Firm mixes style

Ben Bowman

Go ahead, call them geeks.
But the Minneapolis-based Geek Squad is one of the hottest and most interesting computer repair and fix-it shops. Now in its fifth year of operation, the Geek Squad’s unique business culture and serious work ethic is attracting high-quality employees and loyal clientele.
Robert Stephens started the Geek Squad in April 1994 while he was still a University College student. At the time, Stephens was traversing the city on his bicycle fixing computers. He found he liked his job so much that he dropped out of school to pursue it.
“I had no choice,” Stephens said. “I had to make it work.”
The Geek Squad has since expanded to 27 special agents, the firm’s official employee title. And instead of bicycles, agents drive either vintage vehicles or one of the firm’s seven new Volkswagen Bugs.
Eric Kimmel, a senior in the Institute of Technology and one of two University students working for Geek Squad, has been a special agent for nearly two years. After he graduates this August, he plans on keeping his post as director of intelligence, a position under which he locates hard-to-find parts and keeps the staff abreast of new technology. Kimmel said he’s staying with the company largely because of Stephens, whom he calls “the best boss ever.”
Stephens’ high rating, especially for a boss, has everything to do with making work fun. “We attract good people because we make computer repair glamorous,” Stephens said.
Part of the glamour is derived from the clients they serve. The Rolling Stones is just one of the high-profile clients the Geek Squad works with.
In fact, since the Geek Squad assists many bands and restaurants, complimentary front row tickets or the best table in the house are common perks for Geek Squad agents. “It’s like being in the mafia,” claimed Stephens. “Only it’s legal.”
The moviefstar treatment isn’t just a benefit of the cool cars of the special agent badges the geeks carry. The big attraction, and the reason for the firm’s success, is the quality of its work.
The Geek Squad makes itself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For service calls that come in after 5 p.m., customers are guaranteed a return call within four minutes — a commitment matched by few in the profession. The four-minute rule backs up Stephens’ business philosophy that “everything is an emergency to the customer.”
The Geek Squad’s flat-rate fee structure is especially attractive to clients. Bills are based on the actual work to be completed rather than on a per-hour basis. This billing policy eliminates the shock and billing errors that sometimes accompanies technical repair.
Companies as far away as California use the Geek Squad as their computer repair firm. A company can send a computer overnight for $50 and have it back faster than the customary three-week wait for computer repairs in California.
Even the University’s finance department regularly calls the Squad for technical help.
Becky Wallace, director of the finance department, notes that she heard of the Geek Squad a few years ago from an article in People Magazine. “I looked at these computer people that were actually calling themselves ‘geeks,'” she said. Even so, Wallace gave them her stamp of approval, saying that they are very knowledgeable and that “they’re lots of fun to have around.”