Interview with Craig Jooste, Co-Founder and CEO of Local Handyman Group


Nov 16, 2020

Craig Jooste, Co-Founder and CEO

With a 15-year career in the home services market at the executive level of one of the largest franchise systems in North America, Craig and his wife Kristen launched 604Handyman, one of the brands within Local Handyman Group in 2017. They launched their business because of the need for a branded national player in the industry (and for the fact that it seems that everyone they meet needed a handyman referral). Since then, Local Handyman Group has seen explosive growth, hitting 13 locations in only its first couple of franchising years and serves 23 cities and towns from BC to Ontario.

.  What’s the story behind Handyman?

Craig Jooste:  It was actually my wife's original idea. She owned a franchise helping kids sleep, and while out trying to market to mommy groups, she would hear, over and over, if anyone knew a handyman they could refer. And she heard it so much she came to me one day and said, "I think we need to start a handyman service." And Local Handyman Group was born.

When we started, we knew nothing about the handyman business, but we did know the home services market really well, spending years at industry pioneer 1-800-GOT-JUNK? And we saw the same opportunity that made that brand so famous:

The industry was dominated by a guy with a truck and some tools. That, in a nutshell, is the handyman industry.

The industry had no trusted, recognizable, clean brand where the Handyman showed up on time.

And while these guys in a truck with tools are good at the trades, they're not necessarily entrepreneurs. They generally lack the business savvy to operate and scale a big business.

So, we launched, and it took off, like immediately! It turned out that our years in franchising paid off. Our marketing systems, our service systems etc. kind of took this sleepy little market by storm. Within three months, we had our first Handyman full-time running, and within the first year, we had launched our first franchise location.

.  You mentioned your past in franchising. Can you elaborate on this before founding the company?

Craig Jooste:   In my role at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I lead the Initiatives Department, our Environmental Strategy and Regulatory System Development, Corporate Operations and Franchise Development. Focuses included a) building out our environmental programs, future strategy and our Health and Safety Programs b) developing a new process and program development on a company-wide scale to improve project management and project approval/deployment c) Franchise Sales systems d) procurement and vendor management.

As Managing Director at WOW-1-DAY Painting, I was responsible for all corporate systems and revenue functions of the Brand. I had direct management reports that oversaw all aspects of the business, including Marketing, PR, Corporate Operations, Finance, Call Center, Franchise Development, National and Strategic Accounts, sales and company-wide revenue targets. I also managed all Franchise Sales for WOW 1 DAY Painting and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

. What made you decide to create this franchise?

Craig Jooste:  When we launched our initial service, everywhere I went, I heard, "darn, I wish we had this service in our city." And with our strong presence in the local market, people began to see our vans everywhere, and so franchise inquiries started coming in soon after we launched.

What started as a friendly little local company, we realized we had to do; we had to scale. It began as a nice service because our friends and people we knew needed it. Still, we realized there was a MASSIVE opportunity at hand - the entire industry was backwards - no professionalism and standards form a service perspective…and No marketing, no systems, no nothing from a biz perspective - we knew high service levels, we knew franchising and businesses … so that’s when I started to get excited.

. Can you tell us about the (industry) Market?

Craig Jooste:   We are in this exciting time where:

  • millennials don't know how to do handyman work
  • Seniors can't do handyman work
  • Boomers don’t have the time to do handyman work

So, we have this massive market of people who simply won't do the type of work we do. That creates a lot of demand for our service because things always need fixing!

And then we have a fourth market, which is our fastest-growing segment and by next year, will comprise the largest slice of our revenues - the commercial market. We stumbled on this opportunity when one of our franchise partners outgrew every other partner in a short amount of time. When we understood how they had such fast growth, thriving business servicing the property management market and businesses we knew where to focus and what began as a franchise partner innovation, is now growing to be more than half of our business today, and will likely be 3/4 of our business within a year or two.

. Why is this an exciting market to be in?

Craig Jooste:  Our market is growing and will keep growing. We are in a massive market with an ever-growing need, with 10 million homes and businesses in Canada that need help with their handyman tasks. People have less time; people are becoming less handy; people embrace outsourcing home functions more than ever before in history; our consumer market is growing; our commercial market is growing. And it isn't going to stop. And our services won't go away when a recession hits. Its. A great, stable growing market.

There has never been such a high demand for our services. But the exciting thing is that as an industry, we are relatively unsophisticated. Just by bringing this professional approach to the industry, we have begun to gain massive market share in every city we service.

