In this episode Josh talks with Vince Vavrunek, owner of SERVPRO of Brandon. They discuss how Vince got into being a franchisee and what things you should look for when doing the same.
Vince Vavrunek is the owner of SERVPRO of Brandon, a Fire & Water Damage Restoration franchise. Vince has owned and operated this franchise for over 11 years. He spent 8 years in the furniture business as a manufacturers representative selling to retailers and mass merchants before SERVPRO.
Fun Fact: Vince also worked in Saudi Arabia between 1995 and 2000 in the oil business. Ole Miss Graduate and fellow Grateful Dead Head!
In today’s episode you will learn:
- Why should you go with a franchise versus just starting a business off from scratch?
- What are some of the downsides of doing the franchise?
- What does it take to qualify for franchise ownership?
- What are the benefits of doing the franchise?
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, this is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business. My guest today is Vince Vavruneck. I bet I just destroyed his last name, but we’ll find out how badly I did that in a second. Vince is the owner of SERVPRO a brand— it’s a water and fire damage restoration franchise. I’m really happy to have [inaudible 00:01:04] today because I’ve always wanted to get somebody who actually is a franchise Z to come on the show and talk about the experience of working in the franchise world. Vince is kind enough to do that with us. So let’s bring him on.
Hey, Vince, how are you today?
Vince: I’m doing great. Thanks.
Josh: So Vince, how badly do I massacre your last name?
Vince: Well, just depends on what part of the country you’re in. So we say Vavruneck.
Josh: Vavruneck, okay.
Vince: And if anybody sees my last name from an international country, they say that Vavruneck. A lot of people say Vavruneck so we’re not really sure we just go with whatever people say and some people just call me Vinnie V.
Josh: Okay, that’s probably the easiest thing to do in the world. Your franchise is SERVPRO correct?
Vince: That’s correct.
Josh: Okay, so what is SERVPRO do first of all and then we’ll get into why you became a franchisee of that?
Vince: SERVPRO is a fire and water damage cleanup and restoration company in a nutshell. We are going in in someone’s time of need where their house might have flooded from what might not even be a disaster. It might not be a hurricane. It might not be a tornado. It could be just a toilet overflow supply line to an ice maker, washing machine supply lines, all those different to water heaters, AC drains.
There’s a lot of different variables that go into causing water damage not just disaster. So people sometimes think SERVPRO, “Oh my goodness, you must live and breathe by disasters.” Then of course, house fires. There’s kind of two different segments. There’s residential and there’s commercial. Then there is a storm segment. As we know, we had a big scare couple weeks ago with Dorian but thank goodness it did miss us.
Josh: Cool. So Vince, what caused you to go with a franchise versus just starting a business off from scratch?
Vince: It was a lot of investigative work which I’m sure if someone’s out there looking to buy business or buy a franchise there’s a lot of homework that goes into it. I was a traveling commission only sales rep for a furniture manufacturing company for eight years. I worked out of my house. I traveled about five states in the southeast and started having a family. When you start having family and you’re young and your kids start talking and walking and you’re missing things, I started saving my money, basically.
When everybody else was buying nice cars and joining country clubs, I was riding around in my Toyota Camry four cylinder getting 32 miles to the gallon and loving it. I was just stashing that money away and I was looking. Then a couple of places that I looked first, I was a loyal fan of two places. Marriott Courtyards and AAA. Well, I didn’t have $3 million to buy Marriott Courtyard. When I did touch base with Chick-fil-A their model just really didn’t line up with what I wanted to do. I wanted to be involved in my local community. It was already a Chick-fil-A here, great organization, great company.
Just didn’t really line up with what I wanted to pursue. So my dad was in the advertising business still is. He travels the country and I just called him up and I said, “Hey, look, I want to own my own business. What do you see out there?” And so the advertising that he sells is in small towns and sometimes rural communities. He usually has a car dealership on his ad. He usually has an insurance agency on his ad and it usually had a SERVPRO. So my story is that I called my dad and he said, “Hey, I’ve sales advertising the SERVPROs. They seem to be good businesses. They’re always busy. The owners hard to catch. They had a lot of people.”
