Joe Crum will be the first person to tell you he likes to be in charge. He will also tell you that he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s those two characteristics that ultimately drove him to open his own business, Northern Industrial Training (NIT), a vocational training company headquartered in the Mat-Su.
Crum worked for 11 years as the director of training for several local companies involved with vocational training. He traveled all over North America to teach people how to work on pipeline construction.
“I traveled from Canada to Michigan, Ohio to Texas to train people,” said Crum.
What he noticed through the years was a lack of hands-on education.
“I figured there had to be a better way to train than what the status quo in the industry was. Predominately what that means, even today, is that companies train you in the classroom to do construction,” said Crum.
Diving in head first
So he decided it was time to take his innate sense of leadership and put it to good use, though it meant leaving a good job.
“Quitting a job at 50 years old to start my own company was a big jump into the deep end of the pool,” said Crum.
But he took the plunge anyway. And in 2003 with one truck, one trailer and three employees - Crum and two of his children - NIT was formed. After four months the company had three trucks and three trailers and was slowly gaining ground. In the first year NIT trained 40 students.
Using local experts to expand opportunities
Over the next year, with the help of a loan from First National Bank Alaska, the company was able to purchase more equipment, which helped to increase the number and types of classes offered. By the second year, 400 students came through NIT’s doors.
Today, with a staff of more than 20 (including four of Crum’s five children), NIT offers 105 different classes, including courses in heavy equipment operation, construction, and on-the-job safety. The company also customizes classes to the specific needs of companies around the state. And with NIT’s philosophy of minimizing classroom time and maximizing on-the-job training, Crum says people are responding. In fact, in 2008 alone nearly 1,000 people went through NIT’s various courses.
Using the right tools for the job
NIT’s policy states that payment is due at the time of scheduling, and with students from all over the country signing up for the company’s classes, NIT needs a tool to help it collect payments effectively and conveniently. First National’s merchant services allows NIT to accept credit and debit cards for payment, whether a student is paying in person or from the far reaches of Alaska, making this financial tool an important part of the company’s daily operations.
“We are able to take their card information over the phone and process it in a timely manner. Plus the personalized customer service we receive from First National if we have a question or concern is excellent,” said NIT’s Chief Financial Officer Krista Gonder.
Gonder says not only is using merchant services convenient for her business, but it gives NIT customers the ability to pay using a debit and credit card, a method many students prefer to cash or checks. Merchant services is also a great financial tool for NIT because the point-of-sale payments are deposited directly into the company’s account at the point of sale. This makes NIT’s funds start working for it more quickly, allowing employees to focus more on teaching and less on getting paid.
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