The world of bathtub refinishing is dominated by two nationally franchised companies: Miracle Method, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Permaglaze, of Tucson, Arizona. The main value of going with one of these national franchises is that you are getting some degree of predictability and consistency. That's the reason why people choose something like, say, Pella Windows or Andersen Windows versus local independent window companies. There is the perception that Pella or Andersen can deliver a better product than an independent can.
Whether or not this is true depends on the franchise and on the quality of the independent.
Selling to the Franchisees
We spoke with Dale Young, the iconoclastic founder and current president of Permaglaze, about Permaglaze’s ability to satisfy the increasingly growing hunger by homeowners for inexpensive and fast ways to refinish their bathtubs, sinks, counters, and more (out of convenience, this article refers to the myriad of surface restoration services as "bathtub refinishing").
One thing that Permaglaze has going for it is history. Founded in 1978, Permaglaze has over 30 years of experience in the bathtub refinishing business, so they know a thing or two about it. Dale Young was an industry insider, familiar with the actual finishing process before he went corporate. Quickly, he realized the value of selling franchises rather than selling refinishing at a retail level.
Young estimates that for roughly $30,000 a person can buy into a Permaglaze franchise.
Different From Miracle Method
Dale Young mentions that one point of difference between Miracle Method and Permaglaze is that Miracle Method returns to the job site several days later to buff out any imperfections.
Permaglaze, according to Mr. Young, gets it "done right the first time," meaning that the entire Permaglaze process happens in one day. There are two advantages to this: from the Permaglaze franchisee's perspective, they save on gas and technician costs. From a homeowner standpoint, they do not have to open the house up another time to have work performed on their bathroom, which can be a headache if they need to take time off from work.
Also, Permaglaze compounds are proprietary, meaning that Permaglaze franchisees need to buy the chemicals from the company itself. Dale Young says that Permaglaze can maintain quality standards better this way--not just by controlling the services offered by the franchisees, but also the tools and materials.
Bathtub Liners In The Future?
Dale Young is quick to point out, though, that aside from abiding by certain quality standards, he does want his Permaglaze franchisees to have the freedom to achieve success. For example, although Miracle Method has decided to have no part of the bathtub liner business, Permaglaze will at least help out franchisees to get started in the tub liner business if they so choose (note: Permaglaze is not in the actual business of tub liners).
Maintaining Quality Through the Franchisees
As with all franchises, bad franchisees must be dropped before they poison the entire system. Permaglaze has had to disenfranchise a company associated with it. In particular, Mr. Young mentioned that when he has not been able to force a change via conventional methods, he has had to take the unfortunate step of "forcing the agreement” and cutting the offending company off.
Selling franchises do not mean that the corporate office disassociates itself from the ground-level business. Young mentions a franchisee who had performed a job at a hotel in the Bahamas*, but had not done it to expected quality standards. Instead of complaining to the franchise, the hotel called Young directly at corporate headquarters in Tucson and complained.
Permaglaze has about 50 or 60 United States franchises, along with roughly 120 across the globe. Not everything that Dale Young has touched has turned to magic. At one point, he was involved in the decorative concrete business. And while the business went well, he felt that there were too many restrictions involved with the business for either the corporation or franchisees to make any kind of significant profit.
* Note: in a previous version of this article, we erroneously reported the location of the franchisee who had not performed the work to quality standards. We have since corrected this location to the Bahamas. We apologize for this error.