Frequently Asked Questions:
We believe in being as transparent as possible and providing you with the information you need to decide whether joining PC PAL could be the right step for you. Therefore, we encouarge you to read the following FAQs which aim to answer the most common questions we get asked.
- What is a franchise?
Put simply, a franchise is a business that has proven to be successful and is then made available for others to copy to be just as successful, in other parts of the country. Further details about franchising can be found on the British Franchise Association website.
- Has the business model been tried and tested?
100% YES! PC PAL was first set up in Solihull in 2005 and operated for 3 years successfully before turning into the franchise you see today. More importantly PC PAL was built from the ground up to be a franchise from the start. We have countlessly worked with many individuals and turned them into successful PC PAL franchisees, running their own successful PC PAL businesses. Our franchise system has been further developed and refined and offers an excellent opportunity for people to run their own business in a growing and rewarding sector.
- Is there a real need for your services? Do people really want so much Computer Support?
Computer repair is a fast growing market, and with the new ‘make-do-and-mend’ culture, demand is growing even more rapidly, as people find it less affordable to buy a brand new computer, and get their current one repaired or upgraded instead.
We have grown successfully throughout these tough economic times and our franchisees continue to enjoy strong demand for computer support as people become ever more reliant on computers and the internet.
- Who is the main competition?
The computer repair and support market is quite fragmented in the UK with no overall brand leader, particular for the consumer and small business market. There are only a couple of recognisable high street names which offer a mainly in-store service (but this is often a secondary service to their main retail arm). There is also an ever diminishing number of specialist computer shops that are closing due to increased premises costs and the growth of supermarkets often undercutting them when it comes to selling new computers. There is also an element of often unqualified, uninsured and part time businesses/individuals offering varying degrees of service. Consumer also often turn to friends and family for help and support (who although well meaning, can often make the problem worse) , but with people’s lives becoming busier and people living further apart, often people have no one to turn to.
PC PAL is looking to become a brand leader in the UK and already come the rescue of thousands of customers every year, having built and refined our systems over several years of successful trading. We have responded to the strong demand for quality on-site computer support at an affordable price.
- If I invest in a PC PAL franchise, is it my own business?
Yes, absolutely. Even though we will ask you to operate in a way very similar to the way we do things (because we have proven that to be the best way for you to be just as successful as us) it is very much your business and the success of your business depends on your efforts, commitment and implementation of our training and guidance.
You will deal with your own clients, own the business and make the profit for yourself. You can operate in either self-employed, partnership or as a limited company and can elect to become VAT registered if you choose. The choice is very much yours and the success is down to your efforts (as are the rewards).
- Why would someone not just start up on their own?
The point of franchising is not just to give you the idea. You buy a franchise so that you save all the costs and failures of trying something new by yourself that you have never done before. We have already proven that BOTH our idea AND the way that we do it is successful in the market. What we pass to our franchisees is that proven method of making our idea work so you needn’t take the same risks or make the same mistakes that we have already paid for in years of developing this business.
If you started alone, you would have to learn everything from zero with no head start or support from us. You would have to work out how to set up a new business, where to get funding, how to find suppliers, where to get trained, how to advertise, what paperwork you need, how to handle accounts and taxation, how to deal with day to day operations and occasional crises, how to deal with customers, how to plan your business, how to deal with legalities and much more. This would be a shame – as we do ALL of that for our franchisees at far less cost!
- So, if I buy a franchise I am guaranteed success?
No franchise can give you a guarantee but we will give you everything that you need to help you to be successful but it is your business and it will only be successful if you work very hard at it, commit yourself to it and get the results for yourself.
However, many surveys have found that statistically, a franchised business offers an overwhelmingly higher probability of success than just going it alone. There are many thousands of franchised business owners enjoying the success of following a proven business model.
- What turnover can I expect as a franchisee?
