Meet Ohio TeamLogic IT Franchisees Dwight & Allison Blankenship
A Decade of Growth taught these Entrepreneurs many Valuable Lessons
Allison and Dwight Blankenship launched their Columbus, Ohio, TeamLogic IT franchise in September 2012. The 10 years since have been full of growth, surprises, networking, and much more. Here they look back on how they became TeamLogic IT technology franchise owners, surviving a pandemic, and what they’ve learned as they have grown alongside the TeamLogic IT brand.
What were you doing before you purchased a TeamLogic IT franchise?
Dwight: I had been a sales channel director for technology giant Cisco but grew tired of the way corporations treated employees and other technology vendors, feeling that the corporate world was beholden to Wall Street when it should have been focused on Main Street. After 10 years of investigating franchises, I was ready to embrace small business — both as a small business owner and as someone who could offer expertise to help small businesses grow.
Allison: I had taken the entrepreneurial career route a few years earlier by joining CAbi, a fashion company that sells designer clothing directly to consumers. When Dwight discovered TeamLogic IT, I was ready to embrace the challenge of growing a new kind of business.
Why did you want to change careers and do something different?
Dwight: It was a combination of things. First and foremost, I have always had an entrepreneurial streak. I’ve been involved in several startups. It’s always been in my blood. Secondly, let’s just say I became a little disillusioned with big corporations — I felt like between the corporate world and Washington not being able to come up with any good solutions, the problems of the world and the economy were not going to be solved by big business or big government. You know, at one corporation, I saw them lay off 7,000 people while they were sitting on billions of dollars in cash. By working for myself, I could have a bigger impact. I like supporting the small- and medium-sized business owners, because they are the ones creating all the jobs.
Allison: Having done CAbi gave me the confidence to assist in the venture. Our youngest had turned 12, and I was ready to get into something a little more substantial. I was ready for another challenge to get me back into the game.
How did you settle on TeamLogic IT?
Dwight: I probably looked at business opportunities, including franchises, for the last 10 years, and really didn’t find anything out there that was a good fit and something I could get passionate about. I subscribed to several franchise sites, which sent me emails to let me know about opportunities. After leaving Cisco, I started looking at those opportunities much more seriously. TeamLogic IT interested me because it was in my field of expertise, and it wasn’t as expensive to start as some of the other concepts that we thought would be viable.
Allison: When he first told me about the idea of buying a franchise, I thought I was going to be sick — it was a risk. But as we started talking about it more and investigating it more, it really sounded like the next step. I was ready for a change, Dwight was ready for a change, and we did a lot of due diligence. We talked to over 20 franchisees in the TeamLogic IT network — including quite a few that were husband and wife teams. They were very accommodating. We easily spent an hour per call with people.
As you investigated further, what else appealed to you?
Dwight: We were really impressed by the people at TeamLogic IT. When we went out for Discovery Day, everybody we met was top-notch and genuinely concerned with our success. And it wasn’t just TeamLogic IT, but also having Franchise Services behind them with 45 years of franchising experience.
Allison: CAbi is a tremendous organization from the people’s perspective, and I felt the same way about TeamLogic IT, and that really gave me a comfort level. And that wasn’t just our impression. We also heard that from every franchisee we spoke to — they genuinely care about making franchisees successful.
Dwight: We asked everyone we talked to, if you could do it again, would you? And 21 out of the 22 people we talked to said yes.
Describe your territory and the major industries or verticals you serve
Dwight: As I mentioned, we don’t work a lot with retail or food clients. There are no other TeamLogic IT franchises in Columbus, so we’ve had a lot to choose from since we have our own territory and also get business from across Central Ohio. We don’t have a core vertical — it’s literally all over the map. We have a number of nonprofit clients, as well as some medical and legal outfits. It’s pretty diverse.
How do you divide up responsibilities in your business?
Dwight: There are some logical divisions, and there are some that are blurred. I probably have the most extensive B2B sales experience. The previous 7-8 years in Channel Sales, I worked with a lot of companies like TeamLogic IT — they were my partners, people who were selling Cisco and Websense technology. I got to know a lot of owners and executives very well, and got to understand their thinking and how they monitored their businesses. That has helped me with the sales part of TeamLogic IT.
Allison: I do the accounting and a lot of the back-office operations. I like the numbers aspect of the business, and keeping an eye on profits, so I know if I need to crack the whip on sales (laughs). I also have a very keen interest in customer service and quality assurance.
What does your team look like?
Dwight: We have a director of engineering, a senior engineer, me and Allison, and a part-time person who does outside marketing. We are looking to hire an inside sales rep soon.
