Bill Wolf says DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen helped him grow his remodeling business and solidify his retirement plan
With a long history in the remodeling business and having owned his own remodeling company, Bill Wolf knows a thing or two about the industry. Factor in his long experience in youth ministries both here and abroad, and it is safe to say Bill knows a thing or two about serving others as well. This combination of life experience proved to be the perfect match for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen. As a late starter in business, Bill needed something to grow his small remodeling business into a solid retirement plan.
This is his story.
What made you choose DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen?
There are a lot of reasons why I chose DreamMaker. I started rather late in life with my previous remodeling business, and when I projected out where I was going to be at retirement, I realized it was not going to be enough. I needed something more. So, DreamMaker offers good margins and teaches you how to make proper money. In my case, I bought a showroom and building. So, when I’m done with this whole process, I’m going to have a building and a developed franchise that will have value. Also I will have produced a good company that is system-driven and therefore marketable. And so, when I decide to retire, I’m going to have two or three times the money that I would have had without DreamMaker, because of the building and because of the franchise as a part of my retirement plan. That’s a main benefit that went into my decision-making process.
What were you doing before joining DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen?
Well, I had started my own general remodeling business back in 1998, and we were doing pretty well. We were evaluating what jobs we did best and which ones we wanted to continue to do going forward, and we decided kitchens and baths were among the areas we did well and wanted to keep doing. About that time, we got a call from a DreamMaker recruiter, who told us they were looking for people in my area to do a franchise in kitchens and bathrooms. So, it fit exactly what I was looking for. I was curious. After a few conversations, I had the chance to go out to Las Vegas to the company’s annual Reunion and see what it was all about. I was very impressed with what DreamMaker was claiming and what its leaders said they could do for us.
What do you like about the company now that you’ve been in it for 14 years?
One thing I like about DreamMaker is it helps you understand the business side of remodeling. Many people are experts in carpentry or actually doing the remodeling itself, but what about the business? The marketing, the numbers, the profit margins, the customer service, hiring and firing, all those different aspects of business. I’d had no training in or support for that at all. So DreamMaker came along and had some ideas and systems in place that were highly appropriate for a business like ours.
Talk to us about how DreamMaker listens to its partners and the communication between franchisees.
We do have a great network of communication, I think. When I first started with DreamMaker, there were four franchises in Michigan, and we met quarterly at each other’s property and just spontaneously tried to help each other. Then they started what’s called the Next Level Program in which 10 franchisees would be involved in going to different locations, analyzing each person’s business. So, through these intimate and intensive evaluations and visits, we got to know each other quite well over the years. Every time we go to a Reunion, it’s like meeting old friends. We’re not competitors; we’re friends. We help each other. So that’s one thing that helps communication. Another thing is we all have coaches. We have a very stable coaching program in DreamMaker. The coaches will talk to us about goals, the latest innovations within DreamMaker and some of the things (President) Doug Dwyer is thinking about. They also will take feedback from us to Doug as well. So, there are several levels of communication that have enhanced the ability for us be real team entrepreneurs.
What makes DreamMaker special or unique in the remodeling world?
We have an extensive customer service feedback system that starts right at the beginning. We have pre-construction meetings, so clients can have input before their job starts. We have a complete checklist of things we go through to make sure we’re going to be following through in everything related to their project. For example, are there any pets we have to watch out for? What door are we going to come in? Where are we going to do our cutting? What are we going to do about keys and entry systems? What kind of security do they have? We have a complete list of things we go through to make sure that when we start that project, there’s a total comfort level with that homeowner.
So, extensive systems are in place for how that customer service is delivered?
Right. And how quality is delivered, and how integrity is followed through on. Then, of course, we have our Code of Values™. When people hear that we actually read those on a weekly basis, it’s a real selling point that DreamMaker has that integrity and that we really care about our clients.
How do you help clients determine the best choices for their remodel?
Well, everybody says they listen to their customers, but what does it mean to listen? Active listening is much more than listening to a random idea; it’s probing and really wanting to know what people are looking for, what problem they’re looking for us to solve. They might say a major issue might be the kitchen is way too dark, or it’s not efficient and they keep running across the kitchen for certain supplies. So, our first goal is not necessarily to create beautiful kitchens. Our first goal is listening for what kind of functionality they’re looking for, and what maybe is the most important issue to them in their kitchen. Oftentimes, the first thing people say is not the most important thing they want to solve. It’s the second or third thing they finally feel comfortable enough to say. So we have to keep that in mind as well. Listening is the art of probing to find out what people are really thinking.
Can you give us an example of a time when you were able to dig down to what the client really wanted in their remodel?
The one that comes to mind was when a client came to us and said their stove wasn't working. It really wasn’t working, but $580,000 later, we had remodeled their whole house. It was like that little thing, their stove not working, opened the door to a lot of things that they really wanted to have done so their entire family experience was up to the par that they wanted it to be. And that was because we really listened. The client might say “I want to remodel my whole kitchen. I hate this kitchen!” Then we go in there and maybe all we really need to do is change out the knobs and the countertops because everything else is in good shape. So, we really try to listen for the best way to solve the problem. It doesn't always mean more money.
Do you have any favorite projects that you’ve done recently?
Well, they are all unique. Everything from putting a half doorway over the staircase so that the husband won’t fall down the stairs to expanding a kitchen by combining two rooms to create a bigger area for the family. Recently, we did a kitchen for someone who had a dog they wanted to keep out of the kitchen. They wanted a doggie door built into the cabinets that they could slide back and forth in such a way that nobody could see it. Initially we thought that maybe this lady was asking for the impossible, but then we saw that it was a need and said, “Let’s try to figure it out.” So, little by little, by discussing things and taking the client's wishes seriously, we created a pocket door in a cabinet that slides out so smoothly and beautifully that we said, “Hey, now we’ve become experts in doggie doors!” And that’s an example of a unique project in the context of a much bigger project that made the homeowner very, very happy.
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