I came from a professional I.T. background. I managed large-scale computer systems across several states. I managed large teams of people. I managed the outsourced resources that made several different companies successful.
So when I started my own technology consulting company, I put a premium on being professional. At first I thought that meant dressing professionally, having standard offerings, and delivering what we promised. But as I met more and more small business owners, I realized that my so-called competition was in a completely different league when it comes to professionalism.
Time and time again I met business owners who had been ripped off and mistreated by the IT “Guy” before me. Here are a few examples:
– One computer consultant recommended that a client uninstall the brand new operating system from her brand new computers and install the previous version because it was more stable.
What that really means: 1) This guy is too lazy to learn the new operating system. 2) This guy wanted to drum up thousands of dollars in billable labor to “fix” perfectly working machines and turn them into last-generation technology. 3) This guy cared more about his own pocket book than about the client’s experience or business.
– Many (too many) IT consultants sell used equipment as new. They buy illegal software and sell it for full price. They bill for work they didn’t do. Basically, people like this are scratching and clawing to make a little money any way they can.
This is bad enough. But it’s also a sure sign that these people do not have the connections to get good equipment, replacement parts, warranty service, etc. It’s also a good indicator that they’ll be out of business and gone when something important breaks.
– These folks never document anything. Or at least they don’t share the documentation with the client. So business owners don’t know the passwords to their server, router, firewall, email provider, Internet service provider, etc. This is a HUGE PET PEEVE of mine. I wrote a book on documentation and I made a huge point of encouraging people to share this information with the business owner – because it’s their network.
There’s some strange belief among secret-keepers that they have more job security if they don’t share any information. They don’t know how wrong they are! Unfortunately, I’ve made a LOT of money figuring out how to give new clients access to their own equipment and servers after they fire the secret-keeper!
– I don’t know what else to call them. If I knew WHY these people do what they do, I’d have a better name for them. These people put everything in their own name. I have one client whose Internet connection is in the name of an IT guy they hired for three months – 18 years ago! They can’t change it except to just switch to a new ISP. It’s ridiculous.
These people register the server, the network equipment, and all the software in their own name instead of the business name or even the business owner’s name. Again, maybe they think this is some kind of job security. But when these people are gone and you try to get control of your own equipment – which you paid for – it can be a huge hassle. And, again, I’ve made a lot of money helping people take control of something that should have been under their name in the first place.
This includes Internet Domain Names. I’ve seen cases where the IT Guy registered domain names in his own name and then would not transfer them to the rightful owner – even though the small business owner paid him for the registration! In more than one case, the domain expired and the rightful owner could not renew it or transfer it because the IT Guy had it in his own name and he disappeared.
The Old-Timers (of any age)
– These folks just can’t bring themselves to learn new stuff. They don’t sell the latest equipment because clients aren’t asking for it. Well, it’s not the client’s job to know what’s new and ask for it. It’s the IT professional’s job to know what’s new and recommend it. These people also perpetuate fear about things like Cloud Services. When I hear that “the cloud” is unsafe, un-tested technology I’m reminded of when people used to say that the Internet was just a fad.
– Un-safe technicians tell you stupid stuff like you don’t need a firewall. Or you don’t need a backup. Or you don’t need an anti-virus program.
Let’s turn this around. If your business has any value whatsoever, then you need to protect it. If your programs and data help you make money, then you need to back them up. If it would be a bad thing for someone else to get all your information, then you need a firewall. And if someone really has to convince you to get anti-virus, then maybe you’re the amateur as well as your IT Guy.
We have a saying in our company: We can’t care more about the client’s business than they do. If you care about your business, you do the basic things to protect it. You lock the front door at night, you have insurance, you have a firewall and AV program, and you back up your data.
YES – It is possible to overspend. But most businesses underspend. And that’s why lots of them go out of business after a disaster. 99.9% of all IT-related disasters are both preventable and easy to recover from – IF you’ve spend a little time and money preparing for a disaster. It’s not difficult or expensive to have true business continuity or disaster recovery.
What to Look For
Here’s a simple way to look for a professional IT consultant.
– Ask about their trainings and certifications. Training and experience are more important than certifications.
– Ask them about their SOPs – Standard Operating Procedures – for selling hardware, software, and service.
– Ask them about their SOPs for documenting your network.
– Ask them to describe their preferred network security and disaster recovery options.
– Ask them about what they sell and what they expect to sell in the next three years.
A professional technology consultant should be able to discuss each of these and sound confident and knowledgeable. You should also not hear any red flags like, “We prefer the old system,” or “We’re not recommending new technology yet.”
It can be hard to hire an IT professional when you’re not a professional in IT. But if you put out a little extra effort now, you can avoid a lot of grief in the future!
Consultant or Amateur?