Small Business Spotlight: Red Magnet, Tupelo
by Laura Smith
Published: October 31,2010
Having a plan in place
Red Magnet draws clients with talent and experience for IT
Hoping to hedge against the sluggish economy two years ago, Red Magnet owner Eric Gibens slowly rolled out a proactive maintenance plan for his top three clients.
The plan was informal at first and provided a way for Gibens to save both his company and his clients’ companies’ money.
“I could offer my clients a discounted rate because I was able to schedule those maintenance calls out and not have employees sitting around waiting for the phone to ring,” Gibens said.
He offered the plan to his biggest three clients, and the initial three still have the plan. Today, Red Magnet, an IT company that services mostly small- to mid-size companies in the Tupelo area, offers the plan to its other clients.
“For me, I wasn’t concerned with growth (during the economic downturn), I wanted to maintain what we had and build on our solid foundation,” he said. “Over the past two years, we’ve seen a benefit to what we’ve been doing. It was a no-brainer.”
Red Magnet was formed in 1999 by bringing several companies under one roof. The separate companies combined to offer software training, hardware and software experience and programming. In 2004, Gibens bought out the remaining partners.
The company offers IT management for businesses, computer repair and service, networking and programming services. In 2004, the company created Gibens Creative Group, which expanded existing web development services to offer total marketing services.
“That expansion was due to talent,” Gibens said. “We had recruited the talent – we had people with master’s degrees in art sitting here, so now we offer a full line of marketing services.”
Gibens said what has set Red Magnet apart has been its commitment to customer service.
“A lot of times, the client doesn’t know what system he has, he just knows he needs it to do X,Y and Z for him to be able to do his job,” he said, noting that Red Magnet’s focus has been to hire highly-skilled technicians with the ability to understand and interpret clients’ unique IT needs.
Another challenge is keeping talent on staff in an industry that’s known for its high rate of turnover.
“My biggest challenge is preventing us from becoming a training ground for other companies,” Gibens said. “I face that every day and try to prevent that through good benefits and pay, but it is tough when you are competing with clients that are larger than yours, with deeper pockets.”
Red Magnet services between 200 to 300 clients annually with businesses that have as few as two computers to as many as 250.
“Most companies are not going to hire a programmer to work 50 weeks a year unless they’re in programming,” Gibens said. “Even if they have an IT administrator, everything changes so much and so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. We provide that solution.”
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