper-connected as well.  (All’s fun and games until someone loses Internet or Facebook goes down)

There were many days I felt like I was playing Whac-A-Mole.  Remember that game?  I remember the first time I played it.  I was 10 years old.  (Ahh, to be a kid again)  I was at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.  It was awesome!  Beating the crap of those little moles as they popped up…YES!  However, even at 10 years old, I got tired fairly quick.  But hey, it was fun!

Day in, day out playing Whac-A-Mole got really old really fast in my business life. (Not so fun) I really struggled to get everything done each day.  So, I started working more hours.  12, 16, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I figured eventually I’d be able to get caught up.  “Just work harder”, I told myself.  Unfortunately, this strategy is not sustainable, and after a couple years of this, I nearly found out the hard way.  I was writing checks my body couldn’t cash.  (Top Gun anyone?)  If I didn’t change, I would end up flying cargo planes full of rubber dog crap out of Hong Kong. Or, worse yet, I’d end up being fertilizer.  I wasn’t happy with the thought of either.

I venture to say, that some of you reading this can relate.  In order to get control, I learned to be ruthless with my time and energy.  I’m not perfect at it, but I’m at least aware of how I spend my energy.  So, I’d like to give you a few secrets that I used to get control of things before it was too late.

Here are my Top 3 Ruthless Productivity Tips:

  1. Compile a list of 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs), and do these FIRST.  Each day, start with the 3 most important things that you need to do to bring you closer to your goals, and do these FIRST.  Don’t check email, Facebook or whatever else you are wasting time on in the morning.  (You know what I’m talking about)
  2. Put a stop to interruptions.  Turn off all notifications on every device you own, and leave them OFF.  Notifications are the noises/buzzing and little red bubble icons on your phone.  If you don’t know they are there, you won’t be tempted to check them every five seconds.  Your desktop, your iPhone, your iPad, your laptop.  Everything.  Turn off email, Facebook, Twitter, instant messages, text messages, and whatever else could serve as an interruption to your productivity.  You’ll find that this is quite liberating after you go through initial withdrawal. (Checking these notifications is like a crack addiction whether we admit it or not)
  3. Batch process.   Process all the smaller tasks you need to complete each day.  Phone calls, emails, errands, paperwork, meetings, social media, research etc.  I typically try to do these at 11AM and 4PM.  This schedule might not work for you, so figure out what does work for you.

Being productive is key to growing and managing your company as an entrepreneur.  You only have a limited amount of time and energy.  The #1 pitfall to being productive is interruption.  There are many reasons for these interruptions, and almost none of them have to do with necessity!

I could probably write a book on all the lessons learned on this subject alone.  (Hmm, maybe I will)  At minimum, I think there might be a workshop on this.  Let me know if you might be interested.

If you want to read a good book, I recommend “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta.  It’s an easy read with many actionable things you can do right now to get control.

Lesson 5 will cover Document and Systematize all Processes.  This isn’t a sexy topic. Everyone knows they need to do it, however, this is one that most entrepreneurs have the hardest time with.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  Until next time….

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lesson 3 fire rotten clients

7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 3: Fire Rotten Clients

If you’ve read my first 2 lessons (Lesson 1: Find a Niche, Lesson 2: Sell, sell, sell), you are probably asking yourself, “Why would I fire clients that I’ve worked so hard to get?  Isn’t getting rid of  clients counterintuitive to growth?”  At first glance, these questions would seem justifiable.  However, let me explain before you send over the guys with the straight jackets.  (I already have a padded room.  It’s Orange of course.)

In July of 2013, I was in Nashville attending a quarterly mastermind training.  One of the presenters was there to talk about his book, “The Pumpkin Plan.”  (Pumpkin…Orange… I was naturally intrigued.)  His name is Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-‘kal-o-wits).  During his presentation, I learned that, in order to grow my business, I had to “Assess The Vine” (my clients), and do some pruning.  Pruning meant I had to fire rotten clients.  I thought the same thing you are right now, “ This guy is nuts!  There’s no way I’m getting rid of clients.  I need every dollar I bring in.”  After I stopped hyperventilating, I began to really think about this concept.

Up to this point, I was operating under the mindset that quantity is what I need in order to grow.  I already had a documented sales process, and knew how to sell.  Getting more clients was the answer, right?  Nope.  I had to shift my mindset away from the quantity game, and stop killing myself for scraps.

We had a few clients that literally made my blood boil every time they would call or send in a support request.  You know the ones.  The ones that don’t really respect what you do, rarely take your advice, and then want to haggle over pennies every time you present a solution to help them grow their business or upgrade their 10 year-old Windows XP computers.  The ones that send text messages on Sunday morning because they can’t get on Facebook.  The ones that you’ve done a ton of extra work for and never billed them.  The list goes on and on.  99.9% of the time, these are the same folks that you made concessions on your initial recommendation just to get their business.  A win is a win, right?  Oh how wrong I was!

