IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Small and Emerging IT Business Providers Unite for New Community

Many SMB companies experience enterprise issues, they just have smaller budgets and fewer employees than their larger brethren. Smaller solution providers experience similar challenges, but also may need resources or guidance to create a valued and long-term business. Based on those requests from the IT provider community, CompTIA launched a new group to develop and make those resources available to members: the Small Business Owners Special Interest Group. The group is off to a great start, just completing the February conference call meeting in which they discussed the community goals and saw a presentation from an expert in small business development.

Like all CompTIA Communities, the Small Business Owners Special Interest Group is member driven, in this case by Chairperson Anton Ruighaver, Owner of TECHLINQ.  One of his first goals is to build a member directory that will include demographic data such as proficiencies and vertical markets, and provide a place for companies to share opportunities and information. The online forum will be ready soon for members to address a variety of issues facing small IT business owners, such as employee training initiatives, human resources, technical documentation guidelines, and termination practices. Several industry thought leaders have signed on to tackle these topics and build content for members, including Barbara Dove, president and CEO of Dove Help Desk.

Leaders in the other (6) CompTIA communities will likely collaborate with the Small Business Owners’ Special Interest Group as opportunities or needs arise, sharing support and ideas that may benefit multiple groups. “Communication is the key to a successful group and two-way discussions between communities will foster additional ideas and more member benefit,” according to Sandy Ashworth, Global Directory of Channel Relations/Warranty at Unisys and chair of the CompTIA IT Services and Support Executive Forum. The ROI for the group members is participation, as those that learn the most from the group typically contribute the most to the group.

The success of the other groups at CompTIA can be attributed to the involvement of the members themselves, as they create the initiatives (not the executive council). This methodology ensures members take ownership and drive plans and programs that matter to them and their businesses, and use the resources of CompTIA to achieve their goals.

As I mentioned, education is a key part of the community meetings, and today’s call included a presentation from Frank Picarello, CEO of Cadence Management Advisors provided research on the small business space and discusses how providers could build value into their business. While more than 82% of small businesses (10-100 employees) identify a need for their own IT support team, most indicate outsourcing these services be would be preferable. Whether they employ their own basic service team, or scrape by themselves with a minimal amount of formal training, many of these companies don’t have the skilled labor required for more efficient and beneficial technology.

On the flip side, many service provider owners are technically skilled, but may not project the business acumen and professionalism their customers judge them by. For example, research has shown that some business owners are concerned that the smaller IT service providers cannot keep pace with the technology they need to implement to keep pace with competitors, including mobile and Web solutions. These issues provide the foundation for the Small Business Owners Special Interest Group. Customers want a provider that can do all the things they can’t do, including educating them on the latest applications and technologies that will make them more profitable or cost effective. That is one reason the big name technology companies may be experiencing great success with the larger end of the small business spectrum. The initiatives and programs of the new community will hopefully level the playing field and arm smaller IT providers with tools and skills to compete.

Picarello also suggests IT providers focus on building the value in their business, from revenue (especially recurring contracts), the nature of services they provide, their customer loyalty and the intangibles, such as intellectual property. When he was an employee of All Covered (an IT service provider), Picarello was responsible for acquisitions and formulated his own valuation model, with higher rated paid for managed services businesses, multi-year contracts, and customer loyalty.  Two companies with the same annual revenue may differ tremendously on their value, based on these factors.

These are just a few of the topics that will be covered regularly in the Small Business Owners Special Interest Group meetings. If you are an IT service provider and a small business, you’re welcome to join and contribute to the discussions.

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With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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