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Introduction for IT Professionals

Karl W. Palachuk has been an IT Consultant since 1995 and is one of the pioneers of the managed services business model. He is the author of more than twenty books, most of which are also available as audio books.

Karl founded the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community in 2018. He maintains four blogs, including Small Biz Thoughts and Relax Focus Succeed, and produces three podcasts, including the SMB Community Podcast and The Killing IT Podcast. And in 2021, Karl founded the National Society of IT Service Providers – NSITSP.org – where he is now the Executive Director.

Karl has owned several small businesses, including two very successful Managed Service companies in Sacramento, CA. He received his first Microsoft certification in 1995 and his first MCSE in 1999. He was an active, hands-on Systems Engineer until January of 2017.

He now provides coaching and consulting services to IT professionals of all sizes.

Now please welcome Karl Palachuk . . .

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Bio for Relax Focus Succeed topics:

Karl W. Palachuk is the author of more than twenty books and the creator of dozens of information products and downloads. He is a business owner, entrepreneur, author, father, speaker, publisher, blogger, podcaster, and a community builder.

Karl’s Relax Focus Succeed philosophy topics include work-life balance, team building, goal-setting, and personal development. He built a successful technology consulting company and then used it to expand into book writing and business consulting.

He travels extensively, adding personal days to almost every trip. As a result, Karl visits 25-30 cities every year, often across three or four countries, and manages to take about fifty vacation days each year. Talk about Relax Focus Succeed!

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Introduction for Speakers and Authors

Karl W. Palachuk is the author of more than twenty books and the creator of dozens of information products and downloads. He is a business owner, entrepreneur, author, father, speaker, publisher, blogger, podcaster, and a community builder.

Karl’s topics include technology, business, and personal development. In all areas, Karl has created downloadable products that make big money and cost almost nothing to deliver. Right now, more than half of Karl’s product sales come from electronic products and downloads.

Karl’s information products range in price from $4.95 to $3,599. Today Karl’s going to tell us how we can get started making money with Information Products.

Please welcome Karl Palachuk . . .

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Important web sites maintained by Karl Palachuk:

Small Biz Thoughts

www.smallbizthoughts.com

www.smallbizthoughts.org

blog.smallbizthoughts.com

store.smallbizthoughts.com

IT Service Provider University (formerly Great Little Seminar)

www.itspu.com

SMB Community Podcast

www.smbcommunitypodcast.com

Relax Focus Succeed

www.relaxfocussucceed.com

www.relaxfocussucceed.com/blog

The Full Biography

Early Technology

Karl bought his first computer, a Commodore Vic-20, in 1982. In the Fall of 1983, he started the Ph.D. program in Political Science at The University of Michigan and used the Commodore to dial into the school’s mainframe computer. He joined the local Commodore User Group and soon moved up to a Commodore 64.

Karl chose the UM program because of their emphasis on quantitative methodology and statistics. At the time, the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) was running on several college campuses in the Midwest, connected via the Merit network, a precursor to NSFNet, itself a precursor to the Internet.

At UM, Karl printed off and read through the nineteen volumes of documentation for MTS and the connecting networks. He became one of the go-to computer geeks in the Political Science Department. In the work study program, he worked at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Scientific Research (ICPSR), one of the premier social science research facilities in the world. And he taught classes as a teaching assistant, and eventually an instructor at both the UM undergraduate school and the School of Public Health Policy.

While at ICPSR, Karl learned CP/M and DOS, in addition the BASIC and OSIRIS languages for a variety of operating systems. When he left Michigan in 1989, he was completely hooked on technology – although his degrees are in Political Science.

 

The “Real” Internet

Next, Karl moved to the Sacramento/Davis area of California. He taught college at several schools part-time. But that was not very satisfying. With two or three part-time teaching gigs, he was spending a great deal of time driving from school to school. Eventually, he decided to take a job and was lucky enough to stumble on the perfect position for him: Operations Manager for Legi-Tech, a company that served up legislative tracking (and other data services). There, Karl learned the ins and outs of the HP-3000 MPE/X operating system and all the technology related to terminal services and terminal emulators.

Legi-Tech operated in New York and California. But they had plans to expand, and Karl played a key role in that. In the early 1990’s, Karl got them connected to the Internet via a fractional T-1. There was no graphical Internet, and certainly no World Wide Web. So, connections were basically Telnet, text-based connections via terminal emulators. At the time, most clients connected via one of seventy-two dial-in modems.

