Born and raised in Lapeer, Michigan, Craig Merrills grew up in a small rural community with a love for baseball and just about any sport. In 1986 Merrills ventured to Washington DC to attend the University of Maryland where he studied Agricultural Economics. Working in various restaurants while putting himself through school, he enjoyed the lively environment the food industry offered.
Upon graduating in 1991 Merrills found himself interested in stocks, commodities and trading, so decided to pursue a career as a stockbroker. Taking the General Securities Representative Exam (also referred to as the Series 7), Merrills earned his license to be a professional broker-dealer. Soon after, the opportunity to own his own restaurant arose and with his experience in the food service industry, this seemed like the right road to pursue.
In 2009, Merrills joined the DC Chapter of The Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), a global business network which today consists of over 9,500 business owners in 131 chapters and 40 countries. EO enables small and large business owners to learn best practices from each other. This is where Merrills would eventually discover fellow entrepreneur, Brian Scudamore’s successful and innovative businesses.
One day while scrolling through his emails Merrills learned of Scudamore’s second business, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING. Familiar with the success of Scudamore’s international junk removal business, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Merrills became intrigued by the innovative painting company that promised to complete the job in just one day. Receiving a LinkedIn message from Scudamore regarding the new painting company, he then began researching franchise opportunities.
“The more I learned about the company the more I liked it and became intensely interested in what they had to offer,” Merrills says, adding, “I was looking for a reason why the company could not to be right for me, but everything I found, I loved.”
Merrills contacted the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise sales team and soon after received a phone call inviting he and his wife Patricia to visit the company’s Vancouver headquarters. Here the couple would learn more about what the company had to offer.
Meeting with the entire corporate team, Merrills and Patricia quickly fell in love with the brand. “I loved the culture of the company and knew the same winning traits of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? were instilled in the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING brand,” Merrills says. “Not only is Scudamore’s team known for being good to their business partners and employees, but they keep the customer’s interests in line with the company’s.”
When he applied to purchase a franchise Merrills was unsure whether the company would approve of him due to his lack of painting experience. Nonetheless WOW 1 DAY PAINTING welcomed him with open arms.
After filling out the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and signing the paperwork Merrills began the weeklong training program where he learned about the company’s mission, culture, marketing, sales, estimating, operations, and service systems. “The training program was amazing. I didn’t know anything about painting when I went into it and that scared me a bit,” Merrills says. “The process was surprisingly simple and after spending the week with the Director of Field Operations, I came out of there ready to move forward with a lot of confidence.” Once he’d learned how to run the franchise – everything from licensing to registering a business to securing the required tools and equipment – Merrills’ next step was to host his own interviews and put together his painting crew. Merrills purchased the Washington DC territory in December 2012 and by February 2013 he had completed his first job.
For Merrills, one of the biggest benefits of being a WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partner is being a part of a company that truly cares about the customer. “I know we won’t give our customers anything but excellent service,” he says, adding that the high-quality product they use and the fact that the job is done in one day are unique selling points. “The details we take care of right down to the last gesture of dropping off flowers and a card at the end of each job are what makes the difference,” Merrills says. “It’s the details that set us apart from everyone else.”
Ensuring his painting team is always dressed in the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING uniform and that the company van is always clean are some of the most important aspects of being a WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partner. “Ensuring that the brand is never compromised is crucial. The key to our success and future successes is holding ourselves accountable to the same core values company-wide,” he says.
Another benefit of being a WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partner is the support provided by the franchisor. “I could have never figured this out in a month or two on my own, but with someone coaching you and teaching you, not only how to be a painter, but also how to go out and sell the business, it’s amazing,” he says, adding that the recognizable brand name and unique company concept are also benefits of the business. “We have something no one else can offer, all we have to do is let people know what we do and what we’re about and our brand reputation takes care of the rest,” he says. WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partners also benefit from incredible pricing with paint vendors because of their buying power and brand presence.
The ongoing support available to WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partners is second to none. “There is nothing I can’t get an answer to within a couple of hours. Whether I need help with an estimate or guidance on how to use the QuickBooks software, the corporate team takes the time needed help out,” Merrills says, adding that there is no problem one of the company’s experts can’t assist on. “One of the highlights of the company’s program is that since we’re constantly learning new skills the training is ongoing,” he says. A call-center team that takes all customer calls, a top-notch marketing and public relations team, and excellent business coaches also support franchise partners. “In every facet of the business the staff is passionate about the franchise partner’s success,” he adds.
Since joining the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING team Merrills says his life has been hectic but the utmost enjoyable. “Any time you’re starting a new business it’s going to be time-consuming and to be successful you’re going to have to put in a lot of work. The difference with this company is that it’s not that I can’t get myself away from it, it’s that I have to remind myself to get away from it so I can spend time with my family,” he laughs. “This past year has been full of long hours but it’s all been fun and I really enjoy every aspect of the business.”
For Merrills the most rewarding aspect of the job is dealing with happy customers. “There is nothing better than going to see a customer who’s amazed at the work my team has done. When a customer sees the transformation we have made possible and loves what we have done, I never get tired of it,” he says. Another honorary achievement for Merrills was being recognized at the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING annual conference by Scudamore and the executive team for his hard work and exceptional franchise. “It’s the little things, and the fact that they took the time to recognize me and my ongoing efforts as a new franchise partner that meant a lot to me,” he says. On the other hand, the most challenging incident since purchasing his franchise has been either not having enough workers, or having too much work; an issue some would call a good problem to have.
To those interested in joining the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING team Merrills has nothing but great things to say, but advises to not go cheap on the marketing. “If you want to perform well in your first year make sure to invest well. Sometimes it hurts taking your profits and putting them back into your business, but it’s your lifeline and at the end of the day it’s what is going to make a difference,” he says. While WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise partners are required to contribute two percent to the company’s advertising campaign, Merrills says it’s all worth it and that the marketing team works hard to achieve the best results. “We have a person dedicated to all our SEO and landing pages, it really is a turn key business.” Investing additional funds into sites such as Google, Angie’s List, and Yelp!, or distributing door hangers and flyers to neighboring communities are all powerful ways to attack the local market, but by pushing all of these initiatives together is what has created his well rounded marketing plan.
While the future looks bright for Merrills’ WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise his next big step is to expand into new markets. Currently employing eight full time and four part time painters, Merrills is planning to buy more territory and add another van and crew this spring. “I believe I can run a really nice business and profit around 50,000 a year, but my goal is to run a five million dollar painting company and to get there I need to constantly be pushing the brand,” he says. Merrills plans to hire an operations manager to help him achieve his expansion goals. An operations manager will be responsible for business development, quality control, and implementing the WOW 1 DAY PAINTING values into the local market.
When Merrills isn’t busy running a top notch painting company, his two favorite activities are playing golf and water sports. With a vacation home near Smith Mountain Lake he enjoys spending time there with Patricia and their six-year-old daughter, Elena. At the end of the day being able to bring something new to an age-old industry has been extremely rewarding for Merrills. “I love having control over my fate and business. WOW 1 DAY PAINTING has had a very positive impact on my life and I’m excited for the future,” he says.
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