Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here. Another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio. And this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Bryan Park with Footprints Floors. Welcome, Bryan.
Bryan Park: Hi. Thanks for having me on.
Lee Kantor: Well, I'm excited to learn what you're up to. Tell us a little bit about Footprints Floors. How are you serving folks?
Bryan Park: We are a full-service residential flooring company. So, we install tile, hardwood, laminate, LVP. We do it all. And we have gone national in the last couple of years and have grown extremely quickly. And we're in 34 states and 140 markets now.
Lee Kantor: Tell us about the beginning. Did you always intend to be a franchise or was that something that just kind of organically evolved?
Bryan Park: It was very organic. We really had no intention from day one of franchising. I was in the Air Force. And after I got out of the Air Force, I was just trying to figure out what to do and kind of stumbled into flooring. And I guess that's a funny story. I was trying to find a job, and my wife and I were newlyweds and in our early 20s, and just trying to figure out what to do. And we had gone out to dinner one night and came home, and we had three puppies because that's what normal people do, they get three puppies. And our puppies had eaten our carpet while we were gone. They just shredded it, and tore up the pad, and there was just confetti all over the house. We hired a flooring company to come and replace carpet. And I was watching that guy install, and it looked like I could do it. I was still skinnier back then. And so, I called up that company and, actually, started installing and sanding hardwood floors for them. And that's how I got into the flooring.
Bryan Park: But yeah, really, from there, it was all about feeding my family. We had two young girls, and I was really just a floor guy. But we stumbled on some stuff in the market in Denver. That's where I started the company. And really, over the next kind of five or eight years of starting the business, we grew and quickly took over the Denver market. And it was really based on just taking care of customers. Just show up and do what you say you're going to do, call people back. It's pretty basic things, but things that are really missing from the flooring industry - construction as a whole, but flooring specifically as well.
Bryan Park: And because I kind of figured out some of the key things, it just organically evolved into, "Let's go into some other states. We've got something here that's worthwhile and is a great living. Let's share it with more people." So, we franchised a couple of years ago and moved in that direction. But yeah, the roots are definitely me, me just installing floors. That's what it was.
Lee Kantor: So, now, when you went from working for somebody else in flooring, what was kind of the catalyst to say, "You know what, I'm going to do this on my own?" Were you frustrated by the way they were doing it? Did you see there was just more opportunity if you can just do everything yourself? Like what was kind of made you feel confident to take that leap into being an entrepreneur?
Bryan Park: I actually didn't believe in take the leap. I was more or less forced into it. It was 2008, I'd worked for this company, this flooring company, the one that had done my floors for a couple of years and had moved up. And I enjoyed the industry, but even in those early days, I was still thinking I was going to go be a civil engineer or something, and flooring was just a way to get there.
Bryan Park: But in 2008, economy crashes. I went six months that year not getting paid as a W2 employee, and they were not able to pay their employees. So, we were all just working for free, hoping someday that they would pay us back. And in November of that year, so November of' 08, they sat me and a couple other guys down at an Arby's of all places, and let us go. They just said, "Sorry, we don't have the money. Best of luck to you." We're like, "You owe us money." And they're like, "Yeah, good luck." So, that was my rude awakening into trying to figure out what to do. And I had a two-year-old daughter and my wife was eight months pregnant, and I needed to figure out how to pay the bills. And the work landscape in those days were not ideal. And in construction, December of '08, probably the worst month ever -- I have a donkey next to me. So, yes, that's an actual donkey.
Lee Kantor: Look, you got to get your teammates from where we can find them.
Bryan Park: I know. Like back in my barn, there's a donkey. She's hawing all of the sudden. So, yeah, the summer of '08, I was forced into figuring out what to do. So, we started Footprints Floors, my wife and I. She answered the phones and built out the website as she's juggling to a toddler and our second daughter was born in February of '09. So, yeah. So, for the first two months, we didn't have any work. I walked neighborhoods and put flyers on doors. My father-in-law and brother-in-law helped me do that. And we went to months of no money, and no income, and no nothing, and just trying to figure it out. Obviously, lots of kind of tense conversations with my wife. She's telling me, "Go get a job at Home Depot or something. Just something hourly that to pay the bills." And I'm sitting there like, "This is going to work. It's going to be great."
Bryan Park: And in February of '09, we did our first job. And so, for those first maybe six months, I worked six-and-a-half days a week, doing estimates at night, and getting home at 10:00 at night, and just making it happen. Really built the business out of my garage. And so, yeah, I don't think I would have the energy today to to pull it off, but those days, I was able to do it somehow.
Lee Kantor: Yeah. And when kinda your family's livelihoods are on the line, it's extra incentive to really kind of put the hammer down and do what you got to do.
Bryan Park: Yeah. What are your other options at that point? I don't think there was a single worst month since the Great Depression to start a business than December of '08. And that's when we started this company.
