About a year ago, O2E Brands launched its fourth franchised company.
Shack Shine is a home detailing service making the ordinary services of window washing and gutter cleaning exceptional. And while there are many exciting things about adding a new brand (and transforming an industry) there’s a lot of hard work and stress involved, too.
The early stages of startup life require you to invest time, heart, and grit. Cutting the ribbon is the easy part; implementing strong systems, managing expectations, and setting others up for success are the new, harder tasks at hand.
Here’s a story about starting up a new brand, some of the challenges that have come along with it and the lessons learned along the way.
Challenge 1: Putting Two Heads Together
In 2014 I was approached by local entrepreneur, Dave Notte. He had spent a decade building a multi-million-dollar commercial painting business and wanted to try a new venture. He proposed that Shack Shine, a window and gutter cleaning company, join the O2E Brands family. In leveraging its systems, we could create an international brand through franchising.
I was hesitant to go into business with such an established entrepreneur. Author of The Founder’s Dilemma Noam Wasserman says founders feel a great sense of ownership over their “baby” and may be resistant to change.
Since partnering with us, Dave has had to transition from lone-wolf entrepreneur to a collaborative, managing director of a startup. He’s had to adopt O2E Brands’ franchising systems while working to launch a company in a new category (house-detailing).
“Collaboration slows down the decision-making process. Every department at O2E Brands is involved in everything! The end results are better, but it hasn’t been easy going from making quick decisions and acting on them immediately,” Dave says.
From the outset we worked to mitigate any collaboration-related issues through the creation of a strong vision for Shack Shine. Now, should any arise, we go back to this vision, or Painted Picture. It helps us focus on the road ahead – rather than getting bogged down with how to get there.
Challenge 2: Slowly Building Systems
Most problems in business partnershipsarise from the partnership itself, not from operations or external forces. One of the issues we’ve encountered is a combination of both.
“I assumed the systems were dialed, documented, and replicable,” says Dave. “In reality, the launch of Shack Shine was a project that built a system to launch future brands for O2E Brands. Documenting each step was a time-consuming, expensive process.”
Although it was arduous for Dave, I insisted on going slow with Shack Shine. After launchingYou Move Me in 2013, I learned the value of doing the heavy lifting up front: we grew very quickly, launching 25 franchise locations in one day. Just as quickly, we realized that many of our processes and operations needed tweaking (or in some cases total overhauls). Retracing our steps to make up for imperfect systems was an expensive time suck and it curbed our momentum. We’re on track now, but it came at a cost.
Michael Gerber is famous for saying, “people don’t fail, systems do.” With Shack Shine, we’re not building the system for just one business – we are creating a model than can be replicated in over 250 locations. To scale successfully, we had to fine-tune and test our systems before taking the brand public.
The solid systems Dave has created will be worthwhile down the road.
Challenge 3: Risking It All
The fear of failure haunts any new business owner, no matter how many times you’ve done it.
Dave says, “I’m concerned about having a sophomore slump. We’re taking a lot of risks.”
We’re outside of our comfort zone here. For example, our franchise partner recruitment is focused almost exclusively in the digital space – a tactic we haven’t pursued before. Expanding into multiple countries and states comes with red tape, which can be time consuming to navigate. And we’ve created a new category with house detailing, and we are waiting to see how the market reacts.
What encourages me most are Shack Shine’s franchise partners. They are spirited, young entrepreneurs, with their own strong visions for their businesses. Dave is a veteran businessman with excellent instincts, and we have built a solid, well-balanced partnership. And we have experience and proven systems to fall back on, which helps silence those nagging voices of worry.
Life in a startup is a life of contrast: excitement, stress, collaboration, compromise and vision are all part of our day to day. The Shack Shine team is using the momentum of their early wins, both big and small, to propel them into the next stage of business growth. This is sure to bring new stress, anticipation and celebration; we’ll welcome new partnerships, put our strong systems to the test, and continue to navigate this entrepreneurial journey we are all on together.
Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands, which includes companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING,You Move Me and Shack Shine. Brian is passionate about helping others grow small to medium businesses and corporate culture.
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