Ask anybody – I am not a braggart. My little independent IT consulting business, aka JustCallMatt.net, is going like gangbusters. Without advertising or marketing myself actively, I am still getting new business at a steady clip. Word of mouth rocks! OK, maybe that is an exaggeration. It’s perhaps the best way to get new business, but it is not something you can predict – it just happens. Yes, you can leave extra business cards with current customers and give them incentives to refer your services to their friends and family. But you can’t force them to refer you.
Ive got several clients I call super-nodes that have been walking advertisements for my services. They are active in their community and have businesses of their own, and when they hear somebody with computer needs, they give them my info without hesitation. The thing that Im troubled over at the moment is now I have to schedule people 1-2 weeks out, something that I hate doing because many people require service quicker than that. Often times, this isnt a problem; other times I can pick up on their sense of urgency and I may try to juggle my schedule to get to them quicker. And sometimes you just cant, and you have to queue them up a couple of weeks.
I had a case like that last week with a new customer I went to their house to check out the family PC (a Dell not even a year old), which they were complaining was possessed with evil spirits. As expected, it was riddled with Spyware and Adware, with a few viruses that had been stuck in quarantine. I knew right away that this would require a rebuild. But it turned out the PC had a bad CD drive that needed to be replaced before I could do the rebuild. I called Dell, and they would be sending out the replacement part within 24-48 hours, but because of my schedule, I had to schedule them out almost two weeks away to perform the rebuild. I really wanted to take care of the client right then and their, and felt bad that I had to put them off for a couple more weeks.
Oftentimes, I think to myself how nice it would be partner up with somebody or, at the very least, find a sharp person I could delegate work to. This would help me delegate projects and build the business without overloading myself. As it is, Im finding myself with only a day a week where I dont have something going on. Some would say this is a good problem to have, and it is, but I feel like Im burning the candle at both ends. And thats when I start thinking about how I can find another person to bring into the fold.
The other problem is that while I know other people I would trust and enjoy working with, either they are gainfully employed or otherwise too busy in their own right. So Im racking my brains on how I can expand my business – without sacrificing the quality of work or endangering relationships with existing clients. I picture this as a common problem with small business people around the country.
I know there are several nationwide chains that do what I do, such as Geek Squad (owned by Best Buy), Nerds on Call, Nerds on Site, etc. Ive checked them out, but while they each offer something compelling, they involve either working as a subcontractor or paying large up-front franchise fees and/or percentages of your gross billing. And Im just not ready to give up that much of my income yet.
One course of action I am going to take soon is to make some contacts at a nearby DeVry campus. Its within walking distance of my home, and it could turn out to be a place I can recruit from. After all, they do specialize in teaching technology. Ideally, Id like to find somebody with a little real-world experience thats working towards their degree.
Ill keep you all posted.