Friday, February 26

QeH2 Interviews Partner Darrin Eisele

by Alex Repola

When I first reached out to Darrin Eisele (QeH2) to do a partner interview, I thought for sure we would be setting a date a couple of weeks down the road. Considering how busy Darrin has been with the reorganization of Mountain View Marketing (MVM), the rapid growth of QeH2, and spending time with his family, it was a shock that only in a matter of minutes he responded with a time to sit down that same week.

While preparing for the interview, I remembered a conversation I had with Eric Pratt a few months back who had worked previously with Darrin at MVM and knew his background very well. Eric told me that Darrin had never worked for someone else before; he had owned his own company since he was in 7th grade. Until I sat down with Darrin, I had not realized that Darrin had not only accomplished many goals in his life, but he knew what the uneasy feeling of defeat was like as well.

Through vision, perseverance, success, and defeat, Darrin has been living his own destiny for the past 30 years, and is showing no sign of slowing down.

Q:Tell me about yourself and your family Darrin.
A:My wife Lori and I have three children, Devon (16), Easton (14), and Breanne (12). I have never actually worked for someone; I have been self-employed from the time I started working in 7th grade until now.

Q:What do you spend your off-time doing?
A:I’m very involved in my church. I also like to do a lot of recreation things, riding anything with a motor: 4-wheeler, dirt bike, etc. We like to snowmobile in the winter and boat in the summer. I am involved in three different companies ranging from I.T. support to different real estate investments and LLCs on the business side.

Q:Your background and experiences are pretty diverse, what led you to companies like MVM and QeH2?
A:In 7th grade I started a lawn mowing company; at a very early age I began to focus more on the quality of my work with trimming of the sidewalks and the weeding to keep yards in shape. I moved off of that and stared working with my brother who owned a waterbed store.

In 8th grade I began making padded rails to cover the hard sides of the waterbeds in my parent’s garage. I got a table saw and a nail gun and I had taken wood shop as well as my mom taught me how to sew using a commercial sewing machine so I could sew the straps on the ends. I went out and solicited the six waterbeds stores in Billings, MT at the time and they all bought my product. Jack Jabs, owner of American Furniture Warehouse, was from Bridgers, MT; he used to manufacture some furniture up there and I used to buy my foam from him and they would deliver it to my place. I then began to build the decks and pedestals that went under the waterbeds that held the bed up. I decided that I would build those in my parent’s garage, turning it into a wood shop. After cutting the decks and pedestals I would spray them without any help. My parents were crazy letting me use a table saw.

In 9th grade, I was old enough to get a driver’s license and decided to join one of my other older brothers, who owned a rock hauling business, haul moss rock to go on the front of houses. After being successfully with some of my other companies, I had earned enough to purchase a brand new 1980 silver, half ton pickup, which for my age was a big deal. I went down to the rock yard and they had no problem with me hauling rock. I had a 5th wheel hitch put on my truck and rented a trailer to use to transport the rock. I purchased an old CJ1 Jeep and a pick-up box trailer to get back into the mountains and pick a half ton of rocks, load it on palates and chicken wire them on top of the 5th wheel. I’d get five guys or so to go up with me, each of them generally only lasting one trip because of the labor-intensive work. One day we were hauling a load down to the truck and the pick-up box trailer split right at the hitch. We got it unloaded and unhitched, thinking we could get a welder out there to fix it. As we were heading back down to the truck the front differential blew out in the Jeep. I had already put $400 into the Jeep and $400 into the trailer so I’m a little aggravated. We tried to load the Jeep by backing the 5th wheel up to a hill where we could roll it on. I go to start my truck and my mechanic friend who was with us had left the carburetor cover off and the engine caught on fire. Now the jeep is burning, like a full-fledged fire under the hood. As a teenager I think the car is going to explode, as I go to move my truck and put it in gear, I drop the transmission out of my brand new truck. We now have two disabled vehicles and we are 20 miles from the closest town. That was everything I owned, gone in a matter of minutes. I learned a lot that day; you can take a lot of things for granted and you can lose everything. My dad had to rent a U-Haul to come pick us up after we hitchhiked into town.

The next company I had in high school is where I learned the most. After my dad and I had put a sprinkler system in our yard, I went to my buddy and told him we could put sprinkler systems in, so he funded it with his $400 after I had lost everything. We went out and sold his girlfriend’s dad a sprinkler system after we had gone down to the wholesaler in town who showed us everything they knew about putting sprinkler systems in. We even took drafting class to set us apart from other companies. We were literally drawing the systems out, color-coded every zone. That got us a lot of credibility. We knocked on doors to get business and that year put in around 50 systems. My senior year I made about 35 thousand dollars, which was a lot of money at the time. The day I graduated high school, I knew I never wanted to work for anyone but myself.

