Darryl Rose daydreamed about making it as a handyman, but was stifled by the uncertainty of a reliable income. “I thought there was no money in it. How could I support my family?” he says. What he discovered after putting together a business plan and hiring his first employee in 1997 was that if you have enough jobs and enough workers, there’s money to be made.
His initial plan called for selling home maintenance contracts, but Rose soon learned that what his suburban Chicago customers really wanted was someone reliable to replace doors, repair drywall, and rebuild stairs. “The more established remodelers in our area weren’t interested in small jobs,” he says.
Get Dwell charges time and materials, like most of the handyman franchises it competes with, and Rose learned from experience that it was critical to have clear communication. The company uses a document called the project agreement that establishes a scope, a schedule, what homeowners want done, costs involved, and how Get Dwell is paid. The project agreement establishes that the job might take six to 12 hours, depending on what the project manager finds. Critically important, he says, is that “the guys are trained in how to use it.”
More than nine out of 10 clients are female homeowners, and in the beginning, before he could afford to invest in marketing, Rose plugged into “the Mom network” to get work. Now, about half of Get Dwell business comes from repeat customers, much of the remainder from homeowners searching online for a tradesman. Laying down the rules has enabled the company to charge what it needs to sustain a professional handyman service, with trucks, tools, marketing, and management.
- Get Dwell charges every client a “day fee” of $45 to cover transportation, and the fee is included regardless of whether the project manager is at the house all day or part of it. “We are priced for the person who is looking for a professional service, someone [homeowners] can trust,” Rose says.
- The business collects at the end of every day on any job that lasts more than one day. “If the job is going to be three days, we ask for three payments and every day we collect,” Rose says. “Even our best clients may say, ‘Do I have to write three checks?’ My answer is always: ‘Yes you do.’” That way, he says, the company can avoid homeowners who “want to play Let’s Make A Deal at the end of a job.”
- Get Dwell helped build its business by partnering with local hardware stores (the same stores where it buys materials for jobs) to be the handyman service that those businesses recommend to clients. All the more reason, Rose says, that project managers have be thoroughly professional.