Chem-Dry Franchise Review: Paul Moen, Moen Chem-Dry, Summerville, S.C.

Moen Chem-Dry owner Paul Moen. From the Chem-Dry website.

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 were you doing before Chem-Dry?

A. I was working in the Charleston area supervising Advance Auto Parts stores. I?d been with that company for over 25 years, and one of my very successful store managers left the company and started a Chem-Dry franchise (Greg Phillips of Chem-Dry of Summerville). When I got downsized in February 2007, I started interviewing to stay in the retail sector and realized I was not going to make a lateral move without some consternation. So in May 2007, I started doing research to see if this was something I?d be interested in doing. I realized that any hopes I had at 46 of getting back into the retail rat race at a level I?d be comfortable with was just not going to happen.

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. Who makes a good Chem-Dry franchisee?

A. The best person to own and operate a Chem-Dry business is someone who has enough money to invest, can manage money well and has some experience running a customer-oriented business. The carpet stuff you can learn. I can teach anybody to clean carpet and the chemistry of it, but I can?t teach someone to love dealing with customers and knowing how to deal with customers.

Q. Is there a misperception about the carpet cleaning industry?

A. It has the same perception in public that the automotive industry had for many years, as hooks and crooks. People perceive that it?s a janitorial service, where people are paid hourly. But with Chem-Dry, we?re carpet-cleaning professionals. If I?m in a Chem-Dry uniform west of the Mississippi, Chem-Dry has a huge presence out there and is well-respected, so people will stop me and tell me how much they like Chem-Dry. East of the Mississippi, not as much, but in the east we?re a collection of franchises that?s not quite as cohesive as out west.

Q. How large is the opportunity?

A. When I got into this, I knew I didn?t want to be an owner-operator. We weren?t going to be successful because I cleaned carpet. We were going to be successful because I hired quality people and know how to run the business. I can tell you the sales comparison, year to year, from 2010 to 2011 was 105 percent. We doubled up. Just phenomenal growth. I see right now that I could very easily, just with my one franchise here in Charleston, have an uptick of 400 to 500 percent in the next five to seven years. I believe there?s enough market share for that. I drive by my competitors? places and I see how many vehicles they have running. Within a 10-mile radius of my office, I have three competitors, and each of them has at least five or six vans running. They?re servicing those customers, and those customers need to be mine. That?s the way I view it.

Q. Who are your main customers?

A. Generally they?re women aged 28 to 55, but us, we brag, ?There?s no job too small, no job too large.? We clean for a 75-year-old lady a few blocks away, and we were told that job is too small, but we do it as a community service. We have baked goods that come back with our technician every time we go.

Q. What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn?t do before?

A. I have the freedom to set my own schedule, the freedom to be at every event with my kids when they have a school or athletic event. It allows me to have a lot more freedom. I have two 16-year-olds, a boy and a girl, and an 11-year-old boy, so I attend all kinds of school events. My physical time in the office is probably 48 to 50 hours per week. Some weeks during the holidays, I work not more than 24 hours a week. It?s no different than in retail management. When you have a strong team, you can delegate and take time off. If you don?t have a strong team, there ain?t enough hours in the world to do what you want to do.

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.

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