(Ambrosio’s note: Mr. Handyman is part of the Service Brands International family, together with Molly Maid, ProTect Painters and 1-800-DryClean. I received some very positive feedback from current franchisees of Service Brands, particularly of ProTect Painters, when I examined the FDD of the painting franchise a few weeks back.
Just last month, then-President of ProTect Painters Alex Roberts was named President of Mr. Handyman. Alex has been with Service Brands for seven years in various capacities, including Vice President of Franchise Development, where he led a four-brand sales team to build their footprint in the home services industries. Alex also spent three years selling Mr. Handyman franchises during the company’s highest growth years.
His impressive track record and well thought out responses to my questions make me optimistic that Alex will be able to build upon the past successes of Mr. Handyman and take the company to new heights.)
Franchise Chatter (FC): For those unfamiliar, please tell us about the range of services offered by Mr. Handyman franchisees.
Alex Roberts (AR): We are a reliable handyman service that focuses on repairs, maintenance and improvements for residential and commercial clients. Our skilled technicians perform hundreds of jobs from carpentry and painting to drywall repair and wood rot replacement. We are also experts when it comes to light remodeling jobs such as bathroom and kitchen “makeovers.”
FC: Why should someone interested in starting a home repair business consider joining a franchise like Mr. Handyman? Can you cite a few specific advantages to becoming a Mr. Handyman franchisee versus starting a home repair business from scratch?
AR: The biggest competitive advantage we have is when it comes to lead generation. We are able to match customers who have a need for service with our franchise owner in that area. Most homeowners these days are shopping for home repair on the Internet. With our size, infrastructure and savvy marketing department, we are able to become that first opportunity for customer acquisition.
A huge concern for anyone starting a business right now is how they will get customers. The way we’re able to do this is through our robust website, pay-per-click campaigns, SEO tactics and other traditional marketing methods. When a consumer is at home searching for “dry wall repairs” or “wood rot replacement,” Mr. Handyman has specific landing pages designed for these repairs.
Another advantage of buying into a Mr. Handyman franchise is scalability. When you start your own business, it’s limited. We have systems and technology in place to help grow and manage a business with multiple technicians and multiple vans.
FC: Has the current weak economy impacted the home repair industry in a significant way? If so, how has it affected your franchisees?
AR: At the end of 2008, we certainly saw a reduction in system-wide sales and homeowners being more conservative with their spending on home improvement projects. We were not unique in the fact that we were hit, just like any other small business. Over the past two years, however, we have seen slow and steady growth and continue to be optimistic about our future. This year, same-store sales are up 8 percent over last year.
As a company, we’ve made adjustments to our business model to supplement our revenue streams and we’ve placed a larger focus on going after commercial work, in addition to solely residential. We’ve also made adjustments in our model to capture additional market share by expanding our services from simply small jobs to include light remodeling.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for Mr. Handyman?
AR: There are three key attributes: strong leadership skills, an assertive/tenacious personality and organizational skills.
This is a personal energy business and franchise owner aren’t going to be sitting behind a desk all day. They need to be out in the field working with technicians and customers. They also need to have a strong business sense to manage profit and loss statements, marketing plans and organization of the administrative side of the business.
We aren’t looking for carpenters or handymen, but people who are passionate about owning their own business, managing technicians and contributing to their communities through beautifying homes and creating more jobs.
AR: We target the top 35-40 percent of the economic ladder. This usually equates to dual-income families and aging baby boomers who are not able to do home repairs themselves. Each of our territories consists of 60,000 homes which meet those demographic criteria. Currently, our top franchise growth markets include Columbus, OH; Salt Lake City, UT; Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; the Carolinas; New York state and Kansas City, MO.
FC: What specific steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses?
AR: First and foremost, they follow the system. We have a proven model and it works.
Another key component is that the franchisees get out and run for “Mr. Handyman” of their territory. This is an analogy to running for political office. This means constant networking, getting involved with the community and creating solid relationships with painters, realtors, roofers or anyone else who could be a referral source for handyman work.
FC: What are some of the things you are doing to help your franchisees become profitable?
AR: The resources we put into effective lead generation is a big part of that. A substantial portion of our national marketing fund goes toward optimizing our website for online search and paid campaigns that drive leads to our franchisees.
We also share key metrics with franchisees every month so they can compare what they are doing with their peers in their own state, region or even nationally. Each month, they receive a document with all of this information and often contact each other to talk about best practices and share strategies.
We have also implemented the use of a national call center. This is not a replacement for a local office customer service representative, but for rollover, after-hours and weekend calls.
Mr. Handyman franchisees can also take advantage of our bulk discount buying power through our vendors to get materials, vehicles and other items.
FC: What is your success model for developing strong relationships with your franchisees?
AR: We charge a royalty to our franchisees, so we are expected to deliver a high level of support and service. We consistently follow up with them and provide the tools and resources they need to grow the business. It’s also important to be up front and honest with our franchisees. It’s really all about communication and mutual respect.
FC: Can you tell us a bit about the initial investment and ongoing expenses needed to open and operate a Mr. Handyman franchise? What is the profit potential?
AR: The complete details are provided to our candidates in our Franchise Disclosure Document. The overall total initial investment is around $120,000 to $130,000. Of that, $59,400 is committed to the franchise fee, territory fee and initial business package. Additional financial resources of $60,000 are needed for working capital to invest in marketing, vehicle leases, insurance, etc.
Our franchisees come from all walks of life. We have successful military veterans and we offer a discount on our franchise fee of $2,500 for them. We are so confident in our Mr. Handyman business model and our efficient ramp up that we are backing it up with a money back refund offer: If new Mr. Handyman owners do not reach $150,000 in gross sales in 18 months, we will refund the initial franchise fee of $19,900. This offer reduces the financial risk and it’s our commitment to new franchise owners. Certain restrictions apply; our Franchise Disclosure Document has additional details.
FC: You were recently named President of Mr. Handyman, after most recently serving as President of ProTect Painters, both of which are owned by Service Brands International. What are your goals for Mr. Handyman in the next few years and how do you plan to grow your business?
AR: Adding more commercial work and small-scale remodeling projects are two big areas I see huge growth potential for. By working with our franchisees to focus on these two areas even more, it will translate into making more money.
I also plan to provide more personal support for the franchisees through business coaching and working one-on-one in their local markets. We plan to get out in the field a lot more, rather than hold large regional meetings where we talk with dozens of franchisees at one time.
Over the next two years, my goal is to maintain double-digit percentage growth.
FC: What advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the overwhelming number of franchise opportunities available to them?
AR: There are thousands of franchise opportunities available in the U.S., so it’s extremely important to make sure you’re partnering with a reputable franchisor with adequate resources. You want to look for a company with a proven track record, financial stability and a secure future.
It’s also important to look at an industry where there’s consistent demand and need. You don’t want a “here today, gone tomorrow” fad. The types of services we provide at Mr. Handyman are not going away any time soon, nor will they be outsourced to India or replaced by technology. People’s biggest investments are their homes, so homeowners will continue to invest in that asset.