My Top Lessons Learned as a Computer Technician

In this post I will share with you some information that I have learned that makes me the business man I am today. These lessons include automation and delegation, the usefulness of operation manuals, being effective, specializing and how to deal with competitors. These are not lessons learned the hard way which I have posted about before, but rather things I have learned while trying to be better at what I do.

Eliminate, Automate or Delegate
When you first start out you will probably not have enough work to fill the day. As time rolls on your business will begin to consume more and more of your day until eventually there will come a point where you will struggle to find the time. Your time is finite and you can only work on so many computers a day. In order for you to grow you need to either automate or delegate.
You should think about your most common tasks in your business. Do you even need to be doing it? Can it be eliminated? If you need to do it, can it be automated? Software related work is ideal for automation. For example, Windows reinstalls take a fair bit of time and require someone to be there to press Next, Next, Next. You can automate this process by creating an unattended install CD using something like vLite to install Windows, use Offline Update for the Windows patches, Fabs Autobackup 4 Tech to migrate the data and Ninite Pro to reinstall the applications . All of these support command line so you could create a batch file or an AutoIT script to do it all for you. If you don’t know how to script, Technibble has a fantastic scripting community on the forums that is only visible to members who have been on the forums for a while. You can look at some existing scripts there or perhaps pay someone to create something for you.

Of course, not every task can be eliminated or automated so you have to delegate. You can take on in-house staff or outsource the work. In either case, creating operations manuals is key. It allows others to work and make decisions in the same way you would. Essentially replacing yourself. This leads me onto my next topic.

Operations Manuals
I am a technician. I like to do things myself, my way. It’s in the technician nature. However, as I got more busy I had to take myself out of the technician mindset and more into the business owner mindset. I had to start outsourcing. The problem was I had very specific ways to deal with things and I needed to make sure that it was always done that way. Even here on the Technibble forums, the place grew much faster than I could deal with myself. I still moderate on the forums but now I have a fantastic group of volunteers helping me out. I couldn’t do it without them. Two of the mods had been around long enough that we developed the rules for both users and mods as time went on, but with the most recent take up of mods I realized I even needed an operations manual for that. It covers many of the situations that a moderator can expect but it is always expanding as various situations arise. The operations manual for your business will also expand so it should be in an editable format. Wiki software like Dokuwiki works nice if you have a few employees and you need to manage permissions. However, if you dont mind employees seeing all parts of the manual, a word document is fine.

Being Effective
I touched on this a little bit when I was on a Podnutz show a few weeks ago. Basically, you can spend your whole day “working” and turning the wheels but dont actually get much done. I personally used to get in these bad loops where I would check emails, read sites, do some computer work, come back, check emails etc..
I honestly didnt need to check my emails every half hour. Even worse was every time I did it and there was something to respond to, I had to deal with it then. I was constantly responding to things rather than doing some productive. You also need to keep in mind that there are lead up times in every task you do as well. You really see this when someone keeps distracting you at work and it takes you a few minutes to get back into what you were doing.

I managed to break my “being busy for the sake of being busy” habit and got my email checking down to about once or twice a day. I would deal with them all at once and I would be done for the day. My mind was clear to work on something else productive.

When I have a lot of things on my to-do list, I ask myself which of them is the most important, which will make the most difference. In most cases if I have a clients computer on the bench, that is the most important thing to do since my customers are my source of income.
I might have had cleaning up my workshop on the to-do list which would allow me to be more efficient while working. However, if I also had “change my advertising” on my to-do list this week, it becomes my second priority over cleaning up my workshop. Its so easy to “be busy for the sake of being busy” but in the end you need to focus on what makes you money. Sure, cleaning up my workshop will make me more efficient and being more efficient will eventually help me make more money, but fixing my clients computer right now and fixing up my advertising will make me more money quicker. Be effective.

Consider Specializing
If your area has a lot of businesses doing similar to what you are doing, consider specializing. I was speaking to a technician (@SMDSteve) on Podnutz a few weeks ago who focuses on doing Laptop DC Jack repairs. Instead of battling it out with his local competitors, he now has his competitors sending HIM work. This leads me to my next point.

Competitors
Traditional thinking makes you think that your competitors are the enemy and you hope they go out of business. However, it is far more powerful to ally with your competitors rather than to do battle with them. Do they do something you dont do (like laptop repairs) and vice versa? Can you refer to work to eachother? If you cant find a mutually beneficial situation or your competitors are hell bent on destroying you, the best way to compete is by simply being better.

