Franchisee Success StoriesMarch/April 2021

The First Year: All Decked Out

Franchisee Theo Melburn achieves big wins during his first year with Hickory Dickory Decks

By Stefanie Ucci

For some, finding the perfect franchise fit might be a challenge when there are hundreds of successful brands to choose from. But for others, like Hickory Dickory Decks franchisee Theo Melburn, the decision to invest in a decking franchise felt like a right fit to complement his abundant experience and knowledge in the construction and building industry.

Melburn joined the Hickory Dickory Decks team in March 2019 and has already experienced success as a franchise owner. He purchased his first territory in Kanata, Ontario and a year later, in spring 2020 – right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – he bought a second territory in Ottawa south. At the time of writing, Melburn owns those two locations, but manages a total of four, including additional Kingston and Kemptville locations, with plans of purchasing the Kemptville territory in the near future.

After two years in business, this is quite the venture for Melburn. He credits his “exhilarating” experience as a franchisee to the incredible support and success of the Hickory Dickory Decks brand. “When you think about buying an existing business, it’s scary because you always wonder, what am I actually buying?” says Melburn. “But having a business like Hickory Dickory Decks, people have heard about us; we are not a brand-new company and the brand name is very memorable, people love it. So, [it’s great] having the brand name and the business history behind me for the work that we do.”

Hickory Dickory Decks was created in 1987 by Tom Jacques, CEO and president, and joined the franchising community in 1999. Since then, the decking brand has grown to 71 locations across the country, earning a spot as Canada’s largest composite deck builder. The franchise helps people live outdoors and have a quality life in a space that is designed specifically to them. They offer a wide selection of decking materials, including composite, vinyl, and hardwood, as well as other complementing deck accessories like pergolas, pavilions, gazebos, cooking centres, and custom accessories.

Growing in the construction world

Melburn is multifaceted in many trades including industrial mechanics, welding, carpentry, mechanical design and drafting, home renovations, and plumbing. “I was a project manager for many, many years,” explains Melburn. “I’ve managed $15 million projects and had 80 guys on the job site. Middle management positions come with a lot of stress and responsibility with limited rewards. I’ve been in construction all my life and this is the first time that I’ve really enjoyed the construction world. It suits my family needs and fulfills my career goals.”

As the previous owner of a construction and home renovation business, Melburn says that it wasn’t enough for him, especially in renovations where sometimes you make money and sometimes you don’t. When looking for a new business opportunity he could invest in, Melburn turned to decking, which combines his love for carpentry and building into his everyday job.

“The business is very modular and it’s repeatable. There’s a guided process which everybody learns and adapts to make it their own. Once you’ve done that, then it’s 100 per cent repeatable and you can bring out your own creativity, which I love because that’s where you can start to make some money and enjoy life.”

On top of that, Melburn says the franchise’s design work sheet has streamlined the process that would normally take him hours into a short 15-30-minute task, depending on the complexity of the project. “It’s a huge laborious endeavour just to prepare a proposal for somebody, but with Hickory Dickory Decks, they’ve got a proposal worksheet that starts out at 11 or 12 pages long with all of the different options and all the costing, so you can select what applies to your project and hide the rest,” explains Melburn.

Building each other up

With years of wisdom and experience in the construction industry, Melburn says he didn’t need a lot of training, but the education was available and is valuable for those who need it.

“Learning the Hickory Dickory Decks business process is very important,” says Melburn. “The training is very much tailored to what individuals need. I just needed to become more familiar with the system that Hickory Dickory Decks has developed, so that was what I got my training on.”

As for ongoing training, Melburn says all it takes is reaching out to your franchise manager or one of your many fellow franchisees. “If there’s a roof structure or trimming style that a client wants that we haven’t done before, all I need to do is reach out to the franchise network and ask, ‘hey this is what I’m looking at putting in for a client, has anybody worked with it? Has anybody got upcoming projects that we can jump in on and get some hands-on training?’”

Small bumps in the road

Melburn’s vast experience also helped him get through many challenges along the way. At the beginning, he was tasked with getting familiar with the business system. After that, it was all about ironing out the leads. “The two previous franchisees in Ottawa did a very good job here and left a strong legacy for me to continue to build my business with,” he explains. “So, the leads were always there; in fact, I always had more leads than I could manage. Lead management was my initial challenge, now it’s building a strong reliable team. I am focused on building a work environment that attracts good people. I am very proud of the team we have built and look to add new team members for 2021.”

On top of those first-year challenges, Melburn has also had to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, which came just one year after joining the Hickory Dickory Decks franchise. But, since decking is already an outdoor industry, the brand faced the pandemic with quite an advantage as they meet the provincial guidelines for operating a construction business outdoors. “As the owner of the business, I wanted to make sure I was respectful of all of our teammates and what their thoughts were. I communicated daily with the team and everybody was happy to continue working with the provincial guidelines in place,” says Melburn.

That paired with more Canadians staying home and identifying parts of their homes they want to change, including their outdoor decks and patios, didn’t slow down business at all for Melburn and his team.

“We’re in a position where people are going to be staying home for many years, I think they’re wanting to develop their homes. Real estate and home renovations went through the roof this year,” says Melburn. “We had so much opportunity [in 2020], and I think we’re going to continue to see many opportunities for several years to come.”

Big deck wins

Melburn offers advice to prospective franchisees considering joining the Hickory Dickory Decks brand: have a strong work ethic, reach out to your team members when you need help, and don’t put off what you can do today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Thanks to the repeatable business model, Melburn has been able to work towards his own success and personal accomplishments. He has received quite the accolades throughout his decking journey.

“When I think about my personal success in this business, Hickory Dickory Decks is North America’s largest decking company and for me personally, I finished in second place of overall sales in 2020. That is a pretty big achievement that I accomplished in my second year of business,” says Melburn. “So, through hard work and dedication, and having good teammates, I’m still shocked about how well we’re doing and that I was able to accomplish this level of success so quickly. It’s reassuring that I made the right decision to invest in a Hickory Dickory Decks franchise.”