Richard Williams, Director of PiSYS.net South Wales, describes himself in three words: objective, focussed and highly motivated.
He set up his IT Support Franchise in November 2015 and has built up a large and diverse customer base. In his own words, Richard is “just invigorated by the business”.
Every Day is Different
Richard Williams gets up at 6 every morning to walk his dogs for an hour – but that’s where the routine ends for him.
At work, no two days are the same. As the director of his own IT support company, Richard spends most of his time out of the office, getting as much face-to-face time with his customers as he can, and growing his customer base further.
Customers range in size from the “man in his shed” via multi-site organisations to large manufacturing plants – publishers, accountants and independent financial advisors, a funeral home and a large linen distribution company.
Most of Richard’s technical work is IT support, and he also supplies IT equipment and software.
Sometimes, the work is more complex: “We had several projects earlier this year for equipment refreshes, and even a start-up organisation, needing everything from PCs on desks to servers to screens on their desks”.
In all this, Richard feels well supported. As a PiSYS.net Franchisee, Richard can ask the PiSYS.net Technical Support Team at the Operations base for their advice and support, and he phones them several times each day.
So how did he get here? For Richard, the journey to owning his IT support business was gradual.
The Journey – from Employee to Business Owner and back to Employee
“I’ve always been in and around IT”, Richard says. He spent 20 years with Cable & Wireless, which is when he first thought of starting up his own business.
Richard tells: “I used to provide wholesale telecoms and broadband services to re-sellers. I saw people who were making rather large sums of money, and I thought ‘they’re not better than me’. And when voluntary redundancy was up for grabs, I took it. I had a business plan ready. My predominant skillset was voiceover IP telephony, so I set up a company that specialised in hosted voiceover IP”.
Richard and a business partner ran the company successfully for 5 years, servicing mostly loans companies. When the financial crash of 2008 happened, many of his customers went out of business overnight.
Richard explains: “We got dominoed out as a result. Scary. Pretty dark times, actually. I went out and got a job. I worked for a Cisco organisation for 4 years, heading up the sales and marketing. I learned a huge amount about IT, outside of just voice.”
But not everything was well. Richard’s work-life-balance suffered:
“I spent 4 years travelling to Worcester and back every day – 100 miles there and 100 miles back, that’s 4 hours of travelling every day. I was pretty burned out. I left that organisation and started working with a local datacentre in South Wales”.
In his new role, Richard approached Steve Bain, one of the PiSYS.net owners, to see whether he had any datacentre requirements – and became a PiSYS.net franchisee instead: “Steve and I had a sit down. We got on. And a few weeks later, Steve approached me. We had lunch in Cardiff and he put the proposition of the franchise to me. I wasn’t particularly happy as an employee. The opportunity came about, I looked at the numbers and thought ‘yes, let’s do it’”.
Becoming a PiSYS.net Franchisee and “Loving It”
Richard spent the Summer of 2015 preparing, and decided to launch his franchise in November the same year.
Since then, and with the help of PiSYS.net’s operations support, Richard’s IT support business has grown steadily. He puts this down to having a ready-made market on his doorstep, and the perfect product to meet his customers’ needs.
He explains: “99.9% of businesses need their IT, and most business processes rely on IT systems. There’s not a lot of difference in the complexity either. They all need internet, they all need security, they all need workstations. And predominantly they use MS products to run their business.
I like the fact that I get little, if any, calls in a day to say that things are going wrong. It’s nice to be involved in a business where you can just focus on the growth as opposed to getting bogged down in individual issues. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that in a business before. Customers can rely on us to get the job done.
As a salesperson, you need to believe in your product.
The product set offered through PiSYS.net is perfect. I can confidently go out into the market and say: ‘You will get the best support, and we will get your IT up and keep it running’. And I am 100% confident.
Sure – you get the occasional issues. With technology, you always will. It’s how you deal with it that counts”.
Owing to his previous work experience, the learning curve was relatively gentle for Richard. The franchise gave Richard the “Chance to intelligently start better”. He explains: “It was a chance start again better than I did previously. I learned a lot of lessons from having run the previous business. One of those lessons was, don’t have a vertical market if you can help it, and hence I enjoy the diversity of dealing with IFAs, Accountants, Funeral Homes, Estate Agents.”
