ZOOM DRAIN franchise review: Jason Kim of Long IslandFranchise Performance Group
A corporate executive and a plumber joined forces to open ZOOM DRAIN’s first franchise
Jason Kim comes from “a fairly corporate background” rather than the plumbing industry. His ZOOM DRAIN Long Island business partner, Ray Gremaux, is the man he describes as the driving force behind their franchise and the one with industry experience. But Gremaux saw the vision when he was approached by ZOOM DRAIN COO Ellen Rohr, and Kim was astute enough to know a golden opportunity when he saw one. In this ZOOM DRAIN franchise review, Kim tells his and his partner’s story about becoming the first Zoom franchisees.
The Long Island franchise was the first one. Tell me how that came about.
So, Ray knows Ellen. He met Ellen in 1996 in Vancouver at a seminar. Ray had hired Ellen in the past to do consultant work on his then-primary business, which was Ray the Plumber. Ellen contacted Ray when they were first hatching the franchise idea and asked Ray if he would be interested in the franchise idea for drain cleaning.
How do you and Ray divide the duties at your business?
We’ve been doing this five years together now, so we’ve really grown into that. I handle much more back office, operational, financial. Ray’s more involved in the technicians and the work happening on a daily basis. He has his fingerprints on all of that. But he’s still guiding the overall vision.
And what connected you to Ray?
Our boys play basketball together, so we were literally sideline dads together. I’ve always had a fascination with entrepreneurial-type people, and we developed a friendship. He asked me one day if I was interested in doing something else. And I certainly was at the time, so it was a good fit.
What were you doing before?
Mostly sales, executive management in more corporate kind of environments, but always in sales, marketing and business development on technical products. So I have some technical background.
Aside from the entrepreneurial aspect of it, was there anything about the drain and sewer industry that captivated you, whether it be financial potential or otherwise?
Absolutely. I went to one of the first Discovery Days in Philadelphia. On the drive back I called Ray and said, “When do we start?” Because there were so many advantages. Obviously the financial side of things, but the biggest thing, more than anything, was the systems and process to allow scalability. And I think that was really the key part of it to me — being able to grow technicians and having front- and back-of-office systems and processes that you could scale without having major issues.
How do you feel right now about the direction of the brand?
I think it’s in great shape. We had some input in what was done with the brand overall in the beginning. And I think that Ellen and (President) Jim (Criniti) and (Co-founder) Al (Levi) are doing a bang-up job of creating the brand, developing it and making sure that it’s got a great reputation in the marketplace. And that’s really industry-wide because that’s really what’s important. We’re looking at people who attend the WWETT Show (Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport) and things like that, people who would potentially buy a franchise. And I think the brand’s in great shape from that perspective.
Was there a moment when you knew you’d made the right decision to go into business with Ray, like an aha moment?
I would say the day we started. I mean, it was that clear to me early on that this was the right fit. It hasn’t been without its struggles and its moments, but I knew very early on that if we stayed committed to growth that we would have an incredible opportunity.
What does the corporate office do to support you?
I don’t know a good way to answer that other than to say, what don’t they do? From accounting to financial to operational to marketing to tactical. There are franchise support pieces in place for every major piece of this business. And for us it’s just a matter of putting your hand in the air and saying, “Hey, I need help on this.” And there’s nobody within the environment, including the team that works for all of them, who won’t chip in to make sure that you get the support you need.
What kind of experience overall do you think you need to be successful with ZOOM DRAIN?
The ability to wear multiple hats, as any small business owner needs to, and be willing to dive into things with the realization that you don’t need to be an expert in any given area to be successful. What you do need to be willing to do is build a team of people who have the expertise around you.
Do you interact much with the other franchisees?
We do, we do. We have meetings once or twice a year, and I talk to other franchisees somewhat regularly as needed. Especially the core group of us who have been here for a couple years. We all have really good relationships and any of us can call anybody at any given moment. It literally is a fantastic group of people.
We gave Ellen a lot of crap in the first year or two for passing on potential franchisees who wanted in because she didn’t think they fit the culture that she wanted to build,” Kim says. “And in hindsight, I think she was absolutely right and has done just a stellar job of assembling the right candidates, the right franchisees who have the right culture, have the right mindset, and are just good people. That’s super rewarding to be around when you’re in a room with them.
How large are you hoping to grow your franchise?
Our primary goal is to grow our Long Island franchise. We think we could have 15 to 20 trucks running multiple locations for Zoom just on Long Island. We have two companies here. We have obviously Ray the Plumber and ZOOM DRAIN, and we’re hoping to add a couple of different services going forward like cesspool pumping and HVAC. But we think ZOOM DRAIN here on Long Island could easily have 15, 20 trucks in multiple locations. We just have three now.
Speaking of rewarding, what would you say is the most rewarding thing about owning a ZOOM DRAIN franchise?
The most rewarding piece is knowing that you’re not alone, that there’s a support mechanism in the franchisor and the franchisees to make sure that if you have an issue, you can access help to get it resolved. As a small business owner, I think the scariest thing is knowing that you’re the last stop for your employees, your customers, your team. And knowing that you’ve got somebody behind you who can help you is, to me, the most rewarding thing.
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