Thursday, September 26, 2013

Engaging Training & Cool LMS: Bigger Brains partners with Docebo

All over the world, businesses large and small are considering online training.  Maybe the want to improve their productivity, maybe they want to meet compliance regulations, maybe they need a better way to share internal product or procedure knowlede with their entire team.  What they need is an easy to use, full-featured Learning Management System. 

But there are two problems.  First, there are dozens of good LMS systems to choose from.  How do you know which is best? 

Second, once you do make your choice, the LMS you implement probably starts out empty.  Adding content? That's a monumental task in itself. 

That's why the new Docebo Marketplace is such a powerful innovation, and why we at Bigger Brains are proud to add our "uniquely engaging" e-Learning courses to Docebo's rapidly expanding library. 

Check out our press release here, and visit Docebo at  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Confessions of an Email Bigot

Like most people, I have some quirks.  For example, I hate writing with cheap pens.  I easily spend $20 per month on pens when I could buy cheaper for $10, and I try out almost every new pen design that I find in Office Depot.  (My current favorite, I'm sure you're curious to know, is the Pentel EnerGel B77-A).

I have a similar bias against cheap cheese, but that's a story for another blog.

What I discovered last month though is that I have been a snob when it comes to Email systems, and my bias was based not in fact or experience but from blind loyalty.   What's worse is that as an IT Consultant my clients, who presume my advice is based on cold hard facts, were on the receiving end of my biased recommendations too.

So I'm here to set the record straight, and confess that I, Chip Reaves, have been an Email Bigot.

Here's what happened - in the beginning there was POP mail, and it was good. Well, it was sufficient, easy, simple, adequate.  Then there came the free webmail services, like Yahoo mail, Hotmail, and GMail.  At first they were proprietary and so I could never recommend them to my business clients, and by the time they had added POP compatibility I had discovered something wonderfully better - Microsoft Exchange!

With Microsoft Exchange, my (email) life changed - I could send a message from my home computer and it would still show up in the Sent Mail folder on my work computer (and later that extended to my smartphone and my tablet too).

It not only kept my mail up to date, but it managed my Contacts and my Calendar too, and made sure those were the same on all my devices.  As we moved into the era of the iPhone and Android phones this became really helpful, as any new device I picked up would automatically have all my contacts and my appointments once I connected it to my Microsoft Exchange.

In short, it did everything I could ask for email-wise, and threw in Calendars and Contacts too.  At first it was expensive to maintain, but then with the advent of Hosted Exchange services my large maintenance bills dropped to small hosting bills.

Serious business clients use Hosted Exchange, and low-budget clients would make do with POP, and all was right with the world.

Until last month. 

See, I was totally happy with Exchange, especially with Microsoft Outlook, and I was so happy I couldn't imagine there was anything better.  What more could I ask for?

Then, last month, we filmed an "Introduction to GMail" course for Bigger-Brains.

I wasn't totally unfamiliar with GMail of course - in fact my MSP is an Authorized Google Reseller, something we did in order to take care of a few specific clients who specifically requested GMail and/or Google Apps for Business.  But I thought of Google Apps, and particularly GMail, as a sort of "poor man's Exchange" - less expensive with fewer features and weird ways of handling what should be straightforward email tasks (labels instead of folders? come on.).

In short - I was wrong.  I was biased, I was discriminating, I was, apparently, an Email Bigot.

What I learned in the Bigger-Brains course is that GMail has evolved considerably since I took a look at it.  Yes, it does some things differently, maybe very differently than I'm used to, but there's a method to the madness and once you understand WHY those things are different it turns out to be surprisingly efficient and very easy to get used to.

I thought Exchange was great because it integrated Email, Contacts, and Calendars.  GMail integrates Email, Contacts, Calendars, Chat, phone calls, video calls, file storage, attachment management, and online document editing.  

Now, to be fair, Microsoft Exchange (or, more specifically, Microsoft Office 365) has added or is adding those same features.  And I'm also a big fan of Office 365, and I'll continue to use that with many businesses.  But I've found the Google implementation, at least right now, works better.

Case in point, when we shot the Bigger-Brains course on Office 2013, we wanted to show off integration with Skydrive, Skydrive Pro, and Sharepoint, but for some reason Skydrive Pro was not working on my Office 365 account.  30 minutes on the phone with Microsoft Support and we still couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.  (We did figure it out the next day, in time for the shoot, though without Microsoft's help).

So here's my recommendation to all my fellow IT Consultants out there:  take a new look at GMail and Google Apps, if you haven't already.  It probably won't completely replace Microsoft Exchange or Office 365 in your arsenal of tech-solutions, but it's definitely a worthy option for many SMB clients.

(I'd suggest checking out the GMail course on, but that would sound like a sales pitch.)

