Around the House: Home repair franchises
Lisa Chambers, far right, and her team at The Glass Guru in Mason, Ohio. Chambers opened her location in January 2017.
Winner: The Glass Guru
Finalists: Precision Door Service, Screenmobile, Mr. Handyman
Guerric de Coligny admitted he’s a pretty impulsive guy, but he’s also stubborn—so when he makes a choice, he sticks with it. This characteristic paid off for him when he decided to become a franchise owner of the first Glass Guru in Hawaii in April 2009.
Guerric de Coligny, a Glass Guru franchisee.
De Coligny relocated to Honolulu in 2001 to get his master’s degree in history and ended up working in event planning, a business he soon grew tired of because of the long hours, nights and weekends. He knew he wanted to start his own business and that he enjoyed working with his hands, so when he found The Glass Guru, de Coligny was instantly intrigued. He didn’t know much about the glass and window repair business, but he loved the name and the company’s technology to remove moisture from dual-pane windows.
De Coligny reached out to Glass Guru founder and CEO Dan Frey, not setting out to get started right away. Frey, however, pursued de Coligny’s interest and was especially responsive.
“I’ve always been a person who likes to get a read on people and make decisions based on what my gut tells me,” de Coligny said. “He seemed like a really honest businessman … I could tell Dan was serious about turning The Glass Guru into a really well-run top franchise.”
The Glass Guru grew systemwide sales 12.8 percent in 2018, per the FT Top 200+.
De Coligny liked the competitively priced initial investment, which is between $72,750 and $179,500. But what really separated it from other franchises was The Glass Guru’s personal, more approachable business structure and high level of communication. A lot of the franchisors de Coligny reached out to never even responded.
When de Coligny first signed on, The Glass Guru was early in its franchising program and still figuring out how to set franchisees up for success. The brand has since made strides in providing a blueprint for success for new franchisees, offering more resources and guidance. But de Coligny didn’t attract a lot of customers or success in the first couple years, which brought doubts and many conversations with his wife about how much longer he was going to stick with it.
“All that stuff, for me, I kind of had to invent it without them initially. I didn’t get as much support on the front end of things,” de Coligny said. “But on the back end, they really helped me take a step forward.”
Now, de Coligny is a top-performing franchisee. His franchise location in Honolulu hit $2 million in sales last year, and he recently launched a commercial division of his company. This year, he hopes to shift his focus to high-end projects, which is more on par with Hawaii’s market. He noted that most franchisors set up guidance geared toward new franchisees in certain markets, with little tailoring for the bigger, more successful ones. Moving forward, he hopes The Glass Guru will pay more attention to how it can support the growth of a successful version of the franchise.
“Looking back, where I am now, that was a crazy idea to do that,” de Coligny said. “There was a lot of swinging and missing in the beginning.”
The Glass Guru
+ Good Item 19 and planning to open 12-15 locations per year.
+ Differentiated brand providing niche services that other glass shops don’t offer.
- Not as much attention is paid to supporting top-performing franchisees as they mature.
Franchising since 2007, The Glass Guru offers glass and window repair, maintenance and replacement services in the U.S. and Canada. Unique to the brand is its technology to remove moisture from foggy dual-pane windows.
For Lisa Chambers, a former preschool teacher and franchisee in Mason, Ohio, her journey to The Glass Guru began when her patio door fogged up and she called the wrong kind of company, one that told her they would need to replace it for a hefty sum. Instead, she did her research and learned that The Glass Guru’s moisture-removing technology could restore her patio door at a fraction of the cost.
“I looked up foggy windows, found The Glass Guru, and instead of spending $4,000, we bought a franchise instead,” Chambers said, laughing. “I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into.”
Starting with zero experience when she first opened in January 2017, Chambers appreciated a strong level of initial support from the franchisor, including marketing advice such as how much to spend on advertising and where to spend it. However, her biggest challenge was hiring.
“We put in ads and we were not getting the right caliber of person we were looking for that had enough experience,” Chambers said. “We were about to look at option B when my estimator answered our ad.”
Chambers tries to create a laidback atmosphere at her location, bringing in food for birthdays or holidays and hosting team-building activities. She advised prospective franchisees to expect to work hard and for long hours, but to make sure you don’t work so hard you don’t have time for your family or yourself.
“I’ve got the point now where I’m OK letting some things go and maybe putting it off until the morning,” Chambers added. “It still gets done, I’m just not up until 7 in the morning working. I have started to make an effort to do some things for myself.”
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