Harry Brelsford recently asked a few of us fellow MVPs how to become an MVP. He did this because he was asked by someone in the community about how he could become an MVP. We responded and Harry then wrote his article which you can read here.
Harry is Harry – a long time SBSer and very successful business man, so he’s taken his point of view based on that experience. Harry has done a lot to help grow the SBS community over time and many of us look up to him as “The Man” in terms of this. I do however have a few concerns about the way Harry expressed his point of view.
In my mind you don’t seek to become an MVP, you either are or you are not. I said this to Harry before I knew it would be used in a blog post. Let me explain a little more.
To become an MVP is not something you set out to do. It’s something that is born within you. You must have the following traits…
- The desire to help others without expecting thank you’s, appreciation or payment of any kind
- The desire to help your competition even when you know they suck
- The desire to make an ass out of yourself when you make a mistake and are then corrected
- The desire to fly half way around the world at your own expense and spend countless days giving input to future products that might be cancelled without notice
- The desire to forgo large amounts of billing hours so that you can contribute to the greater good of the product
- The desire to beta test products and submit bugs and feature requests that may well be closed as “will not fix” or “closed by design”
- The desire to learn more about products than you ever knew was possible
Why then do I do these things? It’s because…
- I want to make a difference
- I want to help people better understand the products
- I want to help vendors better understand our requirements
- I want to help my competition be better than they are
- I want to help build a better world
- When I respond to peoples questions, I learn more each time
- When I don’t know the answer, I research it to find out and as a result learn even more about the product
You will note however that there is a key difference here between Harry’s point of view and mine. I’ve not sought to outright make money from being an MVP. No – I seek to help people. If opportunities come my way because people see me as a leader then so be it. If they do not then so be it too. I’m not being an MVP in order to make millions of dollars, because I can tell you that it not something you will do. I’ll continue to do the things I do long after Microsoft decide my contributions are no longer worthy of the MVP award. I do these also for other vendors too that do not have MVP style programs because I want to make a difference.
One man can make a difference. I’m not that man, but it won’t stop me from trying.
UPDATE May 21st – Tim Barrett has posted a little more humoures view on this here
Tim Barrett says
Well put, Wayne.
My take on it: If you are helping the community and are shocked to hear that you’ve been nominated or awarded an MVP – you’re in the right mindset. If you’re helping the community with the goal of receiving an MVP award – not so much…
Well Wayne, I like Harry, he has done a tremendous amount to build the community we all love and live in, some say he is even the father of it, the first SBM Nation being the insemination of what it has become today. Yes the beginnings were before that in the news groups and Compuserve forums, but i think the defining moment if there was one was those 3 days in Indy.
Harry is probably one of the most financially motivated people I know, and that is not a bad thing, it is just not an MVP thing. Harry realized this many years ago, when he gave up his award because he saw it holding back his earning potential. I can tell you for the last 8 years, it has cost me out of pocket to be an MVP and it is not something I would recommend someone set out to become, if they didn’t already have the mindset. After all it is an award for past deeds. If you are not the type of person who is doing these things already, you are going to be very unhappy when you feel like you have to do them and then find out there is not the financial reward for it that is perceived in the community, the real reward is emotional and personal . Sure I have gotten a few gigs because some people recognized my experience in one area or another, because I was listed as an MVP, but that income pails dramatically compared to what I have spent over the years hopping around the country, attending functions, launches, meetings ect on my own nickel. I can’t even imagine what folks like you, Olli and Marina spend on an annual basis.
I think Harry’s recent post does a disservice to the community in general and to folks trying to build their future business plans specifically, and I thank you for this post and I hope some of the other MVP’s chime in here as well, and help to clarify the message. The MVP Award is not a certification, it is not a qualification, it is not a position, it is simply an award for PAST VOLUNTEER work done in the community helping partners and end users better understand and take advantage of technology and MS products specifically. I cannot think of one MVP I know personally, that was not surprised to hear they were nominated and whose first reaction truly was, I am not worthy. A few folks come to mind who set out to get it, got it and were never renewed because the reality set in and they abandoned the effort.
Wayne Small says
I’ve nothing at all against Harry – just a different point of view on this topic 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with making money either – however to make money from something and then claim that as a community contribution is double dipping hence my view on this.
