Fifteen years ago Stuart Jane traded throwing carcasses around at the Takapau meatworks for a career in IT, a long-held hobby he had often thought of making money from.
The result was Waipukurau Computer Services, a business run from his home and staffed by his sister and three others.
He now has 3000 customers in his database, including farmers, schools, consumers and small businesses in the central Hawkes Bay region. Having carved a niche in the rural sector, serving farmers’ need for broadband comprises a large part of his work.
“Farmers are businesses in their own right. They all run complicated cash manager programmes, which need powerful systems to run on,” Jane explains. Those more than five kilometres from central points for receiving broadband, such as schools, are supplied by providers such as Farmside and Wireless Nation, he adds.
Other than catering for customers’ broadband needs, much of Jane’s work involves virus removal, repairing faulty components and reinstalling Windows. Many of his customers are laptop buyers upgrading older machines, while Windows 7 is a popular option at present.
Jane says Waipukurau Computer Services no longer sells printers, as it was unable to compete with big retailers on price; although there is some money to be made by installing them.
He claims to have no competition from other IT businesses in Waipukurau, but says being in a small community means he must provide quality products and do a great job.
“If you sell crap, that crap multiplies. Word of mouth is very important,” he says.
This also means being proactive, phoning customers to warn them their software licences are due to expire and they might need to upgrade to a new version. He also provides customers with free advice over the phone and is on call as required.
Good service also means visiting IT events in Auckland and overseas to keep abreast of trends in the market, says Jane. He has visited the Comdex show in the US three times (now replaced by the Interop Expo).
“You must fly internationally at least once a year. You need to get away from customers and have some ‘my time’ [to] go out and see the rest of the world,” he says.
Waipukurau Computer Services’ distributors include Ingram Micro, Dove and Morning Star, which all offer overnight delivery.
Brands it sells include Toshiba, Philips, Intel, Microsoft, Asus and Symantec.
Jane prefers to recruit older staff, saying they are more reliable.
“It takes time to train people. You need honesty, reliability and efficiency. Young people these days want to be bosses, they don’t want to be ‘Indians’. Older people are much more reliable.”
He is a definite believer in looking after his staff so they stay with the business, even giving them lunch while at work.
“I believe an employer should supply lunch for their workers. You need to pay them properly too — not 30 to 40k crap, but 50 to 60k. You need to pay them properly and feed them. If you look after them, they will be there forever,” he says.