Gavin Shoebridge says IT has been his “labour of love” since he built his first PC in the early 1990s. He subsequently spent 11 years installing ADSL for telcos and worked for Telecom.
So it was a natural progression for the former Aucklander to take charge of the New Plymouth operations for Geeks on Wheels, a franchise-based, mobile IT service company.
Shoebridge was recruited after an interview and what he says was three days of “full-on” training and on-the-job familiarisation in Wellington, where Geeks on Wheels has its national headquarters. After this came two days of working alone while being supervised by area development and support manager Craig Olsen.
Currently, Shoebridge oversees the company’s business in the top half of the North Island, helping franchises develop business in their areas and motivates regional teams.
Geeks on Wheels was started here five years ago and also has operations in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch. It aims to beome a nationwide enterprise and seeks further franchisees, including someone to buy into the New Plymouth operation.
Shoebridge is the sole staff member in New Plymouth. He is helped out by Olsen, who has worked in sales and management for Magnum Mac and Renaissance.
“We currently have one technician in New Plymouth with scope for an additional two or three technicians within the next six months, as the business develops. We are a completely mobile service and conduct work onsite at clients’ homes or places of business,” Olsen says.
“We offer a full range of services including technical help, internet and email set-up, wireless [wi-fi] networks, virus and spyware elimination, set-ups, installs and upgrades, system tune-ups, repairs of damaged or corrupt systems, printer support and custom training solutions.
“As we’ve recently experienced an incredible growth in the demand for Apple Mac repairs and support, we are also committed to providing our technicians with training by Apple,” he says.
Geeks on Wheels focuses on the home and small business market and trades six days a week. The extended trading hours sets it apart from local competitors, says Olsen.
Geeks on Wheels saw “fantastic potential” in the region before it launched in New Plymouth earlier this year. The company’s New Plymouth business holds monthly staff training sessions with the Hamilton team.
Olsen says it took time to find the right staff member for New Plymouth, something he says is not unusual in rural areas. Geeks on Wheels needed someone with the correct blend of technical ability, interpersonal skills and an ability to work autonomously.
Shoebridge says although franchises carry an initial set-up cost, the benefits are support in branding, marketing, overall company reputation and collective experience of the rest of the company. Geeks on Wheels also has a centralised 0800 call centre for customers to make bookings.
“If any of our techs ever get stumped on a real brain teaser, we can easily call each other and pass some quick knowledge about to solve the problem and get the customer up and running again.”
Olsen says the New Plymouth venture has started well.
“All of our systems and processes for recruitment and training are already there, so it was relatively easy to establish ourselves in a new area. The main thing was recruiting a really fantastic person,” he says.
Driving a distinctive Bedford van around the streets also turned many heads, he says.
“We have a very promising future around the Taranaki region. The A-Team van certainly helps with the exposure of the brand.”