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Changing careers: former band director starts Active DataComm

Knowing the tough odds for new businesses to succeed, Johnny Fears set a goal of at least making a go of it for three years when he began Active DataComm in February 2001. The company provides on-site technical support and computer sales and service for businesses in the Tupelo and Lee County area.

Active DataComm surpassed that first goal and as it approaches the seven-year mark, the president and owner has set a new goal for 10 years. “I have to keep moving the carrot,” Fears said. “I will probably change the number of years for my goal.”

He describes his company as a mini IT department for customers who can purchase a number of hours for Active DataComm to proactively manage their networks and computers. Many are small businesses that don’t have full-time computer personnel.

“They may be small businesses but they use the same equipment and networks as large businesses,” Fears said. “We think of ourselves as an extension of their staff.”

Fears and the technicians who work for him provide software updates, backups, network connectivity, data security and protection, e-mail hosting and a variety of other computer services. They also provide the expertise to integrate these technological tools into each business’ processes.

“We monitor e-mails for them and may know of a problem before they do. We’re meeting a need,” he said. “We have pride that our customers trust us. If we can’t fix it, we won’t charge them for our time.”

Looking to the future, Fears plans to proactively market Active DataComm’s services with more emphasis on Web site hosting. With people having a need to be more mobile, he sees growth in remote services, too. He thinks he will add more technicians as the area grows with the Toyota plant and automotive suppliers.

“We are very proud and appreciative of our current client base and certainly welcome new clients who have needs for our services,” he said. “Our current clientele consists of churches, law firms, medical offices, insurance companies, real estate companies, manufacturers and community and government agencies.”

Fears didn’t set out in life to become a technology professional. He earned degrees in music education and was a band director at Tupelo Middle School. He also played with area bands during off hours. With music filling his life, he decided he needed a hobby. That hobby became technology after he utilized a grant to start a school program with 10 multi-media work stations for students.

“It was noticed by the administration, and I wound up with an office next to the principal supporting all the computers and technology, in addition to teaching 220 seventh- and eighth-graders a day,” he said. “That was at the time of trying to get computers in every classroom.”

In 1998, he moved to full-time technology with the school system and later took a technology job with a bank, changing his identity as he developed new skills. It was also during the computer-nervous Y2K time.

“I was in the right time at the right place and changed my identity without going back to college. It was a smooth transition,” Fears said. “I was able to step out and start my own business out of a metal building in my backyard. I wasn’t there long before I had to get a larger place.”

“I always had the desire to start my own business. My parents were self employed and I grew up with that encouragement.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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