Dave. Sanders says
While I don’t know Harry as well as Andy and the others, I do respect him and know that he does his best for the SBS community.
I built and ran Culminis for five years which grew to be more than 3 million members in size. During the process of that effort, I got to know hundreds of MVPs all over the world. In nearly every instance, I found these individuals to be motivated primarily by the things that Wayne has listed. I almost NEVER found any of them motivated by financial gain in being an MVP. I also noted that almost universally, each of them were very surprised at finding out they were nominated and subsequently receiving the award.
Most are very humble, dedicated to serving others and embody some of the finest and most noble traits I have ever encountered.
I have heard it said that if your goal is to be an MVP, you will never be one. However, if your life goal is to help others and make a difference, in many ways you already are.
Harry Brelsford says
Hi everyone – I just updated the blog post to edit out the two paragraphs discussing economics.
It wasn’t my intent to offend anyone and looking closer – the topic of SMB community economic incubation is really a second topic that I’ll blog another day.
The point of the blog was to answer Ash’s question from India about how to become an MVP.
Wayne Small says
Mate – you didn’t have to do that. Your view is your view and I respect that. I was just conveying my point of view as well. There is no doubt that you have been extremely generous in the community and you’ve used your position to help foster and grow it and we appreciate that. We just have a different view on this aspect 🙂
I think everyone will like this new improved version much better Harry :>)
Jeff Middleton says
Like others I looked at you earlier comments and pondered “is that a fair commentary” and overall I thought your comments were fair as an opinion, but misleading in the context so I think it would still be intertesting to see your thoughts in the right context.
You used the terminology “monetizing”. It’s a reasonable word, people take it different ways. Not everyone agrees if it’s a compliment or a criticsm to say that someone “monetized” something that by implication apparently apparently had no negotiable value until you monetize it.
For instance, here is the classic connundrum which every active newsgroup and forum junkie has faced:
“HelpMePlease posts an issue in a public forum, states something like “my business is down, I’m in crisis” because my server crashed, I need help.”
WannaBeMVP is not an MVP, just a good semaritan who routinely answers posts when he can to “help where he can, whoever he can”. His reply is:
HelpMePlease, dude, you should call MS Support, that’s why they are there. Have you got a backup? Is it hardware, what did you last change?
HelpMePlease responds, “I’m never calling M$ again…been there, done that, 4 months ago the same thing happened, they charged me and told me my problem can’t be fixed by MS support but I still had to pay for the call because….” whatever.
WannaBeMVP then says “If you have BackupExec, why not call them?”, and the answer comes back that HelpMePlease is 3 version back, has no support contract, and not willing to spend the $2500 to bring it current. Whatever.
WannaBeMVP then further clarifies the problem is a boot configuration issue with the restore media that isn’t working because of a BIOS issue with Dell hardware…the plot thickens. Yet another 3rd party issue. He knows this issue because he had it 3 years ago.
WannaBeMVP responds back “I know what your issue is, you need to do the following tasks, but you have to get a fix from Dell, an update from Symantec’s FTP, you need to roll it over a hot iron and then modify the registry setting I pasted below and then reinstall the service pack.
HelpMePlease replies back “I’m totally over my head, I don’t understand anything you just said to do. My boss is going to fire me if this is not working before I go home tonight, so I’m not going home but I can’t fix this.
Which one of the following examples of “monetizing” this situation is in appropriate:
1. HelpMePlease says “I’ll send you $500 by paypal now if you RDP in and look at it, and another $500 if you can fix it in the next 2 hrs.”
2. HelpMePlease says “Would you be willing to let me pay you to fix this for me if I give you $50?”
3. HelpMePlease says “Would you be willing to let me pay you to fix this for me if I give you $500?”
4. WannaBeMVP says “I know someone in my firm who consults on servers, he could fix this. I can’t offer to do this because I’m ethically opposed to charging newsgroup people to help them if I can’t answer the question by a newsgroup post. This guy charges $50/hr.”
5. WannaBeMVP says “I know an MVP who could help you, he helped me with the same problem 3 years ago, but he doesn’t read this list anymore. He started a company doing 3rd party support. I can send you his contact by direct email but I think it’s not ethical to post his name and information here because he’s an MVP and doesn’t want his name identified if he does work that originates as a post in the newsgroups.”