This of course depends upon the effort of individual and the hard work and commitment given to the business – no guarantees can be given. From our own experience we would suggest a turnover target of £35k in the first year rising by around £10k per year for the following 3 years. We are a very low overhead business (as we visit the customer) and therefore up to 60% of this could be your net profit (subject to tax of course).
- Are there businesses in the chosen territory that get support already or do you have to find the jobs?
Each territory is ‘brand new’ (unless we have a resale of an established franchise available) and you will be establishing from scratch (using our tried and tested system and formula of course). We have some national account work available that we can provide from the beginning though.
- What sort of person would this franchise suit?
We are looking for people who have a strong interest in computers and/or are currently fixing PC problems for friends and family as a hobby (or even in an employed position). Our comprehensive training system can teach any suitable person to cure PC problems, but we recognize that customer service and being able to put people at ease and instill confidence is what separates us from the rest. A positive outlook with hard work and determination are absolutely essential too.
You will need to have a strong desire to offer first class customer service and be committed to following our proven business model and processes to achieve success for your own business.
- What types of customer does PC PAL serve?
With the vast majority of UK’s 20m households owning computers, wireless devices and peripherals and an ever growing reliance on email & the internet, we primarily service domestic and small businesses customers (those without servers). These customers are looking for an honest, rapid and reliable computer support and repair service to visit their homes or business, at a time to suit them. The growing sector of ‘Silver Surfers’ and those new to the internet often rely on our services to rescue them from their IT gremlins.
As people have more and more pressure on their time and often cannot live without access to the internet for long, people are turning to PC PAL for help making our service both in high demand and resilient in the current climate. Our aim is to become the most popular PC Support service in the UK and are looking for like-minded franchisees to share in this vision.
Please take a look at out Testimonials to see the delight from people we have help regularly.
- Are you able to set up the franchise with more than one person?
Yes, you can set the franchise up with more than one person but additional training and equipment costs would be incurred.
- What sort of PC problems does PC PAL serve?
We will try and help a user with any computer problem. Typically, these may include: Installation, connection of peripherals, internet and communications connectivity, wireless installation and troubleshooting, compatibility, software freezing, software installation, data retrieval, virus protection and removal, integration with other consumer electronics, power failure, installation of new internal PC parts and cards, cleaning and servicing and more. We also offer tutorial services and are willing at tackle virtually anything technical!
Additional details can be found in our prospectus or on our Computer Support web site.
- Do you find the clients for me?
No – but we teach you how to find them yourself! We will help you launch your business in your area using our proven and tested integrated marketing plan. Our goal is to make you the first choice for local computer support needs in your area. We believe that you will develop more customers and create more loyalty for increasing repeat business if you are perceived as a local service with local engineers that offer a great local service and customer care – rather than an anonymous tradesman farmed out by a national call centre!
We’ll help you to use the marketing and advertising that we have found most effective to get your phones ringing. This includes national directories, newspaper advertising, leafleting campaigns, and other techniques which work. Once you get started, you will find that you also get a lot of your customers through referrals, word of mouth and repeat business – assuming that you offer a high quality service like ours.
- Is there a lot of selling or cold calling involved?
No. 99% of callers who respond to our marketing and advertising (or are referred onto us by family and friends) has a computer problem they need help with straight away. They are looking for a rapid, reliable and value for money service from a reputable company – this is exactly what we offer. Once you have completed our training, you will be able to handle these enquiries with confidence, reassurance and professionalism knowing you will be able to solve their issues (with the safely of the technical support available from head office).
You will need to be hardworking, customer service focussed and proactive to ensure your business is a success. For those individuals comfortable with business networking, there is plenty of scope to utilise these skills by attending events and local business clubs/meetings, as well as the many other organisations in your local area that need reliable computer support.
- What’s the difference between a Hub Manager and a Mobile Engineer Franchise?
