Multi-community for SMB Consultants: Degrees of Separation

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> Degrees of Separation

We are all connected somehow…

by Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

Man cannot live on bread alone. Much like a diet, you need a careful mix of all the food groups. In this case, the “food groups” are the different and varied technology communities out there! Having attended a couple of different shows in the past couple of months, I have discovered that several SMB technology vendors cross party lines and are truly bipartisan. The very premise of this article is to identify vendors and sponsors who serve multiple technology communities

My first tale occurred right after the start of the year. I recently had business in the San Francisco-area. Before traveling, I contacted a sponsor, EMC, to arrange a visit. They suggested I visit the EMC booth at MacWorld for our business appointment. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the brilliance in its request! Heck, I had just received an Apple IPhone for the holidays and I wanted to learn more about my new toy! I also wanted to learn more about new technology communities in 2009, so off to MacWorld I went!

First Impressions

When I walked into MacWorld, I quickly realized that this group knew what the word “Community” means with a capital “C.” Whereas I thought SBSers knew community, we don’t have anything over the Macintosh crowd. A town hall meeting to discuss the future of MacWorld (Apple announced its withdrawal from the 2010 MacWorld show) allowed me to witness over 600 folks offering advice how to keep the community going. These attendees even looked like us SBSers, allowing me to realize we have more in common than pulls us apart!


SMB Nation supporter EMC had a popular booth to promote its Macintosh-centric storage solutions. This is an example of a vendor bridging out across communities to sell its products and wares. EMC is known for its storage solutions. But did you know that EMC has started to expand its horizons? It’s acquisition of Iomega provided a platform for a SMB managed services solution. Visiting its web site at shows its applications solutions and its push into cloud computing. And don’t forget that EMC acquired VMware in the early part of this century (2003 time frame).

EMC at MacWorld

EMC at MacWorld

EMC at MacWorld

A postscript note. In a follow-up visit with EMC at its Pleasanton, CA office, I witnessed firsthand how one team supports multiple communities. The SMB team I work with was jammed on a Macintosh product release!


The xTuple story is the ERP in SMB story. This firm, also exhibiting at MacWorld, actually has a presence in the Windows world and open source community. It’s core ERP competency with its high-end ERP application is in the manufacturing sector (the OpenMFG Edition). But the version most likely to be of interest for SMB Nation tribal members is the PostBooks version. This SKU provide what I know to be true about ERP solutions including accounting, sales and CRM support, purchasing, product definition, inventory, reporting and even support for light manufacturing. In speaking with xtuple president and CEO Ned Lilly, I learned of xTuple community roots and how this ERP system has grown from a grass roots paradigm of building additional features and functionality based on community input. Lilly emphasized the cross-cultural aspects of this offering with is support for multiple communities. Later I learned it had released a new Multilanguage pack, further extending its reach. Lilly must be doing something right because at press deadline, the Norfolk, VA-based company reported 250% revenue growth in 2008. Good news indeed at a time when others are reporting earnings challenges. xtuple’s earning success can be traced to several factors including a doubling of its customer base. Particularly good news is that xtuple looks to expand its channel partner program in the 2009. Learn more at

Ned Lilly, CEO at xTuple

Ned Lilly, CEO at xTuple

Ned Lilly, president and CEO at xTuple is driving success in difficult times.

By the way, I will write an ERP story in the next SMB PC magazine issue that outlines the opportunity for SMB Nation tribal members (read SMB consultants and SBSers) to morph into highly profitable ERP consultants in the SMB space. And I conclude by telling you that xTuple was, in my opinion, the most “BusinessSpeak” oriented application at MacWorld where the primary show focus was more consumer-based, like my IPhone!


So I dug a bit deeper to discover other multi- community connects in the vendor community. I didn’t have to look far. In chatting with Scott Barlow at Reflexion (a Boston-area company that provides hosted e-mail spam prevention services, including for SMB Nation), he shared two factoids. First, as a hosted service, you could say that Reflexion is really multi-community. It is really working with standards (SMTP, POP) for analyze e-mail. Those standards are really multi-community and indifferent to the type of platform you are utilizing. True enough.

Then Scott introduced me to one of his prized partners, Jeff Heather. And here is where the story gets really good. Jeff sells and support the Reflexion product. Hi customer, IDG World Expo, produces over 750 events in 55 countries including MacWorld , OpenSource World and other “worlds.” He has served this customer with distinction for approximately eight years, surfacing another important conversation: relationships!

SBSer Jeff Heather out of Boston

SBSer Jeff Heather out of Boston

Meet Jeff Heather!

Quite frankly, it was my interview with SMB consultant Heather that made me realize we are indeed, all connected with only one or two degrees of separation.


And then there is Microsoft itself. Notably, Microsoft offers its Office application suite on the Macintosh platform. Another multi-community for Microsoft is from the SBS community. One of the leading SBS MVPs, Eriq Neale, specializes in Macintosh matters in an SBS world. His passion and dedication to working across the aisle reflect a reality that customers are using solutions and platforms from different communities to drive success. So someone has to support these successfully customers right? Sound s like a fantastic opportunity to develop such cross-cultural skills!

ConnectWise at ITEXPO

At the behest of the Microsoft Response Point team, I covered the ITEXPO show in Miami in early February. I found a old friend and familiar face in ConnectWise at this show focused on Internet telephony matters. What this?

ConnectWise at IT Expo

ConnectWise at IT Expo

ConnectWise is best known as a managed services software solution in the SMB Windows community. It’s founder and CEO Arnie Bellini, a personal friend, was on a Microsoft SBS Partner Advisory Committee with me in the late 1990s. So what is Arnie’s interest in the telephony community? The same as my interest. SMB Nation is reaching into the voice world of unified communications to expand beyond its data networking roots and make some new friends along the way. Smart move and reflects another way to have a multi-communication conversation that isn’t necessarily Windows vs. Mac vs. Open Source.


With all due respect, we live in a diverse world with competing solutions. But I prefer to take a different view. The world is closer together than ever with few degrees of separation in the past. SMB technology solutions are now serving multiple communities with no offense intended. Customers are better served with more choices. SMB consultants are improving their lot in life by adding additional services to their consulting portfolio mix. Case closed.



1 Comment

Filed under SMB PC Magazine

One response to “Multi-community for SMB Consultants: Degrees of Separation

  1. In this economy, it only makes sense to target companies who have the best chance of growth. The biggest companies are mostly shrinking, and the smallest companies are getting squeezed out. It is the SMBs that have the best shot for massive success of the next year or so.

    Many companies saw this trend a while back. That is why you have companies like SAP and Oracle with campaigns aimed at the SMB. That is why consultants are pointed there as well.

    The SMB company is in a great spot today with a lot of choices. When the world focuses on one thing, it makes the planet seem smaller. Thanks for the article.

    Remember, it’s a global world out there, and Technology makes it happen.

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