TeamLogic IT Franchise Review: Q&A With Dwight and Allison Blankenship
Couple’s entrepreneurship, passion for helping small businesses, culminate in TeamLogic IT franchise
Dwight and Allison Blankenship started their TeamLogic IT franchise in September 2012. Dwight 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, he 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 had taken the entrepreneurial career route herself a few years earlier by joining CAbi, a fashion company that sells designer clothing directly to consumers. When Dwight discovered TeamLogic IT, Allison ways ready to embrace the challenge of growing a new kind of business.
This is their story.
Why did you want to change careers and do something different?
Dwight: At the end of the day, 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 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 owner because they are the ones creating all the jobs.
Allison: Having done CAbi gave me the confidence to assist in the venture. With our youngest being 12, 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 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 network — including quite a few that were husband and wife teams. They were very accomodating. We spent easily an hour per call with people.
Dwight: We were also really impressed by the people at TeamLogic. When we went out for Discovery Day, everybody we met was top notch and felt genuinely concerned with our success. And it wasn’t just TeamLogic, but also having Franchise Services behind them with 45 years of franchising experience.
Allison: CAbi is a tremendous organization from the people perspective, and I felt the same way about TeamLogic, 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.
How do you divvy up responsibilities in your business?
Dwight: There are some logical divisions, and there are some that are blurred. I probably have the more extensive B2B sales experience. The last 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 aspects 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 customers service and quality assurance.
What does your team look like?
Dwight: We have a director of engineering, a senior engineer, myself 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 are growing fast, we’re continuing to put money into the business for what we feel will be a greater return down the road. We’re getting everything set for what we think will be significant growth. It would be nice to be taking money out of the business already, but it’s not something you should expect for the first year or two. And we are evolving from doing a lot of break-fix work to bringing on more managed services clients.
Allison: The emphasis on managed services is a strategic move for TeamLogic.
Dwight: The managed IT customer tends to be a totally different customer profile. Break-fix people usually wait for a problem to occur — they might occasionally sign up for some monthly maintenance to try to regularize their IT budget. Larger companies and those with more high-level professionals cannot afford to have IT problems — they want to avoid them altogether — and they realize they can sign up for a manage services contract for a lot less money than having their own full-time IT professional on staff, and by working with TeamLogic IT, they get access to a network of 200 technicians, so there aren’t gaps in knowledge.
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 that has 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 approach your customers?
Dwight: Our first and foremost goal is to understand a customer’s business. I do not like to go in and start talking 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 dollar 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.
Dwight: We are really trying to transition to all-in pricing. For the ideal client, we will be doing email, disaster recovery, security, network monitoring and administration, desktop monitoring and administration, remote support and onsite service. In addition, we will do periodic network and security assessments — including things as simple as coming in and cleaning up computers (including getting dust off the fans and cleaning workspaces, which can extend the life of components). They will pay $160-165 per user per month. It’s like insurance for your office’s productivity. Part of the challenge is getting customers to understand that their IT costs go beyond their actual spending on computers. Sure, how much did you spend on IT last year, but also, why did you spend it? Your server went down for three days? How much did that cost you in lost revenue? How much did it cost you to have your employees only be half as productive for a week? Business owners who understand the true opportunity costs of having IT problems, they realize that it’s worth taking steps to keep those problems from happening.
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 is really allowing me to grow as a business person. We believe this will be a successful business. There is such huge potential here, and we feel like TeamLogic IT and FSI have set up a really 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 have to make it happen. Part of the blowout year we had in 2013 is we made that happen.
What does it take to be successful? 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 is as a technical guru — they will struggle. You need to be comfortable with sales. This is not the franchise for them. There are others.
Allison: One of the challenges is that technical guys will sometimes will 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 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 it is 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 success?
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 that 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 a Day in the Life look like?
Dwight: Right now, 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.
How many hours are you working?
Dwight: I would say about 40 hours, maybe a little more.
Allison: For me, it’s more like 30. I think for us, we have really tried to keep things balanced so that we don’t burn out. I’m pretty happy with the success we’ve had, as balanced as it has been.
Dwight: It would be easy for me to work 50-60 hours a week, and we could be even more wildly successful than we already are. I would rather be more like the tortoise than the hare. I’d rather plod along slow and steady with aggressive targets and goals rather than try to speed out of the gate and burn out.
Allison: Dwight has always been good at working smart, being efficient. And also, along those lines, the guys who are technical who get into this, they tend to have longer hours because they are trying to do sales, and technical work, and accounting. As owners we are putting in 75 hours a week — but there are two of us.
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 than 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 can’t we 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.
Were you looking for a business you could run together?
Dwight: We didn’t set out looking for husband-wife businesses, but as we talked to other TeamLogics that were doing it that way, we realized it was a legitimate option.
Allison: We had worked together before so we had an idea what that meant.
What are the other franchisees like?
Everybody is incredibly helpful. I requested to speak with to more than 30 franchise owners, and pretty much all of them responded. Everybody was extremely helpful, extremely open. They want to see you succeed. A tremendous amount of collaboration goes on between us on a regular basis. I have a customer here in Columbus that has an office in Kalamazoo — and there is a TeamLogic in Kalamazoo that we pay to provide service to that client’s Kalamazoo location. The clients love that.
What are your goals for your business?
Dwight: Our 10 year plan is to have a 30-person staff and a multimillion business that we can either sell or pass along to our son. We want to continue to grow and impact the lives of more employees — that is very important to us. On the personal side, this business is going to provide for our retirement, for our son’s college — and maybe for a house in Florida. That’s our 10-year plan. We may not sell, but we are growing with a goal in mind.
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 all 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, have 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.
Learn more about TeamLogic IT
TeamLogic IT provides managed IT services to small and medium-sized businesses. Its 50 franchise units and 200-plus technicians give the technology franchise a nationwide footprint and a massive knowledge-base with which to provide exceptional service to clients. TeamLogic helps its clients become more productive and secure, and that focus has helped franchise owners earn double-digit average same-unit sales growth for three years in a row. To learn more about the business, including startup costs for a franchise, visit our research pages. You can read interviews with TeamLogic franchise owners on our blog. For even more information, fill out a form to download our free franchise report and start a conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!