We run two versions of our franchise to suit different sorts of franchisee. Our Mobile Engineer Franchise is for a franchisee who wants to work alone and be the engineer that is trained up and serves their customers directly. Our Hub Manager Franchise is for franchisees that want to cover a larger territory and would prefer to manage a team of mobile engineers to serve their customers whilst they develop the business and take customer appointments at an office central in their territory. Most of our Mobile Engineer franchisees intend to go on to be Hub Managers in the future as they grow.
- Are you a member of any Franchise Association?
We were an Associate member of the British Franchise Association up until 1st October 2013 (and our founder Jat Mann served a full term as a BFA Board member). More recently we have felt our annual fees and costs of £5,000 associated with membership was not giving us value for money. We still strongly advocate the need for standards within the franchise industry and our professional advisors continue to be members of the BFA. They help us ensure that our system continues to meets all of the codes of ethics for franchising imposed by the BFA.
- Can I talk to other franchisees?
Yes, you may talk to as many franchisees as we have up and running. Please also read their franchisee stories.
- Can I spend a day out with one of your existing franchisees?
There is an opportunity to spend some time with an existing franchisee if requested and approved, but you will obviously need to go through our recruitment process first to ensure you meet our criteria before this will be arranged.
- Are any of your existing franchisees looking for part time help?
Unfortunately, at present we are only looking to recruit franchisees to our network who will be trained and supported with setting up their own business.
- Can I start as a PC PAL employee first to get to know the business and then become a PC PAL franchisee?
Unfortunately, we are currently not looking for employees and are only looking to recruit additional franchisees. The comprehensive training and support we provide, as well as the sharing of our know-how and systems has a significant value which franchisees have invested in to set up their own business.
- Can I operate the franchise part-time?
Not as a Mobile Engineer. As you will understand in order to get the best value from your investment you will need to dedicate all your time and effort to operating the franchise and committing yourself to your new business. In exceptional circumstances we may allow, for a very short period, the continuation of your previous employment whilst you complete your initial training with us.
For Hub Managers, however, there is scope to combine the franchise with other business interests, and would be something we would need to discuss in a meeting.
- What previous qualifications do I need?
You don’t need any previous IT qualifications and you don’t need to have worked in the IT industry previously, as we will train you in everything that you need and will help you to acquire professional qualifications. If you want to take a Mobile Engineer Franchise, you will need a driving license and a basic enthusiastic knowledge of PC computing. Hub Managers will need good management ability, sales and business building skills. To see how others have made the step and are running their own computer support businesses, please read their franchisee stories. For those franchisees who need it, we provide a Computer Fundamentals course, before qualification training commences.
- Can you tell me about the qualifications I will gain?
We have partnered with the UK’s leading provider of IT training courses and services, to carry out the internationally recognised CompTIA A+ and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) training. These are your qualifications and skills that will always be with you. Our courses are traditional classroom based courses led by a qualified instructor, are hands-on and provide an intensive but rewarding experience. The training courses and exams fees are included in the Franchise Fee.
We will also provide you will all the support and assistance in gaining these qualifications, every step of the way. We are the only UK franchise offering this standard of training as part of our franchise. It really puts PC PAL in a category of its own.
- Could you tell me more about the ‘onsite’ training?
Each franchisee will spend at least 2 weeks with our head office team visiting customers and learning how to operate the franchise with the safety of having an experienced PC engineer beside them at all times – there really is no better way of learning the role inside-out. We believe in training our franchisees to a high level, allowing them to start their own business with confidence from day one. Please watch our training video which is designed to give you a feeling for what you will learn.
- What on-going support is there?
We are here whenever you need us. Our training and guidance doesn’t stop after the initial training, but extends the whole time you are a franchisee. We will provide you guidance in securing advertising, marketing to the right customers and offering technical support whenever you need it. We have a comprehensive online technical knowledge-base exclusively for our franchisees and built from our experience over thousands of repairs. We also provide flowcharts, tutorials, how to videos, forums, face-to-face meetings and much more. Remember, we are also only a phone call away when you need advice there and then!
- Do you provide instructional and operational manuals and can I see them prior to joining?
