TeamLogic Franchise Review: Q&A with Drayton Mayers of Memphis
International business leader settles down in Memphis to grow a managed IT services franchise
Before Drayton Mayers started his TeamLogic IT franchise in Memphis in 2011, he traveled the world as chief executive for agricultural trade groups dedicated to building global exports for American products. His work gave him a front row seat for globalization, and as businesses in other countries worked to build relationships with U.S. business, he saw how important technology was to their growth. Technology was a crucial tool, and the best businesses embraced it, and used it to help them thrive.
Drayton eventually had enough of international travel. With two teenagers at home, he wanted to settle down. His search for a new career led him to TeamLogic. He recently spoke to us about his experience.
How did you decide to buy a TeamLogic IT?
I was charged with making some radical changes at the Cotton Board and once I completed my mission I was ready to do something else. My children at the time were 12 and 14, and I’d been traveling all over the world on a constant basis. I had two bags packed at any given time. I didn’t want to do that anymore. Traditional employment was out of the question for me, because why would somebody want to hire someone at my skill level unless they wanted to send me all over the world? If I had stayed on my past career course, I would probably be living in Shanghai right now. So I looked at business ownership instead.
I looked at off the shelf businesses here in Memphis, and either didn’t like them or couldn’t afford them. I eventually found a franchise broker who helped me explore opportunities, and that led me to buy a TeamLogic IT about eight months later.
What other franchises did you consider?
I looked at a nanny and tutoring franchise, but a big part of it was constant staffing, and that didn’t appeal to me. I eventually narrowed it to TeamLogic IT and a printing franchise out of Arizona. I took the time to validate the two — calling a random sample of 25% of their franchisees. When I looked at the financial pro formas that I generated as a result of those calls, I felt that TeamLogic IT would get my wife and I to where we wanted to be financially faster. I also saw the demand for computer and IT services as a better long-term play than printing.
When I went to TeamLogic IT for Discovery Day, and spent a day and evening with the staff, my wife and I really, really liked what we saw. And that starts from the top, with Oscar Tang. (Tang is a Chinese-American billionaire financier whose family owns KOA Holdings, which is the parent company of Franchise Services Inc. and TeamLogic IT). Oscar is a fascinating man who has built a company that has mastered the art of supporting franchisees. I have some familiarity with large franchisors living in Memphis, which is where ServiceMaster is based. I liked the fact that FSI does not own any franchises itself, so I don’t have to worry about competing against my own partner.
I really liked the men and women who worked at FSI, their level of professionalism. I really got a great sense of their culture, and it was attractive.
You don’t have an engineering background. Does that make for challenges?
I don’t have a technical bone in my body — I’m pretty much 1-800-FIX-MY-LIGHTBULB. I think that has actually helped me, because I don’t try to get into the weeds. I need to work on the business, not in the business.
I knew that I could have a business conversation with other business owners given my background and experience. And I’ve never been afraid of technology. In 1983, when I became president & CEO of MIATCO, I decided technology would be a strategic partner as I built U.S. farm exports, and not just a necessary evil. I had clients all over the world, which forced me to adopt that attitude. The rest of the world often embraced technology more quickly to gain access to world markets. In 1983 we were using Telex machines, they were using fax machines. I adopted faxes. They were using email, I adopted email. They were using Skype or GoToMeeting, and I adopted what they were using. As president and CEO, you have to make IT decisions that either, drive revenue, increase customer satisfaction and or manage bottom line costs. I understand that, and can have conversations with owners on that level.
Who are your target customers?
The majority of our customers are within a 10 to 15 mile radius of Memphis. Of course, some have offices elsewhere, too, and while we can’t provide direct on-site support to a distant office, we can help them remotely. The sweet spot is small- to medium-sized businesses. To me, small is a business with 30 computers or less. Medium is 30 to 80, and anything over 80 is large.
My ideal client is someone who really has the same values that I do: Somebody who believes that technology is a strategic partner, who believes that technology is just as important as any high-performing W-2 employee, and who are willing to invest time, talent and treasure into developing their technology, just like they would a high-performing W-2 employee. They realize technology is important to their comparative advantage over their competition. They understand that it’s not always better to hire technicians or engineers to work on premise as W-2 employees — that it is better and less expensive to outsource to a company who employs experienced and certified engineers.
