Longtime IT services franchise owner says great support from main office and fellow owners helped him thrive

Dave Minker was a happy man when we spoke with him recently. He’d just come back from Lake Tahoe, the site of our annual CMIT convention, where he won the coveted Franchise of the Year award. The FOY is our most prestigious award, and Dave certainly earned it, having increased his location’s revenue by a substantial amount in a single year. It was a huge accomplishment for Dave, who joined our family back in April 2004 when he was still in his 20s (he’s 38 now) and we had just adopted the managed services model. What was behind his incredible year?

What’s your reaction to winning the FOY award?
It’s very nice to be acknowledged and recognized. The class of folks who have won in the past are business owners I deeply respect and admire, and to join that group and be recognized for it in a public way is incredibly gratifying. I was pretty surprised — I had some other people in mind for that award! What I’m proudest of is that here we are in our eighth year, and we’ve never lost a managed services client. Our clients stay with us. In such a highly competitive market, the fact that we’ve been able to maintain our clients and staff through good times and bad is a testament to the work we’ve put in and the quality of CMIT’s support of its partners. It’s really difficult to find an organization like ours, where people truly care about the work they do.

What’s your professional background, and what drew you to managed IT services?
I started a data communications company in 1999 that managed communications in the back offices of hotels. They tended to have a half-dozen guest services systems running on an assortment of different platforms, and it could be a real mess to try to integrate them all. Our company designed and built a product that unified all those platforms. A few years later, I sold the company to a bigger data communications company in Minnesota and agreed to stay on for two years to help in the transition. By the end, I just got tired of it. I don’t work well for other people. I get very frustrated with a lack of desire and ingenuity. It gets stale very quickly. I like to be able to immediately make changes when I see things not going the way I’d like them to go. I like to innovate when I want to innovate and not have to go through 27 meetings before I can make the change I want to make.

So I took some time off after the sale, and after four or five months, I was going nuts. I finally said, “I’m going to start my own IT business. That’s my background. I’m going to do it.” A week in, I was trying to design business cards and logos and taglines, and I said, “This is stupid. I know nothing about this. I didn’t go into business to design business cards. There’s got to be something that’s already done that I can just plug myself into.”

How did you find out about CMIT Solutions?
I went to a franchise broker and said, “This is what I want.” It took him about a day. I went, “Yep. That’s the ground-floor opportunity I’m looking for.” CMIT was just transitioning into the business IT services model, so I secured a tremendous territory, the entire city of Boston, which now you’d have to pry out of someone’s cold, dead hands. But it was eight years ago.

Why CMIT Solutions?
I gravitated to this pretty quickly because it was right in my wheelhouse. I knew at the time that there was no competition on a national basis for managed services at all. Being part of a system like this certainly wouldn’t hurt. When I did the math, the upside was tremendous and the downside was relatively small. Plus, I could get referrals from other owners if they had clients moving to my area. If I got some additional business beyond what I could get from networking, then fantastic. I had to start from scratch anyway, and if these guys can help me get a leg up, then great. Little did I know just how far we could actually take this.

What do you like best about CMIT Solutions’ franchise opportunity?
I like what’s ahead. I like the direction the company’s going. We’re still unique in the industry, and even after eight years, there still isn’t a national organization with the focus and intensity we have on providing incredibly high-quality managed services to our clients. The opportunity we have to leverage our own collective intelligence is tremendous. I’ve never met a group of folks so selfless, especially among business owners, when it comes to improving the lot for the greater good. You don’t find that kind of camaraderie or solidarity in many places. So we’ve got a corner on that market, and there’s plenty more to be done.

What has been the most surprising thing about owning a CMIT Solutions franchise?
The generosity from fellow franchisees. It’s amazing. These are individual owners going out of their way to make sure I’m getting what I need to get things done. They give you recommendations on what to fix and what to keep doing to keep growing, and that advice was instrumental in helping me raise my game and get to where I needed to go. You just don’t trip across that everywhere you go. Everyone’s willingness to be selfless in improving each other’s lot is just remarkable to me. It’s the single most surprising thing to me about being part of this organization, and it continues to surprise me more than anything.

What keeps you active in your free time?
I have a 15-month-old son, OK? Owning a CMIT location assures me that on Tuesday at 3 o’clock, when he’s due to get a bunch of nasty shots in his chubby little legs, I don’t have to send my wife alone to deal with the crying and the unpleasantness. I can get in my car and drive over there, then come back and finish what I need to do, ’cause it’s my show. It’s all good. I get to go up to Maine for two or three weeks every summer to, quote unquote, “work” 25 feet from the water, listening to the waves. That’s what I need. Like I say, I don’t like working for someone else, and you don’t have that flexibility when someone else owns your schedule. I don’t abuse it — I’ve got too much stuff to do — and there are certainly positives and negatives, but the positives make the negatives tolerable.

What qualities make for a good CMIT Solutions franchisee?
Number one, you have to be passionate, and, frankly, I don’t care what part of the business you’re passionate about — the tech side, sales, operations, whatever. But across all of our top performers, their common denominator is passion. You listen to us talk about what we love in this business, there’s no doubt we’re passionate. Number two, you have to be well-capitalized, because it’s not a cheap business to do correctly. Number three, you have to be willing to take calculated risks and be comfortable with the occasional downside, because it’s a real possibility that you won’t always be doing the amount of business you’d like. Number four, you need to be able to manage people, whether they’re employees or clients, because, believe me, there’s as much psychology involved in what we do as technology. Some of these folks need counseling, for gosh sakes, and I do it, because that’s what’s required. One other thing: You need to trust the system. Everybody thinks they have a better way to skin the cat, but there are some fundamental things you need to trust and let work for you.

Why would you recommend a CMIT Solutions franchise for someone interested in opening a business?
No matter what you do to be successful, you have to be firing on all cylinders, and there are only two ways you can do that: You’re either Superman and can do it all yourself and have the honed expertise and capital to knock all the critical things out of the park; or you’re a mere human being and there are some things you’re good at and things you’re not so good at. You want to be everything, but that’s usually just not possible. So you get involved in a franchise because you want to make a difference in the lives of businesspeople in the community and around you, you know technology is getting more pervasive and growing like never before … and to know you have the potential to have such an impact on businesses lucky enough to work with you, that’s the driving force, and CMIT has the offerings that make it a lot easier to do business with them than without them.