Stories by Darren Greenwood

Youthful 'CEO' leads Laurenson Technology

Eighteen-year-old Scott Laurenson could be the youngest IT managing director in the country. He started Laurenson Technology in Kaitaia in March of last year, after he had been working from home since mid-2007.

Early exposure to IT shapes career path

When his dairy farming parents linked a computer to a cowshed, a lifelong interest in computing began for Paul Batchelder, owner and managing director of Using Information Technology (UIT) of Whangarei.

Fashioning an upswing from a downturn

Economic clouds may have a silver lining for Jim Kloeg of Personal Computer Support Services (PCSS) in Hamilton. The sole-trader specialises in accounting software and hopes extra emphasis by firms on containing and cutting costs, as well as planning their business activities, will generate him extra trade. Working from home in the suburb of Dinsdale, he covers an area from Te Kuiti, to South Auckland, across the Waikato and including Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. Kloeg came from Holland in 1987 after beginning a career in the IT industry, starting off in data entry before programming in Lotus 123, Pascal and FoxPro. In the mid-1990s he was made redundant and having also done a bit of freelance work on the side, a lengthy spell without a job made him launch his business in 1997. “I’ve done papers in accounting at polytechnic, so I know what day-to-day accounting is all about. I also once took a few people through an audit,” he says. Kloeg deals with QuickBooks, MoneyWorks, some MYOB, Profex (Accredo) of Auckland, plus the Hamilton-based Kiss Software. He also sources other packages, which once included a 1990s package called Winu; a menuing programe for Windows. Working with US-based developer Barry Smiler, Kloeg was able to enhance the product, now called Full Control, and sell it to libraries, schools and city councils in New Zealand. “Lately, I’ve been selling it to guesthouses and motels in the South Island. They use it to restrict access to their internet. You can give clients a password. This restricts them to a limited time.” Other packages include the operational package Ostendo from Development-X of Mount Wellington. It interfaces with programes like MYOB and QuickBooks and has functionality in expiry dates, serial control, package control, job scheduling and manufacturing. The buyers are mainly small businesses of 20 to 30 employees, with customers that include Firestone in Hamilton and Waikato Filtration. Kloeg’s competitors are the big box retailers, but he offers extra services like support for the same price. “What makes me different to a retailer is I’m not trying to push one particular product. I’m trying to look at what is best for the customer. Sometimes they have money constraints, too, and we try and work around that,” he says. Then there is training and support. “If there are areas where it doesn’t do the job, we try and find add-ons and customise reporting so it’s the best. It’s also holding hands. We teach them to use it, we go to them. What I tell my customers is, if they have any questions, they can call me any time for no charge. Customers really like that idea,” he says.

Out-of-town store presents new challenges

Elodie Vujcich's Bay of Islands Computers already had an outlet in Kaikohe. A new, out-of-town store at Waipapa near Kerikeri, surrounded by major retailers, was opened a year ago offering a chance for the business to present a “fresh, new clean-cut” image. The former school teacher and her husband John, an IT systems strategist, have traded from their Kaikohe home for some years until opening their Kaikohe shop 12 years ago. Now, Bay of Island Computers serves the east and west coast from Kaikohe and Kawakawa and north to Manganui and occasionally to Kaitaia. The Waipapa outlet focuses on the Bay of Islands and up the coast. The business handles IT sales and support, both in its workshops and on customer premises. The focus is home users and businesses and schools with up to 100 computers. Half of the revenue received is from business customers and half from consumers. The accounts are done in Kaikohe, while the new Waipapa site is more the sales focus. To help manage the expansion, the business has developed a web-based job tracking system. The business is typically hardware and software support, with common projects including wireless hotspots and business consultancy in setting up a businesses’ IT systems from start to finish. The competition is mostly the big box retailers Noel Leeming and Dick Smith, who have stores nearby, but also many one-man-bands. “Everybody has a brother or a friend [doing technology]”, Vujcich explains. Bay of Islands Computers sees its point of difference as depth of expertise, including having five IT technicians with one a former IT manager and another having been an account manager for a large Auckland firm. The Bay of Islands lifestyle helps bring some people to the firm, but younger staff tend to be restless as they want to meet more people. Fortunately, older staff have been drawn to the area. A Northland base presents no issues for delivery, with goods arriving the next day from Auckland. Bay of Islands Computers is served by Ingram Micro, Dove, Arche, and Modern Technologies, which supplies Computer Dynamics computers. Chillisoft supplies anti-virus software and networking gear comes from Snapper networks.