How I Built a Screen Franchise After Being a Garbage Truck Driver

  • Nathan Van Tholen, 42, is the president of a Screenmobile franchise in Indiana.
  • In just around six months previous calendar year, he and his spouse created $120,000. They prepare to double that in 2022.
  • This is his story and assistance to other franchise proprietors, as advised to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.

This as-explained to-to essay is based on a dialogue with Nathan Van Tholen, the 42-calendar year-previous president of Screenmobile in Cedar Lake, Indiana. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I was a garbage-truck driver in Chicago from the time I was 18 until eventually I took an early retirement in December 2020.

After a lot of yrs of getting up around midnight to go to do the job close to 2 a.m. for the early early morning change, I made the decision it was time to do some thing that allowed me to work in my local community and be present with my family extra.

When a buddy who owns numerous retail franchises started speaking to me about franchise alternatives, I was intrigued. My pal had appear across Screenmobile, a franchise model that sells display doors, windows, and porches and also handles monitor repair service and set up. Following he advised me more about it, I decided to analysis it a bit and learn how I could become concerned.

My wife, Lori, and I experienced normally worked in service-primarily based industries and wanted to keep in that discipline. We located the acquire-in inexpensive, and the small business design was interesting to us since of the flexibility.

We decided to open up a Screenmobile in Could 2021, and Lori took on the role of administrator

We have observed a huge change to help regional enterprises during the pandemic. A lot of men and women would relatively guidance a domestically-owned business than give their cash to a major-box retailer. We get calls daily asking what we do and in which we are situated, followed by the shopper expressing they would a lot alternatively have us do the function than choose it to a chain retail store.

I have finished all the operate myself from day just one. We at this time really don’t have any other workers nevertheless apart from Lori undertaking the scheduling, and I do the bodily do the job and provide ordering. I experienced to understand how to do every little thing in the procedure.

There’ve been struggles with delivery delays, item shortages, rate raises, and understanding a complete new career in an unstable overall economy, but the benefits have far outweighed the struggles in looking at the require for this provider in our region.

With 3 young ones at dwelling, it was a major change 

As somebody who drove a garbage truck — anything my complete loved ones experienced carried out for generations — it was a huge switch to modify gears and move into turning into a small business operator. Eventually, what bought us on the thought was the multigenerational company leadership at Screenmobile: They have identical values to ours and a solid perception of relatives. 

Eight months prior to signing on with Screenmobile, we finalized the adoption of our wonderful three-yr-old daughter, and the experience of earning this profession leap was really comparable. We ended up nervous, but the excitement and optimistic guarantee of a new possibility outweighed that. 

Component of the explanation we pursued Screenmobile over an additional franchise opportunity was that it arrived with a playbook and genuinely priceless means

a white truck with a trailer in a driveway

Van Tholen’s truck and trailer.

Courtesy of Nathan Van Tholen

We utilized all the equipment the corporate staff at Screenmobile presented, this kind of as favored vendors for products, internet marketing techniques, tips for how to finest program your get the job done working day, and truck and private appearance recommendations. I imagine we failed to see it so considerably as a franchisee/franchisor marriage as substantially as a mutually advantageous partnership. 

Corporate headquarters also despatched a huge package of products we could need to have. Lori and I immediately got a really feel for what specific solutions clients needed in our space and uncovered how to comply with customer demand when buying.

For example, most houses have white trim in our region, which implies most new screens and sliding patio doorways in our stock must be white. We also learned that 36″ sliding doorways are most typical as opposed to 48″ doors and most garages are both 7- or 8-feet tall, so that educated which garage screens we acquired.

When we were beginning out, we went genuinely significant with social media, Facebook adverts, and phrase-of-mouth advertising and marketing in the neighborhood

We inspired buyers, specifically individuals to start with few, to leave opinions on social media. We despatched out thank you postcards to just about every buyer and questioned them to leave us a evaluation. We also mention to consumers how crucial word-of-mouth referrals are as nicely as on-line reviews when it arrives up in discussion. Also, we sponsored the regional large university athletic plan and took element in nearby parades to spread the phrase in the neighborhood.

I was producing a very little a lot more than $100,000 a calendar year functioning as a garbage truck driver with comprehensive union positive aspects when I retired. We manufactured an preliminary financial commitment of $100,000 in Screenmobile (the buy-in price tag for the franchise) and adopted that up with all-around $50,000 additional just after we opened for applications, instrument benches, ladders, a notebook, a trailer, and a truck.

We’re totally mobile as significantly as the customer interactions go. We do any and all “office environment” operate (scheduling, consumer knowledge entry, accounting and bookkeeping, stock, and many others.) in the brick-and-mortar developing. All screening, motorized roll downs, patio, and blinds/shades operate is accomplished on web site at the customer’s residence.

Our 2021 earnings was $120,000 just after only 6-and-a-50 percent months of getting clients. This yr, our intention is to make $240,000. The winter and early spring months are really gradual in this region, so we’re looking to double our full gross income last 12 months since we received commenced at the beginning of the hectic period.

One particular early roadblock for me was buying and inventory management 

Shipping and delivery expenses and delays and finding out how to get the most for our greenback in the franchise environment were substantial obstacles. We discovered immediately to share shipments with other franchises in the spot. 

These are the two most essential items of guidance I have for some others looking to get started off with a franchise:

  1. Have an understanding of oneself: Know your strengths and weaknesses and seek the services of out the issues you usually are not terrific at if doable. If you might be working with a spouse, obtain a way to dole out jobs centered on every person’s strengths. For instance, Lori excels at client relations and speaking to folks and I don’t, so I deal with other sections of the company though Lori manages that facet of issues. 
  2. Have a mentor: Locate somebody who’s been there in advance of to give you insight and guideline you. My pal who experienced practical experience in franchising helped us bounce thoughts around and gave us some perception into various worries we could confront and methods to the business enterprise.

The most important problem and the greatest portion of franchising are the similar: time administration and hanging a healthful operate-daily life equilibrium

a family with many kids stands in front of a truck and trailer

The Van Tholen household.

Courtesy of Nathan Van Tholen

From time to time we’ll do the job right until 10 p.m. and often we can acquire a weekday off to be with our household. Lori enjoys not having to punch a clock just about every working day, and she has the independence to run to the grocery store midday if we need to have something for the kids.

On the other hand, we constantly have to be “on” and linked to our phones. We require to be in a position to deal with a function emergency at all hrs since it is really just the two of us and we are the bosses.

We’re searching to develop our workforce in the potential, but a significant struggle is figuring out when to use someone new. We are hunting to add a area worker who can generate the truck and trailer.

A person of the most effective parts of proudly owning our individual franchise is that we can get the youngsters involved and our small children can be a section of our function existence. It helps with togetherness although setting up a strong perform ethic in the youngsters.