When Lisa Turner made the transition from the corporate world to running her own small business and working from home, she didn’t miss the snarling rush hour commuter traffic or working late almost every night of the week. But she did miss the information technology guy who worked down the hall from her office.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a small business is finding affordable IT support,” said Turner, owner of LMT Media, a Brickell-based sales and marketing firm. “When I started working from home, I really missed having an in-house IT department just a phone call away when my computer crashed or my email didn’t work.”
The first time her computer stopped working from her home office, Turner immediately turned to the Internet to find help.
“I tried a few local independent consultants I found from a Google search,” said Turner. “That was an interesting experience to say the least.”
Turner’s search led her to hire a consultant whom she soon discovered was moonlighting and actually had a day job. “I figured he wasn’t working during the day because he could only work at night and the sense of urgency just wasn’t there,” said Turner. “If my computer crashed or my network went down during the day, it was always a real challenge trying to get a hold of someone to help me.”
One particularly harrowing episode nearly put her into a panic. “One day my network and email went down, and the IT guy I had at the time literally went dark on me. I had to track down his wife, who was able to track him down. It was scary.’’
Now, Turner uses Network Solutions, a large online marketing company, to host her website. “I can sleep at night now knowing that my entire business isn’t in the hands of a single person who could just stop returning my calls at any time.”
IT provider Ivan Mladenovic sees frustrated small business owners like Turner every day. Whether the problem is a broken laptop, a network connectivity glitch or software that isn’t working correctly, small businesses turn to Mladenovic to get the job done.
“IT support for small business owners is a void that major retailers like Best Buy are trying to fill,” said Mladenovic, whose South Miami-based computer repair business, Tech Bar, serves clients around the U.S. “But that can often be a pricey proposition.” While Geek Squad charges approximately $50 to diagnose an IT problem, Mladenovic charges $35 and deducts the fee from the repair cost.
Leah Adams of Parrish Designs, a wedding florist located in Miami’s Bird Road Art District, tried Best Buy’s service, Geek Squad, but was disappointed. “We had to take our equipment in to the Geek Squad and pay just to have it looked at to see what the problem was,’’ she said. “In the end, it was very expensive and it took a long time.”
Office Depot and Staples offer similar services — but like Geek Squad, the cost can run into hundreds of dollars to troubleshoot a complex, time-intensive problem at a client’s home or office.
Adams opted instead to find a local IT company to handle the firm’s needs. “Finding a local company was important to us, particularly one that was close to our business so that if we have a need, we can call and someone will be here in 20 minutes. The local option was a great fit for us.”