As a young girl, motherboards and expansion cards were among Jennifer Creary’s favorite playthings. She often tinkered with computer hardware, and preferred troubleshooting over more traditional toys and games, knowing that as the oldest of three daughters, one day she would gladly assume leadership of the family business.
In 1984, Creary’s father, Alfonso Keh, established computer-solutions and custom-server provider Universal Computer Industries, Inc. (UCI), based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Today, Creary acts as CEO for UCI and its two sister companies—Magnus Computers in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Kehtron Computers, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware—and oversees a combined staff of 12. A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Creary’s responsibilities include managing payroll and inventory, as well as ensuring that she and the UCI team keep current with technological trends.
Together, the employees meet customer needs that range from PC data recovery to federal government software installations. UCI works primarily with local customers, but is proud to work with some repeat national clients as well. The common thread between customers near and far is their appreciation for UCI’s trademark combination of technical know-how and personalized service. Creary and her father spent their free time attending computer events, selling parts, and building computers around the house, and she worked at the family store during summer vacations. “I grew up around a lot our managers, some who are still with us,” she says. “Growing up working on computers, it didn’t seem like work.”
Today the natural-born techie maintains a playful approach to her work. After earning a business degree, she joined the UCI team as a sales associate. When Keh retired in 2002, she assumed the role of CEO. Creary’s youngest sister also works in the family business, as a technician. An important focus for Creary has been that she and her staff regularly participate in continuing-education workshops.
Creary and Keh have been known to demonstrate different working and leadership styles: She more organized, he more laid back. The two have disagreements from time to time, but Creary notes that they always work it out, and that their debates ultimately benefit the business. One thing Creary and Keh have always seen eye to eye on is the importance of personalized, outstanding customer service. In fact, UCI has opted to forgo offering a buy-online option in order to ensure customer-specific service.
“We don’t hide behind a computer screen,” Creary says. “When someone calls in, there’s someone there to answer their questions—and complaints as well—whereas with other businesses, they’re upset because no one’s there to talk with, and you’re going through all these phone prompts.”
In the end, UCI owes its success to a simple idea. “It’s all about customer service,” Creary says. “Being able to talk with customers, listening to them, seeing what they need, being honest with them, building that trust, and then retaining that customer.”