TeamLogic IT franchise review: Q&A with Jim Hackett of Boston

Marketing executive started out a service provider for TeamLogic IT franchise; was so impressed he became a franchisee.

Jim Hackett with his VP of Operations Ken Patterson, left, and son Andy Hackett, right. The Hacketts won an award at the 2013 TeamLogic IT convention for having the highest sales volume.

Jim Hackett with his VP of Operations Ken Patterson, left, and son Andy Hackett, right. The Hacketts won an award at the 2013 TeamLogic IT convention for having the highest sales volume.

Jim Hackett and his son Andy Hackett own two TeamLogic IT offices in the Boston area, and have grown a thriving business since starting out in 2007. Jim took an unusual route to franchise ownership. He already owned a successful marketing firm, Indivia Inc., which provided guidance to large corporations. He learned about the technology franchise when TeamLogic IT President Chuck Lennon reached out for help developing marketing materials for the then-year-old business. Jim loved what he saw in the management team and the concept. He recognized that TeamLogic IT’s services were something his own company could use, and he realized that there was a huge marketplace of businesses like his that needed better technology tools and guidance.

He was so smitten that he decided he would be the one to bring TeamLogic IT to Boston. This is his story.

Tell me about what attracted you to TeamLogic IT, because your story sounds pretty unique.
I never intended to buy a franchise. I was actually hired to write some of their marketing materials when the franchise was in its early years, and I realized that they had a beautiful story and an amazing opportunity. When you are in advertising and you can tell a beautiful story, it’s a lot of fun. At the time I was doing the project, I was having a lot of computer problems at my office, so I asked if they had plans already to open a TeamLogic in Boston, and they said no. And I just said that’s too bad, because I would have hired them. A couple of months later, I decided to start the business myself, and my ad agency became its first client.

What made you decide to buy a franchise?
I love the team of people — they’re ethical, brilliant, and work hard to deliver a great service. Plus, everything they said in the early stages of our discussions was true. There was no hyperbole, no overstatements. That’s a big deal. People are prone to hyperbole, especially when selling. The TeamLogic people give you facts. Over time, as I got to know them, my intuition proved to be true — these guys were the real deal. They not only told a good story, they lived a good story. For instance, when I would have a question, they would always follow through with a detailed response. As we launched our business, the level of care and genuine interest in us was beyond anything I have ever expected.

From years in marketing, I was familiar with the C-level team in other franchise organizations, and some of them seem focused on delivering “good enough” service to their franchisees. My experience with TeamLogic IT and their parent Franchise Services, Inc. is that they’d deliver more than I expected every time. I would ask, for instance, about territory, and they would describe the territory in detail, with in-depth statistics.

How has TeamLogic helped you?
I’ve started and sold several businesses, but there are still things to learn every day, and it’s great to have other bright minds in the room saying, “Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?” And I’m a creative guy, not a numbers guy, and I’ve received a tremendous amount of help. We do annual business plans with (TeamLogic IT President) Chuck Lennon. He has provided great strategic advice as well as tactical help.

Another example: I had a business partner when we first launched, and had to buy him out. He had gone through some personal crises, and I was trying to figure out how to extricate him from the business at his request. It was tricky, and I called (TeamLogic IT CEO) Don Lowe and said, here’s the situation: I need to buy this guy out, but more importantly, I need him to still be my friend when we are done. This guy is my best friend — we’ve known each other since we were 5. Don introduced me to a fellow who could provide a fair appraisal of the business, and for a very reasonable fee we were able to get an appraisal that pleased both my former partner and myself. I was happy. He was happy. We still get together, we’re still friends, and I wouldn’t have been able to handle it so elegantly without their help.

What is the rest of the TeamLogic IT family like?
There is a real camaraderie that has developed around the country. FSI and TeamLogic have done a fantastic job of nurturing camaraderie. I think it begins with the culture TeamLogic creates, and the people they are selecting to sell a franchise to. They measure the character of buyers. Do they have skills to be successful business people? Are they the kinds of people who will be great team players? We’re all busy, scrambling to bring in revenue, but when a TeamLogic owner says they are having a problem, we drop what we are doing and respond, and they do the same for us. And it goes beyond the business. My wife, Sharon, who is not involved in the business day-to-day, comes to the annual owners summit, and she and other franchisees’ spouses share emails and Christmas ideas. That sounds almost trivial, but it’s part of the fabric.

