When Arturo Ortiz first met Hickory Dickory Decks owner Tom Jacques, one of the first things the prospective franchisee mentioned was his lack of building experience. Prior to researching franchise opportunities, Ortiz had spent the eight years working for a hospitality chain in Toronto.
With virtually no knowledge on decks or construction – Ortiz says he didn’t know the difference between an inch and a millimetre – he was wary to join the Hickory Dickory Decks team. The company, which was founded in 1987, had established itself as a leader in custom deck design and building, and currently operates in over 65 cities across Canada and the United States. Ortiz says his inexperience was something Jacques had encountered many times before when welcoming new franchisees to the team.
“He told me it didn’t matter,” Ortiz says. “As long as I could make sales, all I really needed was a good builder to get the jobs done.”
The vote of confidence in his abilities was enough for Ortiz to take the leap into small business ownership. In 2016, he opened the Hickory Dickory Decks location in Barrie, Ontario. Today, the franchisee is taking his services across Ontario’s cottage country as he serves the Barrie and Innisfil communities, giving prospective franchisees a little something to believe in along the way.
Change for the better
If Ortiz could use one word to describe his life as a Hickory Dickory Decks franchisee, it’s “simple.” Since joining the franchise, his priority has always been to spread the word about his business and make sales. The hours he works on any given day will vary, but typically, days consist of finding clients, going to their homes, and developing a plan to put their dream backyard together.
In Southern Ontario, selling season ramps up in late March and April, as clients eager for warmer weather start envisioning their summer plans relaxing and firing up the barbecue in their backyards. Building the decks occurs in the following months, and Ortiz can spend the remainder of the year planning for the next busy season.
“My days are flexible,” Ortiz says. “I can come home for lunch, pick my daughter up from school, and be home for dinner.”
Though the flexibility of setting his own schedule is a benefit of being a small business owner, Ortiz says the change took some getting used to. Ortiz’s pre-franchisee lifestyle saw him working Monday to Friday, with days beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m. Back then, he says days were never that simple.
“I came from a world where I was responding to 100 emails, answering 50 phone calls, and completing tasks for my managers on a daily basis. It was all about working fast and getting results for management. Coming to a franchise, there is a different mentality.”
At Hickory Dickory Decks, this new mentality means moving at a much slower speed, expecting delays, and embracing the challenge when things go awry. Typical of any company in the building business, delays are common, and Ortiz says he has had to adjust the speed at which he works to match that of his clients and builders.
“It was a difficult adjustment for me to make,” he says. “I had to put the brakes on myself a lot and just embrace that the business operated differently than what I was used to.”
Head office encourages franchise partners to reach out to them if they have any questions or concerns. Moreover, Ortiz says that if he ever needs extra help in getting carpenters to help build his clients’ decks, his fellow franchisees are always willing and available to pitch in. The franchise support has turned out to be a valuable asset for Ortiz, who says finding carpenters and builders to execute his projects is one of the most challenging aspects of being a franchisee with Hickory Dickory Decks.
Once you hire the right crew to join your team, Ortiz says it’s easy to get into a good routine where the franchisee focuses on the selling and the carpenters focus on the building. Of course, being able to work with all types of personalities is also key to finding success in the franchise.
“You definitely need to be a people person,” Ortiz says. “Being a good listener and being friendly are important for any Hickory Dickory Decks franchisee. For me, it worked out perfectly because I like talking and meeting new people every day.”
The future looks bright for Ortiz, who is excited to grow his presence in Barrie, Innisfil, and the surrounding area with a target to sell $500,000 by the end of the year.
“You just have to believe in yourself and the product. I’m busy, my builder is busy, and we’re both making money!”
By Kristin Di Tommaso