IT Solutions advisor found new career direction through CMIT Solutions franchise ownership

Cheryl Nelan, 44, spent much of her 23-year corporate career helping businesses adapt to changing times and technology. Her jobs required her to travel frequently, though, and the Rochester, N.Y., native wasn’t as involved in her community as she would have liked. Now, she says, she’s happy to bring a broader perspective to Rochester’s community of small business owners through ownership of a CMIT Solutions franchise.

Q: How long have you been a CMIT franchisee?
A: Since January. Since then, I’ve built a solid client base, including a financial and accounting firm with 12 employees and a child care center with more than 70 people, and everything in between.

Q: Why CMIT Solutions?
A: I thought I wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t know quite what that would be. I have a marketing and business management background, and I thought about being a consultant, but then the business is me, right? I decided I wanted to leverage my experience on a business rather than be a business. One thing I’d done throughout my career is help small businesspeople kind of reinvent themselves. But I was usually on the road, and I thought maybe it’s time to not get on so many planes and stay and help the Rochester community. With CMIT, the value proposition of being a trusted advisor in the community is something I had always pushed, and I have an affinity for IT … so I thought overall that it made a lot of sense. When I talked to the CMIT people, that kind of clinched it for me. I liked Jeff (Connally, CMIT Solutions’ CEO) and his vision, and in talking to other franchisees, they all said sort of the same thing, that it was a very positive culture, and the home office was very supportive of its franchisees.

Q: How did you hear about us?
A: I started talking with a franchise consultant, who helped me identify what I wanted out of my business.

Q: What’s your professional background?
A: I graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in marketing management. Right out of school, I got experience in both restaurant management and telemarketing sales. But my real career growth started when I did international customer sales support for a growing Rochester company. They invested in my future as I returned to school to earn an MBA in International Business from the Rochester Institute of Technology. From there, I spent 12 years at Kodak in various business-to-business marketing roles – everything from market strategy and research to communications and PR. I enjoyed the strategic roles, so I left Kodak to take on the responsibility of a business unit for Element K, a local learning resources company. After over two years of broad business management, I was ready for something that was more than a job or even a career. I wanted to start my own company.

Q: What do you like best about CMIT Solutions’ franchise opportunity?
A: The other owners being able to share ideas and bounce things off each other has been great. And I like the overall value proposition of CMIT, the proactive care and the services we can bring to our clients.

Q: What has been most surprising?
A:I think the community has been the biggest surprise. I’ve met so many people in the last year, and the amount of support I’ve gotten from the Rochester community has been just incredible. There’s a big entrepreneurial spirit here. A lot of people have left the big corporate jobs and started their own businesses, and they want to pass on what they’ve learned to other people.

Q: What keeps you active in your free time?
A: I have a 10-year-old son, Royce. He keeps me pretty busy. I like the outdoors. I golf in the summer, I ski in the winter, and I run a lot. That’s my stress release.

Q: What kind of person makes a good CMIT Solutions franchisee?
A: Someone with an outgoing personality. You have to actually like networking. If you don’t, you’ll be miserable. You have to have good business sense. You have to listen well. You don’t have to be a technology expert, but you have to have a strategic view of how technology can be applied to a range of different businesses.

Q: Would you recommend a CMIT Solutions franchise for someone interesting in opening a business?
A: Oh, yeah. I’ve been on a couple of validation calls, and while I say it’s not for everyone, if you have the characteristics I just talked about, and you’re realistic, and the value proposition appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend it.