A franchise network can provide the ideal system for our industry, because it combines the best of both worlds; local, committed ownership with the resources and support of a worldwide brand.
While it’s definitely possible to start your own computer service business outside of a franchise, we believe the benefits of the Computer Troubleshooters system far outweigh the costs, and our results speak for themselves.
When comparing franchise systems, keep the following criteria in mind:
1. Does the Franchisor have a proven track record of success?
At Computer Troubleshooters we’ve seen many new competitors come and go in our 10+ year history, often because they couldn’t live up to their initial promises.
2. Does the Franchisor have both industry and franchising experience?
Computer Troubleshooters was started by Wilson & Suzanne McOrist (over 10 years of franchising experience), and by Chip Reaves (over 10 years in small business computer support).
3. Is the Franchisor stable and profitable?
Computer Troubleshooters is debt free and has been consistently profitable throughout our existence. Our only outside investors are our partners at MerryMeeting, Inc.
4. Are the existing franchisees successful? Would they recommend the franchise to others?
This is perhaps the most important criteria, which is why Computer Troubleshooters requires that you speak to at least a few of our current franchisees before we will allow you to join, and we also recommend you speak with ex-franchisees as well. We believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many endorse our program wholeheartedly, but don’t take our word for it; after you’ve completed the first phase of your due diligence we’ll give you contact info for all franchisees and ex-franchisees and encourage you to find out for yourself.
5. Is the franchisor a “centralized” model, where the franchisor controls more of the daily operations such as incoming phone calls and billing (for a fee), or a “decentralized” model where the franchisee has more control and fewer costs?
Computer Troubleshooters uses a decentralized, low cost model. We believe this is more effective not only because it keeps the overhead lower for both the franchisor and franchisee, but also because it better facilitates a direct relationship between the local service provider and their customers which is what our small business customers want.
6. Does the Franchisor provide a reasonable business model to meet your income and lifestyle goals?
Like most Franchisors Computer Troubleshooters does not provide specific guidance on potential income, both because it’s largely tied to your own local efforts and because sales claims are often misleading.
However we were one of the first computer service franchises to move into areas such as managed services, residential managed services, and other recurring revenue areas such as VoIP, search engine marketing, email filtering, HaaS, and hosted “cloud-based” services. We encourage you to discuss these, as well as your own income and lifestyle goals with our franchisees later in the due diligence process so they can share their input on whether those goals are compatible with owning a Computer Troubleshooters franchise.
We do provide excellent initial training in how to operate your business, handle your accounting, hire and compensate employees (technical and otherwise), and how to keep your customers happy. We also provide ongoing training and support, as well as free access to our web-based business management tool, TOPS.
7. Does the Franchisor provide reasonable marketing assistance to help you build your business?
Computer Troubleshooters’ ENGAGE marketing program was specifically created to help you easily implement marketing campaigns which our experience has shown to be effective for most CT franchisees. In addition to your initial marketing training, manual, and “effective marketing checklists” we supply you with a library of hundreds of ready-to-use marketing templates, monthly marketing updates, ongoing sales & marketing training workshops and webinars, an online portal where you can initiate and implement direct mail campaigns in minutes, discounts from various marketing vendors (including most yellow pages), and a free email marketing tool.
8. Does the Franchisor provide reasonable technical support to you and your technicians?
Computer Troubleshooters in the USA have access to tech support 24/7 through our online forums and our tech support hotline. We have two NOC partners who can monitor and remediate problems with your managed service plan customers 24/7, ongoing tech training webinars and workshops, and a Product Champion structure to let you quickly identify and connect with other Computer Troubleshooters with specialized skills.
9. Are the Franchisor’s ongoing fees reasonable for the level of support received?
Unlike most franchises, Computer Troubleshooters uses a simple flat fee system, so no matter how much income your franchise makes, your franchise fees remain at one simple monthly fee (currently under $400 per month, beginning in your 7th month of operation).
10. How does the Franchisor handle shared advertising funds do franchisees get to participate in the decision-making process, and are the funds distributed equitably?
