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Back in the mainframe days – when desktop computing meant the computer was big enough to use as a desk – the right person at the right time could get into the computer business just by showing they had the required knowledge. Degrees and certifications came later.

It was during those “wild west days” of the computer industry in 1978 that Kevin Hart was introduced to computers.

“When I was in college, I took an assembler programmer class, and I was hooked,” he says.

Figuring he would prefer to get into the computer industry and find out whether he liked it before getting a degree in it, he followed up on a help wanted ad for a job at the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Conn.

“So I went in and talked to the folks and understood from another class what they were looking for, and I was hired,” Hart recalls. A succession of classes at different colleges and universities followed, during which Hart was recruited by MSA, the biggest software company in the world at the time, all before earning a college degree. His career took off so rapidly from there that he has yet to get that diploma. MSA eventually was absorbed into Dunn and Brandstreet Software, Hart reports.

High Enthusiasm

The enthusiasm for technology is what attracted Hart to Tekserve, which was founded 25 years ago in 1987 by Dick Demenus and David Lerner. Now one of the largest retailers and servicers of Apple products and related third-party merchandise in the United States, privately held Tekserve started in business by servicing Apple products and then evolved into selling them.

“I consider it an exceptional privilege to work here,” Hart emphasizes. “The excitement and enthusiasm this team has for what we do – people who work here are passionate. We are the complete Apple solution – emphasis on the ‘the’ – for the consumer or a business. If you go to an Apple retail store – you can’t question their success or model – they’ll have 700 to 800 SKUs. We have over 4,000 to accompany our products.”

Tekserve concentrates on helping its customers with complete systems they can morph to meet their future needs. Approximately 55 of the company’s 200 employees are technicians and technical consultants. “I would put this team up against anybody,” Hart asserts. “The work that we do on behalf of our clients – it’s amazing. These are the creative spaces and areas where people need knowledge and experience to actually make the technology work for them.”

Among the creative customers of Tekserve are the companies that broadcast the Super Bowl, the Olympics and national award shows like the Grammys. Customers also are being helped with their bring-your-own-device systems, in which employees of corporations select their own personal communication devices – such as iPhones or iPads – and then the company’s IT department has to ensure that they all can communicate successfully with the office and among themselves.

Hart thinks many of Tekserve’s retail customers are unaware of the company’s corporate component, which serves customers throughout North America. “Fifty-plus percent of our customers at Tekserve in the retail store use their devices to make money,” Hart estimates. “They are not just consumers – these are professionals. Sixty-five percent of our annual revenue comes from the corporate side of the business.

“We really pride ourselves on not just moving the boxes – that’s not interesting to us,” Hart adds. “We want people to keep coming back. At the end of the day, the only thing that separates us is the service we provide. We’re not making anything – we’re facilitating all the transactions. It’s got to be about the service.”

Hart estimates that 25 percent of the foot traffic in the company’s single retail store on 23rd Street in Manhattan is for service, but 20 percent of the revenue is from service, because approximately 5 percent of the service customers decide to replace their hardware, which Tekserve can sell them. “Tekserve also has an online sales presence, but that remains a small percentage of overall revenue, because people love to come here for the knowledge we provide,” Hart asserts.

Tech Mentors

Hart names two men as being strong mentors. “Who I consider to be the best leader I’ve ever worked for was John Inlay, CEO of MSA,” Hart remembers. “He was just a charismatic individual and really emphasized that the customer was key.”

Hart’s second most impressive mentor was Dave Girard, whom he worked for directly at MSA. “Dave was just a super-smart guy, just a brilliant man,” Hart maintains. “He was definitely my best mentor whether he knows it or not.” Hart says Girard went on to have a series of senior level positions in the computer industry and believes he is now retired.

Tekserve is celebrating its 25th anniversary by assembling a highly interactive store display that will cover not only the history of Tekserve but that of the computer industry and how it has affected people’s lives. For the future, the company plans to follow Apple’s strategy.

“It isn’t hard for Tekserve to be able to map our strategy when we see where our biggest partner, Apple, is going, and we continue to do that,” Hart relates. “It is becoming more and more an Apple world. It’s going to be very interesting over the next five years to see where all this technology plays out. I don’t think anybody has a clue.”

Nevertheless, one prediction Hart is willing to make is that he sees Apple’s many devices eventually becoming interchangeable so a task started on one can be completed on the other seamlessly. “I believe they’re all going to end up with the same operating system,” he forecasts. “That’s my prediction. I’ve been wrong before, but the technology is heading that way, and why wouldn’t they?”

For Tekserve, Hart sees continued growth helping businesses. “On our corporate and business side, we’re definitely expanding and growing,” he declares. “We’re doing projects throughout the U.S. based on our customers’ needs and will continue to expand that.”

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