SMB Consulting Work Styles (SMB Consulting Best Practices book excerpt]

Happy SuperBowl Sunday to you!

I am the author of the SMB Consulting Best Practices book and I like to post up passages as a virtual book reading. Today I discuss workstyles. And did you know that my SBS 2008 book is here? It’s true!


Work styles

Lord knows there are many different work styles in the delivery of SMB consulting services. Some of us are full-timers, while others are part-timers. Some prefer niches, while others prefer to be generalists. Whatever your situation, this discussion will force confrontation. You will need to determine just who you are at a very core level. Are you an advisor who works best as a generalist? Or are you a specialist who works best with the nuts and bolts of the technology? Choosing between being a generalist or a specialist will have a tremendous impact on the type of work you do, the way you run your SMB consultant business, and how much money you make.

Note in the Grinder section I revisit the discussion on work styles.


Being an advisor to kings and queens isn’t a bad way to go through your technology consulting career. But to be honest, this is a proven path for the medium and enterprise space. I’ve found true SMB clients aren’t willing to pay tons of money for advisory services. That said, consider the following.

Many people don’t have either the skills or the desire to master Microsoft SMB technology solutions at a granular level. These people would prefer to act as business technology advisors, emphasizing their communication skills over hands-on skills. Generalists typically serve as project managers and contract out much of the specialized work.


These are the surgeons of the SMB consulting community, specializing in one niche or another. As in the medical profession, both the demand for services and larger financial rewards tend to accrue to specialists. On the downside, specializations, especially in technology, can dry up and disappear. That’s a fear that generalists typically don’t have to worry about. It has been my experience that many SMB consultants start as generalists and migrate to a specialization after they gain more experience as consultants.

In your SMB consulting practice, you might migrate to a specialization due to a couple of other factors. First, after working with a variety of technologies as a generalist, you may discover where your interests lie. Second, you may develop the bona fide expertise needed by a specialist as you focus on one area. When you bill yourself as a specialist, clients have a right to assume you have real expertise.

BEST PRACTICE: Let’s face it. Some of us are here for the money. That’s not a negative statement. If you attend a “how to get rich” seminar titled “The Millionaire Mind,” you’ll find yourself in a room of several hundred people blessing the rich. But back to business.

There is a great book you should read next titled The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by Tho­mas J. Stanley and William D. Danko (Pocket Books, ISBN: 0671015206). This book demonstrates how one of the true paths to wealth is via specialization. Business people who found a lu­crative (but, yes, often boring) niche just sat there and let the money roll in! Sounds good to me! Serve me up SBS in the SMB area as my niche, please.

Full-time vs. part-time

I recently presented a Microsoft “Go To Market” workshop over four days in San Jose, California. One day, during lunch, I met with two eager students who were looking to launch an SMB consulting practice. I was delighted to review their business plan, and as it turns out, temper their enthusiasm a tad. Seems these two intrepid entrepreneurs where looking for SBS to yield upwards of $250,000 in profit to them as a consulting niche. I concluded, given the tough market they were in and their SBS experience level, that SBS might be a great strategic business unit (SBU) for them, but I didn’t think it’d deliver that type of profitability to them. In effect, maybe SBS could be a part-time SMB niche, but they’d probably need to do other things as well.

Most of the people reading this book are probably looking at a full-time commitment. That’s what it’ll take to be successful without a doubt. But there are part-timers in our SMB consulting community who do just fine. I’ve met a retired Microsoft millionaire who just wanted to dabble with SBS. And then there are a large number of retired military personnel who have a one-person SMB consulting practice while pulling retirement pay. These are the double-dippers of the SMB consulting world.


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation (

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

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here!


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