Join the IT and internet franchisees who are experiencing a wave of new business because of the pandemic
This is a good time to get into the IT and internet sector and there are plenty of franchises that can help you do it.
The positive news is that IT-based franchises are by no means the preserve of people with IT backgrounds. Most franchisees in this sector do not directly deliver IT services, so you don’t need technical or developer skills to get involved.
You will need an understanding of the value of IT and digital services though, so if you’re allergic to all things techie, this may not be the sector for you.
What’s driving this IT franchise boom?
New demand from businesses
Amy Cross-Webber, marketing manager at the it’seeze franchise from Spoton.net, whose franchisees sell website building and maintenance services to businesses seeking to move to online selling or beef up their online offering, says: “In recent months, we’ve seen a significant increase in the demand for people wanting a website as businesses diversify their income streams.
“More businesses than ever before are realising that having an online presence or marketplace is essential. With so many shops being forced to close, the only revenue streams left to many businesses is online and having an effective website is an integral part of this.”
The push to get kids into coding
There is no doubt that IT skills, especially in cybersecurity, are in demand and they are essential skills for the jobs of the future.
Many franchises offer lessons in coding and associated skills to children. A number of them operate from physical centres, but also deliver lessons online.
Justin Nihiser, chief executive officer of Code Ninjas in the UK, whose franchisees run classes that teach children coding and IT skills, says: “Despite the economic challenges caused by the lockdown period, we’ve witnessed impressive growth.
“All the locations we’d planned prior to March are now fully operational and our network has almost doubled during the second two quarters of the year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as we plan for 2021.”
At ComputerXplorers, whose franchisees offer computer skills classes for children, managing director Nigel Toplis says: “The government’s message that people should be building careers in the cyber sector means we need to get children engaged with technology as early as possible and that’s what ComputerXplorers franchisees facilitate.
“We have seen increased demand from parents for the classes our franchisees deliver.” Classes take place in a range of locations, including schools, afterschool clubs and community venues, and now from home because the capacity to access ComputerXplorers classes online has been added.
“We teach children not only what’s behind the technology, but also critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and confidence,” Nigel says. “It’s a blend of tech skills, computational thinking and problem solving. The courses often boost literacy and numeracy too.”
What franchisors look for
Many IT-related franchises do not restrict franchisee recruitment to people with qualifications or backgrounds in the sector. “The most important quality we look for in future franchisees is people skills,” Amy says.
Franchisees with it’seeze use networking to meet local businesses owners who need website services and talk to them about the kind of site, or site upgrades, that will showcase their company successfully to grow sales. The website creation is handled by experts at head office.
“Experience in IT, web design or digital marketing is a distinct advantage, but not a necessity,” Amy says. “But you must be friendly, approachable and great at building instant rapport with prospective clients.”
ComputerXplorers franchisees also need not be computer experts, just confident with technology and enthusiastic about its benefits. The franchise includes detailed lesson plans for all the courses and franchisees employ people to help deliver the classes.
IT services to business
The pandemic has prompted a surge in demand for IT cleaning services, which has boosted business for Techclean franchisees.
Chris Masters, managing director of Techclean, says: “Techclean has been reporting an unprecedented demand for its services since the pandemic reached the UK.
“We have seen a surge in bookings for Techclean’s PC and desktop cleaning services, as well as its deep cleaning and dry misting treatments.”
Techclean franchisees run teams of trained technicians, who work to internationally accredited standards. And such has been the demand that the company has fast-tracked technician training and recruitment to allow franchisees to keep pace with customer requests.
The teams clean and sanitise PCs, laptops, telephones, cash registers, touchscreen controls, keypads and monitoring equipment. They can also deep clean and decontaminate computer rooms, data rooms and communications rooms.
Customers range from government departments and schools to companies of all sizes.
The great rush to get online
The proportion of money spent online has risen 25 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
The change forced thousands of more companies to start selling their goods online, bringing in more business for franchises that helped customers to do this.
During the first lockdown, online shopping peaked at 35 per cent of transactions as consumers spent an average of £21 online on several days during June. Online spending fell back to 28 per cent of total consumption by August as COVID-19 restrictions eased, but that’s still a substantial increase on the 19 per cent of money spent online in January.
Dr Neil Stewart, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School, one of the people involved in sourcing the data, says: “There is early evidence of a new normal in which the share of money spent online is roughly 25 per cent higher than it was before the pandemic.”
Gemma Green and Mike Corbridge: it’seeze
We sell our web consultancy services to clients for a regular monthly fee
Gemma Green and Mike Corbridge invested in an it’seeze web consultancy franchise from Spoton.net the week before the first lockdown in March.
