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the profit squeeze


Being a small, office-based computer consultancy, we have both business and home clients. Many home clients appreciate the value of our service, our technical competencies and the fact that four or five hours of our time is worth a lot less than several hours of frustrating, aggravating, non-productive hours of their time wasted trying to solve technical problems themselves. In the end, they call us anyway. When a client, no matter how small, has a crisis or emergency, one of us is willing and able to drop what we are doing and solve the problem. This is not always cost effective for us. Many problems can be solved in a short period of time, but what some clients forget is that it took 30 years of experience to solve a complex technical problem quickly and correctly. An example, we carry this pictured surge protector – top quality, good specs and capable of supporting a laser printer (most don’t). It costs a bit more and for good reason. We don’t carry cheaper units – they are not cost-effective. So this client had a ‘crisis’, he downgraded his internet service by himself, was sent a new router, installed it himself, and has now been having network problems for the last several days. He says “I have wasted many hours trying to work with our isp to resolve this issue”. I go over, figure out the problem, return to the office, get the needed equipment, require and config. his network, it now works. It took in total about an hour and a half of my time in total, even though the actual ‘work-time’ was less. I invoice him for only 1/2 hr, plus the cost of the surge and an ethernet-to-coax adapter kit. Grateful his problem is solved (but not thanking me for the reduced labor bill), he writes a check. The next day, i get an email – ‘Hey, we found a surge laying around, so we don’t need this one any more. can we return it? I trust you saved the box.’ If people can’t willingly support local service providers, in the midst of their technical crises, then they don’t deserve to have local service providers willing to go the extra mile for little money. The answer to him will be no, but it still bugs me to have to say no… or more accurately, to have to be forced to say no, and give up what little profit i made to help him save a few bucks. I have bills to pay too.

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