We couldn't have been more excited, at last we were buying 11 franchises; the world looked brighter that day in late 1996, our dreams were in view, our minds were a whirl, the future was in our hands, finally we were on our way-or at least we thought so. We first meet ChemDry through a local franchise, he would call us to cover his water damage work, because he didn't staff enough people to cover the calls, and, had zero equipment to do it anyway, so that worked out well -for about two years. As time passed we got to know each other, we counted on him, and he counted on us.
Before you knew it, talked turned to buying his franchises' at first nothing happened, it took about a year to convince him, the more I think about, he was ready to get out, and do something different, he didn't realize it till the end of that year. We finally put a deal together, he sold his firm to us, in December. We paid about $132,000.
00 dollars for it. We got telephone numbers, vans , yellow page ads, everything he had and most of all, we got in bed with Harris Research, and Oh yeah 3 scrubbers, pads and some spray containers plus this funny powdery stuff called natural. When you buy this type of business there is a little bit of paperwork, a thing call a circular- a fancy name for the contract between the franchise and the franchisor. It spells out all the rules and sets forth the rights and responsibilities of each party, now keep in mind that lawyers wrote this circular. Lawyers that work for the franchisor, you might then recognize that this document slanted completely one way.
Yes, it disclosed all previous franchises, and, yes it showed the franchisor's numbers, but it definitely tilted one way. We signed 11 of them. To tell you the truth, if I was writing a circular-I would hire a lawyer too. These particular contracts covered 5 years of ownership rights and responsibilities, at the end of the 5 years; we signed a few more, in total I think we were with them about 11 and ½ years.
When you acquire a ChemDry franchise you must make the pilgrimage to Logan Utah, their main facility, for training and up selling purposes, we, however weren't required That first year, because the collection of what we bought included an employee that had been trained and that allowed us to refrain for about a year or so before we had to go to Logan. At Logan, we learned about the founder of ChemDry Mr. Robert Harris and his dream. Mr.
Harris was a young student at one time and was paying his way with a job at a hotel. Whenever that hotel had their carpets cleaned they couldn't rent the rooms, because the carpets were to wet. This was a problem, Mr. Harris focused on. Being the enterprising and inventive fellow he is, he recognized an opportunity-if he could develop a process, a way to clean without too much water, well that just might work, and, that's how ChemDry got started.
For all practical purposes he was brilliant, I think he went on to earn a law degree, but contact Harris Research for that. I do know that when I was in Logan a few of us, franchises used the afternoon break to explore Beaver Mountain. A beautiful place, the snow was thick and the snowmobiles were powerful. While I was drying off in the lodge, its owner and I were sitting in front of a big beautiful fire place, me, drinking coco and he was reading the local paper, it regularly published the names of the richest homes in town.
The lodge owner, said" Robert must be tired of seeing his name in the paper all the time" he spoke of Mr. Harris in a proud way, the way you do of a kid who makes it to state for the local ball team, he liked the recognition that was brought to Logan by ChemDry, you could hear it in his words, he thought it was a good thing. Now the staff back at corporate, the guys who taught classes, the guys we laughed with in the halls had a different comment on the founder, I remember one saying that he wished he had the problem of, what colors to decorate the interior, of his private plane. As it turned out, when you buy a ChemDry franchise you agree to buy a large amount of cleaner that the company makes, the idea is that you use it when doing work under the ChemDry name, I think this is where Mr.
Harris's real genius shows the best, he effectively created a captive buyer with every new franchisee, for his high margin cleaning products. Products that are the real drivers of Harris Research's bottom line. Mr. Harris excelled a creating cleaning products, he developed labs, hired the best minds in the industry, Harris Research turned out to be a veritable gusher of new cleaning products, they have a product for everything, and, if they didn't they would make it. We had lists of everything, gum remover, stain remover you name it, and, even products to protect fabrics after cleaning, this is key folks. In the circular I mentioned earlier, ChemDry defined itself as "Carpet and furniture cleaning and application of spray protectant".
No mention of water damage anywhere. Regardless, we were delighted with our franchises, and as the days went by we worked very hard, we initially traded in the 3 vans that came with the franchises, I remember getting about $300 hundred dollars apiece they were real beaters, family vans, not commercial vans. We staffed up, increased advertising, and moved right into the Harris family, we logoed three new commercial trucks, we bought update equipment, the $5,995.00 extractors that were mentioned in a post by another franchise, we bought three of them.
