In the back shop at Absolute Computers, a big fat snake, two large toads and a bright green chameleon relax under the heat lamps attached to their terrariums.
D.J. Jones, a technician at the Cary computer fix-it shop, was worried he wouldn’t be able to keep his critters warm during the recent icy weather, so his boss, shop owner Bob Taylor, allowed him to bring his pets to work.
At his former job at IBM, Taylor never would have been able to invite guests of the reptilian kind to shelter among hard drives and motherboards. But in his small business, he can help an employee any way he pleases.
Taylor grew up in rural Pennsylvania. His dad and three uncles owned a mining company, and Taylor reckons his entrepreneurial spirit is a family trait.
“My dad had a business the whole time I was growing up, and I think that made me always want a business of my own,” he said.
Taylor started his career at IBM in New York, and transferred to the Research Triangle Park campus in 1987. In 2009, he retired after 30 years of working in microelectronics and management.
“I loved IBM, but I was ready to stop working 80-hour weeks. However, I still wanted to keep working,” he said.
He decided to start his own company, and spent two years looking for the right fit.
Taylor considered everything from auto shop franchises to maid services, and was eventually connected to Absolute Computers through a sales broker on BizBuySell.com. He bought the repair company, which had opened in 2000, in February 2012.
“I wanted a business I could feel good about. I had no desire to become the next Google or Microsoft,” Taylor said. “I wanted to stay small.”
His customers include some who have been coming to the shop since before he bought it, along with others who are devastated by crashed hard drives or viruses, certain their photos are lost forever.
Along with selling refurbished computers, Taylor provides services for other small businesses. Other computer repair shops send machines his way, some from as far away as Minnesota.
Taylor’s prices range from $60 to $100 per hour, and he offers free diagnostics because he doesn’t want to charge customers to learn their computer is dead.
Taylor largely left the shop and its website the same as it was when he bought it. For marketing, Taylor uses word-of-mouth, Google AdWords and search engine optimization techniques.
Absolute Computers is tucked away in a small shopping center at the corner of Cary Parkway and Old Apex Road. Only the simple word “Laptops” over the door gives the shop away.
“Cary has a strict sign ordinance,” he said. “Signs must be a certain size and they can only have a certain number of letters. Absolute Computers just doesn’t fit, so I tell people to look for ‘laptops.’ ”
He also can’t post a sign on the roadway directing customers to his shop; however, he laughs when he describes how GPS devices lead people to his back door instead of the front.
It’s all just part of the small-business experience, and he loves everything that comes with it, even the snake, toads and lizards.
Reach Teri Saylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @terisaylor.