As owners of a Computer Troubleshooters USA franchise, John Enot Sr. and Sandy Schaap's days are filled with computer-related rescue missions. Attending to technical matters including computer repairs, upgrades, Web site design and IT consulting, they work on location and don't leave or charge for a job until the problem has been fixed. But their lives haven't always been devoted to saving distressed computer users.
Both Schaap, 57, and Enot, 62, spent the majority of their careers in the automotive industry prior to becoming franchisees. When Schaap was asked to retire from his postion as CIO for Toyota's technical R&D center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he went in search of another job. He came across an article about Computer Troubleshooters when his wife was having computer problems and recognized it not only as a solution to his wife's technical troubles, but also as a solution to his own dilemma. He started researching the franchise and approached Enot, his friend of 20 years, about going into business with him.
Enot had retired from his job as a plant safety director at GM and had to weigh the pros and cons of going back to work before deciding to give the franchise a try. "I had to think about whether I wanted to get busy again, to make that type of commitment," says Enot. "I figured I'd give it a good four or five years."
The pair purchased the Northville/Novi, Michigan, territory in January 2003 for $10,000 and immediately got off to a running start, completing both their business and advertising models before the franchisor's two-day training had even begun. They also built their client base early, attracting 30 to 40 percent of their initial customers by joining their local Business Network International chapter. By March, they had recouped their initial investment and were feeling confident enough to purchase a second territory. "Suffer the pain and anguish, but write a business plan," advises Schaap. "Without it, you'll never know if your business is growing or shrinking, because you'll have nothing to measure it by."
While Computer Troubleshooters franchisees are expected to be technically proficient, they're not required to have any special certifications or degrees. Schaap and Enot appreciate their franchisor's support system and turn to their regional director for technical support. They also regularly access Computer Troubleshooters' 24-hour, worldwide forum to seek assistance on technical matters from other franchisees. "We have yet to find ourselves [out] on a limb," says Enot.
The partners project sales to reach $180,000 in 2004. In addition to enjoying the financial rewards, Schaap is happy just to be out of the corporate world. "I was working 15 hours a day in corporate technology, getting my brains beat out for someone else," he says. "Now I'm still working 15 hours a day, but it's because I want to. And no one is beating my brains out."