Hallock and his co-founders, Todd Jackson, Dave Lewis, Tony Forbes and Brent Hallock, grew Budget Blinds to approximately $250 million in revenue and almost 1,050 franchise territories last year. It has a presence in 48 states, Iceland and Canada, and Hallock has a vision to grow the company to 2,000 franchises.
He hopes to eventually dominate the $9.2 billion window covering market with a market share of 30 percent. The company is well on its way, and Entrepreneur magazine named it No. 1 in the window covering category and No. 50 on its list of best franchise companies in the world.
Smart Business spoke with Hallock about how he uses honesty, integrity, sincerity and transparency to grow Budget Blinds.
Start with enthusiasm.
Be passionate about what you do. Passion helps motivate you to outwork the competition. That sounds so probably typical, but I see too many entrepreneurs that are flat-out not passionate.
They go in with a get-rich-quick scheme of some sort, and to me, those never pan out. People don’t really typically understand the work it takes to be successful.
Be ready to outwork anybody else.
Expect to work harder than you ever worked. Expect to make less money than you ever made before. But also have a very clear, defined goal of what you are trying to accomplish.
Drive your brand home.
What makes or breaks your success is how many leads you can drive. When you get into a competitive environment that’s consumer-driven, the name of the game is to outadvertise the consumer to where you build brand recognition better than anybody else.
You’ve got to do such a good job of branding and becoming so good at top-of-mind awareness within the consumer base that when they finally decide (to buy), I want them to think of Budget Blinds first. And if that happens, you’ll dominate the market.
If they come to the point where they’re ready to buy and they have to hope to find an ad or hope to find a direct mail piece or hope to see you on the TV, if that’s how you’re going to play the game, that’s way more costly than it is to ultimately do a long-term strategy of building top-of-mind awareness.
Have strong values.
Honesty, integrity, being ethical and I think being transparent [are the most important values]. Be real, be honest, let people see your sincerity. Sincerity in every aspect of business sells itself and gains the consumer’s trust, gains the franchisee’s trust.
Lead by example.
The world needs to see good mentors, and I don’t think there’s enough of those who truly set a good example. To be a good employer, you’ve got to set the best example.
You should be here the longest, you should be here the most, you should be passionate, you should be friendly. You should make a true effort to go around and see everybody on a regular basis. You need to set the example not only at work but you need to set the example in how you conduct yourself and how you speak to people. And that’s all part of being transparent.
Value your employees.
Some people look at an employer and an employee relationship completely different than we do. Some employers go, ‘I’m giving them an opportunity.’ I don’t look at it like that at all.
I never look at an employee like we’re giving them an opportunity. I look at it as that employee is gold for us. And they’re more valuable than we are because without them, we have nothing.
Remember the Golden Rule.
Treat people like you would want to be treated. Take care of (employees) when they need it, when they are in a bind. We’ve had people that their parents died in Vietnam and they can’t afford to fly out there, so we pay for their flight, pay for their hotel.
Some of our employees were going to lose their kids because they didn’t have enough beds in their apartment, and so we buy them an apartment, we furnished their apartment.
And really it’s the five of us [owners] go and buy it ourselves. I think that creates an incredible culture and an incredible relationship with our employees.
Communicate your expectations.
We’re very honest, and every employee knows it. They know exactly where they stand. They know exactly how we feel. They know exactly what’s going to keep them their job, what’s going to lose them their job. They know exactly how we operate and how many third and fourth and fifth chances we’re going to give them before we finally have to cut bait in some cases.
Give people a reason to succeed.
Always reward those that are doing a good job and promote them. People that get on the bottom rung of our ladder know they’ve got room to develop and room to grow, and in some cases, into areas they never dreamed possible.
If you understand that if you’re here and you’re doing a good job, you’re going to be promoted, that’s a real positive thing. And if you’re not promoted, then you know [during] your tenure here, you’re going to typically receive huge unaccounted for bonuses because of the success of the company.
Overperform and undercommit.
I think where most customer service fails is people fudge the truth a little bit to get the sale, knowing full well what they promise they won’t be able to deliver. If ... I’m open and honest with you and say, ‘Listen, we might be a little more money, we might take a little longer, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be very happy with your product,’ you’re going to have great customer service because you set the standard correctly up front.
I can show you the features and reasons why you’re going to be happy with the product and I can have a brand to support that you’re going to be happy with that product and I tell you honestly what the case is going to be. What that does is that makes sure that the customer’s perception matches up to reality.
HOW TO REACH: Budget Blinds, www.budgetblinds.com