Subject: Re: Support Business model [ WAS Re: Intro and question]
From: "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 23:56:33 +0000

on Sat, Mar 01, 2003 at 09:36:25PM -0500, Faber Fedor (faber@linuxnj.com) wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 28, 2003 at 12:19:37AM -0500, Chris Maeda wrote:
> > 
> > >> is it possible to build a business without a large nest egg?
> > 
> > It depends on the business.
> > 
> > Based on your description, Linux NJ is a services business which
> > is not capital intensive.  I would try to bootstrap the business by 
> > selling long term support contracts (ie X machines, Y users,
> > Z response time for $$ per month).  Once you sell the support
> > contracts, you would be justified in staffing up to deliver
> > against them.
> 
> This raises a point that I was going to start another thread with,
> namely, the viability of support contracts with FOSS.
> 
> I've gone this route with a few clients, but you know what I've found?
> After awhile, they don't need the support.  This "Linux stuff" is so
> reliable and stable that it "just runs".  This, in turn, means that the
> clients don't need support.
> 
> A client who used to be my biggest (in terms of cash flow) now talks to
> me once every three months or so.  The system I built for them is so
> stable, they don't need me.
> 
> This has happened several times.  At first, I thought I was doing
> something wrong, business-wise, but there was an article about this on
> Linux Today a few days ago, let's see if I can find it...nope...that
> mentioned the same problem afflicting Linuxcare and VA Linux, etc.
> 
> Maybe I just need some incompetent customers? :-)
> 
> It would seem to me that a support/sysadmin kind of consulting would
> have to work on the "customer accretion method" just to stay solvent,
> let alone expand.
> 
> Thoughts, anyone?

There's more than one reason auto dealerships and repair shops schedule
regular maintenance.  One is that there are things which degrade and/or
need looking to periodically.  The other is that it gives the shop an
opportunity to look over your vehicle and the cut of your clothing, and
decide how much additional work you're good for.

This does of course come in degrees, and the right amount is good for
both you and your customers.  Scheduling routine maintenance (say, every
six months) for your clients, checking on disk space, packages up to
date, backups verified, vulnerability analysis, etc., is good business
and the attention should make 'em happy.   Too, you can chat about
business and see if they might want to upgrade to a newer/biger/faster
server, NAS, printer solution, removeable storage, what have you.  No,
you won't sell this stuff to all of 'em, but some of 'em may take you up
on it.

Oh, and satisfied customers are spelled R-E-F-E-R-E-N-C-E-S.  Use 'em,
and give 'em a break for new business.

Peace.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
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