ss_blog_claim=bd50edc517cf0b7549fe6b5f63b6b5f8 The SLS Business Finance Blog: April 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

HAAS and the Small Business Part 2

In Part 1 on HAAS (hardware as a service), we discussed how an ongoing monthly fee for hardware as well as maintenance/support through a managed service provider (MSP) benefits both parties, the provider and the client.

The primary objection to a service like this from both parties is 'what happens if the computer is supposed to last 2 or 3 years and craps out in 6 months?' There are 2 answers to this question, immediate (or short term) and long term. The immediate answer is that the MSP needs to have a couple PCs on hand for immediate use that allow for a near immediate replacement so as to reduce disruptions. Part of the service the client is paying for is this peace of mind. Can the MSP charge a couple bucks more a month as a 'loss provision' to ensure they have extras on hand. You bet they can and as long as the client is well (and quickly) served, no one will object.

Since the financing period is so short, a 2-3 year maximum, all the PCs will still be under warranty. In fact, our hardware refreshing resources require it. So the long term answer is that a like kind exchange (or complete fix) will take place and as long as the specs are the same then it doesnt matter when the client swaps out whether or not there is a new model # from a replacement of a broken down unit.

These are typically the biggest objections we see to implementing a program such as this but after seeing how the problem is handled and how the overall cost of ownership is so low due to the inexpensive rate per month for the hardware, its a true win/win for everyone. In fact, the MSP usually gets to play the role of hero by stepping in and showing their true added value in their preparation and knowledge of the client's business.

Monday, April 7, 2008

5 Questions of Andy Greider of QAlias

Andy Greider ( Google him) is a web marketing guru. His techniques are practical, effective, and make $$ for his small business customers. Among other things, he is the brand manager for QAlias, a business and personal branding company that allows businesses and individuals create a more professional image on the web. He is also the co-host of the internet radio show, Uniqueness is Power. Here are my questions for Andy:

1) What is the # 1 mistake small businesses make when trying to market over the web or generally increase their web presence??

If I were picking one very common mistake, it would have to be either putting all the eggs in one virtual basket or going to the other extreme and diluting so much nothing has any real effect. When you begin marketing, it is very easy to buy into the silver bullet (one basket) theory - or the "I'll be everywhere, all at once" idea. Both spend money fruitlessly and unless the one basket happens to be a home run, neither are effective in the long run.

2) How do web marketing techniques differ from B2B to B2C businesses?

First of all, the B2C business has a much larger segment of the population they are going after - so they can afford to spread messaging around a little bit. They can try more avenues and have better chances for return - there is greater margin for slight error and more success. B2B businesses need to hit the target, and hitting the bullseye is important, as well. Finding the niche driven sites and information portals where you can reach and communicate with the most likely prospects is very important.

3) Is there one technique for web based marketing (and if so which) that gets the most marketing bang for the buck if you had to choose one? (or if the business only has the time and resources for one)

I'd suggest making sure whatever you do, it isn't simply down one avenue. If you are strapped timewise or financially, you need to examine what one vehicle or tool reaches your potential customers most effectively. This will vary from business to business - and there is no silver bullet. I would recommend, since we all do business with people, and not businesses - and the people at those businesses - that each of your readers examine qAlias (signup here) to best optimize themselves and their personal brand online, taking page 1 positioning with Google. At less than $10 a month, everyone can afford it, and it is an easy tool to use.

4) What is the difference (if any) in results and web presence generated between free hosting services and paid hosting services?

The hosting services themselves aren't the key point for the results produced in web search optimization - the amount of traffic they host and the amount of cross linking they do internally can make a difference, though. For instance, if you work with a larger, known portal such as GoDaddy, and there is a link back to GoDaddy - just due to the amount of site traffic they get, you gain. If you are with a smaller carrier, read free, then that may not be the case.

5) What are the dangers of over-optimization?

If you begin to show up in places you don't belong, or are literally just speaking to speak, and without care for what you are saying, over-optimization can hurt - because the web makes us all far more transparent than anything real life can produce. You need to be able to be accountable for each thing you post - and each answer you give. Remember, the internet forgets less than an elephant...and if you are over-optimized, besides potentially spending too much money, you can place yourself well, but with info that is not flattering or complimentary.

6) How do we contact you?

Google me - Andy Greider - or reach me at 404 516 4204

Thanks Andy for your great insights. To hear my latest radio interview from Andy's terrific radio show, Uniqueness is Power, please go to the bottom of the page at our website and download and listen from there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CIT's Subprime Woes May Impact Dell, Others

From Friday March 28th, reprinted from The Monitor , the publication for the Equipment Leasing Professional.........With Commentary at the end.

The subprime crisis has indirectly caught up with Dell, Avaya and Microsoft based on CIT's vendor finance relationships with these top tech companies.

Dell has contracted with CIT since 1997 to provide its customers with the financing of Dell product purchases. About a tenth of Dell's sales last year involved CIT in some way.

Given CIT's recent woes, Dell could be on the hook for all of the $455 million in outstanding loans CIT facilitated for Dell customers, should CIT go the way of other financial services companies felled by their subprime investments.

CIT currently offers finance programs for Dell's customers in Canada and in more than 40 other countries throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America and the South Pacific. CIT continues to have the option to provide funding to Dell's financial services division through January 2010.

The relationship between Dell and CIT dates back to 1997, when the two created a joint venture so Dell could offer business-customer financing. Two years into operations, the joint venture also began lending money to consumers.

Avaya's agreement with CIT was recently extended through September 2009, pursuant to a renewal provision in the agreement. Microsoft’s vendor financing relationship began in July 2006, when CIT began financing deals for Microsoft products sold in France and Switzerland. Last year, their relationship was expanded to include work with Microsoft customers in Germany, Italy, South Korea and the UK.

Commentary: Conventional vendor finance arrangements by Dell would have CIT or another company finance their customers and pay them their invoice price in cash. Had Dell done this conventional arrangement, they'd get their full price, just like a cash deal, with NO credit risk. No potential 'on the hook' for $455 million and no risk to them should a client not pay.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

HAAS and the Small Business Part 1

HAAS is not the well known and tasty avocado, its one of those techie acronyms. HAAS stands for Hardware as a Service. The 'as a service' part implies that the ownership and maintenance shifts from the client to the provider (or their hosting company).

For instance, in the Software as a Service model, or SAAS, the undisputed leader is, the online web based CRM (customer relationship management) tool. Instead of the standard license fee per user, the client gets the software as a service, meaning they pay monthly (say $12 per desktop per month) for access to the software only through the web based portal. Salesforce hosts the software and maintains it with upgrades for the client, including preferences like which depts get access to which customer info.

So how does this apply to Hardware?? Hardware is a necessary evil for all businesses today. The value of hardware declines so quickly (practically out of the box) that there is no benefit of ownership versus financing through a lease, the financing tool of HAAS.

So the first step to HAAS is an ongoing monthly fee to their Managed Services Provider (the company that maintains and supports their network and may even host some services for them like a server off site). This fee is tied into a lease with 2 major exceptions: 1) the lease period is shorter 18 months to 3 years and 2) the client is encouraged to swap out for new to keep the most updated, well maintained computers in their network at all times. In return for these factors, the client sees a minimum 2% lower rate than conventional leasing/financing programs. That typically equates to about $100-150 per month for every $10,000 in hardware.

More to come on the other factors of HAAS.