TeamLogic IT owners have fun mimicking President Chuck Lennon's mustache during an owner's summit. That's Chuck at center.

TeamLogic IT owners have fun mimicking President Chuck Lennon’s mustache during an owner’s summit. That’s Chuck at center.

How have you been able to succeed without a technical background?
In some ways, my lack of a technical background has actually been beneficial. When I am dealing with a technician, sometimes they would be using extremely technical terms, and I would have to tell them, “Guys, I have no idea what you are talking about. You have to use normal business language to explain this.”

TeamLogic IT helps us hire the right people. I didn’t know how to evaluate a technician’s skills, and they interviewed candidates for us and made hiring recommendations until we got to the point in our operations where we were comfortable doing that ourselves.

There are also a lot of internal resources that we can tap into — online resources for managing the business, training sessions that employees can use to sharpen their knowledge about different technologies, information about sales techniques, marketing, and management. There is a huge library of information. Nine times out of 10, if you have a question, the answer is already there. If it doesn’t exist, you can also use message boards to ask questions, and everyone in TeamLogic IT nationwide watches those messages — owners and technicians — so if you send out a distress signal, within minutes you’ll have suggestions from 2, or 10, or 20 people. It’s an amazing real-time sharing of knowledge.

TeamLogic IT’s corporate staff is also ON IT. This past year we had a software upgrade to our main service offering, and whenever you go through an upgrade, there are going to be issues, so it was a little nerve-wracking. But anytime there was a hiccup, they were on top of it, and they brought a great, positive attitude throughout the process, which minimized the pain of the transition, and managed to prevent that pain from affecting our customers. We were all focused on the end user experience throughout the process.

Describe your workweek.
I still do some marketing consulting for a couple of clients that I love, serving as a marketing advisor for some Fortune 100 companies, so I still do that for 10-15 hours a week and then spend 30-40 hours a week at TeamLogic. I’m getting a kick out of life. I get to work with my son, Andy, who is building a business that will one day be his. He is the face of our franchise and the future of our franchise. We have 18 employees, and serve about 280 small and medium sized businesses.

What is the growth potential?
The interesting thing about this business is that when times are good, people spend money on expansion, on new equipment and upgrading networks. When times are bad, people spend money on maintaining the networks that they have. There is some resiliency in the demand for our services.

Why do customers choose you?
A lot of laid off technicians will hang a shingle and say they can help small businesses, but a one-man shop cannot provide consistent high quality service to a variety of clients all the time. It’s Murphy’s Law — occasionally several clients will all have a problem at the same time, so you have to staff so that, on a random Tuesday when 11 clients all have an issue at once, you can respond quickly to all of them. We have a team, and we can respond 24/7, and that’s why people hire us. Also, we are very proactive in our sales efforts. Even when we are extremely busy, we are out looking for new clients. We spend a lot of time and effort bringing in new business every day of the week.

How have you grown?
Andy does most of the selling. We have another sales guy, and they do a lot of networking and one-on-one meetings. We work with a telemarketing firm that develops sales leads for us. I develop email campaigns, print mail campaigns, and a variety of marketing initiatives. We do a lot of gorilla marketing events. We recently partnered with an area bank that has similar customer demographics as us, so we ran an event in the lobby of a big commercial building that we are trying to penetrate. We sent out fliers and invited people to take a break to come have coffee and cookies with us. Two hundred people came out, and if they gave us their contact information, we put them in a raffle for a Keurig coffee machine. At the end of the event, we pulled the winner, and I walked the machine right up to the winner’s business. He was sitting with the president of the company, who asked what it was all about. Now, we have a potential partnership with that company, as well as two more clients, all thanks to that one event.

We also have a tradition: I always give a business book to clients for Thanksgiving. I pick one that I think will be a good gift. Last year we mailed out 400 copies of “How Successful People Think” by John Maxwell. We probably spent $6,000 on it, and some other franchisees say, “Jim, why did you spend this much money?” I say, just try it. We get emails and calls from people thanking me. They say, “You’re more than a computer technician, you are a business advisor.” That’s what we want to be: more than computer techs. We are pals. Would I love to take that money home? Sure. But does it deliver a great value? Yes.

