Cheryl Nelan was enjoying a prosperous corporate career, but wanted a change.
After 11 years at Eastman Kodak Co. and two-and-a-half more with an elearning firm, Nelan bought into a tech-support business. She opened a local franchise of CMIT Solutions, an IT service provider for small- to midsize businesses. Nelan, a Penfield resident, now oversees a staff of six.
“I did a lot of corporate travel, and I wanted to stay local and work with businesses here,” said Nelan, a single mother of a son named Royce. “I’ve always been inspired by small business owners. Those were the stories that excited me.”
CMIT Solutions started as a computer support company in Austin, Tex. in 1996. The business has spun into more than 135 locally owned and operated franchises nationally, according to the company website.
Nelan, 46, said she’s not a “techie,” but added that her business-technology background was a solid foundation.
“My skills are in supporting the business,” she said. “I would have a team of business experts, and I could be the conduit. And I’ve learned a lot about the technology itself.”
Nelan worked in business-to-business marketing at Kodak and ran a business unit for Element K, which did online training on the technical side. Element K has since been acquired by Skillsoft, according to its website.
Starting her own business was a little scary, she said.
“I was making a good salary,” Nelan said. “There was a lot of learning of what I didn’t know. You’re pouring money into the business and whether it succeeds or fails is all up to you.”
That’s also what made it so exhilarating, she said. Since starting a franchise of CMIT — which stands for Completely Managed IT — in January, 2011, Nelan said she has quadrupled her client base, which includes the SCWF accounting firm and Rochester Surgical.
“Anytime you would have called for IT help, you call us,” she said. “We make sure things don’t get ‘broken’ in the first place. We map out your IT strategy. We do everything.”
There is no central office. Nelan and her employees all work from their homes, giving them more flexibility in their lives and careers, she said.
“We spend most of our time at clients’ offices, and we meet on a regular basis, anyway,” she said. “We get together to brainstorm ideas. We celebrate every time we get positive comments from clients.”
Morrell is a freelance writer covering the Rochester area.
Cheryl Nelan on running a business
Know what makes you different. “We go above and beyond. If my clients are happy, I’m happy.”
Have perseverance. “Every day is not going to be easy. Figure out what needs to change, and be willing to change.”
Have a good team of employees. “It’s important to recognize individual strengths and to encourage the ability to take a risk.”
Have fun. Nelan recently took her team out to play LaserQuest.