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If you ask a small business owner what his solution provider does, the typical answer will be “that’s the computer guy,” which amounts to a generic description for a particular task.

Digging down deeper into the small business owner’s mentality, you’ll often find that he has a phone guy, alarm guy, copier guy and so on.

That begs the question: Should the solution provider be more than just the computer guy?

In some cases, that question is a resounding “yes.” There’s no reason, why a solution provider can’t become the phone guy (thanks to VoIP technology), the copier guy (multifunction printers), even the alarm guy (convergence of physical and IT security). But, most solution providers already know that. The real trick is to find other areas of value to contribute to your customers’ business.

Luckily, there are several ways of doing this. For example, if the small business owner has vehicles used for business, a solution provider can offer products for that area of the business – products such as OBDII monitoring devices, which are plugged into a vehicles OBDII port to perform diagnostics, monitor fuel use and in some cases, train drivers to drive more efficiently.

Following along that train of thought, solution providers will find that there are several GPS vehicle tracking devices on the market, which log the travels of a vehicle and keep track of where and when a driver has traveled. Those devices have more in common with IT technology than they do with automotive technology, making them a natural fit into the solution provider’s bag of tricks.

Of course, expanding horizons doesn’t begin and end with automotive applications, solution providers can dip their toes into the physical security and automation pool. Here, products such as IP-enabled alarm systems, IP surveillance cameras and even environmental and lighting controls can be integrated into the network infrastructure. That brings new capabilities to the customer and can even help “green” the business.

In medical office settings, a solution provider could offer digital signage and flat panel TVs for the waiting area. Better yet, how about setting up a wireless hot spot, which would be a good addition to any type of waiting or service area. If your small business customer is still using cash registers, perhaps now is the time to suggest a point of sale solution.

It all comes down to observing your customers needs and expanding your service offerings to meet as many of those needs as possible. And, in some cases, you may just discover a need that the customer did not even know that they had.

Using the trusted advisor relationship, a solution provider can readily become more than just the computer guy.  

Frank Ohlhorst is senior technology editor at Channel Insider.