Maximizing your business potential by franchising: one owners’ story

In the United States, there are 600,000 + franchised businesses. Franchising pulls in roughly half of all U.S. retail sales annually and enjoys an estimated 12 percent growth rate in the number of franchised units each year. More than nine of 10 franchise owners surveyed by the Gallup Organization said they considered their franchise to be somewhat or very successful.

Mark and Deb Witte

Mark and Deb Witte

After owning a remodeling business for 14 years, Mark and Deb Witte were attracted to the idea of incorporating into a franchise. One of the main reasons was they felt a franchise could offer them an exit strategy, leaving them something tangible to sell. The other enticement was not having to reinvent the wheel to develop an operating system.

The two had met while Mark was attending Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, on a football scholarship and Deb was working at AT&T Southwest. After graduation, Mark taught drafting and woodworking for four years and then was ready for change. At this point, the Wittes had married and had a small daughter. They decided to move to Colorado Springs, Colo., mostly because they liked the area, and both wanted to do something different. Mark, raised on a farm and familiar with carpentry, got his contractor’s license and opened a remodeling business. He started small—doing handyman jobs, gradually advancing to kitchens, baths, small additions and decks. Deb became an Interior Redesign Specialist. As their business matured and grew into a robust operation, they focused on incorporating systems to be more efficient to take the business to the next level.

While thumbing through a trade journal, Deb stumbled upon DreamMaker, a franchise whose mission is to “Enhance Lives and Improve Homes for their clients with a focus on kitchens, baths, entertainment center, closets, home offices and whole house interior remodels as well as safety and mobility products and home modifications.”

They were intrigued enough to learn more. DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen has 34 franchisees nationwide and more than 40 years of experience in taking businesses to the next level of success. The company’s brand positioning statement for its franchisees is simply stated: ‘Strong Margins and Quality Life” – a proposition the Wittes liked.

The DreamMaker franchise saw same store sales for its remodeling franchisees increase by 24% in 2013 from the year before, a rate of growth that is nearly eight times the industry’s standard. Doug Dwyer, president and chief stewarding officer at DreamMaker, talks to a lot of remodelers and estimates that the majority are in the 15 to 25 percent gross profit margins range, while the average DreamMaker franchiser is at 43.5 percent.

“That is one of the appeals of the franchise, a fully integrated business model with systems, tools, strategies and tactics with training, a franchise coach and peer networking,” Dwyer says. “It’s a transformational model that allows business owners to grow, but it’s a balanced approach. You need to take care of your health and family, too.”

Mark and Deb Witte made the decision in 2005 to roll DreamMaker into their remodeling business. The Wittes and their staff felt it was a pretty smooth transition.

“There were a lot of similarities, and that was attractive to us,” Mark says. “We began doing marketing under the DreamMaker name and talked to our past clients. We had a big grand opening in our showroom and got the word out to the newspapers.

“DreamMaker offered us an operating system with estimate and construction procedures, a hiring and training system, marketing, accounting, and checklists all in place. The biggest focus was a change in what we were doing. We wanted to have more of a niche in the marketplace.”

The Wittes also like the support they received from the company. “You’re assigned a franchise coach, and you can bounce ideas off him,” Deb says, “and they give us their take.”

“Because the company has such a broad base, you can work with coaches and do peer-to-peer networking and you don’t have to worry about competition” says Mark. “There is a strong culture of cooperation and supporting each other. If we are strong as a team—the individuals get better also.”

Mark now operates as the general manager and works with three main carpenters. Deb, who was named DreamMaker Woman of the Year in 2012, does marketing and helps clients with product selection and color choices. They do about 50 jobs a year and have three to five projects going at a time. “We use subcontractors for electrical and plumbing if needed,” Mark says, “all people who have worked with us for a while.”

The Wittes have been involved with NARI for almost 20 years. They highly recommend that new remodelers get involved with NARI and because they learn so much from networking and the education programs.

DreamMaker also supports its franchises with brand recognition and cooperative funding for local marketing efforts. It recently did an overall launch of websites with photo galleries to help new and smaller companies.

The Wittes credit the franchise for helping them survive the recession. “We use preferred vendors, where the company negotiates a fine situation with group buying power,” Mark says.

The Wittes believe the biggest benefits are the DreamMaker code of values built into each and every project. “It’s set from the top and what we all believe in,” Mark says. “Treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s integrated into our culture, and that’s key: Keep clients the number one focus.”-Susan Swartz

 

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