[quote style=”boxed”]Make a list. Life as “the boss” is hectic and there are always a billion things that need to be addressed, people that need attention and situations that crop up unexpectedly. Without a prioritized list, it’s all too easy for important tasks or details to get lost in the chaos.[/quote]
Andrea Eldridge, mom of two and CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers on-site and remote computer set-up and repair via locations all over the West coast and online at www.callnerds.com. Andrea is the syndicated columnist of Computer Nerds On Call (for Scripps-Howard Newspapers) and Nerd Chick Adventures, which runs weekly in the Redding Record Searchlight. She regularly appears as a guest tech correspondent on eHow, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona and MORE Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets.
What are you working on right now?
My company, Nerds on Call, provides online and onsite computer service and repair to thousands of customers across the country. Whether you need to get a nasty virus removed, a wireless router set up, or you just need someone to help you figure out how to print an email from your new iPad, we do it! I also write two weekly technology columns, Computer Nerds On Call which is syndicated by Scripps-Howard Newspapers and Nerd Chick Adventures, which runs weekly in the Redding Record Searchlight.
Where did the idea for Nerds on Call come from?
Upon relocating to Redding in 2003, my mom got a virus on her computer. My husband was a born nerd, so he was at her house trying to extricate it from her machine when she lamented that there should be people who you could call to come to your house to fix your gadgets – like a plumber for your computer. I discovered that no one was providing in-home service to individual computer users, the only on-site options were for businesses. At a time when computer users relied primarily on desktop computers, the need to disconnect the tower and take it in to a repair shop was daunting for most people, my mom included. Nerds On Call was born.
How do you make money?
When a customer contacts us for the first time, our remote technicians are able to login to their computer right away and determine exactly what needs to be done to get them back up and running. In most cases, the work can be completed then and there, without having to wait for an appointment with an onsite technician. We always provide free estimates, and we like to say that questions are free, so we have a lot of time to establish a relationship of trust with our customer before we have to talk about cost. Once the work has been approved, we make sure that our customer is blissfully happy before we charge them. Many customers sign up for our “all-you-need” service subscription which has grown to be a large source of our revenue. Under the program, a customer pays a small monthly fee to get free support whenever they need it just by calling or contacting us over IM or through our website, www.callnerds.com
What does your typical day look like?
My day often starts with an early morning appearance on a morning show or radio call-in to talk about ways technology can benefit the day-to-day user and make life easier. When I’m in office I spend a large part of my time working with my corporate staff, helping them to progress projects and reviewing financial information (from signing checks, to determining expense budgets, to monitoring sales figures). I also spend a fair amount of time both in-office and at home working on creating content for the two weekly columns I write, appearances, and responding to customer follow up questions from my articles or media spots. I love that the technology field is constantly evolving and changing. While it’s challenging to keep up, I will certainly never be in a rut!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve been lucky enough to partner with a great creative balance to my more structured way of thinking. Typically, he dreams a big vision and I puzzle out the details to determine if it’s feasible. As a team, he pushes me to try new directions while I figure out how to make it happen logistically. While some people prefer to work alone, I’ve found that the right balance of personalities can make a well-rounded and unstoppable force.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The mainstream rise of handheld mobile gadgets has radically transformed the way we interact with technology. The always-at-your fingertips world of mobile, personal computing is fundamentally changing the world my kids will grow up in. I’m excited to see the impact this has on how they learn and grow. It’s also causing our business to evolve to service integration of mobile electronics into our existing connected-personas.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Every job teaches you something, even if it’s just that you need to work hard and commit yourself to moving on. I’ve worked in food service and medical billing, real estate and financial services. In all cases, the ability to work well with others and dedicate to the job, even if you hate it, is a life skill that has never failed to make a bad situation more livable.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If that proposition involves going back in time – a true do-over – I’d propel faster growth in the beginning and take advantage of the time when newspapers still reached a large majority of town residents. When we started, a flyer in the paper reached most of a small community and word of mouth about good service passed quickly. Now, it’s become much harder to reach a customer, and many of the communities we service have become disenfranchised. If I had the chance to start again I’d take advantage of the small window of opportunity to blaze a trail through the middle-size communities of America.