Navigating Volatile Times with Olympia Computer

by Kathryn Millhorn • Photos courtesy of Olympia Computer and

Keeping up with the flow of business—especially over the last few years—is tricky enough. Now imagine juggling a small business as well as cutting-edge advances in computers, technology, data security, information backup and recovery, and website management. For Erik Johnson and the staff at Olympia Computer, that’s how each day goes. Experience, customer service, and adapting with the times are how they grow and thrive together as a team.

CEO Erik Johnson opened Olympia Computer five years ago but has been in the industry for almost three decades. He admits that things have been crazy lately but they’re pulling together to adapt. “Volatile times mean small business owners have to be like endurance auto race drivers,” he explains, “pedal to the metal when the going is good but always with one eye looking way down the road, ready to slow up a bit when the market throws us a curve or change course fast to avoid obstacles that can appear without warning.”

“The move to remote work has been a game changer for many businesses,” Johnson says. “But with all the problems brought on by COVID, something had to give and too often businesses let that something be good customer service.” Customers, however, still want to be treated properly so “those businesses that made customer care a priority saw it pay off. Many of the reviews we get from clients mention how much they appreciate our staff’s friendliness, helpfulness, and attention to their needs.”

When looking for new hires, Johnson doesn’t just greenlight resumes full of tech-industry buzzwords. Instead, he seeks out individuals with “eagerness; self-confidence; willingness to learn; honesty, of course; and great customer relations skills. I look for men or women who can see themselves on some sort of path for growth within our company. I can teach new hires advanced computer tech skills they might need, but I can’t instill that desire to grow with a successful business—they have to come with that.”

Olympia Computer currently has an on-the-job trainee placed by the Thurston Chamber who paired his education with a training scholarship. “Gabriel Marbourg is a wonderful addition to the Olympia Computer team,” says Johnson. “He is a very fast learner and has already shown amazing people skills.”

“We feel very lucky to have found someone with both tech and people skills,” continues Johnson. “And Gabe has shown real interest in getting both work experience and the training we can provide in hardware repair, server management, and networking. Today I see a different kind of employee, one less motivated by money or future opportunities but more motivated by what we used to call perks like free food in the break room, flexible hours, and the chance to be creative.”

Homegrown hires like Gabe are a great way to continue and expand, even with today’s volatility. “We are actively working on growing our company and plan to offer our services by next year from Portland to Seattle. Of course, growth requires adding good people, so we hope to continue to partner with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce and this great trainee program.”

The program is mutually beneficial, says Johnson. “Interesting, challenging, and meaningful work with a dynamic company like Olympia Computer is good for your interns but helping those interns grow and gather the life-long skill sets that prepare them to work anywhere is extremely rewarding for us as well. It’s that ultimate win/win for which we continually strive.”

Olympia Computer is located at 209 Washington Street NE downtown and can be reached at 360.995.1010 seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can also email questions or sign up for their Tech Tips blog of tips, scam and virus alerts, and special offers.

“What’s clear is that thriving in the future will not mean the absence of challenges and disruptions,” say industry experts.

“Rather, it means adapting, adjusting, prioritizing, and creating resilience to manage through instability…By shifting the way we think about work, the workforce, and workplaces—and by focusing on re-architecting work, unleashing human potential, and adapting the workplace environment—organizations can build resilience, capitalize on their ability to evolve with dynamic stability, and start to thrive.”

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