Brandon Bahr recognizes the importance of a properly functioning technology arm of a small business. Because of this, he and a former college classmate took the initiative to set up their own IT business.
Bahr & Aldrich Technology Services LLC is a 1-800Accountant client based in Big Lake, Minnesota. Bahr and Joseph Aldrich employ just one salesperson now, and operate the company as a home-based business. But expansion to a brick-and-mortar location is in the works for the company that was launched in January 2013 to provide out-sourced IT services to companies that are just reaching the point where they need an IT department.
“We act as an IT staff, and businesses hire us to help them with their technology needs,” he said.
“Break-fix support” – that is making sure that the hardware and software the company needs is fixed quickly and correctly – is Bahr & Aldrich’s primary service. “We offer a pre-negotiated rate, so our clients can call us when they need us to get them up and running without worrying about an unexpected bill,” Bahr says. Whether it’s Windows, Linux, or the Mac OS, Bahr & Aldrich has the experience, knowledge, and tools necessary to identify and fix customer problems, install new software, upgrade systems, and manage the IT operation.
The ability to work on all three operating systems is one of the things that set Bahr & Aldrich apart from the competition. “We are just as good at Linux as we are at Windows,” he said. “My business partner and I went to school together and loved working with Linux.”
According to Bahr, the business is slowly growing, but he’s pretty happy with the progress so far and understands how long it can take to start turning a profit.
“We’d rather be in the red while we build relationships with great clients than in the black with none,” he said.
Like many entrepreneurs, Bahr worked for a consulting firm that offered similar IT services. He left the corporate world to build a growing small business of his own where he could focus on the quality of the work and good customer relationships – not just billing hours and making money.
“I was sick of seeing people get ripped off,” he said. “My business partner and I wanted to start our own business that offers low-cost solutions. Our areas of expertise mixed well, so we knew it would be a great fit.”
Offering Customized Plans
Sometimes, Bahr says, matching services to a client’s needs is like being a shoe salesman. “Not every shoe will fit every customer’s foot. It’s the same with IT services. Some clients need a website, and website maintenance. Others need help creating an online ad campaign. And others need the kind of on-demand technical support they’d get from an in-house IT department, but they aren’t ready to hire someone full-time yet.
“Our contracts are completely customizable. No two companies are alike, so we sit down with them and work out exactly what they want from us to improve what they do. I love making people happy and seeing how much money they can save by working with us.”
According to Bahr, there are a few other similar businesses in the area, but they don’t tend to work much with small businesses like Bahr and Aldrich do. In addition, their company can work with clients no matter where they are based.
“We can offer remote support service at a reduced price,” he said. “This saves time and money for everyone.”
To spread the word about his company, Bahr primarily has used e-marketing through sites like Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook. His biggest challenge has been getting people to understand how the company really can assist them.
“We’re still facing the brand recognition issue,” he said. “People don’t know who we are yet. We’re looking to transform our sales department so that we can better explain our company to others.”
Advice for Others
If he were offering advice to someone else starting a small business, Bahr said he’d start with his belief that persistence is everything.
“Don’t give up,” he suggests. “We’re still in the red after six months, and the actual startup phase could take up to three years. Just remember that if you have a great business plan, you will have a good chance of succeeding.”
He added that he got some memorable guidance from a former manager at a college where he worked. He took it and directly implemented it into his business policies.
“My boss gave me advice to just be honest with our customers. Honesty will get you a lot farther for a lot longer. This is why in our employee handbook we have zero tolerance for lying to clients.”
For Bahr, the advantages of running his own business definitely outweigh the disadvantages.
“I’m doing what I love and have absolutely no regrets about it,” he said. “This is unlike when I worked for another big company where I just felt uncomfortable with what they were doing. On the other hand, the lack of a steady paycheck can be tough at times.”
He said working with 1-800Accountant has been a wonderful experience to help him with his accounting and business tax needs to stay compliant with the IRS.
“Having 1-800Accountant helps me sleep at night,” he said. “It gives me the peace of mind to know that there’s only one number to call when I need accounting advice. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders to have someone I can trust working with the IRS for me.”
He said he has referred several colleagues to the firm.
“Unlike going through a local accounting firm, 1-800Accountant is always there if you need them. 1-800Accountant will get you someone, even if your regular accountant isn’t there.”
If you need IT support or other technical help visit Bahr & Aldrich’s website at www.b-and-atech.com to learn more about services and pricing.