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High praise for hi-tech service
Adam Gurrie and Natalie Hallett’s exciting new business is helping a growing number of clients cope with computer disasters, thanks partly to the Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS).
Section Technologies offers disaster backup software and maintenance packages that provide clients with technical peace of mind.
A former financial planner, Adam has worked extensively with computer hardware and as a computer software technical support technician. Natalie was a teacher and qualified assessor before entering IT.
Partners in both business and life, they started Section Technologies together in 2011, and make a great team. Adam is passionate about all things hi-tech and Natalie has a strong administration background and good people skills.
They sell ShadowProtect, an automated backup and disaster recovery software that ensures companies don’t lose vital data and can be up and running within hours following a problem.
They also sell IT maintenance packages giving companies a time allowance to have a technician on site to deal with IT issues each month. Companies dependent on computers can choose a prioritised time frame.
Section Technologies packages are sold in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, while ShadowProtect is sold locally, interstate and overseas.
ShadowProtect has many re-sellers, but Adam offers the bonus of being trained by the software’s supplier and having in-depth knowledge of the product.
Although Natalie had the finances under control, they felt that because the business was new and developing, they needed guidance with business plans and general direction.
Natalie and Adam were matched with SBMS mentor Guy Ward after mentors recommended them during a free Business Week meeting offered by the Maroondah City Council.
Guy is a business mentor and engineering consultant with 15 years' experience in business including an eight year involvement in a home-based franchise. More recently he has been involved in the start up of an internet publishing business.
The SBMS is a non-government non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Natalie and Adam met Guy four times under the Maroondah City Council Mentoring Program. Having an allotted time to meet gave them deadlines and kept them focussed. Natalie’s father, who had run successful businesses in the UK, also attended a couple of the sessions.
Guy reviewed the business operations, finding that services and clients were spread over a very broad spectrum from home users to business. They agreed to focus on data backup and disaster recovery combined with IT support, aimed exclusively at business clients.
Guy also helped Adam and Natalie to:
- Develop and review a concise business plan
- Review the website and develop and launch a new one reflecting the new focus.
- Develop promotional materials.
- Discontinue an expensive advertising campaign, and develop and implement a new marketing campaign.
Natalie says Guy was extremely good at explaining things simply, such as the business plan, which they hadn’t written before.
“He also talked us through product pricing, unique selling points of our business, marketing, advertising and the importance of streamlining our business,” Adam says.
Natalie’s role was also expanded from accounts to business networking, marketing, sales presentation and support as well as software product support.
“Guy … assisted us to look at our strengths and weaknesses and enabled us to make the difficult decisions needed,” she says. “The clarity of our job roles has meant we have been more productive and more proactive in moving forward with the business.”
Stress levels fell when Adam and Natalie chose two products to focus on. Section Technologies now focuses on its strengths, which include Adam’s computer expertise and their great teamwork and customer service.
“The love and passion for what we do is obvious to everyone and that enables managers and company owners to feel confident that their best interests are put at the front of our every decision,” Natalie says.
Since seeing Guy, Natalie and Adam have improved their management skills and time management.
“We were working all day everyday including weekends to ensure the company survived,” Natalie says. “This did seem needed at the time, but we have since discussed and defined our business opening times and we try to stick to these as much as possible.
“Taking holiday time is still something to be looked into as we will need to bring on a second technician to … make this possible.”
While the benefit of their mentoring is not yet monetary, Adam and Natalie are confident this will happen. They gained two new customers from a networking/training event Guy suggested they attend, and three new enquiries from progress made during the mentoring sessions.
Improved sales have allowed Adam and Natalie to boost wages and improve equipment, which is vital to stay up to date with.
“Our general working hours and conditions have improved … new equipment has been bought, new safety procedures have been put in place for on-site client visits and having new defined roles in place with a business plan to work with has really made our roles a lot better to manage,” Adam says.
Guy is extremely pleased with Natalie and Adam’s progress.
“Nat and Adam feel that they are now in control of their business and are achieving the milestones they set in the business plan, including achieving their financial targets,” he says. “Whilst they are still busy and feel stress, they feel it is a positive stress.
“I think it has enormous potential to grow very rapidly. Probably their main challenge is to now manage staff effectively as they grow. Their passion for their business is palpable and I am sure rubs off on everyone they come in contact with.”
Natalie says Guy was never patronising and always supportive. In a word, she says he was “brilliant”.
“We are certainly going to continue seeing Guy as our mentor and have structured our budget to suit this as we feel his input is so very valuable,” she says. “We have recommended the SBMS to two other businesses now as we feel they may really benefit from the same support we have received.”
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