Who is Chris Barber and what is Cheaper Than a Geek?
Cheaper Than a Geek is a Maryland-based IT support company founded 23 years ago after founder and Chief Nerd Chris Barber experienced and witnessed firsthand that people and businesses were finding it difficult to secure quality, top-notch IT support that prioritized customer service above all else. By putting the customer and their needs first – and making IT support both affordable and easy for non-IT experts to understand – Cheaper Than a Geek has grown steadily over the years, having assisted more than 6,500 clients with nearly 20,000 projects.
What’s more, the team at Cheaper Than a Geek has earned a sound reputation for excellent customer service, earning more awards than any other IT company in the state and stellar reviews and recommendations from their clients. In addition to providing excellent and much needed support to small businesses and businesses for computer, technology and cybersecurity needs, the team at Cheaper Than a Geek takes supporting their employees and community very seriously.
We sat down with Chris to get his insights on entrepreneurship, the Maryland business community, and more. Learn more in our Q&A below:
What inspired you to start your business?
I had an interest in computers and decided to try my hand at building a computer on my own. I was amazed when it worked – how awesome – but then, a short time later, it wouldn’t start up. I took it to a local computer repair store in the hopes they could help – but had a really disappointing experience. That experience opened my eyes to an important void in the business community that I decided to solve and fill by creating a customer-first IT company.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your journey of starting and operating a business?
Well, the first revelation is I traded one boss for hundreds! After that initial surprise I quickly learned hiring talent in the IT space is challenging due to my insistence the customer experience always be a good one.
How did you overcome that?
After lots of research and reflection, I realized the common driver of the snarky IT technician we’ve all dealt with before. Quite simply, we are on the receiving end of folks having technology issues and they are often in a bad place, mentally. You can imagine being on the receiving end of that day in and day out can be draining. And POOF- there you have a typical IT technician. But there is a solution: a sense of humor. If you can professionally laugh off a crisis while focusing on being the firefighter getting the kitten out of the tree; the client is happy, the technician is happy, and life goes on. So, one of the core tenants I look for in perspective employees is a well-developed sense of humor.
You focus on customer service in a very tech-oriented field. Why is that important?
Businesses and residents depend on their computers, technology and IT systems in huge ways. We take great pride in taking care of each of our customers’ needs personally and with great care, helping to make sure their exact needs are met. Every phone call and interaction is handled by a live human being by an expert that has a wealth of knowledge and experience to help with problems big and small. Everything we do has customer service baked in. I insist on it!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting or expanding their own business?
I tell anyone with ears that owning a business is extremely rewarding, and often also very trying. If you ask 100 business owners if the journey was easy, 100 would say heck no! So, if you are thinking about going into business, prepare yourself mentally for challenges from vendors, customers, and even your employees. If you are ready for that, it’s a whole lot easier!
What are some of the plans you’re focusing on for Cheaper Than a Geek and your customers?
We are continuing to adapt and enhance our cyber security work. At the end of the day, security is the most important portion of technology to our clients. I am pleased to report we won the Maryland Cyber Security Association’s Best Cyber Security Company late last year. But we are not resting on our laurels, it’s through constant change and innovation we’ve gotten this far and that will never change.
You’re incredibly involved in the business community, including with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. What are some of the benefits you’ve seen and lessons you’ve learned through that involvement?
I pride myself on being a very “pay it forward” type of person. Through my involvement with the business community, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with some of the most talented and accomplished individuals in Maryland. What I’ve learned and gained from getting to know these remarkable people taught me the value of sharing knowledge and experience to benefit others. And, I have noticed that simply trying to be a good steward for an organization with a great mission, like the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, naturally attracts business success. My involvement with the Chamber and business community has reinforced the importance of giving back and supporting the growth of Maryland’s economy.
Chris Barber currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, as the Vice Chair of the Board for the Better Business Bureau, as a recently re-elected Board Director of the National Society of IT Service Providers, as Board Chair of Leadership Anne Arundel, Immediate Past Chair and Board Member of the Greater Crofton Chamber of Commerce, various committees in chambers and the IT industry, and as a member of the 2023 Leadership Maryland class.
In addition, Barber was the recipient of the 2022 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce, finalist for the 2022 AACPS Partners of the Year by The Education Foundation of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, 2022 Best Cyber Security Company, Anne Arundel County by CAMI, 2022 Best Cybersecurity Company, by The Daily Record and was named a 2022 Influential Marylander by the daily record among many other accolades.
Interesting Facts & Stats about Cheaper Than a Geek:
Learn more about Cheaper Than A Geek on their website: https://cheaperthanageek.com/