DreamMaker operator spins many wheels
Dale Ressler drives fast cars, preaches about God at the race track, remodels homes and is a former paramedic. He’s been DreamMaker Remodeling’s franchisee of the year twice and has won numerous awards. “I probably like awards more than I like to admit,” he says, adding, “That’s being prideful.”
But Ressler has a lot to be proud of. He’s been able to do what most of us wish we could: weave several seemingly unrelated careers into a lifestyle that hits on all cylinders.
“I’ve always been a motorhead,” he says. It was 1989 when he raced his street car in a drag race. “I lost in the first round. It wasn’t one of those Cinderella stories where I raced the first time and won,” he says. “But it excited me.” Drag racing involves driving a quarter of a mile as fast as you can. Speeds get up to 160 mph, which means one “round” can take as little as eight seconds. Winning rounds means you keep advancing; losing means you’ve had your eight seconds of fun for the day—although there are several qualifiers before single elimination starts.
Ressler, who attended Bible college while working as a carpenter and paramedic, was ordained in 2004. He became the pastor for the drag-racing safety team when they found out he was also a paramedic, and from there he took on the pastoral role for the out-of-town events. Preaching at a race track is no different than when a church sends missionaries to Africa, he says. It’s just that his congregation is weekend dare-devils. The job has its highs and lows. He’s married racers, presided over funerals and sat with families at hospital bedsides after an accident. “What we do at the race track is much more how God intended church to be than sitting in a pew looking at the back of someone’s head,” he says.
He’s passionate about his race life, and that devotion has spilled over into his work life, as well. “I love DreamMaker,” he says. “I fully enjoy what it is and what it offers.” The recession in 2008, however, changed his job from sales and management to back doing the physical labor.
That wasn’t the game plan in 2006 when he bought the franchise. After two shoulder operations, Ressler’s doctor told him to find a new vocation. “I was a carpenter who felt like I wanted to be on my own, but I was a carpenter, not a businessman,” he says. He had thought about flying solo, but he knew what he didn’t know—the business end of the business.
He was recouping from the second operation when he got a call from DreamMaker asking if he could talk. “That’s all I can do right now,” Ressler remembers telling the sales rep. “So talk away.” The call wasn’t totally out of the blue. The sales rep saw that Ressler had been named one of the Big 50 by Remodeling Magazine. On the call, he was “very personable, not pushy,” and Ressler liked the fact that DreamMaker has a Code of Values. He bought the Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, franchise. “Before the recession we considered expansion,” he says about buying a second territory, “but it hit us hard so we didn’t expand.”
Ressler is philosophical about how he measures success: “Prior to the recession, sales growth was success. Afterward, finding a new normal and being profitable with less is success.”
He’s been honored as outstanding franchisee before and after the recession, but likes the pre-2008 model better. “I’m very focused,” he says. “It’s our livelihood that supports us to do what we love to do—volunteer.”
Things may be looking up. DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen franchisees reported sales grew 23 percent in 2013, nearly seven times faster than the overall remodeling industry. Final figures weren’t in for 2014 at press time.
At 52, Ressler knows the physical side of the job is something he’ll need to address. “The future is the topic of a lot of discussion right now,” he says. Last July he started coaching five DreamMaker franchisees and has found he enjoys it immensely. But it’s not something he’s going to race into. “The coaching aspect could be an exit plan. What the timing is I don’t know,” he says.