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 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 (s msft) 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.
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 (s aapl) 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.