By Jennifer Rader
Manassas Park couple Andrew and Amanda Harper founded their full-service IT consulting firm, Gaeltek, LLC Technology Solutions, in March 2004 after Scotland native and retired British Royal Navy Lt. Commander Andrew Harper, the company’s CEO, realized that small businesses do not always receive quality IT service.
With a mission to fill the IT needs of smaller organizations and to concentrate on customer relationships, Gaeltek, located in Manassas, has grown to include clients throughout the U.S. and Canada and has evolved into a nationally recognized thought leader and model for other IT businesses.
Prince William Living caught up with co-owner Gaeltek President Amanda Harper for insight into the creation and values of this successful company.
PWL: Explain the motivation behind Gaeltek’s start.
Harper: Andrew … joined the staff of a local IT company that worked with local businesses. He soon realized that the IT company treated and responded to its clients [based] on their size and how much they paid each month. So the larger the client [and] the more they paid each month, the higher priority they were given. [The small businesses] were almost an afterthought. … He felt very strongly that the small business owners and their teams deserved much better treatment and service.
PWL: Why did you locate your company in Prince William?
Harper: When we first started our business, Andrew worked from our home in Vienna, but as the business grew and we decided to move to Manassas Park, there was no doubt that the business office would move with us. We wanted to live and work in the same community; that has always been very important to us. For several years our office was in Manassas Park, but I loved Old Town Manassas and made it a goal to open our office there. We moved [the firm] to Old Town in 2012.
Our team loves the neighborhood. … Each time I talk about moving—we need larger office space—the first thing our team says is, “We better not leave Old Town!”
PWL: What sets Gaeltek apart from other IT industry companies, and how did you create your niche?
Harper: We were identified as one of the 40 most innovative IT companies in North America in 2010 for our innovations in service delivery, pricing and more. Years ago we began offering a “Thrilled Today or You Don’t Pay” money-back guarantee. We are so confident in the support and services we offer our clients that we back that up with a guarantee that other IT firms in the area do not make. … We have never had a client ask for money back.
We have stayed true to the small businesses that inspired Andrew to start Gaeltek. The typical client that we work with has three to 50 users and provides professional services. [They include] law firms, CPAs, architects, medical practices and financial services, for example.
PWL: What has been the most effective way to get your services in front of potential markets and clients?
Harper: We are active in our community, both locally within [Prince William and] also within the IT industry. We meet people and really get to know them. When someone calls us asking for IT help, we know them, their business, how they work and can relate to them because of shared experiences and community. We get our services in front of potential clients through referrals, a great form of flattery. And, of course, we also share our knowledge [and information about our services] through free educational events, online and [at] community events.
PWL: How did your company get its name?
Harper: We wanted a name that reflected Andrew’s Scottish heritage so we began to play around with Gaelic and soon came to Gael-Tech. That ultimately became Gaeltek.
PWL: What was the biggest challenge you two overcame?
Harper: When we started Gaeltek, we were forced to work together and to learn to do it in such a way that we weren’t asking for a divorce at the end of each day. We both have different strengths and weaknesses, and it took us some time to figure out how to best work to our strengths while helping each other with our weaknesses.
PWL: Did either of you ever think you would become business owners?
Harper: Given what Andrew wanted to do—provide outstanding IT support to small businesses—it’s no surprise that we became business owners. He had a very definite vision for how we would provide high-quality support. … Also, both of my parents have owned multiple businesses and Andrew’s father also was a small business owner in Scotland. I knew how hard being a business owner could be, and I told Andrew I didn’t want any part of it. But Andrew had a dream and I believed in him and his dream.
PWL: How does Gaeltek address the ever-evolving trend of green technologies?
Harper: Gaeltek is committed to environmental sustainability and green technologies in all of our business activities. … We seek out vendors who have optimized their packaging process to reduce waste packaging, which means less material ending up in landfills. We use and advise others to use products, especially computers, that have Energy Star ratings, to help reduce energy bills. We implement tools to minimize our computing energy consumption without sacrificing computer performance.
For example, we can use Power Manager tools to centrally control computing energy consumption to help reduce energy use. We can and do lower screen brightness settings during start-up, shut- down, screensaver and other modes to extend battery life, and we deploy power schemes and settings to boost energy savings. We also [securely] recycle hardware and printer products.
PWL: What would you advise others considering a business venture?
Harper: Go for it! Don’t let fear stop you from trying. Be bold, take chances and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Also, be open to where your journey takes you. You’ll have to make decisions, react to news and obstacles not always within your control and … roll with the punches.
Where you are starting and the goal you have in mind may be much different than where you end up, but remember to enjoy the journey. Be filled with gratitude that you are brave enough to undertake opening your own business and be thankful that every day you have another opportunity to leave your mark.
Freelance writer Jennifer Rader is also a certified massage therapist with a background in nutrition, wellness, fundraising and entrepreneurship. She lives with her son and husband in Manassas and can be reached at [email protected]