How has the business compared to your expectations?
Dwight: It has exceeded our expectations. We did an initial budget based on what people told us, and then we set a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” — and we surpassed that. I look forward to more profitability — but since we grew fast, we’re continuing to put money into the business for what we feel will be a greater return down the road.
In 2018, you became members of TeamLogic IT’s Million Dollar Club, meaning revenues of more than $1 million per year. What did that milestone mean to you?
Dwight: Being a TeamLogic IT franchise owner has meant digging into the company’s systems for sales, marketing and operations. I also brought some outside expertise in to help him create, and run, a successful franchise. We studied and implemented some different methodologies for entrepreneurial operating systems and ways of doing business, and all those together helped develop our culture, philosophies, and procedures. Now we continue to emphasize procedure and process documentation, which helps us as we grow.
(He adds that their franchise income breaks down as follows: Managed IT services are about 60% of revenue, with the rest about 20% on hardware and 20% on project or professional services. The Blankenships also have entered into several cross-state agreements with other TeamLogic IT franchise owners, where each team supports a business with locations in both territories.)
How did you adapt and evolve during the COVID shutdowns to keep the business going?
Dwight: When that day came in March 2020, we began working from home — we were 100% remote right away. We were committed to making sure we kept everyone on staff, and my goal was to come out of Covid a better company. I think we did that.
One big thing that was very motivating, and very rewarding, was the TLC campaign we developed. That stands for TeamLogic Laptop Campaign, and it was for underprivileged students in the area who needed a laptop since they had to attend school from home. We had a half-dozen or so laptops that needed to be refurbished, and we put a message out to clients and got a dozen or so more. We wound up giving away about 20 laptops to help kids get online and study. That was really cool, and a good experience during a rough time.
We didn’t lose any major clients, because we have purposely stayed away from retail and food businesses, and they seemed to be the most affected. That was fortuitous. We were down revenue-wise that first year, and then we returned to pretty much decent growth.
We did focus on promoting what we could do around cybersecurity, as companies were moving people home, and then moving them back. It was an opportunity to generate revenue in that area, and also some of the notices we sent out about work-from-home best practices also kept the brand in front of people.
We celebrated our 10-year business anniversary this year by moving into a new office, so really a lot of good things have happened in the last few years, even with all that was going on that was negative all around us.
Who is your ideal customer?
Dwight: We are looking for companies with 25 to 50 employees. We have some good clients in dental and healthcare, and there are several other verticals where we are finding traction. The key is finding a business with high revenue-per-employee. They need their employees to be productive, and they cannot afford to have IT issues force idle time.
How do you create that “trusted partner” relationship with customers?
Dwight: Our first and foremost goal is to understand a customer’s business. I do not like to go in and start talking about technology. I like to understand everything I can about their business, and then start to drill down into how technology impacts the things they need to do to succeed.
We take the time to understand their unique business needs, and we are able to leverage leading edge technologies and best practices to help customers succeed. We talk to them about how we can offer security, disaster recovery, and support, and how that can help them. I talk about the 24/7 help desk that is available to them — which is something we wouldn’t be able to offer if we weren’t part of TeamLogic IT.
How big is the opportunity to build a growing business?
Dwight: The ubiquitous accessibility of information has become expected in business, so when that is not available or the technology is not working, there is tremendous frustration. I ask companies what happens if your server goes down. A title company told me, “we would lose thousands of dollars and lose customers because we wouldn’t be able to lock in a rate.” That’s just one example — every business has its own. I want to eliminate those concerns so the business owner can focus on what they do best, rather than worrying about technology.
Allison: The revenue upside is that customers who sign up for managed services provide recurring revenue. That predictability helps us budget, and it also helps our customer budget. Customers don’t get hit with a big IT bill every few years because something has died. Businesses will have to pay for IT service one way or another. Managed services spread that cost out over time and ensure that your systems stay in great shape. If you want to pay for it ad hoc, you can, but you will eventually pay more, and you will have disruptions in the meantime.
What do you enjoy about your business?
Allison: The idea that you can have your own business, and you’re not accountable to anybody but yourself and the people you brought along to build this business. That’s a huge thing. Dwight is a very strategic thinker, and being able to take action instead of spending two straight days on non-stop conference calls is a relief. The other thing is, nobody ever said building a business would be easy — there are challenges every day — but for me it has allowed growth as a businessperson. There is such huge potential here, and we feel like TeamLogic IT and FSI have set up a good situation for people to be able to be successful in this model.
Dwight: I feel like I was made to do this. You shouldn’t think that you are going to be able to just hang a shingle and be successful. At the end of the day, you must make it happen.
