When is 100% uptime not really 100%?

flat-tireIt seems likely that in coming months many businesses will embrace Software As A Service (SaaS). This is where an application (or applications) are accessed via Internet connections and their usage is rented instead of owned.

Many of us already do this with services like Google’s Gmail or Salesforce CRM. We don’t own the software or install it on our computer. Instead we rent the usage and access the program from any Internet connected computer.

Yes, this indeed does look a lot like a return to the old days of IBM Mainframes – except in the old days most of us didn’t put mainframe terminals in our homes so we could work or access the mainframe via an iPhone. Continue reading “When is 100% uptime not really 100%?”

If you’re not offering support plans then your clients are stealing your time

bank robberThe best way to assure that you never make any money on support is to promise  you’ll create a prepaid annual support plan for your clients — some day.

That mythical  “some day” never seems to arrive for most of us.

Because we’re busy putting out other client forest fires. Then for a while the “pay as you go” support works pretty well.  Since you’re busy – no need to worry about changing the way you bill.

Suddenly as the economy ebbs and flows your billable support calls trail off. Clients stop calling. Without incoming phone calls you have no reliable source of income. Yet you still have the expense of paying staff to sit by the phone and wait for calls.

Think of how crazy the pay-as-you-go support model is.

For absolutely no money (unless a client calls) you staff a call center with people who will respond to a client call on a moment’s notice. If you’re not offering a support plan – clients pay you nothing for setting up this support center.

See a problem yet?

Continue reading “If you’re not offering support plans then your clients are stealing your time”

Tips: Now is the time to plan for your busy season – adjust rates and billing practices

planningThe approaching end of the year represents a time when we should all start to come into the busier time of our business.

The last half of the year is traditionally when companies are upgrading their accounting systems or thinking of starting projects that are intended to improve their reporting.

Now is the  time when you should review the rates you’re charging to clients and consider changes – in advance of the busier and hopefully more billable year end. Since all of our costs tend to rise from year to year – it is only fair that your rates should rise as well.

With that in mind, I have several suggestions about billing that have worked exceptionally well for me (aka clients don’t complain or question).

Implement these today and I’d be surprised if you could not start increasing your bottom line $20,000 or more next year.  I’ve implemented these tips myself each of the last several years. I don’t recommend you make a big deal out of it or spend days writing an apologetic letter about how the economy sucks and you’re “forced” to make a “small” adjustment to rates.

Just “man or woman up” and get in there and adjust your billing practices. In this economy there’s no room for bashful billers. Here’s my four tips that will work for you – because they’ve worked for me! Continue reading “Tips: Now is the time to plan for your busy season – adjust rates and billing practices”

Tip: Use Sugarsync to store all your master program CDs

SugarSync-storage-solutionHas this ever happened to you?

After arriving at a client site you find that you’re missing that one CD required to complete a software installation?

In the past I’ve tried creating a master set of CDs and carefully inserted them into a looseleaf binder. The problem? I kept leaving the most important ones behind in the client’s CD tray. Then I’d go to look for it at the next client and the CD that I needed was missing!

I’ve rushed into the office on days that I knew I had to be out on-site with a client and hustled to burn the CD’s that I thought I might need. What I found is this always resulted in the client  having the exact CDs  needed and my early morning dash to the office was for nothing.

Instead I’m going to tell you how you can completely solve the problem of always having every CD at your fingertips without spending any extra time or pre-planning. It’s dirt cheap – and as a plus if a client ever calls to say they can’t find their Crystal Reports Disks (or insert favorite application disk that clients love to lose) – then you can send a copy to the client via your iPhone/BlackBerry or Android device in seconds. Continue reading “Tip: Use Sugarsync to store all your master program CDs”

Not offering support plans to your clients? Here’s two you can use today.

maytag repairmainOne of the best sources of recurring revenues that any consulting firm has is support revenue.

