By Peter Saunders
When Chuck Lennon was working with Franchise Services, the franchisor behind Sir Speedy and other print shops, the system needed broad-based information technology (IT) support. His boss, CEO Don Lowe, did not know where to turn, which led to the two of them recognizing an opportunity to start up just such a business themselves.
“We built it from scratch,” Lennon explains. “Many printing companies were migrating at the time from offset to digital equipment, but it turned out there was really a void in the market for outsourced IT support for small businesses of all kinds.”
After launching four pilot units and defining a go-to-market strategy, they began franchising their business-to-business (B2B) concept as TeamLogic IT in 2006, with Lennon serving as president.
“Early on, we tried converting some of our print franchises, but the new concept did not do well as a ‘bolt-on’ business,” he says. “It really required a franchisee’s full-time attention and care.”
Some franchisees had a corporate background in technology or engineering, but others were more sales-oriented.
“Our highest earner, based in Boston, Mass., has no technical background whatsoever,” Lennon says.
Franchisees tend to start out with grassroots networking, connecting with their chamber of commerce and local businesses and using ‘paid search’ to rank high within their area.
“To gain new customers, you have to get out there, shake hands and build relationships and trust,” says Lennon. “A franchise’s neighbours often become its first clients. There are so many small businesses that need our services.”
Each franchise requires a 1,000 to 1,200-square-foot office, but this can be located in an industrial park, rather than requiring a retail storefront. The average team includes three office-based technicians who serve as a helpdesk, another three who are on the road in branded vehicles to visit customers and perform installations and repairs and two senior technicians who accompany the franchisee on sales calls to prospective clients.
“We have a strong focus on customer service to complement our technical support,” Lennon explains. “Approximately half of our new clients have left existing managed service providers (MSPs) due to their lack of good customer service!”
Lennon recently took on a new role as executive vice-president (EVP) of business development and franchise support. As of Mar. 1, he has been succeeded as president by Dan Shapero, who has global marketing experience in the MSP industry.
“We opened 22 new offices in the third quarter (Q3) of 2017, which was a record for us with regard to franchises sold,” says Lennon. “Network-wide, franchisee revenues are up 31 per cent. It’s been a banner year for us—and Canada is still virtually untapped!”