Learning to Think Strategically about Technology – An Intel® Small Business Profile

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This is the fourth profile in a new Intel Small Business Series focusing on Small Business owners and how they are reacting to the demands and opportunities presented by emergent technology.

Jim Smith is the founder and CEO of McKenzie Books, Inc., a service that buys back used textbooks. Smith established McKenzie Books in 2004 when he identified an opportunity to provide college students an alternative to the small payouts they were used to receiving for their used books at bookstores. Since then, McKenzie Books has grown to a $5 million business. Additionally, Smith has expanded his offerings to contract with Amazon for processing and fulfillment as well as creating two new “recommerce” verticals (services that buy used devices or gear back from consumers for cash).

Having grown from a bootstrapped family business to a sophisticated operation with four websites and a 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse, McKenzie’s IT needs have grown over the years. While Smith, a computer science grad, was able to handle the bulk of the work out the gate, it became more difficult as they scaled.

“Once we hit about a million in sales, things are hopping along enough that I need to be thinking strategically and not thinking about, ‘well I need to fix a printer,’” Smith said when asked when did he realized his business needed additional IT support.

While McKenzie Books doesn’t have a dedicated IT employee, they do work with a vendor to enable workstation and server monitoring. By outsourcing parts of his IT department, Smith feels like he can focus more on business strategy.

Productivity

While migrating more services to the cloud is Smith’s most pressing IT priority, he also sees a need to supplement the company’s traditional workstations with mobile devices such as tablets. Additionally, his company supports a BYOD policy that lets employees sync their work email to their personal devices.

Mobile technology is helping small businesses streamline their day-to-day operations in myriad ways. From mobile point of sale platforms to evolved customer relationship management services, small businesses are finding countless benefits in this new mobile-first ecosystem. While tablets have proven to be a great platform for work and entertainment, recent advances have led to the development of more robust “2-in-1s” — a hybrid consisting of a razor-thin tablet that features a full removable keyboard. Intel-powered 2-in-1s are a great option for small businesses looking to provide their employees versatility and mobility while retaining high levels of productivity at an affordable price point.

Many businesses are also facing a demand for flexibility from the workforce. Fortunately, collaboration software such as video chat and document sharing has developed to high levels of sophistication, making a mobile workforce more feasible. With the pace of business moving faster than ever, adopting a flexible BYOD strategy is helping businesses stay nimble and productive.

Cloud Computing

Like other small businesses, McKenzie Books is in the process of migrating different aspects of their business to the cloud. Smith reports that one of their IT priorities is to continue their trajectory toward the cloud. McKenzie Books is finding value in offerings like Intel-powered Amazon Web Services (AWS) due to their scalability and pay-as-you-go pricing.

By migrating parts of their business to the cloud, small and medium operations alike are able to grow their businesses while managing overhead. Cloud services like AWS eliminate large capital expenditures for IT, making growth costs more manageable. Not only does cloud computing mitigate the hard costs of building and maintaining server infrastructure, these new services also offer valuable business insights in the form of data analytics and workload automation.

For more information on how technology can accelerate your small business, check out Intel’s Small Business Tools.

To continue the conversation and stay up to date on the latest Intel Small Business profile, follow us at @EmpowerSmallbiz or use #IntelSmallBiz.

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A software developer turned entrepreneur, Jim McKenzie Smith started McKenzieBooks.com and Cash4Books.net in 2004. Jim has Bachelors in Computer Science from Oregon State University from 2003, and worked at Freightliner in NW Portland for 3 years before leaving to run the business full time in 2007. Jim has recently launched two new companies in 2014: TechTwice.com and SeasonsGear.com. Jim is a member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization and currently serves on the Board as Accelerator Chair. On a personal note, Jim is happily married to Breanne Smith.  They have 3 children ages 11, 6, and 4. Their youngest is adopted from Ethiopia.

Follow Jim on Twitter @Cash4Books