Become a Business Advisor [SMB Consulting Best Practices book excerpt]

Hi there mate – I am the author of the above title and each day I like to post up a passage as a virtual book reading! Toda’ys timely topic is about becoming the business advisor! This is also akin to our current cover story on being a Trusted Business Advisor (TBA) in our magazine at => Publications => Magazine.

Become a Business Advisor

Microsoft got it with its Go To Market (GTM) framework for business development for it certified partners. GTM is about how to incorporate business-thinking into Microsoft products so you deliver the “total solution” instead of simply installing software. I’ll discuss GTM much more in the Finder section of the book. My point is that you need to “get it” as well: The “B” in both SBS and SMB stands for BUSINESS!

As an SMB consultant, you’re increasingly being called upon to understand business needs and to implement technology solutions in the context of those needs. No longer is it sufficient just to know the cool tools inside SBS, unless you’re shooting for a lower-paying, less value-added job as a technician who can’t add bona fide business value to the clients you serve.

An SMB consultant adds value to the client relationship by serving as a business advisor. In fact, some of the most successful SMB consultants I’ve met have mastered both the computer “BackOffice” and the business boardroom. I’ve even seen folks with both the MCSE and MBA credentials.

So why the concern about business activity? Whatever happened to good old-fashioned computing consulting? Times have changed and now consultants are expected to integrate business with technology. This trend can be attributed to several factors:

·        Operating system and application maturity — Basic user needs are being well satisfied with the latest operating systems and applica­tions. Business application suites, such as Microsoft Office, do just about everyhting now that folks want to do. People are literally starting to say they can’t imagine what else they’d need technically in some areas.

·        Pressure to be profitable — Bye-bye “dot-com” business models and hello profits! Businesses are looking for a higher return on investment (ROI) on technology expenditures. Financial types, like the CFO, are looking closely at your SMB consulting rate, which

isn’t going down the same way hardware and software prices are. If your bill rate remains stable or increases in a period of declining hardware and software prices, you have to do one of two things: boost your productivity by accomplishing more amazing technical feats per billable hour or add more value to the SMB consulting engagement. One example of a value-added feature would be to participate as a business advisor, marrying technology to the client’s line of business.

·        Better business practices — Many clients view technology imple­mentations as a fresh start. That is, they look at SBS as an opportu­nity to change their work procedures and business habits with tools such as the instant messaging capabilities of Exchange or the public folder-based group calendars in Outlook. The savvy SMB consultant will be able to see business opportunities, given the technology being implemented. Some days you might find yourself acting as a man­agement consultant to your SMB client.

·        Competitive advantage — The real hard-core business types, the MBAs, are looking to squeeze out every competitive advantage they can in this new, “whacked out and crazy” Web-based world of business (a phrase coined by management guru and author Tom Peters). Think outside the box, buddy!

Some SMB consultants naturally have a brain for business and others don’t. Fair enough (or fair dinkum if you’re in Australia!). If business issues escape you at first blush, consider attending a business course at your community


college. Also, if you monitor popular business periodicals, such as Business Week, you can find free online business courses and Webcasts that might be beneficial to you. An example of this is shown in Figure 3-1.

Figure 3-1:

The Web has many business course offerings if you look around. This is a Web “TV” site from Business Week magazine.



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 technology 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!

PPS – my SBS 2008 book will be out in mid-November 2008!

PPPS – my Microsoft Response Point Primer book is here NOW!


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