Then, when you have a discovery call with a potential client, it’s about finding out if they have pain in their business that is related to technology. Often, it is close to the surface, like a bruise. I talk about money right off the bat to see if they flinch. Then I try to find out what their timeline is for making a decision. Are you ready to fire your current provider after 15 years? Why?
What types of pain do you encounter?
Technical pain can include, “I got a virus, it took control of my controller’s computer, the company credit card was hijacked, we had to do a restore of the computer and found out that we didn’t have a clean backup because one of our two servers wasn’t being backed up by the current provider.” Emotionally, that is like having your company broken into and violated. That company now has major trust issues. Another example would be a company that has suffered significant downtime. “My email is down. My server is down, ” whatever it happens to be.
There is a payroll processor we have as a client — they compete very effectively against ADP, Paychex, and people like that. They have clients all over the U.S., and they cannot afford to have any downtime whatsoever. If their systems are down and they can’t run payroll for their clients, even once, they get fired. There would be men and women charging into the CEO’s offices saying “I don’t have my money, what the heck!” In one case, thanks to the tools we have, we knew that our client’s servers weren’t acting right, and so we went in on a Friday afternoon to swap hard drives after they finished processing payroll. And we were physically standing over their server waiting to do that when the server catastrophically failed right in front of us. Fortunately, we also had a business continuity solution in place, and we had them back up and running within an hour. They finished payroll processing and were probably only 30 minutes late for dinner. They pay us about $10,000 a year for backup solutions and disaster recovery, and that is a big deal for a small company, and it’s an investment that they don’t make lightly. But it pays off.
How do you earn customers?
I have a lot of conversations, and my company has a very strong sales culture. Most people don’t imagine a computer engineer being a salesperson, but I find that everybody in every business is in sales. What I mean by that is that even if one of my engineers is on the phone on the help desk, he is an ambassador for my company. We call it showing the love. That’s mandatory. We talk about it a lot, because we are in a service business. They have to like us, they have to trust us, and it starts with personality. So we are all in the sales business.
How do you serve customers?
We have a remote management software suite called SystemWatch IT — a tiny piece of software that lives in servers and workstations and constantly checks in and reports that everything looks good, or not. It will generate an alert to tell us, “Hey, Dan’s server is down.” And we’ll put in a quick call. “Hey, Dan, we noticed your server is down,” to determine whether they lost power in the building, or their internet provider has had an outage — but it could also be that something else has knocked the server offline, and each scenario will trigger protocols for serving the customer.
Engineers will do anything to get that server back up. They are, by nature, superheroes. They are the kind of people who will climb a tree and pick every single piece of fruit until the problem is resolved. They will practically fall out of the tree and hurt themselves in their effort to remediate problems. That’s how they are.
To make a long story short, we have a heart for service. Ultimately, it’s not about the technology — it’s about how the technology is used to drive revenue, increase customer satisfaction, manage costs and maintain competitiveness. Computers are very powerful, but they are really just dumb but powerful boxes until you put a piece of software inside them that is designed to add value for the user. I love being an evangelist for technology, and I enjoy being part of the team that is helping lawyers, doctors, payroll processors, or even armored car manufacturers.
What does your team look like?
There are three engineers and myself, and I also have a handful of contractors who are super smart and provide very specific skills.
What are your days like?
I get up about 5 in the morning, have a cup of coffee, try to feed my social network with news that potential customers can use so that I stay top of mind. This is a timing business — when a customer needs the service we offer, they’ll go, “I’ll call Drayton, that guy on LinkedIn who is always posting.” I do newsletters, and I write emails. I get to the office around 8. Sales are a numbers game, so you have to be in front of prospects to continue to feed the funnel, and you have to work the funnel in order to convert prospects into clients. A managed services client — somebody willing to pay us $20,000 to $80,000 a year to provide full service and to be their on-call IT staff — those individuals don’t just grow on trees. I’m making telephone calls, trying to meet with decision makers, and doing the usual management stuff — talking to the guys about what they are doing, where they are going, how they are; writing and delivering proposals; working on the financial side of the business.
