Inside Business Takes Look at RESCUECOM's Place in the Industry
By Michael Schwartz , Inside Business - Hampton Roads:
Fixing your computer is as easy as ordering a pizza
Geeks On Call has the PT Cruiser.
Geek Squad has the Bug.
Rescuecom, a rapidly growing onsite IT support and repair superpower, believes it stands out in the $40 billion a year industry by letting service speak for itself - but they still have a gimmick.
The Syracuse, N.Y.-based franchise company has built its reputation on its one-hour- or-less service-call response, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Founded in 1997, Rescuecom provides onsite computer maintenance including networking, e-mail maintenance, spyware and virus removal, and data recovery. With a guarantee to have a technician onsite within one hour of a customer call, anytime, any day, Rescuecom has used expert technicians and a patented national dispatch and communication system to build 94 franchises in 66 regions across the U.S., including one here in Hampton Roads.
Kyle Coldren and Anthony Gibson own the local franchise, which serves primarily small and medium-sized business and residential calls. Coldren and Gibson signed on to Rescuecom in 2003, and said the "always on call" concept gives them the edge to acquire and sustain customers in the competitive local market.
"Customers really like having that as an option," Coldren said.
Service calls come in the form of emergency response or customers can sign contracts using Rescuecom as their full-time IT maintenance crew.
About 65 percent of Coldren and Gibson's customers are residential. The emergency house calls come with their share of drama, but Coldren said it suits him: "I enjoy doing things crazy in the middle of the night." He recalled one of his first calls - from a military family in which the wife was taking college training courses on her computer.
"She had a final due the next morning and her computer crashed that night," Coldren said.
The remaining 35 percent of clients are local businesses for which many times, Coldren said, working overnight is the only option.
"Sometimes service calls are planned for the middle of the night," he said.
He said much computer repair and maintenance requires shutting down whole systems, which costs companies time, money and manpower.
Coldren said that after using the service, many business clients, most of whom don't have an IT department, end up signing full-time contracts.
"We basically become a partner for them," said Coldren. "Then they know they've got us in their back pocket."
Rescuecom's quick response would not be possible without its patented System One communication technology.
Each franchise across the country is equipped with these handheld satellite-linked gadgets that connect them to the dispatch office in Syracuse. When a call is made, the request goes out within seconds showing the time of the call and even directions to the site. If the Rescuecom technician doesn't arrive within one hour, the emergency fee is waived and the customer is charged the regular rate. Coldren said emergency calls run $190 an hour, while the regular hourly rate is $98.
Thanks to System One, Coldren and Gibson said they've never missed the hour deadline. But that's not to say there haven't been close calls.
As the region's only Rescuecom franchise, they have strategically placed technicians to beat the Hampton Roads traffic. "Sometimes it can be a bit of a juggle," Coldren said. "We've got technicians on both sides of the water."
The success of Rescuecom franchises also depends on the expertise of its technicians. In addition to the financial requirements for a franchise, Rescuecom has a rigorous policy in choosing only technically qualified buyers. Eric Fontaine, Rescuecom marketing director, said fewer than 1 percent of franchise applicants are approved.
"We only recruit people who are technical," Fontaine said. "We help them with the business side."
The financial requirements are comparable to industry standards. The net worth requirement for a Rescuecom franchise is between $50,000 and $100,000, with a cash liquidity requirement of $20,000, according to Entrepreneur.com. In 2003 and 2004, Rescuecom was listed in Entrepreneur.com's Top Low-Cost Franchises and, from 2002 through 2004, the company was ranked in the coveted Franchise 500.
Fontaine said the initial investment runs from $16,000 to $60,000, depending on an analysis of the local market. The ongoing royalty fee varies from 9 to 24 percent and Fontaine said advertising and marketing fees are also market-specific.
As a privately held company, Rescuecom doesn't disclose profit and revenue. However, Fontaine said Rescuecom is debt-free and growth within the last 18 months has been accelerating. The company predicts it will more than double the amount of existing franchises by the end of next year with a goal of 286 nationwide.
Coldren and Gibson have also benefited from the growth. Coldren said many of their clients have come as a result of the local boom in real estate. Lawyers, real estate agents, title companies and accountants have all increased their need for service.
However, Coldren said the growth of dependence on technology in general, is what really drives the market.
"We really don't have niches because everybody has computers and everybody needs service," he said.
A service of Richmond.com
Headquartered in Syracuse, New York, RESCUECOM is the premiere franchisor in the computer services industry that delivers business and sales resources from the industry's "best of the best" computer technicians and consultants. RESCUECOM's main product, One-Hour On-site Response, delivers a certified technician to the customer within one hour of request and is available nationwide. As an Entrepreneur Magazine Franchise 500 company, RESCUECOM has been one of the fastest growing franchises in the past three years. For more information on either the business or franchising, please visit RESCUECOM's website at www.rescuecom.com.
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