Some Franchisors collect fees towards a national advertising fund which is spent entirely at the discretion of the franchisor, often only in specific areas or for purposes that don’t directly benefit the franchisees (such as franchisee recruitment). Computer Troubleshooters each pay $70/month (as of November 2008) to a National Ad Fund, and a franchisee-elected National Marketing Council supervises and advises on how the funds are spent. In fiscal 2008 we collected over $120,000 which was spent on search engine marketing, a national PR campaign, and national print ads targeted to small business owners.
11. Are the Franchisees able to work together on large projects or to cover overloads or vacation time? Are they able to share knowledge and ideas throughout the team?
Computer Troubleshooters Franchisees regularly coordinate with each other via our online forums, email lists, regional meetings and conference calls, workshops, conferences, and shared support tools.
12. Does the Franchisor restrict you to buying goods or services only from certain vendors? Does the Franchisor choose vendors based on their quality of service or on their commissions to the Franchisor?
Computer Troubleshooters has no restrictions on where our franchisees can source goods or services, but does work with a volunteer group of franchisees (our “Vendor Review Team”) to choose best-of-breed vendors and negotiate group volume discounts with them (usually ranging from 1% to 40% or more, depending on the vendor). Our preference is to negotiate lower pricing for our franchisees rather than franchisor commissions, but in fiscal 2008 we have received vendor commissions totaling under $2500.
13. Is the Franchisee restricted in the areas they can operate? Can they keep referrals they get which may fall outside their operating area?
Computer Troubleshooters franchisees each have an exclusive geographic area which defines the area where they can directly market their services. However referrals and indirect marketing will often generate work outside those areas, and we do not restrict the areas you can operate in. In practice many CT’s may get more business from outside their territory than inside their territory, generally because of referrals.
14. Does the Franchisor require a specific vehicle, type of retail location, or uniform?
Because we strive to keep our costs low and because no single strategy may work well in every town in America, Computer Troubleshooters in the USA does not require specific vehicles, retail locations or uniforms. We do however have guidance and recommendations on each, which our franchisees may or may not choose to implement. We do have specific branding requirements which are required for all locations.
15. Is there a clear expansion path for franchisees to grow beyond a single location?
Unlike some franchises, Computer Troubleshooters does not generally incentivize new franchisees to buy multiple territories right from the start, because in many cases they may find they have enough business in just one. However for franchisees who have proven they can establish a successful business in their first territory, discounts and other incentives are available to support expanding to multiple territories later if that is part of the franchisee’s plan.
16. Does the Franchisor have any pending or past lawsuits which may indicate a problem in their system? Have they settled out of court to prevent those lawsuits from showing in their disclosure documents?
Computer Troubleshooters has never sued, nor been sued by, any franchisees, former franchisees, or vendors. We pride ourselves on having an amicable and open relationship with all current and former CT’s. We were once sued by a competitor over a Google ad, which we felt was baseless, but we did agree to settle that case out of court (no money was paid).
17. How strict is the Franchisor’s agreement? Are you locked into a certain franchise term, or can you leave early if your situation changes? Are there penalties or non-compete clauses if you leave the system? If you are dissatisfied with the Franchisor can you leave their system but continue operating independently?
Computer Troubleshooters has an unusually open franchise agreement. The term is 10 years, but any franchisee can leave anytime with 30 days notice for any reason, and no penalty or future fees are due beyond that. Former franchisees are free to continue operating outside of the Computer Troubleshooters system (something many franchises do not allow), and our only non-compete restriction is designed to keep our trade secrets from being acquired by our franchise competition.
18. Does the Franchise fit with your abilities, goals, and ambitions?
This is something only you can answer, although we will help you through the due diligence process by insisting you communicate with our existing and former franchisees, and by using personality and technical screening to make sure you’re a qualified candidate for our system. (If you are non-technical we’ll help you hire your first technician(s) and use our tech screening tools to approve them).
We encourage you to print this list and compare our answers with other franchise systems. We’re confident that like most people you will find Computer Troubleshooters is a better fit for you and your ambitions as an entrepreneur.
To find out more information about Computer Troubleshooters, follow this link to find out more about Running a Computer Troubleshooters Business: