Rebecca Cassel, president, Franchise Operations for One Hour Air Conditioning LLC and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing LLC, looks at the view from the new Sarasota offices of Clockwork Home Services.
SARASOTA, Fla. - HVAC business owners are seeing the benefits of franchise opportunities, as well as the need for single-source buying and educational groups to partner with and prosper with. These are some of the main reasons for the success of Clockwork Home Services (formerly Ven Vest Inc.) and its plan to expand its business base and physical location in 2006.

Clockwork Home Services is the parent company of franchise company One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating (as of March 2006, there were 115 One Hour franchisees covering 154 territories); as well as contractor groups AirTime 500 and BuyMax. Clockwork also owns franchise and contractor groups in the plumbing, electrical, and roofing trades.

The NEWS recently visited with Clockwork as the company prepared to move into a new location in Sarasota. The company will move a few blocks away to a larger office, in order to accommodate a growing staff. Rebecca Cassel, president of franchise operations, spoke about another growing topic - the number of One Hour franchises.

"We are actually faster out of the box than McDonald's was," she said. "Now we believe that where there is a McDonald's there should be a One Hour or Benjamin Franklin [plumbing franchise]."

Cassel said that one of the attractive features to would-be franchisees is One Hour's success guarantee. If someone isn't successful or doesn't want to continue as a One Hour franchisee, that person has a two-year time window to get out of the licensing agreement.

The advantages don't stop there. Once a franchisee takes over a designated territory, they often invite other people to join One Hour in nearby territories, advancing the practice of "banding together to brand together."

Cassel said by banding together, franchisees get better buying power, a tremendous advantage over competitors in their markets. "We can get them the best pricing plus rebates," she said.

Other advantages include attracting a qualified labor pool. "We are getting e-mails from installers and technicians asking about available work with our franchisees," noted Cassel. "These people know that we are a good company that pays good wages and benefits."

One Hour also promotes its hiring campaigns through radio advertisements, which are not only designed to explain the benefits of working for One Hour, but also give potential customers positive impressions about having work done by a professional company. "We help contractors market themselves on the local level," she said.

"We are creating a customer experience that is far beyond any other service experience they would have with another HVAC company."


Jim Abrams, Clockwork CEO explained that the success of Clockwork Home Services can be attributed to several factors:

1. Success Group International, which oversees several contractor groups and educational training. A total of 1,000 contractors are members and over 2,000 students have graduated from training programs.

2. Franchise groups have experienced strong growth. One Hour has $250 million in annual sales, second only to Service Experts in North America. Benjamin Franklin has $100 million in annual sales, third behind Roto Rooter and Mr. Rooter.

3. BuyMax will report $300 million in purchases.

4. U.S. retail business (company-owned franchises) is very strong in local markets. The Las Vegas operation, when purchased in 2004, did $8 million in sales. That number will hit $15 million in 2006. The Dial One purchase (see sidebar) will add $27 million to the retail operations. In total, retail sales will add up to $82 million in 2006, two years after sales were nonexistent. In addition, the acquisition of Dial One gives Clockwork Home Services ownership of three of the five companies listed in The NEWS as the largest residential HVAC companies.

5. AirTime Canada will report $25 million in sales in 2006.

"We [Clockwork] plan to grow to over $1 billion in sales over the next five years," commented Abrams. "We intend to become the Home Depot of the home services industry."

He said his company is looking for people who are hard working and want to move the brand name forward, adding that no former owners stayed on in leadership positions in the retail operations. But he said that all of his management team has operational management experience.

"We are stronger and wiser than when we first built a national company," Abrams said. "We don't want to build a stock price, we want to build a company."

He emphasized that the company strength comes from people who want to gain "success beyond what they can possibly imagine.

"We understand profit and we can teach that to our people, but not at the expense of our customers. That's why we provide good wages and benefits to get the best workers."

Abrams said that Clockwork does more business in one day - $2 million - than what the average contractor will do in an entire year. But he acknowledges that not every region is ideal for a company-owned franchise.

"If we can't enter a market and be a substantial player we will not enter the market."

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Sidebar: Clockwork Acquisition

Clockwork Home Services Inc. announced its acquisition of Indianapolis-based Dial One, a leading HVAC service provider. Clockwork will integrate Dial One into its subsidiary franchise, One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. As a result, Dial One will operate in central Indiana under the new name, Dial One Hour.

Under terms of the deal, Clockwork is acquiring ownership, rights, and uses of all Dial One trademarks, the Dial One name, and all other intellectual property and ownership of Dial One's facilities and operations in Indiana. Dial One currently has 189 employees. Management of both companies has approved the transaction.

For 2006, Dial One had projected revenue of $28 million. With this acquisition, Clockwork's total system-wide franchise and company-owned sales will exceed $380 million.

"Clockwork's acquisition of Dial One – one of the industry's most respected heating and cooling systems providers – marks yet another important milestone in our company's history," said Jim Abrams, CEO, Clockwork Home Services Inc. "Dial One's reputation for quality, excellent customer service and fair pricing make it a natural fit with One Hour that continues to raise industry standards for on-time, professional services delivered to customers in the heating and cooling services sectors."

Publication date: 05/15/2006