Lee Kantor:So, then, when you started doing that and you started getting clients, at what point did you go, "You know what? I think the way we're doing things is a little different, and it might be something that I can help somebody else get into this kind of business without some of the pain that I had when I first started"?
Bryan Park:] Yeah. From day one, it was my intention. And I learned some of it when I was with the previous company, but we market. We started marketing. That was me walking neighborhoods, putting flyers on doors. And that's not really something that's common in construction. Most guys, it's almost like this pride, like, "Oh, I don't need the market. I'm a referral based business. I find all my work word of mouth for free." And that's great, but my philosophy is you get more referrals when you have more customers. So, let's do marketing and get a whole bunch of customers coming through in that way. And then, those are going to lead to referrals and previous customers. The more work you do, the more referrals you get.
Bryan Park: And so, it's almost like fuel for a machine when you market. Let's put some gas in this thing and get it going. And then, the referrals and previous customers, assuming you're taking care of your customers, those referrals will come. And that was really my philosophy from day one. And it's just in sales, really taking kind of next-level sales thoughts and techniques, and applying them to an industry where to spend an hour with the customer and learning about their lives, that's amazing. It's different because most of our competition, they just show up and spend 12 minutes, like, "What's the room? Okay. I'll let you know when I'm done. Bye." There's just no investigation. There's no figuring out what's actually important to this customer.
Bryan Park:] And so, those were principles from day one that we implemented. And just these simple -- I mean, explaining it to you over the phone right now makes it sound like it should be pretty common sense. But for some reason, construction just doesn't do it. And so, that's a lot of how we took over the industry in Denver so quickly is we just took care of customers. We just treated them like people. And yeah. And then, taking those same techniques and teaching others to do the same, just take your time with your customers and serve them. It's not about serving you. It's about serving them. Just that mentality has really blossomed and allowed us to grow like we have.
Lee Kantor: Now, are you finding your ideal franchisee, is it someone that's in the construction industry or do you purposely not want someone there that has bad habits? Maybe they learned from their life in the construction industry?
Bryan Park: Yeah, we're really looking for people that are teachable. So, we do have a handful that have construction backgrounds but they're teachable. But of our 70 something owners, like five have construction backgrounds and the other 65 do not. So, I wouldn't necessarily say we're targeting non-construction people, but that seems to be who's coming through the door. And we love it because I've always said I can teach adults about hardwood. If somebody knows how to show up and call people back on time, I can teach about hardwood. It only takes a few months to get that kind of stuff. It's not that hard. But I can't take a hardwood guy and teach them how to be an adult. Meaning, if they don't know how to show up, and call people back, and be responsible, and run bank accounts and those kinds of things, then it might be too late if they're in their 40s and 50s to teach them. So, yeah, that's really my philosophy. I just want people that are teachable and that are willing and eager to learn. And we've had a lot of success with that.
Lee Kantor: Now, over the years of doing this kind of work interviewing business leaders like I have, I got the chance to interview a large franchisor that's known for their customer service, which is a lot different than other food service franchises, and they told me when they hire their workers, they look for people who naturally smile and with the same thinking that, "I can't teach someone how to smile at someone. So, I'd rather start with someone who's a natural smiler. And then, I'll work the rest. I'll teach them the other stuff."
Bryan Park: Yeah, that's a great parallel. It's exactly what we look for.
Lee Kantor: Now, when you started franchising, was it hard for you to kind of get the first ones or was that organic that people saw what your work was in Denver and said, "Hey, I'm moving to Michigan, and I think that I'd like to start one here." Like, how did you get your early franchisees?
Bryan Park: We have four in Colorado that are alongside me. So, I'm kind of the fifth one. And the other four were all organic, really kind of friends and people I ran into. So, there was no recruiting. It was just a friend on the softball team, and his cousin, and then an actual customer that we were doing floors for was like, "Tell me about this thing you're doing." So, he joined us. And then, one of his crew was the fourth guy. So, it was very organic. And really, that all started kind of 2013. So, seven or eight years ago. And we filled out Colorado quickly, which is the front range kind of from Cheyenne to Pueblo, that area.
Bryan Park: And really from there, the plan was to not go out of state. Like I got four guys. I'm still running Denver. I make good money. This is a great setup we've got. But then, after doing that for about five years with those guys, we really developed the system from there, and figured out, "Yeah, we could actually take this out of state. We've got a lot of resources and a lot of things figured out. So, let's try it." So, we hired a third-party company to be our sales arm of the franchising side, and we greenlit them in spring of '19. And yeah, they started recruiting people out of state. Really, my philosophy, my idea was every franchise owner I've added was somebody I knew. So, what? I got to go live in other states and meet people?
Lee Kantor: Right, I'm going to have to move 20 times to cover this country.
