Smaller remodeling companies looking for a way to grow their business are increasingly turning to franchises as a solution. With a franchise, the remodeler gets a ready-made product and market, not to mention the backing of a seasoned corporate team and a recognized name, plus already proven systems and marketing materials.

Down Under One franchise option growing in popularity is the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System (BFS). Introduced in 1998, sales reached $55 million in 2003. Chuck Stein, president of Owens Corning Remodeling, says that signing on with the BFS concept is “a unique opportunity [for remodelers] to expand their existing business.”

One group in particular that seems to have found success with BFS is sunroom contractors, according to Stein, who says that BFS “is a good fit with sunroom contractors' systems and methodologies.” Finished basements complement — and even sometimes replace — a sunroom.

Brad Bishop of Rembrandt Remodeling, in Marietta, Ga., took on a BFS franchise in January 2003 and has since doubled his volume. Three years ago, sunrooms were his top sellers. Since he started with the BFS franchise, they've gone to the bottom of the list. “Everyone and their brother is in the sun-room business. The market is saturated, and nobody's getting rich,” Bishop says.

Basements aren't just for furnaces and hot water heaters anymore. Finished basements are a relatively low-cost option for adding living space.
Basements aren't just for furnaces and hot water heaters anymore. Finished basements are a relatively low-cost option for adding living space.

Training for new franchisees covers three areas: Start Up, Sales, and Installation. The Start Up training is a two-day session set up by the Owens Corning operations team at the franchisee's location. Sales training includes background on the company, product features and benefits, and a workbook and training DVD. Installation training is done at the Owens Corning Science and Technology Center in Granville, Ohio. Conducted by one of the inventors of the system, the three-day session includes classroom and hands-on work.

Owens Corning also holds a Franchise Advisory Council, a group of franchisees that meets once a month to share with the company, and each other, trends, suggestions, and best business practices. Franchisees on the Council serve three years in positions elected by their peers.

The startup cost for a BFS franchise is approximately $125,000, which includes a truck, advertising, a $20,000 to $50,000 franchise fee that covers training, marketing, and lead generation, and $40,000 for product.

Siding on the Side? Also enjoying success in the franchise market is ABC Seamless Siding. The company, which installs machine-produced steel siding, began franchising in 1978. Starting an ABC franchise is an easy transition for a contractor who's already doing gutters or other siding installation, according to Lee Wegner, vice president of franchising for ABC. “Too many guys in the business are generalists,” Wegner says. “They're doing too much, but they'll do much better if they specialize in one thing.” For a contractor who's excellent at installation but not so hot in sales, partnering with a company like ABC gives them help where they need it most. The company, says Wegner, can aid the contractor in “growing from a small business into a solid one that they can pass on to their employees or their family.”

ABC helps with business planning and also shows contractors how to delegate responsibility to their employees. They offer sales training at monthly sessions at their offices in Fargo, N.D., and conduct yearly “Grow Your Business” regional roundtable meetings. And, Wegner adds, because ABC runs several of its corporate franchises, “we have a much better handle on how to help the franchisee. We face the same challenges they do, every single day.”