House Doctors Making Changes

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Locally founded franchiser House Doctors is looking to the future with renewed optimism about the growth of its brand, as its new CEO has energized efforts to improve franchise ownership and has boosted revenue.

Advertisement Quantcast Jim Hunter, president and CEO who joined the company about 18 months ago, said he came on board with the goal of bringing new strength to the company's franchisees, which have been hit by the recession and also suffered from the marketing inexperience of some owners.

"We want the individual franchisee to bring some strength to the business," said Hunter, a native of Scotland who relocated here from Canada and has more than 20 years of experience in franchising. "We want to find the right match for each franchise." House Doctors was founded in 1995 by Paul Spires Jr. who also founded Home Team Inspection Service, a home inspection franchise, two years earlier. Both businesses are now owned by parent company United Mercantile Corporation of which Spires is president.

Spires' original idea was to offer handyman services that stood out from the crowded field of mom-and-pop operations, or, as Hunter describes them: "Chuck-and-a-truck" businesses.

House Doctors earned a reputation for professionalism and reliability and became a popular franchise in its first 10 years, spawning more than 200 franchises nationwide, said Hunter. In 2004, House Doctors was listed as one Entrepreneur magazine's Top 100 home-based franchises.

Sine then, however, the company's growth has stagnated and many franchises have closed, said Hunter, who said he was hired to take House Doctors to the next level.

Hunter said he is focusing on a more selective process for choosing new franchise owners. In addition to management and home-repair knowledge, Hunter said he is looking for franchisees who know how to network and market their business.

His strategy paid off in 2008 when new franchisees posted first-year revenues more than 70 percent higher than first-year revenues for new franchisees in the previous year.

(2 of 2) And a House Doctors franchise in Pennsylvania broke the $1 million sales mark - a first for one of the franchises.

Advertisement With high unemployment, Hunter said interest in franchising is up. In March, more than 200 individuals responded to an ad House Doctors add inviting the public to come to an informational meeting. The increased interest in franchising makes it possible to be more selective.

This year, House Doctors will add 15 new franchises to the 100 businesses now operating, Hunter said. By 2010, he said he would like to see the addition of 20 more franchises throughout the country.

Dan Landon, owner of a House Doctors franchise covering the eastern portion of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, said he was looking for a new career when he bought his franchise in 2000.

Landon, who has a background in computer software engineering, agrees with Hunter that the business requires more than home-repair knowledge. Owners with sales skills and marketing experience will find it easier to build a client base, he added.

"I have not seen handymen run these businesses well," said Landon. "You really need some sales skills and a business aptitude.'' Landon said business has been brisk lately, and he looking to add a new handy man to his team of three. But it took several years of building a customer base before he reached the point of turning a profit and hiring new workers.

Hunter said the market niche that House Doctors fills will continue to grow as homeowners become increasingly busy with work and family and don't have the time for do-it-yourself house repairs.

"You have a mushrooming market and there is a need to be met," he said. "Homeowners right now are looking for a feel good factor. Doing something to your house can make you feel good."

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Milford, OH

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