It's that time of year again when we turn our attention to taxes. There are two kinds of taxes, the ones you know about, and the ones you don't. You know about your income tax and sales tax. Then there are those sneaky taxes you find after the fact, like when you pay for your car registration. Those line items don't make sense unless you're a CPA, and even then I have yet to meet a CPA who can explain what they all are.
There are invisible taxes you're paying in your business too. Having worked with over a thousand small business owners, I have learned that over 97% of business owners are unaware of these hidden taxes, they don't know that they are mostly voluntary, and they have not been informed by their CFO, CPA or other trusted advisor to really look hard at whether or not they want to keep paying the tax in 2014.
This invisible tax is I.T. tax, and like government taxes, they come in two ways: You either know you're paying them or you don't. I have worked with two businesses recently that are good examples of both:
One business owner runs a successful architecture firm. He has about ten employees and a good niche in industry. He pays about $1000 each month to his I.T. service provider, and outside consulting firm. When he has a problem they call it in and wait for a response from a help desk, someone who's never been at the customer site, doesn't understand the customer's business, and has only one direction on how to prioritize issues: First in, first out. It's been over 12 months since anyone visited the customer at the business. When an onsite does occur, they get a supplemental fee, albeit marketed "at a discount".
Another business owner runs a successful legal practice. He has attorneys that thrive on efficiency and truly care for their customers. As far as visits from his I.T. service provider, he has the opposite problem: They are at the customer's office putting out fires every day. The firm has a relatively new server and decent computers, but nothing seems to work consistently. And the bills for all the service keep coming, "per the agreement."
In both cases, there are two kinds of fees to the customer: The obvious fees, and the not so obvious. The first customer shared with me that they don't see any value in what they're paying for. He explains, "it feels like insurance, and I still have to pay a 100% deductible every time someone comes out here". Things are much, much worse for the second customer. Not only is he paying for monthly service, but the additional charges add up to several thousand dollars over the year. He feels equally bad about the value received. All he wants is for things to work.
Then there are the hidden fees. What does one hour of service from your I.T. firm really cost? In both customer cases, thousands of dollars per hour. Think about it: In a situation where the system is down, you have billable employees, architects or attorneys, who you pay hourly at a very good rate, unable to bill your clients at your firm's rates. For five attorneys, that's approximately $1500 lost per hour.
Do you run a business between 5 and 25 employees? Is your I.T. service provider just a charitable cause that you pay to each month, or do you feel like you wish you could be refunded for much of what you've paid? If you're not completely satisfied, it's because you need a non-traditional service plan. No shortcuts. No managed service provider marketing. Just pure and simple management of your technology, aligning it to your business and keeping it available so you can be profitable and have more time back to you. If you're interested in learning more, contact me here for more information.