I know you know the feeling – you go to turn on your trusty computer and nothing. Not a beep or churp or sound to be heard. Or, scarier yet, you’re on the computer when some sort of completely random event sends it over the edge and you’re stuck – usually 2 minutes before the end of work or a Sunday when there’s no one available to help. As a Thriving Practitioner your computer and perhaps network, are invaluable to you. While many TPs (Thriving Practitioners) still spend a majority of their work hours interacting with clients one on one, there’s always the time when we need to write for our newsletters, get notes done, file reports or follow up with other TPs and unless you were once an IT specialist before you started your Thriving Independent Practice, it might be useful to have some support ready to go.

Luckily for us there are a number of options for hiring just this kind of help. Before taking a plunge and just hiring the first person or company that says it will fit your needs you’ve got to figure out exactly what those needs are! Here are some questions to get you started:

Do you want help available in your work-space, so they come to you or is it OK that you take your system to them?

If you decide to travel to support how far away would that be and do they offer loaner systems for you to use while yours is being fixed?

Do you feel comfortable with phone only support?

What are your resources? How often have you needed help in the past?

Would it be good to have some training or a place to go for training so that you can learn more, be more efficient in your work?

Is it important to you to get support from the same person each time you have a problem or would you be OK with the next ‘geek’ or ‘genius’ that is available?

Let’s look at these and see what might work best for you. Having tech help available when you need it is often super important. Since computer crashes rarely happen at quiet times its often good to know you’ll get the help at times that work well for you. The local kid down the street might be great to help out, when he’s free and when his homework is done – not a good combination for you perhaps! Perhaps your daughter is an ace at these things (great!) but if she’s 2 time zones away it might be tricky to coordinate help and support. I’d also suggest as a TP that you seek out, whichever option you pick, someone or some place that works well with your style. If you can ‘speak geek’ and aren’t intimidated by the codes or questions they may ask you might have more options open to you than if you’re a bit more shy about your computer skills and prefer to be able to just say, “that thing in the corner is blinking and I can’t get it to print.”

If you opt to travel to your IT support then its good to keep in mind that you’ll need to be able to unhook, pick up and get to the car or subway your preferred device. It’s not unusual in NYC to see folks schlepping their desktops around but if that’s not for you its good to keep that factor in mind. Here’s where I’d also suggest for some TPs that its handy to be working with either an individual or company that can offer you a loaner computer while yours is being tended to.

If you’d like training it might be nice to get it in the same place that you get your support from. While the local library might be great for basics if you’re in business it can often be necessary to have a better working base of knowledge for software specific programs you run. A factor to consider are the hours a training is offered because if it happens at times which aren’t helpful to you then its next to worthless.

Where to get the help specifically? Consumer Reports (April 2013) recently surveyed its readers and found that 77% of consumers felt that the Geek Squad at Best Buy solved their problem well and 80% of consumers found the Genius Bar at Apple to have solved their problems well. If you live near either of these options they might be good places to consider. Also highly rated were small independent shops local to the area; this may be in large part because they rely on returning customers in a smaller geographical region than does Apple or a box store such as Best Buy. If you do go the route of small, independent person or store it might be in your best interest to check them out before you need them. Go visit, ask some questions and take it from there!

Here’s what I know for sure – whichever option you go with be sure they understand what it is you do. Therapists need their systems to be HIPAA compliant, CPAs need their systems to be large and well backed up, SLPs need good graphics and a solid connection to the internet, not to mention perhaps good speakers; the better prepared you are to explain your needs to the support you’re seeking to hire the more likely you are to get the support you need.

Just like with any other member of your team its helpful to get it assembled and ready to go for the times you need it rather than “just in time” team building. As Thrivers we know its impossible to go it alone and do it all on our own; IT is another great place to think about for getting in that extra support. Thoughts? Found a solution that works well for you and you’d like to share it? I’d love to hear about it!

Wishing you many, many hours of hassle free computer time!