Business Planning (Part III)
The Seven Steps of Common Sense Business Planning
5. ASSEMBLE FINANCIAL DATA
Business Planning (Part III)
The Seven Steps of Common Sense Business Planning
5. ASSEMBLE FINANCIAL DATA
Authors: Bryce Whitty
“Would you like fries with that?” is probably one of the most well known cross-sells in today’s society. McDonald’s restaurants do this because it simply makes them more money and at the end of the day this is what most businesses are about – making money.
In my own business, I found that data backup was one of the easiest items to cross-sell. If a client had approached me because of a data loss incident, I would always offer an ongoing backup solution after I recovered the data. The client has already gone through the emotional turmoil of possibly never seeing their data again, that they will often do whatever it takes so that it doesn’t happen ever again.
If the client is yet to experience data loss incident and I notice that they do not have any sort of backup solution in place, I would bring it up.
The way I would sell it would depend on whether they were a residential or business client. If they where a residential client I would say something like “I noticed that you dont have any sort of backup solution in place. I would imagine you would be pretty upset if you lost all these photos”.
If the client was a business client, I would say something along the lines of: “How much downtime would you experience or how much money would you lose if something happened to your database”.
The great thing about offering data backup as a cross-sell is you can earn money on both the hardware (like an external drive) and the service (setting it all up). I f you set your client up with some sort of offsite solution, it is also possible to make money out of this on an ongoing basis where you continue making a commission.
Every now and then you will have a client that comes in that wants their computer fixed yesterday. The client may be a busy business person or perhaps they are a student that has a school project due tommorrow. Whatever the case, a fast turn around time is a priority and some people are willing to pay for it.
If you already have a few computers on your bench, offer a “Priority Service” fee that will push their computer to the front of the line. If they are truly in a hurry (and not just hurrying you along because they have a Facebook addiction), most will be happy to pay a little extra for the privilege.
Computer cables going everywhere can really bother some people and sometimes it can even be dangerous. Talk to the client about the possibility of going wireless with their network, keyboard or mouse. You can also offer to clean up their cables which can extend the callout time by 10 minutes or so, thus making you more money.
If the client is in an area that is prone to blackouts and brownouts, consider setting them up with a Uninterruptable Power Supply with automatic voltage regulation. Let your clients know that their computer will stay on if there is a temporary outage so they don’t lose their work. Also let them know that it helps protect the hardware from power surges. Similar to the data backup example, these are easy to sell after their computer has already been damaged by a power surge or some other power related issue.
These are a great cross-sell when someone is upgrading their computer. There have been a few times when my client’s laptop wasn’t worth repairing so they simply went out and bought a new one. Even though I didnt get the laptop sale itself, I still can still make make money by offering to pull the hard drive out of their old computer (assuming the original issue wasnt hard drive related) and put it in an external USB hard drive enclosure. This way, they can connect it to their new PC and access their old files on the drive.
If I notice that the clients computer has undesirable software installed while I am working on something else, I offer a tune up service to help make the system run better. I would typically say something along the lines of “I noticed that there is some undesirable software on the system (adware/spyware) which can slow down the computer or invade your privacy, would you like me to remove this?”. I find that most clients will say yes to this service.
You may discover that a clients computer has insufficient antivirus protection or simply no protection at all. This is a great opportunity to either sell a well rounded paid antivirus solution or take the time to install a free one. Of course, making sure that a clients computer has an antivirus solution installed is just part of being a good technician anyway.
Some laptops have some serious overheating problems. If you come across one of these laptops, consider selling the client a USB powered laptop cooling pad.
If your business clients has handful of computers in their office, consider offering to install a Unifed Threat Management appliance (antivirus, antispam, firewall etc..) at the edge of their network to help keep it safe from internet threats.
If your business repairs devices that tend to get dropped like Laptops, tablets and phones, consider cross-selling your client a durable case for that device.
Downtime for business clients can be very expensive so it is best to try and catch these issues before they happen. There are two good ways to cross-sell managed services.
