Guy Hinkler is a popular man these days.
His Manassas company, V2 Systems Inc., has been busy preparing Prince William businesses for the year 2000 conversion, even as they still build company computer systems.
Founded by Hinkler four years ago, V2 Systems provides small and medium companies with "computing solutions." Instead of just selling a box, Hinkler said, his company offers the services that go along with the computer.
"A company can go to the superstore and buy the box, but what we do is make the box and give it to the company personalized," Hinkler said.
V2 Systems consults with its clients to understand their needs. Then the company tries to find the product to match those needs. That product being the network servers: the "gateway" to both the Internet and intranet; workstations -- the actual units individual users have at their desk; and other hardware, such as printers.
Questions typically accompany those products. So V2 Systems provides expertise along the way, often updating and changing products as necessary.
Karen Brown, founder and president of Brown & Associates CPAs in Manassas, has sought Hinkler's assistance since his pre-V2 Systems days.
"He's worked on our computers for a long time," she said. "Whenever we need him, he is right there."
Her company has a prepaid contract with V2 Systems under which it visits Brown & Associates monthly, she said. Among other things, Hinkler has moved Brown's company from a five-station network to 10 stations and has kept the computer system Y2K compliant.
"He does everything," Brown said. "We have referred him to many of our clients."
And that's how V2 Systems develops much of its business.
"Almost all of our business comes from referrals, word of mouth," Hinkler said. "We've developed this great reputation because we always follow up on things and never keep the customers hanging. That's a big thing in the computer industry."
With 300 active customers and only three full-time employees, V2 Systems remains busy trying to keep up with its workload, causing Hinkler to farm out some specialized systems business.
The Y2K computer debugging has kept the company especially busy.
"I think the Y2K situation is one of the greatest challenges we've been faced with in the computer service industry," Hinkler said. "The thing that's going to see us through this is good practices in testing and upgrading outdated products to assure that they'll work in the new millennium."
Hinkler's clients include a variety of companies: accounting firms, law offices and auto dealerships, among others. He has done some pro bono work for the Prince William County-Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a member.
Hinkler found that the computer system used at the chamber office was going to "basically cease to function after the year 2000." A member of the chamber's technology committee, Hinkler researched and discovered a product that was geared specifically for chamber management and advised the chamber on the bidding of the equipment. He then implemented that system, along with the new hardware.
Hinkler likes having his base in Prince William, where he has lived since 1973.
"There is enough business growth in this region to keep us busy enough down here without having to suffer the pains of commuting to D.C.," he said.
He notes that the area is especially friendly to high-tech companies.
"This region is quickly becoming Silicon Valley East," he said. "We have our own chip manufacturer here. I believe we'll continue to see a tech boom in this area."
After working on different computer systems for about 10 years in the District, five of them under a contract for the Department of Justice, Hinkler opened his business in Prince William.
"Ten years ago, there were a lot of smaller companies without big servers," he said. "Now there's a lot of big stuff here I can work on."
And work he does. Between juggling nonstop phone calls and new clients, Hinkler spends his time on his horse farm in Manassas with his wife, Karen, and 10-year-old daughter, Lauren. He especially likes to take his Harley-Davidson motorcycle out on Skyline Drive.
Although the company's revenue "goes up and down," Hinkler said he is starting to get to the point where everything is coming together, after "painstakingly trying to get our foot in the door."
CAPTION: V2 Systems President Guy Hinkler, left, works with Tim Harrell to repair a computer in their Manassas office. Nearly all the company's clients come from referrals.