Founder and owner of local computer and network services company BrickHost, Andrew Campbell started small, hosting websites and working with local clients.
“I started this company because I believed if we could offer customer service of a high degree, people would be willing to pay a small premium,” he says.
In the early days, BrickHost grew fairly quickly by being active in public online forums, which was a useful resource for tech help back then. “The Internet looked very different 18 years ago” Campbell recalls. “There were a lot of people asking questions on forums and we would help. And more often than not they would become clients because they were pleased with the support they received from us.”
The company started taking on a variety of projects for their clients, from building websites to helping with computer issues. “Now we support networks, cloud based systems, we are an in-house IT department for businesses and organizations that can’t afford their own department,” he says.
BrickHost serves a large geographical area, from Sault Ste. Marie in the east to Kenora in the west. “Our sweet spot is businesses and non-profits which have between 10 and 100 staff,” he explains.
Some of his clients include local law firm Larson Lawyers, who have worked with BrickHost for 18 years, and Best Western Hotels in Dryden and Thunder Bay. The company also sponsors a wide range of local non-profits, by donating their services and equipment, or charging a reduced fee. Campbell has been on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay for 11 years, and BrickHost has been sponsoring the organization since 2008.
The past year has had its challenges, particularly with the shift to working from home happening so abruptly. “Fortunately we were able to put in place the systems that allow people to work from home and it looks like going forward, it’s going to be an ongoing preference for some staff,” Campbell says. “Now, some organizations are planning a return to work and what that’s going to look like, and we are helping with that hybrid model as well.”
BrickHost currently has six employees and has had an office near the corner of Bay and Algoma since 2014. Campbell added another work space nearby, so that technicians can work there while socially distancing.
“We like the local community, and it has a very active neighbourhood association,” he says. “We became a part of a community when we moved here and that was really important. For staff and our families, we’re surrounded by such great food, vendors, banking, it’s all right here.”
For Campbell, good customer service means having a thorough understanding of what a client’s needs and operations are, and how best to support them. “Beyond that, we think about, how we take them to the next level to meet upcoming challenges while seizing new opportunities” he explains.
A good part of what BrickHost does is to make sure their clients are compliant with industry-specific regulations and rules. For example, the company can help clients meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), follow brand guidelines or mitigate cyber security risks. “We can play a role in that, and it takes a lot of weight off the management of a company,” Campbell explains.
Looking back at the past 18 years, the business owner feels very fortunate and happy. “I’m from Thunder Bay, born and bred, left for university and returned to be close to family, and I’m fortunate I’ve been able to stay,” he says. “As with most businesses, it’s been a very slow and steady growth curve, and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of determination.”
“It’s been an amazing experience to work with so many great people and organizations, and we’ve formed such great relationships,” says Campbell. “Personally, I’ve met my wife and we have a daughter. It’s been a pleasure to create opportunities for my family and the BrickHost team in Thunder Bay while giving back to our community.”