Earlier this week, we were contacted by a prospective client who wanted us to check out their relatively new SBS install and make sure that everything was up to snuff, and get Exchange working. Now, when Steve relayed to me that we needed to get Exchange working, that bothered me – because this was supposed to me a Dell OEM install – and even after the infamous 15 minute install, Exchange works. I feared that the box had been set up entirely wrong by someone who didn’t know what they were doing . . . and I’ve been doing more and more of these type of SBS cleanups lately . . .
So anyway, something new happened to me this morning. Amy & I arrived at the client’s office, and we do our introductions. Tucker (the client), shakes my hand and says that he’s really glad to meet me, as he feels like he knows me already. Mind you, I’ve never met Tucker before – so my initial reaction was ‘Gee, I hope that feeling doesn’t have anything to do with VooDoo dolls & full-moon rituals! ;^) But seriously – he tells me that he found my blog and has been reading it. Yep – this very blog. He’s the very first person I’ve met who has read the blog before I met them. Granted, I know there are many out there that fall into this category, but Tucker was the first . . .
And I want to thank Tucker – not for reading my blog, but for being an informed individual. It turns out that his SBS is actually in very good health – there’s a few scattered errors in the Event Logs, but nothing major by any means. Tucker deserves kudos because he read up enough on SBS to know about it’s wizards and integrated install – so that when the IT Service Provider he was using was trying to install the various SBS components manually, Tucker made them go back and use the wizards . . . If he hadn’t his server and network would be in considerably worse condition. Tucker had the quote of the day – he mentioned another provider who had provided them a bid for a few hosted services as well as remote monitoring of their LAN. Tucker said that they didn’t go with them because from what he’s heard, “[they're] worse than carpenter ants. Once you let them in and they get their VPNs set up, you’ll never be able to get rid of them.“ :^)
And as for Tucker’s Exchange not working? It’s not that it isn’t working – it’s just that they aren’t using it yet :^) One of the first tasks on our To Do list will be to get everyone’s PSTs pulled into Exchange and get them rocking with shared calendars & OWA – then move on to Sharepoint and Remote Web Workplace :^)
What concerns me the most with Tucker’s experience is that it is far from unique, with the exception of the client putting the provider on the right track. And that’s the problem. There are great small biz IT providers out there. They do exist – I know several . . . and I’d like to think we fall into that category. However, there are apparently many providers out there who are far from qualifying for this category – and that is what we need to change.
I think the single most important piece of techno-mis-information that the average small business subscribes to is the concept that cutting-edge technology is for the big guys, and the small guys take the table scraps and piece something together. In reality, the exact opposite is true. Small business is much more agile – the big boys are trying to turn the Titanic, while we’re running around on Jet Skis . . . Also – small businesses have the most to gain from embracing technology and making it work for them. However, small business usually doesn’t have the necessary expertise in-house, and thus require the assistance of an IT Service Provider. The unique challenge for the small business is to find a provider who can become a trusted advisor – a firm that has the necessary business skills to anticipate future needs, analytical skills to evaluate potential solutions, communication skills to relate the pros & cons of each option to the business owner and the technical skills to implement and maintain the solution. In the end, small businesses need and deserve an IT Provider who can align themselves with the organizations needs, and always keep that organizations’ best interests at heart.
The biggest problem facing the small IT shops is a combination of pride & fear. Too many small providers are too proud to ask for help from others. Let’s face it – there’s way too much information out there for us to know it all. If a client has a problem that isn’t your strong point – don’t make the client suffer while you hack and try to figure it out yourself. Finding someone who has the knowledge and experience in the problem area who can help will be much more rewarding in the end – and the customer will be much better served by having their issue resolved as quickly as possible.
The answer here is very simple – focus on doing whatever it takes to meet the customer’s needs. Work to give them every advantage possible, and always keep their best interest at heart. Only once we all start doing this will we be able to finally break down the misconceptions of our industry and be able to truly help our small business clients excel and succeed beyond their wildest dreams!
And thanks again Tucker – this time for reminding me why I love this business – there’s nothing better than being able to truly help a small business by taking their percieved IT liability and make it an undeniable IT asset . . .