TeamLogic IT Franchise Review: Q&A with Keith and Taco Cowan
Couple’s TeamLogic IT franchise is flourishing in the heart of Orange County
A shared background in software programming and development meant that when they were looking to start a business, a TeamLogic IT franchise made sense for Keith and Taco Cowan. In addition to the robust service platform offered by TeamLogic’s managed IT model, they also liked the strong customer-care component and wraparound services business model.
What were you doing before you opened your TeamLogic IT franchise?
Keith: I began my career as a programmer working for System Development Corp., back in the dark ages, and eventually progressed to engineering management. I definitely have a technical background, but not an IT background. I was in software development, specifically selecting electronic communications for defense systems.
Taco: I had a degree in computer science and started out as a programmer as well. Keith and I met at Systems Development Corporation in the mid-’70s, so we were both programmers. We eventually transitioned to IT, which is easier if you are in programming than it would be if you were coming from another profession. As a programmer you utilize IT services, although in the old days you didn’t really have IT services. But now I do the bookkeeping!
Keith: I had been working with venture-backed companies, had parted ways with the last company and was looking for something else to do. I was thinking about buying a company or starting a company and looked at franchising as a middle ground — the concept and tools are already there. I felt more comfortable with IT than other business sectors, because I had a technical background and knew a bit about it. I understood the market need and what small businesses were looking for, so I began looking at IT companies. We looked at several, but none had the franchising expertise or financial backing that TeamLogic IT had. We went to Los Angeles for the franchising expo, and that’s where I met Victoria and Chuck. They understood franchising, and I liked Chuck and the partnership approach.
How does being part of TeamLogic help you serve your clients?
Keith: There are several things TeamLogic IT corporate provides that give us a big advantage. First of all, they have the technology to help us maintain client networks. These are enterprise-level tools that we can provide to clients that would be very difficult for an independent operator to acquire and manage. They include things like enterprise-grade ticketing and a CRM system that helps us manage tickets and lets us know when they are getting past due. They also help us manage the technical resources and get the most out of them.
TeamLogic IT corporate also provides marketing tools, sales collateral — it’s a long list. They work with vendors to identify products and services that fit our customers and negotiate price points that are better than what we could get independently. Also, because there are TeamLogic IT franchises throughout the country, we are very successful at marketing to midsize companies that have offices in other locations. The ability to dispatch a technician that is part of the same network is very appealing.
How big is your operation?
Keith: We have seven technicians and a VPS technical operation, we have a sales manager and several hundred clients — probably close to 100 that we provide SystemWatch IT for alone. We have managed IT with some who just want backup, but most of our clients are using SystemWatch IT.
Who are your customers?
Keith: It’s across a broad spectrum of industries. We serve a lot of medical offices with 20 to 100 employees, we have a number of distribution companies that are the U.S. headquarters for an offshore manufacturer. We also work with accounting companies, hotel chains, financial services providers and manufacturers. We’re probably supporting about 2,000 to 3,000 employees across all those platforms. We have about 1,200 workstations on SystemWatch IT, but at least that many we manage that are not on SystemWatch IT.
All of our clients were experiencing pain. If they had been delighted with their previous IT setup, they wouldn’t have hired us. Early on, we found a lot of clients that were working with an individual who may have been good technically, but for one reason or another wasn’t available when they had a critical issue. Sometimes their go-to person may have had limited technical knowledge and couldn’t provide cost-effective help in every situation.
We have a broad range of skills in our team, so it’s not often that we run into an issue where we need help outside our office. When we do, we have workaround solutions. We have a client who has offices in Santa Ramon, and TeamLogic IT has offices there, so we were able to provide service through the franchisee in that location.
Taco: It works the other way as well. We have expertise in most systems, and sometimes franchisees will call us for remote help. We bill them, and they pass it along to their clients. Or if they have an issue, we can give advice.
Keith: We typically charge other franchisees a lower rate, so we’re each making something on it. The nice thing about the TeamLogic IT franchise setup is there is only a franchise fee paid by the person with the end customer. I’m not paying a franchise fee when I’m serving another franchise.
What do you like best about owning a TeamLogic IT franchise?
Keith: I enjoy winning business. I enjoy the sales process and converting a prospect to a client, and I also enjoy providing great services so our clients don’t have to worry about their IT. And if they do have a problem, I enjoy solving it.
