The Franchise 5: Chris Couri

Departments - Franchising

We Do Lines

May 22, 2012
Brian Horn

When landscapers Chris Couri and his partners Tom Darrow and Dan Rella started We Do Lines in 2008 in Ridgefield, Conn., the trio knew they were onto something good. They wanted to gain a first-to-market advantage in an industry in order to be the nation’s premier provider of that service. As far as they were concerned, there wasn’t a standout parking lot striping company, which is where the company and eventual franchise idea was born.

“We knew we could do better and improve upon that,” Couri says, adding it costs $25,000 for the franchise fee and an overall investment of $75,000-$113,000 to start a We Do Lines franchise.

“We also noticed there was no brand, so it felt like a company with brand recognition could really stand out in this industry.”

While serving as both a franchisor and franchisee for the company and still operating their landscaping company, Young’s Lnadscaping, the group has 11 We Do Lines franchises in operation as of February.

What do you need to know about starting a franchise ?

The best way to break it out is the advantages I see in franchising – one, you are operating under a larger network and brand than just yourself, rather than if you were trying to bolt on to your existing business. You can capitalize on your local brand recognition, but that’s probably where it’s going to end. You’re built in now underneath an umbrella, more or less, a brand or corporate umbrella. The goal is to be able to get you into this business extremely quick with all your marketing collateral and startup material and support. Again, you are looking to minimize the learning curve. … It’s not rocket science as such, but it’s more about capitalizing on the three years and collective experience of everyone in our system.

So I would say, if you are an entrepreneur, self-made, used to doing things yourself, franchising, I think, it can be great. But you have to understand, it’s a system and a way of doing business. If you are looking to get into a system to do your own thing, then that’s not going to work.

Can the lack of freedom be considered a disadvantage?

It depends. On a younger system, I think we certainly encourage entrepreneurial thinkers. That’s who we are, and we love opening an idea exchange and if someone has a better idea on doing something that is in fact a better idea, then we are all for it. Of course, in a more established system, there is not as much flexibility. ... Maybe some systems don’t encourage entrepreneurial thinking because they’ve been around for 30 years and they feel like maybe they’ve really got it dialed in and it might be less receptive to change. That’s a generality and I’m sure there are a lot of exceptions to that.

What is the key to a good franchisee-franchisor relationship?

Probably open communication – really transparency. We have weekly system calls, but quite honestly we are talking to the guys on an as-needed basis. I think you also have to know your roles and say as a franchisor, we are looking to build the brand and push the brand on a national scope, as well as certainly, first and foremost, support our current franchisees. The franchisees responsibility is to represent brand and help expand the brand footprint and utilize the systems in place to the best of their ability.

I think communication, that is probably the biggest thing. Without that, we are not getting all the information that we need and they are not getting all the information they need. Again, along that best practice kind of thing is ‘Hey, listen, I just went out and did this job today and cut off a half an hour of my time from the last time I did a similar job and this is how I did it.’ And that’s fantastic stuff to be able to share with everybody.

Is there a personality trait that you find consistently in your successful franchisees?

Absolutely. One of things in franchising is every franchise system will develop a profile. And franchising profile is exactly that – common characteristics of franchisees, whether it helps them gravitate to this franchisee or it helps them be successful. I will easily say that all of our franchisees posses very strong knowledge of business background, sales and marketing background. But all of them have been successful business people in their own rights. Almost all of them have been in completely different industries. We have one or two that have been in the construction industry but we’ve got people in our system in Arizona for example that came from the hotel industry. The range of experience, I love that because it’s not like you can pin any one characteristic other than these are proven successful business people.

What’s the biggest misconception about franchising?

That a franchisee would look at the fees and think that they can do this without the franchise system and that the fees are not going to benefit them directly. That is probably the big decision when looking at the opportunity. ‘Well I can get into this business potentially for less than that on my own. Do I see the value?’ The misperception is that the franchisor will just sit back and are earning money off of my hard work. I’m sure that could be the case in some franchise systems, of course. But, again, it all comes down to that transparency and that you are communicating on a regular basis.