Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you’re a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Franchise: Glass Doctor
Franchisees: Husband-and-wife team Kevin and Tamara Tennant
Franchisee/Location: Glass Doctor, of Fairbanks, at the North Pole, Alaska
Number of years in business/Number employees: 6 years as independant entrepreneurs, 11 as franchisees/ 6 employees
Initial Investment: $30,000, on average/Tennants' cost was $12,000
Kevin Tennant first braved the rigors of life at the North Pole as a sergeant in the Air Force. But after leaving the service and deciding to start a family business in his new home in Alaska, he faced the rigors of something equally dangerous: glass. That's how Kevin and his wife Tamara found themselves knee-deep in a local dumpster 20 years ago, digging out shards of glass from trashed windshields.
The point was to use the glass to teach themselves glass-repair skills. So, the couple invested $500 in a rock-chip kit, liberated those windshields from that dumpster -- ironically, the property of a future competitor -- and spent hours upon hours at their kitchen table working with their kit. For income, Kevin joined the National Guard, and Tamara worked at a local video store.
Still, sharpening their skills, so to speak, in glass repair was primary. “At the time, we had zero experience repairing chipped windshields," Kevin Tennant relates by email. "We did make a few phone calls to the company that sold us the rock-chip repair kit, but most of what we know was learned through trial and error. We eventually drove 400 miles down to Anchorage to work in a shop for free so we could learn how to replace windshields, in addition to repairing them.”
After an even bigger investment -- the purchase of a truck -- the Tennants took their rock-chip repair kit and the meager experience they had and opened for business in January 1998. Just six months later, they were doing full replacements, in addition to rock chip repairs. "Business was booming and the profit quickly surpassed Tamara’s income at the local video store," Tennant says. "By fall, our profits surpassed my income from the National Guard, as well, and we made the glass business our full-time venture."
In 2005, after nine years as independent glass-repair business owners, came the Tennants' move to franchising. "Glass Doctor reached out to me; their plan was compelling enough for me to fly to Waco, Texas, and take a firsthand look," Tennant says. "I saw an opportunity to grow my business, with a ton of help and support from a company I was completely aligned with."
The couple, who already had most of the equipment they needed, purchased the franchise and brand-specific equipment and signage for $12,000 and dove in -- just as they had to that dumpster -- teaching themelves about marketing and managing the business' books. "I've learned to work smarter not harder, and I try to work on my business -- not in it," Tennant writes. "I now feel that I could teach others how to successfully work on their businesses because of all the education and support provided by Glass Doctor over the years."
That education included assistance from what the company calls a Sure Start consultant, as well as a franchise consultant that Tennant was in constant contact with. "At conferences, I paid particularly close attention to the most successful franchisees that attended and what they had to say," Tennant says. "Glass Doctor is always just a phone call or email away; and, without fail, someone there always had the answer I was looking for."
En route, there were some hiccups. "The most unexpected challenge was not having the faith to trust in a system that was proven to work time and time again," Tennant says. "In the beginning, I was too stubborn to take all the advice given by Glass Doctor and considered most of it as not applicable in my market. I frequently failed to provide my franchise consultant valuable information concerning my business so he could help me by comparing benchmarks with other franchisees."
The Tennants' business is now one of Glass Doctor's most successful franchisees. Now, they're "transitioning from growth mode to expert mode," Tennant says. And the advice he offers? It's that potential other franchisees ask themselves honestly if they're ready to implement the franchise system and use it to the fullest, Tennant says. If not, "I recommend you remain an independently owned business."
For more information: Glass Doctor