It’s almost nine pm and I only got home about an hour ago after leaving the house at about six thirty this morning. The reason for such a long day was the TCA conference at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester
This was a breakfast meeting before the main conference itself so registration was at 07:30…nice and early!
The reseller forum was a roundtable style event with lots of different business from around the UK. Some were managed service providers, some were businesses who concentrate on home users as well as some software developers
We had a set agenda and this lead to some great discussions around some of the business issues that we all face such as vendor relationships and becoming that “trusted advisor” to your clients. As it is when I go to AMITPRO it was great to hear how other people do things and see if I can use their experiences to improve my own business.
The final part of the session focussed around best practices. The idea here was that we all had a minute to suggest an idea that has either made or saved money for us. This could be in the form of using a new technology, a business process or even just a business process or policy. We would then all vote on who we thought had the best idea
It was great to hear what everyone had to say. They were all unique and I came away from the meeting with tons of notes full of ideas I can use myself.
After the forum was the actual TCA conference itself.
The conference was opened by the TCA Chairman, Robert French who then handed over to a series of presentations by the sponsors such as Samsung, Kasaya and Synaxon. Of those, one thing that was interesting was the approach Samsung are taking to try in making their external hard disks stand out from the crowd. One thing is to make the packaging unique. They have done this by making it look more like an entertainment package and including a move to watch
Terminator Salvation is one of the movies available. Others included Angels & Demons and the Michael Jackson film that was released shortly after his death with the drive itself having a custom design. They are also looking at similar opportunities for custom designs (Samsung are a Chelsea sponsor for example so they are launching a blue drive with the club badge on)
It’s great to see someone trying something different in a market that isn’t all that exciting
Next up was one of my favourite presentations of the day
It’s the first time I’ve come across Matthew Poyiadgi, who is Vice President at CompTIA. His enthusiasm really comes across and his presentation was fantastic. One of his opening lines was
“I’ve got 84 slides to get through…..
However, this was no death by PowerPoint and I’ll say hand on heart this was one of the most interesting and inspiring thirty minutes I’ve had the pleasure to sit through in some time.
Matthew talked about the current state, of technology, where we’re going and how as businesses we need to be thinking outside the box for marketing and brand awareness and using mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging (just to start!) to reach out to customers. I’m not really doing it justice here though so if you get the chance to hear Matthew speak make sure you take it up!
After a spot of lunch and chatting with exhibitors the next session was about the impending launch of the TCA Academy
This is all about bringing together training and certifications under a single umbrella to help set standards in the UK IT industry. This is to help make companies more professional, weed our the “cowboys” and give clients (consumer or business) confidence they are choosing a quality supplier (you know anyone who is Corgi registered shouldn’t endanger your family after fixing your boiler for example!)
After this was the “reseller theatre”
People from four different IT business (including AMITPRO’s very own Richard Tubb) had a “pitch and bitch” session where they talked about challenges and triumphs they have encountered over the last year or so including having a bit of moan (see, pitch vs bitch!) over some things that can be frustrating. The format lent itself well to some audience participation and again there were some great ideas and discussion points thrown around
Next there was a presentation from one of the sponsors, Kingston Technology who were there to talk about their solid state drives. I had a chance to speak to the people on the Kingston stand and they have an interesting product line. One of the options is an SSD upgrade kit. This kit comes with a caddie (internal for desktop, external for laptops) cables and a disc that comes pre-loaded with some disk imaging software (the specific technology is Acronis) to transfer your operating system onto the new drive. Once the transfer is done your left with a regular hard disk to use as you see fit (backups anyone!?). If I were planning on buying an external hard drive I’d seriously consider looking at this as an option. I’d still get an external drive but I’d also get the performance enhancements afforded by an SSD. Kingston had two near identical laptops on their stand with different drives so they could demonstrate the performance enhancements by having “boot races” to see which system came up quickest
There were then a couple of presentations by some of the guys at Hiscox and P & A Finance who are helping provide TCA member benefits (comprehensive insurances and financial advice respectively) followed by a roundup of some of the TCA member benefits and an overview of the direction TCA are going by new Chief Executive, Adam Harris
The final two presentations were very interesting
The first was a “PR masterclass” by Dennis Publishing (well known for PC Pro, Micro Mart, Channel Pro, etc)
I didn’t get the persons name who presented this but it was very entertaining and an insight into how you can use PR, specifically leveraging trade publications to promote your business.
To end the conference there was a chat show style interview with David Atherton
He talked about how he went from selling computers via mail order to becoming one of the leading “e-tailers” in the UK
It was a fascinating insight into how David built the business and took advantage of technology to drive his company forward. As you can imagine there were some great stories to hear and David shared his experiences with us and was very open and honest
It was seven thirty by the time I got back to my car so I’d been there over twelve hours and still had the drive home to contend with. While it was a long day I’m glad I was able to stay for the whole event as it’s been a useful day. I’ve come away with tons and tons of notes and ideas which I’ll sleep on tonight and hopefully do something with tomorrow
I’d just like to thank William Linard of Comptia as I haven’t mentioned him above. He did a great job behind the scenes and even delivered a speech of his own as part of the TCA Academy launch even though he only had five minutes notice! Thanks to everyone at TCA and COMPTIA who organised today (and the sponsors of course!)
It was also really good to catch up with some of the guys I know through the small business specialist community. While conferences are great for meeting new people I also enjoy getting together with the people that I do know to kick ideas around and generally enjoy the experience together as friends and colleagues so thanks to Richard Tubb, Chris Timm, James Harbidge and Rob Franklin (who battled through a terrible cold!)
A little off topic……
On the 20th September I posted this as my Facebook status
Turns out I was right
Some five months later I actually found out what I’d done
Anyone who knows me also knows that playing football is one of my biggest passions and it’s taken a couple of days for it to sink in that I may never actually play again. It’s been hard enough the last five months so adding another six months (minimum) has been hard to take
Of course that’s looking on the negative side of things. Susanne wrote a great post about how putting the correct spin on things can help get anything off to a good start so I’ll enter the rehabilitation with the mindset that I WILL be playing again next season
The geek part of me also needed to know as much as possible about everything to do with this, especially with the length of time it’s taken
So fingers crossed I’ll make a full recovery. Thanks to everyone who has commented on Facebook and Twitter
This’ll be me again sometime soon!
I’ve come across Paypal on three occasions in a short space of time which raised a question I wanted opinions on
If someone offers PayPal as a payment option, who should pick up the payment charges?
The first time I got thinking about this is because AMITPRO now offers PayPal as a payment option for our subscriptions
Guy and I figured it was a quick and easy way of providing the ability for members to make credit card payments and if it encouraged just one person to pay quicker i would be worth more than the potential time and effort trying to chase payment later down the line
I then had to pay for two sets of services, both of them gave me the option to pay by cheque or PayPal
One of them swallowed the costs, one of them added the charge on top of what I was paying for
I asked the question on Twitter and got the following responses
@AndyParkes – how we see it is that the PayPal charges covers the wages of the credit control / money chaser person we don’t have to employ!@AndyParkes depends@AndyParkes if its the only method given – then the seller should.The first quote there is actually from the person who swallowed the costs so it was interesting to see the thinking behind their policyI guess there isn’t a right or wrong answer, each business does things differently which is of course their prerogative and the person actually making the payment still ultimately has the choice to proceed or notAs the final quote above says, if it was the only method available I’d have been a bit miffedAs always any thoughts and opinions gratefully received!