And our rise in the commercial handyman market has come quickly, and this is a market where our customers return at a high frequency and are larger job sizes than the residential market. And we are just scratching the surface of this market in the cities we serve today. And our Franchise Partners know it, which is why so many of them are buying their second and third locations.

. Could you describe your corporate culture and how it is built on your experience in this?

Craig Jooste:   I would characterize our culture as team-oriented, accountable, and fun. I interact with our Franchise Partners on a daily and weekly basis, which allows me to foster a close, team-like culture within our system. As I like to say, "It is your business, but it's all of our brands". Many of our Franchise Partners neighbour each other and end up sharing property manager client's who manage properties in multiple jurisdictions, so we are forced to work together as a team. Just last week, our newest Franchise Partner had jobs booked for his first week of operation, all from his neighbouring Franchise Partners informing clients that we were launching a new franchise location. These types of things happen every week. And because of this, we have to be accountable to each other. It is the key to making this kind of model function. When you have good neighbours, you have good customers, and this means good business.

Finally, we work really hard, but we also have a lot of fun!

. What are the unique differences of your handyman service, say, compared to how most people find a handyman - off Craigslist? Can you tell us why this is so important?

Craig Jooste:   First, upfront and transparent pricing with easy online booking. This is key because you can't find this in our industry, and our customers love it.

Second, our branded shiny vans and trucks, on-time service, uniformed and insured people. This allows our customers to feel comfy with us in their homes or businesses.

The third is our communication. We always inform our customers of our job 24 hours in advance; we answer the phones; we have prompt follow-up and have clear expectations.

. What are the advantages of being a Local handyman Group franchisee?

Craig Jooste:

1.       It’s a lower-cost franchise to get into and a low-cost business to operate.

Because we don’t have real estate and expensive build-outs, launching a handyman franchise is fast - our average franchise partner launches within three months of becoming a Franchise Partner; and low cost - our average start-up ranges between $30K and $65K, with a large part of that being financed by the banks.

On top of the low start-up costs, it is a low-cost franchise to operate, coupled with our strong focus on marketing systems, our speed to break even, which is our main focus at the start-up stage, has been fast across our network so far. As a CEO, Co-Founder and operator of a business myself, I know what it is like to be an entrepreneur. I know the stress of starting a business, wondering when I will make enough to cover my costs. We developed this business model that makes its primary focus, before our franchise partners even launch their franchise, to break even as fast as possible.

2.      The business ramps up quickly

We've built our franchise start-up and launch systems with one focus in mind: get to the business's break-even point as fast as possible and get a second van on the road. Getting to the break-even point is always a milestone in a company because now your revenue exceeds your costs, and you can begin to make money. Getting a second van on the road allows you to scale and service the demand. It’s a simple model, really. The more vans you have on the road, the more money you make.

3.      The add on products and services potential is the super booster.

The Local Handyman Group franchisees are poised to continue to grow their businesses for years to come with the addition of new products and services complementary to its core businesses of handyman services. Over the next two years, the company has a full slate of rollouts, which will bolster its average client revenue.

"Where I get most excited about our future are the add ons," says Jooste. We have now been in thousands of handyman customers' homes and have an excellent perspective on what other services our customers need. We have taken this knowledge and are in the midst of testing two products right now and seeing a lot of early success. The upsell potential in this business is enormous. This will be our revenue booster for our franchisees in the years to come.

. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

Craig Jooste:  Don’t just look for opportunities where you can "make money." Combine making money with doing something purposeful, something you can really become passionate about. Building a business isn't easy, but when you are genuinely passionate about what you are doing, it is often what you need to pull you through the tough times. And it will make you happier.

Please make sure you align with the franchise team and will enjoy working with them. Franchising is dependent on the franchisee/franchisor relationship. You will, by default, work very closely with your franchisor. Make sure you like them! Please make sure they are the team that will help you when you need it.

Can you build an asset that you can sell? The beauty of business ownership is that if you can create a solid business, at some point, if you choose, you can sell it and hopefully get a great return! If you are building a business in a desirable long term market (think demographic change), you will have an excellent opportunity to achieve this because as the demographics change, more and more people will want to be in your business segment.

. In your opinion, why do you think that HANDYMAN would be an excellent opportunity for someone?

Craig Jooste:  Big and small market, great brand, great systems, local community feeling in our brand, and the market space has massive growth potential with many add on strategic services potential.

Then you add to this the sheer size of the untapped market we are addressing and the fact that we are the first to market from a National brand perspective. For the person who wants that blend of purpose and business potential.