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Suspicious of the “One-Stop” Tech Shop

I don’t know if this is just a small-town phenomenon, but I notice a fair number of “one-stop” tech businesses popping up in Central Cali. You might know the kind of place I’m talking about. They do custom computers. AND they sell games. AND they do tech support. AND they do PC repair. AND they do network admin. AND they do web design. AND they do web hosting. AND they do custom software. AND they’re an ISP. Etcetera.

The question I have is, is it even possible for this kind of place to do all of those things well?

See, I have this gut feeling that in order for a company to do something really well, the whole company needs to be optimized for it. I am inclined to trust companies with a clear focus on one discipline. Certainly, some disciplines have enough overlap that it makes sense to offer both services (network support and web hosting, perhaps), but in general a lot of this stuff isn’t even in the same field.

If you do networking, great, do networking. But don’t try to say you’re in the web design business just because you hired one web guy and gave him a desk in the back room next to the big basket of server parts. If you do custom software, great. But don’t try to suddenly say you’re in the custom hardware business just because you hired one PC tech and gave him a little workbench in the storage room. I mean, you can, but people like me will really wonder about you.

Once you have a working business that deals in one discipline, you can’t simply add a completely different discipline to your menu of services and expect to provide a high level of expertise. Being successful in a given discipline requires that you have the infrastructure and culture appropriate to do so.

And don’t tell me you are a “full service computer business”. Computer business? It’s 2006. Saying you’re in the “computer” business is like saying you’re in “industry” in the 1800s – it’s so broad as to be meaningless.

Is it just me? Is my inherent distrust of one-stops irrational? I mean, they must be getting customers or they’d not be in business for very long. Is this just another case of “the client can’t tell good from bad unless it breaks in spectacular fashion”? Or is my own view that no one small company can possibly do 5 different computer-related disciplines well just a misinformed prejudice on my part?

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