Las Vegas—What’s the international symbol for struggle? According to Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens, it’s the image of a package of Ramen noodles.
As founder/CEO/chief inspector of the computer support company, Stephens is a long way from his days of eating Ramen noodles to get by. He was still in college when he started Geek Squad with a cell phone and a bicycle. “I rode my mountain bike to make house calls to fix computers,” he said in his March 24 keynote at the NCOF show.
Fast forward 15 years and Stephens is gainfully employing geeks all over the world. (“There are uncool people in every country,” he noted in talking about Geek Squad’s Shanghai office.) The company hooked up electronics retailer Best Buy in 2002.
What can you learn from the Geek Squad brand? Keep it simple, and keep it real, Stephens said. “Brands have to get back to authenticity,” he noted. “There’s a reason Google’s the best,” and that’s the simplicity of the site’s design and logo.
In describing his company’s branding elements, such as the geek cars (painted black-and white to look like old police cars) and uniforms (short-sleeve white button-down shirts inspired by vintage NASA workers), Stephens admits that a lot of them look like gimmicks. “But I was trying to build branding that I wouldn’t have to change.”
To succeed, entrepreneurs need to have curiosity, ethics and drive, he said. And they need to hire the right people.
Providing a great customer experience is essential, too, Stephens noted, as customers will use social media to spread the word of a bad encounter with a company. “Every brand is going to have its pants pulled down in public.”