With fax-on-demand and other services, Karl found himself managing a collection of systems running UNIX (Berkeley BSD), Novell, Windows, TCP/IP, and MPE/X. The legislative tracking service was programmed in Cobol. Karl only learned enough Cobol to manage the two programmers who were constantly working to update the services.

When Microsoft released Windows Server, Karl managed a program to design and create a Windows-and-SQL legislative tracking service to replace the old MPE-and-Cobol system. This involved creating a 300+ page design document and managing a team of programmers in Washington State. At the same time, Karl did the legwork and managed the opening of a third Legi-Tech office in Washington. The new office would be 100% Windows-based and run on the new service. At the same time, he negotiated a deal to license the service. The first state to come onboard was Missouri.

Legi-Tech was owned by McClatchy Newspapers at the time. McClatchy never understood the world of technology, so when they put one of “their own” in place as the General Manager at Legi-Tech, Karl decided it was time to move on.

He took a job as Site Manager for PC Software Support at the HP Roseville plant. There, he managed a team of almost thirty people who supported about 7,000 computers for about 5,000 employees. He managed the remote work program, the UNIX (HP-UX) help desk, and the sitewide backup system.

It was at HP that Karl learned how to run a professional helpdesk, with the Remedy ticketing system and a great team of amazing managers. While Karl was not required to be certified, his tech team was. So Karl decided to step up and begin getting certified in the Microsoft technologies he’d been using for a decade. His first certification was in Windows 3.1 (Note: Not 3.11 for Workgroups as that was not part of the HP Common Operating Environment). He went on to earn his MCSE and many other Microsoft certifications.

Next, Karl was lured to a company called RTI – Retail Technologies International. RTI’s premier program was Retail Pro, a point-of-sale and inventory control system. At the time, RTI’s network was based on Novell Netware. Karl was hired to get the organization connected to the Internet, develop a web presence, and help develop an EDI (electronic data interchange) service. Of course Karl built all of this using Windows Servers, which eventually replaced the Novell systems.

RTI eventually sold a “lite” version of Retail Pro to Intuit for their point-of-sale system. The EDI system, R-Net EDI, won a Microsoft Retail Application Developer award and was eventually sold to St. Paul Software. Karl was instrumental in the development of the R-Net network, and getting anchor clients Nike and Wrangler to rely on EDI for their distribution channels. In the midst of all that, Karl developed a simple, small protocol for moving EDI packets quickly and safely over the Internet. R-Net was the first EDI network to rely on the Internet instead of telephone/modem systems for transferring X-12 EDI packets.

Once all those achievements had been met, Karl found himself as a very highly-paid but bored technician. The system “just worked,” and the company had a fulltime employee taking care of the Internal network. So Karl gradually reduced his contract to four days a week, three days a week, etc. This allowed him to seek additional clients and transition from a full-time consulting gig to a service with multiple clients at once.

By 1998, KPEnterprises had a few dozen clients and was on its way to what we now called Managed Services. Karl kept RTI as a client, and hung around just for fun to make sure they transitioned smoothly through the Y2K Rollover.

1999 was a great year for KPEnterprises. Karl found lots of new clients by simply offering services to make sure everyone was ready for Y2K. For very small businesses, there was a simple way to make sure they were ready: Buy a new computer! That year, Karl invested heavily in his business, believing that the .com bubble couldn’t last forever, and that the year 2000 would see a dramatic reduction in business.

But things were not bad at all after Y2K. Because he came from a much larger business background, Karl did three things that set his business on the path to success. First, he signed contracts with everyone. Basically, he didn’t know that small IT consultants tended not to sign contracts. Second, he focused very heavily on preventive maintenance. This including visiting every client every month, and touching every machine that he was responsible for. And, third, he made sure that testing backups was the single highest priority task at every client, every month.

Together, these things allowed Karl to build and maintain very reliable systems. And, in turn, he collected very loyal clients.

In the early 2000’s, Karl was slowly converting clients to Small Business Server and a program of monitoring and maintenance that dramatically reduced problems at client networks while improving his response time. As he invested in more tools, Karl was able to handle more and more clients. Eventually, he started hiring additional engineers to help him provide services. Again, due to his background, Karl was rigorous in documenting everything, including the procedures that technicians would execute.