Supported by PiSYS.net Head Office
Franchisees benefit from the established PiSYS.net brand, the use of their logos, and the advertising and social media campaigns, which are all managed by head office.
When Richard set up his franchise, PiSYS.net head office helped “a huge amount, and they still do”.
Richard got advice from John Merrick of PiSYS.net on choosing the right systems to use for his business. He adopted most of the business systems PiSYS.net use themselves.
To Richard, the beauty of having a franchise is not having to re-invent the wheel. He muses: “The more you can adopt, the easier life will be for you.”.
The same goes for the PiSYS.net range of products and services – they are hand-picked by Steve Bain, with some input from the franchisees, and then adopted by all PiSYS.net franchises.
Today, Richard works closely with the IT specialists at the PiSYS.net Operations Centre. Employed by headquarters, they monitor and control, and they offer support to franchisees.
For Richard, this relationship works both ways: “I don’t employ engineers myself yet, I use the engineers employed by PiSYS.net head office in Swansea, and I pay for their time.” Often, PiSYS.net head office ring him in turn and ask him to go to one of their customers’ sites and be “remote hands”, under their instruction.
In Richard’s on words: “The engineers in Swansea are great. They know their stuff, they are very knowledgeable, very personable, they’re very respectful with customers – I get fantastic reviews. PiSYS.net are a Gold Microsoft Partner and give quality support”.
Great Service, Happy Customers
Most of Richard’s technical day-to-day work is IT support. He aims to get his Customers’ IT issues sorted on the spot, though getting customers’ IT systems right from the outset is an even higher priority.
“When customers take our service, they know their IT is going to be up and running efficiently and they can get on with their business. That’s what customers pay for: availability of their IT systems”, Richard says.
“Along with our IT support, we provide antivirus software and backup as a bundle – which tends to go down well with customers, especially in light of recent high-profile cyber issues.”
Existing IT support customers generally purchase their IT equipment through Richard, which makes it easier for the customer and is another ready-made income stream for him.
“I enjoy making a difference for businesses”, says Richard, and he can tell several success stories:
The Scaffolding Company: IT Audit and Equipment Update
“This company had evolved over the years, and wanted to make sure they were still operating under the right software licences and their PCs had longevity. We did an IT audit for them, and established that they were in better shape than they thought they were in. They did, however, need some help with updating their Microsoft Licencing, and required some new equipment – some of their existing equipment was still good, and we did not replace that. And then we put them under some support to ensure business continuity. It’s great”.
The Linen Distributor: IT Systems from Scratch
“This company set up a UK operation to distribute towels, tablecloths and other linens predominantly to the hospitality industry. It was a brand-new start. The company took over an old building and had to fit it out from scratch – with that, they needed IT. New Bandwidth, new Server, many new workstations. And now they’re up and running. A fair amount of investment has gone into this”.
The Funeral Home: New Phone System and Servers
“This was a new, purpose built premises, and only ad-hoc IT support was in place. The company realized that as a million plus turnover business they should be taking more professional care of their IT systems. We set up a new phone systems and new servers – everything from scratch”.
The Greatest Challenge and a Greater Future
To Richard, his greatest challenge and his target for the coming years is to “keep his pipeline full and have a constant stream of business coming”.
As his own boss, Richard sets his own targets, and he is ambitious: to gain 50 new customers this year, and to be a half-a-million turnover business in three years’ time.
So where does business come from?
“I’d say networking is where most of our business comes from”, Richard says. He calls it “networking on purpose” and knows that it is an absolute must for his business.
Richard is a member of BNI (Business Networking International), which is where he first met Steve Bain, and where he has managed to gain referrals for the Linen Company and the Funeral Home contracts.
To Richard, the switch from the more technical IT work to developing his own business came easily, and he is happy to be doing less ‘tech’ and more business development and sales.
And his advice to potential new franchisees?
“Anyone from an engineering or technical background must be willing get into the business mindset, and do more sales instead of engineering.”
And the Money?
Richard beams: “It’s a residual income, isn’t it? At the end of the day, all you’re doing is growing your business. When the bills go out each month, it’s a regular income from customers who are extremely happy with the service they are getting, and they are not pulling too much on your resources, because you’ve done it right. So, you’re just building, and building and building. It’s just the way it should be”.
For more information on the services provided by PiSYS.net or to become a franchisee, visit www.pisys.net