If you’re in the computer repair business, you’ve probably heard of Daniel Hand. He’s known primarily as the author of Computer Repair Business Lessons Learned, a book which I reviewed here previously. But he is also very active in the computer consulting community as founder of the Association of Computer Repair Business Owners (NACRBO) and regular participant in the forums on Technibble.
Dan shares my belief that computer consultants should not be lone wanderers guarding their secrets to success. We all have something to share and we all have something to learn. He’ filling this void with his many projects and products.
I asked Dan to take a break from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for Y.F.N.C.G.
Please start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Susquehanna, PA. Upon graduating high school I went directly into the Marine Corps and spent 20 years there. During my time in the Marine Corps I was in Communications (i.e. data, radio, etc) and then migrated over to the computer networking side of things. I completed my Microsoft, Cisco, and various other certifications prior to retiring.
Once retired I started working as a contractor for various companies in the D.C. area consisting of networking, engineering, and program management positions. During that time we also opened our business that started in our house and has since migrated to a store-front in Fredericksburg, Va.
Why did you choose this line of work?
I saw a need for this type of service in the community I lived and the resources available to people are what I considered inadequate.
What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in getting your business off the ground?
Truthfully none. We put a lot of thought and documentation into starting a business prior to actually doing it. That helped us tweak it along the way so when we were ready there were no surprises.
What would you have done differently if you had an opportunity to start your business over again?
I would like to say nothing but in hindsight I would have to say marketing. We tried a lot of things before realizing what worked and what didn’t work.
How do you see the computer repair business changing in the future?
I see businesses having to offer more services. I think the day of break/fix are going away and you have to be up to speed with technology services. Some things I see more and more of are managed services, backup services, and remote services just to mention a few.
What skills are most important for a competitive computer consultant to keep updated? Least important?
Most important I would have to say are “people skills”, it’s too easy to get in a rut and not keep your people skills up. To me those skills will make or break you. I have seen first hand what happens to those businesses where the owner/tech’s have no people skills. People have to feel comfortable with who they are dealing with and that is where these skills are invaluable.
The least important I would say is trying to learn every new piece of technology that comes out. You need to be able to determine what is going to be valuable in your market.
What is the strangest or most humorous experience you’ve had on a consulting job?
As a consultant I had put in for a position teaching at a community college. I got a call to come by, they wanted me to fill something out. I showed up and the person took me into a conference room with 8 people from the school there who wanted to ask me questions about teaching experience, work experience etc. The amusing part was I rode my Harley to the school that day with jeans, a t-shirt, and boots. Not sure who was more surprised me or them. But, all went well and started teaching the following week.
What prompted you to write Computer Repair Business Lessons Learned?
I would visit forums and other sites and see questions like “Can I get a copy of a maintenance agreement”, “Can I see what a proposal looks like”, etc. Typically the answers were all the same “You need to do your own and have an attorney look it over”, or people would basically give no replies at all. It seemed that nobody in the industry wanted to share their information with others in the same field. After seeing this go on for a few years I decided with all the notes and material I had maintained that I would write the book and attempt to give all the possible lessons I could think of for someone to start in the business and not have to search for years trying to find knowledge or documents to be successful.
How has the book helped your consulting career?
I think just in the sheer fact that I deal with a lot of other owners who bought the book because they were starting out and have since remained friends. I don’t think any consultant can ever stop learning so I learn on a daily basis. I can implement those things from others into my business and continue to grow.
Describe ACRBO and why you established it.
The Association of Computer Repair Business Owners was established because I saw a need for an Association that the small business owner could be part of. There are other Associations out there but typically they are for the business owner that brings in revenues in the million or multi-million dollar range.
I thought with a smaller Association that more small business owners would be able to join, and reap the same kind of benefits that the larger Associations typically have. Another goal is to build a strong presence in order to reflect to customers the “trust & professionalism” that they get with using a member of the Association.
We are continually talking to vendors about their products and finding ones that match what the Associations stands for and finding those that understand the small business are willing to offer their products at a reduced rate to Association members.
We have a lot of plans for the Association in the near future. Membership is increasing and we are getting a larger presence in the communities that our Associations members service. We will continue to get the name out there and in time it will have an impact.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who is looking to start their own computer consulting business, what would it be?
Be very detail oriented and organized in everything you do. Doing that will give you a sound structure to build upon.
What do you think of Dan’s approach to the computer business?
Previous interviews on YFNCG: