General contractor Russ Outsen expanded his business near Salt Lake City by becoming a Kitchen Solvers franchisee.
Russ Outsen became a Kitchen Solvers franchisee mainly as a way to supplement his income, especially during the cold months he had to endure as a contractor in the Salt Lake City area. Now the 52-year-old finds himself “dominating the valley” with his refacing and granite countertop work. We caught up with him at his office in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
What were you doing before Kitchen Solvers?
I was a general contractor, but I did a lot of cement work. I was licensed, with my specialty doing decks, fences and patios. But that’s all outside work. I wanted to make money year-round and do something easier and inside during the winter. The main thing was we kicked butt during eight months of the year, and the other four months we were snowed out, and it was tough to make it.
How did you find out about Kitchen Solvers?
I went to the Better Business Bureau and looked at a variety of different businesses. I decided I would get a franchise. I saw a variety of franchise opportunities and spent about six months looking at them. Kitchen Solvers is the one I picked.
How long have you been a franchisee?
Going on eight years.
What do you like about the job?
It’s very straightforward. There aren’t a lot of surprises in it. I like working inside and working with people. Of all the contracting, this is the least-taxing on the body. And, it’s a good product. You feel like you really leave your customers with a good value when you walk out.
What sets Kitchen Solvers apart?
They are honest and old-fashioned. I found out they had the best product out there. I just talked with them, and I found this one more professional than others.
Who makes a good Kitchen Solvers franchisee? What attracted you to it?
It’s about 50 percent being a good small business person. And about 50 percent being a contractor with construction experience, because about half the issues you run into are business: advertising, bookkeeping and all that. The other 50 percent you run into you rely on your contracting experience.
How large is the opportunity?
You can get a lot bigger, but it’s not easy to get a lot of growth right now. When we started, every month we’d do a little bit better until the economy hit. It’s been tougher the last three years. People didn’t want to spend money because it wasn’t a necessity, like a roof or an air-conditioner. Ours is something that makes a kitchen look a lot better. It’s more a lot of spruce-up than a total necessity. But it’s getting better.
Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers?
Empty nesters and older people do more than half of the business. Their kids are gone, they have a little bit more money to go around. But we’ve done anyone from 21 to 91. We’ve had real good luck with everyone.
How important is craftsman experience?
It’s probably not necessary. I did large commercial construction. I was general contractor. I was a sub-contractor. I had that experience. I had to learn more of the advertising and the bookkeeping and stuff like that. With Kitchen Solvers, I had to learn how to run a business better.
What types of work are you getting more of?
It’s always been the same. Refacing is the main thing. And we get a lot of granite countertops.
How long do most jobs take?
Ten days to two weeks. It takes a week to do a refacing, a week to do the granite. But it’s not unusual for us to turn a whole job in a week.
What would be a big and a small job for Kitchen Solvers, in terms of the bill?
A small job is $2,000. A big job is $12,000. The average would be $7,000 to $8,000 to do granite and refacing.
What does your typical day look like?
It kind of varies. We work 50 hours a week average. Typically, it’s 30 hours a week actually working and 20 hours doing books, bids, advertising … all that.
What area do you serve?
I have one territory. I have no competition on the Wasatch Front, the side of the Wasatch Mountains where the majority of the people live: The Salt Lake, Ogden, Provo area.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t before?
Work year-round and have a lot better lifestyle, basically work inside. My other work mostly had me working outside, so it was tough in this climate.
Would you recommend a Kitchen Solvers franchise to someone else? Why?
Oh yes I would. It’s a good overall product. They have good customer service. They are real old-fashioned and honest. They give you a feel of a small company with old-fashioned values.