Meet Longtime Indiana Chem-Dry Franchise Owners Ed & Dawn Frutig
30+ years in, entrepreneurial couple reflects on how the brand has changed, yet also stayed true to the services and values that have made it a success in this carpet cleaning franchise review
When Ed and Dawn Frutig bought a Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise in 1987, their thinking was they’d run it for five years or so, sell up, and move onto something else. Plans change. “Here we are, 33 years later, still plugging away,” Ed laughs. Here’s their carpet cleaning franchise review and the story of their far-from-finished Chem-Dry franchise as owners and operators of Chem-Dry of Michiana, which serves the South Bend and Elkhart, IN, area:
What were you doing before you opted to launch your own business? And what led you to Chem-Dry?
Ed: I had worked for two bigger corporations in the area, businesses that dealt with farm equipment. When the one I was with decided to shut down its South Bend location my neighbor, who was working for a Chem-Dry franchise, told me the owners were ready to sell. I looked at the opportunity and saw potential there. There were probably 60 different carpet cleaning operations in what would become my territory, but this was the only one using a carbonation process. I knew the demand was there, that this was a unique cleaning method, and I figured I could market that.
How has your footprint grown over the years?
Ed: We were a single franchise in one county at the beginning, and now we have eight franchises in four counties. We’ve also grown to three office staffers, one full-time and two part-time, and last summer we were up to three full-time and four part-time techs.
Have the products and services lived up to those early expectations you had around differentiation from the competition?
Back in the day, it was mostly just our carbonating solution and then over time we have added so much more. I remember when we came out with a red dye remover, and that was a really big revelation! Now we have upholstery cleaning and so much more, including the protection products, which are a tremendous money maker.
How has the ongoing R&D and product expansion helped your bottom line?
Ed: There wasn’t a lot of profitability in carpet, but the add-ons, like the protectants, have been very good for us. We have a unique and patented system, where we can deliver those within the cleaning solution so that it adheres to carpet fibers better, without more drying time. That appeals to people and helps us upsell. The Healthy Home services around killing germs and bacteria have also been good because people want a healthier environment. And the pet-urine removal system [P.U.R.T.] has made us thousands upon thousands of dollars because it is in demand and exceptionally effective.
The R&D team does a great job, a fabulous job, of keeping us on the front edge of innovation. I believe we’re offering every service that Chem-Dry has because they are all so good. We do tile and grout work, hardwood floors, air duct cleaning, and we’ve also recently added on MicroPro Shield, which is a very timely offering.
Chem-Dry has seen that the market is shifting and it keeps up. People are going to hard surfaces vs. carpets, and so now we have hardwood, tile, and grout cleaning. We can clean area rugs. We have had no trouble transitioning to meet demand because we have the capability of cleaning whatever floor surfaces they have.
How has training and support evolved over the years?
Ed: We knew a lot about the market in the early days and were able to take advantage of that; even so, we really took advantage of training — and still do. In the early days, you’d go for a week and spend most of the time learning different cleaning techniques; there wasn’t a lot of time spent on marketing or training new employees, and that has changed a lot.
We learned a lot from our fellow franchise owners; without them we’d have been sunk. That is a Chem-Dry strength to this day. The camaraderie and willingness to share information among other owners is terrific. It’s a tight group and we have friends all over the country. When we have an issue, we’re never reluctant to call them and run ideas by them. There’s nothing like talking to someone who’s experienced the problem you are having and can guide you through it.
And Chem-Dry corporate has gotten tremendously better over the years in so many ways. The training and support are very good, but also things like branding and marketing. We used to have a cartoon-character logo, which was fine but what we have now is much more professional. The trainers on every subject are excellent; as a small business owner, you need to develop yourself on all the opportunities that now exist for us to take advantage of. There are templates and if you follow the program, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
What do you tell potential new Chem-Dry franchise owners when they call you as part of their discovery process?
Ed: I always say that your own desire to succeed is going to be the biggest determining factor in whether your franchise is successful or not. It still takes a good work ethic and a good attitude. I spend 90 percent of my time looking for an answer and only 10 percent of time on the problem.
Dawn: You also need to surround yourself with good people. If you do that, take advantage of the team at corporate, and keep a good relationship with your employees, you can do well and have good success.
Are you glad you decided not to sell up after 5 years?
Ed: We’ve been able to raise two kids, and I’ve been very involved in their lives. I have been able to set my own hours for the most part and even though the business requires a lot of work it has also afforded me the time to spend with my family. It’s also given us good travel opportunities — between conventions and retreats, we’ve been all over the country.
Dawn: And we have made some really good friendships with people all over the country. We are fighting the same fight and we all care about each other a lot. We really never saw that aspect of it coming because they really don’t talk about those relationships when you’re first looking at a franchise, and I’d say it’s one of the biggest unforeseen benefits.
Chem-Dry is the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise with more than 3,000 franchises in more than 55 countries, serving 11,000 homes and businesses a day. Chem-Dry has been Entrepreneur magazine’s top-rated carpet cleaning franchise for 32 straight years. The Chem-Dry Hot Carbonating Extraction process delivers a faster-drying, deeper and more environmentally friendly clean that appeals to home and business owners. In addition to carpet and area rugs, Chem-Dry provides cleaning and renewal services for tile and stone, granite countertops, leather and upholstery, air ducts, and dryer vents.