A clash with testicular cancer had a life changing effect on Hawke’s Bay reseller Andrew Johnson. The illness signalled a turnaround from hi-flying developer, IBM super hero and owner of one of the region’s major ISPs, (InfoLink Systems) to chilled-out Mac sales guy who is happy to offer free advice in exchange for a good cup of coffee. Johnson now sees his business as a way of helping people, or paying it back and giving more than he takes. As a business philosophy, it’s proving a hit with customers.
The 45-year-old Apple Mac retailer and service agent was working with Macintosh back in the days of bleepy modems and has been a fan of the simplicity associated with the brand ever since. However, Johnson left the world of Macs and joined IBM as a software developer in the 90s.
“We try to be a one stop shop for all things Apple Macintosh. Apple Mac is our specialty product although, we are also a Microsoft Partner and a dealer for most brands including a Hewlett Packard Channel Partner.”
Macro, on Napier's Dickens Street, is now in its seventh year of operation. Johnson says the PC side is often more profitable than the Mac business due to the ever present plethora of viruses that PCs collect. “I do a huge amount of Windows support. What I can rely on with Windows is the prolific number of viruses and clean up that has to be done on the Windows platform. So really the Windows machines pay the way and the Mac is the icing on the cake.
“I started off with Apple when I was at high school when they first came into the schools. This is going back to the early 80s. This was pre Macintosh, back in the Apple II days and I loved the product back in those days, and cut my teeth on them. I moved to the 'Dark Side' shall we say as businesses in the Hawke's Bay area demanded PC service, and went to work for an IBM dealership. Specialising in the old PS2 range and the IBM XTs and AT machines back in the very early days and came back to Apple because I really felt that when Apple changed to an Intel chip the operating system was very desirable, we had simplicity of operation. In 30 years of dealing with Apple I’ve never had problems with viruses, never. And the simplicity, it’s just such a simple system to work with and it’s very intuitive, my clients love them.”
Johnson says the love of Apple doesn’t mean he will not recommend a PC solution if the need arises. “This comes down to my whole ethos. It’s a matter of what is the right solution for the customer. Sometimes the right solution is a PC. If I have a client who is very focused around financial applications or business tools I will very often suggest to them that they should be focusing on a PC solution.”
He says the thin margins on Apple gear is a source of pain.
“I must admit it is a frustration. Apple has trimmed the margins over the last few years. It is a problem to be honest and I would very much like to focus more on Apple but to be fair it doesn’t pay the rent.
“The margins are a problem. I think because they [Apple] don’t have a presence in NZ apart from through the reseller channel. I don’t think they’re treating the resellers with the respect that perhaps they deserve. But at the end of the day the Apple product doesn’t require a huge amount of support.
“We do make a little bit of money setting up the computer for the customer. We set up email for them and iCloud and set up their printers for them and if we can we’ll supply the printers.
Johnson’s enthusiasm for Apple extends to participating in the local Apple Computer User Group. “I’m helping to support that group by doing some seminars and talking about certain products, to make sure that the people who are very keen about the Apple range have somebody they can talk to. I try to get involved with those organisations whenever I can.”
His work there is voluntary. “It’s nice to be able to give a little bit back.” He says the cancer scare made him re-think life. “It refocused me to what the passion was. Rather than trying to compete with the big boys, we try to focus on being a smaller company and satisfy ourselves. I don’t want to be the biggest fish in the pond.”
Johnson says that business is looking up and he’s now looking for more staff to take on. He says he’s keen to offer more on site suppor which means additional staffing. "I would very much like to take on a full time technician plus a full time sales person," he says. "So that I can get out there and do more work for our corporate and residential customers.”
He says the Hawke’s Bay area is where his roots are and where he prefers to be. “I’m a Hawke’s Bay boy - born and bred in Napier, but I’ve done plenty of travel. I’ve had so many of my friends try to convince me to move to Australia but it’s just too nice in Hawke’s Bay.”