What does it mean to be a technology advisor for your clients?
You come to me and say, “I need this, this and this,” and I say, “Yeah, but you also need this, this, and this, and I bundle it together and give it to you for one fixed price.
I love cloud services and I urge prospects looking at a server refresh to consider my Desk to as a Service (DaaS) It amazing. They can securely access their software and data at anytime from anywhere from any device. Everything is located in a Tier 4 data center that is operated by the most experienced server engineers keeping your data safe, secure and highly available. And you get all-you-can-eat telephone support, so if you have an employee who needs help, we deliver it straight away.”
The cloud services like DaaS is entirely scalable. The largest company on our DaaS platform has 1,500 workstations in 120 offices. That’s not one of my clients, but they are on the same platform my client’s use. It started with a contract for 15 workstations and kept growing, and they have never had to own a server. I love it.
What is the growth potential for a TeamLogic IT?
Memphis is a distribution town, so we know a fair bit about distribution and manufacturing. We have been pretty successful with dentistry clients. One of our dental offices was experiencing chronic pain that was interrupting their workflow and we got rid of the downtime completely. In a dental office, gadgets and gizmos need to feed into the system to provide real-time data, and it was chronically failing. These guys make a lot of money when a patient is in a chair. When the patient is not in a chair because of malfunctioning IT, they are not making any money. They were in pain before we stabilized their environment. And they love us. We are their technology partners.
What are the advantages of being part of the franchise system?
I have loads of competition out there. A huge advantage is that we have a national footprint. Thanks to the network, it’s like I have 200 engineers on staff. If you manage them right, rather than fall out of the tree trying to be a superhero, they will raise their hands and say, “there are 200 of me out here. Hey guys, have you ever seen this before?” It becomes a fraternity of superheroes. You want to talk about a resource? That is a remarkable knowledge base. There are also natural friendships that form when you have periodic calls with your peers for any reason.
There are also informal peer groups. Once a month, we’ll spend an hour together and try to help each other as much as possible by sharing our experiences. Being a president and CEO, it’s a very lonely position. You don’t know what it feels like until you are in that position. It helps to know that you are not alone and you are not crazy and we are all experiencing the same thing. We may be motivated differently, and we may have different approaches, but it’s still nice to be able to call Sally, Suzie or Dwight and have a peer to peer conversation. That is a phenomenal resource. We talk a lot about how to hire the right people, motivate them, manage them, train them and reward them. Labor are 68% of my costs — it’s a big, big topic. None of us are in this just to be philanthropic. I may have a service heart, but I have very serious income goals that I am trying to reach, so talking about how to grow the business and protect margins, how to package and sell services, how to work with partners like Dell or Tech Data or whoever it happens to be — being able to have those conversations is wonderful. It’s all about being open and willing to share and put yourself out there and say, “I don’t have all the answers. How about you?”
Would you recommend a TeamLogic IT franchise to someone else?
Absolutely. They have to have the right attitude. They have to have the right amount of resources to build a business. Success doesn’t happen overnight, so you have to have the financial wherewithal to maintain your lifestyle until the business starts generating positive cash flow and you can take a distribution from the company.
I also can’t emphasize enough the fact that you really have to be a people person. You have to enjoy helping people — not in an arrogant, “I know everything” way, but in terms of being willing to go above and beyond. Like I said, it’s not about the gizmos and gadgets. They are an important part of the solutions we offer, but they are not the be all and end all. You have to be a continuous learner, because we see some pretty random stuff, man. You have to have faith and conviction that you can be successful regardless of the economic client or the volume of competition. You know, I don’t even think about my competition — not one whit, because my competition is my prospective clients’ lack of awareness in our products and solutions. It’s about the reaching the client, educating the client, and serving the client.
Has your growth met your expectations?
We have doubled revenue year-over-year. For 2014, my stretch goal is to double it again. There are two ways to grow — organically, or by buying a good business that I can roll into my own. I will clearly continue to grow organically, but I am also looking at acquisition as part of my growth strategy.
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!