Like most things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to sell. Cross selling (which is offering similar products and services) must be built around the customers needs and not just selling more stuff. Up selling (which is selling a better version of the same item) can be done more on what the customers wants. Obviously will need to recommend a device that is good enough for what they want to do, but you can always go better depending on their budget such as more space, faster speeds or higher quality.
If you hire employees, you can get them enthusiastic about up-selling and cross-selling as well by offering them a commission on all additional sales. You may feel like this means less money in your pocket since the employees are also getting a cut, but chances are they will sell more resulting in more money for you in the end.
Do you up-sell/cross-sell something I haven’t mentioned here in your own business? Please leave us a comment.
Business Planning (Part ll)
The Seven Steps of Common Sense Business Planning
I started a computer repair/tech blog about three years ago. I was experiencing so many different repair scenarios on a daily basis that I wanted to write about them.
I have always liked to write and teach as well as share any knowledge with others. If you would like to check out the blog you can do so here: http://randythetechprofessor.com
Any comments, suggestions, additional tips, etc. are very welcomed and appreciated.
Randy Read More…
Authors: Bryce Whitty
If a large part of your client base is residential then you may have been asked “shop around” on a clients behalf. The client knows they need to purchase something but want to do it alone because they want to make sure they dont purchase the wrong one or get ripped off. This usually occurs in two ways:
While this sounds like an easy way to make money, how do you charge? Do you charge for your time or do you place a markup on the product?
Well, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this and if you get it wrong, you can end up wasting a lot of time or upsetting your customer.
The client will generally let you know whether they want to purchase through you or purchase from another business but you may have to ask. Here is what to do in each situation:
If the client wants to purchase the product through you, then you simply to treat this like you would with any other stock you carry, where the markup makes it worth your time. You do the research for your client, you buy the product through your business and place your markup on it that is appropriate for the amount of time you spent, and the client never knows who your suppler was.
If the client has another business in mind like BestBuy or Newegg, you need to charge based on your time rather than have a markup. Marking up a product is difficult to do in this situation without looking like like you picked a price out of thin air.
For example, which way sounds sounds more legitimate?
The first looks like you plucked a price out of thin air, the second sounds fair enough.
The best way to go about this is to shop with them either physically or using remote support software to shop with them online. This way they know they are taking up your time and that you need to charge for it.
Otherwise, if you tell them what to purchase after you put in the time researching for them, it is possible that they will just go buy it from a Big Box store and circumvent you entirely. There was a topic similar to this in the Technibble forums recently where Lisa from Call That Girl said: “We tell the clients to pay us for our shopping time. Remote time with me is our normal rates, $59-$79 to shop online together, or they can take my lead tech to Microcenter and he’s $125 an hour. We save people money by shopping with them.”
Following the simple guideline above, this should help prevent you from getting stung when shopping on behalf of your clients.
Authors: Scott Lancet
Authors: Micah Lahren
We’ve all lost clients from time to time, some of them very valuable. While it may not have been something we did, or something we didn’t do, it’s just one of those things that hurts business, and something we should keep to a minimum if at all possible. Clients switch from service to service sometimes because they hear of a discount, and often they find that service not up to par with the service you provide, and they call you back and resume business with you. Sometimes they never call back, and that’s where you can take the initiative. But the burning issue of the hour is: How can you make sure you are keeping existing clients, and not losing them due to some lack of effort on your part?
Clients are often impressed by a willing attitude. If you sound like you’re not looking forward to working with them, the feeling may be mutual. If you show a willing attitude in your voice and countenance, they’ll be much more likely to look forward to doing business with you again, and might even refer you to their associates and friends. Be attentive to their descriptions of the issues they’re describing, and help them out when they find difficulty explaining exactly what is wrong. Often, people pretend they’re listening when they’re not, and falling into that trend isn’t a good practice. Basically, make the client feel they are important to you and your business, that they are your ‘number one’ client, and they’ll be much more likely to call you back for repeat work.
