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Meet Max the Sasquatch
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The History of PowerMax

When you engage in a transaction with any company, you are essentially voting with your dollars, saying: “I am glad you’re in business and I want it to stay that way.” Accordingly, we think it’s appropriate for our customers (or anyone for that matter) to understand who we are, why we’re here and how we got here. The only way you can really understand that is to know our history, because you really don’t know who someone is or where they’re going unless you have some idea as to where they’ve been.

And so, with that introduction, here follows the history of PowerMax.

Back in 1993, two entrepreneurial salesmen, Kevin Anderson and Steve “Barney” Barnes, worked for a company called “MacFriends.” MacFriends had carved out a niche in the mail order sales of Macintosh at a time when Apple wasn’t particularly fond of that kind of transaction. Apple believed that all sales of their products should be done in person. Of course, this was before the internet became the sales and marketing juggernaut it is today.

Unfortunately, due to mismanagement and ownership infighting, it became obvious to the both of them that MacFriends was headed for bankruptcy. With the encouragement of a third party (since deceased), they formed a company called “The Right Computer,” and stepped away from MacFriends a year or so before it collapsed.

Anderson was never particularly fond of “The Right Computer” name, and so when the Power Macintosh was introduced in 1994, a light bulb went off in his head, and the name was changed to PowerMax.

PowerMax carved out its own niche and a great reputation in the Macintosh mail order business during the subsequent five years, but the pressure from Apple to rein in the burgeoning and uncontrollable “gray market” created a need for PowerMax to be fully blessed and authorized by Apple.

A mutual friend put Anderson and the CEO of a chain of Apple authorized stores based in Oregon and Washington, each called “The Computer Store,” together. The two hit it off, and eventually agreed to a merger of PowerMax and The Computer Stores. Largely because of PowerMax’s sterling reputation, Apple blessed the union even though it still hadn’t fully fleshed out its mail order strategy. Barnes decided at that point to take his leave from the company and his shares were bought out, leaving Anderson as the sole remaining founder of PowerMax and the largest shareholder in the merged company, called Computer Stores Northwest (CSNW).

In 2001, Apple opened its first Apple Store in Tysons Corner, Virginia. When they later targeted University Village in Seattle –which was just minutes from one of The Computer Stores in Seattle– it became clear to the board of CSNW that the current CEO had in no way prepared the stores for that level of competition. So that CEO was fired, and Anderson, who had been running PowerMax for the company, was anointed President and CEO of the entire firm.

Subsequent changes came fast and furious. Stores were upgraded significantly. Some were moved to locations with higher customer traffic, including into malls. Anderson also changed the name of the stores from “The Computer Store” to “The Mac Store.” Back in the ‘70s, when personal computers were still fairly unique and unusual, the name “The Computer Store” made some sense. But in a world with a plethora of PC brands from dozens of companies, Anderson figured that the store names needed to be more specific, and after much deliberation, The Mac Stores were born.

Perhaps most importantly, Anderson set about to change the top-down, company-first culture that was a hallmark of the old CSNW. He put the customer at the top of the organization chart. He opened up financials to all managers. He created a company phrase that turned into an oft-used internal acronym: MOCLU: Make Our Customers Love Us. He allowed people on the floor to make decisions without having to go up a chain of command, simply asking them to consider MOCLU when making any decision. He encouraged feedback on any topic from all employees.

The company grew to ten locations. At one point it was the largest Apple Specialist in the country. At the same time, a much larger company, Game Stop, decided it wanted to grow beyond its current business model and open up a couple of hundred Apple-based stores around the country. They began that process by purchasing Simply Mac, a retailer based out of Salt Lake City, and then gobbled up the other top three Apple Specialists in the country, including The Mac Stores.

But they didn’t want PowerMax because it didn’t fit their business model. Anderson was absolutely delighted at this because he really had no desire to work for a large corporation anyway. So after long and difficult negotiations, the stores were sold, PowerMax stayed as a division of CSNW, and Anderson remained at the helm of the company.

The agreement allowed for a PowerMax retail store to be opened close to headquarters, and so work on the first PowerMax retail outlet was begun in the summer of 2015, completed in October of 2015.

PowerMax has a singular philosophy as to how it approaches business in this era of internet automation. The crux is to remain human. That might sound a little odd at first, but this is an era where seemingly every company on the internet is striving to automate as much as possible. While that might work for commodities and a specific segment of consumers and helps grow some companies to sizes behemoth enough to delight Wall Street, there is another segment of the population who really appreciates human-to-human interaction, and those are our core customers.

Employees at PowerMax are not afraid to spend time on the phone (as opposed to most other e-commerce sellers who actually track the average time per call, with the lower the average time, the better… and of course with none at all being the ultimate goal). We also make decisions based on personal situations, not just policies. We emphasize living a good life and having fun and enjoying humor as part of that life, and we enjoy having our customers share that with us.

We like to present our company image with a very human persona, even as we use the quirky Max the Sasquatch as our mascot. We think acting human means having a distinct personality. The PowerMax personality is one of friendliness, good humor, and not being afraid to just tell it like it is. Our email blasts have been complimented with comments such as, “Your company’s emails are the only ones I look forward to.” We think that’s because they’re distinctly human, not just a litany of good deals.

Our customers’ response to this approach is what allows us to stay in business. We love getting feedback, and we respond to any that warrant a response, and we do that quickly. Some of our best ideas have come from customer feedback, so keep it coming, because while our past has already been written, you are one of the ones who will help us write our future.

We are always grateful for your business!

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