Handyman Matters Franchise - Interview with Andy Bell, CEO & President
In 1997, after a fifteen-year career in the food and beverageindustry, Andy Bell decided it was timeto look for a career that offered a better work/life balance. Even as he and his wife Colette were startinga family, Andy also embarked on a career as “Swamp Boy,” a one-man operationwhich saw him repairing swamp coolers, a skill he’d picked up during his yearsof restaurant management.
What he quickly learned was that homeownerswere impressed by the mere fact that he showed up on time with a professional,courteous demeanor. It was apparentthere was hugely underserved market in the home repair and remodel industry—aneed for consistent and reliable service conducted by trusted, friendlycraftsmen with good communication skills.
From this realization was born HandymanMatters, a single home repair business conducted out of Andy’s and his wife’sbasement. “The first and most importantkey to our success was simply showing up,” Andy declares. “That’s how bad the reputation in ourindustry had become. “The fact that wewere there, and when we said we would be there made a huge impression on ourclients.”
The single business, begun in 1998, was sosuccessful so quickly that the idea to open a second location was a logicaldecision. Then, with two offices workingovertime to accommodate customers, Andy decided it was time to look intofranchising the business, providing the blueprint that had been so successfulfor him to other individuals looking to run a business utilizing the sameprinciples of respect and customer service.
Now 18 years into the home repair andremodel franchise business, Handyman Matters is an industry leader with over135 locations in 25 states.
Franchise Expo: Tell us about the Handyman Matters concept.
Andy Bell: Our goal is to change the face of this industry to a more positive one, with marketing safety and reliability as our #1 job.
FE: How and when did you become involved with Handyman Matters?
AB: Originally I entered the field with a one-man operation called “Swamp Boy” in 1997. Having come from the food and beverage industry, which requires a bit of multi-tasking and multiple skill sets, I had become well-acquainted with the necessity of repairing swamp coolers in the restaurants I managed. Eventually when I decided to leave that field and start my own business, I settled on a swamp cooler repair business. Almost immediately, I found clients asking me to do additional home repair projects, which led to the recognition that there was an enormous customer base underserved by an industry with a justifiably poor reputation. The following year, I began Handyman Express, which transitioned into Handyman Matters.
FE: What was your background prior to joining Handyman Matters franchise?
AB: I had worked in the food and beverage industry for 17 years.
FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Handyman Matters franchisee?
AB: The name comes with a reputation for doing quality work and operating by a set of inviolable ethical standards. More than fifteen years of working within the home repair and remodel industry has allowed us to establish proven policies and procedures and to incorporate proprietary software that allows franchise owners to begin operating with confidence immediately. We provide experienced franchise support directors who are readily available to assist both new and experienced owners when questions or concerns arise.
FE: Who is your ideal franchisee?
The ideal franchise owner is that individual who comes to us understanding that a successful business
requires a balance between work life and home life. I want owners who believe in the Handyman Matters mission and values, and who will follow the simple doctrine of earning and keeping their customers’ and their employees’ trust. We provide the road map; all a successful franchisee needs to do is to follow it.
FE: Tell us a little about the home repair/remodel market?
AB: Unfortunately, but rightfully so, our industry has a shaky reputation, at best. Somewhere along the way, it became “the norm” for craftsmen to keep their customers waiting or to not show up at all. It’s “hit or miss” as to whether a homeowner will feel comfortable allowing workmen into their house, and the resulting work runs the gamut from excellent to utterly unacceptable. Fortunately, though, as with most things in life, there is a natural attrition rate—survival of the fittest, so to speak. Prior to the economic recession that began in 2009, Handyman Matters was one of thirteen national home repair franchise opportunities. As the country finally began to emerge from these extended financial woes around 2012, only five of these franchises remained, and Handyman Matters now leads the pack.
FE: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
AB: We cannot rest on our laurels. Like most fields of endeavor, the home repair/remodel field is a living, breathing thing, and it faces new challenges every day. Technology advances at an astonishing rate, and we cannot simply keep pace; we have to stay one step ahead of it, if not three! I’ve learned we must take risks, and we’ve taken a lot of them. They’ve led to spectacular successes, and to a few resounding failures. But I learn something from every mistake, and in fact, some of those have taught us greater lessons than we’ve learned from our victories.
FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a franchise?
AB: As I said earlier, we’re looking for people who want to strike a balance between a work life and a home life because these are typically the happiest, more successful individuals. Come with an open mind, a determination to hire the best office staff and craftsmen and to treat them with respect, as well as your customers. I want owners who are excited to share in our vision and who want to contribute to it; I want to hear their ideas and suggestions, as well as for them to listen to mine.
FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Handyman Matters would be a great opportunity for someone?
AB: Look at the statistics: According to the United States Census Bureau, there are now over 126 million housing units in the United States, and of that number, over 95 million were built before 1990. Today, these homes are nearing 30 years and are needing the necessary repair and maintenance to maintain their value. The average consumer holds onto their home for at least 13 years. However, with the housing market continuing to rise, people are choosing to do repairs and remodels to their homes rather than move into larger, more expensive homes. As a result, now is the best time to be in this industry.