Mike’s presentation literally changed everything for me that day.  The second half of his presentation involved evaluating all of our clients by completing an Assessment Chart where we graded our clients on a variety of areas.  By the way, the clients that bring in the most $$ aren’t always your best clients.   I quickly figured out who our best clients were, and who had to go.

I could not grow my business until I pruned the vine.  Every time I said Yes to these rotten clients, I would being saying No to the good ones, or worse yet, saying No to better new clients.  This became my mission for the next few months following Mike’s presentation.  Fortunately I only had a couple to prune. It was a difficult process, but I can honestly say that once the vine was cleared of these rotten clients, my life improved dramatically.  I no longer had to dread calls, texts or emails from people who just didn’t respect me or my profession.  I could now focus all my time, effort and energy on the clients that I loved.  The ones that were an absolute joy to work with.  The ones that I wanted more of.  (Look for more on this topic in Lesson 6)  Phew!

Here are my brief takeaways on this:

  • Bad, rotten clients distract you, drain your resources and cost you money.  (Please re-read that last sentence)
  • You’re much better off having no clients than bad clients.
  • More is not better, better is better.

The Pumpkin Plan is an awesome book.  There is obviously a lot more to this process than what I’ve outlined in this post.  The book gives you much more detail on the process as well as many other strategies for growing your business.  I would definitely recommend picking up a copy.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

Mike has since become a friend of mine, and his advice allowed me to sell my IT business last year.  He has two other books, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and Profit First.  You should really check them out.  Just my humble 2 cents. (Full disclosure: I don’t make a dime for recommending these books.)

Lesson 4 will cover what I call, Ruthless Productivity.  I’ll be giving away my secrets and tips for getting the most done with the fewest resources possible.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  Until next time….

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7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 2: Sell, sell, sell

In my last post I covered  Lesson 1: Find a Niche and OWN it!  Today I cover the second thing I learned along the 10 years of running my last IT business.

Lesson 2: Sell, sell, sell

For most people, selling is a dirty word.  Most folks associate selling with being coerced or talked into buying something they don’t need or want.  (Think used car salesman)  I can see why many feel this way.  There are a lot of sleazy, incompetent salespeople out there.  Some make you want to take a shower after the encounter.  Most salespeople are never trained properly, and most companies view them as a necessary evil.  The hiring qualifications for sales people in most companies is a person’s ability to fog a mirror.  Yet sales is the life blood of any business.  Do you see the conundrum?

I’ve pretty much been in sales since age 8 when I started my first business with my older brother and 2 cousins.  I don’t think selling is a dirty word at all.  If nothing gets sold, there is nothing to service.  Nothing happens until something gets sold.  To me, selling is providing a solution to someone’s problem at a fair price for both the client and for our company.  No “coercion” is needed if both parties find the solution and price to be acceptable.

One of the biggest lessons I learned about selling while running my IT company was this: We were a sales organization first.  I learned this from being part of a Mastermind Group of fellow IT providers from around the globe.  My business coach, Robin Robins, taught us this during one of the first quarterly training trips to Nashville. That stuck with me.  It completely changed how I operated on a daily basis.  We were no longer an “IT Company”. We were a Sales Organization.  It was my job to “sell” an IT solution to our target markets. I provided a solution to a small business’s big, hairy problem…providing competent IT support at a fair, flat-rate, predictable price.  Both of us agree to the service level and pricing.  Done deal.  This is sales.  Simple.

However, I quickly learned that scaling the business would be extremely difficult without a documented, repeatable sales process.  This was yet another lesson regarding sales.  Just “winging it” wouldn’t work.  I wouldn’t be able to get consistent results if the process was different each time.  I documented the complete process in our Professional Service Automation (PSA) software, Connectwise.  (fancy acronym for CRM software for IT providers)  I was quickly amazed at how fluid the sales process went from that point forward.  I knew exactly how the process would go from the time the lead came in to the time the sales was closed.    It was now easier to get consistent results.  Hmm.  [Picture light bulb going off over my head]

I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs say, “I’m just not that good at selling”, or “I really don’t like sales”.  Guess what? You will never be successful if you keep telling yourself that.  Every entrepreneur must develop this important skill.  If you’re not that good at it, get better.  There are plenty of resources available.  Join a mastermind group.  Get a business coach.  Take a class.  Become a student of selling.

Selling is not a dirty word.  Zig Ziglar said it best, “Selling is the transfer of feelings.”  If you believe with all your heart in the solution you provide, you must learn how to sell it.  I will get off my soap box now.  (If you couldn’t tell, I am very passionate about this subject.)

I warmly welcome any feedback in the comments below. Stayed tuned for Lesson 3: Fire Rotten Clients next time.

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