The Australian National Heritage-listed Great Ocean Road stands as one of Australia’s classic driving tour routes, winding its way over more than 240 km along the Victorian coastline from Lorne in the east, to Allansford in the west.
On the way, it passes through Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Warrnambool, and Peterborough.
It also runs past the doorsteps of some of Australia’s most well-situated IT providers, many of whom feel they have won the lifestyle lottery.
“We’re in Portland, Victoria. We mainly do repairs, and we do sell a lot of machines, a lot of equipment and consumables. And we do look after a lot of little businesses here too. We deal a lot of HP, Toshiba, and IBM machines – most of the big brands.
“Our situation is probably the same as most other smaller IT providers; you try and keep all your toners and your inks, and other consumables. When you sell someone something, you try and keep a supply of all the consumables so they can come back to the shop for those.
“In the country, we’ve got to rely on repeat business and good service. On the upside, it comes with a great lifestyle.
“Realistically, the whole industry’s changing. Once all these web apps came along, our industry changed.
“We used to install and set up all the programs, databases, and servers, and that’s all changed. A lot of what we used to do in person is now being done online by companies based in the cities.
“Now, we’re generally maintaining the systems that are put in. So, we’ve lost the installation, and most of the time we’ve lost the install…sometimes we don’t even get the chance to sell the hardware anymore.
“As a result, we generally get the maintenance side of it. Now we’re into things like virus removals, keeping the [systems] clean. We also often find ourselves mending their systems after they break them.
“In the last 10 years we’ve gone from selling lots of equipment, to selling a completely different type of equipment.
“We used to be lucky to sell one or two laptops a month, 10 years ago. Now, sometimes we can sell 20, 30, even 40 a month without the blink of an eyelid.
“The whole landscape is changing, and it’s really hard to plan. You’ve just got to follow along. You can’t make anything, unless you’re going to be a web developer, and make a cloud, and start doing it yourself.
“You used to be able to plan your years, but now you’ve just got to go with the flow, and get taken on this journey. But you have to adapt; that’s the biggest thing, adapting to the needs.”
Surf Coast Technology
“Surf Coast Technology is based in Lorne, Victoria. At Surf Coast Technology we repair computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. We also deal with clients’ hardware and software issues.
“Additionally, we handle things like home and small business networking, back up, data recovery, and Captive portal WiFi Hotspots, and we sell parts and accessories for all types of technological devices, including products by Apple and Microsoft.
“We have an onsite service for people who don’t want to bring their equipment into the shop, as well as a remote service where we can connect to customers’ computers remotely and fix their issues where possible.
“Because we are a relatively new organisation, the biggest challenge for us is working out what to stock on the shelves for the retail sales side of the business.
“Having the business in Lorne means that our sales vary quite extensively over the different seasons, as does our customer base. During summer, for example, most of the sales are for tourists, and therefore differ in nature from the winter sales.
“Being based in a rural town, it is sometimes hard to obtain stock deliveries within a decent timeframe. Depending on the stock item, it can sometimes take too long for our customers to wait for an item to come in.
“So, stock turnaround times and working out what to put on the shelves have been two of the biggest challenges for us so far.
“Regardless, we are focused on providing a quality service to our local community, and helping them save some of the money they might otherwise spend in the travel time associated with taking care of their technology, or getting someone to come out from the city to fix their issues.”
“We’re based in Warrnambool, Victoria. We have a fairly broad set of business. We do managed services, retail, and a few other things.
“We’ve also got some small stores in Hamilton and Portland. We’ve got managed clients we cover from Warrnambool up to Mildura, and across the South Australian border.
“The biggest priority is on our business side, which includes the managed services, managed print – we have a photocopier division, so our biggest thing is trying to get some increased productivity. We’ve spent a few yeard building it all up, and now we want to take it to the next level.
“Over the years, the biggest problem, on the business side of it especially, has been good internet connectivity. When we first started, it was a major problem, and we started up a company now known as Aussie Broadband, [which has since been spun off].
“That came out of a necessity arising from the fact that we couldn’t get good regional connectivity from a lot of our small business clients, so we created our own, which then became its own beast, and has its own life now.
“One of the things we find difficult is getting the right staff. We spend a long time building up our guys in that area, because you’ve got to be a lot more diverse than you need to be in metropolitan areas.
“We’ve had some metro people come through, but they’re often too narrow-focused. We don’t have the client-base to have people dedicated in individual areas.
“Training for our people is difficult as well. That’s a challenge, because a lot of the time they have to travel to Melbourne and Sydney for things. Some of the things we’re involved in, you have to travel to stay ahead of the curve. If I don’t have the guys at those things, we don’t stay ahead of the game.
“As far as the benefits pf being in a regional area go, some of our overheads are less, I don’t pay as much rent. Most of our people get to work in five minutes, so I don’t have guys stressed with hours of travel. We’re also a bit more relaxed.
“There’s an upside and a downside to being here. The upside is that we don’t have to travel much around here. But the downside is that when we do have to travel, we have to travel large distances.”
This article originally appeared in the December issue of ARN magazine - to subscribe, please click here