I have the pleasure of knowing some outstanding people. Many of them work for big companies and we share ideas all the time. Some of these people are not employees, but are consultants.
When speaking with these individuals, I keep running across an interesting problem. It’s clear to me none of them have ever worked with or for a truly small company before. An example of a small company would be a doctor’s office with 1 – 5 providers. Or perhaps a small billing center with only 20 or fewer employees. You can tell they have never worked with such companies because when they make recommendations for how IT for the small company should be set up, you can watch the owners become horrified as the amount of money the consultant wants to spend goes up and up and up. Big company consultants are rarely in touch with the budget constraints of small businesses.
I was once on the phone with a consultant and was telling him about my IT setup at my job. I mentioned that I had two Hyper-V hosts and about 8 virtual machines. The consultant was dumbfounded when I explained that I did not have two redundant backup servers and was not managing my virtual machines using Microsoft System Center. What the consultant did not understand was that the cost of two more servers and System Center would have easily doubled our upgrade costs which were already around $22,000 and the business owner would never have agreed to it. I’m not saying the consultant’s ideas were bad ideas, they weren’t, just not in synch with the needs of a small business’s budget constraints.
Many of the consultants, and even some sales reps, I know don’t seem to understand why they always lose their small business clients. Small businesses just can’t throw around $50,000 on IT upgrades on a moment’s notice. Yes, they will have to do without some of the nice redundancy and certainly most of the cool toys, but I would argue that most small businesses don’t need all that stuff. They can handle a day’s downtime in most cases and a day’s lost data in most cases. As long as they have good 24 hour backups, they are OK. Yes, of course, losing a day’s worth of data would be painful, but it is far from the end of the world. If anything, the consultants should explain the pros and cons of what the small business is getting for their money, rather than just expecting them to buy whatever is put on the table like the big boys do.