Former independent IT consultant found support, success through CMIT Solutions franchise in NYC

Evan Stein, 44, spent his whole career in information technology before his 2001 layoff from a service provider. He then spent six years working as a “freelance IT consultant.” He explains what that means: “When IT people get laid off, they look for jobs, and while they’re looking, they refer to themselves as freelance IT consultants.” Stein eventually discovered the job he was looking for in mid-2007, when he attended yet another in a long line of Manhattan networking breakfasts.

Q. How long have you been a CMIT franchisee?
A. Four-and-a-half years. They’ve gone very, very well. It’s definitely been the best four-and-a-half-year stretch of my career.

Q. How did you hear about CMIT Solutions?
A. It was a random meeting at a breakfast networking event at this place in Manhattan in 2007. I was a freelance IT consultant at the time, and most of my freelance work was filled by going to events like this. I met this woman named Renee Colwell, who said she was a franchise owner for CMIT Solutions. We struck up a conversation that basically revolved around, “What do you do?” …  We followed that up with breakfast to compare notes, and we continued doing that over the next few months. Finally she came to me and told me she was thinking about getting out of this and going back to what she was doing before, and she wanted to know if I was interested in buying her out. I was, because the more she was telling me about CMIT, the more interested I became.

Q. Why CMIT Solutions?
A. I was struggling to get over a certain hurdle, and it seemed like the CMIT main office would help me get over it. I had worked at a couple of different corporate jobs, and one of the things really holding me back was that I missed having colleagues. Everyone I dealt with either worked for me or was a client. I needed a system that could provide me with that support. One of the things that impressed me about CMIT was the culture, which seems to run throughout the owners, of collaboration and teamwork. I’d looked at a couple of other opportunities, neither of which had that kind of culture. The CMIT home office uses the concept of mastermind groups, such as the Pacesetters, who are free to get together and function however they want. It became very clear to me that the people participating in these groups were committed to putting time, energy and money into developing their businesses, and that impressed me. I was very impressed with the discovery process. I got to speak with other CMIT owners and learned that the northeastern owners get together once a quarter, and they invited me to one of their meetings. They gave me a very open, honest view of what CMIT was about. I heard about owners helping each other by sharing sales leads, technicians. That’s not something you find with every franchise system.

Q. What’s your professional background?
A. I’ve been working in IT my entire career. I have a degree in electrical engineering with a concentration in computer science from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, where I graduated in ‘89. I then went to work in IT at JP Morgan, then a couple of other banks, Deutsche Bank … I was let go in the summer of 2001 from USinternetworking right as the bubble was bursting.

Q. What do you like best about CMIT Solutions’ franchise opportunity?
A. I think it’s what I was saying about the other owners, the support system. It gives me an opportunity to share group resources and spread work around so I don’t need to take it all on myself. I can collaborate with other local owners and develop rollout strategies. It really drives my costs down.

Q. What has been the most surprising thing about owning a CMIT Solutions franchise?
A. Probably how much I’ve grown professionally in the last four years. We’ve grown by about 1,000 percent since my last year as a freelancer in terms of revenue. My take-home has probably grown by 500 to 600 percent in that time. I would not have achieved those numbers without CMIT. Also the amount of free time I have, the success I’ve seen, the money I’m bringing home, the fact that I feel like I’m in complete control of the business.

Q. What keeps you active in your free time?
A. I’ve got three kids, all under the age of 6. That was actually the big kick in the pants for me. In ‘06, I got married and my first daughter was born, and my wife decided she wanted to stay home and take care of the kids, and I needed to transform my little freelance consulting business, which was enough to keep me fed, into something that would support a family. It was right around then when I met Renee. Since then, we’ve added two more kids to the mix.

Q. What kind of person makes a good CMIT Solutions franchisee?
A. You have to enjoy technology — you don’t need to know it all that well, but you need to like it. You need to invest time. Your payday is not immediate. You start making money after you’ve been in it a couple of years. It’s a deferred payday. You have to wait a year or two until you can build some equity in the business, then you can kick back a little bit. You also have to have ridiculously thick skin. We deal with clients at their worst, when the stuff’s hitting the fan. Nobody calls and says, “Hey, my server was up all month.” They’re going to call when something goes wrong. We keep things up and running, and we do a good job, but nothing stays up and running 100 percent of the time. Things are going to break from time to time.

Q. Why would you recommend a CMIT Solutions franchise for someone interested in opening a business?
A. A lot of the aspects of opening a business that you would ordinarily have to figure out yourself are already provided for you. Opening a business for yourself can be one of the loneliest things you can do, and CMIT takes that right out of the picture. It’s a great industry. Technology is already so ingrained in how small businesses operate, and it’s just going to get bigger. No one’s going backward away from technology; small businesspeople are never going to turn around and say, “I’m too connected. I don’t want email going to my phone anymore.” Especially as business technology becomes more consumerized and moves away from the desk and becomes more mobile, there’s an opportunity for small businesses to compete more directly with larger ones to a degree they haven’t been able to. For companies that do it right, technology offers an opportunity to become much more competitive.