DreamMaker remodeling franchise owner Curt Trampe is opening a bigger showroom in Springfield, Illinois
Curt Trampe is a very busy man. His DreamMaker remodeling franchise has been growing fast — almost doubling in the past two years. Because of the strong demand for DreamMaker services, he is also in the midst of moving his business into a new location on a high-traffic street in Springfield, Illinois.
It’s a big investment, but he expects it to pay off in a big way.
“I expect to see my company double in a couple of years,” at the new location, he says. The building that he purchased, at 3730 West Wabash Ave., has 5,800 square feet of space spread across two buildings. It’s about twice the size of his current showroom and office.
How is Curt building such a strong remodeling business? This is his story.
What were you doing before DreamMaker?
I had owned a handyman company that also did well for about seven years, and we were kind of typical in that we were trying to be all things to all people. We had a lot of success and had built it to a midsize company, but I was interested in focusing more on kitchens and baths. One of my peers in the remodeling business, Shawn McCadden, was writing for Remodeling magazine and doing consulting work, and he went to work for DreamMaker’s corporate office. He and I kept in touch, and Shawn encouraged me to look at DreamMaker’s business model — he said he thought it might help me achieve my goals more quickly. I really liked the DreamMaker business model. Some of my clients sat me down when they heard that I was thinking of joining a franchise and said: “You’re nuts! What are you doing? Why would you give a part of your revenue to someone else?” But there were a lot of advantages. I rolled my old business into my new DreamMaker franchise in 2006.
What was it like making the transition?
It was tough to adjust the way I had been doing things and learn new systems, so it was painful for a year or so. There was a ton of change, but it made us a stronger company. You know, when the recession hit and sales dried up, revenue went down and we had to pare back our staffing from about 10 employees to half of that. But using DreamMaker’s systems, as soon as the market started to come back, we were able to get our revenue back with the smaller staff. Now, we’re back up to about 10 people, but we are doing twice as much revenue as before. I think that speaks highly of what you can accomplish using DreamMaker’s systems and resources.
What do you like about being part of DreamMaker?
I certainly like what it has done in changing our business model. It helps us sell much more efficiently, and I’m able to have a much larger business without as many headaches. It’s definitely been a good thing. The best thing is the other franchise owners — just that network of people. It’s huge.
What do you value in those relationships?
The cool thing is since they are following the same systems, it’s really easy to take your business and lay it next to their business and do comparisons and see how they are doing things differently and sometimes getting better numbers. It fosters relationships by making it easy to mentor and share ideas.
What sets DreamMaker apart?
Clients can be so overwhelmed with remodeling and all the decisions that have to be made — especially in the kitchen and bath world. With a typical kitchen and bath store, and especially at big hardware chains, you go in and they sell you cabinets and countertops and may give you a design, then they give you a list of contractors to call to figure out installation. Unfortunately there is often a lot of miscommunication between the design team and production team, and that makes the process difficult, confusing and stressful for the homeowner. When you can bring design and production together in one package for people, that is huge.
What qualities should a DreamMaker franchisee have?
The willingness to work hard is really important. That, and being willing to learn. One of my current favorite shows is “The Profit,” which is about an entrepreneur who comes in and analyzes businesses and helps people make changes. Every single time, if someone has a huge ego, it means there is a train wreck in that business. It is very important to be humble and listen, and to allow others to be successful and do things better than you can. You must be willing to learn how you can do things differently that are better for your business.
Is there a lot of growth opportunity in the remodeling industry?
I think so. I’m betting on it! I expect to see my company double in a couple of years. My biggest challenge at the moment is trying to be conscious of how I am spending time and balancing time, especially with my family. My wife, Debbie, is a huge supporter and understands we are in a season of growth, especially while the new showroom is being built. But it is a constant struggle to make sure you are investing in what’s most important to you — my wife and our three kids.
About four years ago, you received some advice that might surprise people who think that franchises are only interested in money. Would you share that story?
We had a Next Level Group visit us in Springfield about four years ago. The Next Level Groups bring together several franchisees to examine a business, with guidance from DreamMaker’s corporate team. They analyze the business and make suggestions. And one of the things they said was to enjoy this time with my family. What we came away from that experience was the realization that we didn’t want to go after growth for a while. Our sales were already close to a million dollars, we had good profitability and our kids were just starting high school. We knew we would not have much time left with them, and we wanted to make ourselves as available as possible. So we strategically said we are not going to go after growth. We stayed steady for about two years, then 2013 came and we had significant growth. We weren’t necessarily going after it — it just flowed our way.
What do you like about your customers and the work you do in their homes?
I really enjoy working with people — collaborating with people. I am not a high-end, highfalutin’ designer. I think I have some good ideas, but it is more about helping people work through what’s important to them, giving them some options and seeing what they like.
I like seeing how my work can impact people’s lives, and that’s not necessarily defined by the size of the project. We have done some very modest kitchens that have been total game-changers for customers. We have done projects for handicapped individuals, people with accessibility issues — and it’s awfully rewarding when you can substantially change the quality of life for someone or their caregiver.
How does DreamMaker help you stand out?
DreamMaker offers a deep understanding of business systems and business development, which helps you build a healthy business. And the Code of Values is huge. Being able to verbalize those values — especially with your team — is great for creating the culture you want, a culture of service to our clients.
What do you appreciate most about the leadership and support staff at DreamMaker?
We have a great support staff in Waco. They are very willing to help, and it’s a relationship that franchisees should leverage. Corporate coaching and help with managing troubling situations are very valuable, and it’s one of the things your royalties pay for. Other franchisees are a huge resource, too, for advice.
How important is previous remodeling experience?
I don’t think you have to have 10 years of experience in the industry, but it is important to know some basics about how things go together. Somebody who enjoys doing projects around their home, or who grew up in a family business where their dad or an uncle was a homebuilder; they can do well. You don’t have to be a master carpenter, but it helps to have an understanding of how the pieces all fit.
What led you into remodeling?
I have always wanted to be in business for myself. I grew up working with my dad around the house and have always enjoyed working with my hands. After graduating from college with a degree in exercise physiology, I wound up working in a family business that did exterior siding company, roofing, gutters. It turned out that remodeling was it for me.
How has franchise ownership changed the way you live and work?
I think with the profitability of our company, I have certainly achieved financial goals quicker than what I would have thought, so that has been great. Financially, it has been pretty significant for us, being able to send kids to school and be able to have them get a college education without any debt, and be able to have a sound financial game plan as far as retirement goes. I enjoy what I do. Quality of life is important to us. I don’t have to take lots of trips and cruises. I enjoy working, and the other thing that has been fun to see is seeing employees be able to step into new roles and develop themselves and see them be able to do some things better than I did. It’s exciting to provide that opportunity to others. We also have financial goals in terms of giving, and DreamMaker has given us the financial resources to support several ministries.
Learn about the DreamMaker franchise opportunity
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