With the positive response to the 'Franchise Players' series, Entrepreneur has decided to showcase the flip side -- the challenges, tips and successes of franchisors -- in our Why I Franchised Q&A interview column. If you're a franchisor with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured.
Bill Redfern became an entrepreneur a decade ago when he noticed a huge demand in the Canadian home inspections industry that existing companies weren't addressing. After successfully conquering that market, Redfern saw an opportunity to start a second business -- and fill yet another gap -- this time in home health care. Here, how he juggles two expanding ventures in completely separate spheres and what he's hoping to accomplish this year.
Name: Bill Redfern, founder, president and CEO of A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections (ABCHI) and iCare -- Intelligent Home Care Solutions
I started A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections (ABCHI) to meet the huge demand for quality home inspections in Canada in the mid-2000s. We were able to turn it into the largest home inspection franchise in Canada after only two years of franchising. A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections is the industry leader because of our training programs, franchise marketing horsepower, leading edge franchise support and technology and our desire to be number one in every market we enter.
I started iCare -- Intelligent Home Care Solutions in late 2014 in South Florida to meet home health care needs in the market. Based in Pompano Beach, Fla., iCare delivers a comprehensive suite of non-medical services to its clients including home making, home support and personal care services. Its mission is to enable consumers to maintain a quality of life in the comfort and surroundings of their own home, while providing our franchise partners opportunities to become self-employed, working and building their businesses in a positive growth-oriented environment.
A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections has grown substantially over the last eight years to operate more than 200 franchises in 14 countries including the U.S., New Zealand, South America, Asia and Europe. Our first iCare franchise, opened in Deerfield Beach, Fla., late last year, serves many communities in Broward County. We recently signed an agreement to expand the concept into Canada as well.
When was the company founded?
A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections was founded in 2007, and iCare was founded in August, 2014.
How did you decide to franchise your business?
A Buyer's Choice Home Inspections was developed from the need for a professional, customer-service oriented home and property inspection service. With an extremely efficient business model, the franchisee can create incredible value and customer satisfaction in business operations. A low-cost entry point to the business, as well as low ongoing overhead maintains high margins for the business owner.
I’ve been involved in the franchising industry in various capacities for years. I thought we could take our successful A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections franchise model and adapt it for an underserved market -- home health care. That’s why we started iCare.
How has the company changed since you franchised?
Until recently, the home inspection market in Canada wasn't nearly as regulated as the real estate industry, but that's now changing in provinces and states due to the advance of licensing. We jumped ahead of this curve some years ago by setting very high standards of training and execution of the business model, exceeding anything required then or now.
The home inspection industry tends to revolve around transactions occurring in the real estate industry, but we're currently seeing a substantial increase in other services our franchises offer that aren't related to the purchase or sale of a home, such as maintenance inspections. There has also been a significant increase in consumers and realtors alike requesting our presale inspection services. This service significantly assists the sale of the home without nasty surprises during the final stages of the upcoming transaction. It also increases the buyer’s comfort level when facing a competitive bidding situation if they have the ability to preview an inspection report.
With the increase of these services, there are opportunities at this time for our franchisees to hire additional men and women and train them as inspectors to satisfy the demand we're creating through our ongoing marketing and development efforts with the franchises.
What have been the most challenging aspects of franchising?
Running one successful franchise concept while I was launching a second was difficult -- finding the time to dedicate to both proved challenging.
What do you look for in a franchisee?
Our ideal franchisee is someone who is looking for a new opportunity in a stable field and wishes to secure his or her future with a career not subject to layoffs, downsizing or any of the many transitions careers go through. The franchisee must desire to create something of their own that they can be proud of and must be willing to learn and work with customers. Otherwise, no prior related experience is necessary. We provide full training, regardless of one's background.
What's the process of becoming a franchisee for your business?
With A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections, we recently introduced a new first-year income guarantee program, which guarantees a first-year income of at least $52,500. This is due, in part, to the new Customer Relations Management software. Our low=cost franchise opportunity gives individuals the chance to fulfill their dreams of self-employment, job security and financial gain -- and all that comes with a proven method, without the high risk and uncertainty that plagues the traditional business marketplace.
With the iCare concept, we’ve tried extremely hard to keep the upfront costs low and the ramp-up to generating revenue very quick. The franchise fee is $19,900 -- qualified veterans get a 10-percent discount.
Where do you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I look to two people for inspiration in the franchising business. The first is Dave Liniger of RE/MAX -- a disrupter of his day, coming into a well-established real estate market and offering a better solution to realtors. He did a fantastic job on a macro scale around the world in a well-disciplined franchise system.
I also look to Howard Schultz of Starbucks. His never-ending enthusiasm and passion for his business and the people that work with him make it special and possible. I also really appreciate Starbucks' commitment to giving back to society.
In following that example, A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections has led our industry with a pledge that every Canadian home inspection service will have a portion of the proceeds donated to Autism Speaks Canada to assist in supporting research.
What advice do you have for franchisors and others who want to own their own business?
First, remember this: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Another important nugget of advice to keep in mind is to have patience. Entrepreneurs can often be very impatient with the success of their business.
What’s next for you and your business?
It’s exciting to look towards the future and think about where A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections will be next year and how many more franchise partners will be taking advantage of our unique opportunities. The U.S. is our top-growth market, and we're projecting major expansion through 2015.
iCare has exponential growth potential, with an even wider prospect base. There's a phenomenal opportunity for a large number of qualified candidates, for both unit and master franchises. I'm excited to spread the concept and allow people to remain in their own homes as they age instead of considering the high cost of assisted living.