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This isn’t your father’s SMB!

Fast forward to modern times and you will discover that the SMB (small and medium business) space is one of the hottest areas in technology. Small businesses are always being created both in good times and bad.

A few weeks ago, an urgent press release crossed the wires about Microsoft doing SMB. I thought that might be an interesting read and I discovered that the article related to Microsoft acquiring a server messaging block (SMB) independent software vendor (ISV) in the open source community. This surprised me because I know SMB to refer to small and medium sized businesses. However –back in the old days as a NetWare consultant (I was a CNE in the early and mid-90s), I truly had to know the finer points of server messaging blocks. How times change.

Fast forward to modern times and you will discover that the SMB (small and medium business) space is one of the hottest areas in technology. Small businesses are always being created both in good times and bad. That is what makes SMB so attractive to business entrepreneurs and small business technology consultants seeking more opportunities. With this article, I will start writing a series of articles, primarily focusing on technology in the SMB space.

Let me introduce you to the small and medium business sector. The size of the SMB space can vary dramatically as different research house will report different sector measurements. I have seen figures as high as 40-million small and medium businesses in the US but such figures would account for many one-person home-based businesses. Really I am interested in a different measurement of the SMBs who are interested in the technology consulting services of my readers (I will define my readers in a moment). When you account for the small businesses that have more than one PC, I believe you are looking at 20 million businesses in the USA maximum. This is an impressive and HUGE number.

My readers are typically SMB consultants who are self-employed, having some from other career fields and professions. Take Hughie. Hughie is a new SMB consultant who lives in Central Oregon. He recently attended his first professional conference and became a Microsoft Small Business Specialist. He serves small businesses in his community with his technology consulting skills and is thus improving the operations of his customers. IT is a rewarding life.

So how many Hughie’s exist in the USA? No one know for sure, but I was recently in a conversation with a software executive at a large company in Mountain View, California. We reversed into an reasonable number for the sake of debate. If you took the approximately 190,000 registered partners in the Microsoft Partner Program and doubled it, you would have 380,000 SMB technology consultants in the USA. We double the Microsoft Partner program number because not every SMB consultant is also a Microsoft Partner. Sounds reasonable, eh?

Now for further context. I conducted some research that showed the average SMB consultant has 28-customers. If you multiplied the 380,000 SMB consultants by 28 customers, you arrive at 10,640,000 small businesses being served by SMB consultants. But remember I told you that we can safely assume the USA has 20 million small businesses with two or more computers. That means the existing SMB consulting base (380,000) would have to serve 53 customers a piece to meet the needs of the market place. However, the reality is that many small businesses are being ignored or underserved by small business consultants because there is an implicit shortage! And shortages translate into opportunities for you. I will leave you with a quote from an executive of a small software development company in Sunnyvalle, CA told me earlier this month: “…there is a shortage of IT workers.”

Harry Brelsford is the author of numerous SMB technology books and a long-tie speaker at industry events. He is the CEO of SMB Nation (www.smbnation.com) and can be reached at [email protected]

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