Q:How did Jim, Ian, Quentin, and you come up with the QeH2 business model?
A:Quentin was the CIO of Mountain View Marketing when I owned the company and I had never known anyone with such a wide knowledge base of I.T. than Q. When MVM sold to Berkshire-Hathaway and moved their headquarters to Utah, neither of us decided to move with the company. I told him we needed to do something together. After all our bad experiences with the different levels of I.T. support, we took a look at what had been missing in the marketplace in regards to information technology, more specifically within small to medium-sized businesses. We really discovered there wasn’t anyone out there that performed as well as QeH2 when focusing on moving and growing the company as well as following through with what we say we would do. We got rid of contracts, got rid of hourly rates for employees, and really moved away from the break-fix model to how we could make organizations money; looking at I.T. as a profit center to help make businesses money. Quentin and I had a good idea of what we wanted to see out of an I.T. company and Ian and Jim Holt (H2) were very excited to migrate their model from a consumer perspective to businesses and organizations.

Q:As a business owner, how do you view I.T.?
A:It’s really about implementing the right technologies that will reduce expenses by becoming either more efficient, or help move more products, driving up profits.

Q:What is one technology you think every business owner should invest in?
A:The misnomer is that technology is going to solve your issues or problems. People tend to look at the “T” in I.T. while focusing more on the how the information is being processed instead of the information itself. Generally, business owners look at people as an expense. We understand that employees are assets to the company and by investing in them you tend to see the organization grow. As I look at it right now, I see technologies as pieces that use information to help staff move business forward all reliant on what your product or service is and your different business processes.

Q:Why is it important for you to focus on the inner workings of QeH2 and the personal growth of each team member?
A:The key to having a successful business is not doing just one part. It’s getting every core piece of your business to progress. For example, you have an accounting department and as the business owner you can get that department to be more efficient, more documented, more systematic in how they perform their closing duties, or pay bills, or look at spreadsheets and data files, over all making them 10% more efficient. Why couldn’t you plug that process into every one of your departments? With the chaotic growth we experienced at MVM, if we hadn’t focused on moving our people forward by investing time and resources in each of them, we would have fallen behind.

Q:After running some very successful organizations, what do you attribute your success to?
A:I’m religious and need to say that a lot of it comes from a God-given talent that I have for vision, drive, and the ability to work with people. Having the confidence, experience, knowledge, and willingness to be open to opportunities as well as being able to make smart decisions on opportunities is something else that has helped me to be successful.

Wednesday, February 24

10 Ways to Avoid Mistakes During Project Development

by Alan Norton
  1. Learn from other’s mistakes. Find experienced peers who are willing to share their mistakes and then learn from them.

  2. Do your research first. No matter how much you know, you'll encounter new challenges on an almost daily basis. Each challenge usually requires you to learn something new. Before you tackle a problem or task, do your homework. the trial-and-error method of learning may have been necessary and acceptable years ago. but with the resources available on the Internet today, there is little excuse for mistakes made because you didn't do the proper research in advance.

  3. Have a plan. You can't know how to get to your destination without a road map. In project development, the road map is known as a project plan. Whether done formally or informally, you need to know how to get where you are going. Days or even weeks of programming time can be lost if the wrong path is taken. When done the right way, a project plan will keep you from straying off course.

  4. Follow standards and use templates. There is a good reason why experienced professionals took the time to create and publish industry and company standards. Standards detail best practices and procedures learned over years of trial and error. Templates such as predefined forms can be useful since most of the work is already done in a standard format.

  5. Communicate and coordinate with others. If you are part of a team, it's essential to communicate with other team members to avoid redundancies and to coordinate your wort with theirs. Emails, instant messages, project status reports, and teleconferences are all ways to communicate and coordinate with others on the team. Unfortunately, each of these is far from perfect. You can spend the better part of a day reading and writing emails, participating in conference calls, and instant messaging with your peers. But it is a necessary part of the development process.

  6. Allow enough time. Failure to allow enough time for each phase of the project can lead to missed requirements, inadequate analysis, poor design, rushed programming, insufficient testing, and incomplete documentation. The result can be a system that doesn’t meet expectations and fails in one or more key areas. Estimating the time needed to accomplish each phase of a project is difficult. Ideally, you want to complete each phase of the project on time, and thebest way to do that is estimate them correctly up front.

