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Summary:

Small business owners have it hard, especially in the current world economic climate. They have lots to do, not enough resources, staff, and time to get it done. For many small business owners, computers are only one more thing to worry about. It doesn’t have to […]

imac3quartersSmall business owners have it hard, especially in the current world economic climate. They have lots to do, not enough resources, staff, and time to get it done. For many small business owners, computers are only one more thing to worry about. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For the past few months, I’ve been in the process of moving from one side of the country to the other. Now that my family and I are settling into our new location, I thought I would share some stories of small business owner encounters I’ve had during my travels. From the end of April to the middle of July, I crossed the country twice by car, and three times flying. Each time, I was reminded of why a Mac is a great small business machine.

iPhones Everywhere, Not a Mac in Sight

During my travels, I met people from all over. Being a tech guy, I would immediately ask questions about what they did for a living, what types of tools they used, the problems their business faced, etc. Of course, for me, the most fascinating part was the software and hardware they used.

Generally, I would hear that they used Microsoft Outlook to manage their email and contacts, Microsoft Word or Publisher to manage their documents, and Microsoft Excel for spreadsheets. Basically, the standard issue PC purchase and Microsoft tools. Some were a little more advanced and used QuickBooks Pro or Adobe graphics tools.

The funny thing is that of the half-dozen or so folks I met, all of them (and yes, I mean all of them) had an iPhone to manage their information on-the-go. They would explain how they loved the user experience, the apps available (not to manage their business, just fun apps) and the cool factor.

Elevator Pitch

Of course, I would then ask why they didn’t use a Mac instead of their current PC. Most of the replies blamed a lack of initiative, the cost of switching, or a fear of change. The cost issue tended to be the less significant of the three. The biggest was the fear of change. Would their documents work? Would they have to change how they completed their daily tasks? What would they do without Outlook (other than have hours of their lives back instead of waiting for that molasses app to run)?

Generally, I would explain the standard Apple business proposition to them: premier/high quality hardware and software, simplicity and fun factor. I would then explain how their documents would migrate with minimal fidelity loss (not every file converts perfectly). I would then begin to sell them on how their data would be better managed.

I really enjoyed showing these business owners how powerful the iPhone can really be when you use it for business. I would demonstrate MobileMe sync and how changes made to their contacts/calendar on the iPhone would be waiting for them when they got home (this usually drew gigantic smiles).

Next, I would open the App Store and show them different Office Apps (QuickOffice and/or DocsToGo), CRM Apps (Daylite, Salesforce, Highrise) and more. I would also show how they can manage tasks with a variety of tools, too.

Support is Key

Before trying to really pitch the Mac, I would spend time understanding their workflow. It’s pretty amazing that regardless of how computer literate people claim to be, they’re often missing huge chunks of know-how. Literacy comes at many levels. So does hardware/software support. That’s why I really believe small business owners need a Mac more than a PC.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, small business owners are inherently busy. Because of their limited resources, they don’t have the money to afford onsite IT support. Hiring a consultant to come fix their software problems is expensive, and the service isn’t always consistent.

Once the discussion began centering on support, it was easy to pitch the Apple Store experience (Genius Bar, One to One, etc.). I mentioned how they could call an 800 number and get support from a technician here in the U.S., and how they also have potential access to a local user group for additional help. You could see them coming around. Everyone has heard the horrible PC software support stories. The prospect of something better never fails to impress.

If you’re a small business owner, I highly recommend looking at the Mac. It isn’t just about avoiding viruses and spyware. It isn’t about being the cool kid on the block with the new shiny device. It’s about having a solid, well-supported product so that you can conduct business without wasting your precious time on IT issues.

Please note, I am neither an Apple employee nor affiliated with Apple in any way. I just like seeing people successful in what they do, and to my mind, a Mac helps make that happen.

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  1. Small Business is certainly Apple’s largest target right now. Grants are drying up so public sector and education are being hit hard.

    Enterprise still needs PCs for most things and no bootcamp and VMWare doesn’t cut it.

    Small Business can buy a hand ful of iMacs and MacBooks and they’re good to go. Integration with iPhone, MobileMe and Time Capsule can be a larger initial investment over PCs but can work out great. They lose a few things by not going PC but the headache associated with supporting your own network of PCs or the added cost of having an IT dept. is outweighed.