Our instructional and operational manual are very much integrated into our training system and we believe in having robust and strong procedures and processes for everything we do. We are happy to show you examples of these when you meet with us, but in order to protect our ‘Trade Secrets’ and franchisees, we will be unable to provide copies. We have a comprehensive technical online knowledge-base where this information can only be accessed by our franchisees whenever they need to.
- What technology do you use in the franchise?
We have built our franchise IT systems using the latest technology which are securely hosted in ‘The Cloud’. Our IT systems handle job booking and management, diary and meeting appointments, full CRM capabilities, email marketing and book keeping facilities. Franchisees book appointments with customers using these online systems and update the job once it has been completed at the customer’s home or office. Upon completion, a customer will immediately receive a receipt automatically via email and the book keeping elements will be automatically updated in the background. Customers also receive a Feedback request (asking them to give us their feedback on the work carried out for them) and they are also added to our email marketing systems. All this is done with the minimum of input from franchisees.
The administrative burden is also reduced as our book keeping systems record your expenses, reconcile bank statements and even create Profit & Loss and VAT returns – and much, much more. We’ve been told many times by franchise industry professionals that we have one of the leading franchise systems.
- Once I apply to you, am I under any obligation?
No. You can decide not to proceed any further at any time before you sign the franchise agreement (which is at the end of the process, just before you start training).
- Is a vehicle included in the initial franchise fee?
No. We understand that people like to choose their own vehicles and there is no obligation to purchase a brand new vehicle. We accept suitable vehicles up to 5 years old – we can even organise the ‘wrapping’ of virtually any vehicle in the PC PAL branding colours (this involves covering the entire vehicle in special vinyl regardless of the original colour – it really is amazing!). You could expect to pay around £5k for a low mileage second hand Toyota Yaris, which many of our franchisees have done.
- Do you pay for the vehicle livery/sign-writing?
Yes, for a standard black Toyota Yaris (which is our recommended vehicle due to excellent economy, reliability and overall suitability). Franchisees have chosen other vehicles such as Ford Focus, Fiat Punto, VW Polo and Totoya Auris and we have been able to livery these too. We always suggest talking to use before making a purchase.
- Can you suggest on how I would fund the vehicle? Out right purchase or perhaps via Private purchase, contract hire, hire purchase?
Most franchisees have purchased a black, economic vehicle either new or second hand (as we allow cars unto 5 years old). Several have leased their vehicles with the various funding schemes which all have pros and cons. We have a vehicle leasing specialist company we deal with who can assist you with this.
- Are there any ongoing fees?
Yes (which is normal practice in franchising). You will need to pay us 10% royalty of your gross turnover as a Management Service Fee (MSF). This fee covers the ongoing guidance you will be receiving from us, plus the support from your HQ technical support team. You will also need to lodge 2% of your gross turnover with our central national advertising fund to assist with building the brand nationwide.
- How are the charges to the customer fixed and what is included: spares, replacements parts, VAT?
The labour charge is not fixed by us but agreed with each franchisee once local research is carried out, but it tends to be around £49 to £59 per hour in most areas. Parts are charged additionally to the customer. VAT is applied depending on whether the franchisee is VAT registered.
- Do franchisees have to be VAT registered?
Most of our franchisees are not VAT registered as the turnover is below the currently £78k threshold and residential customers account for around 80% of our customers. The issue of registering for VAT is a case of weighing up the pros and cons and is best done with the assistance of an accountant but the choice is down to you.
- How long is the Franchise Agreement for?
The initial term is 5 years, followed by renewal rights/options for two further 5 year terms (total of 15 years). We currently do not charge for the renewal of the franchise agreement at the end of each term. We are looking for long term franchisees to help us grown the franchise network.
- At which stage can I see a copy of the Franchise Agreement?