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make a list. Life as “the boss” is hectic and there are always a billion things that need to be addressed, people that need attention and situations that crop up unexpectedly. Without a prioritized list, it’s all too easy for important tasks or details to get lost in the chaos.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We launched in a location that seemed fundamentally perfect, but turned out to have a very entrenched competitor that dominated the market. After spending too many months and too many dollars trying to get a foothold, I learned that sometimes you just have to accept that you made a mistake, cut your losses and move on. It was tough, but it taught me to be incredibly diligent in the research and preparation BEFORE making the leap to open a new location.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Some people are amazing idea machines, churning out great ideas all the time and lacking only the time and resources to put them into action. Unfortunately, that is not me. Others say that everyone has one great business idea in them. I used up mine to launch Nerds on Call.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
If I could snap my fingers and end war and suffering, I’m going to say that’s where I’d spend my “if you could change one thing” wish. Who wouldn’t? But if it has to be limited to a change I could realistically have an effect on it would be help to make people more comfortable with technology while protecting themselves from the dependence on gadgets; namely by offering guidance and education through my articles and media appearances, and offering up easy solutions to encourage users keep their data backup current.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I participated in Mock Trial, Student debate and conflict management in high school and these activities were one of the most formative to my ability to communicate effectively with others and feel comfortable presenting material in front of an audience. Even those that are well past the high school or college years should make an effort to learn how to effectively communicate with customers, co-workers and loved ones. It can save you a world of trouble!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Google calendar is a lifesaver – I can sync appointments across all my devices and share my calendar with my staff and family so that everyone knows what’s going on and where they need to be. No more missed dentist appointments or double booked appearances! I also utilize video chatting programs like Facetime and Skype to keep in touch with remote staff or hold video conferences. When your company Is spread out like mine, it’s tough to keep the employees in further locations feeling connected to the company and team. I also put in a lot of hours in the car, so Audible (an application used to download and stream audio books) is a great way to be productive when I’m on the road. I can catch up on the latest management or sales training book while getting where I’m going.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My management style is fundamentally based on Kenneth Blanchard’s series of books, “The One Minute Manager.” In “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey,” there is a piece of advice that roughly breaks down to, “everyone leaves my office with the monkey they came in with.” This is a great reminder that you hire smart, effective people. They’re capable of resolving problems. If you take on everything they bring to you, you’ll be overwhelmed and they’ll never grow to their full potential. Delegate, help them find the solution, and make sure they take the next step – don’t take on everyone’s monkeys or you’ll soon be living in a zoo.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Personally, I’m inundated with news, information and blurbs all day without frequenting Twitter, so I can only recommend the Twitter feeds that I find enjoyable: 1. I’m a big fan of Nerd fave Wil Wheaton. 2. Anyone who also enjoys the utter ridiculousness that is the Internet and doesn’t easily take offense may enjoy the sarcastic, often completely over-the-top and occasionally deplorable humor of Daniel Tosh (of Tosh.0): 3. What kind of girl Nerd would I be if I didn’t give a shout out to Felicia Day?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
At one of the grammatical “lessons” posted by The Oatmeal on Facebook – informative and hilarious, what more could you ask of the Internet?
Who is your hero, and why?
Um, besides Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, dedicating himself and eventually triumphing in the face of unthinkable obstacles? Well, if fictional characters are out I’d have to say teachers that have passionately dedicated their lives to helping others learn and succeed. I’ve met some amazing teachers and their effect on the students they touch can be transformative.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I live in a relatively small town. People I see in the grocery store know about my company, in many cases have used our services, and are usually excited to tell me about their great experience. That’s a wonderful feeling. Also, it’s great to get feedback from readers that tell me I’ve helped them get more comfortable with technology, particularly when it’s helped them to get more use out of their computer or gadget.
How do you define success?
Having the ability and confidence to make your own decisions, change course if you’re wrong, and stay true to yourself when challenged.