Batteries are the bane of a Road Warrior's existence — confusing, expensive, hard to find. But where others see headaches, Power Express of San Jose, California sees opportunity. Indeed, when it comes to keeping laptops and cell-phones energized, Power Express is part Wal-Mart, part AAA, part therapist. Its database includes 6,200 different battery models for laptops, portable phones, and camcorders. The company also provides overnight delivery — a lifesaver in emergencies. It even offers free advice on battery problems and tips on recycling. (In fact, the company estimates that half of the 67,000 calls it has received involved questions rather than orders.)
CEO Ken Hawk founded Power Express in 1993 and ran it out of his dorm room at the Stanford Business School. Today the company sells 5,000 batteries per month and generates annual revenues of more than $2 million.
To request a catalog, call 1-800-BATTERIES, or visit Power Express Web site (http://www.powerexpress.com), where the company now does 30% of its business.
Hawk's 5 Rules for Long (Battery) Life
- Treat new batteries with care. "Batteries remain perfectly inactive until the first time you charge them," Hawk explains. The best way to operate a battery is to charge it fully, use it until it's drained completely, then charge it fully again.
- Exercise regularly. Neglected batteries are unhappy batteries. "Once in awhile you should use your battery in your office, to give it exercise," Hawk recommends. "It will last longer."
- Watch your contacts. The contacts on spare batteries "tend to get dirty, and when they're dirty the battery is hard to recharge," Hawk warns. "Clean them with a cotton swab and alcohol."
- When in doubt, trade up. It may not seem that way, but battery performance keeps getting better. Spending $150 for a new battery may save you that much in aspirin alone.
- Always carry a spare. Obvious? Where's yours?
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.