Meet 1-800 WATER DAMAGE Franchise Owners Lisa and Fred Arthur
This husband-and-wife team begin writing the next chapter in their lives.
About 10 years ago, Fred Arthur was turning 50 and getting tired of life in corporate America. So, he sat down with his wife Lisa and they began talking about going into business for themselves. Not long after, the two became 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise owners — and haven’t looked back.
What were you doing before you purchased your franchise?
Fred: I was selling enterprise software, something I’d done for about 27 years, and along the way had picked up an MBA from Notre Dame. Lisa had been at home raising our five kids and doing some tutoring on the side. They were grown and, so, we began looking around at something we could do together.
How did you settle on a 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise?
Fred: We worked with a consultant and right away got about a half-dozen different opportunities. This brand was in there, and it looked like a good fit for us.
Lisa: It seemed to be recession-resistant, which was important. We wanted a business that would be pretty resilient in terms of what the economy might do. This type of thing happens every day to people; there is always somebody who has a water issue in their home, for instance. That stacked up better than a food franchise, where you have to sell a lot of sandwiches in order to make your rent.
Fred: And if they don’t take care of the water, they get mold, and the problem multiplies — we would be able to take care of that, too. We really liked the idea of doing only a few jobs a month, especially starting out, because then we would have time to really learn the business and build our staff, but still be making money.
What is your territory coverage area?
Fred: We have most of southeast Michigan. We began with two territories and picked up two more, so we’re covering about 1.5 million people now. But I don’t think anyone starting out needs anything close to that. There is so much opportunity out there. You want to have a territory that you can cover without spinning your wheels. You need to be able to quickly drill down to those referral sources to build those relationships so they will send you something.
Where does your business come from?
Fred: There are literally thousands of insurance agents in our territory. That’s where we started marketing, but we eventually shifted focus to plumbing companies and other contractors. About 60% comes from this area. We are still growing the insurance area which is about 15%. Another 15% comes from repeat business from previous customers and the remaining business comes from our online presence.
How has the business evolved in terms of how you provide services and the technology you use?
Fred: We’re seeing reductions in equipment size and the kind of power needed, especially in things like dehumidifiers. We used to have to use many different meters to measure environmental readings, and now many of the dehumidifiers have a lot of this info on a screen for us. We’re able to do jobs more efficiently now and can get more equipment to a site on a single van.
How has the franchise brand itself evolved and how has BELFOR Franchise Group made a difference?
When we first began, we jumped into a franchise because we didn’t want to recreate the wheel. We wanted to buy into a system. But in those days, we had to do a lot of things on our own: find an office, pick up a van, get it wrapped, build a website. It took us a few months to get ready. Now, when someone comes in, they finish their classes and leave with a new, wrapped van — they can do work on day one. And they get a great website; we did three versions of ours early on and never got a single job from any of them. Now there is so much more in place for franchise owners, from uniforms to van wraps to the good reputation that BELFOR Franchise Group has. Now we have a whole support team working for us; it’s really night and day.
Fast-forward 10 years. Has the business met your goals?
Fred: Funny how that changes over time! I would say that this business has met and exceeded all the goals we set for it. We make good money, and we also get to ‘save the day’ and have an impact on people’s lives. That’s what really drives us more than the money.
What would you say to a potential 1-800 WATER DAMAGE restoration franchise owner who called you as part of their research, on during their discovery day?
Lisa: We do get those calls, and Fred always tries to get them to understand that this is an industry where everybody works incredibly hard, as well as smart. You have to figure out what to do in terms of marketing and awareness to get your phone to ring, and then be the best there is so that you have a good reputation.
Fred: Do what you say you’re going to do and do it with high integrity. Early on, you’re doing everything from sales and marketing to working on actual jobs. I went from a career in suit and tie to cleaning up raw sewage in someone’s basement! We wanted to be the experts, and we are still the experts in our company. I don’t do jobs anymore, but I know what they involve and what needs to be done. That’s why our crews know they can call me and get advice.
I would also say work hard and fast to find that first good employee. That way while you are marketing and building awareness that person can get out and handle jobs on their own. Until you can get out of the field, it will be hard to grow the business.
Lisa: People say that you have to stop working in the business in order to work on the business, and that is very true.
So, what’s next for you?
Fred: I just turned 60, and we would love to retire in the next three to five years. We also began another company earlier this year, and so we’re putting that together. Two of our children work for us, and one would like to take over the company, so we’ve brought him into every part of the business. This way, he’s ready if that’s what we all decide we want to do.
Was buying your 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise a good decision?
Fred: Yes. I wish we had done it 10 years before we did. We’ve had some great years, and some challenging ones, but we’re doing a lot of different services now, from water, mold, fire, and smoke cleanup to drying and disinfecting, and now the entire reconstruction process. Last year, we had $2.6 million in revenue. It has been a very good decision for us.
A 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise is one of the most affordable businesses to own in the property restoration industry. The total investment for a standard franchise ranges from $70,822 to $211,537. These costs include everything from equipment, vehicles and access to our state-of-the-art training platform. You also have the option to convert your existing business with an investment ranging from $57,613 to $175,637.