Consistency is Key to Growth
When you become a One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® franchisee, you have a proven template for growth and profitability
Larry Thornton moved to Lake Havasu, Ariz., in 2000 after working with the owners of a local HVACR franchise, serving first as their consultant and then forming a partnership with them to help the business continue to grow.
“The promise was to follow my planning and in five years, they’d retire,” Thornton remembers. “I started doing training and acquisitions and opened our second location within six months.”
When the opportunity to join Clockwork, Inc., a Direct Energy® company, as a One Hour® franchisee, Thornton jumped at the chance.
“Everything was going great; we were doing wonderful,” he says. “By 2004 we had left our previous franchisor and were totally committed to One Hour with three locations.”
Thornton’s biggest success came when he eventually bought his partners out and fully embraced the One Hour franchise model.
Today, Thornton is a franchisee-owner of seven One Hour and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® stores, 21 franchise territories, 80-trucks on the road (with 20 more trucks coming this year).
“The company is growing super fast and is profitable,” Thornton says. “And it grows without too much involvement from me.”
HVACR Business spoke with Thornton about growing his business as a One Hour franchisee.
How important is it to have the right management team?
I’ve been working to get to this point since I bought the company. It’s always been a plan, but we had to get a management team in place and I’ve gone through a few people who were not a fit with the culture or the other members of the team. Now we’ve got a team that’s solid and they work together really well.
I really only communicate with the two general managers because I don’t want to interrupt that chain of command. They have management meetings every Tuesday and I get a report from them about what happened in the meeting. I also get all the daily management reports every morning before 9 a.m. I think they do better without me (laughs) … based on our growth last year and the first two months of this year… and I wasn’t there!
What is the biggest benefit as a franchisee?
The number one thing One Hour gives me is support and training. Their affiliate, Success Academy™, also has an online component, which features a general education bundle as well as safety videos and videos on other topics. Once every single person goes through this set of classes, they actually send trainers to our office for additional, in-person education. We’ve been taking advantage of that and building relationships with the leadership of Success Academy to the point where they’ve helped us conduct management retreats. They really helped me get my people trained. I also get visits a couple times a year from a consultant who specifically works with my management team.
Even though you’re a One Hour franchisee, do you still run the company your way?
Yes, but the secret to success is consistency and following the franchise system. One Hour allows anybody to be successful if they simply follow the system. When I had business partners, they wanted to tweak everything, but it simply didn’t work and we weren’t as profitable as we should have been.
After I bought them out, I said, ‘We’re going to do whatever One Hour says and we’re going to do it without question.’ We follow the system.
Do you have plans to continue expansion?
Yes. There are territories adjoining mine that I’d like to add. There are 4.8 million people in Phoenix and another two million in Las Vegas, so I’ve got enough territory to expand. My goal was to grow more than two-thirds of where we are today and I believe at the rate we’re going, we’ll probably get there sooner.
How do you recruit the right people to help you grow?
In rural Arizona it’s a lot more difficult than it is in the big cities. We’re starting to get a lot of younger kids in and we’re putting them through the apprentice program. But this is another thing Success Academy through its relationship with Pearson Learning Solutions has helped us with. It enables us to test our applicants, find out where they’re at and put them through this online technical training to increase their technical skills. In the rural towns, we do a lot of recruiting over the Internet and we do lots and lots of phone interviews. We hire people sight unseen.
It’s always about employees first here. The first rule of management is to create a happy work environment, happy employees. Then, the customer is the second person. We have a very employee-focused culture.