Jack of IT trades shuffles the deck

Jack of IT trades shuffles the deck

Tauranga's Totalcom is moving toward consulting, but remains faithful to just selling products

Totalcom is a 20-year-old computer supply company based at everybody’s favourite holiday town of Mount Manganui. The company is currently in the middle of a business model overhaul.

Managing director Daniel Schneider-Marfels says the company is steering more toward consulting and services, in accordance with customer demand, but it's not about to forget its role as a product supplier.

And with a staff of six, three of which own shares in the company, he says Totalcom is ready.

“We’ve got three engineers and two sales staff and I double as — well, I triple as sales, engineer and management, a Jack of all trades,” says Schneider-Marfels. “We’re just in the process of rebranding, focusing more on strategies and planning rather than relying heavily on hardware and software sales. It’s happening as we speak and quite a few things are in the pipes already.”

In fact, the business only changed its name in the last week of May, from Total Computer Services, which operated as a reseller since it was founded by John Buchannan and Stephen Richardson back in 1992. A decade later, Buchannan was bought out by Richardson and Alan Eagle, relocating from its original Tawa Street premises to its current Newton Street address.

Schneider-Marfels owned an IT consulting business he co-founded in 1995 with business partner Melissa Wordsworth. Together they bought-in to Total in 2006, merging the companies' client bases, with Schneider-Marfels taking over as sole director. Totalcom now services customers, mainly SMBs, from the wider Tauranga area, to Hamilton, Whakatane and Hawke's Bay.

“We were originally brought in to add that consultative arm to what was in essence a box-moving company,” says Schneider-Marfels. “That’s not to say we don’t still have the ability to sell hardware and software. it’s just that it’s better to be selling your time and your expertise than a box.”

He says his modus operandus is to supply the best. “If our customers buy a computer and they do encounter a problem, we want to be able to deal with it effectively and efficiently, and know that the manufacturer is also going to be very efficient in helping and that’s where the likes of IBM and HP come to the forefront.”

He says he's happy if customers buy hardware elsewhere.

“A lot of our clients are saying we want to buy this particular machine, can you match the price on PriceSpy? And the reality is that most times you can’t match that, but we evaluate the machine for them,” he says. “We tell them what we would recommend for them, what the minimum specifications are and our clients appreciate the fact that whether we get the sale or not we’re actually helping them by ensuring that whatever goes into their network is actually functional.”

Along with the rebrand, the company is developing a new strategy. “Total Computers has a long heritage in the Bay of Plenty but there’s ignorance in the Bay to all the services we can provide. We need to raise that whole level of exposure with lots of consultation, sitting down going through things with them, advising them and lifting our game so that we become more ‘on site’ with our clients.”

Not everything is running smoothly. The kiwi fruit vine killing disease PSA has had a negative trickle-down impact on business. However other business activity around the Port of Tauranga, now the busiest port in the country, has compensated for the loss.

As a local business, he says having a good local reputation is vital for growth.

“A client’s not going to ring at four in the morning unless it’s an emergency," he says. "So we pick up the phone and we sort it out, we deal with the problem.”

The next big challenge, he says, is letting everyone know that.

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