Kelowna-based Northern Computer acquires two new companies and expands into Alberta

General manager John Gibson talks growth, customer satisfaction and AI

As general manager of Kelowna-based Northern Computer, John Gibson spends his days looking for new ways to protect his clients from threats and keep up with security demands. He started in an operations position back in 2002, when the company only had a couple technicians and was more of a retail business.

Over the past 20 years, Gibson has watched it grow to a company with over 50 staff, and transition to focus more on the business side of computing—specializing in IT, cybersecurity, cloud computing and data management. Northern Computer now supports over 600 small businesses, organizations, municipalities and school districts.

“We’ve grown a lot, especially in the last few years,” said Gibson. “I think we’ve grown around 20 percent just from acquisitions and adding technical resources that we’re short on—it’s really hard to find good people.”

Northern Computer, which was founded some 42 years ago, has expanded to clients across Western Canada, including Edmonton and Calgary. As such, the company has now acquired two Alberta tech companies in Syncsys and Compufix.

“Feet on the ground are really important to us, and this is an opportunity to… allow us more expansion into Alberta,” shares general manager John Gibson. While there is a technician presence in a variety of locations across B.C., he believes that this expansion will help establish Northern Computer in Alberta.

Expansion isn’t something the company takes lightly, as it wants to maintain its customer satisfaction score of 98 percent. Gibson prides himself on the company’s rating and quick response times, and while he know it’ll be difficult to maintain such a high score, he is working to ensure the same culture is maintained throughout all acquisitions.

The decision to acquire Syncsys and Compufix took a few months and involved interviewing clients, technicians and other people the company deals with to ensure the right fit.

“They’ve got to have the basic parameters around how we do business and can’t be specialized in an area we know nothing about,” Gibson says, explaining that they think very carefully about all acquisitions. “We do have diversified clients in many areas, but, say we didn’t know anything about legal and all their clients were legal—we probably wouldn’t look at them as closely.”

One of the challenges with acquisitions is ensuring clients are satisfied with the changes. Many of them have been with the company for multiple decades, and Gibson recalls that many clients like their existing tech and are worried they might not get the same experience after the change.

“We assure them that we keep the employees and try to make sure the changes are very minimal, especially in the first little while as they get used to doing business with us,” he explains. “And then we add things in, but we’re very open with the clients that these are additional features we think would benefit their business, especially on the security side—these are tested tools that we use to secure our networks a lot tighter than most networks are set up.”

Gibson also believes the strategic acquisition of the two Alberta companies will help address the rising concern of cybersecurity threats. It’s estimated that 43 percent of all cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses.

“We satisfy a lot of needs for clients that they may not realize that they need—when you go in and talk security, a lot of people don’t know what cloud servers are and how they should move there, why they should move there, and how they use them,” Gibson adds. “And then there’s AI coming into it, which is probably going to change a lot of things in the next two to three years. We can see the tools coming in that will benefit our clients, and we want to be on the cutting edge of that.”