D+AS MAGAZINE

FEATURES — The Interview With Precision Door Service

© 2006 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2006
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 54-60


The Interview With Precision Door Service
Franchiser Responds to Tough Questions

Editor’s Note:
Since 2002, we’ve been hearing negative reports about Precision Door Service (PDS), a franchise operation that uses large Yellow Pages ads to attract garage door repair work.

We first mentioned the company’s name in our summer 2006 story, “Trouble in Omaha.” At that time, we contacted PDS for their side of the story about a legal scuffle caused by their Omaha franchise in 2002.

Ron Boyter, PDS director of operations, then told us that PDS has been working hard to clean up the company for the last four years. He invited us to their Titusville, Fla., facility, to interview their president, and to ask any questions we wanted.

On Aug. 11, we did just that. With all cell phones off and no interruptions, we met with four key management personnel at PDS for five hours. They placed no restrictions on the questions we asked, and they freely responded to all questions.

With 70+ franchises from coast to coast, Precision now plays a significant role in the garage door industry. Is their role a positive one?

Read on. You decide.


Interview Participants

· Danny Edwards, president since 2006; corporate vice president since 2002, franchisee since 1999.
· Jim Wellbeloved, manager of franchise administration since 2000.
· Ron Boyter, director of operations; in door business since 1995.
· Aymee Dudley, customer service manager; in door business since 1992.


REPAIR PRACTICES

D&AS: I have seen several Precision Door estimates and invoices where the cost to repair the door was more than the cost of a whole new door. How do you justify a repair bill that is more than the cost of a new door?

Edwards: Let me clear something up. Can that customer buy a door for a cheaper price than what we just charged for an overhaul? Yes, but we’re not comparing apples to apples.

What is the customer getting with that all-new door? They’re often buying a cheap new door that looks great, but I can take a butter knife and cut a hole in it and walk right inside that door.

Other door dealers may go out and charge $90 for a service call, but they’ll end up going out again and again. You add up $90, $90, $90, $90, $90, and in the end, you’re paying more with a competitor.

I used to think that we were the most expensive garage door company in America, but we’re actually one of the cheapest if you look at what we do over the long term for that customer.

Dudley: Other companies may provide a warranty on the parts, but usually not the service call. They continually charge a service fee for each call, but they don’t warrant the service call like we do.

Edwards: During the service call, we fix everything the customer needs on their door at that time. We don’t want to keep going back. You might see us go back after 10 years and fix a broken spring, but we’re going to fix it free of charge.

In my opinion, our competitors only patch garage doors. We stand alone in the way we provide service.


D&AS: On the Dateline NBC exposé in 2002, a Dallas door company was recorded telling his technicians to keep his service tickets up around $400. Do you encourage Precision Door techs to meet a minimum quota per service call?

Edwards: There are no quotas whatsoever. You can’t compare us with that Dallas dealer. He’s out to sell that customer everything he can possibly sell, whether the door needs it or not. But that’s the difference from Precision Door; we’re out to sell only what the customer needs.

You can justify a $200 service call on a door that was installed yesterday. The industry often sells a new door with a black plastic bearing in the center bearing bracket. It’s not even a bearing.

Those bearings are not correct. They go bad. But other technicians go out and never check those bearings. We also bolt our end bearing plates directly to the frame itself.

Many doors are not installed with the right number of struts. Openers are installed without adequate angle-iron reinforcement and operator reinforcement arm brackets. They should be on every single door. Almost every time you go out, you find doors that have not been installed correctly.

Dudley: We also give the customers different options so they can choose which repair option they want.

Edwards: I know that some companies out there are shady, and I know that’s the problem you’ve been trying to fix in your magazine.


D&AS: I’ve received complaints that Precision Door technicians are replacing items, such as rollers and bearing plates, that don’t need replacing. How do you respond to that?

Edwards: Only certain individuals were performing service of this type, but that was a few years ago. We no longer have these individuals as owners. We sell only what the customer needs.


