You’d think by now, with "cloud" applications, everything being “hosted” and all software being delivered as a “service” that we wouldn’t have to deal with tech guys as much as we did in the past. But we still do. That’s because most of us still need PCs, laptops and tablets. We still have routers and cabling and switches in the office. We’re still saving some stuff locally on servers and many of us still have on-premises systems, like accounting and other databases that we rely on daily and will probably continue to rely on for the foreseeable future. And so all of this needs the tech guy. You know who this is, right?
He’s as old as your own kid. He’s a hipster. He last showered when Windows 7 was released. He has a goatee, and probably a pony tail. He’s rushed, frazzled and impatient. He fixes one thing and ten other things break. He drinks coffee or Red Bulls. He’s not unfriendly. But he’s definitely not a salesman. You pay him by the hour or maybe you have a monthly contract with him. You need him. He makes sure your systems keep running so your business can keep running.
There are at least three important things you need to know about this guy:
1. Not all tech guys were created equal. Most tech guys think their clients are idiots when it comes to tech. But rest assured, there are plenty of other tech guys who likely think the same about your tech guy. And they’re probably right. In the corporate world there are tech guys who deal with very complex security, data, application and connectivity issues. They come with respectable academic pedigrees and work for years in the bowels of giants like Oracle, SAP and Google.
Your tech guy is likely not one of these guys. Otherwise, he’d be working there. The barrier to enter the world if independent IT consulting is almost non-existent. Any clown who’s tinkered with a computer can do it. And maybe your tech guy did work at Oracle. But that may not qualify him to be a tech guy. Because tech, like any other industry, has many sub-specialties. I know plenty of competent C# programmers who know nothing about configuring a network. I know lots of SQL database experts who can’t even setup a printer. Make sure you understand your tech guy’s qualifications.
2. Don't take their word for it. Lots of tech guys like to make their clients feel like nincompoops. They toss around unrecognizable words and give you withering looks when you ask simple questions. Men (most tech guys are men because it is one of the last places left in the world where we feel we can control things) like to pretend we know stuff when we really don’t. That’s why we hate to ask for directions and get help. Tech guys pretend they know the answers. But don’t believe every answer they give you. Trust your own common sense. Before spending a lot of money on a new project, get some other tech guys in to give you their second opinions. Don’t be afraid to question. You’re not as stupid as you’re being made to think. Technology is an art, not a science. If it were truly a science, most tech guys wouldn’t be smart enough to do it.
3. Get used to stuff breaking. Your tech guy is likely a Microsoft person. That means he's used to stuff not working all the time and he accepts this. You should too -- to a degree. Often tech guys throw out fixes like a baby throws food -- hoping it sticks to the wall. Don’t ask silly questions like “Why did this happen?” Instead ask “If it is God’s will that this problem occurs again, how do I reach you?”
This is not entirely the fault of the tech person. There is a part of technology that cannot be explained, perhaps for the same reason no one can explain why Duck Dynasty is such a popular show. It is like dark matter. So you let it go. Tech guys are used to dealing with an imperfect world. You will have to accept this. But don’t let that hold you back from asking the questions you need to get yourself comfortable. If the issue is important enough, don’t let him walk out the door until you get your questions satisfactorily answered. And make sure you know where to reach him when the problem inevitably re-occurs.
Just remember, your tech guy may be halfway decent at technology. But he’s not a great businessman. Treat him fairly, but be tough. And don’t let him off the hook. Some tech issues are not worth fighting. But others are important, so push for the answers you need. If a tech issue seems strange to you, that's because it’s probably strange. You’re not stupid, so get your answers before he leaves. Otherwise you’ll quickly be out-of -ight and out-of-mind, and he’ll be on to disrupting the next small business owner.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.