What type of customer do you serve, and how big is the opportunity to continue to grow?
When we started the business, it was anybody with a pulse and a wallet, but we were going after businesses with 1 to 50 computers. We had to be careful that we could provide the right level of service to everybody. More than six years later, we’re really targeting customers with 50 or more computers, and businesses that use technology to provide their service. They’re not just using it for administration — it’s central to their operations. One customer is a PR firm with 60 people in different locations. If those PR people aren’t writing or reaching out to the media outlets, they aren’t billing their clients. Another example is a large printing company. If their printers are down, they aren’t making money. Another client provides in-home nursing care, and if their tablets and their network aren’t working and they have to revert to paper, their whole system bogs down and they go from delivering and billing for eight hours of healthcare to delivering five hours of care and doing three hours of paperwork. There are an enormous number of businesses like that in this country.

The president of our largest customer, a PR firm, told me that since he started working with us, he no longer has to worry about technology — he can think about his business. We not only keep things working, we also apprise him of new technology that can make his business more efficient. We also have eased his worries about security issues, especially since everyone has smartphones now, and those smartphones are connected to business data that needs to be safe and secure even if that phone is lost or stolen. Those are the things that keep a business owner awake at night, and we make sure they have the right policies and technology in place to make sure proprietary information stays secure.

How big of a deal is data security to your customers?
I give seminars on data security issues. In the state of Massachusetts, there is a law that if a customer’s data is breached, the company that lost the data is liable for damages. To limit liability, you must prove you have a security plan in place. You need to have training, written policies, and employee signatures to ensure everyone is aware. We go to businesses and will provide a written information security plan, an appendage to the employee manual, which is a way for the business to protect itself in the event of a breach. It can be devastating. We had a restaurant near us (not a client of ours) that had a couple of waiters who were selling credit card information out the backdoor of the kitchen. The owner didn’t know it was going on, but because they didn’t have a written plan to limit liability, the fines from the state were so high that it nearly put them out of business.

People often don’t realize how vulnerable their data is. When we did that event in the building lobby, we decided to see how many Wi-Fi networks we could spot. We found that more than half of the networks were unprotected. We called and let people know that they should take care of it, and that we can help if needed. Our primary business is to be a technology advisor, not to just fix things when they break.

What do you like about the business?
I love the fact that it is service-oriented. I love when I walk into a business and they say, “WE LOVE YOUR TECHNICIAN.” I’ll see people hugging our techs in the lobby! We have a great group of technicians, and I work with Andy and our VP of Operations to find ways to make them so happy they’ll never want to leave. We pay on the upper end of the competitive pay scale, but we also want them to enjoy themselves and improve. We will pay for technical training, for any education they want to take, and it has paid off. We have a guy who came to us as a behind-the-scenes technician, and his English was terrible. He was a wiz at fixing things, but he needed to learn to speak English better. We helped him sign up for an English As A Second Language course, which he finished with an A, and then he asked if he could take another course. We said, sure, we’ll pay for it. Here’s how valuable that has been: He is now our triage guy whenever a customer calls in with an issue. Every call goes to him first.

I also have little surprises for employees, like a program called “lightning strikes.” If an employee has done something great, we’ll have a manager walk over and give him $100 on the spot and say, “Boom. Lightning strikes. Great work!” I have personally delivered steaks to employees before Memorial Day Weekend — they were steaks we bought from one of our clients, so it worked as a client appreciation event, too! I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to make employees want to stay. We provide full-time technicians a vehicle. Does that cost a lot of money? Sure, but those vehicles are like billboards all over town, and it’s a nice perk for the technicians. We keep the vehicles 5-6 years, and if it helps us retain talented technicians that people love, it is well worth it.

Technicians love recognition. I’ve manages sales people the rest of my life, and they’re easier — they’ll run through a brick wall for money. Technicians want the money, but they want other forms of recognition. We just bought a cool device for them as gifts, and they are going to freak out over them. (It’s a grilling gadget that uses Bluetooth to tell your smartphone when your meat has reached the perfect temperature.) My job is to keep them happy and motivated.

Would you recommend a TeamLogic IT franchise?
For the right person, yeah. In my opinion, the right person is somebody who is a CEO type. If you have no sales experience, you should be more careful about the decision, because that’s critical. Someone with some technical knowledge and the ability to lead the business and sell for the business — that’s a good combo. You can’t assume that just because you are smart and knowledgeable, people will come to you. Selling is key.

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!