What’s in a name? For Richard Downer, owner and managing director of PC Zone in Helensville, having the right name is important.
When formed in 1986 the business traded as Kaipara Computer Systems, but late last year re-branded itself as The PC Zone.
“It’s not a secret of our success, but it has enabled our business to grow. We could not have opened our second store in Kumeu without the name change. It’s about having thought [through] the colours, how it stands out, the whole approach.”
The re-branding was done by Downer’s partner who works for the marketing department of a large company. The couple looked at available names and logos, a domain name, company name and what was available.
“We have based it around the power logo. We get a lot of comment about the Kumeu shop. The orange colours stand out.”
Downer says the re-branding is “the smartest thing we have done,” adding its “catchy” and “people like it”.
The former Kaipara Computer Services was started by Downer’s mother and specialised in accountancy services, with the name coming from its pioneering use of computers. When Helensville’s dairy plant closed, his father, the dairy’s accountant, also joined the business, which is now housed in the former Helensville dairy headquarters.
Downer is a former mechanic born-and-bred in Helensville, who joined the business in 2003 after studying electro-technology and computer engineering in Dunedin.
The computer sales and repair shop also opened that year, based on a philosophy of ‘fix it right first time’.
PC Zone’s philosophy is also based on selling quality products, with a follow through of higher standards of advice and service, rather than cheap mass-market brands on which little or no profit is made.
Its brands include LG for monitors, Logitech and Microsoft, and usually Intel processors. PCs are custom-built using Gigabyte for motherboards and Seagate for hard drives.
“We generally use mid-range to top-end [components]. It allows us to get away from the competitors. Despite the so-called recession, there’s more demand for better quality products that somebody will stand behind. It is better to get something that costs more but lasts, rather than get something cheap that has to be replaced again and again,” Downer says.
PC Zone claims to be unique in selling Panda anti-virus software, saying it also onsells it to other resellers.
And it has developed its own software to carry out onsite audits and assessments of computers and their problems. Network set ups and virus removal are a big part of business, which is split halfway between business clients and consumers.
Downer says customers include high-profile clients and many lawyers who trust the company with sensitive information.
“People know they can trust us. Trust is only something that can be built,” he says.
“There is competition here in Helensville and in Kumeu and a number of freelance technicians. People that offer a $50 flat fee fix generally go out of business within three months. We are service-based. People come in that we have never seen before, usually through word-of-mouth or our advertising. A lot of people will say ‘go to the PC Zone.’ It shows they trust and respect us.”
The company opened its second shop in Kumeu earlier this year, in a former flower shop on the main highway.
Having two shops close together helps the business balance the workloads between the two townships, with the company’s four technicians sent to the shop where they are required.
Downer says business is brisk and he is planning to expand with a third store, as well as take on extra staff.
However, Downer is careful to ensure there is always enough work to justify extra staff. It is better for fewer staff to “work smarter, under pressure”, he says, and he has a system in place that allows a rapid turnover of work without harming quality.
In the meantime, as well as planning company expansion and a couple of undisclosed new products and services for the Christmas season, Downer is working on a community-minded project, which he declines to reveal.
“We are trying to put a package together to ensure it goes through. We are working with local groups like Lions and the Women’s Centre, [among] a number of avenues to make this project a success.”