In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about N-Hance Wood Refinishing from Ken Mullen, owner of the Cincinnati, Ohio location.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What did you do before you became an N-Hance franchisee? What attracted you to the franchise opportunity?
Ken Mullen (KM): I spent 20 years in the food service distribution industry – working with hotels, country clubs and restaurants. After I sold my business, I spent several months thinking about what I wanted to do next and I knew I wanted to grow and develop my own business.
After exploring franchise opportunities, I was impressed by N-Hance right away. I talked to existing franchisees in the system, who were incredibly humble, honest and open about their experiences to help guide me to the decision to ultimately invest in my own N-Hance franchise. We opened in the fall of 2013, and haven’t looked back.
FC: How has the pandemic impacted your business? Walk us through what that experience has been like.
KM: When the pandemic first began back in March, we went 3-4 weeks with zero leads. I was fearful at first, as this has historically been our busy season as homeowners try to get ahead of the summer months. So, we took the time to fine-tune our processes to make our services and finished product even better – minimizing dust expelled during services and reorganizing our vans for optimal efficiency.
Now we’re seeing an uptick in leads – even busier than we were before the pandemic as homeowners continue to spend more time inside and have a chance to tackle long-overdue home improvement projects.
Innovation has been key during the pandemic. N-Hance rolled out “Virtual Estimates” through live video versus our technicians being on-site in someone’s home which has become a preferred method for both our technicians and our customers to ensure safety.
This is something that my franchise has been doing for a while, even pre-pandemic. I’ve always felt that getting on the phone with a customer helps to establish a candid relationship with them and helps you better understand their renovation goals – which ultimately, helps you exceed their expectations.
FC: How have you navigated your home improvement business through the pandemic? What advice do you have to other franchise owners when navigating a crisis?
KM: From the get-go, N-Hance has always highly encouraged new franchisees to “buddy up” with experienced franchisees, which has been so helpful in navigating the pandemic. There’s so much to be learned from our peers within this network, and everyone is always so willing to jump in to offer guidance.
I’d encourage any business owner to do the same – get to know other owners in your organization and even others in the industry and work together to navigate hard times.
Within your organization, make sure to stay connected with your Franchise Advisory Council – they are meant to help make sure your voice, worries and ideas are heard and implemented to help get your business through any hardships. Tune-in to any webinars or business updates from the corporate team to ensure that you are well-equipped in your home market to serve your customers in the best and safest manner possible.
FC: The home-improvement industry has seen a spike during the pandemic – why do you think that is?
KM: The surge in demand has a lot to do with homeowners being quarantined and spending an increased time indoors. They’re starting to notice the areas in their homes they want to fix up. Most people didn’t spend as much as they normally would on summer vacations and other costly activities, so instead they opted to invest the funds into home improvement projects.
Our proprietary refinishing services have been extremely popular because they are much more affordable than a complete remodel and more durable than a simple paint job. We offer customers a way to restore the natural beauty or change the color of hardwood floors, cabinets, doors, stairs, built-ins, moldings and trims. So, they can change the look of their home with a smaller, more affordable refinishing option that makes a significant difference in the look of a room.
FC: The pandemic has posed great challenges for corporate America, which has many turning to franchising. What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur to explore franchising?
KM: The home improvement industry in general is essentially a recession-proof business. Home renovation service brands will always be an in-demand sector. Homeowners will always need these services – whether they’re a first-time buyer or selling their single-family home and downsizing. We’ve seen first-hand that this industry proves to prevail despite concerning economic circumstances.
No matter what industry you go into, do your homework and start opening the line of communication with existing franchisees. Pick their brains. Ask candid questions about their business and how they’re able to accomplish their goals. Start by working in the business to truly know the ins-and-outs and fully immerse yourself in the brand. This will make you a better owner and leader.
FC: Have you gained any wisdom or key learnings from navigating a business through a pandemic?
KM: No matter what the outlook may look like, you have to be persistent and never quit or give up on your aspirations or goals. Going nearly a month with no leads was incredibly disheartening but we kept our heads high and kept marching forward with a growth mindset.
Sometimes that meant taking a job at a discounted rate to bring in revenue to minimize the loss. Do whatever it is you need to do to get through the turbulence and make use of any “off-time” wisely in order to come out stronger than you were before.
For more information about N-Hance Wood Refinishing or its franchise opportunity, visit www.nhancefranchise.com.