Jet-Black continues to support its franchisees with the latest equipment and technology
to build a strong nationwide brand.
By Janice Hoppe
Jet-Black doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. As a franchisor, the company focuses more resources on supporting and building up its existing franchise owners versus selling new franchisees. “We rarely have anyone close because we are designed for long-term franchise success,” CFO and Director of Franchising Nick Kelso says. “We never want to lose sight on existing franchise success and growth in the name of selling a lot of new franchises. We are always excited to add new territories, but we never want to see one close.”
Andrew Hoiland founded the Minneapolis-based company in 1987 after his parents’ driveway was poorly seal-coated. The resulting work was disappointing as the sealer left cracks unfilled, oil spots and footprints on the sidewalk. Doing some research into the industry, Hoiland discovered sealcoating was a side job for paving companies, and decided to go into business specializing in sealcoating.
“Our industry is known for a having a lot of ‘unscrupulous’ companies and people have been burned by the door-to-door guys,” Kelso adds. “Andrew realized that people who do this work often don’t do a good job and started their own company to rectify that. They started from scratch in 1987 and in 1991 started franchising. In 2005, I bought a franchise in Minnesota and in 2008, I bought out half the corporate company and became partners with Andy.”
Today, Jet-Black is the national leader in asphalt sealcoating and repair. Its services include sealcoating, crack repair, joint repair, power cleaning, oil treatment, sunken asphalt repair, line striping, infrared repair and other asphalt-related maintenance services.
In 2012, Jet-Black acquired Black Dawg Franchising Group that included the Black Dawg Sealcoat, Blue Dawg Power Wash and Yellow Dawg Line Striping companies. In addition to franchising Jet-Black, the company also franchises Black Dawg Sealcoat and Yellow Dawg Line Striping. “We really don’t have a competitor as far as franchising,” Kelso says. “There is no one on a national level that I know who performs sealcoating and repair like we do.”
Building a Brand
Jet-Black has 39 franchise owners running 98 territories in 14 states. The protected territory is different in every area and depends on area demographics and the amount of existing asphalt. “We have a new owner in Richmond, Va., who wants all of Richmond,” Kelso says. “That’s still manageable because it’s not too large of an area. It comes down to how much asphalt there is and if they can handle the geographic distances of the territory. We want them to build the brand in an area and perform better rather than being spread too thin.”
New franchise locations are focused on middle to upper-income homes, property management companies and businesses that own their property. “We look for our target market and how many qualifying residents or businesses are present,” Kelso adds. “We still have excellent protected territories available across the United States and Canada.”
Jet-Black focuses on building a national brand presence by providing marketing, quality control systems and training to its franchisees. “We do everything to build the brands, which leads to trust with the customer,” Kelso says. “We offer a tremendous amount of support and assistance to our franchisees.”
As a hands-on owner, Jet-Black trains interested owners who often have no experience in asphalt repair and maintenance. Training is ongoing and free for franchisees. “We can also train any employee at our corporate local free of charge,” Kelso adds. “Although, once owners have been trained, they tend to train their employees. Hiring laborers is always difficult in any business, but we teach owners how to find these people and how to train them. We have a lot of manuals and documents to assist.”
A $7,500 franchise fee is required to become a Jet-Black owner, but ongoing costs are relatively minimal. Most owners start operating from their home office, but some may open an off-site shop for equipment storage. “Nine out of 10 owners run the office out of their home because it keeps cost down and the risk low,” Kelso says. “As they grow, some expand and add more equipment and crews.”
Because the company focuses on existing franchise growth, system-wide sales have more than doubled from 2012 to 2015 and have increased every year since 2008. Jet-Black completed more than 20,000 jobs last year and nearly 300,000 in its 29-year history. The company is the only asphalt maintenance franchise system in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 rankings, rated No. 310 of all U.S. franchises. “It is an honor to be ranked at all because there are more than 10,000 franchise systems in the U.S.,” Kelso notes.
