Computer repair shop owner retires
THOMASVILLE, Feb 26, 2013 (The Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Roy Fowler, owner of FMC Computer, may work on the most advanced Internet viruses, construct the inner workings of a computer's hardware and handle everything from the smallest printer jam to the biggest system overhaul, but the computer guru also values some of the older machinery.
His company, started in 1991, will see its last day Thursday as Fowler is powering down the electronics and retiring to spend some long-awaited time with his family.
"I have four brothers, a grown son, uncles and my mom that I don't get to spend enough time with," Fowler said. "My uncles are retired, and they will invite me to go fishing on a weekday, and I can't because I have to work. They don't want to go on a Saturday because the lake is more crowded. Now I will be able to go fishing whenever I want."
One of the first priorities, other than increased fishing time, is a trip out west with his wife, Arnette.
"I've only taken a full week of vacation twice in 21 years, so now I'm going to be paying catch-up on my vacation time," Fowler explained.
Before 1991, Fowler worked as a manager for American General. His position took him all over the Southeast for snippets of two to three years at each location before his final office was in High Point from 1979 to 1991. Over the span of more than a decade, Fowler said he just burned out and decided he wanted to open his own business. With a technology partner, Fowler opened Fowler Marsh Corp. Within 18 months of the opening date, Fowler bought out his partner and began operating as the sole owner and the business' only employee.
"It took almost three years before my business began realizing any real money," Fowler said.
Part of his success hinged on his ability to pinch pennies in every category. Instead of buying new monitors, if the older monitors still worked, he would update the computer but keep the monitor. In the same shop, Fowler owns an up-to-date LCD flat-screen monitor as well as CRT monitors. He also still uses a typewriter to type addresses on his envelopes instead of printing them from a computer.
"You wouldn't believe how many printers I take in to repair because an envelope got jammed," Fowler said, laughing.
In addition to not buying new technology simply because it was new, Fowler also watched the business expenses down to purchasing the office supplies.
"I've never bought any paper clips or rubber bands. I don't buy pens either. Once a year, a company will send me a sample pen with FMC Computer on it, trying to get me to buy pens with my name on them. That one pen will last me a year," Fowler said.
To demonstrate his sincerity, he held up a collection of only four pens, one of which was the sample pen in addition to a few other writing utensils he had collected or been given.
He also retold a story of his time at American General where he corrected wasteful spending. He noticed the secretary was ordering boxes of pens, paper clips and rubber bands every 90 days, and when he confronted her about it, she responded that she ordered them because the office needed them. That night, Fowler dumped her trash can on her desk, and with the crumpled-up pieces of paper came paper clips and rubber bands. The next morning, Fowler told the secretary that if he found office supplies in the trash again, he would write her up, and if it continued a third time, he would fire her.
"It is a way of economizing. You have to be frugal when spending money so you can be successful," Fowler said. "It's the sacrifices you make early on that make your business successful."
Over the years, changes have moved at warp speed for FMC Computer. The business was originally opened to build and sell computers but due to demand, it took in more computer repairs than requests for builds. The business also transitioned to service printers.
Fowler, who had a finance education, originally took care of the business end of FMC Computer when it opened. After a few months, he approached his partner, asking to learn how to fix computers. Over the years, Fowler has gained information from tutors and technology professionals.
"I liked troubleshooting. It was like putting a puzzle together," Fowler said.
But eventually all good things must come to an end, so Fowler decided at the age of 67 he was going to retire. The bulk of his time will be spent bass fishing as he is going to try to top his largest catch, a 27-pound, 13-ounce striped bass.
"It's just time to retire," Fowler said. "I'm looking forward to travelling and fishing."
Rebekah Cansler McGee can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 228, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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