Franchisee Finds Mr. Handyman Business Model a Perfect Fit

Mr. Handyman is a one-stop shop for your home maintenance and repair solutions. Their service technicians are highly skilled craftsmen who will get the job done right the first time and clean up when they’ve finished the job.

We recently spoke with Kevin Crysler, owner of Mr. Handyman of Anne Arundel & NE PG, about what it takes to open a franchise. We learned why he doesn’t recommend opening a franchise too quickly, what he would do differently if he had to do it all over, and most importantly, he shares with us the secrets to his success.

How long have you owned a franchise?

I’ve owned my Mr. Handyman franchise for five and a half years.

What were you doing before becoming a franchise owner?

Immediately prior to purchasing my franchise, I was Director of Development at the Smithsonian. Prior to that, I was Assistant Dean of the School of Education at Johns Hopkins.

Why did you choose your franchise?

I was attracted to Mr. Handyman’s business model as it was proven. I decided to purchase a business that had already been open for five years because there are several other franchisees in this area who are successful.

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your franchise?

Starting a business is like buying a house, getting married and starting a new job — on the same day. When I was first starting out, I was undercapitalized and had some early losses. I don’t have a construction background, so this franchise concept was entirely new to me. Like any new job, I had a period of “drinking from the fire hose.” I was working long hours and barely able to pay myself a fair wage.

Where did you research or get advice about starting a franchise?

I first started researching franchises online and then attended a franchise expo in DC. I met several brokers along the way, and one knew of this resale happening near where I lived. I met with the owner, contacted the franchisor and then started talking to other Mr. Handyman franchisees in the region — both the successful ones and others who had gone out of business.

How much did you spend before your doors were officially opened?

The whole process took less than six months. From the time I first heard of Mr. Handyman until the day my doors were open was less than three months, but that’s very fast, and I would not recommend that approach. One reason for the quick process was the fact that the business was already open and the seller was motivated due to declining health.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It sounds cliché, but there is no such thing as a typical day. On Monday morning at 7 a.m. we have our tech meeting where we review estimates. My priority for the rest of the day is writing up estimates and contacting those customers. The phone is busiest on Monday and we check messages from the weekend. There are also a lot of checks, time cards and receipts to process that the techs bring into the meeting.

Assuming we’ve caught up with all of that by Tuesday, I can move to financial data entry — update QuickBooks and prepare for my Wednesday meeting with my accountant. I tend to deal with other paperwork issues on Monday and Tuesday as well. I review my bank balance, bills and cash flow. On Wednesday at 11 a.m. I have a standing meeting with my accountant and in the afternoon, we have an office staff meeting.

All week I keep the agenda for the next Monday open on my computer and add items as they come up. I have a standing agenda template where all topics fit in. At the Wednesday office meeting, I review what I have for the techs and request additional input. I try to keep Thursday and Friday flexible. This gives me more time for marketing, outside meetings, visiting customers, networking etc. Every other Thursday I have a standing appointment with another franchise owner whom I mentor.

What is your secret to success?

My secret to success is actively participating in the franchise system, which allows me to seek out the advice of those who have been doing this longer and/or have achieved a higher level of success than I. Listening to others, bouncing ideas off of others, and taking advice from them has been critical to my success.

I am co-chair of the National Marketing Committee, participate in group we call the BLERB (a funny name for the top 10 percent of the system), attend Franchise Advisory Council meetings, attend President’s conference calls and attend every national or regional meeting the system offers. Additionally, I have visited several other offices, and meet with the owners in this region every few months or so.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over?

When I first started, I did not hire someone to place a value on the business I purchased, but instead went with “rule of thumb” estimates and the advice of small businesspeople, small business lenders, etc. I thought I knew more than I did, which is the danger of having an MBA. My words of wisdom would be not to be afraid to pay for professional advice before you invest. Free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Where do you see your business in five years?

In the next five years I plan to have a team in place so that I am able to semi-retire. It makes more financial sense to keep the business for several years beyond that. It’s worth more as a cash-producing asset than it is in a straight sale. I will grow the business and hire the staff I need to allow myself to better enjoy the fruits of my labor.

What is one trend that really excites you?

I’ll take the word “excite” literally, and not infer that you mean something that makes me happy. The “gig” economy is affecting our business. Major online players are getting into the home services space, except they bring no value — only their ability to market. They mean to attract customers to their websites, mobile apps and call centers and act as an intermediary for the army of independent contractors in the world. I believe that ultimately they will find that consistently delivering quality home services takes a more hands-on approach than, say, finding drivers to pick someone up at the airport, but there will be billions of dollars spent disrupting this business and it may well prove to be a bumpy ride.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Google: it’s nice to live in an age where all the information in the world is at your fingertips. I don’t believe I could have entered an entirely new field and been this successful in it 20 years ago — but now I can find information on materials we need, articles on how to do things (from business operations to a particular kind of installation).
  1. I guess I should include YouTube in that statement as well. Having access to videos that I can watch to better understand the process of what my techs do (so I can speak intelligently with customers and better manage my team).
  1. Additionally, my company has a team website that is enormously helpful.

Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?

I am a mentor and I have sought the advice of several more experienced owners. Over the years, I’ve learned from a lot of people, but they were in different fields than I am in now. My most profound mentee experience was under the tutelage of the artistic director of a theatre where I worked as an actor in my 20s.

What advice do you have for others looking to own a franchise?

Look at many different concepts. Imagine what it would be like to actually do that work every day. You won’t succeed at it if you don’t find the business interesting. Who will your employees be — are they people you will enjoy spending your days with? Who will your customers be? Are they people you understand? Like? Respect? And of course, look at the numbers. How long will it take you to be profitable? Do you have the resources necessary to make it “over the hump?”

Would you recommend others be franchisees? Why?

Yes. Most new businesses fail, but a franchise with a proven business model mitigates that risk. No one can do everything, but a good franchisor can coach you through your weak spots, inform you about things you need to know that would have otherwise blindsided you, give you instant credibility in the marketplace and provide thousands of dollars worth of resources to you (websites, logos, marketing materials, operation manuals, logistical support, vendors that know your trade, etc.).

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

In my previous professional life, I dealt with exceptionally wealthy and successful people. On the one hand, I found it exciting to deal with Wall Street hedge fund managers, CEOs, folks whose family had started iconic businesses, major philanthropists and other “movers and shakers.” I had some memorable experiences dining in their homes and socializing with them in settings I might never have experienced if it weren’t for my occupation (fundraising). But they were not my peers. Just under the surface was the understanding that I was ‘staff.’ I was the hired help.

Today I deal with men who work with their hands — a skill I greatly admire. They are down-to-earth people who take great pride in their workmanship and who continually amaze me with their skill, caring and craftsmanship. Additionally, my customers are my peers. They are family people with homes like mine — often dual-career households with kids who are busy beyond belief and looking for someone to make their life a little easier. A person who is trustworthy and capable.

I get a much greater sense of satisfaction helping people who are just like me than I ever got sipping champagne in a Park Avenue Penthouse with people whose lives were so very different from my own.

Where can people get more information on Mr. Handyman franchise opportunities?

Visit the website here.

Where can people find Mr. Handyman on social media?