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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.

  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.

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  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 ^_^

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  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.

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  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.

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  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…

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  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

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  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.

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

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    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.

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    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!

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  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.

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

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  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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  11. Also, every Apple store has a super secret for a small business….A business team!!! Every apple store has one and they are there just to help out small business. They have tons of great options for financial, technical, and creative help. apple.com/retail/business Definitely need to talk to them if you are a small business around an Apple store!

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  12. I am a business consultant/analyst and use a MacBook Pro. When I visit clients onsite, almost all of them comment on the Mac and how they want one. If a technical efficiency analysis is conducted, I always recommend Macintosh products, not because I am fond of them, but because of the performance. I must be able to back-up my recommendations. I have never known a business to switch from Mac to PC.

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  13. [...] this blog post “Why Small Business Owners need a Mac” Matthew goes into some reasons why a small business should use a Mac: “premier/high quality [...]

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  14. Hi Matthew,

    Great piece! The one “crutch” you can talk with small business owners is they can load up Windows on their Mac. I once talked with the CEO of a fast growing company and it took him 6 months to final drop VMWare from his Mac because he was afraid of losing his business info. Once he switched, he never looked back and was MORE than happy with his decision. Check out my post here: http://www.macgetit.com/2009/08/20/small-business-stats-business-switchers-and-real-estate-mac-use/

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  15. Everyone – thanks for all of the positive comments! And, thanks for sharing your personal experiences as well.

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  16. I am a small business owner who switched over to Mac years ago and I couldn’t be happier. But, I certainly had very bad with Apple’s support when my MBP started to shut down with kernel panics more frequently. Since I am highly relying on my hardware and need a working computer in order to generate income I went to the San Francisco flagship store to get help from a so called “genius”. Unfortunately they weren’t so geniusly after all. Vague assumptions and different views of what could be wrong resulted in the advice to just buy a new hard drive and see if the problem disappears.
    So personally I would not recommend Apple for their knowledgebale support. but certainly user experience and services such as MobileMe are a big plus for small business owners using Apple products.

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  17. I have to admit, I was flabbergasted by the comment that Outlook was slow. Perhaps a hiccup here and there but leagues ahead of the iLife apps for business use…way ahead. Also, as an executive director of a small non-profit, I can’t imagine going to my Board of Directors with the budget increase needed to change to Apple products.
    I love my MacBook Pro at home but will stick with PC’s at work for economical reasons.

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  18. I believe that Macs are better all around, and that people with PCs shouldn’t fear the change between a Mac and a PC. When I switched from my PC to a Mac, everything that I transfered worked fine, and I can still use Microsoft Word and all of the other Microsoft Office programs by purchasing the Mac-adapted version of the products. I love Macs, and say that the cost is completely worth it.

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  21. We’ll certainly see more and more small businesses using Macs as people are becoming more familiar with OS X and they want to use it at work too. We’re a small business of just 2 and we’re sharing our experience in running a Mac-only office in a blog.

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  22. We have a software program that can be used on a Mac and it is the bomb when it comes to scheduling appointments, doing payroll and managing inventory. It is mostly used in salons and spas but could be used in a pet grooming business, massage therapy business or chiropractor business. It is available for 1 employee or over 25 employees. Our international clients include thousands of salons and spas with single and multiple locations.To start a business, you need top quality people. To grow your business, you need to invest in technology. Salon Transcripts can help you maximize productivity, streamline operations and give you more control over your business. STX is the easiest salon and spa management system to learn and use. It books appointments, tracks receipts, manages cash and handles payroll too. Click on the link and go to the Products then Features videos to see how this software works!!!!! http://www.salontranscripts.com.

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  23. I’m been searching for a good reason as to *why* I would want to switch my business from pc to mac. I still haven’t found it. Please SOMEONE give me a reason why. The ones listed in this article are vague, and untrue in my opinion. There is no app for the mac that will work as good as outlook. thunderbird for mac? what a joke!!! The only good reason I can find in my line of work is for pro tools. Any kind of business application seems to really suck on a mac.

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  24. Once you have mac you’ll never go back…
    I can’t believe I struggled for all those years with PCs. Never again. Seriously, macs are not only for small business owners… they’re for anyone who wants to retain sanity. Great article

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  25. donella Strohmayer Thursday, January 20, 2011

    I have a small pet grooming and retail shop, would this work for me or am I better with quickbooks?

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