What defines a great IT professional in the small business world?

Many people believe that as long as you are good with computers, then you have what it takes to be a successful IT professional.  That’s not always the case.  At least not in the small business world anyway.

After many years of working with small businesses, I have devised a formula for the qualities which an engineer must absolutely have in order to keep clients happy.  These are as follows:

1. Technical ability
2. People skills
3. Basic business sense

1. Technical Ability

This is fairly obvious.  The engineer has to know their craft.  They need to be born with a general aptitude for fixing things and/or figuring things out. They have to appreciate the power of technology.  They need to be the type of person that enjoys working with technology all day and then goes home at night to tinker some more.  A good problem solver is a must.  It also helps to have almost endless persistence in the drive to find a solution to a technical problem.

2. People Skills

This one will probably scare some IT people.  However, it’s true!  You have to be able to talk to people, work with people and make them like you. I guarantee that if a client does not like an engineer, either the engineer will not be around for long or the client will not be around for long. Obviously the later is just not acceptable.  I won’t go in to the complete array of what it means to have people skill.  Whole books have been written about the topic. The bottom line is that the engineer has to build a strong relationship with the client.  This is absolutely essential…

3. Basic Business Sense

The first two will get you close. However if an engineer cannot communicate (for example) with their clients, co-workers, bosses, etc, you have a big problem. This is probably the most common shortcoming that I have found (in all professions for that matter). The engineer also needs to be able to write a legible email, be able to prioritize, schedule, take initiative, be creative, be redundant in double checking their work, be careful, work quickly, thoroughly think through projects before hand, be proactive and so forth.

Back to communication – I developed a rule for myself years ago. If a client reaches out to me via phone or email, I always drop whatever I am doing and take their call or respond to their email immediately. (This is a good rule to use when your boss calls you as well, by the way). Even if you are driving down the road, find a parking lot as soon as possible!

The best IT engineer is well rounded.  They will go the extra mile for their client. They will show them that they care. They over deliver. Most of all, they will provide Premium Customer Service to their clients.

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