Taco: For me, it’s an interesting that this area is wide open, and there are so many customers that need us. You do have to find them, but there are a lot of people who need us. If their email isn’t working, they need us now. It’s just a matter of finding them and providing great service and you will keep them for a long time.
It has been fun for me to see our business grow the way it has. It’s much different than working in a big company, where day to day you don’t have that much effect on the bottom line. With this, you see results faster and you can really affect business. And I really like the flexibility of it. As an owner you work really hard because the business needs it, but you can take off when you need to. At one point when we first started, I had a parent who was very ill. I was going back and forth to the hospital, and I could work when I had time to work and I could work from home in the evenings. If you want to go to a class or show, you can do that as long as you can do work around it.
Keith: Our kids are 23 and 24 now. We had two kids in college while starting the business, so we are just starting to travel this year. When starting the business, you’re locked in for a while because you are growing your business. The first couple of years are going to be really tough. You may not realize how hard it can be — it’s sort of like having children; unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to understand it.
What are some lessons learned that make your life easier?
Keith: TeamLogic IT has a marketing system that we made use of — a multifaceted system that includes Google AdWords, calls, networking, referrals, hiring techs with clients, so it’s a whole range. We follow the system and also have benefited from the advice that when making a proposal, it has to make sense from their POV.
Taco: Answer clients right away. When you are busy sometimes it’s hard, but in my mind, I am making priorities to get things done for my clients, especially when they ask something or email a question. You have to respond and respond quickly. It has to be a priority. Paying the bills and other office-management duties can come later.
What personality or values do you think are needed to succeed as a TeamLogic IT owner?
Keith: You have to be very customer-focused and have a sense of urgency in terms of responding to clients, and be entrepreneurial in that you want to grow the business.
Taco: You have to be flexible, have a sense of stick-to-itiveness and be willing to work hard every day. Every day you have to do the best you can for your clients — every single day. Time flies because you work really hard every single day.
How long did it take for break even?
Keith: It took us about a year. We hired a second tech earlier than we needed to in terms of the work we had, so that delayed the break-even point a little bit, then we pretty consistently made money after that. For the next year or two there have been a couple of months that were unprofitable, but overall it has been profitable.
Taco: You should be prepared to even lose money. That first year is the toughest, because you see the money going out consistently and you don’t see it coming in. That adds stress.
How has the corporate office helped you?
Keith: If you go in with a realistic expectation, are prepared and have money set aside, you can really focus on that business. One other thing I’ve found that some potential franchisees calling, especially if coming from large company, they seem to think of the franchisor as a corporate office that is providing direction to them. One of the nice things is that it is your business — you are the business, they provide you tools to make you successful, but nobody is telling you what to do. The franchisor is a service provider to us as opposed to a boss.
Taco: But they do give you guidance. If you need assistance in a certain area, they will give you guidance. Sometimes it’s technical support with the tools we use, other times it’s support with some kind of sales issue. Earlier on we would call if we had a big client, or we might have sent them a proposal and gotten feedback. We don’t do that so much anymore. If we have financial issues we can always reach out to them for advice, and we always take advantage of the marketing collateral provided.
Keith: Other benefits are the management tools to run the business, the SystemWatch IT tools and ticketing system and the marketing collateral and support, which justifies the royalties we pay.
Taco: I was afraid of starting something like this at first and wouldn’t have done it without support of corporate. The fact that they were there to help me, it made a world of difference to me. I think it would have been much harder without support.
What do you hope the business will help you achieve?
Keith: We are making a lot of money now, which is very enjoyable. Looking out some number of years, we will probably sell the business and be able to retire as we will have some good equity built up.
Taco: The upside potential is so much greater than a corporate job because many places are not giving you any raises or it’s a small percentage raise, whereas with this business the upside is as high as you want it to be. I think and there is so much more potential to grow quickly. And we’re well above what I was earning in corporate job now, which is very nice.
Want to learn more about starting a TeamLogic IT business services franchise?
Get more information by reading interviews with TeamLogic IT franchise owners on our blog, and discover more about our business model and our niche within the IT industry by checking out our research pages. For even more information, including some hard data, download our free franchise report.