Unfortunately for most firms they interpret recurring revenues as follows:

“We will bill you for technical support only when you call. If you dispute the call as ‘quick’ then we’ll remove the charge because after all you’re a good client. Because we’re bashful about billing we’re only going to charge you in 6 minute increments — and only when you call. Half the time our consultants will forget to bill that 6 minutes because it was ‘ so quick ‘. We’ll fully staff our support department with $80,000 to $100,000 trained consultants who sit idle waiting for your calls. When you decide not to call – you don’t pay a dime.”

See a problem with this? Continue reading “Not offering support plans to your clients? Here’s two you can use today.”

The value of intial consultations and why I charge (and you should too)

free lunch erp consultingOn any given day I receive from 1 to 3 inquiries (today alone I counted 5) from people already using MAS 90 accounting software or thinking of switching. Most start off just like this:

Hello Wayne,

I am looking for someone that can assist a firm that has started a project but has hit a wall with Visual Integrator and generating reports from the MAS database.

Can you please get back to me by email so that we can discuss?

Reading between the lines I can  infer with a decent amount of certainty that the original “Business Partner” sold a package of software with promises that implementing some difficult feature(s) would be “no problem”.

Now it comes time to implement that feature long after the software has been sold. Suddenly that “no problem” is a big problem.

So the consultant (or end user) starts to reach out for suggestions and assistance on how to actually make the software work.

What they’re really looking for is a free push in the right direction. A “Hail Mary” pass if you will. That one FREE idea that can be provided to turn this failing software engagement around. Note the liberal use of the word free?

If you’re providing these types of ideas for free you’re foolish. Continue reading “The value of intial consultations and why I charge (and you should too)”

Leads That Suck: Consultant Searching On Behalf of Client

nosalemas200There are  warning signs  a lead  is not worth the trouble to chase.

Money’s the first qualifier.

Always look first at the budget. Not because you should only be interested in money – but because when there’s no realistic budget  other parts of the project are usually not realistic either.

Secondly, look at WHO is requesting your assistance.

Increasingly I’ve seen Purchasing Agents, IT Directors and even Administrative Assistants initiating requests for accounting software information.

Clearly these people are  information gatherers rather than decision makers. At least lets hope a Purchasing Agent isn’t buying an ERP system without consulting the CFO or Accounting Manager.

The biggest red flag  in my 25 years of consulting  that always spells NO SALE is when  one specific type of person  requests  information.

I’ve never sold into this situation and you probably won’t either. That person making the request?

Continue reading “Leads That Suck: Consultant Searching On Behalf of Client”

Getting customers to put lips in the game

kissingSome days you just have to laugh at how screwed  the entire ERP selling process is.

Last week an existing customer contacted me for some added information on a solution that would integrate to their accounting system.

Prior to any demo or initial needs assessment I invested  20 minutes (if anyone can do it in less more power to them) explaining the different software configuration options. Explaining how one  particular solution would be preferred due to better integration.  Explaining  other options that were available. Explaining how there were certain limitations that the prospect needed to be aware of, etc, etc.

So long as my information was free – the company had no problems moving forward.

I pre-qualified for money. Gave  a $10k upgrade round number estimate. The client knew full well that their final number was north of $10,000.

Here’s where things start to come apart. Continue reading “Getting customers to put lips in the game”

Tip: Always quote your start date from the time payment is received

icalIf you’re like most consultants (myself included) – you get very excited to close that big deal. Never mind that the client was first quoted two months ago and sat on your proposal despite your repeated email and voice reminders.

So now the client has made their decision – and wants you to start. The problem is they expect you to start tomorrow – despite your having a full calendar for the next two weeks.

The solution I’ve found? Provide the following text on all of your quotes/proposals:

We are available to start 10 business days from receipt of payment in our office.

Problem solved. Guarantee.

Still billing in fractions of an hour? How quaint.

hourglassAre you still billing your clients in fractions of an hour? Why?

Is there a rule somewhere that says the value of your services are directly related only to the amount of time you spent on them? If so, then how do you compensate yourself for the time spent accumulating that knowledge? How about the time you never billed the last client for sharpening your skills on that very same question you just answered (and billed) in 10 minutes for the current client? Continue reading “Still billing in fractions of an hour? How quaint.”