Bo and Sarah chatted with Angela Manners, from Vanilla Beige, to share the story of how Tekkie Help began:
I have a husband, The Vegetarian, who is quite a technical person. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been tinkering with this device or pulling apart that computer. Every tech issue in our house has been fixed by him. A page of computer code intrigues him as much as coffee intrigues me! (Check out my coffee related stories.)
Me? Well, I’m the opposite. I want things to work and if they don’t, I’m the kind of gal who will just turn it off and walk away. Then I’ll pray that it will work again when I switch it back on. When hubby is travelling, there is always, ALWAYS a WhatsApp conversation that goes like this – “Netflix isn’t working”… “Why not?”… “I don’t know”… “It was working when I was there”… “Well it isn’t now”… “Sorry, honey, you’ll have to wait for me to come back”…. AURGH! Everyone who knows me also knows that I am not blessed with the virtue of patience.
I met Sarah and Bo a few years ago at a poolside barbeque and thought that Tekkie Help was such a great idea! For me it’s because I am useless with technology and I might as well save my marriage by calling them up rather than compiling an extensive list of fixes that I’ll need to wait to have fixed. It was such pleasure to find out more about Sarah and Bo, about how Tekkie Help began and where it’s taking them now.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves
Bo: We are both from Jersey in the Channel Islands. Before we moved to Singapore six years ago. I had worked in the corporate world for over 30 years. I trained as technician and as my career progressed I moved into sales and marketing and then business development within the telecoms industry.
Sarah: My background is in marketing (in the finance and telcom industries) although, I also developed a passion for nutrition and so embarked on studying for a Master in Nutritional Therapy in my spare time. My ambition was to run my own practice, however, my study was put on hold after my eldest son was born – I had totally underestimated the amount of time a newborn consumed!
Around that time as well, Bo decided to leave his job, as we wanted a change from living in Jersey. We had always loved the climate, food and culture of Asia and so decided to take the plunge and come out here to live.
Bo: Our family and friends thought we were crazy – packing up our home and coming to Singapore with three suitcases, a one year old and no job! That somewhat reckless decision has paid off though. Now, almost seven years later we have two gorgeous (and very active boys) and are running a successful IT business with our own office and 8 staff.
Tell us about Tekkie Help. What does it do and how does it work?
Sarah: We created Tekkie Help to help people who need support with their technology. Whether it is because they’re frustrated with trying to get it to do what they want, baffled with how it works or simply do not have the time to get it going. Our objective is to take the hassle out of their technology and get it all working for them in the most effective and efficient way.
We provide onsite support for people at home and small businesses. We have multiple Tekkie Specialist with different specialisations, so there’s always an ‘expert’ on hand.
For us, it is all about delivering excellent customer service and at the same time resolving people’s issues with their IT.
Why did you decide to start Tekkie Help?
Bo: When we first arrived in Singapore, I spent the majority of my time job hunting. Getting a job proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. No one wanted a senior C level executive that was over 50 and with little Asian experience!
I always thought, one day I would start my own company. In between job applications I started to realize that this was actually the perfect time to do so.
Sarah and I brainstormed a number of business ideas (often over a couple of glasses of wine!) and from these Tekkie Help was born!
Speaking with friends and acquaintances, I got a sense that people were struggling with the latest technologies. They either didn’t have the skills, patience and/or time to get the most out of the their IT. Expats have a much smaller support network and many people don’t have an IT guru friend or relative they can call upon for help as they would do at home. We saw a niche in the market and decided to go for it.
I started out in the field as our sole technician with the support of Sarah who relentlessly networked and marketed to help build an initial customer base. Four years down the line and we now have a team of Tekkie Specialists, support staff and a fully equipped workshop.
Sarah: With our technical, marketing and sales backgrounds, it put us in a good position to strategically develop our business. Our business model was effective in enabling us to gain momentum quickly with minimal investment at the beginning. We worked from home and at that time had no staff. Aside from paying for the development of our website, we were ready to go and generate money from day one. By really focusing on excellent customer service, we have been able to grow our customer base purely on word of mouth (and of course Bo’s good work!).
I know my hubby thinks himself rather technical but a lot of times, I don’t want to wait for him to be able to help me fix my tech problems. What sorts of issues can you help with?
Bo: That is exactly how it is with many of our customers! Often we find the less technical partner gets upset and frustrated waiting for their technical other half to get the stuff done. It gets to a point where they call on us for help (sometimes even secretly!). Sometimes customers see us as a ‘marriage saving’ service!!
Sarah: We can help anything IT related, whether it be getting your WiFi to reach every nook and cranny of your home, syncing your devices, setting up home entertainment systems, backing up and recovering data, setting up parental controls, getting people access to TV content from their home countries…the list goes on. Over the past few years as our team and expertise has grown, we’ve expanded our services. We now even carry out complex data recovery and hardware repairs of both Windows and Apple computers.
For businesses, many don’t have a full-time IT manager and so outsourcing to us typically saves them money, offers flexibility and enables them to focus on their core business.
What is the most interesting situation you’ve had to deal with?
Bo: No day is ever the same and it is difficult to pin-point a particular situation. One does stand out though. A customer approached us earlier in the year saying they were renovating their house and wanted it to have the very latest technology, the full works! It was an interesting and challenging project to be involved with as it utilized all of our skills. We installed a high quality WiFi network, central storage for backup and media, entertainment systems, plus new computers and surveillance cameras. The family went from having purely agricultural technology to leading edge in one leap. We gained a great deal of job satisfaction in setting up a dream ‘tekkie’ house and it was great to see their excitement when they finally moved in.
How do you find working together as a married couple and with young kids too?
Sarah: This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of running a business! It can be difficult at times to have a work-life balance. A huge improvement for me was moving the office out of our home to our spacious workshop in Joo Chiat as this now enables me to have quality time with my boys when I leave the office. However, running your own business never stops and, as the main point of contact for the business, my phone is always ringing!
Bo: As Sarah says it’s difficult to get a work-life balance if you run a business together. We both work very hard and often long hours and so sometimes the only chance we have to catch up with work related stuff is over dinner. Work chat is banned on date nights though, unless of course we are discussing world domination plans for Tekkie Help!!
What’s coming up next for Tekkie Help? Are there any events or courses that you are thinking about offering we should be excited about?
Sarah: We are always on the look out for opportunities. One area we are really keen to develop is offering various training courses. We have done a few ad hoc courses in the past but we really think this is an area with a lot of potential. Things like teaching people how to manage their photos, get the most out of their Mac, Internet safety for children etc. One of the focuses over the next few months is to put together the content and get some course dates in the diary – watch this space!
Bo: In terms of growing the company, our ambition is to expand into another Asian country. As I mentioned before, we love Asia and would welcome the opportunity to live in a different country. We have started researching suitable locations and are currently looking to find a suitable partner to manage operations in Singapore.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Bo: Obviously you need to think of a good idea! Then create a good business plan. There is lots of information online about what should be in a business plan but at the end of the process you should know the market you are selling to, what you need to do to address customers’ needs and how it’s all going to hang together financially. Next add a dose of hard work and a pinch of innovation, loads of determination and away you go!
When I think about business development, I see it to be a bit like a hotel corridor with lots of doors. The first job is to open all of the doors and decide what room you are going into. However, what is most interesting is what is beyond. In my analogy, the rooms will have doors at the back and through these, lie the most interesting opportunities. Until you get into the first room you are never aware of what lies beyond! The takeout is you don’t necessarily know where the real opportunities are until you get in there! Once you get going with your business you see opportunities that you were unaware of at the start.
To read the original article on Vanilla Beige, click here.