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Asphalt is no jungle for successful franchisor
AN INTERVIEW WITH: Jet-Black
Talking to the guys in the corporate office of Jet-Black International Inc., Burnsville, MN, is like discussing a basketball game with a group of friends. The conversation ball bounces round and round, hitting highlights of the business these entrepreneurs (and relatives!) run with genuine enthusiasm and well-deserved pride.
Co-founders and brothers Andy and Doug Hoiland have spent the last 16 years perfecting a blacktop sealant product, application method and marketing system.
Jet Black Franchise Opportunities
Their hard work has produced a turnkey opportunity in a highly profitable, top-rated franchise structure.
Already experienced entrepreneurs as teenagers, the Hoiland brothers were in college when their parents asphalt driveway was sealed by a local paving company. One look at the slap-dash job convinced them that they could do better. They bought supplies and started working.
As the number of Hoiland-protected driveways grew around town, so did the business. It wasn't long before they realized that they would need to franchise to keep up with the number of clients calling.
The first franchise was awarded in 1993 and Jet-Black currently has 80 franchisees, covering 135 areas in 22 states.
What's the deal about sealing a driveway?
An asphalt driveway is made in three layers. The lowest layer is compacted soil and the middle is compacted and crushed gravel. The top layer, asphalt, depends on the lower layers for its flexibility and is subject to cracking over time. Cracks allow water penetration while freeze/thaw cycles further damage the surface.
When you add in gasoline spills and oil drips, which eat away the asphalt, sunlight, which oxidizes the asphalt binder, and corrosive road salt -- you can end up with a real problem.
Jet-Black®'s sealer provides a protective, low-maintenance surface, which prolongs the life of the driveway and increases its curb appeal.
How does Jet-Black® differ from other sealant companies?
First, they dont do sealing as a side business to paving, like so many others. They are specialists in sealing and have even developed their own product which contains extra grit for a non-slip surface, is 100% non-tracking and has a deeper black color for esthetics.
Second, they started their business to do a better job of sealcoating and that goal has never changed — excellent customer service and complete customer satisfaction is their number one priority. After all, as Andy says, repeat customers are a large part of their business. In fact, most customers have the service every one to three years.
"We also respond to a client request in a timely manner," says Andy. "We can complete an estimate in a few minutes and, if we have crews in the area, often start the job the same day. The usual length of time from a customers call to completion is three days."
Highlights of the Jet-Black® System
Recession proof — home maintenance continues to be homeowners top priority
Low overhead — minimal materials expense
Flexible weekday hours
Not time intensive — most jobs completed in an hour
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are being added to the Jet-Black® trucks to improve location of a customers home. "No one else in asphalt has merged technology into their business as successfully as we have," adds Doug.
"The overall goal," says Andy, "is to put a professional image on a business that had been previously populated by 'handymen' or as a sideline to other businesses."
As a franchise, Jet-Black® has won numerous awards and is routinely named in lists of top picks — both as a home-based franchise and as an asphalt maintenance service.
Seasonal work doesnt mean seasonal pay.
Jet-Black FranchisesAccording to Bill Cook, franchise development manager, "Quality of life is one reason our franchisee base has grown so quickly in the past few years. In the cold-weather climates, this is mostly a March through November business. The Jet-Black® owner gets all of the holiday months off to relax, spend time with family, vacation. Its a seasonal business with a yearly income."
Adds Doug, "We do all of the marketing for the franchisee, sending out mailers and flyers to homes in their area on a routine basis. In the winter months we offer discounts to customers who prepay so that spreads out the income stream. Our franchisees can easily make a comfortable living their first year in business."
In the beginning, franchisees of Jet-Black tended to be owner/operators. These days, however, a number of franchisees function in a manager capacity, doing the estimates and running multiple crews who do the sealing.
Training for new franchisees can be accomplished in one of five regional centers (franchisees who also function as franchise developers) where they get hands-on experience for a week. This is followed up with two days at corporate headquarters to learn the sales process and computer programs, including bookkeeping. All programs are networked and help is always available.
This is a real "point and click" business, says Bill. With a modest investment, a customized trailers, superior training and automated marketing programs, the new owner can be up and running in 4-6 weeks. Theres no store front to find, no special license required. Customers pay before or upon completion of the work and the corporate office handles processing of all credit card payments.
In development is a training DVD, which will be available in different languages to help the franchisee find and train good employees. New franchisees are also connected with established franchisees in a mentoring program to help them achieve success even more quickly.
It's not all black.
Most of us who live in the northern states are familiar with black asphalt driveways and their superiority in cold climes. Asphalt is flexible and allows for expansion and contraction caused by temperature extremes. The black color retains heat which helps ice and snow to melt more quickly.
But in southern states concrete driveways are more common. Jet-Black® can fix concrete garage floors and driveways, seal them for protection and even add a color, if so desired.
While 90% of Jet-Black®'s business is residential asphalt sealcoating, theres also the opportunity of doing work for restaurant parking lots and other small businesses. Besides the concrete repair and seal option, franchisees can add on such extras as snowplowing and asphalt repair.
Is Jet Black your future?
Jet-Black® will continue expanding, adding an average of 50 new franchisees a year over the next ten years. People with prior business and/or management experience will find this opportunity a nice fit, but it is not a requirement.