How Chem-Dry Franchise Owner Doug Desario is Killing It With Area Rugs
How an owner of a rapidly growing carpet cleaning franchise in the greater Los Angeles area is maximizing profitability in his business by cleaning area rugs
While Chem-Dry is rightly known as the world’s largest carpet cleaning franchise, with 3,500 franchises that clean 10,000 homes a day, Chem-Dry franchise owners generate significant revenue for their businesses by using their skill set and equipment to tap into multiple revenue streams.
Doug Desario, owner of a carpet cleaning franchise in the greater Los Angeles area, is a terrific example of how expanding the service offerings of a Chem-Dry franchise can have a tremendous positive impact on the level of profitability of a Chem-Dry franchise.
Since Doug made the decision to include cleaning area rugs in his service offering in 2014, his business has not only become more profitable, but it has allowed his business to rapidly grow, invest in his team and flourish in new territories.
This is his story:
What made you want to open your own Chem-Dry franchise?
Doug: Well, I worked for a Chem-Dry franchise for 12 years before deciding to open my own. I had sold my business in the automotive industry, and my friend who owned the Chem-Dry business hired me as a working manager. This meant that I was both in the field cleaning carpets and managing the crew. My friend sold the business after eight years, and then for four years I worked for the next owner, who wanted me just in the office driving sales.
I always had the bug to buy my own business, and after 12 years in two different types of managerial roles within a Chem-Dry franchise, I decided to strike out on my own. I told my wife, who also worked for the same Chem-Dry franchise, that I wanted to move on. She told me that we were a package deal, “Where you go, I go,” so she was supportive from the get-go. I grew up in a family business, and I started working for my family right after high school. I never went to college, and so when I went online to find out what I could do next, I realized that I was limited by my lack of a degree. The one thing that I knew how to do well was run a carpet cleaning franchise.
Initially, I didn’t think that I could get into franchising with Chem-Dry where I lived, but luck would have it that I stumbled on ad for a Chem-Dry franchise for sale in my side of the county. I thought it would be a good investment for my family, and this has turned out to be true.
How long did it take for your carpet cleaning franchise to become successful?
Doug: We opened in March of 2003, and I knew the dollar figure that I had to hit within the first year to be moving in the right direction. We hit it in 10 months, and within a year we were profitable. Chem-Dry’s corporate team does a great job of providing guidance, holding you accountable to their proven model. If you follow the model, you have a far better chance of being successful.
In our second year we bought our second van, and our growth has just continued from there. Now, we have five vans on the road and seven employees. We have grown from a territory of half a county to being in three counties in the greater Los Angeles area. We’re in a really well-to-do area, which also happens to be one of the largest and wealthiest parts of America, as far as population is concerned. So in that sense, we’re very lucky, but the Chem-Dry model is successful in a lot of areas all around the world.
How have area rugs helped you grow your business?
Doug: Area rugs are extremely important to our business — to the extent that now it is such a significant segment of our business that it is the equivalent of having another van on the road. If you come to our shop, we will have 20 area rugs being cleaned on any given week. It’s been very steady, and it’s a segment that we’re continuing to grow. I can’t imagine how successful it will be when we start to properly advertise this service.
What marketing strategies are helping you reach area rug customers?
Doug: We haven’t done a single thing differently with our marketing yet. It’s all been very organic, and we’re already so busy as a result. Our guys in the field and our people in the office are so excited about this new service that they’re mentioning it to our customers when they’re in their homes or when we have them on the phone. We’ve done a little bit of social media marketing, but so far attracting area rug customers has been very organic.
What was the investment to get into the area rug business? How quickly do you expect it to pay itself off?
Doug: We made a commitment last year to get into the business of cleaning area rugs. I knew that to be successful we would have to do it right. We bought new equipment from Chem-Dry, who gets us such good pricing on equipment that there isn’t a reason to purchase equipment from another source. I sent a few of my team members to Chem-Dry’s office in Dallas for training, and then I sent my team to other Chem-Dry franchises who are successful in cleaning area rugs. I had many, many conversations with other franchisees, picking their brains and asking for advice.
All in all, it was about a $20,000 investment to do it right, with equipment and training and getting the shop properly prepared. In the next few years, we’re going to invest in much more sophisticated equipment. We’re actively growing this segment of the business because of the success we are finding in offering the service. My goal is to grow this segment so that it is the equivalent of having two guys on the road.
What other profit centers are you developing
Doug: Cleaning tile is becoming extremely important. In our area, many people have tile or stone rather than carpets in their businesses. We have two trained tile technicians, and we’re currently training a third guy to work this segment. Cleaning tile and stone is far more profitable than cleaning carpets. Tile is more labor-intensive: our average ticket for a carpet cleaning job is $300, while it is $800 for an average tile cleaning job. Chem-Dry was always known for cleaning carpet, but it is very easy to win business in other segments if you have the right people driving sales in your office. For example, a local auto dealership called us to clean their carpets, and my salesperson asked them if they had any other type of flooring that needed to be cleaned. We wound up doing $11,000 worth of cleaning tile.
The Chem-Dry corporate team also assists us in finding commercial cleaning opportunities. Every week, we get a call from them about a job. The jobs range in size, from big to small, but just last week we did a job for $8,000 that the Chem-Dry corporate team found for us. It’s incredibly important, and commercial cleaning jobs have become about 20% of our business.
It’s also very important to be out winning big contracts in your communities. Years ago, we landed a contract with a big medical facility, which is still a client of ours. When we tell our new clients that we’re associated with this facility, they trust that we’re able to do the job right.