Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us a little about Harry's its specialties, its history, the size of its staff:
Gary Foote: Fundamentally we have four areas of business computer and printer repair, time and attendance systems, identification card and vanity card systems and technology consulting/computer and server sales.
My grandfather started the business in 1928 (hence our domain name "since1928.com"). The history of the business is an article all its own and can be found on our Web site. My dad had enough foresight to get into the computer business in 1979 that was just before I came into the business so we've seen tremendous change over the years, as well as during my tenure. Technology continues to advance. (For the most part, I'd like to think of myself as a technology realist. There are too many technology "pushers" out there). There is so much to know, in so many diverse areas. We like to take a contrarian approach to this. Frankly no one is an "expert." Anybody that says they are is a liar as no one knows everything. Everybody works better together if we start from that perspective.
We have 12 employees altogether administrative, general equipment service, computer service, and technology consulting. Some time ago we made the decision to represent the sales side of our company with our technical staff. We have much higher levels of client satisfaction when the person representing a product hardware, software, consulting, etc. is the one that is going to install, train, and make the whole system work.
NNBW: What role do you play in the company?
Foote: I wear many hats, as do others in my company and frankly in most small businesses. My predominant role is to assist our clients on the I.T. consulting side.
NNBW: What kind of boss are you?
Foote: Driven, demanding, but generally hands off.
NNBW: What are the most important things you do as a manager?
Foote: Counsel conveying my experience. There's not enough time for that most of the time, though.
NNBW: Why did you choose to remain with the family business?
Foote: I worked in the business while going to college at Nevada. At the time I graduated, I had a couple of alternatives to work in other professions, but I had built up my income by that time, and I would have had to take a significant pay cut. I think it was a truly unique and valuable experience to work in the business world at the same time I was going to school. The knowledge gained from one contributed greatly to the other.
NNBW: What were the challenges of joining a family company rather than striking out on your own? How did you address these challenges?
Foote: I don't think the challenges are much different than joining any other existing company you can't go into the company and throw your weight around before gaining experience, putting in your dues. Certainly there is the classic stereotype of the S.O.B son of boss but I've always had a relentless work ethic and have tried to buck that stereotype by working harder and longer than anyone else.
NNBW: What do you enjoy about the business?
Foote: All the variety of technologies hardware, software, different possibilities of putting systems together. The wide range of clients, applications, range of adoption of technology. Troubleshooting, though aggravating at times during the process, is satisfying in the end. I enjoy trying to improve my profession, all the while realizing that I'm just one guy in Reno. But I've had influence on the way companies do business, build their product, give support or write documentation, and ... I enjoy helping people. The "thank you" from clients is priceless, and I enjoy the wide diversity of clients, applications, problems to troubleshoot and technical situations.
I also, perhaps perversely, enjoy holding vendors' feet to the fire holding them to a higher standard of professionalism and generally helping them to do a better job.
NNBW: What do you find annoying about it?
Foote: Not much. I try not to dwell on that too much or too long. Generally, arrogance, bureaucracy, and unconscious incompetence are traits that grate on me that's where I try taking the "glass-is-half-full" approach and try to improve systems and processes (like vendors, mentioned above).
NNBW: Tell us about the reasons you are playing a leadership role in the Reno Angels.
Foote: Dave Archer of NCET brought the people together that might be interested; I tend to have a predisposition to "do it now" when things make sense, so it was natural for me to say "Let's go" moving ahead with the basics of putting the organization together with the core group of members.
I, and the Angels, have a variety of motivations for being involved beyond the potential to make money to help create opportunities for my kids, counsel entrepreneurs, clear out my mental cobwebs, etc. It's been an interesting, educational process for instance, nationally, only 1-2 percent of companies that apply are funded. It requires the right combination of a number of factors personnel, product offering, intellectual property, growth potential, etc.
NNBW: If you could have a do-over on your career, what would you differently the next time around?
Foote: There are so many possible different paths that could be taken over the years there millions of "what-ifs." I don't think about these things. It's not productive.
NNBW: How do you spend your time away from business? Why are these activities important to you?
Foote: Home, family they're my bastion of sanity, along with my friends and my Rotary Club.
NNBW: What are your proudest moments professionally? In your personal life?
Foote: Professionally? When clients include me/us as a key, trusted resource, when we develop our client relationship (sometimes over years) to meet our motto, "Your Technology Partner." I cannot understate the value of the trust our clients have in us.
I vividly recall an incident when I had an argument with an accounting software company tech in a client's office. The owner brought us both into his office, and heard us both out then told the tech that he'd listen to him, but that he trusted me.
When a client feels comfortable calling me day or night no one abuses it but to get a call - "Hey, I've got a problem, can you help me out?" - responding promptly, getting to work and getting it done. It's satisfying to be able to help someone.
Personally, my kids - two daughters, 18 and 13, and my son, 8 - they're each so admirable in many ways; I'm very proud of them.
NNBW: How is your industry in northern Nevada changing in the current economic climate?
Foote: Change is the word; still getting a handle on things now. Not that it was ever easy, but today's climate is a challenge for everyone.
NBNW: What changes are you seeing in Harry's to deal with the new business environment? Are these difficult changes to implement?
Foote: We just have to continue to get better every day, be ever more responsive to our clients. New products, new markets, as we see demand. Virtualization and hosted applications will continue to change the way companies use technology. At nearly every size of business.
NNBW: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Foote: Something my dad said growing up which as a child, I took as more of an off-hand answer to a question the simple answer of "whatever's right." It wasn't until later that I realized the significance of the simple words, but it's applicable in so many situations and either draws out more information or makes the questioner do some soul searching. What should you do in a given situation? Answer: "Whatever's right."
Name: Gary Foote
Professional position: Harry's Business Machines Inc., president and computer consultant
How long have you been in this profession? Things continually change with technology, so there's an evolving role. Since I'm the 3rd generation owner, I suppose you could say "since birth." Actually, it's just shy of 30 years wow, hard to fathom things change so quickly in technology.
First job? I was an intern in the school district data processing department during high school.
Education: B.S. in accounting and information systems. Every day is an opportunity to learn.
Best book you've read? Read? A book? Who has time for that? I read a lot of technical material, political and policy material Best book? Fiction? probably one of Tom Clancy's....
What's on your iPod? A real mix pop/rock/country. My daughter converted the whole family to country a couple of years ago after she was embarrassed hearing some of the lyrics in hip-hop/rap when she was listening to it around her little brother.
The best movie ever? I'm not really much of a movie buff I suppose you could pigeon hole me in a given genre from "Rocky" to "Rudy" to "Remember the Titans."