Island life is all about kicking back and enjoying the lifestyle. And that’s exactly what The Island Computer Guy does in summer on Waiheke Island.
“Our low season is summer when all the tourists are here. We get to go to the beach. We leave one or two of us on call, and if one of the staff says ‘I wanna go down to the beach for a surf’ or ‘I want to take the day off,’ then hey, no worries.”
It’s a great way to attract a loyal team of employees and Thomas Greve has proved it’s a worthwhile employment strategy since his staff have been with him since he began the business seven years ago.
Greve, 43, says the lifestyle on Waiheke is what makes it all worthwhile but he has to compete with Auckland prices when it comes to reselling kit or charging for services.
He says the secret to his success is being the only computer supplier and service centre on the island. “The population is about 9000 and since we have pretty much a monopoly that’s our customer base. It’s a captive audience. However, because of our proximity to Auckland we have to compete against Auckland prices. Even though Auckland technicians are charging anywhere from $70-$150 per hour our customers on the island are not prepared to pay more than 70 bucks an hour. So we charge $65. Including GST.”
He says his aim right from the get go was to achieve the highest level of service on the island. “I set up my business to put a couple of locals out of business because their service was so poor. My business is about service, it’s not about making millions of dollars and it’s not about ripping off our customers. It’s simply about giving service to customers who previously didn’t have that available to them.”
He says he’s not worried about upsetting his competitors in such a small place.
“The market dictates who stays in business and who goes under. It’s not me, if someone else goes under because of poor service, or a customer comes to me because of my reputation of providing excellent service, that’s competition. I don’t have a problem, if they go under it’s because they’re doing something wrong. They're not keeping their customers happy.”
Greve says that apart from his shop,which he compares to any high street computer retailer in Auckland, he also keeps a close tag on what’s going on with the island’s internet supply so that he can be one step ahead when it comes to providing his customers with knowledge of their connection. “We have a nice relationship with the Chorus guys so if there are changes with the UFB rollout we have our finger on the pulse so we can tell our customers when they can get a faster service or even let them know about outages.”
The Island Computer Guy as a company now offers everything from virus removal to customising software, website design, hosting, email support and a retail shop. “I guess the nearest I can describe the business is that we are a miniature Dick Smith with qualified technicians as sales guys. You name it we do it. A file server or a laptop, desk top, Mac, PC, Android smartphones etc.”
Greve is also happy to help his customers with open source solutions. “We like to give them the pros and the cons. We like to educate our customers so that they can then make an informed and educated decision.
The business was started seven years ago by Greve and quickly went from a one man operation to four staff within the first year. Greve says he doesn’t think he has reached capacity for servicing Waiheke Island. Instead he says he has reached his own capacity to run the business and now is looking for someone to partner with so that he can move up with a more entrepreneurial approach and develop business strategies rather than finding himself shackled with workaday tasks.
“Once we expand that will give me more time to focus on advertising strategies as opposed to day-to-day running of the business. I hope to employ a manager to take over the day-to-day running of the business. At the moment I’m a business owner, I’m not an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur finds new ways, new ideas, new processes.”
As for the future Greve says the market is going to change and the products are going to change with smart phones being just one stage. “I don’t believe that the tablet is the final product and I don’t believe that touch screen lap tops are the final product. I also think Facebook has its death date at some stage. We periodically have people coming in asking how to close their Facebook accounts. Quite a few people are asking about privacy issues with smart phones and GPS and Google knows everything about you now. There’s still quite a way to go... Maybe arm band electronics?”
In the meantime Greve is ploughing through the busy time of year, the winter, when he says some of the Island's inhabitants have been surfing in dirty waters, and not the oceanic kind. “We do a lot of virus removal in winter, when the locals have checked out too much porn, ha ha.”