By: Patricia Seaton, College Pro Entrepreneur
Over 500+ jobs completed 2005-2009
Strong customer service has been a cornerstone in College Pro’s 40-year history as a business. This was a skill I continuously worked on and developed over the course of five years of running a College Pro franchise. As a manager, you interact with a number of individuals—customers, painters, paint store employees, etc—in order to successfully complete a painting project. It took me numerous interactions with different people in order to develop my own definition of excellent customer service. By no means have I mastered this skill, but I have come up with a few key points over the years:
Set appropriate expectations—It’s important to under-promise and over-deliver when setting expectations with the customer. Know what you are capable of and be ok with politely saying no to a customer. I often worried that telling a customer I wasn’t able to do something for them, for example replace rotten deck boards prior to staining or wallpaper their bathroom, meant I wouldn’t land the job. I discovered this wasn’t the case, and it often helped strengthen the homeowner’s trust in me.
Keep the customer in the loop—Customers place a lot of trust in College Pro managers, they hire us to work on one of their largest investments. Because of this, it is important to be respectful of their home and of their time. A few examples include letting customers know if you are running late, if you have postponed their job due to weather, and providing daily progress reports in order to keep the customer up to date on the status of their paint job.
Keep the lines of communication open—If something doesn’t go according to plan, communicate this to the customer immediately. Waiting for the customer to find out on their own will only make matters worse. Clearly explain the issue and how you intend to fix it; this type of open and honest communication will allow for easier and faster resolution of the issue.
Learn from your mistakes—Mistakes happen, it is important to learn from them by identifying where you went wrong and working to avoid similar situations in the future. It sounds simple, but this may be one of your biggest learning opportunities while running a business.
Although these points may seem like common sense, some of them can be forgotten when you’re in the thick of things. Good customer service is an important skill to develop as it leads to satisfied customers and overall job satisfaction as a College Pro manager. My advice to current franchise managers would be to take the time to ensure each and every customer interaction is positive and meaningful and reflect on these interactions to identify your own strengths and weaknesses to help you improve this important skill; it will make for a happier summer for you and your customers
By: Rachel Lyda – College Pro Window Cleaning Franchisee
How many times this week have you told somebody you appreciate them? Does it amount to the times you have said “thank you”? If you are like me, the habitual act of appreciating people isn’t something you naturally remember to do. Not that I am not an appreciative person, but I often forget to verbalize that appreciation to the people who mean the most to me. As a part of Western culture, most of us were raised with manners, especially to say thank you when something is done or given to us. But were we ever taught the defining aspects of appreciation?
As a College Pro franchisee, I decided to make appreciating people one of the central attributes of my business. I did not want to make it all about appreciating the financial part of the business either. Of course, it is easy to appreciate life, and people in it, when things were going well. I wanted to strive to appreciate even the rough times so that when things turned up again, I would begin to appreciate the good times for what they were worth instead of taking them for granted. There were countless times this summer that my employees worked considerably longer than they were planning on that day and still went out marketing after even though they were completely drained of energy. They were punctual, joyful, hardworking and effective and took interest in every customer they worked for. It is hard to put into words how much I appreciated them.
At the start of the summer, I decided to not accept tips when I worked on the job site, so that my two employees could benefit more as a way to show my appreciation for their time. Even though they did not know all of the extra things I did outside of the jobsite to make everything happen, I did my best to be an employer who did not lead out of entitlement but in order to teach and also learn from the people under me. During the times where business was slow, I took the time to find things I appreciated in my employees and tell them that. By doing so, it created a positive atmosphere that served as a great buffer to the things that were happening outside of our control and kept us motivated. I hope after reading this, you will have gained a further understanding of the importance of appreciation.
Appreciation empowers people to recognize their strengths, goals, dreams, and ultimately, value their self worth. Everyone craves the feeling of being important. Beginning to show those around you that you truly appreciate them will make a visible difference in your life as an entrepreneur, and, matter of factly, as a human as well.
Some people say there is a College Pro Painters scam – there’s not! I ran franchise last summer and it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. In the process I learned some core entrepreneur skills as a student. It takes a ton of work and you can’t give up. When you are being interviewed, reading reviews online, and talking to past franchise managers, everyone tells you how hard it is but they cannot prepare you for it. You are put under extreme pressure and have to make a lot of decisions. As a student entrepreneur you learn so much through the College Pro training and coaching and just by getting out there. College Pro is great because without much experience but their training you get to run your own business and everything that comes with that: hiring and training employees, making all the decisions, managing all the cash and getting the profit!