If you say you’ll be there by 3:30, be there by 3:30. If you’re running late due to an absolutely unforseen emergency, notify them as soon as you can, so they can adjust their schedule accordingly. Punctuality is one of those pet peeves for many people, and causes them no end of frustration. Repeatedly being late for appointments is enough for some clients to pull the plug on your relationship. It’s just another way of showing respect to the client as well. You’ve got things to do, and so do they, and they don’t want to have to wait around while you get there. Punctual workers often get repeat work because they’re dependable, and that’s very important in the business sector. Keeping your appointments is a good step toward keeping existing clients satisfied with your service.
This pretty much goes without saying. This is probably one of the most important things in your relationship with your clients. Honesty is one of the most valuable assets in the workforce, and when it’s missing, the work will disappear as well. This applies to charges on invoices, clear descriptions of work performed, billed hours, honesty regarding parts purchased, replaced, and repaired. If they find something has been less than truthful between you and them, don’t expect them to call you again. On the other hand, if you’re consistently honest in your business dealings, you’ll be much more likely to get repeat work and referrals. I can’t emphasize this enough. Honesty is very important!
This is also a very important aspect of the client relationship. Don’t badmouth clients to other clients, word can get around quickly, and you’ll find yourself at odds with other clients. Then those clients will start to wonder what you’ve said about them to other clients, and before you know it, you’ve lost the respect and trust of a whole chain of referred clients. If you’re interested in keeping existing clients happy with you and your service, show them the same respect you would expect from them, and you can’t go wrong.
Also, some clients aren’t as tech savvy as many technicians, and they may not know all the terms we use to describe parts and computer issues, and that’s not their fault. Everybody has their area of expertise, and while a mechanic can’t tell you what’s wrong with his computer, he can tell you what’s wrong with your car and fix nearly any problem it could have. So be respectful and courteous, and don’t belittle a client or speak with a condescending attitude. It’s easy to pick up, and it’s not likely they’ll call you back unless they are absolutely desperate. If you show them decent respect, they’ll be very likely to refer you to others and call you back for more work.
This is more or less optional, but it’s a good idea. If you’ve kept track of how long clients have been with you, or how many calls you’ve made on them, implement a bonus based on how many calls or how many years they’ve been a client. Perhaps you could offer a free light computer clean-up, or optimization. You could also offer some sort of discount on their invoice. This is also the type of bonus that is likely to get passed around by word of mouth. If they find out you give discounts based on how long clients have been with you, and good discounts at that, they’ll tell all their friends and associates so they can get good deals too. This can result in a lot of extra referrals. I know in one situation we were nearly overrun by all the clients who took advantage of this bonus idea, so it’s good to use it in moderation.
In conclusion, it’s mostly just the basics of any relationship, but often these basics are forgotten in business relationships. You’ve heard the phrase ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’. Perhaps that personal touch in business has been neglected, and that’s what’s missing from a lot of business relationships. It’s important to be professional, but don’t lose that personal touch that makes the client feel important. Just remember the fundamental basics, and you’ll be much more likely to keep all your existing clients, and gain referrals at a steady rate.
Authors: Micah Lahren
As PC repair techs, we’re often called upon to troubleshoot issues such as Wi-Fi network issues, such as low signal, no connectivity, and so on. There are many many apps related to network testing, exploration, security analysis, and basic troubleshooting. Many of these are included in the Linux distro BackTrack, a favorite among those who work in penetration testing and network security infrastructure. However, in this article, I’d like to highlight two Wi-Fi testing and mapping apps for techs, both of which are freeware. They are invaluable for wireless network mapping, and should be included in every tech’s toolkit. Depending on what you use in the field, laptop, netbook, tablet, or smart phone, and depending on the area you’re analyzing, one or the other might be more useful. Both support 802.11a/b/g/n, as well.
HeatMapper requires a device running Windows, and only takes a minute to install. There are two mapping options. You can upload a floor plan image, a screen-shot of a geographical map of the area you’re testing, or any other diagram that could be used as a floor plan. Alternatively, you can use the ‘grid’ option, which is basically a basic grid that you use to map your own ‘floor plan’ for network mapping. After you choose your option, you’re shown all available networks, and you can click on the area, and start walking. As you continue walking around the area you’re mapping, continue clicking at intervals to provide location coordinates to assist in accurate mapping.
