Twenty-year-old PC Media lays claim to being Marlborough’s largest IT provider, dealing with customers ranging from home users to large corporates and employing nine staff.
“We are one of Microsoft’s top-20 OEM [original equipment manufacturer] users. We OEM our own PCs, which gives us a unique place in the market. We are an authorised Toshiba repairer and also partner with IBM, HP and Cisco,” says director Gileen Caughey.
The computing and networking business also does web design, IT support and remote monitoring.
The company was started by John Penny, but Caughey and business partner Greg Hormann, a former IT consultant and project manager for Rockwell Engineering have now owned the business for five years.
PC Media serves the Marlborough region from Ward to Havelock, but also has customers in Invercargill, Christchurch, Nelson and some in England.
Customers include vineyards, vineyard contractors, schools, a building manufacturer, a concrete manufacturer, rest homes and the local power company.
“We custom-build PCs and the back-up support we give to customers is a point of difference,” says Caughey. “It’s not just selling a box but going out and installing it. It’s giving people backup service so they don’t have to worry about it.”
The overseas business came from gaining repeat business and securing a good reputation as customers have moved overseas.
Consultant Lee Harper says PC Media uses a lot of AMD technology, along with Gigabyte motherboards.
“We base our custom build machines around stability and reliability. They are seen as a reliable product, rather than a quick fix,” he says.
The company faces local competition from two suppliers in the business marketplace and a couple of retailers.
“People in Blenheim like local [service] and they like to grumble if they’re unhappy. But they bring us cakes if they’re happy,” says Caughey.
As a Toshiba warranty centre laptops can be fixed onsite, though other brand PCs are sent to Christchurch for repair.
“We are gaining a lot on the competition,” says Caughey. “People like our consistency of service. They come and talk to us. We try and come across in plain English not geek [speak]. People like the fact that we fix [the computer] on site,” she says.
Business is up 25 percent on last year, with March 2009 being PC Media’s busiest month ever. The big sellers at the moment are laptops and “anything to do with Windows XP”, Caughey says.
“We pre-load [XP] for customers,” says Lee. “Vista has a bad reputation and customers are waiting for Windows 7. Since it was announced, they are even more reluctant to go to Vista.”
“We have been testing Windows 7 here. We think it’s extremely good. Several of our customers have been trialling it and are looking forward to deploying it. They are not using Vista and will jump straight to Windows 7,” he says.
“We have also seen a big jump in servers [with] people upgrading from 2003 to 2008,” he says.
“The uptake of Skype has also been incredible. It seems to have caught on. More calls are going over the internet. As internet speeds go up, Skype and VoIP will be more prevalent.”
Caughey adds Blenheim has many older residents who use Skype to keep in touch with their family overseas.
“Three to four grannies a week come in wanting to keep in touch with their children or grandchildren overseas. We have one customer aged 88. We work with the local Grey Power which gives us access to that market. They want someone to hold their hand through the whole process,” she says.
However, the relative isolation of Blenheim offers some challenges.
PC Media previously used Wellington-based BDT as a distributor. But after BDT’s electronics division closed, it has used Dove Electronics and Ingram Micro even more, as each distributor has a warehouse in Christchurch.
Finding staff can also be difficult, with up to six months needed to fill a vacancy.
“Staff come and go but we have been stable for one to two years,” says Caughey. “There is a lack of qualified staff in the region. For local colleges, you go to Christchurch. The way we deal with most of this problem is to get them from overseas.
“We have two English [staff] and one Russian. The last time we needed someone, IT was still an occupational shortage. It was easy to get him a residency permit,” she adds.