TechnoSpecs

Uber-Creative Technology-Enhanced Design Services

Livin’ La Vida LAN Shops

Useful Tips For LAN Shop or Internet Cafe Owners

As  tech enthusiasts, we frequently hang out at online tech forums, attend tech seminars and exhibits, read tech magazines, and watch tech videos to get ideas on how to improve our skills and gain new expertise. As businessmen, we also keep a watchful eye for similar sources of information where we could adapt new concepts that could work for our benefit. We are always eager to try out the new things that we have discovered. That is why after some rigid study and survey, and when time and budget allows, we never miss the opportunity to try them out and see how it goes.

Maybe its but natural for us that we also see something useful out of everything we encounter that we could apply in our everyday activities. Sometimes we  unconsciously learn and get ideas even from uncanny sources. We may suddenly get an inspiration from a friend’s Facebook status, from our favorite TV show, from an online video game, even from the noisy kids next door, or anything under the sun.

We give you as an example the articles from the TipidPC magazines. We guess you would never realize, aside from the Internet Cafe article that “extracool” wrote on the first issue, that both past issues of the TipidPC magazine also had several tips on how to properly setup, manage and maintain a business, specifically in our case, a LAN Shop or Internet Café business. We found out that there is a line or two in almost every article which “indirectly” teaches us business realities or pointers which could help us cope with the everyday struggle in running a business like ours.

We have listed down a few examples quoting all the article contributors:

“Maybe instead of impressing, all we need is just to get visitors and onlookers curious” – ReB

Although many of our customers still look into the aesthetics or physical appearance, we could still arouse their interests or curiosity without spending too much. We don’t really need to impress them with expensive computer casings or monitors. We could just do some modifications to our casings to make them look more interesting. We could just repaint, add some carbon fiber skin, install some exhaust fans with colorful LEDs, or even just stick some colorful customized posters advertising our products and services on the sides of the casings. We need to get the attention of prospective customers the moment they walk in to our shop. They may hesitate to come in if they see that our casings looks cheap, are not even similar with each other, or worst, old and rusty already. It projects an image of chaos and disorder. If ever they do come in and try out our PCs, the customers may tend to choose a station where the PC seems more reliable or high-end based on its looks. Having similar type and size of monitors, eventhough it’s the cheapest brand, would also create a good impression and avoid customers being too picky by preferring a larger widescreen monitor over the smaller ones. We could also design customized wallpapers or screen savers promoting our shop. The trick is just to regularly make things look interesting using very little resources.

 “Remember, music is life. No place or moment is complete without music”. – Mixmasta

Having on-air music playing across our business establishment also projects a soothing or lively ambiance when a customer walks in, and helps keep the mood until the moment he finally goes out. It’s up to us what mood we want to project depending on the type of music in our playlist. We do not want our shop to be gloomy or depressing so a little soft music would make a pleasing aura. Music can sooth even the savage beasts, so we may even see our muscular customers tapping their feet to the beat of the latest pop music.

 “If you ask me what the safe overclocking voltage is, the answer is there is no actual or fixed value” – Bartman1973

Only we could decide on how high we would go in choosing the appropriate specifications for our PCs. Buying the state-of-the art video card, maximizing our memory to several gigabytes, or choosing a quad-core processor, may not be necessary if our market is not really into hard-core gaming which requires optimum processing power. There are motherboards with on-board videos capable enough to play all the online games so its no longer necessary to buy a dedicated video card which will just add to our electricity cost. We do not need to provide more than what the minimum game requirements dictates or what the target market demands. We should not be envious of other shops which boasts of high-end PC parts because in reality it may be too much for our specific needs. The excess in power would turn out to be just useless and a waste of money for us.

“When it comes to power, I am ready” – incubus_boy08

Inspect our main power sources or electrical outlets. If we rented a place where it still has the traditional and old fuse boxes installed in the main switch, we should replace them with the more reliable circuit breakers. It is better that we hire a licensed electrician to design, calculate and setup the proper electrical layout. We don’t want to waste a newly bought fire extinguisher, or even our entire investment,  just because we got cheap and settled on the existing electricals of the place.

