Bob Caramusa opened the doors of his Image One Facility Solutions franchise, which is located in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, in 2010. He shared with Franchise Business Review how hard it can be to get a franchise off the ground and how great it feels to finally achieve success.
What is it that you like best about owning your franchise? The income opportunity is certainly a highlight, but I think having the freedom to grow a business in my style using my experience, know how, and discipline, is probably the best part. On the personal end, I like that it feeds the ego. It feels good to see success generated from the hard work I put into this business. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get an ego rush when we secure a big account. The personal satisfaction I get knowing that we’re carrying out the contract, whatever the service scope of work may be, to our client’s satisfaction is also very gratifying as is receiving recommendation letters, referrals, awards and those kinds of things that recognize our work.
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise? First and foremost you really need to do a lot of soul searching before you commit to owning a franchise. It will affect you whole life. Former coaches of mine always taught me if you wanted to be the best at something you have to work for it. Some people can make that commitment and others can’t. Business is the same thing. If you’re truly committed, and think, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to the other side,” you’ll have a very good chance at succeeding. If you’re just going to dabble your feet in the water, and this is where I see so many people, you’re going to fail.
What should franchisees be prepared for once they purchase their franchise? You better be ready to put in the time and effort, because if you’re not, you’re probably not going to make it. If you’re looking for an 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday job, you can forget about it; that’s like part-time work. You’ve also got to be ready for things to get worse before they get better. If you’ve got these outrageously optimistic goals for your business, it’s time to come back to Earth. You have to be realistic regarding what to expect. Part of the franchising magazine and marketing approach is selling this lifestyle of being a businessman and being wildly successful. It only comes after you’ve beaten your brains in, after you’ve had three near meltdowns, and worked insane amount of hours doing things you’re uncomfortable with at times. If, however, you are willing to put in the work and are committed to embracing this way of life, the success will come, and it’s one of the most gratifying things you can experience as a businessman.
How did you find your franchise? I did the initial research on my own. I went to the library to find material about franchising and came across a franchising magazine. After I learned about what options I had available, I called three franchisors I was interested in. From there I had three interviews and I chose Image One.
How did you fund your franchise? I came up with half of the down payment on my own and then financed the other half through Image One.
What was it about the franchise that led you to purchase it? I chose Image One, first and foremost because of Tim Conn’s ownership. I liked him, I trusted him. He made me feel he was someone who was going to help me get to where I needed to get to. He made the business opportunity very understandable and was pretty transparent about.
Why did you decide to go into franchising? I was a sales representative my whole career. I liked it and did well, but I always wanted to own my own business. I was looking to start something part-time with the goal of moving into it full-time when I came across Image One. I didn’t know anything about cleaning. Just ask my mom! I needed training and expertise in the industry and knew that Image One corporate would provide it.
What type of prior experience have found particularly helpful when it comes to running your franchise? I went to school, got a marketing degree, and jumped into sales as soon as I graduated. I started out as an entry-level sales representative at a hardware products company and worked my way up to being the international sales manager. I have been able to leverage my sales and business experience to grow my business. Getting clients is definitely one of the most important aspects of my company’s success.
What is your work/life balance? The first two years were brutal. I think I had five days off total. I remember telling my wife, “For the next two years, you’re never going to see me,” and it was true. I was working full-time at my sales job and had Image One as a part-time business on the side. I worked this way without any help because I didn’t know anything. I look back and think, if I knew how hard it would be and how many toilets I would have to clean, I don’t know if I could do it again. I, however, continued to push forward. I added another person, then not long after another, and we started to see growth. We grew pretty rapidly last year. We are about to add a seventh employee
Are you on site daily or can you work remotely? I am on site probably 90 percent of the time, but I’ve got mobile access and do a lot of work from my truck. I have an office in my home, but really my truck is my office. Fortunately we’ve grown large enough that I have trained personnel at our client locations, plus I have two supervisors who maintain multiple locations for me. So, when I am in the field, I’m not necessarily cleaning or project managing, I’m out doing proposals, following up with customers, prospecting, and constantly on the go. The beauty of technology is that I am connected to all of my employees and associates.
What kind of support did you most appreciate from your franchisor? I cannot say one bad word about Image One and the senior management they offer. If I could I would, but I can’t. There is great support constantly. I can’t say enough about Tim Conn and Scott Kochanski. Both of those guys have been invaluable in terms of helping me grow my business. I use them all the time for advice and for information. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.
What kind of support do you get from fellow franchisees? There wasn’t a lot of intercommunication from franchisee to franchisee when I started. Over the last year though, Image One has really started promoting its inter-franchise communications and I think that’s great. There are a lot of things franchise owners can learn from other franchisees that they may not learn from the franchisor, so I’m really glad to see corporate getting aggressive regarding encouraging this type of communication.
To see how Image One Facility Solutions’ franchisees, including Bob, rate it in a variety of crucial areas including leadership, culture, training and support, financial outlook, and franchisee community, click here.