May/June 2023Next Generation in FranchisingPrevious Issues

Next Generation in Franchising: Fixing for the Future

Young entrepreneur Tyler Dittrich finds success through honest customer service and making what’s old new again at his New Creations franchise

by Joelle Kidd

Repair, don’t replace: that’s the mantra at New Creations, a franchise system that provides repair and restoration services for homes, vehicles, and just about any item a customer might care to think of.

“Pretty much any material, we can fix it instead of doing costly replacing,” says 29-year-old Tyler Dittrich, who became the owner of a New Creations franchise in St. Catharines, Ontario eight months ago. The brand specializes in home and automotive restoration, but a day in the life of a New Creations franchisee might involve facilitating repairs on cars, RVs, hardwood floors, furniture, bathtubs, or drywall. Dittrich’s repeat clients include auto dealerships and RV lots, and the energetic young business owner spoke to Franchise Canada as he worked on an RV.

“We have a whole system in place that allows us to repair a lot of different materials,” he says. This is a benefit to the customer, not only because it’s much cheaper to repair an item than to replace it, but because sourcing replacement parts and materials has become much more difficult and time consuming in recent years, owing to disruptions in the supply chain from the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s also a convenience factor, he adds. “I just recently [fixed] somebody’s car in her driveway. She thought she’d have to take it to the shop, but I just did it right in her driveway, and it was a fraction of what it would have cost.”

Day in the life

With all this variety, Dittrich’s day-to-day routine as a business owner is anything but rote, and as a one-man operation, he takes care of all aspects of the business. “I do it all: I repair, I do the sales, I do part of the accounting,” he says. “[And] management of the business. If customers have questions, customers call or email, I’m always here, always available.”

Since this means Dittrich relies on himself to get the business up and running—and to keep it going—the support offered by a franchise system is invaluable.

After buying the franchise, Dittrich completed in-person training in New Brunswick. “Basically, we start off with basic materials and then we move into actually doing the repairs, different techniques, different processes that the franchise has developed over time,” he recalls.

With so many types of repair services offered, the institutional knowledge of a franchise system is a huge advantage. “The beauty of the franchise system is that I can call up anybody and ask, ‘Hey, have you done this? How’d you do it?’”

Along with specialized training from the franchisor, Dittrich has been able to make use of a support network of other New Creations franchisees who have a wealth of experience running the same type of business. “I talk to a guy regularly out in British Columbia [who] has over 12, 13 years’ [experience]. So he’s seen a lot and done a lot, and I ask him questions regularly,” says Dittrich. “It’s great, for learning purposes.”

For the new business owner, the biggest challenge has been meeting his own high standards. “I’m a very harsh critic, so […] sometimes I’ll spend way too long on something,” Dittrich admits. “I want to make sure that [the customer] is going to ultimately be happy with the product.”

Still, this perfectionism has paid off: Dittrich estimates that 85-90 per cent of his clients are repeat customers, and he’s proud to see his Google review page already awash with positive ratings and comments.

“I actually don’t advertise,” he adds, noting that he tried one month of advertising but didn’t see enough return for his investment. Instead, “a lot of my business day-to-day is just word of mouth from different customers recommending the service, all the way out to businesses recommending it to other people.”

Though he hasn’t had the time yet to focus on sales, Dittrich has still grown his business simply through delivering high-quality service. “I have my set clients as of right now, and they kind of do the advertising for me.”

Finding a fit

Dittrich didn’t start out his business-ownership journey with New Creations in mind. He knew he wanted to start a business, but “I just didn’t know what, or how,” he explains.

He realized that franchise ownership would be the perfect way to own his own business with the support of an established brand. But he soon realized the sheer number of possibilities when it comes to choosing franchises. “You start to realize how many franchises there are,” he says.

On a recommendation, Dittrich connected with a franchise consultant. “We got together on weekly meetings, and he actually interviewed the companies before coming to me—he would pitch an idea, or he’d look at an idea and see if it was the right fit for me.”

Having another person to do some of the legwork of researching different franchise concepts, and to help assess different opportunities, was helpful. Especially, says Dittrich, because the consultant was the one to bring New Creations to him—“I would never have known about them without him.”

After learning about New Creations, Dittrich says he spent around three or four months doing research, interviewing with the brand, learning about the concept, and going through the franchise disclosure document.

For prospective franchisees who are struggling to find the right franchise fit, Dittrich says he would recommend working with a franchise consultant. “I had a great experience,” he says. Even now, he says, his consultant stays in touch, checking in on how things are going with the business.

Keys to success

As a first-time business owner, Dittrich says going with a franchise has helped him find success quickly. “The system is already built, and they have the experience to help you, and the support. Being in the franchise, I’m always one call away from anyone, across Canada, really, with support.”

When it comes to his clients, age and experience don’t necessarily factor into what he does. “As long as I tell them I can do a certain job, sell them on what they need, and perform it, I think they’re pretty happy with that.”

Dittrich takes pride in his customer service and the relationships he’s been able to build with clients. When asked about his greatest accomplishment since starting the business, he says it’s the daily win of “having people come to you and keep calling you.”

“I talk to my clients quite regularly when I see them, and I often ask how [they felt] about [the work]. I always do a regular check-in, every couple months, to be sure what I’m doing is up to their standards,” he says.

“Customer service has been my [biggest] accomplishment, because I’m now in the service industry. So making sure that customers are happy and don’t have a bad experience is really important.”

This drive to make his customers happy comes not only from Dittrich’s own high standards, but from listening to what his customers want. “My very first RV client, I asked him at one of my check-ins, ‘What can I do better? If there’s anything, please let me know,’” Dittrich recalls. “And he pretty much said, ‘As you get busier, just make sure you answer your phone.’ So, I’ve always really taken that to heart.”

In a line of work where quick and reliable responsiveness is key, Dittrich makes it a priority to connect with his customers, whether that means picking up when they call, answering their emails promptly, or proactively checking in.

“I always speak with my customers, if I’m late, if I’m early, if I can do a job earlier, do more or less things—or even being honest about the skill [level] of what I can and cannot do,” he says. Communication—particularly open, honest communication—is key to success, Dittrich says, for almost any kind of business. “Being open, customer service, and [good] communication are three major parts of running a successful business, in my opinion.”

Prospective franchisees interested in New Creations would benefit from having a desire to work with their hands, Dittrich suggests. “While learning the skills themselves isn’t easy, I think if someone has the attention to detail, they can do it.”

And, of course, skills in customer service. You have to “be prepared to work with the customer through anything,” he says.