RESCUECOM Gets Press in Crains New York
By Steve Garmhausen
Crains New York Business, Small Business Report
(c) 2005 Crain Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.:
Computer fixers buying franchises
Home-based tech doctors growing; styles vary widely After being downsized from his computer programming job at a large bank a few years ago, Larry Zuckerberg figured the time had come to be his own boss by using his severance money to buy a franchise.
He looked into restaurants. He even thought about a flower shop. Then the Brooklyn native stumbled across an opportunity that seemed tailor-made: a home-based franchise to repair and service computers and their related hardware.
"The demand is growing, because people are a lot more networked than they used to be," says Mr. Zuckerberg, who became a franchisee of Texas-based CMIT Solutions last year. "And [technology] is constantly changing, so it seemed to me that people are always going to need this service.New field
Similar logic has been attracting a growing number of entrepreneurs since computer service franchisors started popping up less than a decade ago. The largest half-dozen now boast between 100 and 200 franchisees each.
Syracuse-based Rescuecom, for example, has 87 franchisees nationwide, including 15 in New York City. The company expects to add 200 more nationwide by the end of next year. Chief Executive David Milman predicts that franchises will gain 50or more of the computer services market over the next 20 years, up from a tiny fraction today.
What franchisors provide is everything from a recognized brand and advertising to a ready-made business model, plus training, referrals and field support. But the number and quality of building blocks given to franchisees vary widely.
"What franchisees get is very much driven by the level of fees they pay,"says Steve Hockett, president of FranChoice, a franchise referral consultancy.
Computer repair franchises also have a large range of target markets. Some focus exclusively on the small business market, containing many firms that lack the resources to have technical staff. Others aim to serve consumers.
In some cases, franchisees do what Mr. Zuckerberg does, parceling out work to small teams of technicians who are on call.
Others follow the lead of Susana Ramos, who bought a franchise three years ago from Georgia-based Computer Troubleshooters USA for the 10016 ZIP code, in the Upper East Side.
Picking and choosingv ms. ramos, a former field service engineer for Compaq, works out of her home in Jackson Heights, Queens, and handles all calls herself. "I don't have to punch a clock," she says. "I work at least 40 hours a week, but I have the liberty of setting my own hours.
"She focuses much of her efforts on the residential market, charging $90 for the first 30 minutes and $45 for each additional half-hour. She figures she could get $150 an hour from business customers but does not want to wait a minimum 30 days to get paid--the payment cycle for most commercial accounts. The three-year-old business is already paying Ms. Ramos as much as she made in her old corporate job.
Some fixers have done very well for themselves. Josh Kaplan bought a Rescuecom franchise in northern New Jersey in 2003 and was so successful that he snagged franchises in Manhattan and Phoenix.
Is the former IT supervisor for a home health care company surprised to find that he has become a computer repair mogul?
"I haven't had time to be surprised," he says. The work has its share of frustrations, though, like trying to translate computerese into comprehensible English. "I think I'm making sense," Mr. Zuckerberg says. "But I know sometimes I'm speaking gibberish."
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