HeatMapper will show the Wi-Fi coverage, including all access points, their security settings, their channel, speed, and more. It should work with any built in network adapter, as well as external wireless adapters. I’ve found the speed with which it maps target areas to be exceedingly fast, compared with some other testing apps I’ve tried. It’s very accurate at locating network access points, based only on signal strength and the coordinates you provide by clicking on the map or grid as you walk.
I should mention that this app limits your continuous site survey to 15 minutes, but it will probably be a rare occasion that you’ll need to spend more than 15 minutes walking through your testing area. If you have more than one floor, you’ll probably need to have a floor plan image for each floor. If you try to put all floors on one floor plan image, it’s not likely to come out very well. Instead, the signal strength lines will probably end up skewed and out of alignment. At the end of each survey, you can take a screen-shot, and keep the image for reference in your results.
I found Meraki’s WiFi Mapper very useful as well. It’s a browser app, but it can also be used even when you’re not connected to the internet. As a browser app, it will function on most tablets and some smart phones as well, and this is where it really shines. Google Map integration is included, which means you can pull up your location on a Google Map, and simply start clicking as you walk around, pausing as it tests.
You’ll notice it’s not quite as speedy as HeatMapper, but what it lacks in speed is made up in other features. After signing up for an account, you can upload floor plans and use them as maps. Unlike HeatMapper, here you can upload a floor plan image with several floors on the same map, and use the same map during the whole survey. The interface is very easy to use, and I found the color coding feature has a very professional look to it, and it’s easy to locate spots with very low signal.
WiFi Mapper is only in the beta phase, which is very promising, considering what it currently offers. There doesn’t seem to be any time limitation on the site survey, which also favors those who need a multi-story site survey. However, I do recommend that while you’re walking around and clicking to provide coordinates, stop walking while it runs the test for the coordinates you just provided, to provide better accuracy. I’d recommend going to Meraki’s site for WiFi Mapper, and over here for HeatMapper, just to check them out. Meanwhile, talk a walk around your office or business, and test your network coverage with whatever mobile browsing device you have handy.
Do you have a favorite Wi-Fi testing app you frequently use in your work? Leave a comment!
Authors: Micah Lahren
We all have our little USB toolkits, our ‘ultimate’ CD’s, our repair disks and other related repair tools. Most of us like to have a comprehensive list, a solution for every possible problem we could encounter in the field, to the extent of carrying around drivers for common hardware in the rare case there is no reliable internet connection near the client. The issue with having a comprehensive set of tools often means you have to search through your tools for the one you need, and once you’ve located it, run it, and then search for the tool you need to use next.
You may have a routine you would like to automate, but instead you sit there at the computer and babysit the mouse, clicking once every 5 to 15 minutes to close something, affirm something, or perform some other menial task. While automation is a partial solution, there is a much better solution that has been available for about a year in the tech sector, about which there have been some recent improved developments. It’s been mentioned on Technibble and Podnutz before, but it deserves full coverage.
Enter D7, the ultimate technician tool, from Foolish IT, LLC. What is D7, and what does it do? Perhaps a better question would be: What doesn’t it do? It has everything from ‘one-click’ malware removal automation, Windows repair and maintenance, backup, restoration, and migration of data, as well as a slew of system tools, shortcuts to commonly used tweaks and configurations in Windows, and much more! It can keep your tools updated, yet is fully portable. Yes, you can put it on your UBCD4WIN drive and run it from there.
A note of caution is in order, however. This is not a tool designed for consumer use. This is strictly for Tech use. The rest of the tools in your kit might be hacksaws, maybe even circular saws. D7 is the V8 chainsaw of the Tech world. It can do a lot of damage if you don’t know what you’re doing with it, and that is why you can password protect it when you leave the client’s computer, so that they don’t inadvertently find it and toy around with it when you leave, requiring you to return and repair the havoc they might have caused.
