From Frustration To Opportunity In North Vancouver Island
It all started with a series of frustrating phone calls. Chris Strong, owner of Men In Kilts’ newest location on North Vancouver Island, decided to start a franchise after he moved to Campbell River in February. He realized there were no property maintenance services available there… let alone a service experience that brings the perfect balance of professionalism, superior quality and head-turning hilarity that Chris had gotten used to as a previous Men In Kilts client in Calgary.
“First I tried to find lawn services. Then gutter cleaning, and later I looked for window washing services,” recalls Chris. “In all three occasions, nobody returned my calls or came by.”
After speaking to his new neighbours, he discovered that he and his wife Janice weren’t the only people experiencing this frustration. Chris had already been an admirer of the Men In Kilts brand so he contacted CEO Chris and his wife Robyn to begin a conversation about potentially starting a franchise. The rest was history.
“My wife and I are not afraid of hard work,” said Chris, whose franchise will serve Campbell River, Nanaimo, Parksville and surrounding areas on the north part of Vancouver Island. Not only did the business-minded couple recognize a gap in service availability there, but they saw a demographic opportunity as well.
“Baby boomers are coming here in droves to retire and experience the sites, the mountains, the ocean, lakes, fishing, hunting, hiking… you name it,” says Chris. “Many of them don’t want to be doing the hard physical labour required in property maintenance.”
Chris is confident in the long-term success of his new business due to a combination of important factors: the niche retirement market in his location; the unique Men In Kilts brand and franchise supports and; his and his wife’s previous business and leadership experience. He believes running a franchised business brings the appeal of learning from other people’s mistakes and using proven systems 25+ years in the making.
“I love the Men In Kilts brand and the energy that Robyn and Chris bring to the business,” says Chris. “Leading people is a real skill,” he adds, looking back at his own experience. Chris recalls one of the single biggest influencers in his career, the previous Principle at Derrick Dodge Edmonton where Chris served as a salesman in the late 90s. “George Thompson showed me that people have good qualities and more challenging qualities. Strong leadership is about accepting both sides of people to capitalize on their strengths. He spoke straight and he gave you praise when needed.”
Chris took George’s wisdom with him as he went on to build a breadth of management experience in both mid and large sized businesses.
Together with his wife Janice, Chris believes their varied work experience running large service companies with sales components will be an asset to the Men In Kilts business. “My previous accomplishments as a General Manager and VP Operations will allow me to build a highly organized and committed team while maintaining the high standard of customer satisfaction that comes with the Men In Kilts brand,” says Chris who can’t wait to don his kilt in the community while Janice focuses on back-end organization and setting up the team for success.
When asked about his accomplishments, Chris is most proud of rebuilding his team at the last position he held. “In less than two years, we went from the most underperforming out of nine Canadian branches to the top-performing team with an annual revenue of $15 million.”
One of the couple’s other proudest accomplishments is their family including a son and daughter who are also doing great things. “My son will soon be a teacher and my daughter is a Doctor of Psychology who leads the Wetaskiwin School District’s student counsellors and support staff.”
Chris is also looking forward to becoming a grandpa in October this year.
“At the end of the day, happiness is all about finding love and balance… with people and with nature,” says Chris. “And it’s also about having fun. Starting a business with Men In Kilts allows us to have fun while also making some money…. one kilt and one customer at a time!”