How to Choose the Best IT Consultant for Your Small Business
As a small-business owner, you wear many hats. You may find yourself taking on the role of CEO, accountant, salesperson, and marketer – often all within the same day. One job you may not be able to tackle, though, is IT. Sure, you may know some computer basics, but for tasks like network setup, data backup, virus removal, and network security, you’re better off hiring someone who offers small business IT consulting services instead of going the DIY route.
Need Small Business IT Consulting? Here’s How to Find It
So you know you need some IT help, but where do you start? First, make a list of all your business’s IT needs. For example, do you just need occasional computer troubleshooting, or are you looking for someone to configure a network in the cloud? Knowing exactly what skillset you need in an IT consultant will help narrow your search.
Next, find some potential candidates to interview. The easiest way to get started is with a basic Internet search for an IT consultant in your area who has the skills you need. That’s how
Lisa Hendrickson (@callthatgirl), Microsoft Outlook expert and
Call That Girl,
says she gets most of her business. “For me, everything is based on Internet searching now,” she says.
Another tried and true method, according to
Dave Ketterer (@d_ketterer),
C.D.'s IT Consulting:
asking other business owners you know for a referral. “Ask colleagues who are either in your industry, or are a similar company size, what IT companies they’re using,” says Ketterer. He emphasizes the importance of finding an IT consultant or business that typically works with businesses the same size as yours. “If you have 10 employees, you will want a different IT company than if you have 100 employees. It’s two different services,” says Ketterer.
4 Things to Look for When Interviewing IT Consultants
After talking to a few people and doing your research, you’ve found a few potential candidates. But how do you choose? Don’t just pick the person who charges the lowest rates. Make your decision based on the answers to these questions:
- Does someone answer the phone when you call? “The first thing I always recommend is to make sure you can call and talk to somebody,” says Hendrickson. “Support is the key to any product purchase or service purchase.” Meaning, if you call and no one answers the phone or returns your call within a reasonable amount of time, move on.
- How much experience do they have? You want to make sure whoever you hire has at least some experience under their belt, and is capable of getting the job done. Ketterer says it’s a good idea to also ask potential candidates if they’ve ever done work for a business similar to yours. “While every business is different, some things are the same, so they may have additional insight if another customer they’ve worked with is in the same industry as you,” explains Ketterer.
- Can they provide references? It’s always a good idea to talk to current and former clients to get a better sense of an IT consultant’s skills and experience. If a consultant can’t provide you with references to check, consider it a red flag and proceed with caution.
- Do they have IT insurance? When entering into a new business relationship, one way to get off on the right foot is actually by considering all the things that could go wrong. Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes deadlines get missed, mistakes get made, or people get injured. When interviewing a potential new IT consultant for your small business, you will want to find out whether they’re insured. Check to see whether they have Professional Liability Insurance for starters. Our article 4 Insurance Policies to Carry if You Offer Small Business IT Consulting mentions a few more policies you might want to ask about, depending on your needs.
On the other hand, you can pretty much ignore any certificates and accreditations an IT consultant lists. Both Hendrickson and Ketterer say that when it comes to IT, accreditation is actually not something you really need to worry about.
“It’s really difficult to go by certifications today for some levels of IT work,” says Hendrickson. Ketterer agrees. “I wouldn’t say certification would make or break it for me if I was hiring somebody,” he says. “I’m not a fan of certifications. I know people that have them but don’t know anything about stuff in the real world. Instead, they need to prove they have the experience and knowledge to support a client’s infrastructure.”
The bottom line: whether your business is a bakery or a bicycle shop, doing a little homework up front can help you find the right IT consultant for your needs.