In this exclusive Franchise Chatter Q&A, we get to learn more about Harris Research, Inc. (the parent company of home service franchise brands Chem-Dry Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning and N-Hance Wood Renewal) from its president and CEO Dan Tarantin.
Franchise Chatter (FC): With your entry into the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago last year, Chem-Dry now operates in more than 50 countries. What do you think is driving global demand for that brand?
Dan Tarantin (DT): Several factors are driving global demand for both HRI brands. The main drivers on the consumer demand side include the affordability of our services, a strong value proposition for the customer, convenience of service and the trend toward healthy and environmentally-friendly services. In addition, there’s an overall desire for home improvement – people just want their homes to be clean and healthy and look good, no matter where in the world they live.
On the N-Hance side, we provide a convenient, no-hassle, dust-free and affordable way to beautify wood floors and cabinets. Chem-Dry fulfills the desire for a cleaner, healthier home and work environment with safe, faster-drying, eco-friendly cleaning methods.
In addition to the growing consumer demand for home services, our franchises continue to sell domestically and overseas because of other factors including the affordable cost of start-up, the relatively short time it takes to get started and ramp up, and the ability to expand and scale both of our franchise businesses to as large as an owner would like to make them.
Another reason for the strong demand for our business model is that we offer an array of services – and continue to introduce more – that provide the potential to serve a broader market and add additional revenue streams.
For Chem-Dry, not only can our franchisees offer our core carpet and upholstery cleaning services, but they can also offer leather cleaning and restoration, tile, stone and grout cleaning, and our recently introduced granite countertop renewal service.
Being able to meet a wider array of surface cleaning needs in homes and businesses makes it easier for each Master Franchisee to focus on the surfaces and services that are most prevalent in their country and allow them to grow their sales over time.
FC: What kind of growth model is HRI using to expand internationally and how is it working?
DT: There really isn’t one single model that a Master Franchisee has to follow to expand in a country or region, and I think that’s one of the strengths of our concept. Currently, our Master Franchisees have followed one of three models around the world.
Some have chosen to run the business on their own and self-fund and manage their expansion with their own team. And we certainly have Master Franchisees who follow the more traditional model of selling sub-franchises in their region to expand the brand. Lastly, we’ve seen some take more of a hybrid approach where they choose to manage a certain territory with their own team but expand by selling sub-franchises in other parts of their territory that may be more remote and less efficient for them to run on their own.
The flexibility in our model has been a benefit and an advantage for our Master Franchisees, giving them the opportunity to expand in a way that best suits their talents, capabilities and business goals in order to meet the needs of their markets and customers.
FC: How do you manage to communicate effectively with franchisees in 50 different countries with all the different time zones and languages?
DT: The mission of our HRI support team and the culture of our company is about supporting our franchisees to help them be successful and meet or exceed their goals and dreams. Hiring the right people who embrace that core value and having this kind of everyday mindset as a collective organization have allowed us to adapt and determine the best way to support each of our Master Franchise partners from such a wide array of different countries and regions.
One aspect of this is the logistical need to adjust our schedules to accommodate the schedules of Master Franchisees in more than 29 time zones. Another is that we provide creative marketing templates and labeling materials that our international partners can customize on their own to fit their local cultures and languages. We also place an emphasis on having a multi-lingual staff to make communications easier.
FC: What are some important attributes a franchisor needs to have before embarking on international expansion?
DT: All successful international franchise brands share a common quality – a strong model and systems that have proven successful domestically before expanding internationally. Franchisors should also consider hiring support staff who can operate in diverse languages and cultures. Most importantly, they should be prepared to be flexible with their model, yet remain true to their core principles and brand identity. This often is a careful balancing act.
For example, in North America, while Chem-Dry has a solid and growing base of commercial customers, residential cleaning makes up the majority of our business. But in many cultures and countries outside of North America, there is less carpet used in homes but a great deal of carpet used in commercial settings. That’s why many of our franchisees outside of the United States and Canada have much higher commercial sales, cleaning office buildings, hospitals, hotels and other non-residential institutions.
Franchisors need to be prepared to adjust certain aspects of their model – ranging from the customers they target to their marketing materials and training techniques – to suit the local culture and allow their Master Franchisees the flexibility to apply their brand’s model in a way that meets and fits with the local opportunities.
FC: What are your growth plans internationally moving forward for both Chem-Dry and N-Hance?
DT: In 2015, Chem-Dry and N-Hance saw the largest combined growth increase in the company’s history and we’re optimistic that both brands will continue to experience robust growth – in North America and around the world. We’re looking to further expand Chem-Dry’s global footprint, targeting areas including Turkey, Columbia, Poland, Argentina, Chile and India.
For N-Hance, we recently partnered with our first Master Franchisee outside of the United States in Ontario, Canada. We see tremendous opportunity to build on this and expand N-Hance into new markets around the world, including areas like Latin America.
With our commitment to continuous innovation to ensure that we’re delivering superior results and an unmatched customer experience for both Chem-Dry and N-Hance, we’re confident that the success of our model and our Master Franchisees will allow us to enjoy strong growth on the global level for years to come.