Outsource your IT Problems
Information technology (IT) problems used to be one big headache for Armando Besne. When software glitches arose, things quickly went awry. “Having to fall back on everything manually caused [work] to crawl at a snail’s pace,” says Besne, owner of Crown Valley Body Shop in Niguel, Calif. “It turned the wheels from 20 mph to 2 mph.” Worse yet, waiting around for an IT consultant to come in and fix the problem caused production to grind to a halt. And once the issue was resolved, playing catch-up took days.
Frustrated with the lack of efficiency, Besne decided to outsource his tech needs through a company called IT Outsource in Anaheim, Calif. Since then, productivity at Crown Valley has skyrocketed. The shop’s monthly revenue has jumped from $125,000 to $175,000, thanks to a wireless computer system that Besne set up through IT Outsource. Now, he can roam the shop with a handheld tablet and perform wireless estimates, supplements and parts orders. This allows him to do more work in less time, improving the efficiency of the repair process. Additionally, Besne says he saves $12,000 a year in IT-related costs since he no longer has to purchase new servers, computers or software—or pay for on-site technical help. “[This decision has] made the single biggest impact on my profit,” Besne says.
As new technology floods the market, auto body shop operators often find themselves swamped with the tedious task of running updates, installing programs and replacing computers. “Part of the problem shops have is that they’re being inundated left and right with new software, and they’re not equipped with a full IT staff to handle this,” says Charlie Robertson, president of IT Outsource. The result? A huge loss in efficiency.
IT Outsource blends its experience in collision repair with expertise in information technology to help collision repair center owners and managers spend less time worrying over IT tasks and more time building their businesses. A former shop owner, Robertson understands the difficulty of dealing with IT problems. After his son received five years of advanced technology training while in the U.S. Navy, the two merged their experience to offer IT services to the collision repair industry.
Each technician at IT Outsource has detailed knowledge of the industry’s estimating and management software. “All technicians are trained in the operation of the various software packages: CCC Pathways, Mitchell Ultramate Suite, e-Claim Manager, Audatex Estimating and Shoplink,” Robertson says. They’re also trained in “management systems such as ICM, Rome CompleteShop, Mitchell ABS and ABSe, DuPont ProfitNet, Summit Software [and] New Era.”
Services include hosting a shop’s website, maintaining its Exchange Server, running software updates and protecting against harmful viruses. “Our core strategy is that we host their applications on our sever,” Robertson says. An IT consultant is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Our job is to keep shops up and running as many minutes a day as possible.”
Fixed monthly costs range from $99 to $1,000, depending on the number of users in each shop and the types of services desired. For example, a repair center can pay as little as $99 a month to simply have IT Outsource host its applications and run updates. Unlimited access to the company’s full offering of services, however, ranges from several hundred dollars to $1,000 per month.
LIKE RIDING IN A SPORTS CAR
Besne has been with IT Outsource for six years, and the benefits of having someone else handle his software needs have been huge. Not only has he increased his monthly revenue by $50,000, but he’s also saved tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years. “It’s a slam dunk in terms of what I spent before and now,” he says. “My savings in the last six years is $92,000.” This figure represents a combined total between the $12,000 he saves each year in IT-related expenses and the $20,000 he’s saved in hardware upgrades.
Right now, Besne pays a monthly fee of $525 to outsource IT needs for six workstations. The fee includes as many help desk calls to IT Outsource as needed. When a computer problem arises, Besne generally has it solved in short order. “I grab the phone, and usually while I’m on the phone, they dial into my station,” he says. “They can see the problem, and within minutes, [it’s] solved. It’s handled on the spot as if they were sitting here fixing the problem.”
Better still, if only one workstation has encountered a problem, the shop’s other staff members can continue working uninterrupted. “It’s a huge improvement,” Besne says. “It’s the difference of riding a bicycle 100 miles or getting in your sports car and getting there in no time. I’m in a sports car now.”
To further improve efficiency at the shop, Besne purchased a Motion Computing handheld PC tablet. (For more information on wireless technology, check out the story on freewheeling laptop stations on p. 31). The tablet allows him to run his management and estimating programs as he walks throughout the shop. He is even able to write supplements and estimates on the mini-computer, as well as look up customer information. “Anything I can do at my desk, I can [do] with my tablet out on the floor. Being able to move around like this freely creates a much higher efficiency,” he explains, adding that IT Outsource helped him install the wireless connection he needed to do that.
ALL SYSTEMS GO, ALL THE TIME
Outsourcing Crown Valley’s IT needs has allowed Besne to not only save money but also to better budget his software costs. “It’s a set amount, a done deal,” he says. “[It] definitely takes the unknown cost of IT out of the equation.”
Knowing everything is out of his hands—and handled well—is huge. “Peace of mind is really what it’s all about,” Besne says. “If there is an issue, you don’t have lengthy delays and loss of production and loss of time and money. If you come in on Monday, and your systems are down, you’re pulling your hair out. To know everything can be handled quickly is of value.”
The decision to outsource was one of the best he’s ever made for the growth of his business. “We can do so much more work in the same given time. It allows me to move production that much faster. I had no idea how big an impact it would be.”