Franchise Operator Spotlight: Breaking Free From A Career Behind Bars

Mark and Alena Huntjens, Victoria, British Columbia franchise operatorsAs longtime correctional officers in Victoria, British Columbia, Alena Huntjens and her husband, Mark, spent 17 and 20 years, respectively, working inside a jail.

However, they recently realized that their careers — and their futures — were being locked up along with the prisoners they watched.

“We just got sick of working for the government, being told when to take our lunch breaks, being told when to take our holidays, and just being restricted,” Alena explained.

Worst of all was the fact that, despite the long hours, the dangerous conditions and the high stress levels, the couple still worked extremely hard, but didn’t see a return for their effort.

“It’s not a job where the harder you work, the more money you make,” said Alena. “So we just thought that we would try our own business.”

A Great Fit For Their Finances — And Their Neighborhood

Before making the transition, Mark and Alena made extra cash by flipping houses. Mark also previously ran his own landscaping company, Alena did small renovation and painting jobs on the side. Thus, when researching potential franchises, they were drawn to businesses in the landscaping and home improvement industries.

“It was something we were both into, and where we could make it work,” Alena said.

They explored many different options and eventually discovered Bin There Dump That. After doing a thorough investigation of the franchise that spanned 12 months, hundreds of conversations and a cross-country trip to meet with our franchise leadership team in our Toronto headquarters, they knew that this was the right choice for them.

Bin There Dump That dumpster rental service caters to homeowners and non-commercial contractors.What made Bin There Dump That especially appealing was the fact that our royalty fees are fixed. Unlike most franchises that charge a percentage of income or profit — thereby penalizing franchisees for being successful — we charge a straightforward, fixed cost based on the number of vehicles in a franchisee’s fleet.

This allows franchise operators, like Mark and Alena, to budget in advance and not have to worry about skyrocketing costs.

“We really liked this franchise because it isn’t run on a percentage model,” Alena said. “It’s a set rate every month and, after three months, it caps out and that’s the most you’ll ever pay.”

The Huntjens also liked the fact that Bin There Dump That offers sizeable, well-defined and well-protected franchise territories, which would allow them to grow their operations without the risk of encroachment and cannibalization from other franchise operators.

But just as important as the size of the territory was the competitive landscape within it. The Huntjens knew from first-hand experience that there was a demand — and a need — for a dumpster rental service that catered to homeowners and non-commercial contractors.

“We knew it would be a good territory because we flipped a few houses and we always struggled to find a bin company for doing our renovations,” Alena explained. “We could never ever find a bin, so we’ve been using pickups and little utility trailers, running back and forth, which can be very frustrating.

“Right now, there are only a couple of big guys in town, and they all deal with the 40- and 60-yard bins, and the area needed something more residential friendly for smaller jobs and homeowners.”

Bin There Dump That’s residential friendly dumpsters proved the ideal solution for their area — and the ideal business opportunity for Mark and Alena — and the couple founded Bin There Dump That Victoria British Columbia in April 2015.

Working Hard To Make It All Work

nullSoon after starting the franchise, Mark quit his correctional job to focus on the business full-time. He serves as the public face of the operation, spearheading sales, driving the truck, and dropping off and picking up bins.

Alena still splits her time between the jail and the business, working behind the scenes issuing invoices, monitoring payments and taking care of bookkeeping tasks. It’s just the two of them, and they work long hours.

“Sometimes I’m up to one or two in the morning doing invoicing and paperwork, and then I’m up at 5:30 to go to my shift at the jail,” Alena said.

That’s why Alena advises potential franchisees to quit their jobs before starting a franchise or find a business partner who can commit to the business.

“Mark quit, because one of us had to,” Alena recalled. “At the beginning, we thought that we would just work opposite shifts, but that absolutely would not work. You can’t work two jobs and be successful; there has to be one person who is just strictly focusing on the business.”

Knowing When It’s Time To Grow The Franchise

Their plan is to hire more people as the company grows — and it looks like that might be sooner than later.

“It would be nice if we could eventually hire a driver so we could just run the business or hire a secretary just to handle the back-end of things, but we aren’t at that point in the business right now; we just started up,” Alena said.

Despite the franchise being less than six months old, it is already expanding. They started with 12 bins and added another dozen in August thanks to intense demand. In fact, they had more customers than they could handle, which is one of the four major signs that it is time to grow a franchise.

Alena added, “We had to go get more (bins), otherwise we would be losing customers and revenue.”

Franchise Marketing — Exploring All Opportunities For Growth

null_3While having a great product is necessary to spur such immediate success, it needs to be complemented by a great drive to succeed.

Mark and Alena certainly have it, and they pursued every opportunity to build their brand and their customer base, including online advertising, face-to-face networking and traditional advertisements in publications such as the Yellow Pages.

The most effective of those efforts has been Google advertising, which accounts for about 50 percent of the couple’s sales. While maximizing digital advertising efforts and dollars can be a daunting task, Bin There Dump That makes it easy by helping our franchisees establish their presence — and their advertising approach — on the web.

In addition to digital advertising, another less flashy, more old-school tool has proven to be a winner as well — door hangers.

“We put door hangers five houses up and five houses down from every bin we deliver, and that has really worked out great,” Alena said. “On an average, for every ten door hangers we put out, we get one customer.”

The return on investment from the door hangers has been tremendous.

“It was only a $1,500 investment, and I have enough fliers to last us a year.”

Do You Feel Like Your Career Is Under Arrest?

Alena and Mark have made a successful transition from frustrated employees to successful franchisees — and you can too. Start the process today by requesting your free franchise kit.

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