Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Franchisee Profile: Michael and Dana Donohue of Colts Neck, NJ

Name: Michael and Dana Donohue

Opening Date: January 16th

Market: New York City/Newark

Location: Colts Neck, NJ

Phone Number:   (732) 778-5306

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Michael: Bronx, NY
Dana: Staten Island

Q: How did you learn about House Doctors?
A: Mike: I started looking at other opportunities. I looked all over the place and just happened upon House Doctors online. I started to look at the whole franchise opportunity and slowly but surely happened upon House Doctors and continued to look harder at it.

Dana: He did a lot of the research and then we talked about it. You consider doing the business on your own or with a franchise and after looking into it myself, I really thought the franchise was the way to go.

Q: How did you conduct your background check on House Doctors?
A: Mike: I spent a lot of time on the phone with the Vice President of House Doctors that’s charted with the mission of bringing in new franchisees. I did a full and lengthy legal review with my attorney. I put the test out there to many colleagues and close friends that I’ve had over the years and sought their opinions. I had my accountant take a look at it as well. When you do that, you get all different types of feedback and then it’s up to you to filter it all and make a decision.

Dana: It was really mostly internet-based. I looked at their website, who they work with, how their business is run. Once we went out to Ohio for the actual training is when I got kind of an actual feel for them.

Q: Why did you decide to open your own business?
A: Mike: There are pros and cons with working in a corporate environment. You get a lot of stability, a lot of structure and you also get a lot of structure. In some cases there is not a lot of room for an entrepreneurial type of spirit. You’re not really going to change the way the company is set up. It was a long 25 years in the elevator industry as well. I worked a lot of hours per week. My commute invariably was a minimum of an hour and a half each way. I worked 10-11 hours each day and then you add the commute on top of that, it got old. I started to hate it. My friends and colleagues encouraged me to open and run my own business. I was in a position to do it but I said if I was going to do it, I was going to open one right in my backyard. This territory I’m in right here was available. It’s a good territory, it’s a nice size and it’s a great community. It will afford me the opportunity to spend more time with my kids, watch their games, see their plays, which, I missed a lot of that in the last 5-6 years. I feel like I could be my own boss and run an effective business on my own.

Dana: One thing that is nice about having your own business and working from home, there is someone to share the household duties and parenting. He’s now there to do some of the extracurricular activities that he was never able to do. He left at 5 in the morning and got home at 8, 9 o’clock at night. That’s the major advantage is that he’s more accessible to me and the children.

Q: What was most appealing to you about joining a franchise system as opposed to starting your own business?
A: Mike: Once I made a decision to go into business on my own and into this particular business, the only remaining decision was do I do it on my own or do I do it within the franchise? I gave it a lot of thought. I consulted with my wife and friends and so forth. Anytime you go into a new business, whether it’s your own business or a franchise business, you enter that business with a lot of trepidation, you second guess everything. I also put myself in the place of the consumer as well. I asked myself how I make consumers comfortable. I wanted to align myself with something that was more structured, maybe had a bit of a brand to it so it would ease that transition. House Doctors has a well-developed structure including Discovery Day where you go out and meet the corporate team and find out what it is they can do for you. They don’t completely disclose everything. When I left that experience, I remember going to the airport and telling my wife “this is the right way for us right now. I feel more comfortable with the House Doctors franchise team than just doing it on my own and making it happen overnight.” You pay for it, but at the end of the day if the brand does what it’s supposed to do, the cost becomes inconsequential.

Dana: I really liked the corporate support. They have a proven track record. They have everything from the financials to the marketing, everything they have set up. The corporate support is really excellent.

Q: With regard to your previous experience, what skills do you feel helped you in your business?
A: Mike: I believe in taking a look at the whole picture, understanding everything, not just taking a knee-jerk reaction because that’s how people make mistakes. I’m very cognitive of the customer experience. I’ve had hundreds of customers over the years and you really need to be sensitive to their needs. The customers I dealt with in Manhattan are absolutely the toughest customers you’ll ever come across. I always felt that if I could lick this New York thing, and I did for many many years, I could succeed anywhere.

Dana: I was a recruiter for ten years. I really dealt with people in human resources and that’s what this business is all about is building a customer base and putting the customer first. I’ve dealt with employees so that will help with the employees that we hire as well as dealing with the public.

Q: What are your hobbies? What do you like to do for fun? What activities do you enjoy on weekends?
A: Mike: We have four kids that keep us very busy. I have three girls and a boy ranging in age from 6 to 10. They keep us very busy with various activities and so forth. I love to fish, anything that’s really related to the outdoors. I also really love to play golf but I feel like I haven’t played in such a long time, so that’s something I want to get back into. Swimming, anything that’s beach related, that sort of things.

Dana: I’m an avid tennis player. I play locally and competitively. It’s my physical outlet and my social outlet aside from my kids.

Q: How many jobs is your location going to create?
A: Mike: Initially it’ll create two full-time jobs in the first 60 days. I’m going to hire a full-time technician which will be the person we hire to do our fixing out in the field. I’m also going to hire a full-time customer service person. That person will work solely in the office and handle all the phone calls, scheduling and day to day office tasks. I’m hoping that within the first year I add at least another two full-time jobs. By the end of the year, I want to have 2-3 FT technicians and one customer service.

Q: How does your business connect with the local community?
A: Mike: It’s another area that I’m new at. Once we launch, we will be out there networking. I’ll be joining local organizations like the business network, the Better Business Bureau, and as a result of becoming familiar with and involved with those groups. As a result of that, I’m expecting to be more involved in the community. I’m involved in Boy Scouts with my son. I envision that to just continue to grow, those kinds of relationships.

Dana: We’re basically servicing the members of the community. We are a local business, we want to support our local businesses as well as our local families. We live in a small tight-knit community.

Q: What are some of your achievements (professionally or personally) that you think will help you along the way in your business?
A: Mike: I didn’t get my college degree out of high school. I went to college while I was working for my first employer in the elevator industry. I went at night and got a full four-year degree in five years while working full-time. I can tell you I killed myself to do it. I just never let anything slow me down. When I believe in something and make a decision to do it, I go out and do it. My wife and I don’t look back, we move forward, we support it and we make it happen. I never complained about the work, you just get out there and you do it. I’m expecting to grow it to where I can some day pass it on to my kids. We’re not taking this business on to struggle. I’m expecting to grow this so that the community sees a House Doctors van every 2-3 days. I want to be a household name locally because when people in the area have a problem, they call us and we take care of it.

Dana: I think that my personality is a good fit in terms of networking. Accomplishment-wise, kind of being part of the community and staying on top.

Q: What are your expansion or development plans?
A: Mike: I would like to have ten technicians within 5-7 years. I think it’s doable. We’re starting in the slow months and I’m not that disappointed in that because I want to get out there, I want to grow the business at a slow rate right now. Now is when we’re going to make our mistakes. I want to make my mistakes now, I want to understand what went wrong and fix it right on the spot. The more I do that over and over, when the business starts to ramp up and now I have a business model that continues to get stronger. You combine the business model with great networking and advertising, the business grows.

Dana: Right now we’re focusing on Monmouth County. Once that is developed and running well, we’ll move into Ocean County, NJ. After that, the sky’s the limit. We’re hoping that Monmouth and Ocean Counties become really successful. We have four children and one of them could take over the business 20 years.

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