Servicing geographical areas outside the main city centres is something the bigger players seem hesitant to do. Brent Oldham, managing director of IT At Work, did just that when he started out for himself 13 years ago in Westport, and has grown his business into a West Coast icon.
“I started working from home. At the time I worked far too much and far too hard. I got far too stressed and decided that we needed to employ someone else. Working from home was not such a good situation either, so we decided we would open up a retail side as well. It took about two weeks from when we decided to do it until we opened up shop.”
Because the business is outside the main centres, Oldham says the company needs to be everything for everyone. This means taking on every market opportunity, be it a home computer set up or server installations on the corporate side.
“We play in every market at the moment, from people buying their first computer to installing servers at companies. We also do service, sales, repairs through to big corporate deals; it’s across the board really. There’s
30,000 people on the West Coast. Down here you have to be all things to everybody. Some of our guys can travel four hours to do a job, easily. We spend a lot of time in vehicles and every day is different.”
Oldham says IT At Work is the largest IT business on the West Coast, with branches in Westport and Greymouth. There is a focus on servicing as well as keeping up a retail operation.
“We have been in Westport since the beginning and opened up in Greymouth two and a half years ago. West Coast wide there are around six or seven IT operators, but in terms of size we’re certainly the biggest. We are planning to expand further, organically. It’s a long-term plan. We’re relatively big, and we’re just growing and growing. Business is on the up and up across the board. We tend to have to offer bloody good service at a bloody good price.”
Starting up an IT-dependent business on the West Coast was a hard thing to accomplish some years ago, as there was little support around. According to Oldham there is still little support in the regional parts of New Zealand, something he is looking to change.
“I think regional New Zealand is pretty poorly served. The likes of the big city boys don’t tend to get out of bed for less than 10K. While there are a number of big opportunities, there are far more smaller ones.
“By and large the smaller guys are fairly poorly served. Sometimes they will have one person that they are reliant on, like the situation I was in when I started, almost like a country GP. It’s an impossible slippery slope to be on. We have businesses approaching us now. We’re doing service for a lot of big players; clients should not have to rely on one person to know how their support system works.”
IT At Work is an HP enterprise business partner and the company features in the top 100 accounts at Ingram Micro. In addition to servicing clients all over the West Coast, it even has a client in Suva, Fiji as well.
“It’s quite different to a city set up where you have an inexhaustible supply of customers. We live and breathe on our reputation. If we can survive here, you can move that philosophy anywhere else and the model will work there as well,” says Oldham.