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Thread: Tech support - Small business

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  1. #1
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    Tech support - Small business

    I was talking to a friend of mine who used to do tech support for a company. After getting laid off, he was running his own business out of his garage for almost 3 years now. First few years are not so good but he said he is getting good enough business this year that he is thinking about expending. His clients mostly include small medical offices, dental offices and others like low tech plumbing and construction offices. So he asked me if I want to do some stuff with him.

    Now, geing heard many of tech support horror stories and went through some of my own doing help to others for free, I'm very relucent to commit. Plus I don't really like to work with him (he is extremely good as a friend but I'm not sure as business partner since he tend to let loose about money).

    So I'm thinking about doing this on my own as part time plus I could really use my Linux skills as consulting type of things.

    But I know some of you have went down this road before so I'd like to get some suggestions and your experience. I've always been business management side of work my whole working life so I'm not sure how this tech related stuff will play out for me.

    Any thoughts you'd share for free? Any suggestions on starting up a small consulting type office out of my home?

    TIA

    BTW, I'm in Silicon Valley area where there are too many big tech guys as well as too much small guys.
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  2. #2
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    Working for yourself rocks.

    Generating business for yourself sucks. It is either wayy too easy to the point that you have customers you wished you turned away, or you could pay for getting a gig. Dealing with that is the key to it all. After that point its the skills that matter. But if you cant get a gig, how can you **** it up?

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    Advisor Outlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Compunuts
    I'm in Silicon Valley area where there are too many big tech guys as well as too much small guys.
    I'm also thinking of taking the plunge, so I'll be hanging out watching this thread. I'll add that perhaps find a niche set of skills you have and build an offering around that. Maybe not just Linux admin stuff, because companies who really need that just hire an admin. There's also the staff augmentation route where you are a full time consultant/admin on a somewhat shorter contract, but I dont know any private folk who do that, just people from tech companies in my area who are full time employees that get plopped on semi long contracts of customers.

  4. #4
    My 2 cents: It might be worth a shot as something to do on your spare time. However, on an earlier thread we had on this subject, other people concluded that often, it is more of a hassle than its worth it.
    Now, if you decide to go in business with your friend, make sure you sit down and discuss exactly what is expected of you and what you expect of him. Then, put it all in writing. That will help you keep the friendship separate from the business.
    My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive.

  5. #5
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Working for yourself is a great way to go; however, it is vital that you be comfortable working with someone if you are are going to partner. Otherwise, the results can be disastrous. Also, as Schotty has pointed out, you have to be able to sell to get the work. Lots of calls and meetings and, well, groveling for work. Also, taxes are a pain (even more thnat usual) and you have to worry about accounting and liability issues.
    TANSTAAFL

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    Mentor jro's Avatar
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    I freelance in building web sites, its amazing how many small business are really anxious to get a web presence. But I have found that it isn't terribly hard to get customers, you have to know when to say no to them too. You have to make it blatantly obvious that if they call you at 10pm two days after their support contract runs out and they need something that,to them, is the most important thing in the world, they are going to need to pay for it. Little bits here and there for free to grease the relationship is good, but you have to charge for the small stuff as well as the big stuff or else you will be quickly taken for granted.

    Just my 2 cents..
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    I currently run my own small business so paperwork and tax issues are not exactly new to me. I was also talking to many small businesses. The most interesting part I found is that they have no idea there is a whole new world out there. They do not think web present will be a good thing although more and more are starting to realize it. Some knows it's a good thing but they think it's very expensive and stuff.

    Like many others, the most I worry about is generating enough leads to substain itself as well as maintaining them. I can be too nice at times so it is my weak point.

    Since I'm self employ for almost 5 years now, it's hard for me to think about going back to work at corporate world although sometimes I wish I'm working for someone else so I don't need to care too much.

    Interesting comments guys and appreciated. Keep them coming. Also let's expend to what ever topic related to small business and your thoughts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jro
    I freelance in building web sites, its amazing how many small business are really anxious to get a web presence. But I have found that it isn't terribly hard to get customers, you have to know when to say no to them too.
    I'm surprised you say that. I would have thought the market too flooded to make a living doing that, since its natural for tech savvy people to start there.

    Can you divulge what initial things you had to overcome startup wise? I imaging the upfront costs in equipment are small, other than finding a co-lo site etc.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outlaw
    I would have thought the market too flooded to make a living doing that, since its natural for tech savvy people to start there.
    If you are well acquanted with that industry, I think you can probably survive it. Most of the problem with web sites are that they are well unorganized. So if you really have some artistic idea to built different sites, then you may as well do good.

    It's also true that even a 12 year old kid can built a web site but I doubt it will be much more useful to many businesses, be it small or medium sized ones. They want more value, clean professional looking and well thought out. I've yet to see any kids can do that. I personally see many who can built a site on the same night but they looks "crappy or too extreme:.

    Can you divulge what initial things you had to overcome startup wise? I imaging the upfront costs in equipment are small, other than finding a co-lo site etc.
    Yeah, that would be interesting.

    I don't think you will ever need to have a co-lo if you are only building sites for them. It's better to set them up with third party. I always advise those I know to take the headache off of maintaining your own server and pay someone set amount of money. Much better that way, IMHO.

    So my friend told me some breakdown of his work.

    1. 60% small support such as virus removal/spyware removal. That's also the bulk of his income is since when they call you can be sure that their computer had already crap out and they need to fix it like right now. That's also the reason he LOVES Microsoft and Windows.

    2. Less than 20% installing new stuff such as small network, printers.

    3. Less than 10% software upgrades. They tend to stick with older software which comes with their computers. Personally when I was freelencing with a friend of mine we came across car parts dealer who still runs NT 3.51 back in early 2K. Geeee .. talk about old stuff.

    4. Another 10% nothing really wrong (except reboot, of course).

    5. Less than 5% network stuff.
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