PC Computer Consultants owner/manager Dan Barnett took a break from IT after three years in the sector in the 1970s, but found he couldn’t stay away for long.
He and his wife live in Moerewa in Northland. Barnett is of Ngapuhi extraction. He taught himself to programme using a Commodore machine that had just been upgraded to 32kb of memory.
He went on to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a data processor but left after three years.
“But after two years of working for circuses, pouring beer, slinging burgers and truck driving I was back in IT and I haven’t wanted to do anything else since.”
Barnett and wife Jayne established PC Computer Consultants in 1995, but he only began working for himself full-time when he was made redundant from another business in 1999.
“More and more people found out that I knew something about computers and I kept being asked to sort out issues for them,” Barnett says.
“Initially I was only doing software issues, though more and more companies started telling me that as I was doing their computer work they also wanted me to supply hardware for them.”
The population of Moerewa is about 1500, with the town situated on State Highway One between the turn-off to the Bay of Islands and Kaikohe. Serving a customer base in rural Northland means drives totalling 1000km some weeks to make site visits. However, Barnett also provides remote support.
“My workload is around 98 percent small business with the balance [being] home users, and most of those are the staff and workers of the businesses that I do work for,” Barnett says.
He says working in a rural area helps build long-term customer relationships.
“I don’t advertise as in the North you need the repeat business. If you upset someone, they are in the same fishing, golf or tennis clubs, or tell each other at sales day. I like to build a relationship with my clients and see them more as friends, rather than customers,” he says.
He doesn’t expect any major changes to the industry in the coming year, and will be happy if he can continue to find time for his hobbies – snapper and game fishing and off-road, four-wheel driving.
“I enjoy everything from the National Four Wheel Drive Competition Series to driving down some farmer’s land that I have never been over before. If it’s winter time I am probably rebuilding my buggy for next season,” he says. “Although my cellphone never goes off, my clients know that if they cannot reach me on a weekend, it is usually because I am out wheeling somewhere and trying hard not to roll off a bank!”