FBR’s Franchisee Insight Q&A interview column provides a peek into what owning a franchise is like as well as some great advice.
Lee and Brenda Willwerth and Bob and Jennifer Ender purchased their DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen franchise in Ann Arbor, Michigan in December 2004, started business operations in March of 2005, and opened their first design center in January of 2006. We asked Lee to share his thoughts with us about franchise ownership.
What was it about the franchise model and or leadership that led you to purchase it? We were impressed by DreamMaker’s focus on their Code of Values and their intent to follow it daily to the best of their ability. When getting into business with another organization, you will certainly not agree on everything so you better be sure that you trust the character of the organization and its leadership and know they will always have your best interest in mind.
How did you find your franchise? We were introduced to DreamMaker at the Remodeling show in Chicago, fall of 2004.
How did you fund your franchise? With personal savings and some personal loans
Would you share your revenue figures? Our 2015 revenue will be right about $3 Million and we are projecting it will be $3.4 Million in 2016.
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise before they sign the dotted line and once they own it? Before you purchase a franchise, talk to as many franchise owners as you can. Do everything possible to understand the financial prospects of the business model, and make sure you are being liberal with your assumptions of the cash required to start the business. Always assume it will take more cash than you think and more time than you think to get to profitability. It takes time to learn the ropes in a new industry. Also, once you own the franchise, follow the systems to the letter before you even think of deviating from or improving on them. Too many franchise owners think they can pick and choose which systems they follow and this is nearly always to their detriment.
Are you on site daily or do you have a manager? All four owners still work in the business and are on site most days. We do have a production manager who manages all construction operations. I manage the design and sales staff, Bob is the General Manager, Brenda is our Financial Manager, and Jennifer is our Office Manager/Purchasing Manager.
What is your work/life balance? Work/life balance is the main reason we opened this business. Our previous careers required significant travel and we didn’t want that lifestyle with young families. It has taken a number of years to get the business to a size that its day-to-day operation doesn’t require our constant presence, but we are now at a point where the business runs just fine without us here. As long as our responsibilities are satisfied, we have a significant amount of schedule flexibility.
What is it that you like best about owning your franchise from a business perspective and from a personal perspective? From a business perspective, being part of the franchise network gave us the resources to build the business more rapidly and effectively than we likely would have been able to on our own. From a personal perspective, the business has given us a great deal of flexibility; far more than we would have had working for someone else.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a franchisee? Like any franchisee/franchisor relationship, we don’t always agree on what the other is doing. However, we have always been able to maintain a good working relationship with our franchisor that is mutually beneficial.
What is the most rewarding about being a franchisee? Access to the network of franchisees. We have developed many close friendships over the years and we exchange ideas on a regular basis.
What kind of support did you most appreciate from your franchisor when you started and what do you most appreciate now? We have always said that while the systems we obtained were helpful, the most valuable thing we received early on was the basic mind set and approach to the remodeling business. They were able to get us thinking about the business in the right way right off the bat. This probably moved us years down the road from where we would have been on our own.
What previous experience did you have prior to becoming a franchisee that you have found particularly helpful? I owned a custom software development business, Bob was a director of engineering for a tier one automotive supplier, Brenda was a CPA, and Jennifer had a great deal of experience in office management with a large local auto dealer. Among the four of us, we have a very diverse background that has enabled us to manage our company more like a large company right from the start. This includes our approach to marketing and sales, our company policies, and our employee compensation.
Where do you see your business in the next five years? Now that the business is at the point where it is running well and does not require our presence as owners every minute, we are in the process of determining just how much further we want to grow. We will continue to grow organically as the demand in our area increases and our internal efficiencies improve but how much we want to expand the business remains to be seen.
To see how DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen’s franchisees rate it in a variety of areas including leadership, culture, training and support, financial outlook, and franchisee community, click here.
If you’re interested in learning what it takes to invest in a franchise, visit FBR’s Franchise Buyer’s Toolkit.