  7. Reuse proven code. If you’re an experienced developer, you should have built up a large code base over the years. Go blue and recycle this code whenever possible. You will likely have to modify the code to fit the new requirements, but proven core code is a good foundation to build on. Not only will you reduce the risk of introducing new bugs, but you will eliminate the time wasted creating similar code and the subsequent testing required. Share your code with others so they can reuse parts of it. Proven code can be shared via plug-ins or libraries. Good external sources of code are available on the Internet that can be legally used for free or for a small fee.

  8. Use checklists. Before a commercial plane trip, the pilot and co-pilot are busy walking through a long, detailed checklist. Checklists can be used during various phases of the project development process. They are particularly useful when working with large systems and when a single person is responsible for multiple tasks. For example, a list detailing the steps required for system turn-on will help avoid accomplishing tasks out of order and prevent errors of omission. It is all too easy for developers to overlook important items like system access when they are busy doing final testing and documentation.

  9. Test, test, test... and carefully review your work. There is a healthy level of paranoia about delivering error-free work. Test as much as possible as early as possible. Errors in the code are typically more expensive to correct when found near the end of the development process. The last thing you need when facing a critical release date is to find a bug that should have been found months ago. Careful and thorough testing will allow you to find those mistakes before your users can. Double- and triple-check your work. Develop test data and a plan to test common calendar-based events like EOM processing and annual reporting. All functionality and every single possible scenario should be thoroughly tested. And, yes, this is also a good place to use a checklist.

  10. Test again with a third party. Find at least one experienced person who can be dedicated to the beta testing. They will undoubtedly use the system in ways you never dreamed of and find bugs you missed. Don’t overlook or rush this final quality assurance task. It’s typically your last chance to get it right. Once a bad piece of software is released or a system with a critical bug is turned on, a company’s image can be tarnished for years to come.

Thursday, February 18

Why It’s Important to Standardize Processes

By Alex Repola

Some common problems within the information and technology arena like dropped hand offs, ambiguous responsibilities, misinformed decisions, and other errors within the execution or communication of basic processes threaten everyday business. This doesn’t mean team members are unable to perform to company standards; lacking a shared process that guides employees as a team, clarifying responsibilities and reinforce communication is what may be missing.

Hazards of non-standardized or non-existent process: - Reduced quality
- Higher cost
- Wasted time and energy
- Poor or no documentation
- Inaccurate diagnoses
- Degraded service

Ultimately, the worst thing a business can experience is failed business results. Focusing more on the decisions that are made in planning systems and flaws in the process in regards to development of the system is where establishing standard business practices can be most beneficial. The outcome is reduced re-work, accelerated performance, and a system that is deployed as predicted.

QeH2 has not only implemented standard business practices within their own environment, but continues to help SMB's develop systems that work for their specific situations and how to expand that into every department.

Friday, February 12

Thanks to Your Cell Phone, Authorities Know Where You Are at All Times

Today, a federal appeals court will begin debating a privacy issue most cell phone users haven;t ever considers; the governments ability to track your location at any time if you are carrying a mobile phone.

With the advancement of cordless communication devices over the past decade, cellular providers have developed the ability to pinpoint your exact location within 150 feet. Kind of scary, right? If you happen to run your car off the road authorities can track your location, but the real reason this has become such a hot topic is the idea that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment which guards against illegal search and seizure.

Read more about what the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union are doing to protect authorities from invading Americans privacy in more ways than one.

Tuesday, February 2

Top 10 Sales Mistakes When Selling Technology Products and How to Avoid Them

by Tessa Stowe

Mistake #1: Selling the Wrong Thing
Instead: Sell What People Want to Buy

Mistake #2: Acting Like a Salesperson
Instead: Be Your Authentic Self

Mistake #3: Your Intent Is To Sell
Instead: Your Intent is to Solve Problems

Mistake #4: Selling to People Who Aren’t Going To Buy
Instead: Sell to Qualified Prospects

Mistake #5: Prescribing Before Diagnosing
Instead: Diagnose and then Prescribe

Mistake #6: Talking Too Much
Instead: Talk Less – Listen More

Mistake #7: Bombarding Features and Benefits
Instead: Give Relevant Presentations

Mistake #8: Leaving Prospects to Work Out the Financial Justification
Instead: Work Out the Financial Justification With Your Prospect

Mistake #9: Using Closing Techniques
Instead: Suggest the ‘Next Step’

Mistake #10: Treating the Sale as the End
Instead: Treat the Sale as the Beginning

This are all very valuable tips on how to get back to the basics within the sales arena. Reading over these tips made me realize that if you just slow down, listen to what the needs of each individual organization are, and direct your conversation towards those needs, sales conversations will be much smoother and will come very natural to you.