Chad Hallock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Budget Blinds, which will celebrate its twentieth year in business in 2012. After suffering disappointment at a previous company, five friends – Chad Hallock, Brent Hallock, Tony Forbes, Dave Lewis and Todd Jackson -- set out to create a company that allowed them to use the skills and knowledge they had accrued. Budget Blinds opened for business in 1992 amid the worst recession in Orange County, Calif. history. By 1994, they were awarding franchises. By 1996, the company was being ranked among franchise leaders in industry ratings. Chad serves as the company's Visionary and is active in the marketing and franchise licensing activities of the company.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Budget Blinds concept.
Chad Hallock:When Budget Blinds opened for business in 1992, it offered a unique service to homeowners who were shopping for window coverings – free in-home consultation, measuring and professional installation. No longer did homeowners have to choose between hiring an expensive interior decorator for window coverings or do all the work on their own and hope for the best. Today, Budget Blinds still offers homeowners free in-home consultations, complete with measuring and installation services, but now it offers area rugs, pillows, bedding faux iron art and more in addition to beautiful custom window coverings.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with Budget Blinds?
CH: I’m one of the five founders of Budget Blinds. In 1992, my brother, Brent, and three of my friends, Todd, Dave and Tony, had just left a national window coverings company and decided to start our own business. That’s how Budget Blinds came to be, and we’re all still involved with the day-to-day operations of the business.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining Budget Blinds?
CH: Before Budget Blinds, I was working at another window coverings company with the other four founders of Budget Blinds. I’ve been in the window coverings business for practically my entire adult life.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Budget Blinds franchisee?
CH: Each Budget Blinds franchise is independently owned and operated, which means the franchisee is the boss for that local, small business. The franchise is designed to be a homebased business, which is really attractive to people because it keeps the overhead next to nothing. Additionally, they can set their own hours, which means they can make time for the things that are important to them whether that be coaching their kid’s soccer team or being home when the kids get home from school or volunteering at a local charity.
Additionally, Budget Blinds is a unique franchise company. First, is our fee structure. When we decided to offer franchises we felt very strongly that a low, flat fee was the way to go, because it didn’t penalize the franchisees who were doing really well like a percentage based fee system can.
Further, according to FranData research, of the 1,500 active franchise brands, only 30 of them invest $10 million or more in their national advertising activities. Budget Blinds invest $8 million annually in its national advertising campaign alone. Additionally, Budget Blinds is one of the few (<1%) franchise brands that contributes corporate dollars to its national advertising fund.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
CH: Our ideal franchisee is a motivated person with a positive attitude, because those are two things that can’t be taught or learned. Business procedures, product knowledge, installation, local area marketing – all of that can be learned. A person has to not only want to work for themselves, but be disciplined enough to work without the encouragement or input from a supervisor. They have to want to get up in the morning, market their business, and be ready, willing and able to go into someone’s home and consult them on a window coverings purchase. There’s no manager to answer to, no human resources department to call in sick to, so it’s up to the individual to get up, market their business, schedule and go on appointments, order product, install window coverings and – to borrow a phrase from Ken Blanchard – create raving fans on a daily basis.
BTB: Tell us a little about the Window Coverings Market?
CH: The window coverings industry is comprised of hard window coverings -- like blinds and shades -- curtain and drapery hardware, and draperies. In 2010, these three components of the window coverings industry generated combined retail sales of $7.87 billion. But the really exciting news is this: Retail sales of each industry segment is expected to increase over the next five years. By 2015, it’s expected that the window coverings industry – hard window coverings, curtain and drapery hardware, and soft treatments – is expected to exceed retail sales of $12.7 billion. We also see innovations happening to enhance lifestyles. Sales of motorized window treatments have increased in recent years. In 2010, only 5 percent of window treatments were motorized; by 2015, it is anticipated that 8 percent of window treatments will be motorized. What was once considered a perk of the well-to-do is now readily available to more homeowners than ever before. It’s not only convenient, but programmable motorization systems allow homeowners to program window treatments to open and close on a timer, much like lights on a timer, to make the home appear occupied and control light and heat gain even when the owner is away from home.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
CH: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is to not prejudge people’s abilities. The people who may strike you as a superstar could really end up being a dud, and conversely, the person you think may struggle in the business could end up knocking it out of the park!
Secondly, the adage, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink,” rings true. Some people who have all the potential in the world, for one reason or another, end up confounding themselves regardless of how much assistance is offered.
Lastly, it’s important to take care of your team. There is no way that the five of us founders could effectively run this business without a great group of people who work with us daily. It’s important to show appreciation for those people, encourage them and support them.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
CH: Acquiring a franchise is an exciting and terrifying step in a person’s life, so you want to do your due diligence. What I mean by that is you really want to look at the opportunity from all angles and have a keen understanding of what you’re about to do. Participate in validation calls with the franchisees. Ask questions. Read the franchise disclosure document (FDD). Does the company have an Item 19 in its FDD? If the company has been recognized by organizations, like Budget Blinds has, read the commentary on the company by people who follow it.
After doing all of that, sit down and honestly assess if this is what you want to do with the next few years of your life. The path from prospect to franchisee has a few steps along the way to allow the prospect to reflect on what they’re getting into for a reason.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that Budget Blinds would be a great opportunity for someone?
CH: Budget Blinds is an excellent opportunity for people who are ready to escape the cubicle and take their livelihood into their own hands. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is personable and enjoys visiting other people in their homes. The best thing about this business is it’s yours. You are the boss in your exclusive territory. You set the schedules. Book the appointments. Order the product and install it. There’s tremendous pride of ownership.
The support system we’ve created at Budget Blinds is spectacular. We offer business support from 6 a.m. Pacific Time to 6 p.m. Pacific Time and tech support to our franchisees.
As I mentioned before, each franchisee benefits from a carefully and thoughtfully planned national media buy that supports their local efforts. We are continuously fine tuning our efforts and adjusting them to take advantage of the best media to generate leads. Truly, our marketing efforts are second to none in our category. We dominate the Internet for our industry. We know this to be true because we monitor how much and how positive the “buzz” we generate on the internet. By and large, people are speaking of us very well. Soon, we’ll be launching a new website with a lot more functionality and many of those features will be extended to the franchisee’s local web pages. Plus, Budget Blinds advertises in magazines our target audience reads, and we air our commercials on cable home improvement shows. If an individual were to attempt this on their own, it would be next to impossible; however, the power of franchising allows us to make these impressive buys in desirable, influential media so that each franchise receives far more benefit from their national advertising contribution than what they initially invested.
Finally, we are always looking for ways to make our business and the individual franchises thrive, even when the economic news is bleak. In 2012, Budget Blinds twentieth anniversary year, we will be launching a brand new drapery brand, a new brand to address the commercial side of our business, and quite possibly another franchise concept. Our goal is to create businesses that bloom. The economy will eventually take off again. When that happens, the franchisees who are on board will be able to ride that economic wave with us.