Brendon Pilott believes in giving, and says such altruistic practices have been good for business.
He runs Te Awamutu Computer Services in the Waikato and says giving a laptop to a school student helped him develop his Facebook page, something he uses to promote his business.
Pilott has operated his business for five years, which he runs in conjunction with another job.
While studying for a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, he began his IT career by starting a small business selling custom build PCs and parts during his studies.
“By the time I had finished my degree I had seen enough code for a long while and decided to apply for jobs in IT support,” he said.
Pilott started work at Mark 2 Network in Tauranga as its SLA engineer. He monitored customers’ servers, performed routine maintenance and fixed issues.
After three years, the business was sold, so he joined Graceland Group in Te Awamutu, where he works as systems administrator, being in sole charge of its IT department.
Te Awamutu Computer Services is a side venture, which serves a mix of residential and small businesses from Otorohanga to Hamilton, Pirongia to Cambridge and everywhere in between.
There is no shop front for the business, and helped by a couple of part-time technicians, Pilott can even serve people at night.
“Most jobs are residential malware removal and new notebook and PC sales,” he says.
Pilott sells HP business class notebooks, and while they cost more, he believes they are better. "The telephone and onsite support that HP provide is the best I have encountered,” he says.
The business customers typically have five to 10 users and run on Small Business Server 2003.
“I find that once we sell a computer or notebook to a customer, we don’t want to hear from them again until they want an upgrade and that really is how it should be,” he says.
Te Awamutu has just one main computer store and others just pop up from time-to-time. A few operate businesses from home, but Pilott says customers do complain about the lack of professional support in the town.
“And that is what we do best. We are professional in all our dealings, we show respect to all our customers. It doesn’t matter if they do not understand the tech speak. We are patient and communicate in such a way the lightbulb finally turns on. They appreciate the effort we put in,” he says.
However, despite such commitment, Pilott admits to losing sales because he cannot match the interest free deals from appliance stores.
Most business comes from Yellow Pages or Google searches that lead to his website. A name like Te Awamutu Computer Services helps as people knows where he is and what he does.
Pilott also picked .geek as all the other Te Awamutu domains were taken, but he believes this fits the business well, saying personal character wins business rather than certifications.
Te Awamutu Computer Services is a Microsoft partner and registered HP reseller. It uses Exeed, Ingram Micro, Sofsol, Express Data, and Arche.
Pilott says HP Probooks are a big hit for its performance, price and support. He is also working with Trend Micro to offer a cloud-based anti-virus, malware, web reputation and web filtering service to residential customers, something he believes is a first.
“In offering a managed cloud solution at least annually when it is time to renew, we will contact the customer to see how everything is going. We will also be able to manage their AV remotely through the cloud service. They can benefit from web content filtering which we can configure for them adding an extra service,” he says.
Pilott says turnover was down in 2011 but profit was up, something he credits on changing his mindset. Previously, he had discounted services, but found he could raise prices without losing a single customer.
However, he is a great believer in Christian charity saying he was once asked to advertise in the Te Awamutu College Diary.
Pilott thought students wouldn’t look at the ad, so he promised a free laptop if the students looked at the ad and contacted his website and facebook page, which attracted 89 ‘likes.’.
One day the draw was made and a shocked 13-year-old won the laptop.
“Giving sometimes makes no financial sense but it feels so good, and this stuff we have been blessed with which isn’t ours, you can’t take it with you when you die,” he says.
“Anyway, I now have 102 people who like my Facebook page. I can now post promotions or other competitions on it. Mainly it is to get the brand out there, get some awareness of what we do, and at some stage it may result in some good business,” he says.