Meet Michigan 1-800 WATER DAMAGE Franchise Owner Kevin Krull
This entrepreneur moved from employee to employer after seeing how busy and profitable a plumbing business could be
It’s said that seeing is believing, and that certainly was the case for Kevin Krull, owner of a thriving 1-800-WATER DAMAGE franchise in Ann Arbor, Mich. After working as a plumber’s apprentice and seeing the business owners expand market share and revenue, he opted to take a leap of faith and begin his own business.
How long have you been a 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise owner?
I have been involved with the brand for four years. I first came in when it was an owner-operator, which was more of a profit-sharing model. BELFOR Franchise Group has now converted that model to one of full franchise ownership, so that is where I am today.
What were you doing before?
I worked for a large plumbing company here. I was their first-ever employee, and by the time I left they were a $2 million business. When I saw the substantial growth they were achieving, I began to get my first notions of owning this kind of business. They had been thinking of beginning to franchise their operation, but they didn’t go through with it. Around that time, I connected with a friend and mentor who works at BELFOR [Ken Osness, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development] who told me that they wanted to have an Ann Arbor location. I met the team; we had some conversations and they helped me make it happen.
What’s it been like growing the business from the operations side?
In school I liked algebra, even though I wasn’t that good at it. What intrigued me was the equations, and this business has one: Your network equals your net worth. I had to get out there and meet as many people as I could to let them know that we existed. At the same time, I had to create and grow a competent staff that bought into my vision and serves the business we are creating, the brand we are building.
Now I have a guy who is my operations manager, he runs the day to day, and so that has allowed me to do even more networking. That has meant we’ve had more opportunities when a natural disaster comes up. In Michigan we had major flooding last spring and on June 25 I remember getting more than 200 phone calls in 12 hours. No one could handle that many, but we were able to take a lot of them and really move forward.
We’ve been able to seize those opportunities and build the business by working with other local businesses and some big [insurance] adjusters because their normal service providers couldn’t take their work. Because we had built a good foundation and had the staff ready, we could step in and take those clients away from our competitors.
That says a lot about opportunities; what about some challenges you and your team have had to face and overcome?
I remember one from last March when a realtor — always marketing this business to realtors — called around 6 p.m. with a problem. Basically, they were going to close on a house the next day and there was about five feet of water in the basement. We went over and took a look and were able to get all the water out that night. It was not easy. The home was on a well system, and the well pressure tank had corroded so basically there was a one-inch pipe dumping water into the basement. Our biggest concern was that there were submerged outlets, so we couldn’t go into the water, but the rising water was also headed for the power box. We found a way to get enough submersible pumps to outpace that water line, and then took care of mitigation, cleaning and drying.
We gained a new client from that, and they gave us some attention on their Facebook and other social channels, so it all worked out well. They were able to sell and close on the house, and we got to be superheroes.
You also do some hurricane-related work. How does that work?
Our corporate team at BELFOR have relationships with a lot of third party administrator claims processors, so we get the calls when a storm happens. We, along with some other 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchises, mobilize and bring a team in and we get those claims. My team has been to six hurricanes, every one since Harvey except for Florence.
A word of warning there: Hurricane work is good because you can make good money and meet some great people, but while you’re doing that and building new relationships you have to make sure your home market doesn’t suffer. Have the local area covered so if someone needs help, you’re still servicing your territory.
How has your ongoing training and support been from the corporate team?
It’s really great, and another thing that’s phenomenal about being part of BELFOR is all the other franchises they own, because you have other people to work with all around you. I have local DUCTZ and HOODZ franchise owners who have helped me. We’ve also worked with a Blue Kangaroo Packoutz franchise owner, and that has been such a smart expansion for BELFOR. I’d love to add that onto my business at some point, because there are never enough packout companies to assist after an event.
Our trainers are on the boards of organizations like the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
What do you tell people who call you while they’re doing their due diligence and discovery before they decide to buy a 1-800 WATER DAMAGE franchise?
There are three things I always say: One, always make sure your spouse is on board with this, if you’re married. It takes a lot of time to get this business going. Make sure the whole family is involved, because a small business is a family business, and it will take a lot of time and effort. Second, be prepared to work hard. Storms hit at any time and while you can capitalize on them and grow your business, that can also mean a lot of long days. And lastly, your network is your net worth. Go out and meet people. If you’re not comfortable doing that, hire someone who will be the best representative for your brand. It’s super important that you have a constant market presence of some kind. Be a visionary for your team, and you can create a great business.
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 $102,422 to $191,987. 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 $39,613 to $170,137.