Tool belt optional: Eye for interior design, desire to help customers is paramount
If you’d told Sara Baumann two years ago that she would own a kitchen remodeling company, she would have said you were crazy.
The stay-at-home mom had a marketing degree and no experience installing kitchen cabinets. So why did Kitchen Solvers President and CEO Gerry Henley think she would make a great franchisee?
“Sara has great people skills,” he says. “She just puts people at ease, they connect with her very quickly, and she’s very creative and has a great eye for detail.”
You don’t have to be a have a tool belt to be a successful Kitchen Solvers franchisee.
Baumann bought her Eau Claire, Wisc., franchise in the summer of 2011. She does sales calls and handles the business, and she hired an installer to remodel the kitchens. She booked $85,000 worth of work in the first two-and-a-half months of 2012.
“Not to knock installers or guys who have been in the construction industry, but people are more likely to trust a woman who has good design skills,” Sara says. “I have a friend who is a psychologist, and she would be fantastic. She’s kind of tired of therapy, and she loves decorating — ‘We could do this with the kitchen, we could do that with the kitchen.’ She would be unbelievable. She salivates when she talks about this stuff, and she is a fabulous people person. You meet her and you automatically love her.”
Gerry says it’s important for franchisees to enjoy what they do, work hard at their strengths and hire people to handle the rest. That’s a strategy Dechert Sharpell has used to grow the Kansas City Kitchen Solvers franchise he bought in 2008.
Dechert says too many contractors make poor business owners because they can’t break out of the “technician” role. They know how to remodel and micromanage every job while the business stagnates. He’s no slouch as a technician — he used to build laboratories for Ferro Corporation, a chemical manufacturer — but he no longer goes out on most jobs.
“You’re not going to make money as the technician, no matter how skilled you are, because you’re going to get to the point where there’s too much work and you can’t do any more,” he says. “The goal is to work on your business, not in it.”
Dechert thinks people with middle and upper management experience would make excellent Kitchen Solvers franchisees.
“You do not have to be in construction,” he says. “If you are willing to lean on corporate for the help that they gladly offer, then I think management skills trump physical skills. If you know how to run a business and are willing to give up that technician role, you can have success like you’ll not believe.”