Meet 1-800-Water Damage Franchise Owner Jim Chiodo
Jim Chiodo looks back after 15-plus years as a small business owner
When he first began looking at franchises, Jim Chiodo says that 1-800 WATER DAMAGE was mentioned, but he didn’t think it was right for him. As he worked with a franchise broker, sifting and sorting opportunities, however, this one kept bubbling up. Finally, he did some digging, and soon was up and running. Now he looks back over a successful career, and talks about how the brand, the business and the marketplace have evolved.
When did you open your 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise, and what led you to consider owning this type of business?
I opened 15 years ago, so I’ve seen a lot of change to our brand, and to the marketplace! It basically was a fluke. I was a transportation logistics manager at a newsprint mill, and you know what has happened in newsprint over the years. As I was looking around for a different job, I wasn’t finding anything that would pay me what I was making before. I was on a resume website and an ad popped up for a franchise broker. I answered it and expected maybe an email, but instead got a call in about five minutes. One thing led to another, and soon I was looking at about 18 different opportunities. I wasn’t looking too closely at this one, but the broker said I should give it some consideration.
As I looked more closely at 1-800 WATER DAMAGE, I talked to some people I know who work in the insurance industry and my own insurance broker. I heard a lot about this type of service and how they used it. Soon I was going to a discovery day, and here we are!
What did you like about this franchise, other than the fact that it’s a very in-demand service at all times?
I had read a lot of books, and they had a common message: You should be working on your business, not in your business. That really rang true with this franchise, because it was nothing to do with my former occupation, so I would have to learn about how this business worked, as well as how to own and operate a franchise. I could also see a point where, if I worked hard enough and grew it enough over the first few years, I could hire people to do the things I didn’t like doing. My wife and I could set the business’ course, not work as hard as we used to and still get a check.
Did that plan work out?
It has worked out very well. Our growth has come in many ways. The franchisor prior to BELFOR Franchise Group had us operating in a way that could lead to a bidding war, and your margins would go down. When BELFOR Franchise Group stepped in, they restructured how we went after business. They also changed us from using independent contractors to hiring our own employees and using our own vans. That really gave us a lot more visibility in the community. We had to spend some money up front on these changes, but it has been very exciting and very good for us.
What else has BELFOR Franchise Group brought to the table that has been beneficial to you?
Everything they do is about supporting strong growth. One of the things I love about them is that I can call anybody at corporate, multiple people if I want, and they get on the phone with me right away. It’s very much like a family. If I have an issue, someone will help me, and do it fairly quickly. They are a very ethical operation, and they are also experts at how to run a franchise, and how to grow a franchise.
Where are you now in the life of your business?
We are in transition now. Up until a few weeks ago, my wife and I were thinking of retiring in a year or two, as we have a key employee who is interested in buying the franchise from us. That may still happen, but because we’ve done things right, BELFOR Franchising Group has asked us to look at another opportunity. That is, a new franchise system they have bought, and perhaps be one of their first operators. So, if we do that, we’ll be around another few years but still be able to retire at a good age. I’m excited about the opportunity because we still like a challenge, and the possibility of continuing to grow this business while also getting a new one up and running is one that we really want to explore.
What would you tell someone who calls you on their own discovery day at 1-800 WATER DAMAGE?
I would say that you have to be willing to work hard those first few years, and really get out and market your business. Some think they can come in, hire some folks and put their feet up and wait for the phone to ring. They will fail, you can’t do that with any new business. Get your name out — that’s the biggest thing by a long shot! That, and be sure to take advantage of all the good training that you’re going to get from BELFOR Franchise Group.
How has the market changed since you first opened your doors?
We are structured completely differently than we were when we began in 2005. There are a lot more people doing this work now; thus, a lot more businesses to compete with. But a lot of those are smaller, single operators, and they don’t have the advantages that we do. One thing that BELFOR Franchise Group has done is get us doing program work through insurance companies, and that really amped up the market for us. We’ve seen a lot of those independent contractors fall away, and in the meantime, we’ve continued to build up the insurance-work side of the business. They are about half of what we do now, so we are not as dependent on those plumber referrals. We still get those, because over the years we have built some very strong relationships but getting into the insurance side of things has been very beneficial for us.
Are you glad you bought this business?
Very much so. It has been a good investment for us and gotten even better in the last few years since BELFOR Franchise Group took over as our franchisor. We have a very good image in the community and are growing our business in new and very good ways.
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.
Interested in becoming a 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise owner?
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