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Nearly all of those who attended today’s seminar in Richmond received complementary assessments through Sklar, the sponsoring reseller, along with Continuum (the company who recently acquired part of the Zenith Infotech managed services company). Just before speaking I had the opportunity to review some of the latest security trends – many of these are highly relevant to small/medium business owners.  A few sound bites that made their way into my keynote:

  • 760 iBahn customers (companies in including Marriott) have been compromised through the iBahn network…
  • Hotel hotspots are under fire using a sort of “Man in the Middle” attack that install bots on one’s computer – this would also apply to any hotspot including those free networks at Panera and Starbucks.
  • An alarming number of Android apps containing bots
  • Unsecured smart phones
  • Recent hacker activity developing between China and the Philippines (This will be interesting to watch as pressures grow).

Also, consider the number of recent reports coming out of China, alerting us to efforts to steal US intellectual capital!  This should cause every business owner to feel a sense of urgency, to make sure their company secrets, new inventions, and business strategies are kept in a safe place.  The biggest issue I see as I visit different cities is simply that business leaders are unaware of how urgent these threats are, and are assuming they are safe when they don’t see evidence of cyber attacks on their own computers.  The best attacks are stealth – company leaders need to know this, while consulting companies must develop the tools and skills to accurately assess security risk.

© 2012, David Stelzl

Entering Richmond

It would seem that security people tend to gravitate to the sophisticated attacks; attacks that use clever technology, exploit some esoteric feature that was designed for ease of use but can now be used against the user…but more often than not, people are losing on the easy things.

More than half of the lost data reported by SC Magazine over the past year seems to be on portable media.  Media that could have been encrypted, but just isn’t – like an iPhone that stores as much data as many small computers.  Then there’s security settings in Facebook that lead to leaked information, while also opening doors to web-threats as knowledge workers inadvertently download malware along with apps built for their social media habits.  Backups that run nightly, but never get tested, or as we saw in a recent assessment, a server backing up to itself (almost funny isn’t it?).

The list goes on: Wireless networks that are open, people gmailing data to their home computers (sensitive data) in cleartext, only to find that their kids have that system connected to all kinds of stuff through peer-to-peer networks.  Emailing confidential information at work without encryption, no controls to stop data leakage or access to websites that may be infected with spyware…most of these things are easy to spot, it’s just that business people are out doing business, and don’t take the time to lock down systems that are by design, open and easy to use – thus easy to corrupt.

All of this leads to a simple yet compelling relationship between the business owner and the IT consulting firm.  The owner must be able to focus on his business, the business probably can’t afford to hire people who really understand security (unless they are larger organizations), and the need for a more serious detection based security strategy continues to mount.  It’s a win-win arrangement between you, the provider, and just about every business out there.  The key to moving forward is having a strong education program to help business leaders understand the issue, then following that up with a simple but effective assessment process, with a solid offering to address the most common urgent issues.

Thanks to Zenith Infotech for sponsoring a large part of today’s executive briefing in Richmond!

© 2011, David Stelzl

© 2011, David Stelzl

We had snow in North Carolina!

Here’s another example of losing big, this time on scheduling with managed services or staffing.

The client asks to have someone on site full time.  This is a great deal as it represents recurring revenue.  They can’t afford a full time IT person (or perhaps project team member), so they contract with you to have the person three days each week.  The obvious way to make this work is to have that person show up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for eight hours each day.  You agree on a rate and begin work.

In this case, the sales person wins; at least short term.  The rate is $120 per hour, with a burden of $75.  This leaves $45 per hour in gross profit, on which the sales rep will be paid.  There are 24 hours billed each week, or just under 100 per month.

On the back end, Technical Services is stuck with a contract that takes their engineer on site three days per week, or 24 out of 40 hours per week.  This leaves 16 hours of unused time, which can only be used on Tuesday’s and Thursdays.  What are the chances that someone will sell a contract using that same person only on Tuesday and  Thursday?  From my experience, not very good.  The engineer’s utilization rate is now at 60%, or just over break-even.  I’m sure some work will come in, but not enough to get these numbers where they need to be.  Take vacation, sick time, and training time out of this person’s year and you will be at or below break-even before you know it.  Even if they do manage to pull in a few dollars over break-even, it’s not a good deal for the company and won’t make up for falling margins on product sales.  The goal of managed services and staffing is not to break-even, but to produce stronger profits to make up for the downward trends on product margins.

A final note:  If this same contract is sold for two days each week, say, Tuesday and Thursday, the loss is much greater.  Never take such a deal!

© 2010, David Stelzl

Listen in as Randy Sklar, president of Sklar Technology Partners and recent present of his regional VTN chapter interviews me – this clip was made specifically as a follow up to a very successful, decision maker level, educational seminar.  The event received strong sponsorship from companies such as Zenith Infotech – one of the only managed services companies I know of that financially supports this type of event.

© David Stelzl, 2010

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Social networking is a great marketing tool; no doubt.  Marketing events are equally as good…both require precise execution.  Tomorrow I’ll be speaking to 40 decision makers in Richmond VA.  These are largely new prospects – how did we get this audience and what will make tomorrow a success?

  1. Practice!  The sponsoring company and I have done this seven times in the past two and half years.  They’ve been coached on the process, practiced it, and know how to execute.  Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, underscores this point – get a process that works and perfect it.  Trying things once and moving from method to method is destined to fail.
  2. Provide valuable information to your prospects.  Product pitches are cheap, and most lunch and learns are just that…a free lunch if you’ll sit with us for an hour and listen to a product pitch.  No one likes to tour time-shares with a free night stay, and no one wants to hear about your product.  This goes for both manufacturers and resellers.  I will not mention product tomorrow…not even once.
  3. Sponsorship.  This event will be professional, held in an upscale establishment, and has been well orchestrated from it’s inception.  We plan to succeed in turning attendees into clients, so we’ve made the proper investment.  This requires marketing funds (JMF, MOU, Co-op, or whatever your partners call their marketing support money) and support from distributors and manufactures/partners.  If you’re partners don’t help with these types of events, consider eliminating the partner.   Note: Zenith Infotech is a primary sponsor of this event and to my knowledge, they are the only managed services company with marketing support dollars (correct me if I’m wrong).
  4. We have an effective follow up program that actually delivers value to the client regardless of whether they buy anything. Because there’s value, we’ll end up building relationships with most of them. Some will have immediate needs, others will return when the need arises.
  5. This event is invite only.  It’s been specifically designed to deliver value to higher level managers and business owners.  It won’t be about technology, speeds and feeds, or t-shirt give-aways.  Our topic is educational and offers value to those who have responsibility over the success of the business.

Old school marketing programs are out – people want education, knowledge, and understanding.  Success means making wise decisions in the coming months and quarters, and that means they need sound advice.  Be the best one to give it and you’ll find the relationships will come.

© David Stelzl, 2010

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