AWA launches troubleshooters network

New franchise designed to assist home and small businesses with IT and CE technology

AWA is the latest IT services provider to tackle the home and small business troubleshooters market.

The company is plotting out a national franchise network of mobile and centre-based technicians to provide installation and support services around IT and CE products. Managing director, Mark Rainbird, said the idea was given momentum by its acquisition of consumer electronics (CE) services company, Telefix, in March last year. He pointed to the convergence of IT, CE and communications products as opening up support opportunities in the smaller end of town.

AWA has predominantly focused on the commercial sector. Rainbird said dealing with the home and small business market required a different mentality. He cited out-of-hours support and a hands-on approach as key.

"The feedback we've been getting, particularly from our OEM partners [like HP and Cisco], is that there were concerns about our lack of ability to provide support to home and small business users," he said. "Some saw this as an inhibitor to sales of their products.

"In our research of the market we realised there were thousands of service providers in the home and small business space but it's very fragmented. Services are highly variable and there are no real standards."

Two AWA franchise options are now available: mobile services or service centres. Mobile service franchise owners will be given a specific territory to cover and work on-site. The service centre franchises will be branded AWA and operate as back-to-base facilities. Rainbird said there would be some overlap between the two models and expected operators to work together.

Franchisees needed to outlay an initial investment of $60,000. This covered training (worth about $30,000) as well as working capital, vans and tools, he said.

Applicants will need to show experience in either IT or AV, and undertake training. This includes completing a mandatory six-week course which AWA has developed in conjunction with TAFE. It covers small business skills as well as technical modules in IT and AV.

In return, franchisees will be supported by AWA's logistics and back-end infrastructure, including call systems, parts management and accounting and finance.

Rainbird said AWA had worked with local company, Geotech, to determine the number of territories across the country. He identified 230 franchises in metro areas. In the long term, the company hoped to also establish franchises in regional and remote locations.

He said it had been working on the concept for 18 months. The company has converted its two Telefix repair centres in Sydney and Melbourne to independently run outfits, and also piloted the mobile services concept using internal staff.

Rainbird said AWA would not pursue work in the home or small business market and planned to hand over its existing consumer services contract with HP to franchise holders. Corporate jobs would remain with its technicians.

AWA is one of many providers looking to stretch services to consumers. Other local chains include Gizmo and Computer Troubleshooters.

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