It looks like a good model. I had a friend when I graduated college way back in the year 2000. I had a friend that went and helped start a SERVPRO franchise in Tupelo, Mississippi. So I was mutual friends with the guy that helped him and I had to go to Tupelo for furniture market twice a year. I got to see that business grow over the years. In 2008, I’m eight years in the furniture business. I’ve seen the SERVPRO go from scratch from 2000 to 2008. That’s what sparked my interest initially with SERVPRO.
Josh: It sounds like you did a fair amount of due diligence before you decided to become a franchisee of them.
Vince: Absolutely. The first thing I did is I reached out to SERVPRO Corporate. I went to https://www.servpro.com/. I believe I clicked on franchises available. I got on the phone with their franchise expansion team. The first thing they told me was, “Well, we don’t have anything available in your area.” At that time, what we call open market and open market means that there’s not a franchise in that market. SERVPRO has been a very successful franchise system for a long time since 1967. There were very few open markets. There was a rural market, but it wasn’t enough really population to generate a franchise so to speak. It was a little south of where I live.
And so they put me in touch with what they call a regional trainer or distributor. He was over Mississippi. We started the dialogue. That probably happened about two years before I actually bought my franchise. What he told me was that, franchises are bought and sold all the time what we call resales. I said, “Well, if that one ever in my area ever pops up for resale. I would like to know.” He said, “Well, as a matter of fact, that could possibly happen in the near future.”
Josh: The way SERVPRO works is the person you were talking to was a SERVPRO employee or was it a master franchise?
Vince: They were actually a franchise owner and a distributor. So way back in the day, there was no franchises in Mississippi. They were kind of like a branch of corporate but they weren’t corporate. Their responsibility was to go out and sell franchise. They pioneered Mississippi and I knew it very well. And so in this organization, you’re going to fall under a region. That’s probably the best way of saying it. I fell under a region who also owned a SERVPRO in another market which was very beneficial because we could talk numbers. In my experience with talking to franchise owners, they can’t share numbers with you. They give you some document.
I can’t even remember what it’s called the FCC or something or Franchise Disclosure Document. They just tell you about the franchise, but then if you really want to dig in and get into the numbers, you have to reach out to individual owners. That owner was able to open up and be transparent about his business. He also was over our area. It was a really a win-win. I got to see an operation, touch it, feel it, and look at the numbers and all that stuff.
Josh: Yeah, and by the way, folks, if you’re interested in becoming a franchisee of a company, one of the things you absolutely need to do is go out and visit franchises that are operating. Talk to the franchise owner, get under the hood with them and really understand the business and find out if this is a business you want to be involved in. Ask them what the sort of problems they’ve had with the franchisor because there’s almost always a problem of some sort. You see how well they get resolved? Is that stuff that you did?
Vince: Absolutely. Now, I kind of liked the term you use getting under the hood. The nuts and bolts, finding out what works, what doesn’t work. Every geographic area works a little different. Every owner works a little bit different. Finding a franchisor that is mutual benefit is what I would probably— our mission statement is to develop a team of quality people who focus on excellent service fairness and mutual respect. That’s the SERVPRO mission statement across the board.
And so if you break that down that mutual respect, the franchisor and the franchisee there’s mutual respect there. Their best interest is our best interests. They want us to grow, be successful, provide a network, provide support and training and ongoing. It’s what some people might call evergreen. It’s not just something that stops once they sell you a license. It’s something that is ever flowing. It’s evergreen. It’s going to be something that they are going to invest in.
That’s what we really saw in SERVPRO is it was a family owned and operated franchisor started by Ted Isaacson and his daughter and two sons ran the company. What we saw in the regional offices was the same setup. We saw second generation owners. We saw founders of the region. The pioneers of the business. It was just really exciting to be a part of something like that. That was 11 years ago. I seems like yesterday.
Josh: Easy how time goes by when you’re having fun.
Josh: What were some of the downsides of doing the franchise? Are there any downsides for you?
