TC: How did it all begin?
Cliff Wood (CW): With the assistance of a lecturer at Massey University, Dr. Peter Kay, Mark McGillivray imported his fi rst PC in July 1984. By the end of the year, Mark was importing PCs fully loaded with 640Kb RAM selling for $3000, less than half price! Advantage Computers paid top dollars for PC components, with far less margin than others. But by focusing on quality of products, service and advice, Advantage Computers built a strong reputation and following.
TC: What changes has the business undergone?
CW: Fundamentally, the business remains the same. Advantage continues to invest in the areas aimed at delivering outstanding value to our clients. If there is a major change, it is in the expectations of our customers. No longer is it enough to be able to assemble a PC, or server, or simply install the basic software – our customers now expect Advantage technical and solution staff to understand all of the complex data systems which underpin the modern business requirements: communications, virtualisation, storage, security, lifecycle management, document management, database development and management systems. To this end Advantage Computers has invested heavily in technology and education to assist our staff and our clients in achieving the maximum return on their IT investment.
TC: What is your core business?
CW: We solve business problems by the judicious application of technology. We provide pre-sales consultation, acquisition
and configurations services, and have comprehensive post-sales technical support. We work with our distribution and vendor partners to give relevance and scale. Further, we have developed specific streams of business around data centre hosting, remote backup and storage, and point solutions such as anti- spam services.
TC: Who are your clients and what business challenges do they face?
CW: Advantage’s clients are predominantly based in our region, the Manawatu, and range from businesses comprising two or three-person professional offices, to the region’s largest IT consumer, Massey University. Besides being a primary supplier to other substantial clients such as local private and public hospitals, Advantage Computers is the primary provider of products and services to the New Zealand Transport Association, which includes a nationwide service contract. The business challenges are many and varied, but the fundamental challenges of optimising their IT spend, and delivering real business value from IT solutions, remain for all customers.
TC: Is your physical location a challenge to doing business?
CW: We are blessed with having a central location, and having been here for a considerable time, so the majority of customers know where we are.
TC: What technology is hot right now?
CW: Abstraction of the physical layer across a number of technologies seems to have hit the sweet spot for a large number of customers. So, virtualisation of desktops, servers, storage and the consequential management challenges are really hot, along with technology that delivers automated remote backups.
TC: What’s not?
CW: We contend that tape storage will still be used for archiving, but that tiered storage is taking over many of the daily backups. Personal printing (where every user has their own printer) has really diminished, and we anticipate that this will continue.
TC: What’s the best thing about your location?
CW: We pride ourselves on doing business with local business, so Advantage, being centrally situated, has room for all the current activity, and room to grow to meet our customers’ demands.
TC: Without giving away valuable IP – what do you think is the secret to your success?
CW: Integrity, honesty, delivering what we say we will, charging fairly for our time and expertise, creatively solving problems, and most importantly, respect for the customer/seller relationship, and all that entails. In one word, our special ingredient for longevity is ‘trust’.