“I had difficulty finding the power button……little did I realize that the unit did not have a power button at all….only when I read the manual that I realized how vital the remote was, only the remote can power-up the unit “– ayokis_stuff

Most of the time we take for granted the “instruction manual” or, in our case,  neglect to thoroughly read contracts because we assumed everything was standard.  We may fail to read the details or fine prints in a contract with our lessor –  Are we aware that our rental deposits would be forfeited if we fail to complete the one year contract, or with our ISP – Are we also aware that our ISP may have tied us to a two-year subscription which we have to pay a disconnection charge if we suddenly quit the business. Those are unwanted additional loss or cost that would haunt us at a time when we had to close down our business due to unforeseen circumstances.

“………size matters and the final image is king” – sunryzr

Customers would most of the time prefer to go to a bigger venue having a large number of PCs, especially if they are with a large group like their barkada or classmates. It would be so much of a hassle if our customers would still have to wait a few minutes or even an hour before all of them could be seated and finally go against each other in a network or online game.  We would definitely regret failing to accommodate a large group only because one seat is left unavailable. The bigger shops with more computers tend to be the top choice for the bigger crowd. They say the minimum amount of PCs should be no less than 10 units so we could accommodate a larger crowd especially during peak hours.

“You cannot just work on the same thing for years on end. There has to be an improvement in what you do, and how you do it. “– redwing0001

Do not be complacent on how we currently do things eventhough we believe we already have the best ways available.  Everything changes and thus needs an enhancement or even a complete overhaul or revamp every now and then to adapt to the constantly changing  lifestyle or economy. Do not stop to learn and try out new things. Maybe its time to learn how to setup an PFSense box, or implement diskless workstations. We should not stop improving our craft and rejuvenating our business perspective.

“The warranty covers just the unit and not the data stored” – annot

Remember to backup our precious and pertinent data. All those important data files, graphic templates and layouts, rendered videos, etc ., might get corrupted or lost if our PC suddenly goes kaput. Create a backup or cloned image of our current system. The vendor would be able replace our hard drive in just a few days if its still under warranty, but it would probably take months before we could replicate most of our lost data.

“You could’ve just been shooting in “auto” mode, but now you want to up the ante …… going all the way to full manual mode” – wheelee

It is never a wrong move to think of ways on how to level up and go above and beyond the standard or common rules.  Instead of just letting our customers play against each other on their own, we may want to organize a gaming event at our shop where prizes are at stake. A prize would encourage the occassional or seasonal players to play more so they would be good in the game and be ready for professonal competitions, and would also attract customers of other shops nearby who are dying for some new opponents. We could also communicate with other LAN Shop owners and arrange a competition among the best teams of each shop. These activities would generate additional interest in our shop and increase traffic because people would be visiting more often and checking for upcoming similar events.

“Remember to keep you batteries charged” – wheelee

If we are also one of the attendants of our own business, always remember to eat a breakfast fit for a king, and do not neglect enough sleeping time. Exhaustion will deplete us of our strength and calm state of mind. A hungry stomach would eventually lead to other complications, makes us lose focus, and may cause us to become irritable or hot-tempered with our customers. We would hate it when a customer would complain that we are snobbish or unapproachable.

 “Starting with the basics to see and make things work is as important as having an optimized solution……….to your problem” – xteamobsidianx

Sometimes, we aim too high in all our endeavor that we neglect to deal with the basic necessities. We were too engrossed in choosing the top of the line hardware, and the fastest Internet connection, that we forget to include in our plans the provisions to make our customers stay in our establishment more pleasant. Examples are providing for a clean and fragrant toilet, a well-lit room with good ventilation, comfy chairs and tables with enough keyboard/mouse space, and partitions with enough elbow room, a waiting area with available seats, etc.  Many of us often make the mistake of sacrificing these basic needs so that we could put our money more on our main product or service. We fail to realize that customers tend to stay longer and visit more often,  a shop that provides amenities that will make their stay more pleasant and comfortable.

“If you’ve got something to say, you might as well say it clearly” – redwing0001

It is a good move to work on our social etiquette and manner of speaking. When a customer needs assistance, they would be more appreciative if we could explain clearly and accurately.  Some people may get impressed if we use highfaluting words but be ready also to step down and explain in layman’s term. Our customers can sense from our voice if we are sincere and eager to help them. Customers like it if we take time to patiently address their needs.