Gemma says: “It’s turned out to be a great choice of franchise. It’s an ideal time to be doing this.”
Gemma and Mike both have marketing backgrounds, but had never done digital marketing. When it came to creating a new website for a part of Mike’s marketing business, it proved to be a difficult task, according to Gemma.
She adds: “It was hard work and I wasn’t happy with it. Then we met it’seeze franchisee Mike Axtell and asked him to help. I was amazed at how easy the process was. The site looked great and was easy to edit.”
Gemma and Mike decided to become it’seeze franchisees themselves. Now Mike sells the brand’s services to local businesses, while Gemma puts together client briefs to deliver the websites that showcase clients’ offerings.
Mike says: “You don’t need IT expertise because the technical stuff is all done by experts at head office.
“We started just before lockdown and many businesses used the time to expand their online presence because they had little choice. Now I don’t think any would go back and as we sell our services to clients for a regular monthly fee, it means recurring income for us.”
Susan Hawkin: Techclean
The cleaning expert who battles the bugs on IT equipment
“An office workstation can harbour more bacteria than a regularly cleaned toilet - in fact, employees are less likely to pick up germs eating their sandwiches in the loo than they are at their desks,” Susan Hawkin says.
As a franchisee with specialist IT cleaning provider Techclean, Susan is benefiting from the new focus on beating viruses and bacteria ushered in by the pandemic. Her cleaning service prevents office technology spreading illnesses such as COVID-19, colds, flu and norovirus.
“Many people don’t realise that bacteria and viruses can survive for up to 24 hours on smooth surfaces such as keyboards and phones, making it easy for illnesses such as COVID-19 and flu to spread between colleagues,” Susan says.
“Office items that are in regular contact with human hands need far more specialised cleaning than a flick of a duster by the office cleaner.
“Hygiene is so important to keeping employees healthy, particularly now. Absenteeism costs British businesses millions of pounds a year, so it’s well worth the investment of a periodic deep cleanse of communal and desk-based technologies to reduce the spread of office germs.”
Susan had been a Merry Maids domestic cleaning franchisee for almost 20 years. She sold her business to buy a Techclean franchise from retiring owner Kevin Horan.
“I enjoy working with local businesses and helping them reduce workplace sickness through creating a more hygienic environment for their staff,” she says
“I knew about running a cleaning franchise, so I could hit the ground running, although the items we clean and the products we use are totally different in an office to those used in domestic properties.”
Demand for her services has been highest at organisations in the financial sector, as they typically employ many desk-based staff in open-plan environments, so the risk of technologies becoming infected is high when people cough or sneeze.
Susan also offers cleaning services for server rooms, libraries and educational establishments.
Stephen Gray: ComputerXplorers
The IT man who knew the value of an IT training franchise
Stephen Gray knows about the importance of IT in the workplace - his previous job was with an American tech company. After being made redundant, he took the advice of his parents and decided to invest in a franchise business.
Stephen explains: “Mum and dad have been running a very successful pet care franchise for many years, so I knew how the franchise business model works and could see for myself the benefits that having the support of a quality franchisor can bring.“
But he had some very specific requirements: “I was looking for a business that would give me a sense of purpose, something worthwhile that would give me the opportunity to make a real contribution to the community.
“I researched various franchises and ComputerXplorers was the only franchise I wanted more information about. As soon as I spotted it online, it really stood out.
“Technology is becoming more and more engrained in everything we do and having the chance to help get kids interested in technology while they’re young appealed to me.”
Stephen was recruited during lockdown, completed his training in September and is now the ComputerXplorers franchisee for Durham.
Prasad Prabhakaran and business partners: Code Ninjas
The IT specialists spreading their skills with a franchise
Prasad Prabhakaran is a digital transformation consultant who works with banks, so he knew IT skills were in demand.
He says: “My 10-year-old daughter enjoyed learning a bit about IT at school, but it did not go far enough. “We were looking for some more lessons for her when I found the Code Ninjas franchise, which teaches IT skills to children, and I knew demand for this could be high.”
Prasad and three friends, all from IT backgrounds, are now business partners in the Code Ninjas franchise in Pinner, north London.
“We launched in September and demand is such that we signed up nearly 100 children in the first month and numbers have held up despite the pandemic,” Prasad says.
“We have recruited a good centre manager and team of ‘senseis’ - the people who staff the centres and guide the children through learning sessions.”
It’s not just about teaching coding, however. “Our approach introduces children to a structured approach to thinking about problems and how they can be solved, then use coding to solve them,” Prasad says. “It’s about teamwork and recreates the way teams operate in the IT business.”
You don’t need a background in IT to become a Code Ninjas franchisee, Prasad adds, but it helps if you understand the values of the skills you impart.
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications