PC Helps takes the mystery out of high tech. And the glamour. The Bala Cynwyd firm's workers, at its City Line headquarters and a larger center in Cleveland, have been fielding personal-computer "Help!" calls since Jeffrey Becker started the firm in 1992 based on his (Northwestern U) graduate-student thesis: that PCs would never reach their potential to boost productivity unless users could get quick help for basic questions and problems -- and a company that rendered that service to multiple employers would be more efficient than in-house PC assistance.
The company is now 300 people, most of whom work the phones, marketing chief Lori Zelko says. Now that more employees are working off their smartphones and hand-held devices, and with Microsoft Windows 8 launching across patforms, demand for PC Helps is up, says training director Joe Puckett. "We'll need more people to sustain and handle the volume. We are probably going to hire 60 this year."
The staff is a mix of people who've been to college and the self-taught, some with graduate-equivalent degrees. Some are retired techies, chemists, financial people. Puckett tells wouid-be workers what to expect and lets them self-select in or out. Starting salary, dependent on production after three months, is in the low $30,000s.
Founder Becker sold out in 2005; buyer GI Partners re-sold to Baird Capital last year, paying up to $35 million for the equity portion and claiming a 5x total return. Baird has pumped capital into PC Helps, says chief executive Brian Madocks, former head of SunGard's former college-software arm (now part of Ellucian); several senior colleague are veterans of SAP AG in Newtown Square.
Earlier this month the board was expanded to add marketing whiz Austen Mulinder, a longtime Microsoft and Fujitsu executive who now runs Ziosk (f/k/a Table Top Media). "Now we have a team we can grow with, staff up with, acquire with," Madocks told me. "Baird is patient capital."