I know this sounds obvious but what I mean is dont negative advertise against them (“Our prices are half that of competitor X’s”) or do any dirty tricks to steal customers. Just be better and the customers will eventually come to you. I often get asked by technicians about how to compete with the big box stores or the guy down the street with really low prices. The answer is dont. Just be better. Have better service, be quicker, keep the customer in the loop, focus on refining your advertising and your internal systems. In the end it wont matter about your prices. The quality of your work will defeat the big box stores and the cheap guy down the street.

Last but not least in regards to competitors, once you become the best in your area, dont stop. Keep improving and your competitors will have a hard time catching up.



Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (14)

  • Reuven says:

    Thank you very much for posting this! i started my buisness a few months ago and this article is really inspiring.

    I liked the part about being effective. this reminded me of the following:

    Suppose you came upon someone in the woods working to saw down a tree. They are exhausted from working for hours. You suggest they take a break to sharpen the saw. They might reply, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m busy sawing!” (taken from http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SharpenTheSaw)

  • Great article, especially the part about the competitors.

    Thanks!

  • Terri says:

    Great article- I like the idea of cutting down on checking emails to once or twice a day :)

  • Lisa says:

    I can’t do that email 2x a day theory, we run a live helpdesk that requires myself or staff to check the inbox frequently, as often as an email comes in. We book appointments all day from the inbox. It might be a bad thing, but it’s a good thing, bring in real time calls:)

    We do outsource our laptop dc jack repairs too.

    Great article.

    Lisa

  • Josh says:

    I like the idea of automation. I do spend most of my time running virus scans or installing windows. Of course while a scan is running I do other things, but those pesky dialog boxes do suck up some time, and more importantly they take me away from other tasks.

    For e-mail checking, my droid x polls my accounts every 15 minutes automatically, so I only need to pay attention if my phone goes “DRRRROIIIID”. I think the more important lesson from that paragraph is just to avoid “busywork” so you can focus on the real work. I often get into “busywork” so I can avoid the real work, but it’s the real work that gets you paid.

    I think we need a good article on time management!

  • bob lou says:

    We started our tv repair business some 15 years ago and then later went into computer repairs.

    we made friends with a tv shop nearby and he helped us out. But the repair business is a cut throat business.

    Since his shop doesn’t fix computers computers he sends them to us. So you might want to go around and visit the tv repair shops in your area and see if they are interested in bringing in computers for you to fix.
    We also fixed laptops but if you don’t then find a place that can handle them for you.

    If that customer with a laptop is a regular customer they are going to take it to another shop for repair if you can’t take it in. Hopefully that customer comes back, but you never know they just might decide to continue doing business with someone else.

  • Erik says:

    Bryce – I’m been a technibble subscriber for a long time since 07-01-2008. I very recently started posting. I think this is a great article and makes alot of sense. I have also found it invaluable to hire professionals to handle things which are not “Revenue Generating” for me. For example, I have a Bookkeeper, CPA, Attorney and hire someone to come in and help clean-up. I try and focus on billable items. God knows that it’s so easy to get distracted and just do busy work. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills or allow for retirement savings.
    Thanks for having a useful and beneficial site.
    Erik

  • IT Rush says:

    Agree with delegating work especially if you think that you already have enough tasks to perform on a single day..

  • Automating some tasks and procedures will work extremely well for some computer repair processes. Have procedures in place is also a must if you have employees.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I initiated my business about a year ago, and i dont have many clients because have not made a huge effort to gain many since i am still in high school and have lots of homework which i need to get done before repairs. I think automation is a great idea, but is there any way for use to learn how to automate. For example i would like to learn how to automate the installation of a few programs, getting antivirus programs to run a full scan, running ccleaner,and defragmenting programs etc. If there are any tutorials you guys know of i would really appreciate if you shared them with us.

  • Steve Sant says:

    Hi Bruce,

    I really liked your last point about competition, it is very true that almost by default we start to think how can we eliminate the competition or steal their clients.

    But as you said it would be more beneficial for your business in the long run if you can outsource those tasks that you don’t like to them. It would really benefit to all parties in the end.

    Think about it like karma, what goes around comes around. :)

    Steve
    Best Watches For Men

  • Jorge Diaz says:

    This site always make me happy and teaches me a lot of rich experiences, I thank you a lot. Sorry my english, Jorge from Argentina

  • pranav says:

    Really a nice description , explaining the phases the technician goes into and do it with lot of patience

  • Eddie says:

    Great article, insourcing and outsourcing are great ways to focus on what you do best.