If you are reviewing the College Pro franchisee role let me make it clear – some people think there is a College Pro Painters scam. Let me explain this – I see reviews where some students who tried it complained that it was too hard or they did not make enough money. Running any business is not easy, and if you are not willing to put in the time or listen to the coaches, your chances for success go down. And this is not just for a College Pro business – that is any business! I am actually really impressed at the overall success the student entrepreneurs have – at least 90% of the franchisees in my division made money which is way higher than random people starting businesses. Plus, the support the College Pro team gives you is 1st class. They are very knowledgeable and they truly care about how well you do. If you are not successful, like any company, College Pro is not successful. A lot of students return year after year (including me!) and the full-time staff members really help you and want you to do well. There is no College Pro Painters scam – if you are a hard worker, and are willing to really get challenged, I endorse being an entrepreneur with College Pro.
See what College Pro franchisees have to say about the challenges (and benefits)
By: Kristy Nieboer, Media & Marketing Intern
When creating a Pinterest page, every board and pin that is posted must be of interest to your market. Pinterest itself has a lot of female users (Pinterest Stats), which helps users easily narrow their own market. College Pro has a wide market, as its employees are students, but its customers are typically adult homeowners. The benefit of Pinterest is that you can have multiple boards, each directed at a specific group of people, but not necessarily directed at your whole market. The key is to have at least one board intended for each section of your market.
After extensive research and exploration of other pages, as well as personal use, I can conclude that the boards on your Pinterest page do not need to be relevant to your company. However, relevant boards that are of common interest among Pinterest users are very beneficial. Because College Pro Painters and Window Cleaning fall under the home improvement category, our company page has an advantage on Pinterest. Boards such as paint colours, exterior and interior painting, and painting tips are all in relation to College Pro Painters, and also are of interest to the average female homeowner. Boards such as DIY organization are not in direct relation to College Pro Painters or Window Cleaning, but do apply to our target market, as well as the average Pinterest user.
A concept I found most interesting about Pinterest for companies is to represent your company culture on your Pinterest page. To display College Pro’s culture, I created boards of Painters and Window Cleaners in the field. Another board displays quotes, which the average College Pro employee would find inspiring, motivational, or funny. Yet to come is a board that displays the humor that exits within the College Pro community.
A lot of customers ask themselves if they could trust College Pro Window Cleaning with their home. This is a great question to ask nowadays. There is so much competition in the home services industry that it is often hard to know who to trust. College Pro Window Cleaning does a few things to really differentiate ourselves from our competition, including providing customers with a quality guarantee, asking for customer input and feedback on every job, and putting our franchisees through rigorous customer service excellence training. It is important to us at College Pro Window Cleaning that we treat our customers’ homes as if they were our own.
When we complete a job for our customer, we provide a quality guarantee. Our guarantee is that if a customer is not happy with the work that we do, we will keep working until we have made the customer happy. Although we are not perfect, as we are human and sometimes make mistakes, what differentiates College Pro Window Cleaning from other home service companies is that we fix the mistakes we make. We have a dedicated call center to help ensure that our customers’ concerns are addressed quickly, ensuring our customers get the quality job they are looking for.
College Pro reviews from customers are also very important to us. We encourage our customers to provide feedback and input on all jobs. They can do this a number of ways: by calling our call center, providing feedback directly to the franchisee, completing our end of job customer survey, or by completing an online survey and feedback form. College Pro reviews all the feedback, and we diligently follow up with franchisees to continually improve the service that we provide.
At College Pro Window Cleaning we also ensure our student franchisees go through rigorous customer service excellence training. For us this means doing our best to go above and beyond for you. It means ensuring not only that you have a great window cleaning job completed, but that the service we provide you is top notch. We love to help in any way we can. If there are other things on a job that you feel we can do to help you, we are always happy to do whatever we can. At the end of a job we encourage a walk around of the job to ensure your expectations have been met! We are also more than eager to receive College Pro reviews from the customer at that time.
For us at College Pro Window Cleaning, it is important to not only do the above, but to ensure we are doing all the little things, like removing our shoes when we enter a home, watching the gardens to ensure all the flowers are protected, and leaving the yard in better shape than when we found it. These are the things that we do at our own home, and we expect our franchisees to do at our customers’ homes. You can trust us to do a great job, and treat your home as if it was our own.
