Stories by Lee Davis

A procession out of recession in Helensville

Choosing the right kind of customer has become a vital aspect of business for The PC Zone in Helensville. Owner Richard Downer, 38, says servicing home computers has become uneconomic and he now prefers to stick to his list of small business customers who work with servers and terminals, over repairing or reselling new consumer products. The commercial aspect of the business provides real value to his company in recognising the staff’s skills as computer techs.

Daniel McIvor plots his course

CodeBlue’s Daniel McIvor was selected from over 40 applicants for the position of account manager at the company. He says he was selected to join the CodeBlue team not only because of his prior success in sales, but also for his experience in delivering managed services, a more specialised role than others.

Failure is pants, but we all need to wear them

There are many things you’re not allowed to say in New Zealand. Rugby is dull. Dave Dobbyn is crap and Loyal is a rubbish song. And finally, “I’m going through a period of rejection and I need some advice”. This is simply not the Kiwi way. The Kiwi way, much like Dave Dobbyn and rugby, is that if you keep at it and forget the fact that everyone thinks you’re a tit, you will someday win because hey, sooner or later everyone else will have a bad day and it’ll be your chance to shine. Of course by that time, you could be pretty much brilliant at whatever you’ve been doing, anyway. But this is not how tendering works. In the tender game, your boss wants results, or you’re fired. The quickest way to get results, unlike waiting for the rest of the planet to drop dead so you’ll be the only one left, is to ask for advice on where you’re going wrong and the quickest way to do that is to ask the people who evaluated your proposal and subsequently gave the deal to someone else instead of you. It’s rather like experiencing a dry period in your sex life. You might just have to take advice from the nice girl who’s happily married to your best mate. Just because she’s married, doesn't mean she's dead, you know what I mean? Thus you may have to suck it up and actually listen to what she has to say about your efforts to find new love. For example: do not feed with your mouth open so that we can all see your teeth, or how about buy some clothes that actually fit around your stomach instead of straining the buttons on that 90s shirt? Dealing with rejection is a terrible thing, in life and in business. In life my biggest rejection of late is telling my kids that Alien is the most scary movie ever made. Then when they finally see it all they can say is “Meh” and that’s from the youngest, a seven-year-old girl. What do you mean you’re not scared? “It’s pants,” says the 11-year old. ‘Pants’ is not good, apparently. (Next week I’m showing them The Exorcist to really get the nightmares started.) Rejection is part of everyday life in business. Salespeople live with rejection all the time, day in day out. According to one old sales pro it’s absolutely essential. “If they’re not getting rejected they’re not covering enough ground.” A CFO once told me over the water cooler, “don’t be despondent”, because I had just lost a big RFP. “Our Light Sabre Division took three years to make a profit," he said. "Now they’re the only people to go to when you need light sabre supplies.” A month later I was fired, so that’s not a good analogy. But I digress. If your boss has the tenacity to go the distance then ask where you’re going wrong, not from him but from the people you’re pitching to. This week I had the privilege to talk to a person of high standing in the tender world who most often gets to evaluate tenders from the masses.

A sales philosophy built on winning trust

Roland Tuck of IT Engine is pretty candid about his reasons for being in sales. "I would not be in sales if it wasn’t about money," he says. "But it’s not the only thing. For me I get satisfaction of having a client thanking me for selling them the right solution." Tuck has been in IT for more than 17 years, with a humble start in consumables, then sales and account management in distribution, according to his profile on the IT Engine website.

Pull your head in son

It’s hard not to be arrogant when you’re brilliant. People who work in IT know this. Because they're brilliant.

Clipping what's left of the ticket

Outsourcing is a product of our time. The government is outsourcing everything. With SOEs, advisors and consultants, it's like the government is outsourcing the outsourcing of the outsourcing. The fact we have this column is testament to the outsourcing culture that we have grown and nurtured around us. We sanctioned the government and everyone else to do this because it is deemed efficient and therefore better for business. The SOE is the ultimate outsourcing in that a few decades ago we realised that 90 percent of the employees within government departments did sweet FA all day long and then promptly went on strike if we asked why our drains were still blocked. All we wanted was accountability. We wanted the departments to be reasonably efficient and at that time there were many private contractors who were putting their hands up shouting “Pick me! Pick me!” They told us that they could do these jobs for much less money than the ratepayers were being charged. And we cheered. Our rubbish bins were emptied for a fraction of the cost that the council refuse department did it for. We are so entrenched in outsourcing that we assume it is the answer to all our woes. We don’t even question the ethos that our SOEs operate under when they start using slash and burn employment tactics to increase dividends to the shareholders, who happen to be us. We continue to outsource in every facet of our daily business. So why don’t we just join them instead of fighting them? Because we can’t beat them. The government outsources its technology needs and in turns we outsource the supply of those needs to an ever-decreasing contractor pool so that we don’t have to worry about employing people around us. We must cut cost at all levels because spending money is naughty. Anyone would think they could just print more! Our current problem is that we see our opportunities to grab some deals that the government is handing out by way of GETS or Tenderlink and we run around like blue-arsed flies worrying that we don’t have two weeks to spare to respond to a gigantic RFP. The solution of course is to outsource the sourcing of the outsourced opportunity that has presented itself to us, the outsource suppliers. In other words, use an outsourcing company to respond to the outsource request so that we, (the outsourcers) can grab some outsource contracts and outsource them to independent contractors who in turn may use contracted labour, or simply outsource the entire project. By the time the bill is paid there won’t be much left of the original ticket to clip due to the amount of clips in it. It may be ironic and it may be ridiculous but it’s happening. For example, you can always pay someone to do it for you. There are some individuals with experience in tendering, and willing to help at a small cost. A company dedicated to this work is Auckland’s Plan A. It has a network of freelancers and full timers. The company seems to actually help compile RFPs, too, so they have knowledge of not only how to compile a successful response but what the original request is actually looking for. The owner of Plan A, Caroline Boot says, “It’s a marketing cost and like any marketing costs you have to understand your market. You have to target the people who you think are going to buy your product or services and find the best ways of getting that business in a competitive market. People complain about the cost of tendering but it’s just a marketing cost that’s slightly different from taking ads out in magazines.” So don’t do anymore work yourself. Just clip the ticket and enjoy the ride. Disclaimer: No part of this column was outsourced. It was compiled entirely by the author who works independently... as an outsourcer.

Enter X-IT into the cloud

Christchurch company X-IT has discovered that providing cloud based services is easier than it seemed. The five strong company led by brothers Neil and Brendan McCutham simply built the servers themselves, housed them close to their market and voila.

SnapperNet director keeps on trucking

Richard Paul says 'timing and persistence' is his motto. Paul, the director of IT distributor SnapperNet appears to put this into practice: his business card seems to end up in everybody's wallet eventually.