Jackson — Perhaps if Bernard Crump hadn’t gone into computer networking and programming, he would have chosen crisis management as his full-time field. As it is, he splits most of his days doing a little of both, because when Crump gets a call, there is often someone on the other end who has an “emergency” and is frantic.
“I just let them blow off steam,” Crump said with a smile. “Then, after they calm down, I ask them to tell me what the problem is and start looking for a solution. This is a people business. Good customer service is the backbone of any successful business. That’s what I believe in.”
It is this belief that led Crump into entrepreneurship. A native of Jackson, he became interested in physics when his brother was taking a course at a local junior college. Even he can’t explain how it happened, but this initial interest in physics led him to a keener interest in electronics.
Originally, Crump planned on sticking to computer repair. But he ended up attending Hinds Community College where he studied micro technology. While at Hinds, Crump and some of his classmates began programming work for Hughes Aircraft. He was planning on going to work for the corporation full-time upon graduation, but he ended up switching gears and started working in networking and programming for some local companies. It was while working for others that Crump developed his philosophy of putting service first.
A past employer was looking to grow the company with a strategy of gaining a large customer base, then hiring personnel to support those customers. Crump believed that concept was skewed. He felt the company was too thin to support the number of customers envisioned, and, even if it meant outsourcing the work, the company needed the support in place first before recruiting clients.
So, after a friendly, professional parting, Crump went to work on his own. He promised his former employer that he wouldn’t solicit work from his customers, but if they called him, he would support them. He was pleasantly surprised at how many of those customers kept calling him for service. That was four years ago, and Crump has never looked back.
From word-of-mouth and referrals only, Crump has gained, and worked with, a wide range of customers, from home users and nonprofits to large corporations. These include such heavy hitters as Duke Energy and Shell. He has stayed busy — at one point, too much so.
“There was a time when I was running myself ragged trying to support all my customers,” Crump said. “I learned I had to be more selective in the projects I took on, and to outsource those especially time-consuming jobs. It’s a balancing act. Outsourcing and running from one job to the next doesn’t build relationships. So, I’ve had to learn which clients I should outsource and which I shouldn’t.”
While Crump’s bread-and-butter business remains networking and programming, he said he is being asked more and more to come in as a consultant to help businesses and individuals with their present and future computing needs. He also is spending more time with his customers talking about voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), which he says is on the verge of being the “next big thing” in communications technology.
Crump said one of the keys to his success is his experience. He said all new technology is built off a platform of existing hardware and software. And after 14 years, he has seen about everything.
“There are a lot of people starting out in the business today who don’t even know what DOS is,” he said. “They’ve never typed anything at the ‘C’ prompt in their lives.”
While consulting is less strenuous than dealing with “emergency” computer issues, Crump seems well suited for the stress.
“Computers can bring you to your knees,” he said. “I could go in like I’m Superman with my chest all puffed out, but computers can prove me wrong. If they think I’m Superman after I’ve fixed the problem and walking out the door, well, that’s OK.”
While entrepreneurship can be demanding, Crump said he loves the flexibility. Though his career keeps him indoors sitting at a computer, Crump is an avid outdoorsman, and being his own boss allows him more freedom to fish and hunt. It also provides the time for him to spend more time with his daughters Brianna, 10, and Camille, four, and his wife, LeVora. (Crump has maintained personal and professional ties with some of his micro technology classmates, and they fill in for each other when needed, as well as feed each other new business.)
When asked what advice he would give to others contemplating going into his field, Crump said, “It’s all about service — period. It’s about your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. It’s all about serving people.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.