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An experienced franchise and retail executive, Mark Jameson leads the FASTSIGNS® Franchise Development team in all aspects, from “lead to lights on”, which includes franchise sales, real estate and development services.
Mark is currently the Chief Support and Development officer of Propelled Brands. Our family of brands includes FASTSIGNS®, NerdsToGo®, MY SALON Suite® and Salon Plaza®, all of which found tremendous success in their respective industries. FASTSIGNS is the leader in the $29 Billion sign industry, while NerdToGo is a growing franchise organization in the IT services business. MY SALON Suite and Salon Plaza are a principal leader in the rapidly growing salons and beauty services sector and are on the way to becoming one of the nation’s largest salon suite franchisors.
His role continues once centers are open by overseeing training and operations support and supply chain for the entire franchise system. Prior to joining FASTSIGNS, Mark served as the VP of Franchise Development for franchise-owned brands at CCA Global Partners, including ProSource Wholesale Floorcoverings.
His extensive franchise background includes experience in franchise relations and operations, training and company store operations, marketing and merchandising, sales and development, real estate, franchise law, technology and intellectual property.
Mark is a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) with more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of franchising in both consumer industries (home services, food and retail) and in business-to-business (flooring; signs and graphics).
His extensive franchising background includes franchisee relations, operations, training, company store operations, franchise law, intellectual property, financial management, procurement, technology, and sales and marketing.
He joined FASTSIGNS International in 2009, and today leads Franchise Support (including Training, Operations and Supply Chain) and global Franchise Development. Mark’s responsibilities cover overseeing “lead to lights on” support (through Franchise Sales, Real Estate and Development Services teams) and then continue seamlessly into providing ongoing, lifelong franchisee support (through the Training, Operations and Supply Chain teams).
Mark has been a panelist and panel leader for sessions at many International Franchise Association Conventions and at the Franchise Development Leadership Conference, and has spoken at international franchise forums in Middle East, Peru and the United Kingdom.
Since joining the company, the brand has added more than 200 locations domestically and signed international agreements to enter twelve new countries (UAE, Malta, Italy, Greece, Chile, Spain, the Caribbean, and 4 others in the Middle East).
Prior to joining FASTSIGNS, Mark was the Vice-President of Franchise Development for 8 years for multiple franchise-owned brands at CCA Global Partners including ProSource Wholesale Floor Covering.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Benefits of NerdsToGo
- Innovations or changes made to business during the pandemic that will continue to be a part of the NerdsToGo business
- Growth of NTG through adversity
- Lessons learned through challenging times
- Strategies to continue to grow as a franchise
- The vision for NerdsToGo for the next five years
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by SEO Samba Comprehensive, high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands to supercharge your franchise marketing. Go to SEOSamba.com that’s SEOsamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a fun one today on the show, we have Mark Jamieson with nerds to go. Welcome, Mark.
Mark Jameson: [00:00:42] Thank you, Lee. Excited to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] Well, I’m excited to learn about your concept. Tell us a little bit about nerds to go. How are you serving, folks?
Mark Jameson: [00:00:50] Absolutely, I’ll start real quick that Nerds to Go is part of our platform company called Propelled Brands and Propelled Brands, owns three different brands Fast Signs, My Salon Suites and Nerds to Go. We acquired nerds to go in September of 2020. And you know, it is just a wide open space. That’s what we love about it is everybody has a computer, be it at home or being or in their business, and nerds to go serves both direct to consumer, with now a focus primarily on the B2B customer and driving that business. And you know, anybody who has a connected device, which is you and I probably know is everybody recognizes that there’s a need for a nerd in their life.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:39] And then what are what are some of the services that nerds to go provides for the consumer?
