Interviews with some of our longest-tenured and most successful franchise owners:
Paul Moen, Moen Chem-Dry, Summerville, S.C.
Moen, 50, was a vice president supervising a series of Advance Auto Parts stores in the Charleston, S.C., area before the company laid him off in early 2007. He wasn’t necessarily looking to buy a franchise but quickly saw the potential benefits, and he’s turned his circle of five Chem-Dry franchises into a success.
Q. What sets Chem-Dry apart?
A. Oh, boy, we have a ton of differentiation: Our cleaning process, the quality of our people. At Moen Chem-Dry, we do business with a friendly smile, we’re knowledgeable, prompt, detail oriented, thorough, and the customer’s always going to be right. We totally believe in satisfaction guaranteed. It’s not just a motto. I can tell you, when I look for employees, I look for five to seven attributes: friendly; customer-oriented and driven, they’ve got to like customers; knowledgeable or willing to learn; detail-oriented; committed; and adaptable.
Q. Would you recommend this franchise? Why?
A. I absolutely would. One thing I’ve learned is that the people who succeed as Chem-Dry franchisees aren’t necessarily the people who know most about cleaning carpet but the people who know how to run the business the right way, that is, hire good people, give quality customer service and go by the numbers. The people who are willing to do that, hands-on owners who know where they want to go and can get there quickly, will do very well with this franchise opportunity.
Glenn and Kati Buckland, Chem-Dry of Albuquerque and Chem-Dry of New Mexico
Glenn Buckland was born to be an entrepreneur. He tried college at the University of Texas and a job managing a grocery store, but nothing fit until 1986, when he bought his first Chem-Dry franchise in Austin, Texas, at 22. He turned that business, then a second in Albuquerque, N.M., into successes, but in 1999 realized he needed some help managing and marketing his growing empire. So he turned to his then-girlfriend (now wife), Kati, who created some systems, processes and marketing strategies that made the business even more profitable. In 2005, the Bucklands merged operations with another Chem-Dry veteran, Patrick Wallace, and the three together now operate throughout New Mexico.
Q. Who makes a good Chem-Dry franchisee?
KB: Someone who’s not afraid to put himself out there. Somebody who has good organizational and resource management skills, someone who knows how to plan and forecast and scale a business in a measured, careful way. It’s not just about creating yourself a job. It’s about creating a business that can be very profitable if you manage it and your employees properly, so someone who has that combination of strong business and organizational skills and people skills can do very well with a Chem-Dry franchise.
Q. How large is the opportunity?
KB: It’s huge. The opportunity is as big as you want it to be, really. We run seven routes a day, and even now the growth potential is there, and it hasn’t been tapped out. We are definitely not the lowest-priced carpet cleaner in town. We position ourselves as high-end. But we go after it all, residential and commercial. We market ourselves as a high-end residential cleaner, but we’re also going to help you with commercial jobs and jobs where there’s transition in properties, that’s big right now with the market the way it is.
Robyn Smith, Chem-Dry of Atlanta
In 1984, Robyn Smith and her husband, Stu, decided to leave their corporate managerial positions for franchise ownership with Chem-Dry. They were among Chem-Dry’s pioneers, some of our first franchise owners, and they quickly realized Chem-Dry was their vehicle to a more fulfilling career and life.
Q. How did you hear about Chem-Dry?
A. My mother-in-law had heard of Chem-Dry and told us about it. She was saying, “Oh, the ladies at the beauty salon have been really talking it up, they’re fantastic,” and she suggested we look into it. Now, it wasn’t like we had always wanted to clean carpet. It’s not the sexiest job in the world. But the price was right; it’s a very low-entry franchise, and it didn’t require a great deal of technical expertise. So we opened the first Chem-Dry franchise in Georgia in March 1985, and we’ve added five franchises since then. And once the entrepreneurial bug bit, I wasn’t looking back. It’s about having control over your own future and the freedom to do what you want to do and go where you want to go. I love this business. I love everything about it. I don’t think about it like we’re cleaning carpet; we’re improving lives by providing them with healthy homes and offices in a way that people can trust and count on.
Q. What has Chem-Dry franchise ownership allowed you to do that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise?
A. I think the best part is being able to enjoy my children, attend their ballgames and school and trips. Having the freedom to be able to set your hours, and I’ll tell you the first few years were tough and we had to make some choices. We decided to occasionally close down to make trips, and we would lose money while we were closed. Our son is 41, and our daughter is 35. Since I’ve come back to the franchise, that’s been beautiful. That part is so much fun. That’s the biggest benefit is spending time with your family. It’s doing all the little things you enjoy.
Joe Weiss, Chem-Dry of Washtenaw, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Weiss, 38, bought his first six Chem-Dry franchises from another franchisee in 2005 and now owns 10 in three separate southeast Michigan territories. His frustration with a sales job led him to the entrepreneurial dream, and he’s now sitting on top of a small cleaning service empire.
Q. Is Chem-Dry better as a one-unit franchise or a multi-unit franchise?
A. For me, being an entrepreneur, I want to make as much money as I can possibly make, which is why I have five trucks and 10 franchises. You can be a success with just one truck and one franchise — there are people in the Chem-Dry system who have done that — but it makes me feel a little more comfortable as far as the money I can make with multiple franchises. That’s one of the nice things about Chem-Dry. You can be as big or as small as you want.
Q. Would you recommend this franchise? Why?
A. I definitely would. I strongly believe in the brand, the product and the process. The home office will help you with whatever you need, and as long as you develop some loyal fans and customers, it’s definitely something you can use to secure a very good life. It’s gotten me freedom from the rat race and a chance to do my own thing. I make my own days, do things at my own leisure, support my family and own my own home, plus I have some rental properties on the side. Without Chem-Dry, I’d probably be more limited and restricted in my life.