Even on New Year’s Eve, you will find Shaun Minifie at work. The manager of Masterton’s Computer Troubleshooters, a franchise business with 28 stores across the country , says focusing on service is important in order to compete.
The franchise operation was launched in Sydney in 1997 and currently has a presence in 28 countries.
While most ICT staff are on holiday at the start of the year, Minifie will come to work even when the store is closed if a client’s machine needs servicing.
“It is the personal touch with people and going that extra mile. People know that you care about their problems rather than them just being another number. That’s what will keep them coming back,” he says.
Minifie was employed by the store’s owner, Craig Dowle, last year. The business also employs a technician.
Minifie began in the computer industry in the 1980s, selling and repairing Amiga computers.
“I don’t have any formal training, but I have been fixing computers since the 1980s. My first computer was a TRS80 and they had woodgrain sides.”
In the years since, he has had stints away from IT, including crayfishing and 14 years as a storeman.
He was initially employed at Computer Troubleshooters as a technician, before being promoted to manager.
Minifie says there are another three IT shops in Masterton, along with people running home businesses.
“It’s a very competitive market. Our strength is we are big on service. We cannot compete on price so we don’t try. My philosophy is to offer the service you cannot get everywhere.”
He says there are no downsides to being part of a franchise business.
“There’s buying power and different solutions that franchisees try and let us know about. Some of them get taken up and are onsold by everybody. There’s also branding and marketing,” he says.
Hosted remote support comprises a large part of the business, because the business serves a vast rural area.
The business offers a remote support application incorporating antivirus an antispyware, along with reporting and backup.
“Effectively, it is preventative maintenance for a monthly fee as opposed to break and fix. Thus, for small businesses especially, it is like having a very inexpensive IT department,” says Minifie.
The service is provided to IT managers “farming out” general maintenance, as well as to smaller businesses unable to afford such specialist staff, Minifie says.
Computer Troubleshooters also provides system builds, using components supplied by Dove Electronics.
Minifie is an advocate of system building, saying it allows him to know the quality of what he sells.
“It is a price point market. If people want a $1000 computer, it is disposable. It can cost $1100 to replace a screen on a $1000 computer. Price point things are sold on minimum specs and people have been sold machines horribly under-spec for their own needs, but they have been sold on price.”
Computer Troubleshooters also sells laptops, predominantly Acer or Sony-branded models, as well as other brands.
“Mid-range Acers tend to be good for small business. We tend to push the Vaio to home users or small business as they have a good multimedia slant,” Minifie says.
Other brands across the product range include Western Digital, Samsung, Digitus, Genius and Logitech.
Minifie says business was “surprisingly good” during the recession last year.
“Having your computer repaired is not a choice, it is a need. I guess it comes down to meeting people’s needs in an affordable way so they survive and we survive,” he says.
He looks forward to a continuing boost from Windows 7.
“Windows 7 is definitely the bees knees. This year, there will be a lot of people not needing to upgrade their hardware, but will put Windows 7 on because it will run a lot better,” Minifie says.