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.
The Stewart family has been in the heating and air conditioning industry for almost 40 years. So, for Matt Stewart, it made sense to join the family business as a third-generation heating and cooling professional. Stewart became a franchisee at only age 25, but already had experience in the heating and air conditioning industry. Here's how he decided to join the family business and what he has learned since becoming a franchisee.
Name: Matt Stewart
Franchise owned: One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Aberdeen, Md.
How long have you owned a franchise? Four months.
We chose franchising because so many of the services and products that we wanted to develop were already developed for us. It saved us a tremendous amount of time, energy, and capital using what the franchise had already developed instead of developing it on our own.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was the operations/sales manager at an independent HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) company in North Carolina.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I don’t believe there is another franchise in our field that offers better training, resources, products, and services than what One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning and Direct Energy offers to their franchisees. This allows us to focus on what we do best, which is serving clients.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Once the transition from the previous owners was complete, we invested $54,000 in new trucks, $30,000 in tools, and $20,000 in facility and technology upgrades.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We had a lot of experience in this field so I knew what I was looking for. Beyond that, we visited another very successful franchisee and he gave us a lot of information regarding One Hour. My uncle had also been a One Hour franchisee so he was able to give us a first-hand account.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The biggest challenge for us was getting the right team in place to capitalize on the success that we knew was coming once we began implementing the franchise’s system. I believe the most difficult thing for most small business owners is having the right team in place and that is why training is so important. As soon as I hire a new service technician or a new comfort adviser, I try to immediately send them to One Hour’s training courses so they can get immersed in the way we operate our business. Our goal is to be known as the premier heating and air conditioning company in the area and to be the most sought after destination for employment in our industry.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do what you do best and put everything into that. Whatever you don’t do best, find people who are experts in that field. That is the great thing with a franchise; they have done most of the hard work for you already. All you have to do is follow the systems they have laid out for you. Time is the most valuable resource anybody has and my time is too short to spend it reinventing the wheel!
What’s next for you and your business?
We are expecting to achieve significant sales growth at our company and I am focusing on any additional services that can help us achieve that. We are extremely excited about our new airflow containment system by Aeroseal that allows us to seal any type of ductwork from the inside without disturbing someone’s home. This prevents wasted energy by making sure that the air you paid to condition is put where you want it and helps prevents dirt and dust from being sucked through your ductwork. It is something almost all homes can benefit from. The best part is it pays for itself in energy savings.