AireServ — the HVAC franchise opportunity offered through The Dwyer Group of Waco, Tex. — is looking for prospective franchise entrepreneurs who want to take an active role in running the business, not "remote control" owners who never walk in the door.
“We look for their interest, engagement, enthusiasm, and willingness to work hard,” explains Mike Bidwell, CEO and President of The Dwyer Group.
“We require them to be actively involved in the business from day-to-day. They also need to be able to follow a system. Although they are independently owned and operated, we do have a brand, and a franchise system with brand standards.”
The time to complete a franchise agreement with AireServ typically requires from 90 to 120 days. An initial evaluation is followed by a visit to The Dwyer Group’s Waco headquarters.
“We want to be certain they will hold up their part, and ‘fly the flag’ properly,” Bidwell says. “That includes service delivery to customers, delivering a positive experience, and being able to convey the brand properly. We want someone who will participate, not just pay the fees. We want active, engaged participants, who will network with other franchisees and with the headquarters staff.
As an AireServ entrepreneur grows his or her HVAC franchise, AireServ coaches introduce them to advanced tools and mechanisms to help the with all that is transpiring on the front lines. Review and survey mechanisms include NetPromoterScore, a widely-accepted standard of measuring customer satisfaction in a variety of service industries.
We want someone who will participate, not just pay the fees. We want active, engaged participants, who will network with other franchisees and with the headquarters staff. — Mike Bidwell
“It comes down to the ultimate question: ‘Would you recommend this contractor to your friends or family,’ Bidwell explains.
But AireServ encourages innovation, too. We know that a lot of innovation comes from the field. What is important in our business is tat we put out a predictable model for franchisees to follow. It’s a business system template, with predictable outcomes.
“However, no business should remain static,” he continues. “We need to evolve and react to the market, so it’s our job to keep an eye on the front lines, on what’s going on in the marketplace. You have to be very thoughtful about how you go about doing that, and at the same time, you have to be able to deliver a predictable, consistent experience, with good economic performance. We listen to what it is a franchisee wants to do, and decide if it makes sense within our system. We will authorize it and maybe even participate until it gets going. It’s our job to be the ‘gatekeeper,’ to look at what it is they would like to do to expand the brand.”
But for a new franchisee it’s first things first, which means ensuring the franchise is running on all cylinders from Day 1. That’s where the AireServ system comes in to fuel the fire.
“Many [existing business people] don’t have a proven system,” Bidwell reveals. “They haven’t figured out the right formula. They don’t know how to price their services, or what is the proper business mix, or how to monitor customers in a way that’s affordable. It can bring you to your knees if you’re not careful. You need to innovate, but you have to be thoughtful about it.”
Bidwell finds proper pricing to be one of the most challenging aspects of running a successful HVAC enterprise.
“Most independent business people don’t have a sophisticated pricing model. Nobody ever showed them how to price correctly, and they usually react to what their competitors are doing. You need a pricing mechanism and model that is predicated on the service and value you are delivering.”
Bidwell says prospective franshisees are attracted first to the power they see in AireServ as a leading national brand.
“Many people want to associate with a national brand. They also want to sell it some day, and a national brand is easier to sell. We have hundreds of franchisees for some of our brands, so there is indeed brand recognition among technicians.”
He says the franchise training model is also a motivator.
“We provide initial and ongoing training. We cover sales and marketing, recruiting staff retention, pricing and financial analysis, organizational design and operations, and more. I think the cool thing about The Dwyer Group, is that we like to think belonging to our organization is a lifestyle choice as well, so we also include classes about wealth creation, exit strategies, leading a balanced life, and working in the business with your spouse.”
Each AireServ owner is paired with a business coach/consultant.
“They consult with them on the opportunities to improve and grow their business. Also, in that support mechanism is the ability to benchmark their business against other franchisees and against the franchise model,” he says.
AireServ also offers significant buying power through ProTradeNet, which provides price discounts to all 13 of The Dwyer Group’s brands, which totals more than 2,500 franchisees, which adds up to a lot of buying power.
It is to be expected that the home office has an interest in franchise system sales and and service results. Those numbers are tracked through AireServ's business management software program. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are tracked, however this is also obtained via one-on-one consulting.
While the franchise is expected to meet a minimum sales requirement, Bidwell is clear that AireServ expects owners to go beyond a minimum sales number.
"If you have a 10-truck operation, you need a certain level of production out of each truck. If you have a lowest producing technician, if he is materially below the others, you are probably figuring out how to make a change there," he says.
"At the extreme, we can’t have someone purchase an area and sit on it — either not open for a very long period of time or just do the occasional job here and there (this is based on real examples). If we are building a national brand, we need functioning businesses in each market working to build a reasonable business which the franchisee and we can be proud of. If someone is concerned about minimums, we have the wrong person. We do not want to bring that person into our system. As much as anything, the minimums are designed to stimulate a conversation about resale or growth if they are at that place. We absolutely do not want to continue collecting minimum fees from a franchisee," Bidwell adds.
To help them be all they can be as an owner, AireServ provides help that's just a phone call away, as often or as infrequently as needed.
“A franchise consultant may be in touch with a franchisee daily, every few days, weekly or monthly,” Bidwell says. “This really depends on the franchisee’s stage of development and desire for support. It does cycle over time, depending on what the franchise has going on in their business at a given time. But it is always very high contact in the early stage of the relationship, because there is so much information to impart from us to the franchisee. As new initiatives are rolled out, we will also see spikes from that from time to time. For a mature franchisee, it really comes down to their preference from a couple of times a week to once or twice a month."
'It's Their Business'
Office organization is among the best practices and benchmarking AireServ provides. They won't tell a franchisee that he must employ a particular number of employees in the office.
"It's their business, not ours," Bidwell says. "We are there to provide information, coaching and encouragement. We are not there to run their business."
Technical Training Through the Trade
The entirety of AireServ's training is in business management topics. Technical training has to be obtained through other vocational channels.
"If we are rolling out a new service or system, we will organize manufacturer- or supplier-provided training. Other than that, we spend our time training on the business side of the business. They typically don’t need help on how to install a water heater or change our a compressor. It is usually the business side of the business where they get tripped up," he says.