Kirk Trownson, founder of Palmerston North’s Techexpress says that starting out in 2009 at a low point in the economy helped to future proof the company. If it can succeed in tough times the company should be good to go when things brighten up.
“I had a lot of advice, which I initially listened to very carefully and with great anxiety,” says Trownson. But he says starting in those tough times is now an asset. “Because I got our momentum, for lack of a better word, I think when things come around the dividends will definitely be there.
“After ten years working in the industry I return back to the Manawatu and I essentially took a job flipping burgers, you know just a job for a job’s sake. But I got bored pretty quick so took the almost foolhardy approach of starting a business with a focus on the service side and it’s worked out well.”
But Trownson admits that it’s not been plain sailing and that the position he’s in now has been the result of a lot of hard work with the support from his partner and children. “Karen, my partner was very supportive, just with the amount of stress and strain that goes with handling a business. And the kids (Mathew 10, Amelia 13, Mathew is the up and coming 'gaming division manager' with Amelia being the Facebook master, were definitely very patient. I was over exuberant at times while working at home doing silly hours. My family support was absolutely tremendous.”
Trownson says he started the business because of the challenge.
“I was bored working for someone and I needed the challenge that being in business offers.”
He says he had almost zero capital to start the business. “I think I put up about two hundred dollars. We just organically grew and grew and we didn’t invest in stock unless it was absolutely needed, worked from home in the initial 18 months and just slowly very carefully, almost conservatively I’d say, grew it to where we are now.”
Techexpress now employs three full time technicians with a part time office manager and has a customer base of more than 400. As testament to his good customer relations Trownson says he has never lost a customer.
“I think it’s going very well. We’re 100 per cent in the black, with a good steady income. The small business side we have approximately 40 real strong businesses that we support and then there’s the residential home type that fill in.”
Trownson says the company also subcontracts to larger companies based in the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. “They call on us for support in this area from time to time, where it’s not worth them installing someone full time for support, so there’s a fair amount of that sort of business as well. Sometimes it’s just a case of taking a server to the customer and plugging it in and making sure it’s running correctly.”
Internet marketing and having a good website are the company's biggest assets according to Trownson but he says sometimes tried and tested methods are the best. “Good old fashioned cold calling, getting on the phone and humbling down, so to speak, and just asking for it. At this point in time I guess we’ve reached what I call resource saturation. At the moment we’ve turned off certain marketing channels, which leads to the next biggest challenge for us and that’s finding technicians.”
According to Trownson, finding the right mix of personality and technical knowledge is the key to hiring a good techie. “There are a lot of very technically savvy people out there, but being able to relate to the people aspect is the biggest asset in my mind. Finding technical staff that won’t alienate a customer and who can empathise with their needs, that’s the biggest thing and that’s where we are at the moment. The governing factor for us now is simply finding friendly technical people. There’s an abundance of work out there in the Manawatu and the biggest limiting factor for us is finding staff that can fill the customer’s requirements and understand what they really want.”
Trownson says he knows where his strengths are and is not going to jump into a new venture until he’s certain. “It’s so easy in this industry to diversify. There’s so many avenues and area of potential revenue that it’s very easy to dilute your focus and start to drop the ball here and there. I’m seeing absolute value in focusing on a few areas and doing them really well. I think to deviate, until you get each of those areas nice and solid so that they’re nice fluid mechanisms where the customer knows exactly what they’re going to get, is a liability.”