Seriously, though, what does it do? The official web site (www.foolishit.com) has some good info on how to use it and configure it if you’re new to the tool, but for starters, it offers offline and live malware removal assistance through internal tools as well as third party tools you can customize yourself. It will automatically download and extract those tools when they are missing, and you can configure it to update your tools with the use of Ketarin. It’s a registry editor with a mass search and delete feature.
It’s a data migration tool, with backup and restore features as well. It’s a networking swiss knife tool, with handy shortcuts to commonly used components in Windows that we use often, but tire of locating the long way through the Windows OS. Command line tools are condensed into ‘one-click’ executions, so you can forget needing to remember all those executable names and extensions. It also includes password removal features, and is more or less the equivalent of a virtual locksmith.
Let’s take a look at version 6.7, the last ‘free’ D7 version. (I’ll discuss more about this later, this has to do with the recent developments regarding D7.) On the left side, you’ll see the tabs you can click on, such as Reports, where you’ll find info reports, malware logs, and can perform screen captures and access them. On the Customize/Install tab, you can change host files, update third party apps, and work with dSupport. The Maintenance tab covers everything from Time Zone checks to system cleaning tools such as deletion of temp files, internet files, cookies, history, toolbars, BHO’s, and registry cleaning tools. The Maintenance II tab has many more utilities you can use to test and stress test hardware, check performance, and repair other items such as the Windows Updates feature.
The Malware Removal tab covers malware removal assistance, and provides easy ways to recover shortcuts and hidden files after the infection. It includes scanners and methods of fighting malware as well, which you most likely wouldn’t find all in one place like this anywhere else. The Windows Repair tab has a plethora of repair tools for nearly everything you could want, from repairing the firewall, checking system files, using MS FixIt, clearing print spoolers, and much more. The tweaks tab is handy for tweaking features within Windows. Datagrab is your backup tab, and it has some extremely useful features as well. DataRestore is where you work on the restoration of data, and is fairly self-explanatory. DataMigrate is again, self-explanatory, and allows you to migrate user settings, mail settings, and search for specific files with specific extensions, in case they are hidden on the drive.
Offline Ops can find keys, restore settings after malware removal, and perform other tasks as well. The Config tab sets up the customized options, Updates and Sync updates your third party tools, and syncs your D7 configuration to a centralized location, and keeps all your D7 drives in sync. All in all, a major comprehensive computer repair utility, and best of all, it’s completely free! If you’ve never used it before, go check it out. Once you’ve downloaded it, simply mouse around inside the GUI, nearly everything has a tooltip that shows up in the bottom of the GUI that describes what it does. The best part of it all is that you can automate nearly every routine of tasks you want to perform!
Regarding the recent developments, as of July 30th, 2012, Foolish IT, LLC is partnering with RepairTech, Inc, to create a new revolutionary tech product, combining TechUSB with D7 to create TechUSB Pro. For those serious about computer tech and the repair business, this is a tool you need in your toolkit. It will be a premium product, brandable with your own company name and logo, and include premium features such as uploading D7 logs to your TechUSB Portal online. D7 6.7 is still free to use, although it has some ‘nag screens’ when you try to perform certain tasks. As far as I know, previous versions (with less features) don’t include those nag screens, but if you see this tool being useful in your company, you won’t regret the small price for the usage of the premium version. The company branding feature is sure to impress your clients as well.
In summary, D7 is one of those tools you just shouldn’t be without. Remember to protect the client from locating it and toying with it on their own, and you shouldn’t have any problems. Use it wisely, and you will probably wonder how you ever got along without it!
Authors: Guest Writer
Guest Post by Chris Michalec:
You are sitting up late at night working to finish up the computers on your bench. You’ve been running around all day, and you are exhausted. How do you create more hours in the day? Through automation! Automating the common tasks you do every day gives your business something the high priced consultants call “leverage.” That means bigger profits for you while spending less time working in your business.
I’m a little late to the automation game. Shockingly, despite working at 3 computer stores over a 10 year period, I never had anyone use automation to any great extent. No scripting, no slipstreamed Windows installs, no nothing. However, since I have begun doing my homework, and a big thanks to those on the Technibble forums, I’ve found automation cuts the time I spend actually standing at a computer by as much as 90%! If you want to grow your computer repair business, you can’t afford not to automate.