The truth was I had never really seen the process, the actual cleaning, I thought I better see for myself, remember, we were the water damage company, that used truck mounted equipment to clean with. Well, we had a contract to clean the local Kinko's, every month we used a powerful truck mount cleaning machine, a machine called "white magic". This machine was mounted in the truck and the technician would extend the hoses from the mounted unit to the inside of the store. This type of system is arguably the only way to really remove dirt from a carpet-true steam cleaning.
I had cut my teeth on three SteamWay machines, a great machine, the water temperature would reach 300 degrees, I would melt carpets, I had too dial the heat back to 225 to not damage the carpet, I remember the first time I used a SteamWay, my first machine, the young son of my customer, a little boy of no more than six, said," It's dry and fluffy" the carpet mommy, "It's dry and fluffy". So, when the next Kinko's cleaning rolled around, I had our brand new ChemDry team tackle it. I went over and watched the work, I knew we had a problem, the ChemDry pad and rotary method really didn't pickup the dirt. The next month we used the truck mount. Problem, the pad and rotary system allows for only so much dirt removal, once the pad is full, no more, carpet cleaning. Every time we would get a call back, that's when a customer we just cleaned, calls into complain-I would send out the truck mounted equipment and steam clean the carpet, 99% percent of the time, after the steam cleaning the call back was happy.
Beyond the limitations of the process, there were other issues, as with any growing company-things change and in this case it was a new buyer, somebody bought ChemDry from Mr. Harris. From what I heard, he still held an interest in the building and factory that ChemDry occupied, but there were new forces looking at the bottom line. A new group was in charge and thing were about to change, change for the worse.
New programs, such as, commercial cleaning contracts with Radio Shack were developed, sounds good right? Wrong! Corporate took too big a slice of the small profit. They weren't worth doing, but you felt obligated, when they called. In addition, new cleaning tools were pushed down the product line, hard floor cleaners, unfortunately, they were a far higher price that the swifter, yes they were sturdy and yes, they did a great job, the problem was , again the desire of the new company to increase profits, ultimately the hard floor cleaner could not compete with the store type.
When we bought the franchises, I really didn't understand the decision making process for creating a new ChemDry franchise, you see, we bought existing operations. Not brand new ones. I had dreams of owning all the franchises in the area, we were doing water damage for the other franchise, besides the one we bought, I felt it was just a matter of time, before we would acquire him as well, wrong! Corporate cranked out a few more franchises, right after we purchased ours.
So that killed that idea. No one could control an area, unless they owned all the franchisees and all corporate had to do was crank out a new one. Actually they create a new one and sold it to one of the employees that didn't stay with us for long. Then came the biggest issue of all, remember ChemDry is dry cleaning, right? That's what people want, dry cleaning. Well it didn't take long for the new owners to require all the franchises to purchase a steam cleaning tool, remember the extractor we had to buy, they intended, for us to hook the two together, kind of like pulling my boat with my bicycle, it didn't work very well.
The extractors simply weren't powerful enough. This new tool had about six heads or jets that would spray down on the carpet and six vacuum heads that would lye directly behind the jets to pull up the water, all enclosed in a nice and clean looking floor scrubber tool. In theory, it would work fine, the problem was a radical shift from the dry cleaning concept that the ChemDry reputation was built on. The new owners were now steam cleaning not, dry cleaning. Our past clients didn't get it, where was the dry cleaning. It's like Hersey chocolates switching to gum and still calling it chocolates.
Then greed really showed itself, they began to expand the definition of what ChemDry was, remember the circular, the contract-the rules. At first ChemDry defined itself as-"Carpet and furniture cleaning and application of spray protectant". No mention of water damage anywhere.
Now, they were into water damage, you see the problem lies in the restrictions found in the circular, here comes the lawyers, the rules said, you could not own or operate, or be apart of, or have any relatives be apart of a competing similar service. This meant that if you did, in fact own a different company and that company happened to be a water damage company, well you were out of luck. For us this closed the file, we weren't about to kill the golden goose for the red headed step child, that was constantly on the change. The reason ChemDry contacted us in the first place was they didn't do water damage clean-up.
Eventually we left the fold about the same time Home Dept bought them, now an even bigger company, than before. Last weekend, I needed two 2x4, I was walking into Home Depot and I saw a hand written sign, almost a scribbled sign , you know big poster board, little pencil, it said, " we do carpet cleaning now". Water Damage.Mr. Mark Decherd. .
Dryout Inc. .
<a href="http://www.dryout.net">Water Damage</a>