Sometimes a great business idea is right under your nose. Or, in the case of line painting and parking lot maintenance company EverLine Coatings and Services, right under your feet. Company president John Evans became familiar with the franchise model while running a painting company while pursuing his university degree. He was very successful in this venture.
“I was at the top of the province and second in Canada for revenue,” he says. As he was contemplating what he wanted to do when he graduated, he happened to attend a franchise show. One of the companies present was licensing a durable paint product that could be used for traffic markings. This gave Evans an idea. “It got me thinking about how the paint could give a standalone company here in Calgary an advantage with a unique more durable product than what is out there on the market,” he recalls. So, he went for a weekend of training with the company, where he learned how to perform parking lot line painting. From there, he started EverLine in 2012.
“It’s really fun and exciting to see this business grow, and to give this business model to other people and see what they can do with it,” he says, adding how his expectations were exceeded by the franchisees he’s brought on board. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see a franchisee in his third year match our revenue when I’ve been in the business for seven years. Seeing how this model works in different markets has been very inter esting. I wasn’t sure how the EverLine business model would work in smaller areas like say Saskatoon or Sudbury, and they are absolutely killing it.”
Evans has a really clear idea of what an ideal EverLine Coatings franchisee looks like as the organization eyes a youth movement. Having ran a painting business as a student himself, he knows first-hand what younger franchisees can bring to the table.
“We are really focused on having millennials as franchisees. At EverLine, we are harnessing the energy of the millennial generation,” he explains. Specifically, he wants millennials who have run a student painting business in the past, adding how the benefit of this experience is that the EverLine business is familiar to them, but is still different enough to remain interesting.
“It’s a new opportunity working business to business instead of business to consumer,” he adds. “We found that it’s an excellent transition for those who have had a painting franchise, because all of our franchisees have that [background].” Above all, he wants to attract “People who understand the challenges, sacrifices and rewards of being an entrepreneur.”
EverLine company policy is to recruit and retain franchisees and employees using the company values, which they refer to as the ‘DRIVEN Principles’: Dedicated, resourceful, integrity focused, value based, excelling, and nourishing. “They are a powerful tool not only for the franchise owners that they bring on, but the people that they hire,” Evans says of the company credo.
One of the benefits of a small, emerging system is that franchisees get to be more involved with how the system develops. “They get a chance to make their mark,” he says, pointing out how McDonalds’ iconic Big Mac was invented by a franchisee. “Millennials want to make an impact, wherever they end up. This is a unique opportunity where they are getting in at the ground floor and are part of the story and the history of the company.”
Another benefit of the EverLine franchise system is that the company stretches across the country. “There’s a lot of power in national collaboration as a company,” he states. EverLine also has the exclusive rights to a proprietary paint called TBL Durables. “It lasts 2-3 times longer than what is out there on the market, so it gives us an edge working with malls and municipalities,” he says. Shared marketing insights, shared best practices, and a pricing software to keep everything consistent are more of the system’s benefits, according to Evans.
Evans says that alongside all of the positive aspects of the franchise system, there are still challenges. “As with any franchise, people have different personalities running the same business, and they prioritize different things,” he points out. “But it’s all about just working through that and coming up with the solutions that work for everyone.”
After a franchisee is brought on board, they attend three separate training weekends in either Calgary or Toronto. This first training session is focused on effectively building and running the business, with introductory training in how to paint parking lot lines. “They learn how to sell and how to establish the administrative side of the business,” says Evans. “In the second session, we apply more advanced tactics to the individual parts of the market to make sure that the franchisees are maximizing their success for their first summer out of the business.” The third and final training session is focused on the line painting itself. “We get them and some of their line painters on the machines so that they are learning their trade and ready to roll as soon as the snow melts,” describes Evans. “We give franchisees relevant information in small bites; this leads to greater retention and better training. We do it all over a few months so that learning is less like drinking out of a firehose.”
The franchisor also provides ongoing biweekly support meetings where all the franchisees have the opportunity to collaborate. “That actually gives us an advantage coming up with good ideas,” Evans points out. Beyond that, franchisees also have one-on-one meetings where they go over the financials, and make sure that they are hitting their targets and reaching their goals.
Resources are also available whenever a franchisee needs them through an internal communications platform in the cloud.
Since EverLine services national clients like Home Depot, 7-11 and Walmart, Evans wants to have a strong national network of franchisees who are able to service and support these contracts. He says that being able to service those companies is a huge benefit of being one connected system across the country, and it gives his franchisees a real competitive edge.
“I’m looking at a very large market and to be everywhere across Canada in some way, shape or form,” describes Evans. “That may even mean developing a micro franchise model for all those tiny areas. For the last couple years it’s been all about controlled growth; testing the systems, testing different markets. We are looking to expand in British Columbia, particularly Vancouver and the island. We are planning on going to the United States as well within the next two years.”
By Karen Stevens