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Analyze, support, grow: Part 2

Aug 26, 20044 mins

* How to match your tech identity to the right partners

How to match your tech identity to the right partners

Last time we defined “technology identity” and helped you find yours (see editorial link below). After all, if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to know where you’re going.

This time, we’ll show you how to match your technology identity, or TechID, to the right consultants, dealers and vendors to help you grow as efficiently as possible.

Last month, Linux consultant and author John Locke offered two good pieces of advice: Find an IT expert you trust, and rely on that person like you do an accountant or lawyer. Second, don’t get locked in on any one product. (See editorial link below for the full column.)

But how do you find someone you trust?

First, limit your choices to consultants and dealers servicing companies at your TechID level and one or two rungs higher. If you have 50 total computers in two locations, a consultant who specializes in home offices of one or two computers doesn’t fit. Neither does a dealer who sells to multi-location companies with hundreds of systems.

Do you want to grow into multiple locations? Get helpers with experience servicing multiple locations, including the WAN technologies you’ll need. Rely on a highly available Web e-commerce server system? Get helpers who have installed those for other businesses.

Consultants and dealers experienced in the size company you want to be will know your upcoming growing pains and help can smooth some of the bumps. Check their references by calling current customers. If they don’t have references you can check, wave goodbye.

After you find several who fit your company, figure out whether their business style fits yours.  Are you in a hurry and they’re laid back? Do you want to be left alone and they call every week to check up on you? Any way you work it, you want to feel good when they contact you, and you want them to respond appropriately when you call.

Every dealer, and most consultants, has favorite products. Dealers often have to invest an enormous amount of money to become certified to carry a product line by sending people off to training and buying a minimum amount of inventory. While you can understand why they push that product first, run if they push products that don’t fit. 

It’s rare to find one dealer or consultant who does everything, so you’re not being disloyal by involving others. In fact, your desktop vendor should refer you to a laptop dealer and Web designer, just like your accountant knows a lawyer when you need one. Accept the referrals as pre-qualified introductions, but still judge the new contact based on your needs.

You know your business, but your helpers know technology. When you get good advice, take it. Don’t nickel and dime their recommendations and cut the meat out of proposals trying to cut the fat. If your helper listens, and asks questions that make you think, take their advice. Good recommendations will cause you to sweat and work to make better business decisions because they will force you to look at your business in new ways.

For instance, your helper might recommend a new remote office data line that supports network-based telephones and saves money, but you’ve never done voice of IP before. Or that you spend an extra $500 on a server and combine three servers, or spend $,1000 on a color laser rather than $200 on a black-and-white replacement, and keep small print jobs in house.

When a helper tells you “no” you should really, really listen. Telling customers no is tough because they want to make customers happy (and get their money). So when they say no and mean no, you’re probably making a big technical mistake. Hint: Early technology buyers may hear no more often than more patient ones.

When you get a good partner, tell your friends. That’s the best thank you.