Computers are king

Most businesses, individuals and home offices need computers.

Most businesses, individuals and home offices need computers.

But they don't have the skills, time or desire to do their own computer service, repair and upgrades. This puts the computer-repair business in the middle of this fast-growing industry.

If you are passionate about fixing computers and solving any computer-related problem, then this is your kind of business.

The following are some things that every computer-repair business must know:

l Be prepared to change. In the 1990s, these businesses focused mainly on selling parts and products, with service as support. Now service has become a major part of these businesses and they charge by the hour.

In the past, these businesses were about cleaning viruses or fixing broken parts. Nowadays, it's about helping customers prevent problems before they actually start by using management technology;

l To determine what your time is worth, investigate what your local competition is charging. When you order modems or motherboards, you'll need to make the purchase worth your and your client's time;

l Know who your customer is. If you want to sell and service computers in your local community and remain a one-person operation, residential clients might suit you best.

They are more responsive to advertising and marketing.

If you target the non-residential market, think small and try to specialise. Bear in mind that making profit in such a business is not an overnight thing.

l Create a financial cushion of about six to nine months. It is much easier to make better decisions when you are not worried about money running out.

l Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are a technical person with no business skills, hire a bookkeeper or an accountant.

l Market your business every day. Your phone is not going to ring until people know you exist. You can choose direct mail, pamphlet drops, telemarketing or web marketing.

l Keep updating your skills. Don't think that because you have been in business for a long time, you know everything there is to know. Computers are not static. They are always evolving. You need to continue educating yourself or else your knowledge base will become obsolete.

l Don't be afraid to reach out if you need assistance. There will be times when you won't be able to cope with your work load or not know something, so speak to other people and get help.

l Make your work space customer friendly. Adjusting from an office to a home environment takes commitment. You will need clean, dedicated space with room for a repair bench, an area for tools and easily accessible storage shelves and bins.

The area does not have to be too big to start out with, but it should be able to accommodate at least two tower PCs and monitors. A converted garage is a favourite area.

l Don't rush to rent space yet. Opening a computer service centre takes more planning and management than you expect. You must operate regular business hours so sufficient staff is essential. Capital requirements are also significantly higher than other home-based businesses.

l Also prepare for the worst case scenario as far as cash flow is concerned and make sure you have enough money or access to it to carry you through the bad times.

l Don't rush into hiring technicians until you have enough business. Added overhead expenses can be dangerous and backfire, unless you already have steady clientele.

l When you do hire, do it wisely. Your first employee is going to make the main impression about your company with customers so screen candidates on more than just their technical skills and certifications.

Your first employee should be driven and well-versed in both technical expertise and interpersonal skills.

Before rushing into hiring anybody, get three relevant, work-related references and written consent that you may perform a background check.