What does it take to get to where you are now? Do you have to have a big technical background?
Dwight: Somebody with a sales background and understanding will be the most successful candidate, I think. To be successful, you have to have an owner-led sales organization. Somebody who comes from a hands-on technical background and likes working on computers and programming — if they are coming at it as a technical guru — they will struggle. You need to be comfortable with sales.
Allison: One of the challenges is that technical guys will sometimes try to save money by going in and doing work themselves when they should be leading the business. Then they wind up working too many hours, and burnout is inevitable.
Dwight: I think my technology background is helpful because, from a sales perspective, I can speak with credibility — but I don’t think it’s paramount. If you hire a really good engineer, you can take him along for 4-legged sales calls. What I like about itis that I can sit down with a business owner and commiserate and have high level conversations about employee morale, productivity, expenses, revenue generation. Then I can take it down from 20,000 feet to the level of where technology is impacting those things.
What has been key to your growth?
Dwight: The people we have hired. Our first hire actually had his own business like this before, and when we hired him on, he brought a book of business with him. We offered him a signing bonus and honored the block of hours his customers had already paid for, which we saw as an upfront expense for having them as customers for a long time. As you can imagine — there are tons and tons of people like him out there — one guy supporting maybe 15 clients, making a decent living, but it’s not consistent and predictable, and are looking for something with a steady salary and the opportunity to grow. That’s what we provide.
What does an average day look like for you?
Dwight: For me, it’s managing the sales pipeline, managing opportunities, and trying to implement strategic initiatives and directions.
Allison: I am on the computer a lot, with QuickBooks and the numbers. I also work on marketing — Google AdWords is a big area of mine, and then anything to support the office and the guys in the office. I also have a passion for customer service.
What would you tell your earlier selves that you should, or maybe shouldn’t do when it comes to business operations?
Dwight: We were focused on growth and investing in the business, and we tried to hire salespeople over the years. That didn’t always work out. I would say wait a little bit longer before making that investment, because you need to make sure you’ve got it covered from a revenue perspective. I’d say the same thing about techs and engineers — you need those people, but make sure you have the revenue to support it in case it doesn’t work out and you have to make a change.
We now have a staff of 11, and are into a new office, so those have been some nice upgrades we’ve been able to make over time.
What other staffing advice do you have?
Dwight: We are also big believers in recognizing our weaknesses as well as our strengths, and playing to our strengths and hiring people who are strong where we are weak. That’s different from some owners who are trying to do it all on their own. Sometimes people will try to save their way to profitability, and I don’t think that’s the way to get there.
Allison: One great example. When we started, Dwight wanted to hire somebody to do outbound “walking person” marketing, and I asked why we can’t be those people. But it really wasn’t in our skill set, it wasn’t something we had done before or wanted to do, and Dwight found somebody who loves to do that and is happy to do it for $10 an hour, 20 hours a week, and she brings in a lot of the leads that bring in business for us. That’s a good example of an area where we felt like we didn’t have the expertise, and it was good to go out and hire for it.
Do you regularly interact with other franchise owners?
Dwight: Everybody is incredibly helpful. A tremendous amount of collaboration goes on between us on a regular basis. I have a customer here in Columbus with an office in Kalamazoo — and there is a TeamLogic IT in Kalamazoo that we pay to provide service to that client’s Kalamazoo location. The clients love that. The owners’ groups that the corporate team runs are awesome, and frankly, one of the best benefits of this franchise is the networking and peer collaboration.
Would you recommend a TeamLogic IT franchise?
Allison: I would. The marketing assets are huge. The go-to-market strategy and overall marketing plan is critical. We could try to reinvent that wheel, but it would take a lot of time and our method wouldn’t be proven, and you wouldn’t be able to tell customers that there are 50 “Dwight and Allison” shops across the country. And the road map for the business — what works and what doesn’t, has helped us grow. I would have never, on my own, hired a walking person to go business-to-business, striking up conversations and dropping off brochures. I would never have thought that could work, but they told us to do it, and it has worked.
Become a TeamLogic IT franchise owner today!
TeamLogic IT is the technology franchise small and medium-sized businesses increasingly rely on for turnkey support. TeamLogic IT’s managed IT services contracts give clients peace of mind around their technology needs, and provide franchise owners with a steady, predictable revenue stream. The company now serves a wide and growing variety of clients in every business sector, from tourism and hospitality to healthcare, legal and accounting. Along the way, TeamLogic IT has grown to more than 250 locations around North America and continues to expand in both new and existing markets.