In 2011, Rhode Island franchise veteran, Don Lapierre, started to think about how he would enjoy his later years of life. Would it be in his Florida home on the golf course or perhaps on the seat of his motorcycle touring the globe? Either way, it was now time to think about retirement, and who would take over his current business. Having built a successful Mr. Rooter® operation, he needed a team that could take over the business, keep it flourishing and continue to help it grow. Those that know Don realize this was a difficult task. He was very hands-on in every aspect of his business. But his experience taught him that partners should play off of each other’s strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses.
To this end, his first choice to take over the business was his son Brian. Brian had many years of experience in the technical aspect of the business that was broken only by a stint in the military with an honorable discharge. He had great product knowledge and sales expertise. This seemed like the natural choice, but Don knew he needed another component – Steve O’Donnell.
Steve had worked with Lapierre for years. The deep relationship he built with Lapierre was grounded in trust and integrity, much like Don’s relationship with Brian. Because of this, the potential for this duo was unlimited. Thus it began. In 2011 the two new owners created a positive impact on sales and in staff development. Because of their efforts Don received the Franchise of the Year award for the second time in his Mr. Rooter career.
In 2012, a new era began. Steve and Brian took over the business and continued their solid growth. “We will only be as successful as our staff is. Building the quality we aspire to is our top commitment and the key to future growth,” Brian said. Steve and Brian’s diverse management styles suited the team well, and though there were a few tough moments and some readjustments, the business achieved steady progress.
As the year continued, their sales and the team continued to grow in the middle of the so-called “great recession.” By 2013, they had nine trucks, big Isuzu box vans, and a talented pool of licensed plumbers. Rhode Island is a small state with very high unemployment and welfare rates. Yet still the business grew by utilizing a careful combination of training and sharing among the team, increasing standards and raising customer satisfaction.
Both of the partners played a unique role in the business that contributed to the team’s success. Steve took a role in marketing and excelled. There were local TV and radio stations, direct mail and generous volunteer work for Ronald McDonald House® Charities and local children’s hospitals.
During this stage, Steve found time to do a significant amount of mentoring for fellow franchisees. He traveled to South Carolina to assist a struggling franchisee due to a request from his franchise consultant.
Finally in 2014, this team is firmly rooted in their business. They built a brand new office that will allow for future growth and gives the employees a great place to work. They held an area SWAT ( Mr. Rootertraining day) where Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporate, would run the training. “We love to show our team that we are a well-run franchise that believes in the system and demands the standards that the system calls for, and it’s always great to have the President of Mr. Rooter teach in our shop,” said Steve.
So where will this current year take them? They’ve added another truck to their fleet, set a higher sales goal, developed a new sales team of their top closers, hired new licensed technicians and drain cleaners, and Steve was elected to represent his region on the Mr. Rooter Advisory Council.
As a result of customer demand, they developed a day and night shift with a larger after-5 p.m. presence. Talk about responding to the market’s needs! Many of their changes replaced older policies with new approaches, such as parts inventory and control, which reduced their costs significantly. Cash flow is watched carefully, and they review profit and loss items with their Franchise Consultant on a regular basis.
Next up is a restructure of the pay plan for technicians that will reward them on sales performance rather than just holding a license. “Fill the pot with riches for the team, and it will flow on to solid profits,” Brian said.
Do you have a plan in place to protect your business when it’s time for you to retire? If you’re like Don, you’ve been grooming the right people to take your place for years, but if you’re still wondering about those next steps, give Mr. Rooter a call so they can help you get started on the right path.