01 Sep Expetec expands IT staff services in Wisconsin
MADISON — When the market began its downward trend three years ago many companies cut their information technology department to ease the financial strain. However, as the price of computers dropped, allowing businesses to inexpensively purchase or replace computers, the need for IT services grew. Many IT staffers are wary of returning to companies that had removed their IT staff before, and looked to begin working as an outside IT source, serving many companies at once and ensuring their job security.
This resulted in the explosive growth of Expetec and many companies like it. Expetec is a company of franchised IT support locations throughout America providing information technology services to local businesses.
Expetec opened 51 locations in the first half of this year, pushing the total to 200, and expects the year’s total to be well past 100. Almost all franchise locations have proven successful. The success of Expetec is not by chance, but by design.
Lonnie Helgerson, founder and CEO of Expetec understood that in order to grow quickly to fill the IT vacuum of the business world, he must have a plan. He began with only one opening in Aberdeen, S.D., a corporate owned store to work the kinks out.
“We wanted to start a store to make sure that we had the volume of customers needed, that it was repeatable, and that the franchise owner was making enough money,” Helgerson said.
Helgerson created that first store so that every franchise sold after that would simply be a turnkey operation, requiring little development from the franchisee.
Beyond selling the franchise, Expetec provides extensive corporate support to the franchisee. The out-bound marketing department calls 2,000 potential customers for each franchise in its first year of business, which systematically results in a steady flow of business for the franchises. The corporate office also coordinates billing, accounting and scheduling for the franchises through a computer network connecting the franchise, regional and corporate offices.
“We have a lot of great technicians among our franchisees that are not really interested in the marketing or accounting side of their business. It’s one less thing they have to do.”
However Expetec is not the only company providing outside tech support, Geeks on Call and Computer Troubleshooters are smaller companies like Expetec that specialize in IT services. However CompUSA and Best Buy have noticed the successes of the smaller IT companies, and have started their own on-site IT support department.
Despite the prospect of having competition from the large chains in thousands of locations throughout the country, Helgerson is confident in the ability of his franchises to compete with the big names of Best Buy and CompUSA.
“We are specialized and more adaptable. The franchises will be able to change according to the needs of the customer better than an out of the box support staff,” he said.
As business owners, it is in their best interest for franchisees to be on the cutting edge in techniques, software and technology to supply the best services possible to the customer.
As the business world has changed so have the needs of businesses. Two needs in particular stand out at Expetec. One is putting out four o’clock fires; the last minute needs due to a sudden failure of equipment, or a needed upgrade for a project. The other is proactive support; consulting for upgrades in hardware and networks, or maintenance and spybot prevention software.
With plans for 1,000 locations in the next five years it can be certain that Expetec’s presence will be felt in Wisconsin. Only three Expetec franchises have been sold in Wisconsin so far, in the cities of Wausau, Chetek and Muskego. While no formal plans for expansion have yet been made, Helgerson hinted at one of the franchisees possibly becoming the regional associate of Expetec for Wisconsin.
Bill Smith, owner of the Wausau franchise, shared his views on the potential for Expetec in Wisconsin.
“In my territory alone there is room for another three franchises at least,” Smith said.
He also demonstrated the viability of the franchise, starting his in 2002, in the midst of the most recent recession, and seeing growth for the first year.
“This company is essentially recession proof. When the economy is down, the customers tend to only repair, when the economy is up they have an option between repairing or upgrading,” Smith said.
Bill Smith prides himself in running a very green company, throwing out as few computer components as possible, and making sales on brand-new computers as rarely as possible.
With the booming growth of Expetec and other outside tech support companies, the majority of businesses in America may one day meet all IT needs through external technicians such as the ones at Expetec.