Nothing New Under the Sun

I spent the last three days at the CompTIA SMB Summit in Bonita Springs, Florida. It’s one of those conferences where people who provide computer services try to learn from each other how to conduct business better and the companies that sell products and services to us try to convince us to sell their stuff. The HOT topic for those of us in the small business computer support industry is Managed Services. Everyone wants to stop doing break/fix work and start doing contracted support work. Most of us want to do it because that’s what the people who watch our industry (but don’t actually do what we do) keep telling us we should be trying to do.

I sound like a skeptic but I’m really not. My company, Port-to-Port Consulting, has been trying to get into the fixed-fee support model for years. We finally got there with a service we call Pertingo. Just as we start to get it figured out, the entire industry decides that it’s what everyone should do. Unfortunately, many of my peers are ill equipped to become Managed Service Providers. The pundits are telling them that they’ll be out of business in a matter of months if they don’t get on board.

Today, a speaker from Level Platforms, who sells a tool to help purveyors of managed services, said this is just the latest in the ongoing string of buzz terms in our industry. He said we had the same discussion in a similar room 15 years ago when it was becoming difficult to generate the double digit margins from selling hardware that everyone was accustomed to getting. Truer words were never spoken.

I met several people at this conference who still make the majority of their revenue and profit from selling stuff! They should have become extinct more than a decade ago but they just keep making money. The same holds true for those who continue to provide break/fix services to small businesses. In the end, it’s a question of the company (and its owner). While we love Pertingo and would hate to go back to the fire station model we used to have, many people got into this industry precisely because they love the excitement of fighting fire after fire. They want to be the hero, and they won’t get that from managed services. I hope they don’t listen to the hype and keep doing what they’re doing. I know I send a lot of business to them that doesn’t fit my model.