Behind the Business with Randy Downs of Downs Consulting Services

image of Randy Downs of Downs Consulting
  • Published
  • January 6, 2016

For anyone who’s ever had to work with computers, the IT professional can sometimes seem like a super hero. Lost data, unresponsive machines, connectivity issues – they can bewilder the best of us.

But for US Navy Veteran Randy Downs, tech troubles are the bread and butter.

When we were putting together our feature on online accounting software, we interviewed Randy as a user of the products and spoke about his IT company Downs Consulting Services.

Tell us about your business in as much detail as you can. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Downs Consulting Services covers all types of IT projects for companies that don’t have their own IT team. Our motto is “All Things Computer”. Most of our customers are either individuals or small businesses.

Our Services include website design/maintenance, Content Management Systems (CMS), building responsive websites, SEO, IT Services and PC cleaning.

What made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer?
I started working with computers in 1969 as a member of the United States Navy (USN). I have always liked finding a solution for problems. As a member of the USN Polaris/Poseidon program finding a solution was the only option. That has carried over to civilian jobs and now my own business.

We’re actively registered in the U.S. federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM). We don’t have any government jobs as yet but we are prepared should they come our way.

We’re also a verified Veteran-owned small business (VOSB) in the Veteran business database.

They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so share what drives you every day. Why do you love what you do?
I love working on and resolving problems with computers. Whether I am working on SEO to make my customer rank better on Google, fixing an old application, creating a new website or just cleaning malware off a computer I love getting the job done.


Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
This has really been a continuation of what I did for my employers when I worked for them. Some of my employers chose to continue my services even when I ventured out on my own. Most of my work is done from home so I get to spend time with my lovely wife and don’t often have to visit a physical site. What could be better?

We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
IT is not the craziest of businesses but things do go awry even when we take extraordinary precautions. I have had Microsoft servers refuse to work or even let me log in after making a transition to a new domain. I hate having to tell my customer that their server no longer functions as it should. I have always managed to recover from these situations but it’s a definite setback that I didn’t count on.

What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Time off is relative. My official hours are Monday-Saturday 9-6, but I am really on call 24/7 for emergencies and often schedule services during off hours. That said I do spend time dancing West Coast Swing at BAWDC. My wife & I love dancing. I also try to get in a couple of yoga classes each week.

This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business?
Social networking is very important. I queue up technical posts in my Facebook pages, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter Pages. I get feedback on some of the posts and that allows me to engage my followers. Occasionally I get customers from one of the social networks. I use programs like HootSuite & Buffer to queue up my posts so I don’t have to spend all day with the application.

How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I maintain a website for BAWDC, a non-profit organization dedicated to swing dancing. It’s the least we can do to support our group. I hope that folks exposed to the dance will love it as much as we do.

What does the future look like for you and your business?
The future looks bright. I have yet to meet a group of people that didn’t need some sort of computer service. Customers may be problem free for periods of time but eventually they will have computer problems, need SEO or want a website maintained or redone. Perhaps they may want files transferred from the old computer to the new one.

Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
My advice is to do something you love so that it’s not really like work. Otherwise you may hate your business after a while. Be prepared to spend lots of time marketing and accounting, in addition to your actual business.


Why did you choose a cloud based accounting system for your business?
Originally I maintained everything on an Excel spreadsheet but creating new companies became more difficult as I acquired more customers. The more things I tracked with my spreadsheet the more difficult it was to add another customer. At the end of the quarter I would start a new spreadsheet and that could be a monumental task.

I needed a better way to invoice customers. I wanted to get paid online rather than waiting for checks through slow and unreliable mail. I also wanted to make it easier for my customers to pay me and not have to deal with physical checks.

Which cloud based accounting platform did you choose and why that particular brand?
I have maintained QuickBooks for my clients for a number of years. Eventually I gave in and started a QuickBooks Online trial. Getting paid online is a dream come true for a small business that does their own accounting.

QuickBooks is the name that most customers can relate to. Many of my customers use QuickBooks desktop for their own bookkeeping so the name has instant recognition. That’s pretty important when you ask customers for their checking and credit information.

What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
Creating a company in Quickbooks is a breeze. Getting paid online makes bookkeeping very simple since the money is put directly into the owner’s account.

My business model is to get customers to pay for blocks of time in advance so that was a little difficult to achieve in Quickbooks but I found I could bill for the service and then void it to create the credit for the block. Subsequent charges are automatically deducted from their credit.

I still use my spreadsheet to track details of my service but the gold standard is Quickbooks Online. Now I am free to do whatever I want with my spreadsheet as long as it balances with QuickBooks.

Content Manager at FS Local

Jesse is a typical class clown. Born and raised just north of the Toronto, he fell in love with the City on school trips to the ROM and the Science Centre. He tried Vancouver for a few years, but the call of home was too strong to resist. Today he lives in the North-East Upper Beaches. (What? It’s a thing!)

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