To The Rescue

Adding Value

Nationwide, there are thousands of computer resellers (also known as value-added resellers), many of which are small businesses just like yours. Most specialize in such areas as networking, troubleshooting, computer upgrades, PC installation, or computer hardware and software support. Some develop solutions for certain industries, such as computerized accounting systems or specialized software for real estate companies.

Computer resellers have long had a reputation for catering to large companies with deep pockets; however, experts say this is changing. Computer resellers increasingly view small businesses as an emerging market opportunity and have begun to focus on developing better ways to serve this group. Here are a few services resellers can offer your small business:

  • Computer resellers serve as a knowledgeable information technology resource that's close to home. Unlike large technology companies, which don't typically develop relationships with small companies that use their products, a computer reseller is local, says Janet Waxman, research manager for server and workstation distribution at International Data Corp., a high-tech market research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts. Resellers are more accessible when you have questions about specific products, want advice on adopting a new technology or need tech support--right away.
  • Resellers can build customized products for your business. For example, if you want a computer with extra memory for advanced desktop publishing or specialized software applications for your particular industry, resellers can find the best solutions and create systems tailored to your business's exact needs.
  • Resellers can fix your nagging PC headaches. If there's trouble with your file server, they're there to help, often even on weekends or after hours. "Because we have the professional experience, many companies offload many of their MIS functions and the daily grind of PC support into our court," says Gary Foote, vice president of Harry's Business Machines, a computer reseller in Reno, Nevada.

Resellers provide a host of other services as well. These may include preventive maintenance, such as inspecting systems for computer viruses; support services, such as configuration and installation of PCs and peripherals; software training; hardware repair and more.

Simply put, utilizing a computer reseller adds value to your company by helping your business use computer resources more efficiently. If you're comfortable purchasing, installing and maintaining PC hardware and software yourself, then you probably don't need one. Resellers become useful when your business could benefit from having someone help your company acquire the appropriate technology, offer useful advice and provide guidance through the rough spots.

"Resellers act like a valuable information services department for the small businesses that develop a relationship with them," Waxman says. "There's an interdependence that develops over time."

Foote agrees. "We try to get to the point where we have a commitment to each other," he explains. "For small businesses, the most value comes from having a relationship with us and knowing that we know their system. If there's a question, problem or concern, we can address it."

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: To The Rescue.

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