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Truro IT expert reflects on 18 years of sacrifice in building his business

Keith Gillis and his staff regularly dismantle, inspect and repair desktop computer components at their Truro headquarters.
Keith Gillis and his staff regularly dismantle, inspect and repair desktop computer components at their Truro headquarters. - Fram Dinshaw
TRURO, N.S. —

Keith Gillis's business grew from humble beginnings and there were growing pains – figuratively and literally.
“It was a one-man operation and I had actually broken my back on Thanksgiving Monday 2001, so I never really opened my business officially 'til January 2002,” recalled Gillis. “It was just fixing consumers’ computers and building custom-built ones.”
From this 12-ft. by 24-ft. Revere Street computer repair location, Gillis dealt mostly with desktop computers running old Windows 98 software. It's a far cry from the many laptops and tablets he and his employees deal with at their current location, 15 Arlington Place.
In those early days, desktop computers were often slow, were sometimes prone to failure and internet could only be accessed via dial-up.
But Gillis, who has been fixing computers since he graduated high school 25 years ago, found a niche in Truro he could fill after a previous computer store closed.
Over the last 18 years, G & G Computers has grown across Colchester County and Nova Scotia in the fast-paced and ever-changing technology industry.
Today, the attention of Gillis and six full-time staff members is on repairing laptops and tablets more than desktop models. 
With ever-faster internet and improved processing capacity, people find it more convenient to do simple tasks like Google searches on smaller devices, and watch movies via online streaming services.  
“It’s like when you’re in a river, you go with the flow so when you’re in the IT industry you’re constantly being updated with the latest stuff just from either seeing it or trying to sell it,” Gillis said.
He has also noticed a change in the way people are using computers, as well as the makeup of his clientele.
In the early days, clients typically hired him to fix hardware and software issues their home computers, and made up about 80 per cent of his business.
Today, about 80 per cent of Gillis’s clients are from the business sector for whom computer systems are essential.
“If their computer system goes down they can’t make money,” said Gillis. "If a home user’s computer goes down, well, they can’t surf the internet and can go to a different device … The computer is not a critical part of a home user’s personal life.”
Gillis sees the trend continuing in future, as computer repair firms like his move from being a reactive service, fixing broken systems, to pro-active ones who prevent software or hardware problems from occurring in the first place.
Already, some computer specialists continually maintain and troubleshoot workplace operating systems for a monthly fee, saving businesses money and time in the long run.
“It’s all about keeping that business up,” said Gillis. “If that business’s computer systems are running, that means they’re making money, so we want to prevent down time.”
Meanwhile, Gillis is expanding G & G Computers across Nova Scotia, though not through satellite offices. Much of the IT maintenance work can be done remotely.
“If it’s major, I can send a technician there or I can talk someone through, to be my hands and feet on the ground,” said Gillis.

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How G & G Computers bounced back from a near-fatal blow

The end seemed near when G & G Computers was defrauded of $455,000 by the company's bookkeeper several years ago.
It was such a blow, owner Keith Gillis even considered closing down. 
“It was probably the worst part of my life, because it’s your baby and you’ve put all this trust in your bookkeeper,” recalled Gillis. “The disappointment, the betrayal … I was working seven days a week 'til two o’clock in the morning trying to make ends meet and I was going further in the hole because she was taking all the money.”
Gillis subsequently hired a new bookkeeper who put in place checks, balances and requirements for reporting and tracking funds.
It was probably the most important exercise G & G Computers ever underwent.
“She essentially rebuilt the inside of the business and redid all the books,” Gillis said approvingly of his new bookkeeper.
While G & G Computers is back on track, the experience taught Gillis to value his time more and get a sense of life’s true meaning, having worked all hours to save his business.
This includes being involved with the community and various activities.
“You can make money every day, but you can’t make time,” he said.
 

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