Remodeling franchise DreamMaker gave Steve Miller tools, resources to boost profits
How can a DreamMaker remodeling franchise help transform an existing remodeling business? Ask Steve Miller of Mansfield, OH. Steve started his remodeling firm, Litehouse Renovations, in 2000 and discovered DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen while flipping through a remodeling magazine in 2007.
“I’m a Christian and I thought, ‘I’d love to be part of a bigger effort,’ but I was worried I might have to compromise my faith or values, and I was reluctant to call. When I did, and I discovered that DreamMaker shares my values, I was very excited.”
Steve, who is married with five children, is passionate about using his remodeling skills to improve the lives of his customers. At DreamMaker, he encountered a similar passion, directed not only toward enhancing the lives of customers, but enhancing the lives and businesses of remodelers, too.
“I’ll illustrate it this way: Before DreamMaker, I ran my business more like an old-school carpenter, with everything done by hand,” he says. “I was like a guy with a toolbox full of hand tools. With DreamMaker, I’m the same carpenter, but now I have a whole garage full of power tools. That’s how I feel about my business. There are so many tools within the DreamMaker system — so many things that have helped the way I do business. It has transformed me from a company that was barely operating paycheck to paycheck, to now being a company with profitability. It’s only been two years, and I already see a very big difference in the profitability of the company.
“I knew how to do the work, but I wasn’t strong on the business side of things. DreamMaker, for me as an individual, was the part that was missing.”
Q&A with DreamMaker of Central Ohio owner Steve Miller
What were you doing before DreamMaker?
I worked for a lumber company for a number of years before starting to work in remodeling. After about seven years, I decided to start my own remodeling business. Remodeling is what the Lord led me to — it’s a passion of mine. For me, the before-and-after aspect of remodeling is incredibly gratifying — going into someone’s home and going through the process of seeing what they have, talking about what they want, accomplishing it, and then taking a fresh look at their home before I leave to see the transformation we were able to achieve. In my opinion, that’s the exciting stuff. I also love being around people and building relationships. Before I owned my own business, I worked as a subcontractor and didn’t get the fulfillment that I now get by working directly with homeowners.
How was the process of joining DreamMaker?
I made my first call to them in January 2007, and it immediately felt like a really good fit — the character and integrity, and what they were looking for in franchisees, all impressed me. I also liked DreamMaker’s focus on baths and kitchens. I really enjoyed that part of remodeling, and I was curious how they could help me grow, be more organized, efficient and profitable.
It was a long courtship — I didn’t start with DreamMaker until 2011 — but a lot of that was my lack of time to put into pursuing information about the franchise. And they were great — we stayed in contact, but they weren’t aggressive. They wanted me to move at my pace, and that impressed me, too. If I had felt pressure to join, I would have disappeared, because I’m really sensitive to high-pressure tactics. It was four years before the timing was right.
How has DreamMaker helped you?
There are a lot of tools in the system provided by the corporate team, but one of the biggest benefits is being able to pick other people’s thoughts within DreamMaker. I can pick up the phone and talk to anyone. Everybody in my old network of remodelers was very tight-lipped about what was working and what wasn’t, but thanks to the network of franchisees, I have people all over the country to ask for advice, and we’re able to help one another out. It’s not like you are competitors just down the street. We also have webinars to discuss best practices, not just from research and theories, but from real-world examples.
What about the leadership and support staff at DreamMaker?
I have not been disappointed. It’s a great corporate team. There are business coaches that are involved in coaching franchisees monthly, and there is so much experience within the corporate staff that nothing I can ask is going to blindside them. As far as I’m concerned, from the top down, they are high-quality individuals — and not just in terms of skills. Ultimately, it’s important to me to work with people of high character. The moral and ethical stuff is important.
How have the systems helped you?
DreamMaker has a plan for how to help you grow your business. Before the recession, when I was trying to grow Litehouse, I really didn’t know how to gauge the return I was getting. For instance, in 2006 I hired a salesperson, and it turned out to be a total flop, but it took me 14 months to figure that out, and it was devastating to my bottom line. DreamMaker gives me tools that allow me to run the numbers as I go, see what is working and what isn’t, and make adjustments to make sure we’re successful. There are benchmarks in place, so I’m not going to be caught off-guard at the end of the year. It reduces my risk. I’m excited to be able to manage my business from financial reports rather than by the seat of my pants. I scaled my business back a lot during the recession, but recently started to hire again. Now, I have an employee who is a design consultant and takes care of my Design Center, and bringing him on board was a stepping stone to more growth. I’ll be able to tell quickly if he’s not producing, and that’s a big, big deal. As we increase volume, I’ll hire more lead carpenters and be able to spend more time in the office.
Why not develop your own systems?
Even for someone who is really tech-oriented or has strong business skills, it would take a lot of years to put together a system and approach that was anywhere close to what we have — from the estimating templates to systems for hiring good people… It would take a lot of years to put it together, if you could even do it.
What sets DreamMaker apart from a customer perspective?
We have a systematic approach to doing the job, and that makes it a lot less of a hassle potentially for the customer. We are a one-stop shop — we can handle all aspects of the remodel, so the homeowner doesn’t have to call a lot of different people in. There’s a lot of conveniences there. Most of my clients are also very impressed by our Code of Values, and the fact that we have a system that we adhere to and are held accountable to.
What kind of business are you getting?
For a while, we were definitely doing more bathrooms than kitchens. I think that people were looking to do projects that weren’t quite as expensive, and kitchens are usually a higher priced remodeling project. In the last several months, though, I have seen a trend toward kitchens again, and I definitely have a lot more kitchen remodels in my sales pipeline. That’s proof that the economy is getting stronger. Everybody I talk to at DreamMaker is getting busier — there’s been a real uptick.
How has DreamMaker affected the way you work?
A big draw for me joining DreamMaker was to have a business that did not entirely rely on me personally. I want to work, but I don’t want to have to work constantly — I want to be able to put in 40 to 50 hours a week. The last 10 years have been a lot more 70-hour weeks, and I was on the verge of burnout before I joined DreamMaker and started using its systems. And I know that working 70- to 80-hour weeks is pretty typical for an independent remodeler. I would be on job sites for 40-50 hours a week, be out on Saturdays giving estimates and doing sales, working until midnight on paperwork and up at 5 a.m. to do it all again.
DreamMaker has helped me reposition my business so that I can improve my lead flow and productivity. I had dug myself into a financial hole before joining DreamMaker, and they have helped me as I dug my way out to where I have more room to maneuver. Now that I understand how to manage from the books, and know how to handle expansion, I can see that a year from now there should be a drastic difference in the number of hours I need to put in to be successful. As volume increases and I am able to add a staff member or two, it will make the business much more manageable.
Learn more about DreamMaker
DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen helps franchise partners stand out by offering savvy, proven marketing plans and tools, excellent systems for operating your business, and a wealth of support to help you grow. To learn more about the remodeling industry, and why we are excited about the growth potential for our franchisees, visit our research pages. To learn even more, fill out a form to download our free franchise report and start a conversation. We look forward to talking with you!