By Suzanne Bowness
By the time he joined the Fire-Alert team, Donald Houle already had a pretty good idea of a typical day in the life of a Fire-Alert Mobile Extinguishers franchisee: he started out as a technician. “I decided to go on my own after all this experience. It’s a nice business to have if you care about fire safety,” recalls Houle. Moving from Ottawa to New Liskeard was the catalyst that made Houle realize that rather than look for a job, he’d rather carve out a new path with the mobile fire extinguisher franchise.
Although Houle was an experienced technician, he says that background isn’t necessary for everyone, since the franchise’s training covers all aspects of the business. Same with a business background. “Business experience would be an asset for sure, but you don’t really need it because you’re trained right there. You do three to four weeks training for all of it,” says Houle. He adds that new franchisees put that training to use immediately, since priority number one is searching for customers.
Three years in, his hard work has paid off. Clients include a range of businesses, from wood mills to restaurants to construction and trucking companies. He also serves residential customers. Clients range from those that need service for one fire extinguisher to those that need 100 serviced. In addition to verifying extinguishers, Houle also checks first aid kits, emergency lights, and eye wash stations. The frequency of his client visits often depends on government regulations, which vary by area and the age of the building, so systems are checked anywhere from monthly to annually.
Of course for a franchisee looking for repeat business, the monthly inspections are the most attractive. “Monthly extinguisher inspections have to be done, and some would rather have a third party do it for them,” says Houle.
Houle says customers like that Fire-Alert is a mobile service. “That’s the good thing about this franchise. We do everything onsite. We recharge a fire extinguisher right onsite. People like it when you go to them.”
In terms of advice for potential franchisees, Houle says pursuing clients while presenting yourself properly is key. “You’ve got to know how to talk to people and not push them into things. You have to ensure that they know that you know what you’re talking about. Be pleasant and well-dressed. Present yourself properly and professionally. If you say something, do it. If you say that you’re going to be there tomorrow, well, you go. I think a big part of this business is attitude. You’ve got to have a good one,” says Houle.
To read more of Donald’s success story, check out the January/February issue of FranchiseCanada Magazine, on newsstands now.