When small businesses are looking for a support solution for maintaining their network and computer systems, they have several options. They can utilize one of their tech-savvy employees to pull double-duty as their in-house tech. They can employ a dedicated in-house network administrator. Or they can outsource the service to an IT Support company, an MSP or to an Independent Computer Consultant.
In today’s market, I believe that the Independent Computer Consultant represents the best possible support model for serving the needs of the small business customer. And I firmly believe that any computer professional with the skill set to maintain a small business network should strongly consider starting a small business of his or her own.
In the early days of outsourced computer support (and to this day for many consultants), the break/fix support model where services were charged for by the hour was standard practice. We wait for the systems to fail, call the computer consultant to come out and fix it, he sends an invoice. Repeat as necessary.
It’s obvious how this support model puts the needs of the computer consultant directly at odds with the needs of the client.
The client typically sees the computer consultant as an unwanted expense. Should the consultant be required to make an office visit to the customer, it’s likely because something is broken, which is costing the customer money… both in lost productivity and for whatever the repair costs might be. Under the hourly-rate service model, it’s understandable why the customer would want to see the computer consultant as little as possible. Of course, this works directly against the needs of the consultant, who’s simply trying to bill enough hours each day to make a sustainable income.
If the hourly support model is a lose-win proposition (the more pain the client experiences, the more money the computer consultant makes), how can we create a business model where everybody wins? For us to do this, let’s take a look at what each member of the relationship is looking for:
The Computer Consultant Wants:
- To make a consistent, reliable and possibly substantial salary.
- To have a high level of job security.
- To be able to learn, work with and be challenged by new technologies.
- To work with a diverse group of customers and computer systems, keeping the days varied and interesting.
- To work a reasonable amount of hours and enjoy a balanced work and personal life.
The Client Wants:
- They want their systems to perform reliably at all times.
- They want ZERO unexpected downtime.
- They want problems prevented from occurring wherever possible.
- They want an immediate response when a problem does occur. investigation
- They want smaller problems identified early, before they can develop into larger, more costly problems.
- Their computer consultant should be able to address and fix problems remotely, providing instant gratification and minimizing downtime.
- They don’t want any surprisingly large invoices (and a large invoice is ALWAYS a surprise).
- They want up-to-date systems (even if they don’t always appear at first to want to pay for it).
- They want a consultant who has a deep understanding of their systems and their technology needs.
- They want to have confidence in their computer consultant’s talents for maintaining their network, supporting their users and to guide them in making good choices for future growth.