John Rotche: Why not let experience be part of your growth? Featured

11:27am EDT July 5, 2011
John Rotche John Rotche

There seems to be a widely held belief that success correlates to time in the business world. In other words, business owners need to have a number of years under their belt before attempting to expand or branch out. I ask, why? Why not let your experience be a part of your growth?

I look back at the evolution of my duct cleaning business, DUCTZ. It grew from my daughter’s bedroom into the nation’s largest duct cleaning franchise with more than 150 units. Now, along with its sister franchise, HOODZ, it benefits from ownership by BELFOR, the world’s largest property restoration company. All of this in less than five years’ time.

How? Through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. And most importantly? A forward vision and an open mind from all members of our team.

When I started DUCTZ, I had a passion for what I was doing, but insufficient knowledge for how to share my vision. I needed access to the people and places that needed these new services. Who better to open those doors than the contractors who did have the access? Once you convince key people that you offer a quality service, they will naturally begin to refer you to others. Then, it’s not about how little time you’ve been in the business, it’s about how long of a time they’ve been in the business.

Seeking a way to accelerate my growth, I identified an existing, synergistic franchise with a growing number of units. I reached out to this company. It turns out, the timing was right and a partnership was a great fit. We hitched our wagon to theirs and increased our reach almost overnight. That was step one.

Step two was to seek people or services to fill a void in my current system. I met with a company that helped write the federal government standards for indoor air quality. My recent partnership had afforded me the credibility to negotiate with this new company; we identified our strengths and their needs. Together, we would “have it all” and the merger became a reality. This move, single-handedly, made us the largest duct cleaning franchise in the nation. In effect, I had to give up a piece of the pie, but in so doing, I orchestrated the opportunity for a much bigger pie.

When we established our niche as the nation’s largest duct cleaning franchise, we were given an opportunity by BELFOR to do work for them around the country. Why? Because we were strategically positioned — we had locations in the places where they needed us. This association with BELFOR enhanced our credibility on a local level, which led to increased referrals and contractor relationships. It wasn’t long before BELFOR made the offer to acquire our company. An association with a company of this magnitude opened a new world of opportunity while reinforcing our core model.

Here are some other things to remember about accelerating growth:

Never lose focus on your core business.

Whether embarking on a partnership, merger or acquisition, if you’re not careful you can strategize your way into an entirely different business. Stay open to diversification as long as your core business stays intact.

You cannot be afraid to think outside of the box.

To think out of the box is your job — if you don’t, someone else will. Your competition is strategizing about how to get ahead of you as we speak. My advice is to actively live your role as a strategist — don’t get bogged down in the daily emails and operations — that is not where your time is best spent.

The best strategy? Never stay static — it’s crucial to remain dynamic and to keep moving forward.

John Rotche is the president of Ann Arbor-based BELFOR Franchise Group Inc., a multiconcept franchise system. The company’s two franchise concepts, DUCTZ and HOODZ, center on the compliance and proper maintenance of commercial kitchen hoods and residential and commercial air duct, carpet and upholstery cleaning services. For more information, visit