Full-Service Design Franchise Sees Rapid Growth

Full-Service Design Franchise Sees Rapid Growth

By Daina Manning

His franchise has also received awards both for design and for running an all-around excellent remodeling operation. In a year with a fluctuating economy, Calafiore's franchise is on track to complete more than 200 remodeling jobs in 2002, all with a crew of four salespeople/designers and seven installers.

The key to his success, Calafiore believes, is that, "We have a systematic approach to jobs. We pretty much do all of our work in house. We use our own technicians. We're a licensed plumbing company so we offer plumbing services to our customers (he notes, however, that this service is only available to present and former remodeling customers). We offer full design, from concept to completion."

The DreamMaker franchise's typical jobs range from a $5,500 "progressive" remodel, which involve a tub liner rather than installing a new tub, to a complete, luxurious master bath for around $60,000.

Sometimes, the company's take-charge approach even includes fabrication of countertops and custom cabinetry pieces in the shop that adjoins DreamMaker's showroom, though typically countertop fabrication is outsourced.

Speed is essential in Calafiore's operation at DreamMaker. "We can pretty much remodel a bathroom in five to seven days," he notes. "The first day, the lead tech will go out with a production manager and a helper to move things along. After that, [the lead technician] will pretty much be on his own."

'Pre-Packaged' Designs
Calafiore says he's gotten great results from both a sales and installation standpoint by offering bathroom remodels in ready-made designs. "We've packaged the bathroom," he notes. "We have pre-designed packages in the showroom, and we've found that customers are coming in and picking [one] out: 'Gee, this bathroom is really beautiful, I want that.'"

Calafiore reports that many of the customers who come to the firm take the showcased bathroom without any modifications, which makes installation a snap.

"We're doing two or three bathroom remodels a week, so these guys are trained on that," he notes. "They're seeing the same products over and over again, so the product knowledge is there.

"Also, [it's] a team effort. We're usually working a nine-hour day; if we've got two or three bathrooms going on, if someone [gets done] early, they'll pick up the phone, call [another job] and go out there. The guys know we're on a schedule."

The pre-packaged designs also facilitate sales, emphasizes Calafiore. "With these jobs, we
can hold tighter profit margins," he notes.

The packages are also pre-priced on a spreadsheet, so much of the paperwork on a project is already done. Additionally, "You can hire a sales person who doesn't have a ton of experience with design to sell these pre-packaged bathrooms," he notes. Designers use Planit Autograph software to facilitate their work.

Unlike many other remodeling businesses, DreamMaker has no problem attracting good help. "There are people knocking on our door, wanting to work here," Calafiore insists. "On the sales end, it's a little more difficult. But on the technical end, the guys talk to people out there, they're hearing about us, and what an up-and-coming company we are. We offer a very good pay scale, profit sharing, a retirement program, health insurance, vacation time, sick time and personal time."

DreamMaker employees adhere to a "core code of values" for the company, which emphasizes integrity, respect and a customer focus, according to Calafiore. "When somebody's wrong or out of line, you can just bring the code of values up, and say, 'You're not following what we believe in,'" Calafiore elaborates. "That holds up well."

Strong Marketing
Calafiore also credits a strategic marketing plan for his company's success. "We try to track our leads so we know where everything is coming from," he explains.

The DreamMaker franchise also participates in three to four home shows in its surrounding area each year, and advertises in all of the weekly local papers in the company's immediate region, along with the Yellow Pages. Other marketing efforts include a customer newsletter that goes out to 1,300 people, yard signs on current jobs and new vehicles with prominent signage for all of the firm's technicians. The company previously tried television and radio advertising, but found it ineffective.

Calafiore estimates that 40% of his jobs come from referrals. The DreamMaker franchise has a referral incentive program for former customers, with dinner certificates as a reward.

Overall, DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen has achieved tremendous growth since Calafiore bought the franchise in the early '90s. In fact, he recently moved the company to a newer, larger and more prominently located showroom/shop.

"I enjoy the challenge of growing the business," concludes Calafiore. "The biggest part for me is, we've put together a core group of people within the company [who have] grown and become successful in their business and personal lives." Calafiore cites employees who started out a few years ago and have advanced in the company "and now they're out running projects and doing a great job for us. That's been very fulfilling."

DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen 

MAIN OFFICE: Newington, CT
PRINCIPALS: Paul Calafiore,
SHOWROOMS: 1, 2500 sq. ft. (plus 3,500-sq.-ft. shop)
Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.,
Sat. 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Wilsonart, Showplace Cabinetry, Alumax bath enclosures, DuPont Corian, Staron, Option kitchen cabinetry
Planit Autograph
SPECIALTY: Bathroom remodeling
"We have the goal to be the recognized name brand in the bath and kitchen industry, and we're going to realize that goal."