By David Rogers. March 16, 2020. BOONE, NC — As a digital-only newspaper, Blowing Rock News depends on technology — particularly computers, telecommunications and broadband Internet — for nearly every aspect of our business.
Recognizing that dependency, a natural response is to make sure our technological products and services are safeguarded at every level with this pandemic crisis challenging the world.
For several years now, we have depended on a local firm, Geeks at Work, as our computer services provider. Not being bashful, we went directly to the source and asked them not just what steps we should take to protect ourselves, but how they are approaching the challenges of this coronavirus pandemic. We spoke with co-owner and lead project manager of Geeks at Work and Computer Tamers, Jaison Eric Stein — and found the interview enlightening.
It is a wired world we live in.
Blowing Rock News (BRN): Jason, first of all thanks for sitting down with us and sharing your insights about how this COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your enterprise, but also the operations of your business customers and what they should expect in the weeks ahead.
Jason Stein (JS): Well thank-you for allowing us to share our perspective. Not just us, but everyone in the United States faces the challenge of being in uncharted territory. We have had some disease outbreaks in the past, like SARS of a few years ago, but nothing like this. The toughest part for everyone is knowing what they don’t know and trying to prepare for the unknown.
We continue to monitor developments regarding this pandemic, hour by hour. With actions that governments all around the world are taking, and especially on the state and local level, we here at Geeks at Work and Computer Tamers recognize that some of our customers may be negatively impacted before everything returns to normal.
Technology and computers are so important for today’s businesses. In fact, they permeate nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans. We depend on sometimes to-the-second information and Internet connectivity to help us navigate today even the basics of life. You are publishing news, information and commercial messaging, online only, so you become highly vulnerable if things stop working. But the potential challenges and vulnerabilities go far beyond that. From banking to entertainment, connectivity with properly functioning devices is essential.
BRN: Ok, well said, but how are you prepared to help us?
JS: We “tamers” hope you have prepared for the worst and that nothing serious or harmful comes your way. That could be wishful thinking, though. Just know that if events that already occurred because of the corona virus in places like China, Japan, and Italy, as well as in so many other countries, if those things materialize here in the High Country we want our friends and neighbors to be ready and prepared.
We want you to know that WE are ready and able to serve whatever technology issues present themselves to you. When it comes to technology, making sure your devices are working at peak capacity and reliability is profoundly important. No, it is necessary in today’s wired world.
EVERY customer is important and represents a new opportunity to serve.
BRN: How do you approach that? How do you prioritize?
JS: We value, above all, the importance of safe and healthy computing. That is the highest priority. When a customer brings a computer or another technology product into our shop, the very first thing we do is clean all devices before starting to diagnose a problem or work on them. Our standard operating procedure is to always keep a clean and organized operation room where we work on those devices.
BRN: Have you taken special precautions because of the so-called coronavirus?
JS: Yes, because that is important. Most of the nation has one mission these days: do whatever we can in our sphere of influence to help stop the spread of COVID-19. So, in response, we have raised our level of cleanliness to an even higher level. All of us working at Geeks at Work and Computer Tamers are well aware of the risks associated with this virus. All of our preparations in this facility are aimed to protect our employees and our customers.
BRN: Can you be specific about those preparations? They might be instructive for other business owners.
JS: Sure. We are taking these measures to ensure the safety of literally everyone who might walk through our doors.
- The reception, café, service areas, meeting areas, and rest rooms are professionally cleaned on a weekly basis, to prevent the accumulation of germs and bacteria on the floors, counters, desks, etc.
- We are wiping down and disinfecting all light switches, doorknobs, tabletops,
counters, etc. on a daily basis. Anything that is commonly touched will be safe to the touch throughout our facility.
- Our staff are cleaning their hands often throughout the day and using hand sanitizers as needed.
- Every device that comes into our shop for service is cleaned and sanitized for the safety of our professional staff, and those of you who will be taking their computer home to enjoy happy computing.
That’s the beauty of our capability.
BRN: You have spoken so far about the steps you are taking in your Boone headquarters store and technical support facility. Don’t you also do some customer site work?
JS: Yes, and we take the same precautions with those on site visits as we do in-house. God forbid that if things get much worse and even more severe domestic travel restrictions are instituted. We are confident, though, that our technicians — who already serve businesses and institutions that provide essential services to the public — will have government permission to travel. Keep in mind, though, that we often do device repair remotely, whether at a home or business.
BRN: How far-flung are your customers that travel beyond the High Country might be a problem?
JS: Oh, great question. Without getting into specific towns, we service computers and networks for businesses and individuals or their families from Alaska to Florida, from Connecticut and Massachusetts to Texas, Nevada, and Washington. And that customer list includes most of the retail and banking outlets in our immediate surrounding areas here in the High Country. We can and have done major computer and network server installs remotely and successfully, saving our customers time and money.
A major part of our work is caring for loyal and local friends in Boone, Blowing Rock and so many other places in Watauga County and beyond. They come to us for help in making new purchases, as well as for repair of existing and older devices.
BRN: With all of the new state and local emphasis now on social distancing, a lot of folks are hoarding groceries and other supplies and staying home. They don’t really want to go out and about until this coronavirus runs its course.
JS: Gosh, that is the beauty of our capability and how we have purposely developed our business. If someone has a technology problem but doesn’t want to go out in public, they should consider calling us for a REMOTE diagnosis and potential repair. They get to keep their device and themselves safe at home or in their place of work. With our technologies and intelligent software, we can provide many of our services even through a total lockdown either via telephone or another device-based communication over the Internet. We might even be helping you from our own homes or another locked-down facility. Of course, we might also be helping you from our store, which is across from Walmart in Southgate Plaza.
It’s a digital world — and we make it easy.
BRN: Don’t you have a marketing tagline that kind of summarizes a lot of what you have told me today?
JS (laughing): Yes, and it is especially relevant for times of emergency: “It is a digital world — and we make it easy.”
BRN: Tell me about the structure of your business.
JS: Well, we are a family-owned business, unincorporated. And that includes myself, my brother Mish, and my father Allen. But we also think of our associates as part of the family in so many ways. There is Derrick, John, Luis, Sam and Riley.
BRN: Any parting thoughts about the values you bring to your entrepreneurial vision?
JS: That is easy. EVERY customer is important. Each one brings with them an opportunity for us to serve. Our results over the past 20 years show that our fundamentally caring business model works, even in the worst of times.
Geeks at Work and Computer Tamers is a Platinum Marketing Partner of Blowing Rock News.