Having a foot in both Mac and PC camps brings the best of both worlds for Max Werner, owner of Tauranga Technology Centre.
As the only Apple premium reseller in town, the South African-born businessman says being seen as Tauranga’s Apple shop is a little unfair when seven of his technicians are PC-based, while just four are Mac-based.
Werner has owned the business for two years, since gaining his MBA at the University of Waikato. It has operated in one form or another for 10 years, while Werner himself previously ran other retail businesses such as a Mitre10 Mega.
Before arriving in New Zealand six years ago he ran supermarkets and coffee factories, but Werner turned to technology believing the former Apple-only business had great potential, and one system could complement the other. Indeed staff numbers have more than doubled in two years.
Technology Centre’s PC brands include HP/Compaq, Toshiba, Asus, NEC and Insite.
One of the biggest growth areas is businesses using Macs in former Windows’ strongholds, such as running heavy-duty databases.
Medical centres and car servicing centres are turning to Mac and the infrastructure of the new local art gallery is also Mac-based, adding to the popular schools market.
Werner says some people believe Macs are best overall, though it depends on the user.
“Apple is different to Microsoft, as it controls the whole process from hardware to operating systems and applications. Thus, integration is virtually automatic, giving a more secure, robust and reliable product.
“Microsoft, by contrast, has to deal with third parties like PC suppliers, motherboards, etc, who might be at fault, rather than Windows falling over.”
The Mac versus PC split is 50/50 and Tauranga Technology Centre trades across the Bay of Plenty and the East Cape.
The business ”aggressively advertises” in newspapers on radio and through sponsorship, but Werner finds “the hard yards” of having three sales staff taking demo machines out to businesses, showing them and letting people play, also pays dividends.
Tauranga Technology Centre has staff trained in both Mac and PC disciplines, who can typically switch platforms. The centre also hosts a Mac user group meeting twice a month at the shop.
Being based in Tauranga is no drama, as the centre is well-served by the channel. The only issues stem from New Zealand being last in queue for hyped products like iPods, says Werner.
He adds a combination of hard work, a strong local economy and many new products means business is “going very well”.
New products like the MacBook Air have a “buzz around them” with the new MacBook Pros impressing people, says Werner. At Christmas, the big seller was the iPod Touch.
The company also works with specialist software suppliers, so integration is never an issue, even for specialists dealing in music, for example. Home theatre systems are another area.
Meanwhile, the business is moving to Microsoft Gold status, with staff training in the new specialties. Likewise, they also receive training to sell and support Apple.
For Werner it is essential staff can reassure customers they know what they are talking about, as even customers who buy from the website often like to visit the store first.
Werner feels he is an employer of choice, saying the staff don’t come to work, but rather to have fun and that helps them do the job well. It also means they often freely choose to come in early and leave late.
“Nobody here is working because they have to be, but because they want to be and have fun here. Everybody is stretched all the time,” he explains.
“We have people who really care about the business. We have a culture to do whatever needs to be done to solve the customer’s problem. We never look at the money, but how we solve the customer’s problem. Then, the money comes by itself.”