Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning Franchise Review: Q&A With Sheree Khollman of Yuma, AZ
Sheree Khollman?s Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise in Yuma, Ariz., is a year old. So how is she doing?
Sheree Khollman, 53, just finished her first year as a Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise owner ? but her roots with the company go back a lot further. Her husband, Kevin Burns, has been involved with Chem-Dry since the early 1980s, first as a technician, then as a manager, and he has been an owner of Chem-Dry of Lake Havasu since 1999. Sheree and Kevin, 55, got married in May after seven years of dating. She learned all about Chem-Dry from Kevin, and decided she wanted to try her own hand at business ownership. Now they split their time helping out one another?s businesses, which are 180 miles apart ? next-door neighbors by Mojave Desert standards. She got to know Kevin ? and Chem-Dry ? in Lake Havasu.
What were you doing before Chem-Dry?
I owned a vacation rental cleaning business in Lake Havasu. I was managing a grocery store when I moved there, but the way the economy was going, you couldn?t count on anyone else to bring in your paycheck anymore. I started my vacation cleaning business to work hand-in-hand with Kevin?s. You have to take care of yourself. That’s the nice thing about owning your own business… how well you do is up to you, not someone else. And although that?s scary, it?s also nice.
Why did you decide to open a Chem-Dry, and why in Yuma?
I liked the product. I?d always gone to mini-conventions with Kevin. I was able to see the business and meet the people, and I liked what they did. I think what they do in the home is great. I?d seen what other companies do that damages homes. When the business became available in Yuma, I saw a chance to have my own Chem-Dry. Thanks to the desert, there is no place in the middle. Sometimes he comes here and helps me run this one, and if I need to go there, I can. So it?s actually been working out pretty well. The plan is to continue to expand. My county covers 5,500 square miles, which is my territory under my franchise agreement. Mine actually butts up against his.
What type of person do you need to be to succeed with Chem-Dry?
You don’t have to be one type of person. If you want to be in a small town with one van, it works. If you want to be in a big area and turn it into a multi-million dollar business, you can turn it into that. I?m proof of that. I?m not rich, but I can grow with this company.
Honestly, I?m not very educated, but there is a lot of help if you ask for it. I couldn’t do this if I opened a carpet cleaning company on my own without support. I can always call Charlie (Erickson, who coaches startup franchises). And having the help of other franchisees is good, too. I like being able to ask questions and find out what?s working and what?s not. People like me can get advice from people who have been doing this for 25 years.
Yuma also has a small business development center that is eager to help small businesses succeed. They?re wonderful. I also go to chamber breakfasts and BNI meetings and listen to their speakers. I?m not afraid to admit when I don?t know something. I?m the first to say: I?m not college educated. I?ve not done this before. I need help. What can you teach me? If I pretend I know everything, I?m never going to learn.
You do need to be someone who is proactive and willing to work for your success. It has to be someone who doesn?t think they can just sit back and the work will come to them.
What sets Chem-Dry apart?
The quality of the solutions we have is definitely better. The quality of the equipment is better. Being part of a franchise that has requirements like being insured builds trust with customers. We?ve had people who have had carpets ruined by other people, and they couldn?t do anything. It’s a pride thing to be part of Chem-Dry and know that there are high expectations. You have high expectations for yourself. When I hear about the complaints people have with other companies, it?s the quality of their work, the quality of their vehicles. My vehicles are clean and maintained, and we?re in a clean uniform when we go to a home. It?s a higher quality of service.
Is there a misperception about the carpet cleaning industry?
People think all carpet cleaners are the same. You find that out with people who are price shopping. We educate people a lot on different products and what they?re used for and what the needs might be in the home. I get a lot of, ?No one ever told me that before!? I?ve gotten some commercial jobs because Chem-Dry has wonderful things like a presentation you can customize for different customers. I got a daycare as a customer because she said no one had ever explained the benefits of The Natural (Chem-Dry?s primary cleaning solution, which contains no phosphates and is safe and non-toxic for kids and pets). A lot of our job is to educate people.
How do you deal with the price shoppers?
When you get to a point on a phone call where you can tell they are price shopping, I tell them I can guarantee you ? you will find companies that are cheaper. Here are some questions you should ask: Do you use soaps and fragrances in your cleaning solution? Are you licensed? I give them a list of questions to ask to be sure they?re protected. Most of the time when I go through those questions, they wind up booking with me.
Who are your main customers?
Pet owners. They range from lower to higher income, but it tends to be families with children and pets who own their own homes. I get a lot of work, too, from rentals because a lot of landlords require tenants to use Chem-Dry when they move out to get the carpets looking new again. I?ve had customers who called other companies that never showed up or did a poor job and won?t come back to make it right. I get a lot of compliments just because we actually show up.
What has been a secret to your success so far?
I also have to give a lot of credit to Chris Green, my technician. He came here from Wichita to be closer to his family. He knows the products and is very good with people. He won Superstar of the Month from the Yuma Chamber in January. I get jobs scheduled for him and then he turns them into regulars by treating them right when he does the job. We?re both very personable. I think of people as becoming friends instead of as dollar signs. I just served a woman who needed a mechanic, so I hooked her up with a mechanic.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn?t do before?
Right now, I?m so busy building my business that it?s most of what I do. But that?s because I?m in a new town, starting a new business. The nice thing is that since I set my own schedule, I can go to my grandkids? birthdays without asking permission, and I can work from home. A lot of that I couldn?t do before. There?s a lot more flexibility, and I think there will be more down the road. When I had by business in Lake Havasu, Kevin and I would go scuba diving, often at the lake, but we would also take trips. We would have gone to the national convention in 2012 in Cancun if not for me starting my business. It?s probably good we didn?t go ? I would have wanted to spend all the time diving instead of going to meetings!
Would you recommend Chem-Dry to someone thinking about starting a business?
Not if they want to come to my area! (laughing) I would, because there?s nothing better than being your own boss, having control over your future and knowing what you put into it, you get back.