South Africa lacks skilled personnel in a big way. There are young techs available, but they have no experience. The experienced ones comes at a high price (we’re currently on a hiring drive, where no senior tech comes below R45k pm), but do not stay long as they get snapped up by larger companies, the same way we snap them up from smaller companies where they’ve gained their experience from. This is a huge issue in the ICT sector.
The challenge for WISPs in the rural areas is that few are willing to move to the area, and if they do, they look to moving back to the city as soon as another (not necessarily better) job opportunity becomes available.
In 2009, we’ve changed our strategy somewhat. Since we’ve outsourced each section of our national VoIP and Broadband network to various companies across the world, we now have directly or indirectly, over 250 highly trained, qualified and experienced engineers who assist us 24/7/365!.from all continents, across all timezones.
Eg: If one is not available to do a Cisco script, we’ll have more than 5 other companies on standby to assist on an ADHOC basis. It is up to them to get one of their multiple engineers to assist, within couple of hours. So although you’re paying one entity, you may actually have 20 heads to assist you.
The trick is to find these companies and setup a standard terms & conditions with them, which does not necessarily bind you to use them, or pay all of them a monthly recurring cost. Some companies whom you deal daily with may need a monthly retainer, to which we gladly pay as the hours they save us in troubleshooting a problem on escalated 3rd tier level and fixing it makes it worthwhile.
Of all our multiple support partners, only 4 are in South Africa, and Mikrotik SA (who have responded to your email) is one of them. I would suggest you give them a try.
You will need to Google these consultancy firms, and you will also soon learn which country has outstanding skills. Eastern European countries such as Latvia, Romania & Czechoslovakia have exceptional Cisco skills, whilst India will have outstanding PHP & JAVA skills, and the folks in Cali have very good Linux expertise.
Needless to say, you will need local techs for 1st and 2nd line support. Escalation to Senior Engineers, then Vendors is the normal process. The skill of the management to motivate the local tech to stay and grow with the company become a ‘man management’ issue. But there’s nothing that beats a motivated high salary if the tech is really an integral part of your business.. Remember, if he leaves, to replace him by training another individual and getting the new guy to understand your thinking will take time, and that’s something you do not have! so price your senior staff that way!do not make the mistake of saying ‘ ah, I can’t pay him that price, I rather do it myself.
Think about it this way: How much are YOU worth per hour?
The medium sized WISP owner would be worth nothing less than R750 per hour. So if you dedicate 15 hours a month doing the job of the tech whom you decided not to hire, you’ve got to pay yourself R11250pm (R750x15)!
Now, who did your CORE job function whilst you were doing that person job in those 15 hours? That’s how much less progress you’ve made for your company!
Oh yes, we can do it after hours or on weekends, it ok!.but then you’re infringing on your family’s time. Not only that, you’re depleting your energy levels which needs to be at optimum during office hours to do your CORE functions as owner.
In conclusion, what I would suggest to all WISPs is to
a) find out what if your function in the company, CEO, COO, CIO, CTO, CFO, CMO, HRM?!
b) judge your commitment and knowledge and put a price on your hourly rate, this way you can set the benchmark and price your senior staffs value of time/salary.
c) stick to your job function. Maybe at max share two functions.
d) get competent and responsible staff to handle the other functions, experience is key, even if from another sector for functions such as CFO, COO, CMO, HRM.
e) pay these staff well to stay on and value them as business partners (without shares, but possibly profit sharing for the more senior guys, like CFO, COO)
f) Stay out of their way, let them perform their functions without interference. Only get involved when things are about to get awry, or have gone awry, and they need your decision making skills.
g) as weird as it sounds!.avoid know everything that goes on in the company (unless you’re the COO)!.this will enable you to focus on your Job without distraction. Trust me, you will be approached if something’s not going right!or you will instinctively notice it.
h) some may disagree, but avoid hiring family, friends, neighbours, or people whom you have a social life with.. it makes it that much more difficult and risky to let them go if they are not performing according to expectations. Getting them cheap or hiring them for trust may not be the right reason!.according to my experience and reports from other friends in business, it doesn’t always work out.
i) outsource when you can!there’s only so much you can do!. Stick to your expertise, and use it to progress in your business, rather than self-learning about something which may not reap as much rewards!
Anyway, this is my advice!now I’m off to spend time with the family whom have just woken up on this cold Sunday morning J