Fashioning an upswing from a downturn

Fashioning an upswing from a downturn

Economic clouds may have a silver lining for Jim Kloeg of Personal Computer Support Services (PCSS) in Hamilton. The sole-trader specialises in accounting software and hopes extra emphasis by firms on containing and cutting costs, as well as planning their business activities, will generate him extra trade. Working from home in the suburb of Dinsdale, he covers an area from Te Kuiti, to South Auckland, across the Waikato and including Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. Kloeg came from Holland in 1987 after beginning a career in the IT industry, starting off in data entry before programming in Lotus 123, Pascal and FoxPro. In the mid-1990s he was made redundant and having also done a bit of freelance work on the side, a lengthy spell without a job made him launch his business in 1997. “I’ve done papers in accounting at polytechnic, so I know what day-to-day accounting is all about. I also once took a few people through an audit,” he says. Kloeg deals with QuickBooks, MoneyWorks, some MYOB, Profex (Accredo) of Auckland, plus the Hamilton-based Kiss Software. He also sources other packages, which once included a 1990s package called Winu; a menuing programe for Windows. Working with US-based developer Barry Smiler, Kloeg was able to enhance the product, now called Full Control, and sell it to libraries, schools and city councils in New Zealand. “Lately, I’ve been selling it to guesthouses and motels in the South Island. They use it to restrict access to their internet. You can give clients a password. This restricts them to a limited time.” Other packages include the operational package Ostendo from Development-X of Mount Wellington. It interfaces with programes like MYOB and QuickBooks and has functionality in expiry dates, serial control, package control, job scheduling and manufacturing. The buyers are mainly small businesses of 20 to 30 employees, with customers that include Firestone in Hamilton and Waikato Filtration. Kloeg’s competitors are the big box retailers, but he offers extra services like support for the same price. “What makes me different to a retailer is I’m not trying to push one particular product. I’m trying to look at what is best for the customer. Sometimes they have money constraints, too, and we try and work around that,” he says. Then there is training and support. “If there are areas where it doesn’t do the job, we try and find add-ons and customise reporting so it’s the best. It’s also holding hands. We teach them to use it, we go to them. What I tell my customers is, if they have any questions, they can call me any time for no charge. Customers really like that idea,” he says.

PCSS has few home-user customers; the market has dried up, as such users tend to use family members for support, but he does help elderly users and offers a special price to get them started. As broadband becomes commonplace, remote support is increasingly used, saving much travelling time and costs, as well as providing instant service. “We have a customer in Whitianga and I have been there once or twice, but the majority of times she calls me, I say ‘connect to the internet and let me in’ and I show her things using remote software,” he says. Kloeg is experiencing the usual summer downturn, but after mid-February business tends to pick up. “Over the years there has been a steady increase. For 2009, I don’t personally believe we are in the same situation as overseas. It’s very much wait and see. The people I deal with are still busy. Our situation is different, but it’s hard to say. It’s quite easy to blame any slowdown on a global recession,” he says. And for this year, Kloeg says he will look at improving the reporting side of his packages, with new third party add-ons where necessary, to help firms anticipate and plan accordingly. “I think in this time when there’s a threat of a crisis, you need to know what you’re doing. Data reporting is very important. Everybody can print off a report, but it’s about knowing what it means,” he says.

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