Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning Franchise Review: Tim Dodaro of Joliet, Ill.
Search for stability in another bad economy led to 31 happy years with Chem-Dry
Tim Dodaro just wanted steady work. It was 1980, in another bad economy just before a presidential election, and he had just been laid off from his machinist?s job ? again. At 26, he decided he didn?t want to depend on anyone else for work again. He bought a Chem-Dry franchise. More than three decades later, he presides over six franchises in the Chicago area and plans to pass on the business to his daughter, Carrie, and son, Tim Jr. Chem-Dry?s been very, very good to him.
What were you doing before Chem-Dry?
I was a machine operator for International Harvester. I was there eight years. In the time I spent with them, I was laid off every year or so because of the economy. I remember there was a six-month strike in 1980, then I went back to work, working seven days a week, 12 hours a day ? and then they announced they were shutting the plant down. My grandfather, grandmother and two uncles worked there. It was a great place to work, but it was time for it to go, I guess.
How did you learn about Chem-Dry?
A friend of mine had heard about it and wanted to know more about it, so he got his carpet cleaned and thought it was a great system. He told me about it, and I did the same thing and loved what I saw. I was thinking, when I lost my job in February 1980 that I wanted to get into something unique and new, and Chem-Dry, with its carbonated cleaner, the low moisture, was what piqued my interest. It dried fast. My experience to that point had been long dry times. You’d see the van pull up to your house and water would be leaking out of the van onto the driveway.
This was new, and it was something I saw that I could do. At the time, being a machinist, I couldn’t find a job. I had a family, two kids and a mortgage, and I needed something I could feed my family with. I didn’t want to go back to a factory and go through the cycle again and get laid off again. I wanted more control over my financial situation than that. Also, it didn?t take a lot of money to get into it. It was something I could handle, something I could manage.
What sets Chem-Dry apart?
Several things. First of all, the process: We use a fraction of the water, so carpets dry fast. Now we have The Natural, which we didn’t have at time we started. It?s low cost. And I?d say the training, the five-star training program. You can know nothing about the program, and they can teach you everything you need to know to clean carpet the right way. The marketing, proven marketing materials. So it’s the system that’s been developed over the decades that sets you up to succeed. As long as someone follows the system and works hard at it, they’ll succeed at it.
What qualities does a good Chem-Dry franchise owner have?
Honest, hard-working, generous and willing to share information. We have conventions throughout the year and develop friendships; other Chem-Dry owners are some of my best friends. We share ideas and encourage each other. Perhaps an owner has run into a problem they’ve never experienced before, like getting a certain spot out of carpet or cleaning a certain type of tile. The person has to have a willingness to do what it takes. As far as having business sense, Chem-Dry pretty much lays out the formula. You don’t have to have a college degree to do this, for sure.
Is there a misperception about the carpet cleaning industry?
There is. There’s a lot of companies out there that are pretty unscrupulous. Just the way they advertise, they?ll advertise a low price, then go into the home and do a bait-and-switch: ?Oh, your carpet’s dirty, we’re gonna have to use soap, there’s a pre-spray we have to use, that’ll cost extra.? Word gets around quick, too. They’ve given the whole industry a bad name. That?s not so with a Chem-Dry franchise. It’s more high-end carpet cleaning, and people are very skilled and very trained to begin with. If the techs treat the customer the right way, the situation will come out just fine.
How large is the opportunity?
The opportunity is there. It’s as large as a person wants it to be. If a franchise owner wants to be a single truck operator, it can be a single truck. If he wants multiple territories, he can do that. I have six territories we work in, and we all operate from a single location. From a dollar sense, it?s very economical, because you don’t have to have multiple offices. As long as people have carpet, as long as children and pets are in the home, there are going to be pet accidents and spills, and carpet’s going to get dirty, and there are going to be opportunities to clean it.
Who are your main customers?
Our main customers, I would say, are homeowners, about 80 percent of them. They?re usually husbands and wives with a couple of kids, I would say both of them working and well-educated. They?re computer-savvy. The age group is somewhere between 30 and 60. They won’t do the cleaning themselves because they don’t have time, and they can afford to have someone come in and take care of those things.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn?t do before?
The flexibility. When I worked at Harvester, I was doing shift work, and I had to work nights and weekends and holidays. My family might’ve had a birthday party, or maybe a school function. By owning a Chem-Dry, I was able to coach my son in baseball as he grew up, do a lot of school activities and traveling, conventions and things, that I probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do if I hadn’t been a Chem-Dry owner.
Would you recommend this franchise? Why?
I would. With the low startup costs and proven system, plus good training and support from Harris Research and the camaraderie among other franchise owners, it’s a winning formula.