By Kristy Neiboer – Media & Marketing Intern, College Pro
This summer, I am working as a Social Media & Marketing Intern at College Pro, in Etobicoke, ON. I applied and was offered this job having had no experience with College Pro whatsoever (but I do have an interest, talent, and skills in the marketing field). Being one of only a few people to ever bypass fieldwork, I really had no idea what actually goes on in a College Pro Window Cleaning Franchise, or a College Pro Painters Franchise. This past week, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with each of these crews, and learn what their average days, jobs, and challenges look like. I am surprised by the number of differences that exist between what I thought a franchise manager does, and what a franchise manager actually does.
First, with regards to the painting side of the business, I was under the impression that College Pro Painters franchise managers had an army of painters who they drove around from site to site, with a truck full of supplies. When the army arrived at a job, they would move at top speed and do a flawless job in an impressive amount of time. However, when I was picked up by the franchise manager, I realized there was no crew/army in the car. I quickly learned that he had more than one crew, and that each crew was at a different job site. Instead of painting as an army, we spent the morning traveling from site to site, setting each crew up with their tasks, and ensuring they had all the supplies they needed. As it turned out, each crew needed different equipment and supplies, and we ended up driving to the paint store and the hardware store, and then delivering the items to each site (a TON of driving!). Essentially, we spent the morning running errands to ensure each crew had what they needed to get the job done properly, which is much different than the army painting scenario I had envisioned.
I have also heard that problems tend to arise for painters, but I imagined the problems would be a quick fix, and that any crew member could and would solve the problem. I also thought that the manager would be with all crews at all times (as one crew), so everyone could work together to solve problems that arise. I learned that the ultimate responsibility of every job is on the franchise manager, and that the crew often calls the manager for support solving problems. This is a lot more responsibility on the manager than I imagined.
The third major difference I encountered involved College Pro Window Cleaning. While window cleaning production is much easier to run, requires less equipment, and is easier labour than a College Pro Painters painting franchise, the challenge seems to be getting customers. I had envisioned the businesses never being out of work, and having customers just falling into their lap. However, I quickly learned that getting a window cleaning lead/job is a big deal – and that managers really have to drive their marketing campaigns. Crew members help the franchise owner by cold calling to generate leads, and then the manager does an estimate as soon as possible to ideally book the job. Selling is tough, and I was surprised by the number of tactics and procedures the manager had already developed and used consistently with potential customers.
In conclusion, managers are in charge of far more things in their business than I thought, and are given responsibility for all aspects. While this sounds rough, both of the franchise managers I met were incredible individuals, who possessed skills I never even imagined having this early on in life, and were able to push through the challenges in a calm, confident, and successful manner.
Student labor is a great alternative these days when selecting someone to do general labor tasks around the home. College students fill a variety of positions, both in the spring and the summer. Many of these jobs fall in the customer service categories such as restaurant or retail jobs. Other college students seek out general labor type positions such as painting, window cleaning and landscaping. These jobs often pay well and have a variety of job sites that are worked on.
One company that specializes in employing college students is College Pro Painters. You may ask “why should I choose college student painters from College Pro Painters?” Many people appreciate a company that has been in business since 1971, that has a 2-year written warranty, or proven systems over four decades. Others like the idea of helping a college student gain some experience and work their way through college. One thing is for certain, College Pro Painters has the experience and network to make it happen whether you’re in New York or Oregon. People can become inspired by working with college students and catching a glimpse of what will come with the next generation of business leaders. It can also become somewhat of a nostalgic experience as homeowners can reflect back on their time as a college student, and can recall dreams and aspirations from the past.
College Pro Painters serves a niche in the residential and small commercial painting markets that no other competitor fulfills. If you are looking for a long lasting, old fashioned brush and roll house painting job, College Pro offers unparalleled service and customer satisfaction. College students work hard to provide you with a great product to earn great feedback and ratings from you. Painters who work with College Pro are selected for their attention to detail, work, and academic performance. These painters are taught to have pride in their workmanship and stay on the job until you are satisfied. You know they will be respectful both to you and to your home. A better question for you to ask would be, “why shouldn’t I choose college student painters from College Pro Painters?”
“A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.” – Allen Klein
Real life experience really does go a long way. I personally felt this when I ran a seasonal business with College Pro Painters while I was in my 3rd year of university. College Pro was a whole new environment where I really got rewarded for my results versus just working an hourly job. This really changed my perspective on life, how the world works and how you can make money as an adult.
