“NURTURE a small business and it could grow to be a giant” is the philosophy behind a new initiative by Microsoft New Zealand.
The local subsidiary of the software vendor has launched a Small Business Centre that aims to advise New Zealand’s prolific small business owners on how technology works, how it can help run the business and where to turn for professional advice, installation and support of technology systems.
The backbone of the centre is a web portal where visitors can access information on technology and how it can improve their business, and this will be backed up by at least three business sessions during the year.
“We want to help small businesses achieve operational efficiency and productivity,” says Warwick Grey, who as Microsoft New Zealand small business manager spearheaded the development of the centre, which launched in December.
Grey has since stepped out of this role, however, having left the IT industry to take up a directorship at a publishing firm in which he is a shareholder. Jan Ferguson has taken over his position.
Ferguson is no stranger to the needs of small businesses as she previously headed Hewlett-Packard’s SMB division, where she gained knowledge that she says will stand her in good stead in her new role at Microsoft.
“At HP we were struggling with the same issue of how to explain the technology fully, but to keep the message simple,” she says, adding that Microsoft’s Small Business Centre goes a long way in achieving this.
The aim of the centre is to allow small businesses to form a clear idea of the value they can gain from their IT budgets, says Grey.
“We can show them the magic of the technology through demonstrations and case studies on the site,” he says.
One of the main features of the site is advice on how to buy Microsoft products. This includes a map-based locator of Microsoft resellers and details of the service they can provide, as well as explanations of the diffe-rent levels of Microsoft certification.
“Customers should know what to ask of partners and what they can provide,” says Grey.
Apart from advising on technology, the centre will also provide users with expert opinion and insight into issues that affect small businesses to help them make better business decisions, says Grey.
Customers can also request support with Microsoft products on the site, and have their queries answered online, by phone or by email by local Microsoft staff.
The centre was developed based on research conducted with focus groups from small businesses and will be promoted through media advertising, online links and through Microsoft alliance partners such as the Chambers of Commerce, Equipment Manufacturers Association, Direct Marketing Association and Hewlett-Packard.
“The focus groups were aimed at finding out how small businesses want to work with Microsoft and what they want from technology,” says Grey.
And as a symbol of its goal to foster the growth of small New Zealand businesses, included in Microsoft’s marketing arsenal for the Business Centre are sapling pohutukawa trees, which when tended correctly can grow into giants.