I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jillian Flodstrom on her Scale Your Small Business podcast. We had an amazing conversation about the costs of IT, updating technology, and how to have a good relationship with your IT provider. I had a great time talking with Jillian and the entire episode it full of good tips and tricks!
You can watch below!
Today’s guest began his company with one simple goal, providing the best technology support to local small businesses and giving back to the community. For over six years, that simple formula has led to a great deal of success. Please welcome Wade Stewart, how are you?
I’m well, thank you. How are you? Good, good.
I’m excited to to talk today about tech masters Computer Services. Because I feel like we all struggle in the technology world, there’s a lot of stuff to learn, there’s a lot of stuff to know. And it’s just overwhelming. Let’s be honest, there’s just too much. So we’re gonna dive into one of the biggest things that is affecting small businesses today. And that is really the costs of maintaining and upgrading our technology. Because we all need technology. I mean, for the last couple of years, that was a huge thing for all of us. Like, if you didn’t have it, you had to wait a while to get it. So let’s dive into that. What do you see in your business as one of the biggest things that affects small businesses?
I think one of the biggest things that is affecting small businesses right now, in terms of costs is how so many of the services that we relied on to just purchase one time have turned into Subscriptions. A lot of those are software, it used to be that we could just go to Best Buy and buy Microsoft Office for what 230 bucks, I think was the last time I was able to buy a copy of that, which was years ago now. And now you’ve got to pay at least 12 or 16 bucks a month for just one seat. And, and you get to just keep paying it. And then recently, of course, they change the licensing model. So if you want to pay month to month, you have to pay 20% more. So it’s it’s interesting. They’re trying to do stuff to ensure that their cash flow remained stable. Of course, who wouldn’t? But it does make for some challenges on the software side.
I’ve noticed that too, that things that I would normally pay like a one year licensing fee, it’s now shifted to if you have course, you can still pay annually. But if you want to pay monthly, it’s more expensive. And it’s interesting that people have shifted. I mean, of course, being business owners ourselves, we understand that but doesn’t make it any easier. Because we’re like GRE as well, as there’s probably restrictions to have like, if you are reselling those products as your business is, there’s probably all sorts of restrictions and things that you have to do like in the insurance industry. You know, there’s all these different things that you’re required to do in order to have that ability. Right?
Right, exactly. We do a lot of work for law firms. And it used to be, well, law firms require a database of all their all of their cases and take notes in them, and structured notes, and being able to clock their time for your paralegals, your clerks and everybody else. So it’s a really intensive database system. And for years, only the highest end firms had these databases in house. So they’d actually have a server, running some software and have all these backups and kind of a big deal even for as little as a two or three attorney office. So now, you’ve got most of all of those providers have all moved to the cloud. And they have structured the requirements for the on premise is what we call having a server in your office, the on premise stuff, they raise the the requirements so high that you practically have to replace the server every two to three years, which is unheard of because it used to be relied on a server for 12 years. So it’s it’s stunning that they’re they even then those ones are pushing you away and forcing you on to these cloud ones. But at the same time, these cloud ones offer an opportunity to save money, especially in those cases where you have these line of business software, like case caseload management and and those kinds of things in different firms like accounting, they’re going to the cloud, that you have these opportunities to save on having to buy that server all the time, and do the updates. And, you know, I mean not to shoot myself in the foot, but you don’t need an IT guy to keep all those updates done because the manufacturer of the software takes care of it. And all the updates are automatic. So you do have to kind of weigh that, that that cost benefit.
And how do you do that? I mean, what’s the best way because I feel like as soon as you buy a new piece of technology, I feel like five minutes Slayter it’s out of date, or there’s something new new bells, whistles, whatever the case may be. But is there a rule of thumb about how often we replace technology? I know myself, I love my computers. I keep them around for way too long. I affectionately call them my dinosaurs. But then they die, or something happens to them. And then I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I need a new computer. Now. What’s the rule of thumb for that?
Yeah, for your dinosaurs that Meteor is coming. And hopefully it doesn’t.