Mark Jameson: [00:01:44] Yeah. So Nerds to Go opens up in about seven hundred to nine hundred square foot storefront locations, typically in a well-traveled area at the location. We do break, fix, walk in some computer peripherals and equipment that we sell, and that could be either direct to the consumer or the B to B. All of our locations have a fleet of vans that that the nerds go out and directly serve customers. On the B2B side, we do a number of things. We’re doing everything from data security to protection. We also have a managed service plan that we call nerd assure, and that is to monitor their computers and software for health, making sure there’s virus protection in place. And then we notify the customer if we see anything out of the ordinary that often leads to other things, like the sales of hardware and software, and we might help them onboard to a different platform, maybe moving to Outlook Online or Google online, even things like phone systems, because all of those today are based on a connection to the internet. So really a wide array of services, our customer tends to be small and medium businesses that do not have anybody that fills a CIO or a chief technology role. And so we’re really there outsource technology team.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:09] And then I would imagine with, you know, a big portion of the business world going remote, you can help maybe get those people set up if this is the first time they’ve ever kind of had a remote workforce.
Mark Jameson: [00:03:22] A great great question. And yes, you’re a hundred percent, right? Actually, the pandemic, this is one of the businesses that did exceptionally well because as we all had to relook at how we operated, operating remotely or having your employees operate remote meant that if you’re working from home, you need to have good internet connection and good connectivity to others on the team. And so for us, that is a big part of what 2020 was, and I think probably we’d all agree that the future is going to be more and more people working remote and nerds to go is well positioned to help not only the consumer in their homes, but their businesses make sure that their workforce has access to everything they need to be successful. So big part of what we’re doing today, being part of the future and really allowed our franchisees to completely be considered a an essential business and operate during the pandemic.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:19] Now, I would imagine there’s some opportunity in all those folks that maybe got laid off or displaced and started their own business, and they were used to having some sort of enterprise level help desk that handled a lot of the technical stuff that maybe they’re not familiar with it that needs to go is a great solution for those folks who need help in that area and just, you know, didn’t want to go on YouTube and start figuring stuff out on their own.
Mark Jameson: [00:04:44] Yeah, a hundred percent agree, and then as you’ve probably seen, there’s all these virus attacks now and other things that are being publicized so small and medium businesses, be it startups like you talked about or others, are recognizing that today there’s a lot more than just firing up your laptop and hoping you’re connected to the internet. You need to have protection over your data and security and customer’s information, and nerds to go helps with all of that. But yeah, I mean, we serve very many start up businesses as well that are trying to understand how to build a network out. What does that look like? How does it deal with employees that are both maybe remote and and not remote? So you know, what’s great about us is we are really a custom solution house, so we meet with the customer. We try to understand what their needs are and then the nerds to go team both in the local franchise. Working with our support corporately provides a great solution and options for the customer.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:46] So now has the ideal, have you got a handle on the ideal franchisee? What is the make up of them? Kind of from a more so from, I guess, a psychographic rather than a demographic?
Mark Jameson: [00:05:59] Yeah, great question, you know, surprisingly maybe to some is we’re not actually looking for technology people. You know, as our business is technology driven and you can hire a, you know, a Level one or level two tech relatively easily. Really, what we’re looking for our franchisees that want to be able to build an enterprise. And so very often people who come out of a sales experience or background, even if it is technology sales is great. However, people who sit in a senior role in technology like a chief technology officer, this isn’t they almost overthink the business. This business is not about setting up massive mainframes and networks for large companies about supporting small, medium businesses and people at home. So what? We really want our franchisees that are looking to build a business, build a team, create an organization, and much of this business, like any B2B, is relationship driven. And so our best franchisees are typically engaged in their local community. They may have business contacts already. Certainly, they’re going to join the chamber and and work with other businesses. But but they do not need any experience. They should be comfortable with technology, obviously, but they don’t have to be an IT professional and in many cases, we actually prefer that they come from an experience of more leadership and management because that’s what they’re doing is building an organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:29] So now is the actual work. Is that done by corporate that that’s part of what the franchisee is paying for? Is there getting some smart people at corporate that can diagnose some of these issues? Or is it something that they have to hire locally?