I think techies are prone to bias - it's kind of a natural defense since we have roughly 7 million new products thrown at us each week, we have to get good at the ones we think are best and focus our time and attention on those.  But if we don't stop to check out the marketplace every once in a while, we risk missing out on solutions that will benefit our clients, and in the long run we risk becoming irrelevant.  We risk becoming a technology bigot, and nobody wants that.

Agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments, or

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

All My Secrets....

So, you want to know my secrets?

In 1989 I started fixing people's computers to pay my way through college.  By 1992 it was a full-time job, by 1993 I had employees, and in 1996 I opened my first retail store.  Eventually we grew into one of Atlanta's top IT service firms, and then, in 1999, I founded Computer Troubleshooters USA.

With my franchise partners in Computer Troubleshooters Australia, we built the world's largest IT service franchise, with over 450 locations in 33 countries.

How did we do it?  "Whats the secret?", people ask.  And I'm going to tell you....

Today I run two companies, Bigger-Brains, the first and only channel-friendly online learning solution, and Computer Troubleshooters of Anderson, a local MSP in Anderson, South Carolina.  After 2 years CT-Anderson is on the verge of breaking the sales records my first company made in it's 6th year, and after just 6 months Bigger-Brains has resellers in 6 countries, partnerships with some of the top software providers in the world, and is already listed among the top 10 global eLearning content providers.

How did we do it?

Here's the secret.... we listened to customers.  Literally.  Especially with Computer Troubleshooters, we would literally ask customers what was important to them, directly and in surveys, and then work to implement processes to make sure we did those things.

In my final conference as CEO of Computer Troubleshooters-Global, before I sold the company, we actually had a panel of 4 real-life customers - small business owners and managers, who told the audience exactly what they wanted in an IT service provider, and then took questions from a room full of IT Service Providers who wanted to clarify exactly what appealed and didn't appeal to them.

The results are both mind-blowing and exactly what you'd expect.

Number one, hands-down, top-of-the-list is..... Knowledge.  Customers want to work with service providers who are knowledgeable.

But here's the catch - how does a client or potential client know how much knowledge their "IT Guy" has?  Some techs might be dumb as a brick, but spew jargon with such confidence that customers think they're Dumbledore.  Others might know everything from the right way to migrate a multi-homed network domain to a new location to the expected pinout voltages on an Intel LGA chip socket, but fail to reassure customers because they lack confidence, dress poorly, or some similarly unrelated reason.

Knowledge is key. Knowledge makes you efficient, Knowledge gets you more jobs, and the perception of Knowledgeability is what will keep customers flocking to your business.

How can you be more Knowledgeable, or at least be perceived to be more Knowledgeable?

I'm glad you asked!  All my secrets on winning customers with Knowledge (and the answers to what else customers are looking for) are coming out next month in my session at SMB Online Conference.

What's NOT a secret is that I'm just the opening act for some seriously great speakers:  John Armato,  Brian Sharp, Rayanne Buchianico, Manuel Palachuk and a host of others make this a guaranteed High-ROI event.

If you want to learn All My Secrets on Knowledgeability, plus get great insight into growing your IT business from some real gurus, THIS is the conference you want to attend!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What I do now

I have three lives now, at least when it comes to work:

If you're looking for computer repair in Anderson, SC, I recommend checking out my retail business, Computer Troubleshooters of Anderson.  We do everything from computer repair to notebook screen repair to iphone repair (or iPad repair) for individuals, but our main focus is on local small businesses.

For our business clients we specialize in service plans, including three options that provide unlimited computer service for a flat monthly fee and also include professional anti-virus, online backup, and 24/7  network health monitoring.  Every Sunday evening I personally check the backup logs for every single service plan client to make sure everything's working OK, and if I see anything that looks odd or out of place you'll get a call from Jim or Scott on Monday to investigate it.

My "second life" though is as the CEO of a relatively new online training company, Bigger Brains.  There we do online training in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Sales, Marketing, Online Marketing, Presentation Skills, and more, all starting at $17 per month for individuals.

Companies can also purchase "Bigger Brains" for their entire staff, which allows them not only to access all of our online courses but also to add their own content.  Bigger Brains can also act as a full company intranet, storing key documents and company links as well as online courses.  Many companies use Bigger Brains to store things like Employee Handbooks, Product Sales Guides, and related materials.

And finally in my third life I do some independent consulting, mostly with IT firms, to help them improve their product offerings either to the small & medium business market or their offerings through the SMB IT channel.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Michelle Brooks, Greenville SC Wedding Photographer

At Computer Troubleshooters we've had the pleasure of working with Michelle Brooks of Michelle Brooks Photography.  Anyone looking for a Greenville SC Wedding Photographer should definitely check out her site here.