Franchisee Found Submarine Job Added Value to Business Life
Alabama-native Steve Tucker learned lessons and skills while serving as a submarine sonar technician in the late 1970s that helped guide the course of a long and varied business career.
To earn your Dolphins, your insignia as a Navy submariner, you have to demonstrate knowledge of damage control and contingency planning, Tucker said. Learning damage control teaches you to distinguish between what’s simply important and what’s urgent, and contingency planning teaches you to anticipate the “what ifs,” he said.
“Being a sonar technician, you are taught to track multiple targets at the same time. That conditions you to be able to multi-task,” Tucker said. Unlike in a large hierarchical company, in a small, growing business you have to be more flexible. “You wear a lot more hats,” he said.
Tucker is the managing partner of Enviro-Master Services of Atlanta Inc., a franchise holder of Enviro-Master Services Inc. , a national franchisor based in Charlotte, N.C. The 58-year-old had broad business experience before taking on the Enviro-Master Franchise. Since leaving the Navy, he has worked in automotive, tobacco, waste management and consulting businesses.
“This is my fifth company to build,” Tucker said.
Enviro-Master describes itself as a hygiene company that works to bolster a client’s existing janitorial services.
“Every one of our customers has someone who maintains their restrooms on a daily basis,” Tucker said. “We don’t replace that function. We do some things they can’t do or won’t do … giving them a substantially heightened hygienic outcome.”
Enviro-Master technicians perform a weekly deep-cleaning and disinfection of a restroom and its fixtures, removing all soils that can harbor bacteria and viruses. They then use an electrostatic sprayer to coat the room and all its fixtures with a germicidal spray capable of killing any pathogens for seven to nine days.
“Our mission is to become the company that people call for help with their restrooms,” Tucker said.
Enviro-Master was included last year in Inc. Magazine’s annual Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest growing private, independent companies. It ranked 1404 with a three-year growth rate of 272 percent based on royalties received from franchise holders.
Pat Swisher, CEO and founder of the parent franchisor, said he did not know how many of the holders of Enviro-Master franchises are military veterans like Tucker, but he said the company offers a 25 percent discount to veterans applying for franchises. The company has more than 70 franchise holders around the country and plans to fill out the national footprint with 25 to 30 more franchise territories, which are currently being offered.
Tucker said the West Atlanta Enviro-Master franchise is his first franchise business. Before choosing Enviro-Master, Tucker said he looked at other franchise opportunities including spa and salon, fast-food, printing and auto-repair businesses.
“Franchising offers you some specific opportunities that you don’t have when you start from scratch,” Tucker said. “There’s already a proven business model and marketing and infrastructure support. The ability to leverage large-group purchasing gives some advantage in terms of product and supply.”
Tucker chose the Enviro-Master franchise over other opportunities for a variety of reasons.
For one, it’s a niche business that serves a potentially broad market, he said.
“You’ve got a lot of prospects and not a lot of competition.”
He also liked the way the company’s services are bundled and its recurring revenue model. The company provides its services and generates revenue 52 weeks a year and offers additional services that can produce income monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, he said. Also attractive was the company’s competitively priced line of restroom supplies, such as hand towels, toilet tissue, hand sanitizer and more.
The social value of the disease prevention aspect of the business appealed to him as well, Tucker said.
Tucker had a lawyer review the franchise agreement and other documents before making a final decision. The enterprise was self-financed. Tucker has a couple of investment partners, Christopher Russell, another Navy veteran, and Russell’s wife Karen, who works at the company.
Starting out requires a “pretty good size bucket of cash” and a lot of motivation, Tucker said. Depending on the size of the territory, getting started typically requires between $200,000 to $300,000, which includes the franchise fee and 12 months of operating capital.
Tucker started the business in March 2014 and currently has nine employees. The company’s territory includes West Atlanta and its suburbs, an area that includes all or part of 27 counties, stretching from Rome, Ga., to LaGrange, near the Alabama state line.
Restaurants are a big part of his business, Tucker said, but also auto dealers, private schools and daycare centers, gyms and fitness centers, warehousing and distribution businesses, manufacturing and retail establishments. Any business, in other words, with public restrooms and a lot of foot traffic is a potential client.
The parent company in Charlotte has established a vendor relationship with larger regional or national customers and obtained the necessary approvals for regional franchise holders to service them.
“We share the same customer base with everybody,” Enviro-Master CEO Swisher said. “There’s no guarantee. You still have to sell, but we’ve removed the barriers for [a franchisee] to do so.”
Because big customers can view Enviro-Master as a national enterprise, the company does a little more due-diligence with franchise prospects than average.
Swisher said he sends prospects into the field with company employees for a month so they can decide if the job is right for them. “We want to make sure they have the drive and background and desire to build a large organization, not just buy a job,” he said. He describes Enviro-Master as a “white collar” franchise and points to 85 percent of franchisees who hold MBA degrees as proof of that.
At his franchise, Tucker’s greatest challenges have included finding good employees. “You can’t teach somebody to have a good attitude,” Tucker said. “People either have integrity or they don’t have integrity and a good work ethic.”
He said he tries to hire good people and then teach them the job. At first finding good workers was tough but as the company grew it became easier.
“You find your best people through your best people,” he said.