Mark Jameson: [00:07:43] It’s actually a combination of both. So every new franchisee starts with one or two what we call nerd’s, which is the support both in the location as well as going out and visiting customers both at their home or in their place of business and providing consulting services. Those are what, as I said before, a level one, level two people who have good experience understand computers and have training, and then we also have certification and training as it gets more complex and you go into products like Nerdist, sure, which is a program where we monitor networks for small and medium businesses that we actually housed at our headquarters in Dallas. And we work with our franchisees to provide them support and monitoring of that. And then if they have a very complex job, we actually have a gentleman on the team who is our senior director of technology, who works with franchisees. So if they have something that’s more complex and they need help and support, maybe it’s got more project orientation to it will step up and help them and oftentimes even travel to their market to help them set up those things. So it’s really a combination most of the business has done local and market by people. We help train and provide ongoing training, but then the corporate office sort of needs to go, which is part of propelled brands, has probably 20 plus people in our corporate IT team that also provides support.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:11] So now what is kind of the main revenue streams for the franchisee?
Mark Jameson: [00:09:17] You know, it’s a little split. When we bought the company, Lee, it was primarily driven by consumer walk in, break fix, some home visits and that was maybe, you know, depending on the location, 70 30. We’re making all of our efforts today to drive that business more on the B2B side. And so I would see those numbers in a couple of years flipped for us, where we may be as much as 60 or 70 percent B to be and 25 or 30 percent walk in traffic, some direct to consumer. The reason we love the B2B model is it tends to be reoccurring revenue for the franchisee. And so what we do with Natasha is we set up a customer, charge them based on workstations, so it might be the lowest six hundred in some cases to three thousand a month. We’re monitoring their systems. We’re really they’re outsourced I.T. department and for our franchisees, that reoccurring revenue has a lower cost base and really helps them get to profitability quicker. The walk in traffic, the break fix that sort of my iPhone needs a new screen or my laptop isn’t working, but there’s some good, steady income there, and that’s what we perform, typically at the storefront locations. But but no doubt the focus is the B2B side with the reoccurring revenue on managed services planned.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:43] And like you said, the idea of franchisee, they’re spending their time kind of immersing themselves in the community and being that go to resource and then selling this stuff and then having either corporate or one of their employees doing the work of the kind of the ongoing support moving forward.
Mark Jameson: [00:11:02] Exactly. We believe that there are certain things that owner can do that you can’t hire, right? And that’s exactly what you talked about. It’s the relationship being in the community, having that sense of ownership, creating culture. We can hire good technical technical people. We can hire customer service people to answer the phones and nerds to go out on calls. And so the role of the owner is to drive the business forward, preferably in a relationship business development role, while obviously making sure that the team is living up to the customer service standards of nerds to go and taking care of the customer. So there’s a little bit of that daily workflow meetings making sure we’re good, we’re getting out to the customers. We need to get to handling anything that needs to be resolved that comes up. But I would say the bulk of the role the owner, certainly after they’ve ramped up the businesses, is customer relations as well as business development, exactly as you describe.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:58] So now what are some kind of best practices that you’ve learned in order to help the franchisee, you know, kind of build their book of business?
Mark Jameson: [00:12:08] Yeah, it’s a great question, I mean, the new locations we’ve opened, and this year we’ve already opened, we’re averaging about one or two a month. And we see that number considering increasing in twenty twenty two. You know, the big focus is for them to make sure they have got the right staff in place hiring. Today’s a challenge in any business. So hiring people, making sure that they get trained and that the owner is really in an oversight role, knowing the business, knowing what has to take place. But hopefully not the one that’s actually performing the technical assistance so that they can drive the business. But I think in many cases, the role of that owner, the role in the beginning, what we’ve learned is that the franchisee needs to spend much more time on developing the team, developing the people. And then, of course, following up with customers. These monthly reoccurring customers need ongoing communication, and I think that’s one of the things that we’re continuing to fine tune is how do we follow up with them? What else do they need? How do we leverage things that are happening in the news that kind of scare people to make sure that they feel protected?
Lee Kantor: [00:13:19] Now, how does the local person get most of their business? Is it through their own kind of effort in networking or is this something that digital marketing helps kind of bubble up leads?
