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Keeping Your SMBs Happy

My last article (Bending the Sharepoint Rules) highlights some of the unique challenges SMB IT providers face. My solution may not have been the proper one, but it was the best solution for the client, and it’s working beautifully, by the way. Disclaimer: I would never compromise on the security of a client’s data and I would recommend the proper and best practices in those situations. In this case, data loss/integrity were irrelevant.

This client has about 20 internal staff and 100 employees on the floor operating over 2 shifts. They do not have an IT person on-site, nor a champion user to handle IT challenges. It is critical that their systems run automatically and without intervention. They also need simple solutions to their workflow needs that can be easily handled by the users, and a detailed “how-to”. This type of scenario is very common in the SMB world. Working with SMB’s is very different from working in enterprise: it’s never the same. Here are some of my tricks to keep my SMBs running smoothly, and allowing me to work in my jammies all day.

1. Understand their needs

Many SMBs do not know what technologies are available to help them.  Once you understand what they are trying to accomplish you can then suggest a solution that best meets their needs. Focus on what you can do to solve their pain-points and do it simply and within budget.

2. Work within their budget

Times are tight, and even tighter for small businesses. They are trying to build a business,  while paying their employees and bills. It’s tough. Once you understand their needs, make sure your solution stays within their budget. Yes, you may not always be able to install the top of the line hardware, but ensure that what you do install works well and solves their needs, and will meet their needs for an agreed-upon time.

3. Understand best practices may not always be on option

As already mentioned, budgets can be tight in the SMB space, and as IT professionals we understand best practices, but they may not always be an option. Again, come up with a solution that works, but ensure that the client understands the consequences of the decision after you have fully explained all the options and outcomes.

4. Keep it simple

Many SMBs don’t care about the technology; just make it work. That being said, they need the solution to be simple and understandable. For example, virtualization is a great technology, but try to explain it to a small business owner, and they probably don’t understand it, which means they won’t move forward with the project. They need to be able to understand the technology that is being used in their office. It’s important to keep them in the loop and involved in the process. This ensures that the solution is only as complex as they can handle.

5. Provide great how-to’s

Most SMB’s don’t have an IT person on-site, and in most cases, the closest person to IT support is someone who can make pivot tables in Excel. Once you have a solution in place, it’s helpful to document all the steps for the solution. This gives the users power to solve their own issues quickly.

As I have said before, working with SMBs is very rewarding and it’s never the same, but using my tips above, you keep your clients happy and solve their pain-points, while keeping the solution simple and on budget; and you will continue to grow your own SMB.

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