Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Simply Smart Tech

If there’s one thing all business owners, from Fortune 500 to the one-man shop small businesses, can agree on, it’s this: security and IT support are absolutely vital. Finding a trustworthy and reputable outside source– or even in-house support– can be an overwhelming endeavor.

Well, if you happen to be a company in Chicago, search no more! This week’s Small Business Spotlight is Simply Smart Tech. Started by Erin Kelley after a long career of IT consultancy and management for lots of world-class organizations.  All the workers at Simply Smart Tech are career IT people– not hobbyists and not just another geek.  They’re quite simply: smart about a company’s individual IT needs.

Erin does a much better job than I ever could talking about her business below:

How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?

Businesses use computers, smart phones, and networks like the Internet as tools in their day-to-day work.  These tools are used to increase productivity and efficiency; grouped together these tools are called Information Technology (IT).

Simply Smart Technology helps small to medium sized businesses manage their IT environment from end-to-end.

Starting with purchasing, we advise clients on IT purchases, provide short-term and long-term planning for purchases, and help manage IT purchasing budgets.  After items are purchased we install and configure technology using industry standard best practices.

When we are brought into businesses that already have IT tools in place, we often find that the IT environment has been under-managed.  This is normal when businesses are with no IT staff, experienced rapid growth, or had IT help that was overwhelmed.  Simply Smart Technology starts by fixing everything that is broken to bring the IT environment back to stability.

Once an IT environment is stable, most technology issues are preventable with proper monitoring and maintenance.  This is our core expertise.  We continuously monitor the health of our clients’ IT systems to ensure they remain operational while our help desk responds to issues and day-to-day requests.

What are some industry specific challenges you faced?

There are a good number of IT companies in Chicago that service small to medium sized businesses who range widely in quality of service.  Key decision makers at small to medium sized businesses also range widely in their understanding of technology, so it can be difficult for some to determine which company is offering the highest quality service and sound advice.  Decision makers aren’t always sure about what questions to ask in order to vet IT vendors.

Simply Smart Technology is owned and staffed by IT professionals who excel at technology support, but offer little in marketing talent.  One of our biggest challenges is how to communicate the quality of our services and expertise in our advice to folks that are non-technologists.

For us, developing a quality logo was a step toward establishing our brand recognition as a quality IT service provider.

What was your biggest learning curve/experience?

As a business owner I have taken on a bunch of operational roles that are outside of my IT background.  I hired outside consultants for expert advice, but then I am the person responsible for the day-to-day execution.  On any given day I could be acting as bookkeeper, HR person, PR agent, or people manager.

I read as much as possible and try to be prepared for anything, but there has definitely been more than some on the job learning.  It has been challenging but exciting at the same time.

What made you use crowdSPRING?

We are a small business with limited resources; the extra resources we have available are invested back in the technology and infrastructure we use to serve our clients.  So we started our logo design project with a small but reasonable budget.

After browsing the portfolios and prices for some individual graphic designers there was no clear fit for our company.  And choosing one individual designer based on unrelated past work seemed like a high-risk proposition with a large up-front investment.  The value proposition of a design competition website for a small business like ours is undeniably better.

We researched several different design competition websites and overall thought the quality of the work presented on crowdSPRING was the best.

What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?

In our second year of operation we had a retail storefront where we serviced computers for residential customers.  This filled our day-to-day while we were earning business clients.  It was during this time that the “snowpocalypse” hit Chicago.

The “snowpocalypse” was a great blizzard that shutdown roads, schools, and most businesses.  But we had a machine that was ready for pick-up on the worst day of the storm.  I never realized just how attached folks were to their computers until this client asked to come pick up his laptop in the middle of the blizzard!!  Of course I met him at the shop so he could pick it up!

Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.

Have purpose, be prepared, and persevere.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?

I’m not sure I would change anything… it’s been a lovely ride.

How do you see your company growing in the future?

“Bootstrapping” and organic growth are our methods of operation.  We have done almost no marketing or advertising and most of our clients have come from word of mouth referrals by happy clients.  This year we plan to create print marketing materials and web based videos that help share our story.  Our hope is to expand our reach beyond what we have done through word of mouth.

Simply Smart Tech’s call for a new logo received 261 entries.