Vince: Well, number one, I tell people this all the time. I went to college. Some people say they graduated from the school of hard notch. I’ve got a degree just like a lot of other people. Then I worked as a manufacturing rep and dealt with business owners and buyers and warehouse and repairs and maintenance and sales. None of that taught me. I don’t think anybody can teach you how to manage people and systems and divisions. Then it gets down to hourly employees.
The business owners that I talked to and that I’m friends with and other industries, that’s something that has to really kind of come from hard notch. You have to learn that. And so were there any downsides? There’s always challenges along the way. You’re going to have challenges. If you want to invent something and start something as a startup and you have a great idea, that’s awesome.
There’s a lot of people doing that. We are probably beneficial. We’re beneficiaries of it right now probably would soon and podcasting. Somebody had an idea and it transpired. St that particular time in my life, I didn’t necessarily have an idea and an invention. I was looking for help along the way, help on the way maybe is we might want to reference our favorite band. That we share interesting with the Grateful Dead. But, I wanted somebody to not necessarily hold my hand, but I wanted to follow a system. Some people don’t do well in following systems. So if you don’t do well in that and you want to buck the system, well, you’re not going to be a successful franchisee.
A reality check for me and many owners is SERVPRO is the one that brought us here. They’re the ones that got us here. We have a saying, follow the system, and follow the system. If you follow the system, it works. If you try to reinvent the wheel, you’re going to have challenges.
Josh: That’s in my experience, the biggest benefit for doing franchises. You basically are getting a business in a box. Meaning that the business comes to you with the systems established and you have a roadmap for success. If you’re willing to follow the roadmap, and you’ve done the due diligence and bought into a good franchise, you’re pretty much guaranteed success in your business.
Vince: That would be a great way of saying it. You would have to be, and I guess I had to frame this in the right context, but you would have to do some really dumb things and really fall in your face type of things to really mess it up. Well, I see, I’ve been in this thing 11 years and I’ve got friends all over the country. That’s really something that’s really neat. When you go to conventions and you meet people and maybe playing a golf tournament or you’ve gone on stone warm and worked in their area and you make friends.
We see people come and go in our industry. We see people come and go in other franchises. We see surfers bought and sold. We see some people do really well. We see some people don’t do really well in other industries and even in our industry and other competitive franchises in our market. You’re not necessarily guaranteed anything in life and we know that, but you’re definitely set up with a foundation.
You’re set up with a framework that if you follow the system then you’re going to reap the benefit of success. If you operate a business scared and you don’t want to follow the system, you’re going to have a problem succeeding.
Josh: Yeah, that makes perfectly good sense to me. The thing that I find interesting what you just said, I really never thought about before is that you bought the business from another franchisee not from the franchisor. Most people when they think of franchising they think you have to get it from the franchisor. The truth is, if you want to be in the franchise world, you want to have a business been around for all long period of time that’s been successful.
It’s been around for a long period of time and it’s successful, there’s likely not a lot of open spaces to buy new franchises from. You’re really in the reselling situation. Some companies like McDonald’s take those franchises back in house and resell themselves. It sounds like SERVPRO lets you just sell it to anybody you want as long as they hit the SERVPRO qualifications for becoming a franchisee. Was that the way it worked?
Vince: Yeah, I mean, you obviously you have to qualify.
Vince: Financially, you have to meet certain qualifications. They do their due diligence as well on you. You got to pass a background check. There’s a lot of different things that you’ve got to live up to on your end of the bargain. Mainly is you need to be— if you’re trying to go into this thing, the absentee owner that can be a challenge sometimes because when the cats away, the mice will play is the saying. You’ve got to pay attention. You got to pay attention to the checkbook.
You got to know your numbers. That’s another thing that nobody really ever taught me so I got in this thing. I bought a resale that wasn’t really performing very well. So I bought it on the low side of volume. We had one truck, two employees and we grew the business.
