Tech Support Tuesday – But they’re really computer savvy

Welcome to Tech Support Tuesday.  The first Tuesday of each month we’ll be sharing tips and “unique” experiences from both sides of the Tech Support spectrum.  If you have a tip or you’ve had a strange (let’s just call them unique) experience with a Tech Support person or someone who’s called you for support; drop me a note and I’ll include it in the next episode.  If you share a unique story please make sure it’s a real story, no third party stories or Urban Legends.

But they’re really computer savvy

Many Small Businesses can’t afford a full-time IT person and in some cases they can’t afford a part-time person.  So what are they to do?  They end up getting help from a friend, family member, or someone’s “brother’s, wife’s, cousin’s (twice removed), girlfriend’s, sister’s boyfriend who is really computer savvy.”  This all too often ends up a very costly mistake.

I’ve encounter this many times over the years, more stories in the future, and it has been very rare that I’ve encountered a situation where that person knows what they’re doing.  It is usually a nightmare.  What makes it worse is trying to convince the business owner that the person they have helping is really doing more harm than good.

Here’s an example:

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Alexander Pope – An Essay on Criticism (1709)

I have a client whose adult daughter is computer savvy.  They have a Masters Degree in Science, not computer science, and have been looking for a job in the IT industry for several years. Unfortunately they lack any real world experience in the IT industry but that does not stop them from thinking they have, after all they have a Masters Degree; right?!

Their accounting system is extremely out dated (does anyone remember DOS based programs?) and they needed some kind of inventory control as well, there is no inventory capability with the current accounting system.  I have recommended several times to switch to something more modern that would allow them to do both.

When they finally decided to listen and get a copy of QuickBooks, I was relieved.  However, when she started poking around she realised that they would have to pay a yearly subscription fee for the tax tables in order to do payroll.  This was completely unacceptable to her and therefore convinced her father not to move any further in the transition.

Here’s the problem with that.  The accounting firm they use was already charging them for the tax tables.  When I tried to explain this to the owner, his daughter piped up saying that it wasn’t and we debated back and forth on the issue.  Eventually the reasons she didn’t want to transition to QuickBooks evolved into the fact that she felt that they were being “nickel and dimed“ by Intuit.

What about the inventory?  Well because she is “computer savvy” she decided to devise her own solution.  What was that solution?  A Microsoft Excel Pivot Table.  After a couple of years struggling with the Pivot Table and the changing needs for the inventory, they finally decided to look into some kind of inventory system.

I started my research and so did she, did I mention she’s working on her PhD in Google.  We found four possible solutions and a winner was chosen shortly after that.  The initial cost for the number of licenses they needed was about $750US.  Less than a year later they paid an additional about $400US to upgrade one of the licenses to enable serial numbers.  Now they are paying roughly a $300+ subscription fee annually for support and upgrades (TAKE THAT INTUIT).

Ultimately when the owner decides to sell the business in order to retire he’s not going to get what he should get.  His accounting system is antiquated, they decided to keep the software they were using; and the inventory system is pretty much a mess.  A potential buyer will look at these two fundamental elements for the operation of the business and realise they will have to spend a decent amount of money and time to modernize it.  As a result they will not be willing to pay a great deal for the business, at least not as much as the current owner will ask.

Having someone you know or someone in the family that is computer savvy can be nice, but when it comes to running your business please stick with someone who actually earns a living doing it.  If that family member or person you know actually earns a living doing it, then great.  If they don’t, it ultimately will cost you.