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Glass Doctor

ALASKA

Kevin Tennant, owner of Glass Doctor, wanted a franchise that had a solid business model, with name recognition.
Source: Glass Doctor
Kevin Tennant, owner of Glass Doctor, wanted a franchise that had a solid business model, with name recognition.
Description: Glass repair and replacement
Owner: Kevin Tennant
Years in business: 11
No. of franchise units owned: 1
Start-up costs: $100,000 to $125,000
Franchisor fees: $32,500 per 100,000 population (included in start-up costs); royalties 5-7% of gross sales; marketing 2% of gross sales
2015 revenues, 2016 projection: $950,000; $1,040,000
2016 projected annual growth rate: 10%

Kevin Tennant was an Air Force Senior Master Sergeant living near Fairbanks, Alaska, when he first starting thinking about his own business, maybe buying a franchise. He knew he would be retiring from the military in 2004.

Alaska's brutally cold temperatures gave Tennant firsthand experience with the constant need to replace car windshields. He opened an independent glass shop but struggled to grow the business through 16-hour days and working every weekend. When Glass Doctor contacted him after six years and provided the opportunity to move beyond auto glass into residential and commercial business lines, he was ready for a new approach.

"It was feast or famine with just auto," he said. "It was a no-brainer. Getting access to the huge distributors I couldn't before cut my costs so much it was almost enough to pay for the franchise fees."

Tennant had also always been interested in a franchise with a solid business model and name recognition. "Having been in the military, I understand the power of a proven system," he said. The franchise also offered a significant veterans' discount.

Additional resources for franchisees

The busted windshield shop now has business with two of the biggest gold mines in Alaska and the Alaska Railroad for heavy-equipment glass. At the gold mines, "giant dozers and trucks the size of houses are covered in mirrors and glass, always working pounding away at hard rock and getting glass broken," he said.

Tennant has continued to build his business and last year added an additional 6,000 square feet of space to his facility to better serve customers, both residential and commercial. The new space allows him to handle tractor-trailers and buses, a business he had never been in before. It's also designed for building insulated glass units for houses, double-pane and triple-pane windows.

The franchise has also given Tennant access to vendors of materials and tools for extraction and removal of windshields he'd never had before. "Back in the old days, we used an air hammer ... and my elbow doesn't work anymore."

The most challenging part of the business, he said, is the time it takes to get inventory to Alaska. "If we have rough seas, there's no barge shipment," he explained. "My friends in the States get glass in three days; I get it in three weeks."

He's learned to manage around that, and said he's quite satisfied with the system that Glass Doctor has established. "If you want to become a franchisee, listen and follow the system," he said. "Don't try to reinvent it."

There are other, more unusual challenges related to the nature of Tennant's home state: He recalled once going out on a residential job for a triple-pane window in a home. The head of a ptarmigan, a cold-weather bird, had somehow gotten stuck between the panes of the insulated window.

As for the collapse in oil prices, which has hit the Alaskan economy hard, Tennant said it hasn't yet affected his business. But he added, "This is the first year I'm really concerned" about a recession in Alaska.

"Having been in the military, I understand the power of a proven system." -Kevin Tennant

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