Business is good, life is great in South Waikato
A profile of Odeon Computer's Leon FordBy Darren Greenwood, Auckland | Friday, 15 July 2011
Leon Ford was born in the UK, but settled in the South Waikato when he followed his first wife home to Tokoroa. Though the marriage did not last, Ford has established himself in New Zealand.
He remarried and founded Odeon Computers in Putaruru, about 25 kilometres west of Lake Taupo, a business Ford so closely associated with his second wife that the word Odeon is actually a portmanteau of their first names — Odette and Leon — not a reference to an old cinema.
Ford began his IT career in Northamptonshire, England, where a course in IT and administration led to data entry, sales and administration for two power companies.
He met his first wife while in school and after having a child, they moved to Tokoroa, her home town, in 1998, hopeful of better opportunities. The 24-year-old Ford did not find a role in his field, and he ended up in a local bakery.
“It was very hard work, long hours, but great pay. It taught me about time management though.”
Ford, meanwhile, continued looking for a more suitable position until he was hired on as a technician at South Waikato Computers in Putaruru.
“I was lucky enough to get the job [based] on my sales experience, as they wanted someone who could sell and they were willing to pay for courses to bring me up to speed on the technical side of things,” he says.
A year later from his wife he moved to Putaruru and after another year he started seeing Odette, a South Waikato Computers co-worker. The two became a serious item and when the shop closed in 2004, they took over the lease. Odeon was ‘born’.
Odette has since moved on “to follow her passion of real estate”, and the business has hired a young worker named Kelvin to take up the slack and has since grown “from strength to strength”.
Ford says word-of-mouth in a small town means customer service must be second to none.
“It is vital we get to know our customer personally, so that we know their needs and many of them have become personal friends. When it comes to computer repairs, trust and honesty is a must and we have spent a long time building that trust with many of our clients,” he says.
“We make sure we are honest and talk technical without the jargon. Understanding computers is our job not the customers. It is our job to translate the technical stuff so people understand what they are actually paying for.”
Odeon services customers IT requirements from Taupo to as far west as Otorohanga 71 km away. Half his customer base are businesses, the other consumers.
Odeon has formed relationships with many suppliers including JDI Ltd and Arche, though during the recession the company started making its own computers. Now, it gets most supplies from Synnex, PB Tech and Ingram Micro, which all provide great support and next-day delivery, Ford says.
Odeon Computer Services is a sales, servicing and website design company with helpdesk support.
“We have to provide a range of services. If we can’t or don’t do it, I will find someone who can,” he says.
Business has consistently grown and Ford is keen not to be left behind as technology changes.
“We have seen a huge increase in laptop repairs just this year, so we intend to extend our range of accessories and options for these devices,” he says.
The company has also recently started selling external, Clickfree backup devices and is looking to offer online backup services as well.
Ford says having a presence in town is great and that his operating hours give him time for fishing trips to Tapu, just north of Thames, where the family keep a caravan.
“I love being by the sea and intend to live there long term. Last year, we purchased a property with a couple of acres, so if I am not at the beach fishing, I am on my ride on lawnmower. Life’s great.”
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