Bryan Park: I know. Yeah, yeah. Be all over the place. This may take forever. I didn't really even know brokers existed. Again, I'm just a hardwood guy. What are brokers? So, learning about all that, like, "Oh, man. There's like this whole industry that's built to grow these things." So, once I figured that out, we got connected with the right people, and invested a bunch of money. It was able to go out of state finally. So, our first out-of-state guy was in June of'19 in Dallas. And then, yeah, so almost two years ago. And we've gone from - so that was five. So, he was six. And now, we're at, I think, 72. So, about 66 in less than two years.
Lee Kantor: So, that third party was kind of the gas on the fire there?
Bryan Park: They're phenomenal. It's a company called Braintree. They're based out of Denver, but they serve a lot of different franchise organizations. And I guess, it's kind of a funny story. I went to interview them to see if they were going to be worth my time. And they were in this high rise in Denver. And I do the elevator thing in the conference room overlooking the scenic view. And I quickly figured out that they were actually interviewing me, not the other way around. Like they were trying to see if I was worth their time.
Bryan Park: But, yeah, they came out of that meeting saying, "This is going to be huge. This is going to be awesome. We've been looking for something." They said, "We've been looking for somebody like you for ten years. This is going to be great." So, I said, "Okay. Like, I guess I believe you." And we went from there, but they've been phenomenal. They take the whole front end. So, they do all the marketing, they have all the initial sales conversations, and they do a great job of educating and bringing potential owners through the process and getting them up to speed before they really start talking to me.
Lee Kantor: And so, that way, you're only talking to the people that you should be talking to. Not every single person that's just kicking tires.
Bryan Park:Exactly, yeah. I'm kind of the last 10 percent of the process.
Lee Kantor: So, now, how do you see the growth continuing? Is it just give Braintree more kind of permission to just keep going boldly forward, or you have an additional kind of marketing plans, or just keep doing what you're doing?
Bryan Park: I think we'd just keep doing what we're doing. We'll ride this train as far as it goes. We're not even halfway. So, we have 403 territories available in the United States, and we're at like 140. So, we've got a ways to go. So, we anticipate growth for a while longer, and then we'll come up with a new plan once we hit that.
Lee Kantor: And then, for the folks out there that are listening that are considering this, well, how would you kind of paint that ideal person? Is it someone that just was laid off? What are some of the characteristics of a good Footprints Floors person?
Bryan Park: We're looking for people that are eager and excited to be their own boss and to set their own schedules. It's excellent money. It can be stressful though. Construction has some stressful days. So, you got to want it. This isn't something that you just sit back and do nothing and money. I'm really not sure what job that is if you do nothing and make money. Sign me up.
Lee Kantor: Yeah, really.
Bryan Park: I think people underestimate how difficult being a business owner can be. And it's not just with Footprints Floors. It's owning a restaurant. It's anything. So, that, I would say is a big trait. But then, it's a very people-oriented position. It's in-home sales. So, it's meeting people and then managing crews. And there's a lot of talking, a lot of people interaction. So, it's somebody that is outgoing, but also competitive and eager to kind of win because that's what it is. It's a competitive industry.
Lee Kantor: Now, the Footprints Floors franchisee, typically, all their eggs are in this basket or do they have several franchises, and this is just one of the complimentary services when they're serving a home, that they have kind of a franchise empire around the home, and this is just one of the elements or they kind of a pretty much a Footprints Floors only.
Bryan Park: No. We expect them to be with us full time. So, they might have a parallel business, maybe real estate, or something like that, or they're flippers, or something. But for the most part, it's a full-time job, and that's who's proven to be very successful.
Lee Kantor: So, they're kind of owner/operators. They're not somebody who owns several locations, and they're managers and-
Bryan Park: No, they can be both. So, we have a lot of owners, pretty much all of them start out as owner-operators. So, it's day one, they're out doing estimates and selling jobs. Once they sell a job, they find subcontractors, which always sounds scary, but it ends up not being that tough to do. And then, they execute their job and manage the job. We ask them or expect them to be at the job sites each day as customer service. And then, they collect the final check from the homeowner. And then, they repeat that process as many times as possible.
Bryan Park:Footprints Floors is corporate. We actually turn on and do all of their marketing for them. And so, we effectively get the phone to ring. And then, we actually answer the phone for them. So, we have a full staff who answers all the phones, and they're putting the estimates on the owners' schedules for them. And that's really the beginning of their process. Once the estimate is on their schedule, they drive to the house, and they fulfill that process.
Bryan Park: So, to go back to answering your question, yeah, it's owner/operator up front, but then over time, they can start to add staff and develop. We have plenty of multi unit owners that own two, three, four different territories. I own four territories in Denver, and I have 11 people on my staff. So, if they have four, there's a long runway in front of them with high-revenue numbers if they're good at it.
Lee Kantor:Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success, if somebody wants to learn more about the opportunity, what's the website?
Bryan Park: That's footprintsfloors.com.
Lee Kantor: Well, it's an amazing story, Bryan. You should be really proud of yourself, and the impact you're having in the communities you serve is real. And we appreciate you.
Bryan Park: Yeah, it's been a fun ride. I have a long way to go. So, thank you for having me here.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.