While the motoring world knows the Levin as a rather sporty coupe manufactured by Nissan, the good people of the Manawatu know their own Levin as a town of 19,000 people, where the ladies outnumber the men folk by more than 800.
Among the latter is Simon Nikolajenko, owner of BL MicroTek, a company which services and repairs PCs for the region.
Nikolajenko likes to operate at the grass roots level, but tough times in the region have forced him to scale back on customisation services. These days, Nikolajenko focuses on reselling laptops, with a preference for Lenovo and Asus.
“We don’t build our own custom machines anymore," says Nikolajenko. "We basically found it to be a pain in the nether region. Well, I did."
Part of the reason for that is despite using the "latest and greatest, and using good quality hardware" any defect in a particular component tends to amplify error, costing time and money.
"You might have been building three machines in a row and you’ve used the same brand hard drive and all of a sudden you’ve got blue screens of death and the whole nine yards happening all at once," he says. "With re-stocking fees and such like, it was just a mammoth task to change the chip set, or if Intel changed the CPU and it was a different pin-out or anything like that, you had to basically rebuild or re-customise your quotes."
That is why BLMicroTek went from building to selling as a a Lenovo business partner, offering the vendor's range of tablets and laptops in addition to Asus. The reseller procures through distributors Synnex, Ingram Micro and PB Technologies.
“The majority of our work is repair work," he says. "We still get new work from scratch. We don’t box drop any of our stuff. It’s all hardware checked."
A lot of what Nikolajenko offers is intended to avoid headaches for his customers down the road. The systems will come with a "whole load of tune up tools" and a list of instructions for how to make recovery DVDs.
"You often go around to someone’s place and they don’t have the recovery DVDs so it can be a bit of a nightmare for the client," he says. "We probably spend three to four hours on a machine prior to delivery, which is our point of difference between them buying something from the big block buildings. We don’t really mind if they’ve gone and bought something from someone else, we still offer that same service. We do anything from surge protection to external hard drives.”
Nikolajenko, 33, was born in Levin and began his computer career at the ripe old age of eight when his family bought two PCs.
“It was just trial and error," he says. "We loaded up software and did some networking with 3.1, and got used to running between two computers. I went to Tech and CIT and did some support courses. I’m a practical person.”
He started the business in Levin when he returned from Australia after starting his own family. He says the town has changed over the years.
“The town has got a lot better, cosmetically," he says. "You still get the odd riff raff but I prefer to live here. It’s nice and quiet, or quieter than the rat race of Melbourne or Sydney.”
Nikolajenko says the town was badly affected by the recession, however. Levin has an unemployment rate two percent higher than the national average according to government statistics. “We have seen a recession. We’ve had good years and bad years.”
Nikolajenko combines salesmanship with technical skill, but he says the important thing for customers is to speak their language.
"A lot of techs don’t know how to interact with people, they don’t know how to communicate properly, or just have a normal conversation while you’re actually fixing something," he says. "It makes it a bit more enjoyable for the client if I can talk to them in normal language, with basic user friendly instructions. As far as I’m concerned I’m a serviceman and a tech. I can get along with anyone. People have offered me dinner and lunch.”