Once you have met with us and we both feel you would make a suitable potential franchisee with PC PAL, then we will provide you a Franchise Agreement which we advise you show to a qualified solicitor who has specialism in franchising. Our Franchise Agreement was drafted by John Pratt from Hamilton Pratt Franchise Solicitors who has been the legal advisor to the BFA for many years and is regarded as an expert on franchising.
- What’s the legal relationship between PC PAL (the Franchisor) and the Franchisee?
The legal relationship between the franchisee and PC PAL Franchising Ltd (the franchisor) is between two parties as separate legal entities. Some franchisees sign the franchise agreement (which encapsulate the relationship and states the obligations on each party) as a sole trader while others sign as a Limited company.
- Is there anything you can share regards PC PAL financial status?
PC PAL Franchising Ltd is jointly owned by its founders, husband and wife team Jat and Julia Mann. The company has currently no borrowings or debt and is well funded. We enlisted the services of UK’s leading experienced franchise consultants (The Franchising Centre) to help us build and launch the franchise originally and continue to use their services as we evolve. We were also members of the British Franchise Association until 1st October 2013.
- Can I sell the business?
Yes – whenever you like. Generally, the longer that you run the business profitably and the more it grows the higher the value when you sell it. We help each franchisee with the creation of their bespoke Business Plan and will of course assist you in the process of selling when the time comes.
- How large are the territories?
The simple answer is as large as you want them to be. Your standard territory will contain at least 180,000 potential customers. However if you want a larger territory and gain sole ownership of a specific town or city you can. We are flexible and open to suggestions.
- Do I have my own area to operate my PC PAL franchise in?
Yes. You will receive your very own exclusive territory in which to market your own computer support business. Territories are identified by postcodes and territory options are discussed with you prior to them being finalised. Other franchisees will NOT be allowed to market in your territory meaning your business is fully protected.
- At what age are you able to start a franchise?
Our minimum age is 21, with a mature and responsible personality and hard working attributes. We of course have a criteria for a franchisee as the franchise is not suitable of everyone. Strong customer service skills, a positive outlook and a willingness to follow and implement a proven system are essential attributes.
- What does the franchise cost?
The current cost of the full turnkey package, providing you everything you need to launch your business can be found on our “What Dost It Cost?” page. Further details of what is provided as part of joining the franchisees will be discussed in the initial Discovery meeting.
- How much Working Capital do you suggest a franchisee would need initially (i.e. personal cash reserves to get through the training and early trading months)?
We would suggest on having around £5,000 working capital to give you a good cushion. After the first few months of trading (and by putting in the required effort in marketing and implementing the training and guidance), then you should be in a position to take small drawings out of the business, but that of course depends on how much effort you put it from the start to get the phone ringing.
It is a very common statistic in franchising that those franchisees who expect to take drawings from the first month or so and have little working capital struggle the most as it’s absolutely essential to be well funded – worrying about money affects moral in the early stages.
- How thoroughly do you vet prospective franchisees to maintain a high standard in the network?
We are looking to build a network of high quality franchisees and select our franchisee carefully to ensure we achieve this. We ask prospective franchisees to complete an Application Form and provide references for us to follow up on. We also required our applicants to agree to a basic CRB check.
- Is PC PAL continuing to develop new service offerings to those already provided?
We are always looking at developing new services and often put on additional training for our franchisees (not just on the technical side, but also for marketing and lead generation). Our core activity and focus will always be on-site computer support for residential and small businesses and we will adapt with the market changes over time.
- What help can you give with funding?
Yes. We have relationships with the main specialist franchise banks including NatWest, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group and can introduce you to the key people who appreciate the benefits of running a franchise business and the lower risks involved.
We have been pre-approved to allow eligible prospective franchisees to borrow up to 70% on the franchise fee. You will need around £10,000 of personal cash to invest in the franchise yourself.
In order to have the best possible chance of securing funding at a competitive rate, it is best to talk to us first before approaching the banks separately as we can provide you with business plans specifically designed in the format the banks prefer.
- I’m really interested – what do I do next?
Please give us a call on 0121 369 5000 to find out more!