The two main shifts in perspective were:
The value of an hour- I had grown up thinking you work and make money per hour. The only way to make more money I thought was to get a higher wage position. After my first season running my business I had profited 5 times the earnings I had made the previous year working similar hours (3 jobs vs 1 business). This really shifted my view of what I could do in an hour. The more College Pro Painters taught me and the more I grew as a leader the more I could lead teams of people (which I really enjoyed). Operating 6-10 employees I was definitely making more money than I knew to be possible. I will forever struggle to go back to viewing an hour = a specific $. The idea of leverage is so powerful.
The value of a dollar- College Pro Painters is marketed as a summer management opportunity. I knew that the flip side of opportunity of being in management was that I was going to have to work very hard. A day in the life of a College Pro manager can be hectic at best and be frustrating beyond belief at the worst. Some days I worked incredibly hard to ensure customers were happy and the jobs got completed. I literally shed blood, sweat and tears for every dollar I earned. I have a new understanding for work ethic and what it takes to be successful.
These shifts in perspective that College Pro has given me have really allowed me make informed decisions about the work I do now. Where do I want to spend my time? How do I want to make my money? The value of an hour and a dollar carry new meaning to me as I go into the future.
As anyone who completes a summer of student training with College Pro will tell you, the act of setting goals and following through with them are one of the most crucial elements of success. Every part of the internship involves goal setting, from breaking down marketing goals to setting interview goals for painters. What becomes evident after completing the student training program is that students are left with a strong sense of how to set real life goals, and how to stick with them. These are lessons that help make College Pro alumni so successful in the real world.
The goal setting process begins at the first student training session with big picture end of year goals. These are then broken down into two types of goals – proximal goals and weekly goals. Proximal goals are goals that are typically in 1-2 month segments and are treated as benchmark goals for which to strive. Weekly goals will add up to the proximal goals, and help give direction for what needs to be accomplished during the week. Students who consistently set and achieve their weekly goals in College Pro typically go on to hit their proximal and year-end goals.
Another core element of goal setting that is stressed during the student training program in College Pro is how to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Shared, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-based. Each goal that is set fits into the above categories, which helps make sure the goals are grounded in reality and aren’t out of reach for the person setting the goals. That being said, students in College Pro will typically also go out and set Inspirational Goals that are above and beyond the SMART goals, to give them something big to strive for.
In summary, there is a reason so many College Pro alumni go on to have such successful careers in the real world. Having gone through the student training program with College Pro, they learned first hand how to set meaningful goals, and, just as important, how to stick to them!
Below you will find my perspective on the College Pro manager role – My name is David Proulx, and I have spent the last 11 years of my life working with College Pro, so I will give one perspective from when I was a franchise manager and the other perspective from when I was a business coach.
My story started when I was a first year student at McMaster University working towards my Bachelor of Science degree. I was referred to the program by a friend who was recently hired. After 2 weeks and about 4 interviews I was given the opportunity to run the business. I was both excited and nervous – I was very involved in sports and I was hungry for this challenge, but I also questioned myself on how ready I actually was for this role as my previous work experience included McDonalds, Sobey’s and a few other random part-time jobs.
College Pro trained me in all areas of the business – marketing, operations, and financials, and gave me a personal business coach (funny enough he was in my wedding party 7 years later). The business was overwhelming at points (constant calls from customers, employees and always feeling behind) but thankfully I was very involved in the company culture and the support network from other student franchise managers helped get me through the tough times. I personally developed and grew a ton – I ran an averaged sized business my first year and really overachieved my second and third year. It was a very fast paced environment and I took a ton of pride away from knowing I was doing a great job for my customers and my employees.
After my three summers running the College Pro business I was promoted into the role of a business coach were I was lucky enough to start coaching other student entrepreneurs. Over the past eight years I have worked with a ton of student franchise managers and I have realized three key things with regards to the College Pro experience.
First, the business can be tough and lonely (even when you are interacting with a ton of people daily). Student franchisees typically really enjoy their experience when they get involved with the company culture – they associate with other students experiencing the exact same things, which can help push them to the next level in business or help when they are having a really bad day. The College Pro culture is ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ and most people love this aspect.
Second, the managers within College Pro will grow and develop. The managers will experience everything first hand, how to hire employees, how to lead employees, how to marketing and grow a business, how to operate a business and how to control the financials within the business. They typically make a lot of mistakes when experiencing this for the first time, which, in my opinion, is invaluable experience.
Third, College Pro managers typically question themselves along the way and have self doubts when they make mistakes or struggle at different aspects of the role. Managers who don’t give up and put in their best effort moving forward will have a feeling of pride that most have not experienced prior to this role.
All in all, the past 11 years of my life with College Pro have shaped who I am today. I have loved the experience, the people and the development. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.