After working ‘pretty much all the roles’ in New Horizons, Deery decided to buy the franchise
Last March, Alan Deery, who owns the New Horizons franchise rights in the Republic of Ireland, was all set to open up his second office in Belfast. They had loaded in the desks, chairs and laptops. Everything was set up and ready to go when the coronavirus lockdown orders came.
A shutdown could have been frightening; indeed, many businesses didn’t make it. But because of the digital approach of New Horizons, there wasn’t any issue.
“The new office has been put on hold, and we’ll have to find a new location once this all sort of subsides,” says Deery, who joined New Horizons as an employee in 2005 before becoming a franchise owner in 2016. As for his existing Dublin office, that was shut down, too, but thanks to advance disaster planning, the matter was handled with no business interruptions.
Deery shares his experiences as a New Horizons franchise owner, as well as his hopes for the future, in this New Horizons franchise review.
When did you first become a franchisee for New Horizons? What year did you join?
I became a franchisee in 2016, but I’ve been with the brand a long time. I’ve done all the roles, pretty much, in New Horizons over the years. I started off 15 years as an account manager, spent some time in Australia on the IT side of things, and returned to Ireland as a salesperson and account manager. My predecessor, Liam McMahon, was at a point where he wanted to move on and to try something different. Myself and two of my colleagues took the opportunity to buy him out and take over the Irish franchise.
I was able to lead the management buyout and bring in our top salesperson at the time, as well as our person who was looking after the accounts. To bring them in and have a well-focused team going forward, we basically restructured everything and went back to the original New Horizons model focusing on the sales side and using New Horizons systems for everything.
What does the competitive landscape look like in your market, and how well known was New Horizons when you entered this market?
In the Irish market in 2004, when we officially opened up the doors in Dublin, there were 11 competitors in the Microsoft-certified partner for learning solution space. And they included multi-nationals like Global Knowledge and HP, Fujitsu. And more local brands as well. So it was quite a strong, robust market. But, from that point, we were able to actually scale relatively quickly.
We took over in 2016, at which point we had four central Microsoft partners in the market. Since then, we’re down to two. So we’ve had a really good experience from a market impact point of view. By the most recent estimates, we were about 70-80% of the Microsoft training market for Ireland. We would’ve come from a fraction of that. A lot of that has been to do with the New Horizons systems.
Who are your clients?
Most of our business probably comes from the small to mid-sized businesses. Everything else is 50/50 between government and enterprise. We don’t really do much consumer here in Ireland.
How do you go about growing and acquiring new customers?
We do anything we can think of. We have done handing out flyers on the street. We have done full-page ads in newspapers. This week we have 45,000 of these flyers getting posted into people’s homes across Dublin, like little cheat sheets. We also have brochures which come from corporate. We have a two-man team that heads marketing. Then we also have about five percent of our monthly expenses on digital marketing. And that can be Google Ads, LinkedIn advertising, Facebook advertising, third-party website listings, digital sponsorship for events.
We do a lot of community events, for instance offering AZ-900 Azure Fundamental courses where we provide the instructor, the venue, the refreshments, everything. Doing that meant that we built connections from those events, which allows us to get to the endpoint without having to do cold calls or gatekeepers. I don’t have to spend a lot of effort to get to the endpoint in that part of our marketing.
And then we’d also have the sales guys doing the more traditional outbound marketing like sales calls, as well as social selling — liking and sharing. We do social selling training with all of our sales guys as they come on board. And then if they want to go and invest in something like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we’ll cover the costs. We try and play to their strengths. Some of them prefer knocking out 80 calls a day, and that’s fine. Others prefer, like I prefer doing, emails and face-to-face.
What kind of support does HQ offer franchise owners that you find really helpful?
One thing that I found very beneficial is the support from the network. Being able to go on calls and being able to say, “Well, look, I’m trying to run a Cisco course, how do you go about it?” It’s quite a strong network community. So you do have the ability to pick up the phone and talk to a peer. Having had my own business before, a managed services company, you have lots of questions and you don’t know if you’re insane or if everyone has the same problem, or is your client insane.
I’ve looked at other franchises before I started with New Horizons. With others, there’s a ton of support at the start, but once you’re up and running, that’s it. There is no real interaction with other franchisees except for events. And everything is backed through the franchise, more for compliance than anything else.
With New Horizons, having that support is certainly one of the strong things.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a New Horizons owner?
There’s a group of franchisees called the Franchisee Advisory Council, and they meet once or twice a year to give feedback to the franchisor. It works well for everybody. One of the rewarding things is being able to go and see the difference that you make. There have been people that we’ve seen come to us as a chef or working in hotels, but they’re looking at getting into IT, and we’ve seen them grow all the way through into full IT roles.
These are great people to catch up with for a beer and to have a chat with and to see how they’ve changed. And that rewarding part has continued from being a salesperson to being a trainer to being an operations manager, all the way through to being an owner.
Find out more
Learn more about joining the booming IT training industry. If you’ve been thinking of expanding your existing technology training business or looking for a rock-solid franchise investment that can withstand even a pandemic, New Horizons may be the solution for you. Click here to get started.