United Water Restoration Group Inc.
Building the American dream
Business View Magazine interviews Bob Moore, VP Franchise Operations of United Water Restoration Group, for our focus on Best Practices in Franchising.
United Water Restoration Group Inc. (UWRG) is a national, full-service restoration company that is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for water, flood, fire, storm, and mold emergencies. Headquartered in Ormond Beach, FL., this small company that started with two men, a truck, and a big dream has evolved into a national franchise with 15 locations. And they’ve only just begun.
United Water Restoration Group was founded in 2008 by Lajos Nagy and Endre Banfi and later they brought on another partner, Zoltan Kurucz. The trio of owners are immigrants from Hungary who came to the United States with a vision of living the American Dream. Starting from one van, they built the company into 14 locations across the state of Florida. At the core of the growth are two core principles: hard work and dedication to great customer service. In 2015, the owners began to franchise the concept by opening a location in Houston, Texas. Today, they have 15 franchise locations; 14 in the continental U.S. and 1 in Vaughan (Ontario), Canada.
Who makes a good candidate for a UWRG franchise? Generally, people with some background in the trades, who are interested in the franchise model, and have some entrepreneurial experience. According to Bob Moore, VP of Franchise Operations, “We’ve gotten a lot of interest, lately, from people who have their own construction or remodelling company; the type of businesses that can, sometimes, be hurt in times of recession. Our business is fairly recession proof. You can’t predict when the calls will come in but, good times or bad, people are going to have pipes burst, and there will be natural disasters, floods, etc., so we aren’t impacted as badly in the economy as other trades.”
Strong operational capabilities are the foundation of the company. Dedication to serving the customer has pushed the firm to move people and resources around the state to meet the demand for services. This extends to the franchise community as well. The company has sent operational help to franchisees in their time of need to ensure the customer is looked after. As with most restoration companies, UWRG sends its technicians to IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) certification classes. But, unlike most of their competitors, it also sends the Home Office staff to IICRC Water Certification class as well.
Technology is utilized in many ways at UWRG. The company outsources many of its Pay per Click programs to proven vendors to drive business to the corporate locations, as well as the franchisee locations. Technology is also used to segment and target specific referral sources. For example, Facebook is a great means of finding local referral sources and marketing to them to promote the business, as well as local events that might interest them. The company also uses platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to promote their brands and recruit employees and potential franchisees.
Having numerous corporate locations across Florida, UWRG has developed some valuable supplier relationships that benefit its franchisees. For example, the company has a turn-key program for vehicles with Enterprise that allows franchisees to lease or purchase their vehicles, get them fully outfitted (lined & racks installed) and wrapped (branded as UWRG), and delivered to their location, ready to be put into service. If leased, they simply turn them back into Enterprise and they will take care of de-identifying and selling them. According to Moore, “In any franchise, the brand is one of the big pieces that you’re building. Every month, I look at the reports of how many leads came in, how many jobs, and where those leads came from. And, at least once a month, someone has mentioned that they saw our vans driving around. So it’s a great way for the franchisees to get recognition.”
United Water Restoration also has a great relationship with its equipment supplier, Aramsco. Due to the amount of equipment the company purchases, franchisees get the benefit of lower pricing than they would be able to secure on their own. Aramsco has locations across the U.S. and they can get to most UWRG locations the next day, or two days at the latest. Aramsco also brands the DriEaz equipment with the UWRG logo, as well.
The company also has a human resources Partner, Jazz HR, that offers various levels of support based on franchisees’ needs and experience. They have all the UWRG position descriptions, job postings, and other HR tools pre-loaded so franchisees don’t have to re-invent the wheel. The programs are also fully customizable and can be tweaked to fit their goals, needs, and the marketplace.
Hard work and determination are the backbone of the UWRG culture. The founders are very active in the business and set the pace; always trying to make the business better. When visiting the different offices, it’s not uncommon for them to help on a large job. Recently, the Daytona office had a flood job in a 23-story condominium. The owners jumped right in and were carrying air movers and dehumidifiers up the stairs! They exemplify a willingness to serve and this, in turn, attracts others of similar mindsets.
Many of the company’s capital investments are in technology, including upgrading to a newer, better job-processing platform. This will allow better integration with other platforms (QuickBooks, CRMs, etc.). Investment in other technology platforms provides the firm better insight into the battle for web traffic and business, allowing it to analyze and compare web traffic/performance to its competitors, and to gauge its performance and learn from the competition in order to maximize its own web presence. The owners also invest in people that will drive the business forward and help franchisees become more successful. Compared to many other young franchise companies, UWRG has a larger staff than most franchise start-ups.
Moore acknowledges, “Business comes to us in a lot of different ways. The bulk of our work is water related – that’s our biggest corporate revenue source. The majority of our business comes from referrals and online through our website. I started with the company in April 2019, and there were only five franchisees at the time. Over the course of the year, ten more opened. So, a lot were in their first year, and we’re trying to get them to focus primarily on their business, building it up and getting a strong foundation. There was a good bit of growth in 2019 and, as much as I’d like to have a franchisee conference, we’re not at that stage, size-wise, where it makes sense.”
The goal for 2020 is to double the size of the franchise business – going from 15 franchisees to 30. UWRG also wants to continue to update and refine systems and processes to help support great operations and outstanding customer service. It is also looking at how to better support franchisees with regards to recruiting and retaining top talent, as the labor shortage continues to affect all segments of the business community. “I have a lot of conversations with our franchisees about the challenge of finding and retaining quality people,” says Moore. “Any business out there, that’s one of the top challenges they face, because you can have a lot of leads coming in, but if you don’t have quality team members to take care of the customer and do the work, it becomes very difficult to stay in business. So, we start, right away, talking to our franchisees about why someone would come to work for their company as opposed to working for other people in the trades. We try to prepare them and get them in the mindset of thinking that way because they are competing for quality help.
“Our focus for the future is on continuing to build the brand and having more franchisees out there that are successful in running and growing their own business. Our founders are a perfect example that the American Dream is still alive and well. Just over a decade ago, they came to this country with nothing and built a very successful company. Now, they are helping others do that, as well. These gentleman prove it every day that opportunity is out there. You just have to work for it.”
AT A GLANCE
Who: United Water Restoration Group Inc.
What: A national water, fire, and mold restoration company
Where: Ormond Beach, Florida