Dina Dwyer of The Dwyer Group part 1

Roy Seaman, Publisher of The Franchise Magazine talks to Dina Dwyer-Owens, Co-Chairman of the Dwyer Group about the company’s last five years and its exciting plans for the future.

Roy Seaman, Founder and Managing Director of Franchise Development Services: Could you summarise the last few years of The Dwyer Group’s operations?

Dina Dwyer-Owens, Co-Chair of The Dwyer Group: Our last few years have been a textbook lesson in the positive impact of private equity working with a skilled team of executives across our service brands.

In 2010, we were partnering with The Riverside Company, a private equity partner that has offices all over the world including the UK. And it was time to take the company to market so their investors could get a return on their investment.

That’s when we were fortunate to team up with another private equity group called The TZP Group in December of 2010. TZP really invested in taking Dwyer to the next level and funded some of the infrastructure at The Dwyer Group which allowed continued improvement for franchise development. At the same time, we moved to improve our franchise support initiatives and invested in a division called Dwyer Service Solutions, which is a national account division that brings customers to our franchisees.

We also created Dwyer Marketing Services, which encompasses many things relating to marketing, communications and social media, to help our franchisees with SEO and marketing matters to take their businesses to the next level.

Along the way, we began to franchise The Grounds Guys in 2010. And now, just four years later, they have 160 franchises and are experiencing exceptional growth.

Then, about two and a half years ago, we made the decision to direct franchise, Mr. Electric and Aire Serv in the United Kingdom.

And finally, most recently, The Dwyer Group was sold by TZP and reacquired by The Riverside Company. That’s how fast we’ve grown. While every private equity group usually wants a return on an investment every five to seven years, it was just three years into our relationship with TZP that Riverside came back and said, “We would love to own The Dwyer Group again. We don’t find many companies that have the same kind of culture as Dwyer.”

What we have discovered is that companies with a very strong culture and a real mission to serve people financially out-perform those that don’t. Our private equity journey has been proof of that every step of the way, including Riverside paying a premium to reacquire The Dwyer Group.

And of course, I couldn’t talk about all of this great growth and success without also giving credit to a fantastic team. This year we promoted our long-serving President & COO Mike Bidwell to be the CEO of The Dwyer Group, a job that he is doing beautifully. And we also promoted Mr. Rooter’s (Drain Doctor in UK) President Mary Thompson, to an additional role as Executive Vice President of The Dwyer Group.

Roy: You are well-known in franchising for your performance over the years in helping every franchisee that joins you to set goals, manage their time and be better people. How do you wish to be perceived in the future?

Dina: We see ourselves as being in the business of helping people have a better quality of life, and we use franchising as our vehicle to help them achieve that goal. That’s never going to change. So our mission for The Dwyer Group is really the same. It’s about helping people achieve their dreams. We also want to remain focused on the foundation for our success, our core values: Living R.I.C.H, where the R is for Respect, I is for Integrity, C is for Customer Focus and H is for Having Fun in the process.

It is really about treating people with respect and dignity. When you do that, people trust you. And with that trust comes lasting relationships and referrals. If you do right by people and have a great product or service, the profits will follow.

Roy: Which of your brands do you believe has the most significant international franchise development potential?

Dina: The brands that we currently have in the UK are Rainbow International, Drain Doctor, Mr. Electric and Aire Serv.

Glass Doctor would probably be the next brand that The Dwyer Group looks to bring into the UK and into Europe. And The Grounds Guys might be the next brand to follow.

We are also open to acquiring brands here in the UK or in Europe that compliment our other brands, and that we can continue to grow here and possibly bring over to the US.

Roy: In which parts of the world do you see significant development potential for these important brands?

Dina: We are excited about Europe right now, because the UK is our focus. We also recently re-acquired the master license from our Rainbow Master Licensee in Germany. So we will be continuing to expand throughout Europe.

Roy: Recent market research has suggested there are 20 million people in China with over half a million sterling looking to own a franchise. Where do you see China fitting into your vision for the future?

Dina: When I was the Chairwoman for the International Franchise Association, I had a great opportunity to spend some time in Beijing. And even back then they stated an interest in our service businesses at The Dwyer Group. But the idea of service businesses in China is still very new. So I think it will end up being a part of our future plans, but not in the short-term.

Roy: What do you believe to be realistic goals in relation to growing the five key brands internationally? How many locations would you like to see those brands in?

Dina: We want to be prudent in our international growth. We have never done direct franchising except in Canada and want to start a strong foundation that we can really grow from in Europe. We would like to double the number of units we have with Rainbow International, Mr. Electric and Aire Serv. Our master licensee for Drain Doctor has done a great job filling locations in the country and is in search of excellent franchisees to take on the remaining territories. We also look forward to introducing Glass Doctor and The Grounds Guys some time in the future. I see great opportunities ahead.

Roy: Looking at the UK market, there seems to be more and more people wanting to buy established franchises for sale rather than new-start. Is this something you have had a significant experience with in other markets?

Dina: In North America, yes. The attraction of a franchise is also its potential exit strategy. That means that a franchisee can look at retirement, having established a great asset for resale in his or her franchise. And a potential franchise investor can move into an established business with name recognition, an existing customer base, and more. It can be a win-win as we have seen across our brands in North America that have been in operation for, in many cases, decades at the grassroots level. We also have a resale department at The Dwyer Group that can assist in the process.

Roy: Are you finding there that you’re actually attracting higher calibre people or organisations who will take what the franchise owners have built to the next level?

Dina: People looking to buy existing businesses are usually quite sophisticated. The savvy business person can manage a great team of service professionals. Similarly, our service brands are good recession-resistant businesses with proven systems to attract that kind of investor. The key is hiring great licensed team members who can help take the business to the next level.

Part 2 of the Dina Dwyer interview here