Mark Jameson: [00:13:33] Good question. And really, the answer is both. We would expect our franchisees to have an open house and invite other local small businesses, join lead groups and Chamber of Commerce so that they are in fact doing it that way. But we also have a social media campaign and a digital marketing campaign that is focused that we manage for our franchisees through a third party that helps them drive leads, target people. And then we have a proprietary program that is really almost a lead shepherding system that keeps in front of the customer that say, Hey, is it time for a fall cleanup or this holiday? May there be some issues that you want to deal with. You’re hiring a new employee. We can help you with making sure you’ve got the equipment you need. So it’s really a combination of our efforts as a brand to drive leads on the web to our franchisees because most people today go to the web first when they’re looking for these products and services dovetailed with the local franchisee in their market going out and and maybe not so much hard core calling, but really building relationships. Doing some demos at chamber events to talk about safety and security. To kind of wake wake people up to the opportunity that, you know, look, if your computer is at risk, your business is at risk.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:54] Now, are there certain markets you’re targeting or is this kind of, you know, the whole country available right now?
Mark Jameson: [00:15:00] You know, today we’re lucky with this brand that we’re wide open. We have only about 30 locations, another 10 to 12 in development. And so we’re wide open and we’re looking for franchisees and in every market from medium small markets. We’ve just opened in Asheville, North Carolina and Nashua, New Hampshire and Waco, Texas, and we’ve got sites under construction now in Dallas and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, other areas. So we’re pretty wide open. We’re really looking for the right franchisee. We seek somebody with a net worth of about three hundred thousand and about eighty thousand of that liquid. We have financing in place so we can help them finance the business. But no, we’re we’re lucky at this point that we’re wide open, like I’ve seen from our other brands. I suspect markets that are fast growth, like Atlanta, where you are, Dallas, where I am, most of Florida, Phenix, those markets were getting such high level of inquiries that I would expect we’d be getting close to sold out in those in two to three years. So we’re excited about the response we’ve got.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:09] And since you bought the brand, has anything changed in your kind of prognosis and forecasting?
Mark Jameson: [00:16:17] Yeah, I mean, I think that we’ve done a significant job in trying to bring value and savings to the franchisees when you’re an emerging brand with only 30 locations. It’s harder to dedicate resources. So after acquiring the brand, we’ve done a number of things. We’ve hired more technology enabled staff. We’ve implemented a new point of sale system. We implemented the managed service or what we call nerd assurer plan, and we are continuing to develop tools very much focused on driving profitability for our franchisees, reducing their costs and then helping them with training and education and new products and services. And that’s what we do as franchise or there is one company store. We still operate in Guilford, Connecticut, where the company was founded, and that’s a good learning for us to kind of stay grounded and understand what needs to happen at the store level. Because, look, we don’t make any money at an office in Dallas. We make the money in the field supporting our franchisees.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:16] So now is there any are you are you putting together any incentives for propelled brands as a whole to say, Look, I got the sign company now I can, you know, add nerds to go to my portfolio as an individual franchisee in a given market.
Mark Jameson: [00:17:31] We do. We encourage franchisees of all of our brands. If they’re interested in another brand in their market, we offer them a referral or a discount of 5000. The other thing I should mention that is a big thing we added to nerds to go after we bought the company is, you know, at fast times. For many years, we’ve worked very hard to attract veterans and first responders. And so we added 50 percent discount to veterans and first responders for the franchise fee for the franchisees of about 50000. We cut that in half. Wow. Because they are great franchisees, they obviously know how to follow a system and in fact, signs. Today, about 14 percent of our network is veterans. And our hope is to grow the nerds, to grow, nerds to go brand with veterans and first responders. And it’s our way of kind of giving them thanks for all they’ve done.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:27] Well, congratulations on all of the success. If somebody wants to learn more about the opportunity. Is there a website?
Mark Jameson: [00:18:33] Yeah, absolutely. They can just visit us at nerds to go and click on franchise opportunity. Also, happy to have anybody e-mail me at Merck Mrk Dot Jamison J.M. Itsown at Nerds to Go franchise.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:51] All right, Mark. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Mark Jameson: [00:18:56] Thank you, Lee. A pleasure to be with you today.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:58] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.