Friday, July 11, 2008

Regulating Our Industry

See the story in our burg.

The Story

We have a state agency called the CA Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair. They regulate businesses who make house calls to repair Electronics and Appliances.

Most people think BEAR only regulates people who fix refrigerators and microwaves. But they also regulate any business that makes house calls to repair computers.

So they had a "sting" operation.

They called techno-goobers to come to a house to replace a CD-ROM.

If the technician was not properly licensed, they nabbed him as soon as he opened the case.

Our industry needs to be a lot more professional than it is.

At our Sacramento SBS User group on Tuesday, we talked about this. The consensus was:
Should you worry about this? No.
Should you get the registration? Yes, if you go to people's homes.

A side argument could be made about whether a $165 registration with zero requirements is just another stupid government program to take your money and burn it. But here's the absolute truth of the situation:

Anyone who is willing to accept a phone call from a complete stranger and drive across town to replace a CD-ROM needs to be regulated!

I pray that no one who reads this blog is in a position where they have to do that to earn a living. Get a job waving a sign at passing traffic:

You'll earn $120/day and you don't have to worry about the nerd police.

- - - - -

Here's what the BEAR requires.

- Customer must be given a written estimate

- Customer must authorize the repair.

- The estimate must be in writing

- The written estimate must be prepared before any work is performed

- The estimate must include all costs for parts, labor, and the initial service call, including all transportation and travel charges

- A repairman can revise an estimate by getting the customer's authorization for the additional repair and charge

- In addition, the bureau also regulates what must be included in an estimate, and how it can be revised

- And the they regulate claim checks, receipts, and all the information that must be recorded.

- - - - -

If there's a hierarchy of professionalism, this agency exists to regulate the bottom of that hierarchy.

But what about the rest of us? Who regulates us?

At some level, the community creates norms, talks them up, and "regulates their own."

Some membership organizations require their members to follow a code of conduct. The premier group here is ICCA -- see The ICCA Code of Ethics.

From time time, folks like Susan or the good folks on the managed services group recommend a little more regulation, a little more standardization, or a little more formalization of our industry.

Unfortunately, I don't know if any of that will help.

It helps that the likes of Cisco, SonicWall, and Microsoft have certification programs. But we as an industry need more than that.

We need to regulate each other and agree on some standards.

The biggest weakness in this pursuit is actually the successful (larger) companies. They realize that you don't get big by screwing one customer after another. You get big by systematically building quality and standards into you everyday procedures.

Client complaints are addressed in an organized fashion.

You rely on quality equipment, quality software, and quality partners.

You have a culture of focusing on doing the right thing.

So, what's the bottom line?

On one hand, the BEAR is a waste of resources. On the other hand, they provide some service and an attempt at regulating the bottom feeders in our business.

In the long run, for those of us who really do computer and network consulting as a business and a profession, they're irrelevant. What's relevant is our commitment to this profession as a profession.

So don't fear the knock on your door.


  1. Anonymous5:44 PM

    I got a lovely call from one of the investigators a few weeks ago. Lame govt program but hey we live in CA. You pay a premium for the sunshine ;)
    My company has been in biz 25 years and never had one...

  2. I paid BEAR for a couple years because I thought we needed it. I'm hoping I finally got them off of our back. I don't believe it's limited to onsite repair, it's in house stuff too. We've been referring that to the another shop for years. Once I very clearly stated that we don't work on home PC's only business they finally gave up stopping by and terrorizing my employees. And by terrorizing I mean marching in, walking into the back of the shop and generally being nosy. Of course I was never in otherwise I would have shown them the door.


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