Now, we’re at 13 employees, 11 trucks, and the business has grown 11 years later. We’ve reinvested back into the company and that sort of thing. As far as selling to anybody you want, they have to obviously meet certain qualifications. Those are going to have to be corporately approved. They just can’t walk off. You can’t walk off the street and just pay [inaudible 00:15:44] a check and going down the road so to speak. But once certain qualifications are met then the dialogue can be had and yes, you’re right, the resale game is definitely something that you would want to consider if you’re looking to get into the biz, if you’re looking to buy a franchise period. Because what you get also from our franchise and we haven’t touched on is national advertising presence. A brand name and SERVPRO done a great job of creating a brand name, a logo.
Josh: That they have before you. You see a SERVPRO truck or and they do a really good job with presenting who they are.
Vince: That was something else I was looking for.
Josh: The advertising?
Vince: Well, yeah, because in the furniture business, I work from two major companies. One was a brand name company and the other one was a non-branded company. So when I was with brand X that was a branded, a national name, and a household name in the business. Well, it was really easy to get appointments. It was really easy to walk in the door and hand the business card or even call somebody when you’re cold calling, “Hey, this is [inaudible 00:16:49] what’s up with such and such.” They will, “Oh, okay, yeah.” Then when I went to work for an unbranded company who spent zero dollars on national advertising, put it back into the quality of the product.
And also did a lot of private label marketing which means we made items for people under their name. Well, that was a totally different feel. It was a great company, but when I was looking to go out and if I walk into an insurance agent’s office, even they might not know me, but I hand them a card and it says, “SERVPRO” they’re going to recognize, “Okay, yeah, I know who this is.” I know who SERVPRO is.
It’s a recognizable name. It’s a recognizable brand. I was looking for that. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I didn’t recognize any of my competitors prior to the industry. I recognized SERVPRO. It might have been that early exposure to my friend helping start that business, but I recognize the name, the logo and the color. I also liked the colors so that didn’t hurt. I mean, I like green. I like the green and orange. I thought it pop. A little trivia Ted Isaacson got that color from a Porsche in California. It was like in the 60s. It was, “Oh, that’s a cool color.” I bet if we paint our bands that color people would notice it.
Josh: That’s probably pretty true. It makes sense to me. Hey, Vince, unfortunately we are out of time. Folks down in Mississippi, they’re probably going to want to find out how to get ahold of you guys.
Josh: Or maybe somebody who’s listening is interested in doing a franchise, would you be willing to talk to them if they’re curious?
Vince: Absolutely. I mean, I haven’t kind of—although my doors closed in the meeting right now, I have an open door policy if somebody wants to reach out that are interested in SERVPRO. The pros, the cons, the good, the bad, whatever they’re interested in. I’m available.
Josh: Cool. Vince, how would they find you?
Vince: The first way and how we found each other is LinkedIn. I’m a big proponent of LinkedIn. If you go to LinkedIn and search my name that would probably be the first way of finding me and messaging, trying to connect with me and then messaging me on LinkedIn. I’m very responsive that way. Also, they can go to our website, which is https://www.servprobrandon.com/. Then there’s a contact us. You can submit an inquiry there. I get the email that comes straight to me. If you’re an Instagramer, you can go to vinnyv1. If you’re on Twitter, we’re @servprobrandon. There’s a lot of different ways, but I would say LinkedIn and the direct website would be the main two.
Josh: The two best ways of finding you, cool. I have an offer for you that I hope you find a little bit interesting. One of the things I’ve discovered over the 40 years I’ve been doing this is that when it gets time to leave a business, business owners will often say to me, “I’m going to leave in five years.” And they go back again and three years later, they’re still going to leave in five years. I’ve named that Perma Five.
The reason Perma Five exists is the business owner usually hasn’t really quite articulate at this, but they don’t have enough money to retire. They don’t have enough money in the right places to retire. So I have this little quiz I put together that helps you discover where are you on the road to financial independence. It’s called the four boxes of financial independence. It fits in with our Cracking the Cash Flow Code program.
To do the quiz is really easy. Just go to https://thecashflowcode.com/. That’s www.thecashflowcode.com. All one word, click on the big orange button, spend seven minutes taking the quiz. You’re going to find out if you’re on the road to financial independence or not. This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Vinny V and we’re at The Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon. If you’re interested in franchising, give Vince a call. I’m sure you’re going to find some information out. That’s going to help you in your search. See you soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.