The First Book, Which Became the Third Book

Along the way, Karl wrote a book called Relax Focus Succeed: A Guide to Balancing Your Personal and Professional Lives and Being More Successful with Both. This book came out of Karl’s personal experience with rheumatoid arthritis and managing that disease while growing his business and family.

As Karl prepared to publish Relax Focus Succeed, he decided to attend a writer’s conference to learn as much as he could. The conference was a day’s drive away in Salinas (home of John Steinbeck), so Karl took some work. He had been preparing a series of forms that could be used to document any client system, no matter how complicated.

The forms were designed primarily to make sure that his technicians provided good, consistent support. But given the nature of technology at the time, the forms also allowed system rebuilds to proceed much more quickly if something went wrong. (Windows Server was quite pain when it came to loading drivers.)

Karl fine-tuned the forms themselves, but also wrote out a sample of what forms would look like when complete. Then he added brief instructions and “best practice” tips. The goal was to create rock solid standard operating procedures for KPEnterprises while also providing excellent documentation for clients.

When Karl got home from that trip, he’s written most of what would become his first book – The Network Documentation Workbook. Karl was headed to the SMB Nation conference in Seattle, run by author Harry Brelsford. Brelsford had written several books, including the first books ever written for Microsoft’s Small Business Server. Karl created a mock-up of The Network Documentation Workbook and had it spiral bound so he could hand it off to Brelsford.

In short order, Brelsford agreed to help distribute The Network Documentation Workbook around the world. That book eventually sold about 6,000 copies – and set Karl off on a career as an author. Karl spoke at SMB Nation events across the US and Europe in 2006, and picked up some side work with Microsoft as well.

In the meantime, Brelsford had a new project. He asked Karl to write a book for pay. He’d struck a deal with a vendor who needed a book on SANs (storage area networks). Karl agreed and wrote most of the book. Brelsford contributed a chapter, and the vendor contributed a chapter, and thus The SAN Primer for SMB became Karl’s second book, publishing by SMB Nation.

After that, Karl finally published Relax Focus Succeed. But it was now his third book instead of his first.

Based on the success of The Network Documentation Workbook, Karl decided to write another book based on forms: Service Agreements for SMB Consultants – A Quick-Start Guide to Managed Services. That book is now in a revised edition and has continued to be a best-seller for more than fifteen years. From there, Karl went on to write Managed Services in a Month – the best-selling book of all time on managed services.

In all, Karl has written more than twenty books, mostly designed to help IT Consultants be better at the business side of their business. His books are available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible. Or, of course, at Karl’s store at https://store.smallbizthoughts.com.

Community Building and More

Karl got very involved in the SMB IT consulting community that formed in the early 2000s, built mostly around the Small Business Server (SBS) user groups. Karl founded the Sacramento SBS User Group, now the Sacramento SMB IT Professions group.

Karl has been recognized many times by many organizations for his work to build and support the international small business IT Community. Awards include SBSer of the Year, the SMB 150, and MSP 150, to name a few. He has served on various boards and executive committees for CompTIA, and currently serves on the EC for Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity.

For sixteen years, Karl owned and operated KPEnterprises Business Consulting, which has served as his model for experiences and writing over the years. In 2011, Karl sold KPEnterprises to his service manager, who changed the name to America’s Tech Support. KPEnterprises is now simply a brand name underneath Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc. Karl worked as a Senior Systems Engineer in a contract capacity for America’s Tech Support until it was sold again a few years later. He was responsible for strategic planning, some sales, some project management, and some network migrations.

In 2014, Karl started a new consulting business under the Small Biz Thoughts brand. By the end of 2016, that business had grown beyond what Karl wanted to manage while traveling around the globe. So he sold the clients off to another consultant in Sacramento and dedicated himself fulltime to building communities.

In 2017, Karl put on an around-the-world roadshow to promote cloud services. He managed to do Roadshows in twenty-five cities in six countries on three continents. The materials and documentation from that mega-event were rolled up into a new book – Cloud Services in a Month, one of the most popular books on cloud services for SMB IT professionals.

In 2018, Karl founded the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community, an online membership group that provides training and programs for IT Service Providers of all sizes. See https://www.smallbizthoughts.org.

And in 2021, in response to ransomware and the bad press IT consultants were getting in the news, Karl founded the National Association of IT Service Providers. This organization is a 501(c)(6) membership association with an elected board of directors and over 450 members so far. Karl was appointed the Executive Director in August of 2021. For more information, see https://www.nsitsp.org.

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