Multi-unit Case Studies
Stories from multi-unit Chem-Dry franchise owners
Brian Curran, Chem-Dry of Richmond
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in advertising, Brian Curran and a buddy set off on a countrywide adventure. They partied in New Orleans, explored Dallas, drove through New Mexico, hung out in San Diego and finally headed north for San Francisco.
They didn’t have a ton of money for their adventure. “We were living off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, seeing the country and having the time of our lives,” Brian says.
His buddy, John Lugo — now Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Lugo — had an aunt who lived in Mesa, Arizona, and her home became an oasis for a few months during the trip. She had a friend who had just started a Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise and was happy to put two fresh college graduates to work for a few months.
Although they only stuck around for three months before continuing their excursion, the experience made an impression on Brian.
“I liked the work. I liked meeting people, going in and seeing different homes, the different architecture and the way people lived,” Brian says. “And people were ecstatic about the service I could deliver. It was great to be paid, and be paid pretty well, for doing something that people loved. I figured if I started one, I could get paid well, and in the future, the people who worked for me could be paid pretty well, too.”
After the trip was over, Brian, returned to Virginia and started his business, Chem-Dry of Richmond. Twenty years later, it has become one the of the biggest Chem-Dry franchises in the United States, and he recently expanded into Virginia Beach, too.
Brian says customers hire Chem-Dry because they are attracted to its ability to deliver green carpet cleaning. One of the cornerstones of his success has been educating customers about all the other ways Chem-Dry can serve them.
“Once you’re working with a customer, there’s a lot more that you can offer — upholstery cleaning, area rugs, mattress cleaning, tile and grout cleaning, and elimination of pet odor issues. Once you show them everything you can do and prove that you can do a great job, you become a trusted advisor. If you can connect with a customer on your first job and keep them coming back to you year after year, you will have a growing base of repeat business, and as you keep getting new business, and building new relationships, you can keep growing. You keep your loyal customers. They won’t stray as long as you take care of them.”
Nazar Osman, Chem-Dry of Palm Beach County
Nazar Osman moved to the United States from Sudan in 1992 to work as a computer programmer. He became an entrepreneur after the dot-com bust of 2000 sank his old employer, and he used his savings to start a beauty supply company in West Palm Beach, Florida. That business catered to low-income customers, whose budgets took a hit during the Great Recession. He started looking for a recession-resistant business.
What was something people would always need, and that was in demand from people with high incomes? He discovered carpet cleaning. A friend then gave him some sage advice. “He told me that if you go with a carpet cleaning company, go with Chem-Dry.”
“It’s a good business, a good model,” he says. “They’re far bigger than anyone else in the industry and are seen as a more high-end carpeting cleaning company.”
Nazar started his business in March 2013, purchasing licenses to operate in Palm Beach County as well as in neighboring Broward County. It does mean more advertising and marketing, he says, but the plan should allow him to reach his goals more quickly. By decade’s end he sees his business growing to seven or eight vans serving homeowners in the two counties, cleaning scores of homes each day.
Larry and Tina Boger, Champion Chem-Dry
Larry and Tina Boger bought their Chem-Dry franchise in the Milwaukee area in 2002. Since then, they have grown their operations to cover a significant amount of territory throughout Greater Milwaukee, growing from one van to two, then five, then 10.
That’s not all. In 2012, the couple partnered with their daughter and son-in-law to open a Chem-Dry franchise in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Then, in 2013, they purchased an existing Chem-Dry business that owned three licenses in Florida. In 2014, they launched a major expansion in Florida, adding six more territories that stretch from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida Turnpike.
One of the secrets to their success is that where others see challenges, they see opportunity. For instance, even though carpets are a popular choice for flooring — the growing popularity of hardwood and tile has scared some carpet cleaners.
Chem-Dry is more than a carpet cleaner, and the Bogers have embraced that fact.
“For one, as people are moving away from carpets, they are moving to tile. Cleaning tile pays better than cleaning carpet does!” Larry says. “Another opportunity is that when people put hardwood in, they tend to buy area rugs to put on top of hardwood. Area rug cleaning is more knowledge-based, and it’s more profitable! People still have floor cleaning needs.”
Florida is a perfect example. The Bogers have been franchisees for 13 years, but it took just two years for their Florida revenues to exceed the revenues in Wisconsin. That’s in spite of the fact that carpeting is less prevalent in Florida. Tile and stone and area rugs rule. With Chem-Dry, that’s still a great opportunity. Actually, it can be an even better opportunity, Larry says.
Larry also says that while most carpet cleaners focus on residential cleaning — which is a huge and important market — there is also tremendous opportunity to serve commercial customers. Chem-Dry operations in the United States have traditionally generated 90 percent of their sales serving homeowners, but Chem-Dry franchise owners overseas have often built thriving businesses almost exclusively by cleaning offices and hotels.
“As far as I can see, in the commercial market, there is no shift away from carpet,” Larry says. “Commercial is also more profitable than residential. All of the things that people are shifting towards are also more profitable than what they are shifting away from.”