  2. i’ve always felt that mobileme highlighted apple’s weakness on the web front. the site feels crude, almost windows-like.

    but yeah, SMB should all convert to mac ^_^

  3. Apple will have to be careful with their quality control, out of a batch of 10 Mac’s 9 have had a trip back to Apple to have various parts replaced. Lenovo kit supplied in the same time frame has only suffered 1 hard disk failure which I don’t count as that is the nature of HD’s. Business won’t stand for that kind of downtime/hassle. The hardware is great when it works.

  4. I have both (a 17″ MacBookPro and a Lenovo T61). No question what I take for my small biz tasks: The T61. Why? My customers run Office so I need to run Office. Office 2008 for Mac does not support VBA macros, so I need to run Office in Parallels (slow). The T61 has a 9-cell battery that gives me 7-9 hours of battery life – the MBP does not even come close (ever noticed how many Macs are plugged in at Starbucks?) The T61 has a better wireless range and frankly the better wireless tools (these are Lenovo’s tools, so you might not get this with other PC manufacturers). And if I lose my T61, it’s less costly to replace.

    As much as I LOVE my Mac, it remains just my personal machine.

  5. Another reason pro T61: Better presentation tools. Plus, if you go and present to customers and the equipment does not work, it’s much more likely they have someone on call who understands Windows…

  6. There is a reason iPhone were everywhere and not a Mac in sight. For small business (depending on the sector) there alot of alot programs which there just isn’t a reasonable Mac equivalent . or at the very least it is far from being the industry standard. There’s also the cost involved, Mac are overpriced. let’s not beat around the bush. I love them, but for two reasonably powered imacs you can buy 4/5 decent dual core hp machines.
    Then there is also the issue of support. Apple’s support on the phone is reasonable but what happened if your hardware is faulty? No choice but to return it to apple. often waiting 2/3 weeks in the process, which is just utterly unacceptable in a work environment. imagine one of the two computers in the office is missing for a few weeks, what then? Dell for example send someone out the next day to the office with replacement parts and fix it on site.
    Then there’s the issue of exchange or lack there off. the full(er?) version is coming in 2010, but entourage for the past few years has been a limited feature wise piece of software.
    Then comes the issue of adding Macs to windows domains. its a pain, sure its easier now than a few years ago, but none the less it is a faff. file shares etc.
    When a small business grows, it’s IT grows. I think its because of the above and more that until apple get their act together they will not sure see a really shift in their market share

  7. I switched my Aunt’s small business to macs and after a brief period of increased expenses (retraining, new software, tech visits), computing expenses dropped by half.
    And the best part is that Exchange is now coming to the mac.

    1. Why does your Aunt need Exchange? As a small biz, wouldn’t gmail + maybe Thunderbird as a client suffice?

    2. I agree. Too much emphasis is put on Exchange when talking to consumers – people that don’t have an Exchange server set up to begin with. Though it would technically allow them to connect to their PC-centric workplace email/calendar, etc., I find it to be a non-feature for a large portion of Apple’s audience.

      That being said, Exchange support and the fact that Microsnot is releasing Outlook on the Mac (supposedly with full support of meeting requests, calendars, notes, etc.) with the next version of Office will surely bring a significant amount of “corporate” users that have been “middle of the road” to fully embrace the Mac in the workplace.

    3. No, the _worst_ part is that Exchange is coming to the mac.

      I think Outlook is one of the absolute worst email programs in existence, then tie that to a Exchange licenses and you are paying heaps to M$ for a bad product option.

      FOSS options are much better and a mail server shouldn’t need expensive licensing, which is a given for Exchange server!

  8. What would they do without Outlook (other than have hours of their lives back instead of waiting for that molasses app to run)?

    Ye gods, is that a joke? The *only* app I still can’t stand to be without is Outlook. It’s so far ahead of anything I’ve seen on OSX it’s untrue.

    If MS could make Entourage have the capabilities of Outlook – well I’d never fire up Windows again.

    Also, what about the collaboration tools like OCS, Unified Messaging? Making big inroads into small businesses now as they’re cheap to run. Nowhere to be seen on the Mac unfortunately.

    Big, BIG fan of Apple and OSX, but on the business front there’s some big holes in their story unfortunately.

  9. The ONLY fault I find with this article is that you’re preaching to the choir! ;)

  10. I’m a huge mac geek, but I must say, I’ve always found it ironic that the little handhelds that they check you out with at the Apple Store are running Windows. I work in POS software, and it sure would be nice to see more offerings for the Mac.

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