“Being online…..has made life a whole lot easier….however, that doesn’t mean that we invest three quarters of our time in the online world.” – SYSTEM_MANAGER

We should go out and see the real world. We should take a look at other businesses, most especially the newly built ones. It is not enough to inquire in forums because we may not be getting real life information or the others telling the stories may be seeing things differently.  The online world may not be truthful enough to reveal all their  trade secrets. Sometimes, we are fooled by too much hype and online marketing gimmicks of a few, we miss out on the real and potential opportunities. Remember that there are scammers everywhere so we shouldn’t be fooled by their social engineering tactics.

“The reality is that the majority of people who are infected ……….. are the ones who click on things they shouldn’t be clicking on.” – ParticleX

Think before we click?…..We should not try to meddle with things we are not fully knowledgeable of or have very little expertise. Eventhough it is admirable to try out new things, we should study the pros and cons thoroughly before we invest our hard-earned money. Do we really need to invest on a heat press t-shirt printing set, when just across the street there is the more affordable silkscreen printing?  Should we accept layout assignments if we have very little  graphics editing or layout skills? Lost income starts during the times we are still learning and failed short of the customers’ expectations because we couldn’t provide their design requirements or we couldn’t compete with the pricing of what is already available in our neighborhood. First impressions truly lasts so if our initial tansactions with our customers went sour, then a second transaction would rarely happen.

“Even if you’re running a complete suite of computer security, in 99 times out of 100, the user’s own behavior turns out to be the source of unwanted malware software” – ParticleX

This is a common case of user problem. True enough, eventhough we have invested on the best computers or the fastest Internet connection,  99% of the problems encountered by our customers in our shops are usually of their own mistake. I still remember back then that many would call out for help complaining that their PCs do not have “Friendster”, only to find out that they mispelled or mistyped the URL on their browsers. However, we should not humiliate our customers or make them feel bad or awkward if we discover their mistake. They may not come back to us if we make them feel inferior.

“A well motivated hacker can still break into a system regardless of your defenses” – ParticleX

Investing on the most expensive padlock, thick metal grills and roll-up sliding doors, and even CCTV security cameras, would never be enough for the evil elements of society who insists on breaking in to steal our precious investment. They are popularly known as the “bolt-cutter gang”. If they can’t break our padlock, they will instead destroy the metals holding our padlock together using an acetylene torch. There were even similar crimes committed even during broad daylight like robbery holdup, snatching of LCD monitors, looting memory modules,  etc.  It is always preferred to have someone stay and guard your property.

“The primary object is the reason the picture is being made in the first place, therefore all other elements should merely support and emphasize the main object “– aresdi

We are supposed to be running a computer shop, and not a carinderia,  or a school and office supplies store, or even a bakery. Although it is an excellent idea to provide additional amenities and to equip our shop with many services not directly computer-related, it is not a good scenario if the customers couldn’t get the primary service as advertised. When a customer goes to our shop, we would assume that their first priority is to gain access to our computer services like Internet access, scanning, printing, typing job, etc. The other services which are not computer-related should just be there to add convenience or extra sources of income but should not totally replace the primary services. So invest on a backup for your Internet connection, printer, etc., so that you would not have any downtime.

“This is an unfinished image. Using your eye, creativity and style, you can further edit the image by adjusting the elements” – nonoy_1969

If the operating system could be updated or patched to optimize it, and games could be added with new maps to keep the players interested, we could also do some tweaking to improve our services. In printing photos, we could probably offer some free retouching to improve the picture. We could also suggest a better font for their title page layout before printing, or offer better accompanying music to the videos they asked us to edit. These extra services offered for free or with a small fee shows we care for our customers by wanting only the best for them.

“The camera sees and records only a small isolated part of the larger scene, ………… It does not discriminate as we do.” – aresdi

We should treat and deal with our customers equally regardless who they seem to be. We should not judge them based on their outward appearance, how they dress, how they talk, etc.  We had an elderly customer who would regularly visit our shop after church hours every Sunday. He would always look like he just came out of bed, complete with “mahangin ba sa labas” hairdo, shriveled clothes, and a breath smelling so rancid. But, believe it or not, he was our number one customer in our photo-printing service. He would always ask us to enlarge pictures of his family and relatives, and print them in A4 sizes. He said he was framing and hanging them in his walls all over his house. This would go on everytime he had a new set of pictures. Meanwhile, we also had a customer who dress like an executive, but would often haggle us on the pricing, and would even ask for freebies and special favors.  Sometimes even the most odd looking customers tend to be the most desirable.