And it does at the most inopportune time that Meteor comes and I toast,
it really does. And, you know, they say Murphy’s Law, right, whatever can happen wrong is going to happen at the most inopportune time. So taking, taking control is, and I know you’ve spoke about this on your podcast before, but tracking your costs, right? And compartmentalizing them and making sure that you understand where your money’s going. That’s incredibly important. So when you get a new piece of hardware, and you note when you got it, and how much you paid for it, and then every single one of those is tract so that you can kind of get a feel for how long it’ll be before I have to replace it. And it does help to figure out if it’s worth repairing or not, because it does get a little long in the tooth, as parts become harder to find. In many cases, like laptop parts, they’re disappearing within two or three years, which is stunning, because really, it shouldn’t hang around for six years, but they’re going through so many iterations on improving the products that they’re not, they’re not compatible anymore. So in software is not not much different. A lot of a lot of those updates are happening. So tracking, tracking those costs is really key. And noting when your renewals come up, because they’re always on a one year cycle, right? Well, the best time to ask for a cut is about a month before your renewal comes up. Because then they know that you are paying attention. And you’re calling and say, you know, this product has been great, but how can I get the best price for my my renewal? What can I change? What can I do? And that’s the element of time, right? And preparing for if you knew that your your heart, your laptop is going to die in the sixth year on average, than on your five you can start shopping and you can find a great deal. But if you wait to the last minute, yep, you’re right, you guaranteed you’re gonna pay an arm and a leg
And be stressed out to because you know, you’re gonna start sweating when your computer doesn’t turn on. And here’s one thing that I mean, I don’t know if anybody else is like this, I hope I’m not alone. But you know, when you have to get something on your computer fixed, and you pull up, you know, for me, it’s a Mac. So I put my little apple, and it says that, you know, you purchased this computer in 2015. And you’re like, No, it hasn’t been that long. It is amazing how fast time goes by from when you purchase a computer to like when something pops up? And you’re like, Oh, my No, I didn’t purchase it that long ago, but you really did. So I love that idea of tracking it. Because you’re right, it keeps that front of mind. And you’re not stressed out when you’re trying to find whatever it is you need. Because it’s not, you know, you’re not going through the cold sweats of like, oh my gosh, I need this tomorrow for a Zoom meeting or whatever the case may be. Because you’re planning ahead. And I mean, that’s better in every aspect of our businesses is to plan ahead. So I’m glad you mentioned that tracking piece. Do you just do that on a spreadsheet? Is that the best way to do that?
For most people? I would say yeah, that’s what spreadsheets Great. One of the one of the things we do for our clients is we have an asset tracking component. So any of the machines that are under our care will automatically grab the date in which it was booted up for the first time because all the computers keep track of those things. So we just ping the computer say, Hey, when did you start to life? When were you born? And then we log that in? And then we might ask the client, if we didn’t buy it for them, we’ll ask well, how much do you pay for it because we just want to track that for your benefit. And it’s helped a number of companies because they’ll contact us and say, I’m ready to do my property tax filing is some states and counties require that. And so you have to produce a record of all the equipment and furniture in your business so that you’re taxed on it. And that makes it very easy to ask somebody like us to produce that for them.
Oh, that’s such a good idea. I didn’t even think about that. But you’re right. You’re in that tax rush of like, oh my gosh, when did I buy my computer? Yeah, that is an awesome service that you guys provide. Now, I know that we were talking before offline about when, you know how often should we we be talking to our IT person. And I think this is is important because a lot of us probably myself included, only call when there’s an issue or something’s happened or, you know, I need to, you know, buy another computer because I accidentally knocked it off the desk, you know, say things like that, what’s your recommended advice on that?
