July/August 2020 Next Generation in Franchising

Millennials in Franchising: Top of the Line

EverLine Coatings is leaning into the strengths of millennials to expand across Canada

By Kym Wolfe

When you park your car at work, at the mall, at the grocery store, or in any other lot, you may not even think about the painted lines that delineate each parking spot, or notice that the asphalt has been swept or sealed.

“Asphalt is literally everywhere,” says Dylan McCann, a franchisee with EverLine Coatings. And in parking lots, all of that asphalt needs to be painted, cleaned, maintained, and repainted on a regular basis. Up until a few years ago, if you were a national chain, you would be hard pressed to find a company that could look after all of those tasks in your various locations across Canada.

“Our typical competitor is a local family-run company. EverLine covers a huge service area, allowing us to service big box stores and other national clientele,” says McCann.  “We offer consistent quality and a professional approach.”

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“EverLine is disrupting the industry,” adds Saskatchewan franchisee Nigel Baxter. He notes that in addition to looking after parking lot needs like power washing and painting or installing parking blocks and speed bumps, the company offers related interior use products and services like line painting,  epoxy flooring, and non-slip specialty coatings for plants, warehouses and other businesses, and more.

If you caught the Dragons’ Den episode that aired in November 2019, when EverLine founder John Evans made his successful pitch, you would have seen McCann and Baxter standing with him. As two of EverLine’s first franchisees, these millennials have seen first-hand the benefits and challenges of being part of a newly established franchise concept.

Evans started EverLine in Calgary in 2012 and decided to develop a franchise model in 2015, drawing on his experience running a successful College Pro Painter franchise while he was in university. Today EverLine has 11 locations from British Columbia through Ontario. Territories in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland & Labrador are available.

McCann joined the company as general manager for Northern Alberta, and purchased the first EverLine franchise in 2016, in Edmonton. “Because I was involved so early, we were still developing a lot of the systems that we have today. There is always a little bit of apprehensiveness from new clients until you prove you will show up and do what you said you would do. That’s the hurdle I remember from year one – I think every business goes through that,” says McCann.

“John is very innovative ­­– for example, the partnership with TBL Durables,” he adds. TBL Durables is an environmentally friendly sprayable liquid that cures in five to ten minutes, creating a hard plastic that is more resistant to wear and provides greater reflectivity than other products on the market.

“As we’ve gotten bigger, John has put a lot of time into the financial aspect and coaching our franchisees through making data-driven decisions,” says McCann. “That helps take the stress down – this is a business where 80 per cent of revenue is generated during warm weather months. John has created a system to predict cash flow, and franchisees have the ability to scale up or down as they need to.”

New franchisees can start with line markings, then add other elements like floor epoxy and other indoor services, to build year-round revenue, he explains.  “John is flexible, so long as you have a plan, he’ll give you the tools to do it.”

Baxter, who purchased franchise rights for Saskatchewan in 2017, says determination and drive and a willingness to work hard are key to any new franchisee’s success.  “Being a young business owner is challenging.  In the beginning, you have to put everything you have into the business, not just financially, but also your time. The first three years were tough. Saskatchewan is a very loyal province, which makes it hard to break into the market, but once you prove yourself, customers will stick with you. Customer service in huge.  You can learn all of the hard skills – the actual painting, sales, operations, staffing – but you need to be personable, and you need to be patient, and give your business time to grow.”

Leaning into the strengths of millennials

Both McCann and Baxter enjoy being part of a franchise system where they work closely with other young like-minded entrepreneurs. McCann mentions the camaraderie that has developed, and Baxter notes that as a group, they have built up a large knowledge base that everyone can draw from.  Additionally, says Baxter, “John does an excellent job of developing and updating training resources, and we have weekly meetings with all franchisees so that we have the pulse of what is happening in the industry.”

Evans has mainly attracted millennial franchisees, and that’s purposeful, Evans explains.  “I’m inclined to assist the millennial generation get into business for themselves. They tend to be high energy and innovative, and they are technologically adaptable, able to pull up information that they need quickly. That’s definitely important in a system based on data-driven decision making. They don’t have to learn those skills – they grew up using technology. We’re leaning into those strengths.”

“We also have a values-based management style,” adds Evans. “Part of our purpose statement is to be a vehicle for our franchisees’ personal and professional growth. They are going to come across challenges, work through them, and as they overcome them, we celebrate that.”

As EverLine has built positive brand recognition and established itself as an industry leader, says McCann, “Being part of a network allows us to service contracts we wouldn’t otherwise be able to.  John and head office are continually chasing national contracts, which is great for getting the new guys up and running, and it also creates recurring work for us older franchisees.”

Being a business owner, says McCann, forces you to think about things differently. “I’m definitely not a 9-to-5 kind of guy; I need to do something where I control my own destiny and earning potential, and being a franchisee obviously allows for that.  Being in business for myself has been the most rewarding challenge I have ever taken on. If you think you’re entrepreneurial, but can’t seem to find the right idea to take the plunge, franchising is a great way to scratch the itch and water down the risk.”

“Looking back on the last three years, there has been a lot of personal growth and development,” says Baxter. When the opportunity to purchase an EverLine franchise presented itself, he was excited and jumped in with both feet. It’s turned out well for him, but he advises potential franchisees to thoroughly research and evaluate before making any decisions.

“Getting in early was big for me, and I’ve had lots of support, which is particularly important with a new company. I’m pumped to be part of this. We’re growing at an incredible rate, and being able to help new franchisees develop and grow their businesses quicker than I could is very rewarding.”