There are a ton of ways to automate, but let’s look at some of the most popular ones.
1. D7 – I have to say that Nick, aka FoolishTech, has created an awesome tool. That is why I am putting it first. Unlike other options on this list, D7 is easy to learn and quick to setup and use. For those of us who don’t want to or can’t spend hours scripting every little thing, Nick has created a turnkey product to perform your most common tasks. Using D7, we can perform our “PC tune ups” and malware removals in a very short amount of time, and do it the same every time. If you aren’t using D7 I’m going to make a bold statement – you are holding your business back.
2. RMM Scripting – This one is for you managed services providers out there. The RMM (remote management & monitoring) software you use can be very powerful when used with some basic scripts. For example, we have every one of our weekly and monthly maintenance tasks scripted. They go out on a set schedule, and we only need to “touch” the system when the script fails. This means that we can deliver our service at a lower price and still have a higher profit margin (remember that from my last article?).
3. Windows Automated Installs – This next one has cut the time it takes us to install Windows from hours to about an hour. With one USB flash drive and a couple of clicks at the start, we can install Windows XP, Vista, or 7 with all the drivers, updates, and usual software. I can’t tell you how nice it is to insert a USB flash drive into a computer, boot from it, confirm the install, and then wait about an hour to be at the desktop and activate Windows. Creating these automated installs can take some time to initially setup and get the kinks worked out, but software like nLite and Microsoft’s Deployment Toolkit make it much easier. While the learning curve can be steep, it is worth it in the end.
4. Automating Software Installs – If you find yourself installing the same software over and over again, you can use a service like Ninite to automate these installs. Ninite is a website where you choose what popular software to install and will then give you a single executable to download. This executable downloads and install all the software you previously chose with one click as well as opting out of any toolbars and other nasties that tend to get packaged with software installs.
The Pro version of Ninite now supports Active Directory where you can easily manage software over an entire domain.
5. PXE server – Using a PXE server (Preboot Execution Environment) in your shop can mean you never have to mess with booting from CDs, DVDs, or even USB flash drives. You can store and update operating system images on a centralized server, and never have to wait to copy a CD or update a USB flash drive. I haven’t setup a PXE server yet, so I’m not going to delve into this topic further. The Technibble forums are your friend for learning more about this.
6. Bench Computers – Having a computer or two that you just use for testing and repair procedures is a great idea that can save you hours on repairs. Have a slow PC that you need to scan for viruses? Take out the hard drive and hook it up to your bench computer for a rapid scan. Even better is that you can usually do scans and tests on multiple hard drives using just one computer. We did use bench computers extensively in my previous jobs, and I rely on them in my own business. If you don’t have the money to put together a new one, just use the parts you have lying around. Whether running tests or scans, bench computers make things easy.
7. Your Business – You shouldn’t stop at automating your technical work. Why not automate your billing, marketing, and other common, repeatable tasks? There are a ton of services that can help you do this, making even one person businesses look like they have a large team. We have automated our billing, and this means that our service agreement invoices go out each month automatically to our clients’ email. Even many of our payments are directly debited from our clients’ accounts now. Can you imagine? No more chasing down a slow player!
The most important thing you can do is, once you find an automation method that works, add that to your procedures manual. You don’t want to hire someone and have them make the same mistakes that you did when you first learned how to automate Windows installs! Make sure to document what works. You would be surprised how much even you will forget, since you won’t be updating these automation routines every day.
It is all about making the best use of your time and maximizing your profits. Time spent at your work bench takes time away from marketing, networking, & learning. With automation you can work on more computers simultaneously and this means bigger profits for your business. Automation is worth the time you will invest in learning how to do it right. That feeling that comes from finishing a Windows install in an hour, and you only spent 5 minutes of your time on it, is incredible!
Guest Post by Chris Michalec: Chris is the owner of Parkway Technology Solutions, a managed services provider serving small businesses with 1-15 employees in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He started Parkway Tech in 2008 after 10 years of working for several computer repair shops as a technician and manager.