Small Bytes Computing owner Jerry Wing had an extensive background in the fisheries sector in the US and New Zealand. In fact, it was the money he got from the buyout of his local fishery operation in the early 1990s that funded his purchase of the IT company.
Born in Christchurch, Wing is a former fisheries scientist who went to the US and studied computing in the US while working for an American salmon farming firm.
However, he returned to New Zealand in the late 1980s when the sharemarket crash forced his US employer out of business and made him redundant. Back home, he began an operation transporting live salmon from hatcheries to sea pens in the Otago region, but Wing says firms that used his services felt they were paying him too much and bought him out.
This meant he was able to buy Small Bytes, which had been running in Oamaru since 1988. When he made the purchase, it had two staff and was based at the south end of town until a move to the centre of the district.
There has been a great deal of change since Wing broke into the local IT business ownership, particularly with marked drops in the price of hardware. Old green 486 PC screens cost $8000 in the 1990s, he says, adding printer prices have also fallen sharply.
These days, the company’s income is supplemented by an internet café, which attracts custom from locals and tourists alike, and Wing has also tutored at a local nightschool.
Last year, when the lease ran out on the shop, Wing decided it was time to slow down and move the business to his home in the suburb of Herbert.
“My customers have followed me along,” he says.
Among the customer base are many home users, elderly people who require technical support, farmers and small businesses
“I do everything,” says Wing. “I service and repair computers and printers, and deal with antivirus implementations.”
Wing is also an affiliate for Interserve, which he says involves a lot of work for government departments.
He also installed and has serviced Shell Truckstops (now owned by Greenstone Energy).
Wing stresses the importance of client service in his business.
“You have to be customer-focused. In a big city you can annoy people but here if you rub people up the wrong way word gets round faster than advertising,” he explains.
The company still sells new computers, printers and faxes, using Ingram Micro as the main supplier.
Wing says there is great variety in the type of work performed, including setting up and repairing computers people have bought at the big box retailers in town.
He also does warranty work for NZ Computers, which manages after-market warranties sold by Noel Leeming and Dick Smith.
The work involves a busy schedule, he adds.
“At times I work longer hours because I will often go away on an evening or a weekend. Some of the contract work for Interserve can be at any time of the day. If the truckstop goes down at 2am, it still has to be served,” he says.
Wing enjoys the lifestyle in the region, which gives him time to work on his restored 1927 Austin 7 motor car and restoring a second one, plus having the spare parts to make a third.
His keen interest in fishing also remains. “You have to go fishing. I regularly go to lakes Waitiki, Benmore and Aviemore,” he says.