Helping Other I.T. Consulting Companies

The most amazing side effect of being in the technology business is working with all sorts of technical people. Most often, they work for manufacturers or vendors; but they sometimes branch out and start their own businesses. After more than 16 years as a consultant, I’ve learned a few things and sometimes get to pass on my “straight talk” to others who do what I’ve been doing so long. I want to do more of this when I can.

But aren’t they competitors?
Yes, they are, in the most basic sense. It’s sometimes a difficult idea to grapple within a business that (at times) seems so adversarial as Information Technology (I.T.) tends to be. But, that’s not my approach. The most important point to understand is that we don’t compete for the SAME business. Those small to mid-sized I.T. shops that I offer help have that trust. All information is in confidence, and CWL often targets different geographical regions.

My favourite phrase is “A rising tide lifts all boats”. The best relationships I have with other consulting firms allow me to draw upon their resources to expand my offerings, and vice-versa. Often when I’m imparting ideas, I’m learning in the process. Personally, the strength of the industry as a whole is in my best interest. It improves everyone, together.

What does this mean? Here’s a simple example of an I.T. consultancy and what kind of thoughts I’d offer the owner [1]. This appears to be Alex Wilkins’ company named Wilkins IT Solutions. I found the company while perusing a local business networking site. Wilkins is in my local area and has an ideal client of “Small Businesses (1-25 employees) in the Durham Region”. Perfect for the kind of I.T. shops I tend to assist.

#1 – Go full SSL on your site

The site appears to support SSL, but when going there, it is not redirected as the default. Since they’ve clearly gone through the trouble of supporting this encryption, I’d tell them to make it the default for the whole site (and support the backwards compatible http:// for legacy use). This is usually just a change to the .htaccess file locally. It’s not clear if the site is on Windows or Linux. The SSL support on the server is pretty good, so kudos to them.

Wilkins IT SSL Certificate Grade

#2 – Change your site’s title

Certainly not earth-shattering, but you should change “Home Page – Wilkins IT Solutions” to something that better reflects what you do. Since you’re running WordPress, you can play around with that. My title code (currently) looks something like this:

if ( ! function_exists( '_wp_render_title_tag' ) ) {
function theme_slug_render_title() {
<title><?php wp_title( '|', true, 'right' ); ?></title>
<?php }
add_action( 'wp_head', 'theme_slug_render_title' );  }
add_filter('wp_title', create_function('$a, $b','return str_replace(" | CWL","",$a);'), 10, 2);

#3 – You run ScreenConnect for remote support, and you seem to run that on your home Teksavvy connection

I’d probably first ask you how you like it and if you were aware the company had been sold. I’d mention their recent pricing changes (and why you might want to renew your self-hosted license now). I’d also mention that newer versions (5.6+) are a worthwhile update for speed’s sake. Running it at home is cool. Great to utilize that home connection better.

#4 – Speaking of Home, Change your company’s address

Some of your listings, like this one, include a langley Circle address which as you know is something you ought to change. You may have used your home address in the past, and working through the various places online [2] and changing them or correcting them is important. Using the UPS Store as a mailing address is perfect. I do the same. make sure they are also accepting larger packages for you and notifying you when they arrive. You never need to have parcels sent to your house.

#5 – Consider Blogging – Or making it more obvious that you do

I don’t see any sort of blog content on any of your social sites or home page. Since what you do really begs for some sort of blogging or vlogging, you should really try and get into it. As a matter of fact, it helps give you things to post on your social media sites beyond just simple stock images and marketing speak. If you do have a blog somewhere, make it super easy to find. Ever you “how to” guides seem very close to blog posts, so do more of that and go bigger.

This is the beginning, though I’d be very interested in your internal systems and offering some ways you can streamline that and minimize costs. Your online sales of anti-virus products are also quite interesting, and I’d be curious as to how well that’s working out for you.

Looking at any small I.T. firm, there are always several ways to improve the company’s business position, ability to support the customer, and generally run at an appropriate level to the revenue coming in. As the company expands and grows, your company can also cast a wider net. If you too are running an I.T. consultancy and would like to talk about any of these ideas or just chat about how your business could be improved, get in touch.

Update, February 26, 2016 – As you might have imagined, I have heard from the above company owner (Alex Wilkins). While, it was no surprise to hear from him, I was more surprised by his response to what I’ve written. Here’s some of what was in his email message:

“I would have preferred a contact before you posted this so we can discuss some of the items before you aired your opinion on our address, SSL, SEO Title and the way I am running instant remote support.”

And, you know, that’s reasonable, but Alex goes on to say:

“Like above, I would have appreciated the personal feedback as you appear to have far more experience in certain things. I do find this article a little too pointed and a “look at all your mistakes” so I would like to request that you have it taken down. If you would like to start this section on your site where you “help other IT” I would be more than willing to do an actual interview based experience and help curve some of the content you have placed on your site. It’s not that anything here is too ‘damming’ per say but your direct link to our home address and your general direction isn’t appreciated or warranted.”

And, fair enough, you’ll notice here that I’ve removed anything specifically referencing him personally at his request. As a bonus, one of his friends came to me on Facebook first:

Helping IT - Facebook Comment

This is a perfect example of the kind of uphill battle we face when thinking of working together. For those that I currently work with, they trust me – so interacting with them and offering thoughts is easy. The Internet is filled with noise, so if I were to attempt to contact Alex about the above (I wouldn’t mind you), none of what I’d had to say would have reached him. In fact, my article is not about him; he’s just the owner of a random I.T. Consulting firm I found and used as an example.

His first reaction is to think of what I’ve done as an “attack” or a “personal reflection” on him, or as he says “look at all your mistakes”. This is all so absurdly negative and defensive.  None of this is the case. The essence of this is that Alex (whom I’ve never met) is the rule, not the exception for those that work in our business. Our approach tends to exclude and compartmentalize or the interests of being open and sharing. I’m sure I could take another random I.T. consulting company and I’d get the same response.

As a group of professionals, we in this industry as I.T. Consultants, MSPs, Administrators and others have a long way to go.

1. All this information is in the public sphere, I have not actually been contacted by them. They can call me any time :)
2. This was a link, removed it at Alex’s request.