Orewa, a pleasant seaside community 30 minutes north of Auckland, is a friendly place where Tailor Made Computers’ clientele call in with scones and muffins.
Grant Cole, a former owner-driver trucker for 20 years, is the proprietor and director of Tailor Made Computers. He bought the sister Warkworth store three years ago and a few months later bought the Orewa shop from the competitor.
The two businesses serve an area stretching from Glenfield to Kaiwaka, though most of the business is in Silverdale to Wellsford.
Cole had been a hobbyist for years, since building his own PCs from the IBM 486 days.
When he started the business in 2005, the stores sold many more brands than today and dealt with more than 20 distributors. This was simplified to a few brands to make stock control easier and give a unified look on the shelves. Now, Cole has just five primary suppliers.
Tailor Made Computers is an Intel and Microsoft partner and also sells ‘big brands’ Viewsonic, Belkin, Asus, Gigabyte, and Logitech. “We used to have lots of cheap brands that few had heard of, but you might as well go for a better quality well-supported brand,” Cole explains, adding having fewer brands did not lose sales.
Cole employs an administrator and four technicians. He competes against Dick Smith for consumables plus a couple of other small IT service companies in the area. Half the clients are business, half consumer; typically buying HP for laptops, servers and workstations.
Tailor Made Computers also prides itself in protecting data.
“If we have to replace a hard drive we will clone the old one. If an old drive is failing we will advise and do data recoveries. In terms of protecting data, we will take the longer path if the shorter path threatens the data,” Cole says.
The company plans to roll out a managed services offering in August.
“Using a break-fix model you are limited in the number of machines you can service, but with managed services you can work smarter and control more machines,” Cole says.
Family, friends and staff have been trialling the Kaseya software and a test will be ready by August 1.
Services will include off-site backup, patch management, security and the management of workstations and servers.
Cole believes his is one of the few smaller businesses to offer managed services, noting it requires much investment. Already his business offers spam filtering, which last month dealt with 100,000 emails.
Such services are aimed at small businesses, which are also standardising onto HP products and shifting from OEM software to open licence for more flexibility.
Having two shops in two towns means Cole can see differences between Warkworth and Orewa.
Most clients in the area are 40-plus with many aged over 60.
“We tend to spend a lot of time trying to translate into English from technical. We spend time trying to find analogies. We did a customer satisfaction survey and customers found us approachable,” Cole says.
The older customers want Skype to stay in touch with their globetrotting grandchildren, who have also pushed the elders into digital photography.
Such clientele often need a lot of advice, which is often given over the phone, but Cole and his staff are often rewarded with scones, chocolates, and muffins.
“It shows the relationship we have with the clients. We also won’t upsell if we believe you don’t need it and we will happily downsell and unsell,” he says.
Tailor Made has a further community focus. It has developed a free wireless hotspot serving the nearby cafés, which will be extended to much of the local CBD as time and resources allow. The idea came from the business receiving enquiries from tourists and other visitors asking if there were any local hotspots.
The company also employs and trains a couple of locals through the Rodney Economic Development Trust, which helps school children in their final year at school.
Cole notes it is easy to get junior technicians, though harder to get the senior/ business-level ones.