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.

National Presence

Business is booming for Sydney-based systems integrator, Total Computer Technology (TCT). Over the last six months, the company's engineer headcount has doubled to 10 and expansion into the Melbourne and Brisbane markets is being considered.

"We've had five record months out of six," managing director, Robert Brown, said. "We tend to do things differently. Our marketing is different, we do telemarketing, and we're actively out there pursing opportunities. Most of our growth has come from new business [customers]."

Brown claims reinforcing the NSW business, combined with expansion into other east coast cities, is essential to avoid the TCT business shrinking.

"It's important to have national coverage," he noted. "We have good relationships with people now but it's important to have your own bodies on the ground. They take better ownership and ownership is the key."

TCT, founded in 1997, takes a solutions-based approach to the market and focuses on building close relationships with customers to obtain the sought-after 'trusted advisor' mantle.

"We work with our clients on a strategic plan. We don't just turn up and sell something today and walk away," Brown said. "We have a roadmap for the next two years with most of our clients and that helps us budget for them, and also for us. We can plan our engineering time and avoid the surprises of having to spend X amount of dollars."

While facing the same cash flow and recruitment issues as other small businesses, Brown prefers to take a proactive approach, which includes employing engineers in advance of forecast growth periods. The company also subscribes to the walk the talk philosophy.

"At the first level we run most products in-house and do the testing here," Brown said.

TCT uses the Clearswift Web and email filtering technology it sells to clients within its own operations, for example. The company upgrades software on its own array of computers to see how the changes work before handing them over to clients. According to Brown, this helps TCT achieve the trusted advisor position.

"I think it comes back to using the technology you recommend," he said.

In fact, some clients visit the TCT office to check out how technologies work; a practice encouraged by the company.

"That gives people confidence that you're not just talking the talk. There's a comfort level associated with seeing that we use these technologies ourselves."

Growing Strong

In spite of inflationary pressures and a general economic malaise seeping out of the US, there are many examples of small IT resellers in Australia that are flourishing. Both Calvert Technologies and TCT show that although running a small business is tough, doing the right things within your own organisation provides a better platform from which to help clients with their IT and business goals.

Indeed, as small IT resellers face the same challenges as other small businesses, and big players continue to neglect the SMB space, there's an opportunity to walk the talk and snap up plenty of new business.

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