IT Outsourced  

The relative unimportance of a quote

Typically when you are considering a purchase, it is good practice to get several quotes. Large organizations can go through a much more complicated process of requests (for Information, Proposal, Quotation, Tender, etc). Sometimes organizations will negotiate a preferred vendor contract and allow departments within the organization to order as needed from a vendor or vendors.

Small to medium sized businesses have the purchasing power to draw the best deals but not necessarily the expertise to determine the best proposal. Consequences of making a bad decision are costly as they can affect your entire operation. Sometimes things are working poorly because you haven’t been willing to spend the funds to put the right solution in place.

“Mark, I need a communication system between this desk and that desk in the building over there.”

The client pointed out the window.

“I have the perfect solution, it’s under $10.”

The client exclaims, “You’re wonderful! You always look after our needs!”

I handed him a string, with two cans.

“If the string is not long enough, I can sell you an upgrade to extend it.”

I try and get all my customers to check my pricing on a regular basis. If I am retailing a printer for $400, and a box store has it for $350, I want to know about it. Sometimes I can match the price and sometimes I can’t. It doesn’t mean that I’m trying to take advantage of the client because occasionally a price is much higher. As products are discontinued, some retailers will lower the cost in order to clear out inventory for new models. Sometimes it isn’t the same product at all, as box stores often have products designed for the retail market that could cause problems in the long term. Once, I found a brand of UPS that was identical to what I was selling to a client. The box store unit had the Model # modified with a sticker that added an ‘A’ to the end…and it was 25% cheaper than my wholesale cost.

Small to medium sized companies need to look at different strategies. Getting a quote on tires for three service vehicles isn’t going to offer much savings over your typical retail customer. Dealing with a single automotive shop should save you considerable money in the long term if they put looking after you as a client ahead of making money on a single job.

When dealing with an IT company, look at downtime and performance. Are your staff happy and are things working well? Document what your expectations are, ongoing issues with equipment, service issues or questions about new technology. Having five staff down for a significant amount of time can cost you thousands of dollars in lost productivity. When there are problems do they take responsibility or deflect blame to others? Slow Internet performance is often blamed on the Internet service provider. If this is the case, shouldn’t it be documented and resolved with the service provider? Be prepared to listen to solutions and spend the money to get results.

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About the Author

Mark Smed started as a self-employed consultant, integrating computers into small business in 1989.  The range of work expanded into installing networks and consulting with businesses on the fast paced changes in technology.  As his career progressed he taught Network Administration at a small business college and continued to build his base of clients. 

Today, Mark works for Northern Computer Inc. (http://www.northerncomputer.ca) as a consultant, specialist and technician.  His client base continues to grow and many of his clients have worked with him for over 10 years now.  In 2001, Mark joined the Network Professional Association (http://www.npa.org) and now sits on the board of directors and is responsible for publishing the Network Professional Journal for the association.

Mark can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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