$599 laptops! “All-in-one” printer, scanner, copier, fax devices for $69! FREE software! Bargains abound in the scrappy and poorly understood world of computer hardware and software. Fortunately, most of our clients seek our advice before venturing out to make a purchase. After all, our business model is that of a VAR or “Value Added Reseller”. Generally, a VAR takes several components such as hardware, software and accessories and “adds value” by providing strategic advice and expertise to build and support a complete system. In our case that system is usually our client’s local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) or complete IT infrastructure.
With profit margins as low as single digits, many IT service companies like Exigent have completely ceased selling IT products to their clients, opting instead to point their client’s in the direction of a large box pusher like Dell or a chain store such as Best Buy. We aren’t one of them.
Indeed, the reasoning makes sense. As one friendly competitor passionately told me this past week “I must be out of my mind! I give the customer my advice, the product of my 22 years of experience and intimate knowledge of their business, only to have the ‘in-the-know’ bookkeeper tell the boss that she saw much better laptop deals at Staples for $599 in the Sunday newspaper – any they bought them!”
Kyle’s frustration is completely warranted. It’s an unfortunate situation that’s played out again and again. As manufacturers find new ways of cramming more and more stuff into smaller, cheaper devices, consumers can barely resist the eye-popping deals. But more often than not, these bargain basement devices are built for the home or student market and are completely inappropriate for business.
Case in point, Kyle went on to explain that the laptops purchased by his client were pre-installed with the Windows Vista Home Premium Edition operating system. Unfortunately,this operating system wasn’t designed to connect to business networks and the machines were unusable to his client. Worse yet, they were loaded with mounds of games, useless utilities and other performance robbing bloatware, making them, as Kyle put it “complete dogs”.
At the risk of sounding pouty, let me clearly state that selling IT products is one of the more thankless jobs that we do as VARs. But for the customers that truly get it and see the Value in VAR, it’s completely worth it. We have no intention of stopping the sale of IT products. We truly feel that it’s part of our complete one-stop-shop offering. Fortunately, most of our clients accept our advice and see the benefit of getting IT purchases off their plates, and onto ours. For the reluctant bargain hunting few, we’ll keep working at it. That’s the Value in the VAR business model.