SirVent is a chimney and venting franchise, leading the industry in servicing American homes. We recently spoke with Mark Stoner, Director of Marketing for SirVent Franchising, to find out more about this franchise opportunity. We learned what a typical day in the life of a franchisee entails, what they look for in potential franchisees and where he sees the franchise headed in the next five years.
What’s special about the franchise?
SirVent is in the chimney industry, and there’s very little competition for organized chimney sweeping and restoration companies. Almost every market in the U.S. has a lot of potential with millions of chimneys out there that are in need of servicing and restoration.
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I was part of some industry surveys that showed that only about five to seven percent of Americans’ chimneys are actually maintained on an annual basis, so we’re in the safety business. Whenever you light your fire in your fireplace or burn your gas logs or even use your dryer vents, it can create flammable build up. If that build up catches fire, the building can burn — we’re in the business of protecting property and lives.
What is the idea behind the franchise?
We’ve all been friends for the last seven or eight years, helping each other with each of our businesses. We noticed how different we were all running our businesses, though they were all successful at different levels. One day, we said, “Why don’t we try to put all of our best ideas together into a package, so if someone gets into this industry, they can get a lot farther faster than we did starting out on our own.” We’re four industry leaders coming together to give new business owners a fast leg up.
How does it compare to its competition?
The biggest difference about our system is that you don’t have very much competition in any market you choose to enter. Most markets don’t have that many organized chimney companies. Additionally, we have some unique, proprietary products that aren’t available to everyone, and they are very profitable. We’re showing interested business owners the best way to provide the service while maximizing profit on jobs.
What do you look for in a potential franchisee?
Veterans are a big part of our target audience of prospective franchisees. Many veterans and firemen are already in this industry, and we find that kind of hands-on people really do well.
We’re looking for someone who wants to build the business rather than doing the work all the time. We’re not interested in teaching people how to be chimney sweeps — we want to teach them how to become business owners that run a chimney sweep and restoration business. We need a person who is interested in really learning the trade for the first year or two, and then growing the business in such a way that they can manage the work instead of doing the work.
Where do you see the franchise in five years?
In five years, we’d like to have 25 to 35 franchises up and running. We also see our founders continuing to focus on our different strengths, growing this untapped industry and, ideally, helping a lot of customers who need this type of service.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of a franchisee?
It depends — if you’re a new franchisee, part of your day would involve meeting with customers, evaluating chimney systems, estimating chimney repairs and doing the work. For me, as a more established business owner, I help run our meetings. I work on our strategies and our numbers. I also train my employees to do the work, to be safe and, ideally, to make money.
What’s your background?
I personally got into this industry after my house caught fire on Christmas Eve one year. My whole family became very aware of how dangerous a chimney could be. It wasn’t until later, when I went to college, that I decided to turn that type of tragedy into a business. I found out that there’s a lot to this industry.
I started in this business in 1985. I bought a basic kit and equipment, but in that kit and equipment, nobody tells you how to run a business. They just showed you how to do the work — and even that was very sparse. For 17 years, I basically ran a one-man operation. I just had one service vehicle. In 2003, I was in an accident, and I couldn’t do the work for a little while. I learned how vulnerable I was. If you get hurt or sick or something happens to you, you don’t have any money coming in. Plus, if you go to sell your business, it won’t be worth very much.
After that, I started to build a business that would work without me — that’s the key. I’ve been focused on business growth and what that really looks like for the last 13 years. The four of us are currently among the largest chimney operations in the United States, and we’ve participated in leadership capacities to educate others in the industry, as well.
What motivates you to keep going?
I really love this industry, but I also love helping people. I love seeing people succeed, and if I have something to do with that, that benefits my heart. I love seeing people win, and I really like it if I’m involved in that in some way — it gives me purpose.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d seek outside help sooner. Once I decided to start getting help and more education, my career and my business just exploded. But, for a long time, I tried to do it all by myself, and it’s very slow-growing when you do that.
I’ve found a lot of mentors and many people who help me with my business in different capacities. I seek help often, and now that I’m in a position where I can help others, I’ve found that the people who do the best are the ones who stay open and look for assistance.
Please tell us your secret to success…
It’s kind of an old standby, but I’d say it’s persistence and resilience. I have an abundance mentality. I believe that there are some people who have a scarcity mentality — “there is only so much pie to eat, and I have to get my slice” — so they live in this world where they don’t want to give. They just want to take. I believe there is plenty to go around and if there isn’t, I’ll make another pie. I’m not worried about giving away all of my pie because I know how to make another one.
I feel that if you have a scarcity mentality, you never feel like you have much. But, if you have an abundance mentality and you’re a giver, life will give it back to you in spades.
What is one trend that really excites you?
Most houses are built with some type of fireplace or gas appliance, and there are very few people who know how to fix them or work on them. In addition to that, blue-collar work has increased. Last year in the U.S. there were over three million blue-collar jobs that went unfilled, yet there were over 15 million on unemployment last year.
I recently wrote a book called, Blue Collar Gold: How to Build a Service Business from the Dirt Up. It’ll be released in stores and on Amazon this spring. One of my main points is that so many parents tell their kids to go to school and get good grades, so that they can get a college degree and have a better life. I have a problem with that message because not all kids are made to go to college — there’s an entire group of people who aren’t wired that way. The truth is, our society isn’t teaching people how to fix things. We’re just throwing things away and getting new things or hiring someone to fix them for us. There’s a whole gold mine in the fact that, if people learned how to fix those kinds of things, those kinds of services will always be in demand. There’s a huge need for blue-collar work and chimney sweeping falls into that category.
Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The more you give, the faster you will get to where you want to go. That’s probably the best thing. I’ve noticed that the more I’ve learned to give back and the more I have to give — whether it’s my time or information, or even money — the more people give back to me. It’s not always a direct relationship, but when you do that as a part of your business and a part of your being, it’s unbelievable how much comes back to you.
Lastly, over the years, I’ve found that the people who do well deliver when you tell them to do something. They don’t just say, “Yeah, that sounds great,” and never act on it. The best guys and girls are those who are hungry and execute on good ideas.
Where can people get more information on SirVent franchise opportunities?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find SirVent on social media?
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