Meeting Illinois TeamLogic IT Franchise Owner Erik Person
A TeamLogic IT Franchise was the Ideal Choice for this Entrepreneur
When Erik Person decided to go into business for himself a decade ago, he knew two things: It would make sense to pursue an IT-related venture, since he had plenty of experience, and he wanted something he owned outright — no more rotating corporate ownership.
That led to a search that ended with his TeamLogic IT franchise in Schaumburg, Ill. To say he hit the ground running puts it mildly, considering he was named “Rookie of the Year” in his first year of operations, and broke the $1 million mark for revenue in his second. Now, a decade into operations, he reflects on growth, opportunities and challenges, both then and now, in the evolving managed IT services space.
What were you doing before TeamLogic IT came along?
A friend and I owned a company that sold hardware, primarily system equipment. We didn’t offer any services. Before that, I worked for big companies and handled IT-related marketing and sales.
Why did you want to change careers and do something different?
I had gone through a lot of changes in my career due to buyouts. It was a constant transition, because they all approached things differently, and so I wanted to do something where I controlled my own destiny. That’s why my friend and I started our company for hardware resale. But I wanted something a little more local, and so looked around to see what was there in the IT service field for smaller and mid-sized businesses, because I knew they needed help.
How did you find out about TeamLogic IT?
I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so I knew I’d probably want to go with a franchise model. I began talking with the team at TeamLogic IT, and they connected me with some of their owners. Over the course of six months, I did my research, and then went to a Discovery Day in California. I was very impressed with everything I saw and heard.
What attracted you to the business?
For me, it was the owners. I got a list of the top 10 most successful franchise owners, but I also talked to the people who were struggling, and who were relatively new to TeamLogic IT and had not hit the break-even point yet. All of them said it was a great opportunity, and that they would do it again. That kind of attitude, combined with the team at corporate, just really sealed the deal. Everybody involved with TeamLogic IT is professional and knowledgeable.
How big is your footprint now?
We have seven franchise territories, and just moved into an office condo. We’re primarily in the Chicago suburbs, sort of a ring around the city. We’ve got 23 people on staff: sales, technicians, the support staff, and me.
What does your client mix look like?
We have a lot of manufacturing businesses around O’Hare [airport], and then a lot of professional services. One area that is unique to us as far as TeamLogic IT goes is hospitality and restaurant clients. Most offices don’t have a lot of these, but in my case, I knew a guy from a park where we took our kids. When I thought I sent him an email — actually, I sent an email to my whole contact list! And he said, ‘Our IT support is terrible, come and talk to me.’
That’s what I wanted to hear, and so I met with him. He’s the CFO of a restaurant group that had 25 locations at the time, and I literally stumbled into doing their IT support. Through word of mouth, other restaurant groups have heard about us, and so we’ve been able to grow in that space.
It’s not just a single-site client, though. If we do restaurant work, we’re looking for 100 locations or more, something that may not have an internal IT department and needs help or has one and needs additional support for growth. We’ve been in that niche for about 10 years now, and as these clients open new restaurant concepts, we go with them to get them up and running.
That has also given us the chance to share some accounts with other TeamLogic IT franchises, as those restaurant chains grow into other markets. We work with the TeamLogic IT offices in St. Louis and San Diego now, and I am sure there will be more.
Why do small and medium-sized businesses appeal to you? What are their challenges, and how do you meet them?
The smaller companies are owned by people who are here, people that I can see at the golf course or at the Chamber of Commerce. They’re a little closer to home, and so am I, so we can connect pretty easily. It’s an unmet niche, because whenever I talk to friends who are business owners, they always say their IT support is terrible. They don’t want to hire in house, because that costs a fortune, and they don’t have enough work for a full-time IT person. So, they put up with less than adequate support. That was all the anecdotal evidence I needed.
How did you and your team fare during the Covid shutdowns and afterwards?
It was chaos, but we figured it out. Revenue-wise, it was great for us — everyone had to shift into work from home, and then once they were there, most of our customers needed help monitoring their teams. Eventually, they also needed help moving everyone back. That meant a lot of moving parts, and getting laptops into place and firewalls up was difficult for a while, given supply-chain issues.
As far as our staff went, everyone has had it at least once, except me. I dodged it until right before this last Owners Summit, so I had to miss that annual meeting, and that was hard because I usually go every year.
How have you helped a customer out of a jam, or helped them dramatically improve the way their business functions?
One of my easier sales was when we walked into a CEO’s office at a manufacturing company. She was complaining about her laptop, because she’d just bought it and the Wi-Fi stopped working. I checked it and the Wi-Fi switch had been turned off. She said I was a genius, because nobody else had figured that out. I wish they were all that easy!
Another time, one of our biggest customers called us because their email had gone down on a Friday night, and it was now Tuesday afternoon, and it still wasn’t back up. Two other companies had been called in and hadn’t solved the issue. We are five minutes away, so we went over and had it back up in about four hours. Two days later, they signed a 3-year managed services contract.
