Randy Herman was putting himself through college, working as a Chem-Dry technician in Seattle and going to school when another Chem-Dry van pulled up beside him one day. The driver asked the young student if he wanted to buy his Chem-Dry franchise. Herman politely declined. After all, he was studying to be an engineer and hoped one day to work for Boeing building airplanes.
But when high-tech companies began laying off workers in the early 1990s, Herman began to worry about his future. He contacted the man who had made the overture and came to an agreement to buy his Chem-Dry franchise. He moved from a one-truck operation to three in just one year and soon realized what a lucrative business he was in.
“That year, I made more money from a Chem-Dry franchise than I would have made when I graduated school,” Herman said.
He continued his studies at Edmonds Community College, but soon abandoned his engineering degree to concentrate on his career as a Chem-Dry franchisee. Before long, he owned 12 licenses in the Seattle area. He even met his future wife Erika through Chem-Dry. She was a franchisee in the Dallas area. When they married, the couple were operating franchises in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Seattle, until Herman sold his interests in the Northwest more than four years ago. With six licenses in Dallas, Herman, 43, and his wife now intend to enter an additional market in Texas where they hope to operate multiple franchises.
Research Before Signing
Before making the leap from being a Chem-Dry employee to becoming a franchisee in 1994, Herman said he did his homework like any potential new investor should do. He explored other franchises such as Stanley Steemer and Rainbow International. But he settled on Chem-Dry.
“I went back to Chem-Dry just because of the benefits I saw for the consumer,” he said.
Chem-Dry differentiates itself from the competition with a system that differs from steam cleaning, which most carpet and upholstery companies employ. And Herman noticed that his customers really liked the fast drying time that the Chem-Dry method promoted.
The company has remained an innovator in the carpet and upholstery cleaning business over the years. Herman was one of eight franchisees selected to test a new piece of equipment that he says will benefit franchisees by lowering costs while providing the same standard of service for the customer, if not better.
Called the XTS unit (Cross-Over Truck-Mount System), the new equipment is portable but has all the extraction power of the company’s traditional truck-mounted system located in a Chem-Dry van. One difference is that the XTS places the extraction power directly on top of the PowerHead cleaning unit, much closer to the carpet. So, in addition to being portable and smaller, the XTS design offers optimized vacuum efficiency.
According to the company, the franchisees who tested the prototype also noted that the XTS is easier to use than other portable units.
Herman credits the new machinery for his decision to expand as a multiple franchisee in Texas. The unit requires a lower investment than the traditional equipment, lower maintenance and repair costs, and the smaller size even requires a less expensive van. And because it is lighter, it will even help reduce fuel expenses for his company, he said.
“At roughly half the cost of Chem-Dry’s CTS truck-mounted units, the XTS creates a lower cost option for current franchise owners to expand and an opportunity to provide a lower total investment and stronger return on investment to entrepreneurs looking to start their own business,” according to a company release.
“This has impressed me the absolute most,” Herman said, “because it makes it so easy. Now they have a new machine that the franchisee can really have faith in.”
Local Marketing is Key
But even with cutting-edge technology, franchisees must concentrate on marketing their services, Herman added. And the most important part of that is maintaining contact with previous clients.
“The biggest thing we do on a local level is stay in touch with our database, whether it’s mailing, emailing, or a phone call. However we can reach out to them, we do.”
When Herman began as a Chem-Dry franchisee, Yellow Pages were still a dominant method of marketing and advertising, he said. But he and his wife have kept current with online marketing techniques that have made their business grow. The have shared their success by addressing other franchisees at Chem-Dry conferences to describe some of their practices.