Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning Franchise Review: Q&A with Ken and Tracy Hinsdale of Omaha
Navy veteran and wife find owning a carpet cleaning franchise gives them time for family, each other
For Ken and Tracy Hinsdale, Chem-Dry is a business they can run together out of their home, making time for their two young boys, 8-year-old Nathan and 4-year-old Nolan. They divide up the duties, with Ken going on cleaning calls while Tracy takes the phone calls, keeps the books, and manages the marketing, internet, and payroll for their carpet cleaning franchise. Being their own bosses means having the flexibility to keep 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. hours, with the whole family sitting down to dinner together each night. The Hinsdales also like that they are able to keep Sundays as ?no work? days, and never have to ask someone for permission to go to Nathan?s basketball games, or take a vacation.
What were you doing before Chem-Dry?
Ken: I retired in 2007 after serving in the Navy for 20 years and was looking to enter the workforce. We talked about it and thought we might like to start a business, something we could do together.
Tracy: I was in sales as a business development manager for an engineering firm.
Ken: We both grew up in Omaha, so after moving a lot for the Navy, we moved back in 2007 and started to do some research.
What made you consider a franchise?
Tracy: Looking at the rate of failure for independent start-ups vs. franchises, we were amazed at how much more successful franchises were. We had a friend through church who had an independent carpet cleaning business, and we talked to her a lot to find out about her experience.
Ken: We were attracted to the fact that the franchise business model meant the business system already exists, that folks are already aware of it, and you?re not on an island by yourself.
How did you find out about Chem-Dry?
Ken: Initially we looked at anything that caught our eye, but we narrowed it down pretty quick, because we wanted something that was not a huge capital investment upfront, that we could run out of our house, and that you didn?t need to have a shop right off the bat. And never being business owners before, the fact that we didn?t have to hire employees right out of the gate was very appealing. We had used Chem-Dry to clean our carpets when I was in the Navy, so we were familiar with the product. It looked like such a good business model and has been ranked highly by Entrepreneur magazine.
Tracy: Plus, we liked that they offered a lot of training. We felt if we were going to do something on our own, it would be a steep learning curve, and Chem-Dry provided lots of help.
What sets Chem-Dry apart?
Ken: Their process of cleaning with carbonated water does a really tremendous job of cleaning the carpet and has a quick dry time.
Tracy: Chem-Dry has something like 7 different patents on their products and processes, and they are well known for their specialty stain removal. Whether it?s red wine or pet stains, we can go into a home and help them solve a problem.
What kind of person makes a good Chem-Dry franchisee?
Ken: There?s an interview process you go through with Chem-Dry and one of the things they told us is they love military folks, because it?s kind of similar to the franchise experience: It?s your business, but there?s a set of parameters you need to operate within. You?re free to run your business as you want, you set your own hours, but there are some common rules. That?s so whether you?re a customer in California or Florida, when you call Chem-Dry, you?re going to have a similar experience. So the kind of person that would flourish is someone who doesn?t take offense that Chem-Dry says you need to wear a blue shirt. If you can?t handle that, if you really want to wear a red shirt, then you?re going to have a problem with the franchise experience.
Is there a misperception about the carpet cleaning industry?
Tracy: Definitely. I answer the phones every day and there?s so much education to be done. We often hear, ?If I start cleaning my carpets now, won?t they get dirtier more quickly?? Lots of people don?t think you need to clean your carpet, but it acts like an air filter, so it directly affects the health of the people in your home.
Ken: One of the challenges we run into is people focus on the appearance of a carpet. Unfortunately, once a carpet starts to look poor, some damage could have already taken place. Some of the carpet fibers could be scratched and will appear worn or darker. Most people don?t realize that carpet manufacturers recommend having a carpet cleaned every 12 months. It?s like a furnace or anything else in your home, if you want to achieve the longest life possible for your carpet, it needs to be maintained.
How large is the opportunity?
Ken: I would say it?s very large. We?ve experienced growth every year since we started, even when the economy had problems in 2008. We started with one van and added a second a year and a half ago. And we now have two technicians doing the cleaning in addition to myself.
Tracy: It?s great that you can decide how much to take on, depending on your level of risk. When you first get in, you can start with three vans and hire employees, or do like we did, with one van and just ourselves. It depends on your personal priorities and how fast you want to grow.
Who are your main customers?
Tracy: We service a three-county area that surrounds the Omaha metropolitan area and I?d say 95% of our customers are residential. A lot are referral and repeat customers. Pet stains are the most common call we get. Especially when it gets cold in the winter, people call and say their dog won?t go outside, and then it ends up going on the carpet.
What are your biggest challenges?
Ken: Figuring out where to go next.
Tracy: It?s less of a challenge than an opportunity, as we?re talking about whether we want to add another service line, or cultivate another type of client, or grow geographically.
What do you like about the business so far?
Ken: I personally enjoy the work. I?m kind of a neat freak. I like the feeling I get walking into a home and taking a dirty carpet and getting it cleaned up and looking good so the kids can play on it. In the Navy, I was in administration behind a computer with an inbox that never ended, so I never got that feeling of satisfaction that I really get with Chem-Dry: a sense of closure.
Tracy: I get lots of satisfaction in talking to our clients and figuring out whether our solutions are going to solve their issues.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn?t do before?
Ken: It?s nice not to have to get an employer?s permission to take a day off. I don?t have to worry about getting fired. I don?t have to impress a boss; instead, it?s customers I need to impress. We have so much more control over our time. Sundays are very important to us, we feel God has given us that day to spend in reflection on him, and we have the freedom to set aside Sunday as a ?no work? day.
Would you recommend this franchise? Why?
Ken: Definitely. It?s been a good experience for us. There are challenges, but the benefits far outweigh them.
Tracy: Yes, I definitely enjoy owning our own business.
Ken: For us, working together has given us common goals and common visions, and I think it has made us a lot closer.
A great low-cost franchise opportunity
There are several reasons Chem-Dry is a great option for veterans. The company has been named to Entrepreneur Magazine?s list of top franchise opportunities for 26 years in a row, and makes the magazine?s Top 10 for low-cost franchise opportunities and home-based franchise opportunities. You can start a Chem-Dry with as little as $9,995 down. Total startup costs start as low as $38,500, and Chem-Dry offers in-house financing at competitive rates to help new owners get started.
Want to learn more? Visit the research pages on our site to learn more about the business, why it has been a success since it started in 1977, equipment packages, startup costs and average financial performance. You can also find Q&As with Chem-Dry owners and news about the company on our blog.
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