I think having a relationship with an IT professional is really important in the growth and longevity of your business, there are so many things that happen in business that will have an i An it impact, or an IT impact will have an A or an it, it will have an impact on some of the decisions for your business. So one case is you want to move your office, you want to just pack up all your stuff and move over there. Well, does your office have internet, did you know that for that particular location, you may be waiting 45 days for it to you. And, and little things like that, that are that could be concern or the you have a server that you’re bringing along. But all the power is rated for lower usage. And you could run the risk of flipping the breaker and having that server shut off at a very inopportune time. So there’s there’s a lot of things that we can help plan. Also, business growth with if you wanted to get into your business development and say, You know what, I think we want to start supporting this related product or this, we want to start serving people in a different related field, you might have extra requirements for the software that that field requires for your for your hardware. So you’ll have to have a little bit of forethought, we like to engage our clients, at least once a year. And we call us to call it the state of it report. And we come in with a report of everything that we’ve recorded and everything that’s happened. And then we ask questions like, Are you planning on growing your business this year? Do you want to add some more employees? Do you have to let something go? These are all things that if we knew we can help you make really good decisions. And again, the factor of time, when you can plan for something, you can save money and make better decisions?
Well, and I liked the fact that you brought up about employees, because a lot of times, we as entrepreneurs know that we need we need some help, you know, but it’s like when do you bring that person on? And what pieces of technology do you provide for them? And at what cost? Because again, that’s a cost that has to factor into it. So for your clients when they are either adding or subtracting employees. What does that process look like when you when they reach out to you and say, Hey, here’s what we’ve got going on? I’m really excited to talk about this, because I think this is something that affects us all as having employees. So what’s kind of the process for that?
Well, I think it’s requires a step back. And we training engage with our clients first to say, what is your onboarding process? How, how do you bring somebody on? Are they training with somebody in particular? Are they doing these different kinds of things? Do you like to shuffle computers around, so they get the oldest one or maybe they get the newest one depending on the culture of the business, and we try and engage with them. And then from that we create a checklist that will inform us on all the steps that we need to take, what software we need to do, what accounts we need to create, we always encourage businesses to not share accounts, you know, make sure that everybody has their own account to reduce the risk of cyber crime or accidents really. And that that really helps to inform them. And of course, ask getting that information, at least a week ahead of time, especially if those clients haven’t having a have us by hardware. So we need to get ahead of that. Again, with that time, we can choose more wisely and make better, better, economical decisions on what to purchase.
Well, and I have heard horror stories of businesses that have kept all their passwords and usernames because they all share one account on a spreadsheet, for example, well then if that person leaves, or there’s new people that join, it’s like this community spreadsheet of passwords, which I mean, honestly, somebody could probably get access to that spreadsheet that shouldn’t have access to it. Or that could lead to you know, employees taking a copy of that spreadsheet with them or whatever the case may be. What’s your recommendation for security when it comes to employees? Because I think that’s something that small business owners hesitate to add employees because, of course we’re you know, we’re going to take care of our business like it’s our baby, but giving that to someone else to hold our baby sometimes can be really uncomfortable. So what are some things that you suggest if we are going to be bringing on additional employees or maybe even a first employee?
I think the key is to use a password manager, and you would have a password manager account for maybe not necessarily each of your employees, you can do things like get a paid one, and then they all use a free one that you share accounts with. But you don’t have to share the password unnecessarily. So that can be really helpful. We offer a service where you can use a password manager where all of your employees use their own accounts. And if somebody is terminated, they get locked out of that, a gateway, if you will, to all the accounts that have been access to. And then we can even produce that set of credentials to the employer to go ahead and close out things if they want to, or we can close them out on our own, whichever they’re more comfortable with, to make sure that the business is secure, and not under threat of unemployment, my disgruntled employee might be might want to act negatively. But yeah,
I was just gonna say that or a hostile takeover, if you will, well, and maybe even the option to forward those emails to you as the business owner or another employee in your business. So those emails aren’t getting missed, right?
Right. We have a client that’s over 100 people and their onboarding process includes forwarding mail to a particular person for a certain period of time. And then and then the, the process we’ve had with them, after a month, the process says, okay, ask the ask the client if they want to close that mailbox, and so it doesn’t cost them any more money, or leave, or leave the mailbox open, or just take the mailbox and say that to a file and give that to them. And then close it out. So we have lots of options for that.
