SMB Nation, a Seattle-based community of SMB resellers and MSPs, is gearing up for its SMB Nation Fall Conference in October. While emphasizing its live events, SMB Nation also publishes a magazine and blogs for its community members, including technical content and business tips. ChannelPro-SMB Publisher Michael Siggins sat down with founder of SMB Nation, Harry Brelsford, to get a sneak peek at the event and find out what attendees should expect.
ChannelPro-SMB: This is looking to be a very busy year for SMB Nation. Tell us a bit about the fall event, where it is, why it’s important, and who should be there.
Brelsford: It’s our 10th annual SMB Nation Fall Conference. I don’t know where the time went. It’s like raising kids, and they grow up pretty quickly. An event’s pretty similar, let me tell you. We’re down in Las Vegas, yet again, at the Rio Hotel. It’s October 12th through 14th.
It’s an exciting year for a couple of reasons. A, it’s the tenth anniversary, and we’re going to bring everybody back, kind of like a class reunion. We’re going to have a good time with the alumni. B, we’re going to know a heck of a lot more about some emerging technologies come October, so we’re going to have further insights into Windows 8 and cloud computing, as well as some strategies surrounding telephony, voice and telepresence.
And finally, it's a common belief that the stock market predicts the economy about six months out. As we sit here in the spring of 2012 and look to the fall of 2012, we’re seeing signals that it’s good times ahead and, to some extent, led by the technology sector. So more than ever, you want to kind of get ahead of that good-time curve, invest in yourself, get re-motivated, learn the MSP business model, the money makers, as well as the Windows 8 technology and, of course, our beloved small business server.
ChannelPro-SMB: If you look back, what are some of the sort of the biggest surprises that have happened in this ten-year span?
Brelsford: In the ten years, I would say there have been two trends. One is there’s a heck of a lot of events now. There’s a heck of a lot of customer choice. And so events have to be spot on with their messaging and their content because in the SMB space, what we’re seeing is people typically can maybe go to one, perhaps two, events per year because they’re awfully busy running their very own small business. And I get that. They have to stay focused.
I guess the way we’ve tried to distinguish ourselves is we have been loyal to the geek. We have, maybe, approaching two-thirds of our content is technical in nature, and one-third would be the bigger money maker MSP message that’s all-important and certainly can’t be ignored.
The second thing that I think has happened over the decade is the great recession. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re making excuses or whatever for what’s occurred, but depending on how you measure it, this thing is hitting a pretty solid five years in duration. It’s the 1930s all over again.
The good news is we’re in technology. The good news is the SMB space was – I call it hot – but was certainly warm. We’re not in home building or automobile making or some of the other sectors that got hit really bad. But, I’ll tell you, there’s been a little bit of shake out. It’s made us all better business people, and it’s made us more efficient.
ChannelPro-SMB: It sounds like really at the core of SMB Nation is that sense of community – a lot of people working together, learning from each other, and really in it together. We've been to many of your events over the years and see lots of the same people. It’s good to see a lot of the same people year to year because we know they’re still in business and they’re still interested in what’s coming up and how they can profit from those opportunities. They clearly help each other out with sharing best practices at your events.
Brelsford: Yes, that’s right. That's what we provide. At the end of the day, we provide community. I hope we’ve earned trust and respect in business [for SMB resellers] to come to the SMB Nation fall event, October 12th through 14th at the Rio in Las Vegas.