Kitchen Tune-Up Franchise Experiences Growth
By Susan Harper
Haglund began his restoration business in 1988 after developing an oil to clean up surface scratches and restore wood to its original luster. A business person with a managerial background in retail, and the co-owner of a thriving cabinet business, Haglund's first concern was whether there was a real need for his service.
To find out, he began visiting homes. When he was literally pulled into houses with a plea to restore the kitchen that very minute, he knew he'd hit on something.
Now aware that there was a market, Haglund researched the competition. Discovering that there was none the service was not offered anywhere in the country he began selling off his successful cabinet business. He opened a franchising business that can now handle any job from a simple restoration to an entirely new kitchen.
Instead of attempting the impossible, Haglund chose instead to develop a comprehensive planning guide, one that goes through, step-by-step, what homeowners want and need. Once filled out, the planning guide is faxed to the home office, where trained designers plan the kitchen within two days. The final design is e-mailed back to the franchise and printed out in color.
In addition to the actual designing, Haglund's company provides extensive training. When one buys a franchise, one gets an initial "pre-training," along with an extensive manual. This is followed by six 10-hour days of classroom work and restoration training in customers' homes. Later, buyers attend a 12-week intensive training program that focuses on specific aspects of the business. In addition, the company has two training sessions a year, as well as various seminars, and all owners receive a monthly newsletter. Although franchise owners are required to attend only one seminar every other year, most attend every year the prevailing feeling being that the seminars are so helpful that, if a year is skipped, one falls behind.
Support doesn't end with ongoing training. Franchise owners can reach someone in the home office at any time to help them with problems. Kitchen Tune-Up also sets up partnership vendors that provide franchisees with reduced prices on products. After all, the buying power of a company with 300 franchise units in 40 states provides incentives for solo-owned businesses which can't get it alone.
The home office also helps with advertising (franchise owners are provided with individualized advertising literature) and marketing, and will even send trained employees to a franchise to assist them to bid on large projects. Marketing is largely done through newspaper articles; Kitchen Tune-Up was the focus of over 800 such articles last year. This is no surprise to Haglund, who is well aware of the power of the written word. When he first began Kitchen Tune-Up, Family Circle magazine ran a small article on the company and, as a result, he received over 10,000 calls from people all over the world, requesting the service.
Eighty percent of the franchises are home-based; Kitchen Tune-Up goes to the client's home to determine what needs to be done. However, if one chooses a different type of location, such as a strip mall, Kitchen Tune-Up will assist in finding the best spot.
The location of the home office, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, has had unexpected benefits. Numerous flights go in and out daily, and with Aberdeen's central location, items can be shipped anywhere in the country and reach their destination in only two to three days. Costs are also lower there than in many cities and, when franchise owners come to town, the home office is easily accessible.
When asked the reasons for the franchise's success, Haglund notes that customer service is "unbelievable." He receives tremendous raves from satisfied customers and barely 10-12 complaints a year. It helps that, while various companies do part of what Kitchen Tune-Up does, no one else provides such a full-service business, he notes. Whatever the reason, it's working; sales were up 25 percent this year.
And that original oil that started the whole business? Twelve years later, it continues to be used, but research and development also continues; in fact, a new product will soon be released, which will mean less full refinishing work, a move that will be better for the environment and will mean less time spent tying up the clients' kitchens.
Meanwhile, the developer of that original oil, Haglund, is having fun getting people started in this business. He says watching the franchise owners' enjoyment is the best part of his job.