Jet-Black offers marketing options to franchise owners at a discount so they can focus on completing jobs and satisfying customers rather than promoting the brand. Marketing programs include Facebook and Google promotions, SEO, yard signs and personalized caution tape, radio advertisements and personalized location pages for each franchisee on Jet-Black’s website. “Our franchisees’ average position on Google is the No. 2 spot for important keyword searches such as ‘sealcoating’ in their territories,” Kelso adds.
Every franchisee has access to Jet-Black’s custom-built STARS (Sales Tracking and Reporting Software) database. It is an all-in-one business management program built by Hoiland. “STARS is a proprietary business management program that has been custom-designed to fit the idiosyncrasies of the Jet-Black business plan,” Kelso adds. “The cloud-based software provides the infrastructure for complete organization and communication between the Jet-Black owner and their customers, as well as the corporate office.”
STARS is constantly evolving as the company continues to upgrade it. The system offers franchisees:
* Satellite measuring tools to measure driveways and parking lots online;
* Customer quoting, proposals, invoices, follow-up letters and more;
* Route mapping;
* Dozens of reports;
* Automated reporting to corporate;
* Mailing lists of mid- to upper-income homeowners and business owners are purchased and permanently saved in STARS. This list is used for many marketing campaigns, including direct mail; and
* Online credit card system for customers, which automatically communicates between the website and STARS.
Thousands of online quote requests per year are automatically written to STARS and emailed to franchise owners. STARS can be used on-the-go with custom-built iPad and iPhone solutions. “Our main support in the long run comes from marketing, our STARS database and group buying power,” Kelso explains.
As an official distributor for many product and equipment manufacturers in the industry, Jet-Black passes on low equipment and product prices to its owners. The company also works with manufacturers of asphalt sealant and crack repair products to ensure they are producing the best products. “Part of what we do is testing new products,” Kelso says. “We work with different manufacturers to make sure the whole system is able to offer premium products at a competitive price. We give them feedback on how things are going and suggest ways the product may need to be tweaked.”
Jet-Black is also building high-quality custom sealcoating trailer systems and sealant storage tanks in-house to sell to franchise owners at a significantly discounted price compared to similar third-party options on the market. “We have taken our experience and understanding of what makes a good sealcoating system and are building them in-house,” Kelso says. “We are saving a fair amount of money and offering them to franchise owners. It’s far cheaper than what they could buy from a vendor.”
Jet-Black will continue to focus resources into current franchise owner success and is steady new territory growth. The company does not make its money from selling franchises, but rather from owners succeeding for decades.
The company plans to continue providing more products, equipment and marketing tools to franchise owners at a discounted price. “Some franchise systems sell a lot of franchises, but also have a lot fail and close in any given year,” Kelso says. “When a new owner commits to us, we are very committed to their long-term success. Anyone who comes on board gets our complete attention and much of the training is done by me personally.”
Jet-Black’s current stongholds are in the Northeast and Midwest, but it does have successful franchise owners in the South. “Someone could succeed in any area of the country,” Kelso says. “The game changes down south as we are more focused on parking lots because people don’t have as many blacktop driveways. The business plan and territory size can always be tweaked depending on the area of the country.”
Moving forward, Jet-Black’s goal is to expand throughout the country and see its system double in sales every three to five years. “In general, asphalt repair and maintenance is a very stable market because it’s a high-demand service that people – even DIYers – don’t want to do themselves,” Kelso says. “It’s high-demand and low-risk because there is not much overhead. We have a large returning customer base with repeat customers every one to four years.”
The Jet-Black corporate office is donating one percent of all residential sales this year to The Azlynn Noelle Children’s Home, an orphanage in India. The country is home to 20 million orphans, according to The Azlynn Noelle Children’s Home, and the organization exists to provide a safe, loving haven of rescue for children in third world countries. The home provides shelter, food, clothing, access to the gospel and education to orphans and underprivileged children. For more information or to donate, visit www.azlynnnoelle.com.