Walk the talk

Walk the talk

The inability of larger players to effectively tackle most of the SMB market means there’s plenty of opportunity for smaller resellers. ARN chats to a couple about their strategies for success.

Learning curve

South Australia-based IT reseller, Calvert Technologies, has been around for 13 years. Focusing predominantly on networking infrastructure for the business to business space, it's currently experiencing a growth phase and has added a couple of extra staff to its team. Despite the current economic climate, business is good.

"The number one thing driving that [growth] is that I'm learning more; I'm learning more about things I didn't know before and how to do things better," managing director, Dean Calvert, said. "One of the ways I learn more is to get out there in the community. I go to conferences; I talk to other business owners."

In contrast to some other resellers, who are often uncomfortable discussing business with competing small businesses, Calvert advocates getting out there and talking to people at partner summits, conferences and even general business seminars.

"Everybody has pretty much got the same secrets. If they're honest with themselves, they'll realise that what they're doing is pretty much the same as what Joe Blow is doing down the other end of the road," Calvert said. "I've been a big advocate of getting out there and talking to others."

He is also a supporter of the 'walking your own talk' approach and uses the products he sells. For example, the Calvert team has been using a wiki built with Microsoft SharePoint to collaborate before taking the concept to customers.

"I don't like putting anything into a customer site that we haven't had our hands dirty with," he said.

Calvert acknowledges many of the challenges he faces are the same as his clients, so it's important to practise what he preaches.

"It's not unique to IT but cash flow certainly becomes a problem," he said. "Finding and keeping the right people, and measuring their progress, are also challenges."

Like many small business owners, Calvert said he doesn't have sufficient time to spend on staff management. As a result, he's taken on a technical services coordinator to help improve the situation.

He's also put in place a business, finance and IT plan - something many small businesses neglect to do. In fact, Calvert noted many businesses put their IT plans ahead of business outcomes to their own detriment. For example, purchasing cheap printers as demand arises rather than planning for the future and considering consumable costs.

In addition to advising greater planning, Calvert recommends small IT resellers focus on their core competencies, partner with counterparts to access more clients and consider developing a managed services approach.

"We've invested in the tools and back-end infrastructure to be able to provide managed services to our customers," he said. "This is a fair investment but you need to look at where the business is going in the long term and get the right tools in there."

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