Neville Jans of New Plymouth offers this tip for long term business survival: "Be very honest, know your product or service, put it right if you've mucked up, and respond to the consumer, they pay your wages."
Jans is the owner and director of Janko Computers, which he started in 1990. Back then, as Jans recalls, his first sales involved selling machines with 20MB hard drives, machines he sold from his bedroom. Now, more than 20 years later, Janko has built more than 1,800 machines itself, with self-builds accounting for 97 percent of the desktops it currently sells.
On leaving school, Taranaki born-and-bred Jans became a trainee telephone technician for the Post Office, but despite passing the exams, he didn't like "the Post Office way" so he joined Shell Todd Oil Services at the Oaonui Production Station as an operator at the LPG plant.
After buying a 286 system, Jans became interested in computers and after he bought another machine from Dave Sumner of Tricom Systems in Auckland, Sumner asked him to sell some of his systems in Taranaki. Eight years later, Janko became busy enough to operate full-time, a venture which now operates as a one-stop shop equally handling consumers and small business around the Taranaki region. It installs small business servers, handles upgrades, repairs, networking and remote support. Business customers include farmers, small businesses, retailers and some in education.
Janko employs three people in sales, three in service and two on the administration side, some of whom have worked at the company for up to 17 years. Jans credits such "fantastic loyalty" on Janko being a locally-owned and "stable" company, offering a "close-knit" atmosphere, "fun" and him giving staff the authority to make their own decisions where they need to.
The business competes against rivals by offering "good value and service," he says.
"Sure the department stores sell for crazy prices at times, and offer interest-free terms, but they don't understand the issues- that's where we come in. I think we are very strong on the service side and that makes a difference," Jans says.
Janko has built its own PCs for the past ten years and covers its own warranties. "We have a separate warranty bank that a portion of each sale goes into, rather than into our general account. I have seen too many PC businesses in my time offering warranties that they never get around to honouring," Jans says.
Janko also builds its own systems using brand name components which let the end user specify what "they want under the bonnet." Janko also supplies commercial servers and workstations as and when required. "When a hardware issue does arise, we can react to it very quickly, much quicker than some brands where the system has to be sent back to the supplier."
Jans says his suppliers are not picked purely on price. They need to be able to supply stocked goods on time and be easy to communicate with and this includes their website ordering. "They need to treat us like a customer, as we are. We have been very loyal to a number of suppliers. Dove, VST, Synnex, Arche and The Virus Centre are great to deal with, but there are many others who deserve our business. Arche Technologies would have to be the best to deal with on the service side, outstanding," he says.
Despite the relative isolation of New Plymouth, delivery is generally overnight and not an issue. "The problem arises when a supplier doesn't get the items out on time, or aren't in stock and doesn't bother to advise tou. That really irks me, but overall (the suppliers) are good."
Looking back at 2011, Jans says it "started off quite well but definitely slowed" in the latter part of the year. "I don't think the recession is over yet and I'm picking it'll be the end of this year at least before markets settle down and some consistency returns. I think the service side will always be in demand."
2012 will largely be "business as usual", with a bigger push into rentals for the small business sector.
"Yes, we've been around for a while now," says Jans, whose non-work interests include golf, cycling, a motorbike and general fitness activities.
"I think one strong point is finding your market and sticking to it. We certainly have a tremendous wealth of experience within the business, something that only comes with time. At times we are quite hard on ourselves to get the result correct, and we try to deliver as the customer would expect," he adds.