This past weekend, I tuned into 60 Minutes, as I do most Sunday evenings, to wind down, and I came across an interview that one of their correspondents did with a former U.S. Marine who is now an SMB. The clip, titled, “Succeeding as Civilians,” featured a veteran, who had been injured during combat, and got his start as a small business owner through a program designed to help disabled and wounded veterans literally get back on their feet and get into business.
It made me think, while watching this 60 Minutes clip, on how I have recently spoken to many IT members in our community who are former military. One such conversation I had recently was with Joseph Bettencourt, Founder and CEO of Portland Computerworks. While Bettencourt was thankfully, not wounded during his military tour, he took the experience he picked up during his time at tech school in the U.S. Air Force, for Computer Information Systems. He told me that he was one of four chosen out of more than 300 students for a special assignment working at a Computer Forensics Laboratory near the NSA. By the time Bettencourt finished his military experience, he picked up various Computer Certifications from the Department of Defense Computer Training Institute as well as computer training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.
(Pictured at right): Joseph Bettencourt, Founder and CEO, Portland Computerworks
Now, Bettencourt runs Portland Computerworks, an IT shop he founded about two years ago. Located above a brew pub in downtown Tigard, OR, Portland Computerworks specializes in everything from laptop repair, virus removal and screen replacement, to upgrades, computer tune-ups and Web hosting and design.
Bettencourt admits that while he enjoyed his time in the Air Force, he wanted to get back to his Portland roots, and back into IT. “When I got back to Portland, I took a full-time job doing computer work, and I felt I was not utilizing my full skill set,” he says. “I had on-site clients, but I wanted to do more, and I realized my goal was that I wanted to keep those clients, and also expand into service.”
Another reason why Bettencourt says he started Portland Computerworks was because he was always interested in technology from a very young age, and, he admits, he wanted to be his own boss. He adds that he opened his business with the intention of not knowing what would happen. He even admits that he told the landlord he didn’t want to sign a yearly lease because he wasn’t sure if his company would make it, based on the risk. Bettencourt says the landlord agreed, and took a risk as well, and two years later, both are reaping the positive benefits: Portland Computerworks is now ranked #1 in his local area and vicinity.
Currently, Portland Computerworks is staffed by one person, Bettencourt himself. He has office hours from Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and by appointment, which allows him to service by on-site and in his shop.
Of course, as a small business owner myself, I wanted to know the secret to Bettencourt’s literal overnight success in just two years. I asked him for his “secret sauce recipe,” and his response was unexpected: Positive reviews on Yelp. Bettencourt said that about 45 percent of his business comes from locals looking for a reputable and reliable IT repair shop, and they have taken to Yelp to check things out. If you go to Portland Computerworks’ page on Yelp, you will see that Bettencourt and his company have garnered much praise and accolades. At last count, Portland Computerworks has 17 reviews, all of which have earned the company a rating of 4 stars or higher.
Regarding the future, Bettencourt says that another one of his “secrets” is that he tries to stay current and on top of technologies so that he can advise his clients before they even ask for his recommendations. “You have these guys running computer shops, but they haven’t spent enough time up to date to how much IT has changed in the last few years,” he shared. “One, they haven’t spent the time to advertise or advertise correctly and they haven’t kept up with technology as it is changing. I have had three shops in the area that have sent customers to me because they could not help them, and I could. It’s a tough market, and I am, by no means, ‘rolling in the dough.’ However I have only been around for a couple of years, and unfortunately I am seeing others struggling who have been around for longer than I am because they are not keeping current with changing technologies.”