6. WannaBeMVP says “I can help you, but this takes about 3 hrs to work, and I only have a 30 minute lunch break. My company has a policy that prohibits personal work other than at lunch. I could get back in touch with you when I get home tonight. I volunteer at my church and tonight is usually my session on Service to Community, but you sound like you are in a pretty bad situation, I’d like to help you.”
7. WannaBeMVP says “If you are willing to send $100 to my church’s paypal account that goes towards assisting victims of child abuse (it’s registered as 501c3 and tax deductible), I will fix your server for free in the next 2 hrs. I’ll go to the church now and look for your payment to come through, then get started.”
8. WannaBeMVP says “Look, I appreciate that you have a bad situation there, and I know that it sucks, but it’s one thing for me to help you clarify your problem and solution. I don’t take work over the web, a lot of people are just creeps and I don’t like dealing with their stupid issues because they are stupid people to stupid to install updates on their half-butt servers. You should have known better than to let your updates and contract lapse. That was your first mistake. The rest was predictable.”
9. WannaBeMVP says “I have a website. Take a look, if the terms listed there are cool with you, I’m happy to help.”
10. WannaBeMVP says “I guess you win the lottery. I normally charge $200/hr for my work, but I lost a bet with my boss and he says that until I prove I can fix 4 servers in a month without asking for money, he’s not going to let me work overtime. He says I have bad ethics because I keep telling my boss we should charge for anything we do in IT work that is out of scope of our proposal, but he says we should give our customers a break.”
11. WannaBeMVP says “I make you an offer. I’ll logon and if I can fix your server in 20 minutes or less, I’ll do it for free. If I can’t, I’ll charge you $25/hr. beyond that to fix it. I have 4 kids and another on the way, I could use a couple of bucks, but I don’t want to charge you if I’m wrong about your problem.”
12. WannaBeMVP says “I know you asked 3 times if I would logon and fix this for you. The problem is that Microsoft really frowns on MVPs offering to get paid to fix computers for people in the newsgroups. But I can still stay here and answer any questions you want for the next 6 hrs because my wife left me because I spend too much time online helping people.”
13. WannaBeMVP says “It doesn’t matter how many time you ask me, the answer is NO. I don’t do work for hire because the community here on this forum decided that trolling for work degrades the community, and I’ve already been warned 3 times this year to stop offering to help if I take the discussion offline. The problem is, some issues like this really can’t be solved in a newsgroup in any reasonable amount of time. If I sit here typing for the next 10 hours you still probably won’t have it solved because it’s complicated. But this is something I do every day in my job and I could fix it if you had called my office instead of posting in this forum. We have a flat fee for this kind of thing, it’s $150. Sorry. Good luck.
At some point in this review, I would also like everyone to consider 3 other possibilities:
A. WannaBeMVP is a Microsoft CSS engineer who likes helping people.
B. WannaBeMVP is in fact an MVP, but wants privacy.
C. WannaBeMVP is going to be nominated as an MVP next month and awarded.
At what point in one’s career do you stop helping people, or start or stop charging people for valuable work if you began doing before you were an MVP…but now you are?
Should you insist on rejecting the MVP award if you take a new job where you charge for IT work, but before you were in house IT?
Should Microsoft insist that MVPs sign a waiver that they only do volunteer IT work?
Should MVPs be treated differently than anyone else in the newsgroups who when faced with the opportunity to grow their career, the realize that they had undervalued themselves for years. They discover that many, many people need help, want help, want to pay for help, and want to be given a professional avenue to do that instead of waiting for 3-4 hr replies in a newsgroup when the company is down?
Sure hope this post on Wayne’s blog makes sense. I’m not going to read it before I hit submit.
Of course, if I was going to post this exact same article signed as Jeff Middleton SBS-MVP, Founder of SBSmigration.com and give it to Harry to print in an SMB Nation magazine, I could probably get $500 for this. But, I would feel badly if it was mispelled or bad grammer or if maybe it just sucks as an article of the quality I would normally submit. But hey, this is free, it’s on a blog. Why monetize this? Who’s going to read it anyway??
– Jeff Middleton, SBS-MVP
Wayne Small says
Thanks Jeff … your check is in the mail… 🙂
Nice to hear others thoughts on this. Thanks for all that have contributed.