Q&A With TeamLogic IT Franchisees Rob Fallows & Chris Cioffi
Self-employment had a strong appeal, but finding the right fit was paramount for these budding entrepreneurs
Ever get tired of endless business meetings? Rob Fallows and his business partner Chris Cioffi did during their time at American Express, and so both began looking for ways to get off the corporate treadmill. Franchising seemed an obvious answer, but neither wanted to sink savings into a business that held no interest for them. When they heard about TeamLogic IT, they realized their search was over.
How did you hear about TeamLogic IT franchise possibilities?
Rob: Chris and I worked together and used to sit in ridiculous meetings that would last forever and deal with all sorts of corporate politics. We would say, ‘Gosh wouldn’t it be nice to be your own boss?’ There were some organizational changes, and I wound up leaving. Then about a year later, Chris was ready to leave. He and his dad began looking at franchise opportunities, and when they found TeamLogic IT he called me, quite excited, and said, ‘Rob, you’ve got to come look at it with me.’
Chris: I had been looking at other kinds of businesses. I went to a franchise show, and it was filled with food options, which didn’t interest me. I had spent my whole career in tech. Chuck Lennon was at the expo, and I was impressed by the package of support they had put together for small businesses. It felt more like home, even just the way Chuck and his team presented themselves. Everything was very professional, and the next thing I knew we were on a plane headed to Discovery Day.
How did TeamLogic IT stand out right away?
Rob: When Chris and I got together at lunch, and he pulled out the package Chuck had given him, the first thing I noted was its professional appearance. It laid things out, such as the type of support that was offered, very clearly. I noticed that TeamLogic IT had a remote management and maintenance tool that nobody else had. It was the sort of thing we were used to having in our corporate jobs, to manage a large number of computers at a small cost.
What impressed me about them more than anyone else was the sales part of it. Neither Chris nor I has any sales background at all. TeamLogic IT has put all that together, so we just have to go out and use what we’ve been given.
We do sales — but we don’t think of it as sales. It’s not about selling; it’s about finding people who have a need. It’s a way to get a foot in the door, to get leads going and to be able to present ourselves effectively.
How have you built the business over time?
Chris: At first we had a lot of real estate companies as clients, and we learned really fast about the importance of diversifying our business.
Rob: We now have everything from a print broker who works out of his house to a company that builds replacement parts for nuclear power plants. We have insurance companies and farms, veterinary services companies. It’s really exciting because there is so much to learn. We see new stuff every day.
As far as the client’s setup, on average it’s about a 25-30 person office, but we don’t limit ourselves. Our biggest client is 150 computers and 10 servers, which is very manageable. But even the print broker who works from home — he just wants his computer to work. And if he has a question about Excel or PowerPoint, he wants someone he can call. If we hadn’t chosen to work with him based on his size, we would have probably lost four very large referrals; he passed our name on to people who have become clients and produced nice revenue.
How do you present what TeamLogic IT does to new and existing clients?
Rob: When we go in and work with a client, we tend to be their IT department. They call us when they have a problem. We often have to stop and think about who’s calling, because they think of us as being in the cubicle next to them, and so it’s not like calling a vendor. One of our best clients is a little home health-care company with offices throughout the country. We support them all. How did we get him? He came across the parking lot one day and said that the guy who’d been doing his IT support forever was unreachable, and his systems were failing. We fixed it, and he’s been a client for five years now. We try to identify pain points and then resolve them.
Chris: For us, the toolbox we have sets us apart from lots of the competitors. We have tools like System Watch, our remote monitoring system, which has been copied by some competitors. Also, we’re independently owned and are accountable every day. Our clients get us when they call.
Rob: And the clients also get the benefit of how we are supported. We were TeamLogic IT franchise No. 14 when we signed up — pretty early on. We’re now the biggest one in depth of knowledge and number of staff. We often provide support to smaller TeamLogic ITs. We have a knowledge-based intranet where we track questions that range from marketing issues to technical problems. People just jump in there and help out.
We also get a lot of help from corporate on many aspects of the business, such as sales and marketing. For other franchisees, they help with hiring an IT director or IT manager. They bring potential new solutions to us, like spam services, and also negotiate the best rates for us on equipment.
Chris: The back-office support has also been helpful from the beginning. If we are having difficulty with an employee from an HR perspective, we have a legal specialist and HR specialist at our disposal. There are pre-made employee manuals, policies and procedures available. These are things companies need and that you don’t have if you are starting from scratch. They also helped us build and evaluate our business plan, which was instrumental for us.
Rob: When we first started we had questions, and because we had full-time jobs we would send questions at 10 p.m. on a Friday night and not expect an answer until Monday. Instead, we got it in five minutes. We asked older franchisees, “When do they stop treating you like a prospect?” The answer is, they don’t. You can send a note to Chuck at 10 p.m. Saturday and get a response quickly. They’re there to support us, and they do a great job.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of the business?
Rob: When you get a client who is happy with the support you provide — and they let you know. Or when they call and complain, and we tell them that maybe we’re not a great fit and we can transition them to someone else, but they don’t want to leave!
We have a team that we grew from not having a lot of customer service skills and technical ability to a group that has been coached and trained to where they are doing a great job and representing us well.
It’s also nice that we’ve had to expand our office and fleet a few times.
Chris: We have 17 people on the payroll, not including Rob and me, and we began with only one tech. We are managing close to 2,000 computers on servers and PCs, and we have close to 120 clients. (We help them with iPhone/iPad services, too.)
What would you tell a potential franchisee who’s sounding you out on your investment?
Chris: A person looking at starting a business like this from scratch needs to think realistically about the clients. Corporate is great, but they’re not going to provide those.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations about how much money you are going to make and how fast you are going to make it. If you have a sales and marketing background and want to start an IT company, TeamLogic can help set up the IT side of things. TeamLogic IT is part of FSI, which has been doing franchise support forever. You can even talk to Don Lowe, the CEO of FSI. Ask him how to do a business evaluation, and he will connect you to someone.
Rob: We did look at buying an IT company after looking at TeamLogic, something that we could fold into the franchise. We started looking at a few other small businesses, and it was eye-opening to see how unprofessional, how unprepared and how poor the accounting was in other businesses. We really stand out.
People should know that potential franchisees are interviewed and vetted. TeamLogic IT doesn’t accept everybody. They want to make sure you are going to be successful. They have built a brand, and they do a good job of protecting that. They aren’t going to show up on CBS News because some system somewhere was hacked because TeamLogic IT let a system go down.
Also, know that for the first six months you can expect to infuse cash into the business, especially if you are building a client base. After that, you’re probably not going to take cash out for the first year. You should be taking profits after the first year.
Buckle down and find your own way. Established TeamLogic IT businesses will help you. Rely on the network, and go in with realistic expectations.
Chris: You can’t draw a correlation directly to just financial results. We probably haven’t replaced what we were making as vice presidents of a Fortune 100 company, but we have a lot more flexibility in our lives.
Learn more about starting a TeamLogic IT business services franchise
Ready to learn more? You can read interviews with TeamLogic IT franchise owners on our blog and learn a lot more about our business model and our niche within the IT industry by checking out our research pages. Get even more information, including some hard data, when you download our free franchise report!