“I got scammed so many times, it wasn’t funny anymore” – Hertzblaster

Like any businessman, we try our best to get the best deals because we understand the value of the hard-earned money.  Trading brand new or second-hand items online is already an acceptable way to buy or sell items, though it has plenty of risks if you are not cautious enough. We had our share of being scammed by online sellers during our early days with TipidPC. It was our fault because we bought items without even testing them. We were so confident enough to trust the sellers because our previous transactions with other members were all smooth and successful. The feedback ratings was also unreliable as some have even worked hard to create several accounts and post fake feedback ratings. Now, we have learned only to trust sellers who were willing to have the items tested or picked up from their place of work or residence. The premium members were also on our priority list. We also prefer to deal with members who we have previously transacted with.

“An expensive gaming rig is nothing more than a brick without a mouse” – sledge

Invest on durable PC accessories or peripherals. We would hate it so much if we keep on replacing a defective mouse, keyboard, or headset every couple of months. Remember that a powerful PC is useless if our customers couldn’t even aim the cursor properly, the keyboard is losing a key or two, or the headset only has sound on one ear.

“PSU is the most important part of the build, ironically it is the most underrated and ignored” – fakuryu

My former college professors were all wrong when they said the heart of the PC is the processor. We only realized the importance of getting a true-rated and branded PSU only when our PC parts were starting to fail in just after a few months or less than a year. A faulty PSU would always be the primary culprit why our hard drive got corrupted and already has a clicking sound, or our memories got burnt marks.  The PSU should be the first priority if we want our precious PC parts to last and continue to perform optimally, especially if we intend to get our ROI before our PCs goes intermittently problematic.

 “Sure, there is a downside to everything, but the cons aren’t that bad” – nrg500

Our business is a non-stop struggle towards getting the ROI. Whenever we hear news of an impending similar business that is about to open nearby, we worry a lot. However, it also instills a sense of survival instinct because it gives us enough reason to pause and rethink our strategies. It encourages us to add or enhance our services, pushes us to socialize more with our customers to gain loyalty, drives us to keep well-maintained equipment and facilities, etc. It helps groom us into a better and well-rounded businessman.

“But in the long run I realized that the best job is if you can mix work and fun together”- tantric

We should have chosen this business primarily because we enjoy doing it, and not just to earn money. Work mixed with pleasure is truly enjoyable. Work minus the fun factor is either a miserable life or a slow death. We chose this as a business because we truly love tinkering with computers and trying out new games and programs. It is our laboratory where we could experiment and try out new technology. It is our gaming center where our kids and us could play online or network games. It is a venue where we could meet new clients and gain friends. It is a life worth living if we cherish what we are doing no matter the obstacles.

 “Invest in a good dry box to keep your equipment in” –wheelee

We already know that we should choose a location where there is a potential market, or one which is not yet saturated by competition, but you should also choose a location which does not get easily struck by the forces of nature. We would hate to see ourselves again in the same situation where our business sank underwater because of a flash flood or a nearby dam releasing its excess waters. As much as possible always pick a place where there is a second floor so that we would have somewhere to run for such emergencies. Investigate and ask around first at the proposed location. Check the history of the place if it already had previous encounters with the wrath of unfriendly weather.

“I realized that making others happy is priceless” – Autoprimephilippines

It gives us great satisfaction, whenever we get to successfully provide the necessary service or assistance to a customer. We may not be always getting a comensurate compensation for all the hard work and patience, but seeing a customer overjoyed of a fixed laptop, or appreciative of our efforts to tutor them patiently is reward enough. Soon we started  receiving invitations to their son’s birthday parties, or their daughter’s wedding, and even getting gifts during Christmas. It is as if we have become part of their extended family.

Final Note:

There’s actually plenty more but we believe we’ve already proven our point when we said there’s always something to learn about matters concerning us out of everything around us. Even from sources that you would least expect and sometimes take for granted. It is just up to us if we would keep a well-rounded and open mind to distinguish to see the good and positive things instead of the opposite.

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