Washington couple gained recurring revenue, freedom to travel through CMIT Solutions franchise

John and Sue Smythe

John and Sue Smythe, CMIT Solutions Franchise Owners

Around 2005, as John and Sue Smythe of Everett, Wash., approached retirement age, they assessed their finances and decided a couple of things: Social Security benefits wouldn’t be enough to sustain them; and they wanted a consistent source of recurring revenue they could depend on and plan for. Sue Smythe, a longtime technology consultant, looked for franchises the two could run together, and they decided on CMIT Solutions because they wanted to help small businesses in their community grow.

Q. How long have you been CMIT franchisees?

Sue: Since July 2006, and we’re very happy we did it. It’s given us what we wanted. We bought a franchise because we wanted something to supplement our retirement — Social Security wasn’t going to be enough — and we wanted recurring revenue, annuitized, so we knew we could bank on a certain amount of money every year.

Q. How did you hear about CMIT Solutions?

Sue: We worked with a franchise consultant. My background is in IT, and I worked a lot with IBM. We looked at some other franchise systems — dry cleaning, tax advisors, fitness, all the while comparing their business models to the annuity-based revenue idea we had, because our plan was to build up the business to the point where we could eventually hand it to a manager and withdraw.

Q. Why CMIT Solutions?

Sue: Of all the franchise offerings I reviewed, CMIT was by far the classiest. I recognized the IBM and Microsoft influence; there were some heavy hitters from IBM and Microsoft sitting on the board. I recognized aspects of the IBM Global Services for small business model. I knew it worked for IBM and could work for smaller businesses, which was the niche we were looking for. Small businesses are not large enough to have their own in-house IT but are too large to ignore it, so there’s a need for that market.

Q. What’s your professional background?

John: I was the CFO for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Snohomish County for eight years, and before that, I was a CFO and controller, mostly for big retailers.

Sue: I was a software developer back in the days before people bought software packages, when they hired developers to put together their own packages. I ran a consulting business for a little over two years. Prior to that, I was a developer for a variety of companies over the years.

Q. What do you like best about CMIT Solutions’ franchise opportunity?

Sue: The recurring revenue.

John: I’m an accountant. I wasn’t within my comfort zone running a tech company. But Sue made sure I understood the recurring revenue part of it, and that kind of turned me around, made me more comfortable.

Q. What has been the most surprising thing about owning a CMIT Solutions franchise?

John: When you start a business, particularly a franchise, there’s a level of skepticism and excitement. You buy it because you think you’re going to make it, but that’s based on someone else’s conception of it … For us, the first three or four months were just for setting up, but after about six months, in the first quarter of 2007, we really started to blossom and get more clients. I just remember walking into a client’s office and the server was down, and we knew what was wrong before they did. That’s when I turned to Sue and said, “You know, this works.” When we started out, our clients were so happy with us, it was embarrassing.

Sue: So it was win-win. We were able to get the recurring revenue we were looking for, and we were able to provide the level of service the clients were expecting.

Q. What keeps you active in your free time?

John: Our grandchildren.

Sue: We get to go to Hawaii. When we worked corporate jobs, we couldn’t just take a couple of weeks off. We could maybe go to Vegas or something. But once you get the managed services set up with your staff of technicians — we have four — and have systems in place, you can afford to take a couple of weeks off here and there.

John: The last couple of years, we’ve gone to Hawaii. Two years ago, we went for a week, last year we went for two weeks, and this year we’re going for two weeks again. And because managed services are mobile, we can manage the business remotely if needed. We may want to do that for a whole year sometime. (Laughs.)

Sue: That is our dream.

Q. What kind of person makes a good CMIT Solutions franchisee?

John: Somebody who’s not afraid to get out and meet and hire people, especially on the technician side. It takes somebody who’s personable and adept at networking and makes sure their technicians are personable, too. And someone who speaks not technese but English.

Sue: You don’t absolutely need to be adept at technology to run this business. If you’re not comfortable with technology, the recommendation is to hire a Level 3 technician to be your co-pilot. But believing in the system, believing in what you’re offering and being able to sell it is the most important thing.

Q. Why would you recommend a CMIT Solutions franchise for someone interested in opening a business?

John: First of all, you can make money at it. Second, the recurring revenue aspect. Third, it’s a great industry that’s virtually recession-proof. We’ve grown 35 to 40 percent every year, even in a recession. We actually save the customers money — they’re paying less to us than they would be spending on IT staff, a lot less — and we sell something companies have to have.