Leland — After Key Reifers had worked for Big D. Inc. for 16 years selling IBM products, he was mulling his next career move when a light bulb went on. Why not buy the business, rename it, and expand its product offerings and services to complement the movement toward computerization in the workplace?
In 1996, Reifers bought the Valcom (Inacom Corp.) franchise from the Barger family of Greenwood, changed the name to Key Solutions, and with business partners John Dillard and Keith King, made sweeping changes to the business, starting with non-renewing the IBM contract. Instead, the company began selling computer systems built specifically for Key Solutions.
With a staff of three, Reifers, who had managed the business since 1984, handled all the service work with the help of a part-time technician. Initially, the company sold mostly hardware until Reifers moved the bulk of business to mostly service.
“The demand for computer sales and service has grown at a phenomenal rate since the personal computer was introduced in the early 1980s,” said Reifers. “Our firm, since its inception, has adhered to a very solid business philosophy: service, service and service. We want our customers to be satisfied and happy. We like for our technicians, in many ways, to be like your banker or accountant, someone you can call as well as rely on, to give sound advice and personal service. We don’t have operators taking calls halfway around the world. You can talk to a real person, who can usually be at your place of business, government office, school or home the same business day.”
Reifers has expanded company operations from its base in Leland, near Greenville, to offices in Clarksdale, Cleveland and Greenwood. By the end of July, Reifers plans to open a fifth office, in Madison, to service a growing number of clients in the metro Jackson area.
“A couple of folks came up to me after they learned we were opening a business in Madison, and said, ‘So you’re leaving the Delta?’ because we all knew that a couple of places that had moved to Jackson had closed their Delta locations,” said Reifers. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t want people to think we’re closing. The Delta’s been too good to us and we’re just expanding.’”
Within the next two years, Reifers plans to open an office in Memphis to service customers in Horn Lake, Batesville and Sardis and other North Mississippi cities.
In the last eight years, business has grown at least 10% to 15% per year, and the staff has grown to 15.
“We’ve been real pleased,” said Reifers. “I still have customers from 24 years ago that have upgraded and gone through cycles of replacing machines, sometimes 10 times. They’ve also brought us many referrals.”
In 2002, the principals of Key Solutions established a new firm, Document Imaging Solutions, LLC, a certified LaserFiche and Smead reseller. LaserFiche is a leading provider of Document Imaging and archival software and SMEAD is a leading supplier of paper filing products and Filing System software. Based in Cleveland and managed by King, the subsidiary will have a significant presence in the Madison office, primarily serving the banking, legal and medical communities.
Key Solutions sells HP/Compaq, Dell and AOpen personal computers, laptops and servers; a broad range of software and printers, cameras, scanners and PDAs; hubs, routers, cabling and VPN by Linksys and Cisco; and other computer supplies. Information can be accessed via keysolution.com.
“We’re seeing a trend toward more small business and residential offices, with many homes having two or three computers with wireless networking,” said Reifers. “That market has really grown.”
But Key Solutions does not sell office equipment. “We don’t run price ads or try to compete with Office Depot, but if you want a full-service computer company to sell you a computer, set it up and do whatever it takes to get it working, and take care of it when you have a problem, that’s what we do,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.