Performing well in emergencies can win you long-term business situations.
What personality or values do you think are needed to grow as a TeamLogic IT owner?
I think a lot of it is common sense. When a customer calls, they want to get someone live — not a machine. Treat them the way you want to be treated. If we make a mistake, we apologize, accept responsibility, fix it, and chalk it up to a lesson learned.
Mainly, be accessible and show a sense of urgency. We have more than 100 clients, and none of them care if the others are down. They want their issue dealt with.
How large is the opportunity for your business to grow?
We had a really strong first couple of years, then leveled off a bit by the middle of 2015. Since then, we’ve seen significant growth, and I think that’s going to continue.
We’re all over the place in terms of clients. I keep thinking one day we’re going to get really good at one specialty area, but we’ve got everything from manufacturing to law, accounting offices to hospitality, and restaurant chains. We don’t have any one vertical that stands out right now.
How do the tools offered by Corporate help you market your business and serve your customers?
When you are starting out, the quality of the print pieces is a very big deal. We’re a lot smaller than some of our competitors, but because of the materials we had, and the website along with the network, we look bigger. We have been able to walk into a potential client’s office and say that we’re small, but we’re one of more than 200 locations nationally. That immediately separates us from the competition. The other systems help you on the operations side, so that you have systems ready to go and you’re not trying to figure out billing and other things on your own. The groundwork is in place to give you a head start, and to stay ahead.
What types of marketing and outreach do you do?
It’s a combination, really. Our sales guy spends time in the four or five different chambers of commerce we belong to, and we both attend a lot of other networking events, things like business after hours mixers. We also work with two email marketing companies vetted by corporate to develop leads, and they have been fantastic. We also do a ton of paid search, even though Google can be expensive.
Do you participate in TeamLogic IT’s owners’ group and other networking opportunities?
We definitely do. We try to meet once or twice a year and talk at least once a month on conference calls. Back when I started, I was the only franchise in Illinois, but now there are more, so we call ourselves ‘the magnificent seven’ even though we had to pull in one from Milwaukee to make the number! We get tougher calls every other week, and things like this are really a best practice. When I got started, so many people were kind enough to take my calls and give advice, so now I can pay that back and help the next generation.
What does your typical day look like?
It’s a combination of the drudge work that has to be done, like forms and paperwork, and then more fun stuff like going out and presenting proposals. We had four initial meetings the other day, so now I’m putting together proposals for those businesses. If we’re really busy, I can go out and pitch in to help get a job done. There’s really no typical day.
What do you enjoy about the business?
I feel like I am in control of my future. I’m not working for some company that’s going to get bought out, sold and sold again. It’s sink or swim, but we’re doing it as a team, and making it on our own efforts. It’s fun to have a day ahead of you that’s got a lot of challenges in it.
What’s an area of the business you’ve been building?
Security and cybersecurity, which really showed up during Covid. Not so much for restaurants, if they have a secure POS machine setup, they’re in good shape. But for medical, legal, financial services, mortgage, anybody with Department of Defense contracts, it is a huge deal. We had to teach a lot of customers that ‘No, you can’t use the same PC your son uses to game on,’ and ‘No, you can’t connect any old PC to the corporate VPN network.’
We did a lot of work to make things secure, from antivirus programs and just awareness around best practices for security. Bigger companies are hardening their attack surfaces, which means hackers are turning to smaller companies, and that’s the space we operate in, so there is a lot of opportunity still.
How has managed IT services been for you as a growth engine?
I’d say it’s about 60% of our business, but it works twofold. First, you get that contract. Then, when you add in projects, hardware and software, and everything else we do for those clients, it’s probably closer to 90% of our revenue begins there. Some budget-sensitive clients may not want it at first, but these days most everyone realizes they need some kind of monthly agreement. That is a very big change from a few years ago, and it’s good for us.
What’s next for you and your team?
Continued growth. We’re going to make security a big initiative for next year, because we still have a lot of clients who need the help. Some get it, others do not, and sometimes it takes a close brush with disaster to get them to realize that we mean what we say, and they should listen. We are seeing a lot of cybersecurity insurance policies going into place, and that will create opportunity for us, as well as they’ll have benchmarks to meet for those policies.
What would you tell a prospective TeamLogic IT franchise owner?
I would say perseverance is really important. It takes time for the good TeamLogic IT marketing to take hold and begin producing results. Afterwards, it’s really common sense. Take good care of customers, be available, and have a quick response time. That was the biggest thing that separated us from our competitors back then, and it’s still the biggest thing today. Being a reliable, responsive and quick service to help people out of a jam, and also when things are smooth and just have questions. Our competitors have the same tool sets and products, it’s the people at TeamLogic IT that make the difference.
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.