November 2012

SMB Nation Fall 2012 Recap

SMB Nation Fall 2012 Recap

By: Harry Brelsford, Founder, SMB Nation

It’s that time of year when CEOs start reflecting on the year at hand and make forward-looking statements for the upcoming annum. At SMB Nation, we’re no different, and it’s an honor and a pleasure to report the good news from SMB Nation Fall 2012 conference with a wink toward the future.

For those of you not familiar with the annual SMB Nation Fall conference, here are some interesting factoids. The event was held this past October 12-14, 2012, at the RIO in Las Vegas. In this, the tenth year, there was both a natural excitement and maturity in the attendee ranks. Excitement that several attendees had been to all 10 events, and could proudly proclaim that accomplishment. Maturity in that both myself and others, plus our business models have, how shall we say, aged gracefully. And just to level set, our attendees are small and medium business (SMB) channel partners, resellers, VARs, consultants and good old-fashioned computer guys and gals.

Content is King!

When Microsoft silently announced the end-of-life for its successful Small Business Server (SBS) product in early July 2012, you could have initially assumed that SMB Nation Fall, with its strong Microsoft roots, would be negatively impacted. Indeed SMB community Facebook gossips thrived on being nabobs of negativity over the summer (somehow, it’s how they get their “go juice”). But the opposite was exactly the case. Because we strategically “hold back” 50% of our content lectures until the last 90-days before a conference (to account for community changes in technology), we were able to deftly pivot our content model to “Life After SBS.” Instead of brooding over “the end is near,” we celebrated the SBS afterlife and asked the obvious: what’s next?

This wise approach resulted in a value-added line of hot shot speakers and compelling content. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself at, and I challenge you to study the agenda carefully to gleam insight into our forward thinking. Our maniacal commitment to marching forward put us in the unique position of leading the parade, not following.

So far I’ve really laid out the content strategy for the GeekSpeak or technical track. But there are two other tracks that you will find interesting. Our dedication to elevating and extending the reach of SMB Nation “members” who attend our events has been a consistent commitment over the past decade. So the BusinessSpeak track delivered “money makers” with a twist. This year we aligned our Pocket MBA program and our award-winning and esteemed instructors as the actual business speakers at the conference. In the academic community, this is known as curriculum mapping (yep – that’s a $10 word). Essentially, existing and future Pocket MBA online students could enjoy “rare air” of being in-person for the actual live lecture from the Pocket MBA program. How cool was that? And it gets even better. These same students could have several days of “hang time” with the professors. If you know anything about attending graduate school, that’s worth its weight in gold. Just ask any Harvard or Stanford MBA. You can learn more about the Pocket MBA program at

Finally, the community sponsors, whom we consider to be the third leg of the SMB Nation stool, provide timely and informative insights into current programs, practices, services and products. Honestly, the sponsors were embraced and supported in ways not previously witnessed. Early in the SMB Nation Fall life cycle, our SMB channel demographic (defined above) had a certainly hostility toward vendors. To be honest, it reflected immaturity to the reality of having a successful business model that is functional and profitable. Today our attendees embrace the vendors and actively engage in the sponsor’s keynotes and breakout sessions.

Reality Check

What largely drove the success of SMB Nation Fall 2012 was our long-standing open and affirming living theology to embrace what is new and not discriminate against attendees in any way (age, sex, sexual preference, religion, political party, etc.). So those folks who attended participated in adult conversation about what are we going to do next. Reinvention was the underlying theme. The “fussy” folks who did not attend SMB Nation Fall, quite frankly, weren’t missed. The existing attendee base applauded our honest approach to the forthcoming channel “shake out,” where there will be SMB reseller road kill as the technology infrastructure pivots to hybrid and cloud solutions.

Essentially, the naysayers voted with their pocket books not to attend SMB Nation Fall 2012 and the more progressive SMB community members made the most out of conference.

Another reality check, somewhat unexpected, was the popularity of the old “data+voice” convergence strategy. IT Pros were open and receptive to entertaining the idea that you can expand your traditional infrastructure proposal to incorporate telecom solutions. And the affirmative acceptance of cloud-based solutions wasn’t lost on seasoned observers who witnessed a cloud rebellion at our events in the 2009-2010 timeframe (the last time Google was seen at our events).


Before one more word is written, a serious shout out to our sponsors who are fundamental to the success of our event model (duh!).Top sponsors included Intel, Microsoft, Dell, D&H Distributing, StorageCraft, HP and OKI Data. That was followed by other top-level sponsors including AVG (great launch party!), Chartec, Datto, Lenovo, Autotask, Carbonite, CRU Dataport, Epson, FiberCloud, GFI MAX, Intronis, Level Platforms, N-able, PacketTrap and Blackberry. And we finished with another 25+ exhibitors you can learn more about at

Forward-looking Statements: Flight to Quality

Forgive us for some tough love. But with the changes in technology and the fundamental reset of the world’s economy, there are going to be winners and losers moving forward. For the SMB Nation 2013 Fall conference (October 10-12, 2013, RIO, Las Vegas), we challenge you to look in the mirror and ask if you are ready, able and willing to grow to the next level. We’ve teamed with Redmond Channel Partner magazine for next year’s event to change up our game (and yours too!). We will be injecting more of the “M” into the SMB conversation and that’s good for us, you and “them.” The traditional “S” attendees at SMB Nation will now have someone to look up to and be mentored as the smaller attendees elevate up to the mid-size market. We’ll see you there – but only if you’re serious!

About the Author

Harry Brelsford, author of 17 technology books, is the founder of SMB Nation and the Pocket MBA program. He can be reached at and .