You may have heard him on the radio in Lincoln guiding a flustered computer user through a vexing problem. You may have seen him on TV in Omaha with a quick way to help your laptop run faster.
And now, Thor Schrock and his company, Shrock Innovations, have been named the top Small Business of the Year for 2012 in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District.
Schrock Innovations was nominated for the award by Nebraska Business Development Center Omaha Director Cliff Mosteller.
The SBA Nebraska District Office names one outstanding small business to represent each of the state’s three congressional districts based on staying power; growth in number of employees; an increase in sales and unit volume; current and past financial performance; innovativeness of product or service offered; response to adversity; and, contributions to community-oriented projects.
Getting on the radio to boost business, help customers
With a vision to provide simple and straightforward service to fix the most vexing computer problems, Schrock Innovations got its start in 1999 working out of a 750-foot storefront in Lincoln. By 2011, with three locations, including one in Omaha and another in Sarpy County, the company boasted $1.5 million in sales and more than 20 employees.
Rather than sit in his storefront simply fixing broken computers, Schrock started a hit call-in radio program on Lincoln’s KFOR-AM where he offered free, easy instructions to repair issues themselves, and educating listeners to make technology work for them. It wasn’t long before he offered the same service on a radio show in Omaha.
Overcame business cash flow problems to claim Best in Omaha
But by 2004, cost overruns caused Schrock Innovations to abandon a major software investment; to avoid laying off his employees, he moved to Omaha to run his service center there himself. Overcoming tight cash flow for a couple of years, he found a niche market in web development, and returned to profitability the next year. In the process, he picked up his first Omaha Magazine’s Best of Omaha award; Schrock was named one of the Lincoln Business Journal’s top 40 business people under 40, and previously claimed a Best of Lincoln award every year since 2001.
The company opened a new 2,500-square foot facility in Lincoln in 2008 crammed with state-of-the-art testing equipment, and sought to add an Omaha location the next year. To prepare for the expansion, Schrock Innovations consulted NBDC’s Omaha office for advice on marketing and financial projections to help open a new 2,800-square foot Village Point location in late 2010. He also began offering “Compute This,” a program on Omaha’s KFAB-AM, which again offered free advice for customers to solve their own computer issues. On a recent program, one elderly listener related to Schrock on the air problems with a basic and outdated version of Word and Excel. After a long discussion, Schrock asked the caller to bring her decade-old laptop to the company’s Omaha location for an update to the software—and the labor on the work would be free.
Schrock Innovation’s third location now offers more than 3,000 square feet in the Shadow Lake shopping center in Papillion with a computer repair facility for Nebraska’s fastest-growing county.
Whatever the problem, company finds a solution
In the past three years, Schrock Innovations has developed new data recovery techniques allowing customers to recover failed hard drives, memory cards and other storage devices locally. Their trademarked Safe and Stored internal data backup system offers a second hard drive inside a computer’s tower to provide an “image” of the primary hard drive which can be restored after a catastrophic failure; another proprietary hard drive “learns” a user’s patterns of opening files and programs, actually making a computer work faster the more its used.
Moreover, Launching the “Schrock Desk” online support service gives customers real-time software help over the internet, and secure updater software to check periodically for virus and malware threats. Finally, the company’s work developing modular computers stretch the average expected effective life span of a computer from 18-24 months to six to nine years.
Schrock also has written several articles for Smart Computing magazine, and was a second runner-up on the Next Internet Millionaire web reality show competition.
The company also has donated 30 DVD drives for a robotics class for advanced math and science summer camps, raised more than $10,000 for a “poker run” to benefit the fight against multiple sclerosis, and was formally thanked by Lincoln for contributing a computer to help with the city’s recycling efforts. Finally, Schrock Innovations offered a couple of recycled hard drives to the Nebraska National Guard for an exercise video to instruct soldiers how to recover crucial hardware in a hostile environment.