Now That's Handy: You don't have to be a skilled carpenter to successfully operate a handyman franchise

Brian Wigutow had always dreamed of operating his own restaurant. But after more than a dozen years in the industry he realized that for him -- and his family, which includes three young daughters -- it was just not going to be the right career choice. That's when he turned to a franchise broker and discovered, to his surprise, one of the franchise matches that best suited him…Handyman Matters.

"I didn't have any handyman experience, but I know how to run a business and have the ability to manage skilled labor," says the 48-year-old Handyman Matters franchisee, who is based in Columbia, Maryland. "Operating a franchise like Handyman Matters is just a matter of process. It mainly requires a basic business acumen."

Wigutow has discovered what many others are finding out, that handyman-related franchising is a healthy and growing industry (the segment is ranking high atop best franchise opportunity lists like those found in Entrepreneur magazine). Franchise players like Handyman Matters, Handyman Connection, and Mr. Handyman, are grabbing more and more of the growing market share in home repairs, remodeling, and building. Indeed, these fix-r-up franchises offer a slew of solutions for millions of time-starved, two-income families, and retiring Baby-Boomers.

Wigutow opened his franchise in October of 2004. In preparation, he says he spent much of his time during the prior six month period evaluating the Handyman Matters brand, speaking with current franchise owners and former operators, and quizzing the corporate staff.

"I really tried to do my due diligence in order to make an informed decision," he says.

One of the biggest hurdles for many new franchisees to clear is often finding the necessary start-up capital. "Handyman Matters is great about showing you the various ways you can generate this revenue, whether it's through borrowing, a second mortgage, or some other way, they are great at coaching you through the process," says Wigutow.

One of the things that attracted Wigutow to Handyman Matters was the company's overall values and way of doing business. "It really was a reflection of my own," he says. He also liked what he saw in terms of corporate support. "They have the systems in place that help you easily handle everything from customer estimates, through scheduling, right on to dispatching." And, he says, corporate support is always just a phone call away.

In an industry like home repair, remodeling, and handyman services, there remains a perceived credibility gap, oftentimes deservedly so. People have been burned by bad contractors and shoddy craftsmanship. That's why, says Wigutow, franchises like Handyman Matters have the opportunity to clean up the tarnished industry image. And he thinks they're succeeding.

"It's a challenge to find and keep good workers, but through extensive background checks and other methods, we've managed to recruit a dozen or so highly talented and motivated specialists who can do a great job for our customers," says Wigutow.

He's done so well with his first Handyman Matters territory, that just this past November, Wigutow took on a second adjoining territory. He's now serving a swath of the Baltimore-Washington, D.C.-area market.

Like other successful franchisees, Wigutow says he has "just followed the franchise's model, hired skilled craftsmen, and employed great customer service reps to handle the phones."

Wigutow says he spends most of his time now overseeing the business day to day. He says he's always looking at marketing opportunities and strategies that will keep his phones ringing. "It's been a great business for me because my family is an important part of my life. I want to take my kids to school and be able to spend time with them in the evenings. It's important for me to have a balanced lifestyle," he says. A typical week finds him working a solid 40 hours or so and spending most evenings and weekends at home.

As Wigutow says, "You're not buying a job, you're buying a business opportunity."

And a handyman franchise can be a great way to build a business and a future.

Published: January 25th, 2008

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