Saturday, September 6, 2008
We're about halfway through the main part of the Computer Troubleshooters North American conference here in Cleveland tonight, and so far it's been an excellent event. This is the first time we've combined conferences with the other MerryMeeting brands, and even though we don't see them much (all but one of our sessions is CT-specific) it's made for a much larger, more energetic event than we've had in a while.
I think though that there's something else different about this conference. Mark Mitchell, owner of Computer Troubleshooters Lansing, said something yesterday that really seemed to sum it up - he said "Two years ago everyone would have been discussing the best way to defrag a customer's hard drive during a tune-up. Today everyone's talking about the right technology solutions for their small busines customers." And it's true - almost everything this week has been about finding the right technology to help our small business customers improve their organizations through technology. Whether it's finding new ways to customize our BEST (managed services) programs to meet a customer's needs, or whether it's exploring new opportunities in backup, IP Telephony (VoIP), or Search Engine Marketing, everyone this year is enthusiastically taking on the role of IT consultant rather than computer fix-it guy, and that's a good thing.
Technically the conference is going into it's fifth day tomorrow, but the first two days were just training three new franchisees (San Diego, Phoenix, Colorado Springs) so that's not technically part of the conference proper. The real conference began on Thursday with our Regional Directors day, where we analyzed data from successful and less successful franchisees around the system to come up with better ways to coach and support them. My favorite from this day is that our RD's are going to restructure one of their monthly training sessions so that they're functional instead of geographic - this means that every CT in the US & Canada will have TEN different training courses they can take every month (and that get recorded to store in our archives), and three coaching & support calls.
Today was the first day of the main conference, and we wound up with about 90 attendees from CT plus 250 from the other brands. We also had an awesome vendor turnout with over 20 great vendor partners here to update us on (or introduce us to) their products and any CT special deals they have with us. We started the day with a keynote from Sam Tyler, a PBS documentary filmmaker who has interviewed business motivation legends like Tom Peters, Stephen Covey, Jim Collins, and most recently worked on a film about Lance Armstrong. He shared his analysis of what we can learn from each of them, along with some very motivational video clips.
Then we got into our CT sessions with an opening presentation followed by our (extended) BEST roundtable. Four Computer Troubleshooters who are among our top managed services oriented locations talked about their businesses and offered advice and insight to the rest of us in a 90 minute Q&A session. (Big thank-you to Brian, Bill, Roy, & Jim for teaching us!)
Following a lunch break we watched Sam Tyler's video on Lance Armstrong (excellent), then the CT's chose one of two tracks: either a Selling Managed Services workshop with Matt Makowicz (author of books on Selling and Marketing managed services and a fantastic sales traininer), OR an IP Telephony workshop featuring gurus from CommPartners, Fonality, and Adtran, and lead by our own VoIP guru Jim Greenfield (Computer Troubleshooters NY Metro). I got to sit in on both sessions - both were amazing. (We also had a "Women in Business" session midway through the afternoon - I did not sit in on that one, for obvious reasons).
The day ended with a combination local beer tasting & vendor expo, which for any conference planners out there I have to say this is something everyone should do because it gives the attendees a reason to spend a lot of time talking with the vendors in a very comfortable atmosphere. We followed that up with our CT awards dinner, which went well even though we had some technical glitches with the awards themselves and some were missing! We'll fix that. It was impressive as always to hand out the 5-year award pins to the CT's who've been growing their businesses since 2003 (or longer if they didn't pick up their pins at last year's conference). Next month will be even more interesting as I hand out our first-ever TEN year award pins at the Australian conference - it's amazing to think that four of us will have been in business for a decade now!
(And I won't mention the after-hours poker game that I'm completely unaware of, but congratulations Tomás for winning the Matt Makowicz managed services boot camp prize!)
I'm really pumped up about the new energy in our group this weekend. It's easy to see why we're the world's best computer service / technology solutions franchise!