I was always surprised in my years at PC Magazine that major vendors would come in to meet with us and explain how they had no plans to address the small business market. It was quite a list, Cisco, Novell, Microsoft, Nortel, it goes on and on. Everyone thought that small businesses should use consumer hardware and software and that products designed for enterprises shouldn’t be adapted. I saw that as a massive gap in market positioning.
One of the reasons why I saw that as a massive misjudgment is that I was busy with Sarrel Group, my consulting firm. One of our primary missions is to help small businesses implement technology that helps them do business. I do that by working with the vendors to design products specifically for small business and by working directly with small businesses to implement solutions. What I learn in the field gets translated into what ends up on the drawing board.
The point of this entry is not merely to laud myself. The point is that the big guys are starting to listen. Markets are changing. Cisco realized they were so out of touch with small businesses that they bought Linksys to fill the gap. Small businesses now fall into the target demographic. Every major vendor has some sort of initiative to attract small business. And it’s time for you to start reaping the benefits.
Visit websites and learn. There are many “small business centers” popping up. HP has one. Dell has SB360. Microsoft even has a web based Small Business Show. Visit these sites, attend the virtual trade shows, and learn what you can. Always listen with some healthy skepticism. Learn, learn, learn!
Make sure that whenever you buy something you get competitive pricing. And tell the vendor, VAR, or web store that you are getting competitive pricing. Say something like, “Just to be fair, I’m telling you that I’m soliciting bids from your competitors.” If they tell you that their pricing is fixed, then say something like, “Oh. OK. I thought that maybe as a potential customer who spends tens of thousands of dollars on tech a year you might be able to help me but I guess not.” Wait a few seconds for them to start stammering about how they can help. If not, move on.