National markets for SMB consultants {SMB Consulting Best Practices book excerpt]

G’day folks! I am the author of the SMB Consulting Best Practices book and I like to hold a daily virtual book reading. Today I discuss national markets!



Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host a spring conference in the New York City area each spring? Save the date for March 6-8, 2009 and watch “voice meet data” in the SMB space!


So perhaps you aspire to be one of those SMB consultants who want the recognition and all the other accolades that accrue when you’re a nationally respected consultant. You may or may not be able to develop a national-level

SMB consulting practice as an individual. Andy Goodman, the SBS forum moderator at Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine (, has successfully accomplished this feat. Andy lives on the East Coast of the US but has clients scattered about, including way across the country on the West Coast.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to serve clients across the US and even in Canada whom I’ve met as a result of my publishing and speaking activities. It’s been an enriching experience to observe how folks in other lands seek to implement SMB-level technology.

The introduction of a host of remote management tools in SBS 2000 and SBS 2003 have made it possible for you to cultivate clients far from home. With the terminal services capability of remote server management, you can perform nearly all SBS server management tasks without having to go on-site. Other SBS tools, like the Server Status Report and Health Monitor, further allow you to support long-distance client relationships.


But there is another take on the national market segment you might not know about. Firms like Gateway and Dell have developed nationwide service and support networks in the US. Each has a slightly different model. Gateway attempts to leverage off its hundreds of Gateway stores located in communities all across the US, as seen in Figure 2-2.

Figure 2-2:

Gateway stores are located in nearly every major US aest


Each Gateway store has a Network Service Provider (NSP), which is a local SMB consulting firm that performs actual work at client sites. The Gateway store stays focused on selling hardware, software, and services, but then outsources the actual work to an NSP. Gateway then takes a cut of the NSP’s revenues (this was 15 percent last time I heard, but it could have changed since then). The NSP program is referenced in Figure 2-3.

Figure 2-3:

Gateway NSPs are part of Gateway’s service delivery approach.

Dell has no stores but has built a nationwide network of service partners similar to Gateway’s NSPs. Dell dispatches its partners to client sites needing service and support. A recent CRN article on Dell’s SMB program is shown in Figure 2-4. This can be viewed at Newscenters/Article.asp?newscenterID=32&ArticleID=39037).


Figure 2-4:

Dell’s SMB service delivery has three approaches: network design, installation, and business professional training.

There are several benefits to the Gateway and Dell SMB support models. One such benefit is that they allow the customer to benefit from a unified deployment approach. SMB consultants who participate in the Gateway or Dell programs are trained and certified in the respective hardware vendor’s products, deployment, and service methodologies. Another benefit of the Gateway and Dell partner programs is that they provide opportunities for SMB consultants to gain referrals. I discuss these vendor programs more in the Finder section of this book.

BEST PRACTICE: The following applies to US readers. At your next reading break, and definitely before you get to the Finder section of the book, drop by a Gateway store and ask some preliminary questions about how to become a Gateway NSP. This initial re­search will be beneficial when you reach the Finder section of this book.

Your SMB consulting business plan should at least make mention of national markets and your willingness or unwillingness to serve those markets.


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