I love that you mentioned Okay, so we talked about the onboarding process, which I feel like a lot of people are like, yep, gotta train my employee. But I’m glad that you mentioned the onboarding process, because it’s something that just like clicked in my brain, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. And I’m sure other people probably thought the same thing as me. But it’s like, oh, my gosh, you’ve got to have an onboarding process for all these people. Because maybe you’re in the heat of the moment, and you have to let somebody go, because they made the wrong decision. And that, you know, put some things in jeopardy. And that’s such a heated situation, you’ve got to have this process in place. So you can get all the things checked off. So you don’t leave yourself open to potentially something you know else coming in, that you’re not even aware of. Right? Yeah,
Absolutely. We’ve got the emergency situations, that which we encourage employers to have, regardless of their size, because you really don’t know what could happen. It would be nice if we could just assume that everybody’s good. And they’ll always be good. But, you know, we have to trust and verify, right? So we have to protect ourselves. But and then we can trust them to do what they want and do what they have to do no problem. But if something should happen, we have a plan in place, which is, which is so important. So yeah, that onboarding process is, is very key to closing down accounts, making sure that we recover any hardware that that employee had been issued, like a laptop, a cellular phone, or any number of other. Yeah, yep. So it’s very important. Think
About as well as, like, you would remember, get their key to the door. But maybe you’re like, oh, yeah, they have a tablet that we need to get back, because that has access to all the things. Now, if they have something like that, like a tablet or a laptop or something, is it possible to not necessarily shut access to that down but pause it or that’s probably not the right terminology. But so that way, if there is an emergency situation, and you do have to let someone go, you can pause it, and then get the hardware back when they bring it back? Is that a thing?
Absolutely. We there are ways we haven’t within our systems. And you can purchase or activate things, you know, like on your Mac, you’ve got Find My Mac. And if your Mac’s not findable, you blast it right. But that does rely on that Mac getting on the internet again. So we noticed that in most def cases, they don’t put it back on the internet that when they steal it, they sell it. And then that’s pretty much the end of it. But in cases of a terminated employee, we could definitely block that it’s so key to block their access. You say we don’t you said that we make sure that we get the key but we don’t get the virtual key which is that VPN access into your into the backdoor of your servers or all those other things that could potentially risk much more than somebody walking into your office. So yeah, so it’s really important that we we can shut down everything quickly and as soon as it’s needed to be done. Yeah,
And again, that goes to the onboarding process, because you have that checklist ready to go to say, Okay, we’re gonna do these 16 steps or whatever it is, but at least you’ve got a plan in place. So that way, you’re far less likely to forget something. I think that’s the hardest part is remembering to do everything. And the best way is to just write it down on the checklist. And as you go through that process, more and more just continuing to update that checklist. Right?
Exactly. And it’s nice that our lists are pretty dynamic. So if something changes, and unfortunately, a lot of times, we don’t know, something changes until the next termination, like, oh, did you do that? Oh, well, that’s new to us. That’s fine. We’ll go ahead and add that and we’ll get that done. So, again, that goes back to that, you know, constantly reaching out to our clients and just getting a temperature check on how things are going.
Absolutely. Now, if somebody wants to work with you, what’s the best way to reach out to you because we’ve covered a ton of stuff that affects almost, I mean, virtually every small business that’s out there, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Well, they can always go to your tech masters.com. And take a look at our whole slate of services and check out what we’ve got going on. And then just like every website out there, you’ve got this little pop up that says, hey, you can talk to us why that’s how to do it. You can also email sales at TMCs dot Pro, that’s tech masters, Computer Services Dot Pro, and we can get we can get to help you.
Oh, that’s great. Well, and I’ll be sure to put those links in the show notes as well, for easy access for everybody. Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I know we covered a ton of stuff, but I feel like this stuff is stuff we all need to be doing. Like the one thing that we can do after listening to this podcast is reach out to our tech person if we don’t have one reach out to you and get some systems in place so that way we’re not scrambling when there’s an emergency to get it handled.
Yeah, it’s nice to live with a little peace of mind when you have some help.
Absolutely. Thanks again.