Tim McCullen has his own little window on the world. As the 36-year-old founder of Morrisville, North Carolina-based Window Gang, he's watched his franchise's units nearly double in each of the past three years. The window cleaning franchise jumped from 22 locations in 1998, to 43 in 1999 and then to 81 in 2000. McCullen recently spoke with us about how he's kept the company's original spirit intact during this rapid expansion.
Franchise Zone: What's changed since you first began running your business?
Tim McCullen: When I first started franchising, we were still running a service company. We were operating a local franchise-actually about five of them in a metropolitan area. I was frazzled. I was running a Window Gang service company and also trying to help my franchisees. After about two years of that, I realized I couldn't do both. I ended up selling all but one franchise location. Now [the main] office focuses on helping our franchisees. Our focus is not on each individual customer but on helping franchisees with all their requests and endeavors. I got to move to the coast, so that was even better, too.
FZ: How did you maintain a small-business atmosphere as you grew?
McCullen: We were window cleaners before we became franchisors. We had a relaxed atmosphere. We had a dog policy. We didn't mind stereos and that kind of stuff. And we've kept it the same way: open offices, relaxed atmosphere. Everybody knows his or her title and job description, but if somebody calls in sick, the circus continues, so you take over that person's job. Everybody knows how to do everybody else's job here. That made it seem smaller, like a mom-and-pop operation.
FZ: What aspects of the business have stayed the same during the growth?
McCullen: Even though we're a lot larger than we used to be, [our quality] is still great across the board. We put in a lot of steps to make sure the quality of our work stayed the same.
FZ: How has your growth changed the company?
McCullen: I don't know my franchisees as well as I used to because they're coming on board so fast now. We don't really know them as well as we did the first franchisees. That's the only change: getting used to somebody you don't know as well.
FZ: What's the secret to expanding a business quickly without losing its original feel?
McCullen: We never really tried to expand our business that quickly-it just came to us. We pick and choose now, where maybe the first year in business, a lot of people would have looked good to us [just] because they wanted to franchise. Now our interviewing process is a lot different. We want to make sure the potential franchisee fits right because we don't want to go into a market with the wrong person and then have it flounder on us. Then we'd have to pick it back up with somebody else. We're a lot more cautious about that. It's helped us grow moderately so we're not growing too fast, and [so we're] making sure we've got the right people in there.
FZ: What advice would you give to other business owners looking to expand?
McCullen: Expand slowly. Make sure you can service what you've got. We felt like we expanded too quickly, and it caused us a lot of stress because we weren't prepared for such expansion at the time. [If you decide to] expand quickly, have your infrastructure in place before you're all guns out there.