D&AS: I’ve also received comments from other dealers who say that you overcharge for parts and services. Do you?

Edwards: Our prices are higher than the whole industry, but over time, we may be the cheapest in the long run, because our competitors generally don’t fix everything at one time.

Boyter: Look at what competitors are doing. They go out and change a roller, then a few months later, go out and change a cable. And it goes on. When you add all that up, you’ll see why they do that. They’re making a lot more money than we’re making. But does anybody say anything about them?

Edwards: I had an interview with a TV reporter, and I wanted to show how a garage door should operate correctly. But he wouldn’t take me up on that, because he just kept saying, “You charge more than you should.”

I said, “No, we charge exactly what we should. You just don’t know how a garage door is supposed to work correctly.” Most of the garage door industry doesn’t know how to make it work correctly with no noise and smooth operation.


D&AS: Some would argue that, even if a door has a few rollers that are not working at optimum, that door may continue to go up and down, just fine, for another 20 years.

Boyter: If people took care of their automobile the way they take care of their garage door, it won’t be long before they’re walking. People figure that if the door goes up and down, it must be okay. But if it sounds like a train going up and down, it should be fixed.

With our 13-ball-bearing nylon rollers with zinc shafts, high-cycle springs, a belt-drive opener, and the correct bearings, that garage door will work the way it’s supposed to work.

Edwards: We see new 500-pound doors that are installed with black plastic rollers. I don’t agree with that roller. If you have a steel roller, you have metal and metal contact that creates friction. That friction makes the door bind, and it makes a noisy operating door.

Our rollers are made out of Nylon 6 and have been tested over and over again. They can’t break it. It lasts forever.

We look at doors differently than anyone in the garage door industry. We believe in a balanced door that operates with no noise and smooth operation.

Boyter: I love builder’s-grade hardware. I hope they keep selling that hardware because that’s what keeps us in business.


D&AS: You’re obviously proud of your hardware.

Edwards: Our spring supplier is now making a special spring just for Precision. It’s powder-coated in Precision green and has the PDS logo on it.

They’re also powder-coating the hinges, track, and all hardware for us. With their help, we continue upgrading, making sure we sell the best parts you can buy.


YELLOW PAGES

D&AS: Can Brian Tindall be credited with the idea to have a garage door service business that uses large Yellow Pages ads to generate phone calls?

Dudley: When Brian was working in South Florida in the 1990s, David Dubois, his BellSouth representative, suggested that Brian purchase a larger ad so that he would get the priority placement position in the phone book. David later went into the door business with Brian.

Boyter: At that time, David Dubois and I worked in the same BellSouth office. An air conditioning company in Orlando used large Yellow Pages ads very successfully. That was the prototype that David used to sell Brian on the idea of large Yellow Pages ads.

When we ran those ads for Brian, he had great success. That was the catalyst that attracted a lot of Yellow Pages people into the garage door business.

Later, you saw lots of dealers going to the full-page ad, then the double truck, then the triple truck. I know the large ads are very expensive, but they get the calls.


D&AS: Your business model puts a lot of investment in Yellow Pages ads. With escalating ad rates, is that a sustainable business model?

Boyter: It’s very expensive. We don’t like paying those Yellow Pages bills any more than anyone else in the industry. But it’s a necessary evil.

In an attempt to reduce Yellow Pages costs, we’re also now getting more involved in Valpak and the Internet. If we can reduce Yellow Pages expenses for all our 70+ franchisees, everybody wins.

Edwards: Yellow Pages rates just keep going up year after year. They’re pushing our industry out of the Yellow Pages.


D&AS: A typical door company has a lot of overhead expenses in a storefront, a warehouse, a showroom, etc. Do you avoid such expenses entirely?

Boyter: We’re interested in the service market, and that doesn’t typically require showrooms.

Dudley: But we highly encourage every owner to have a storefront and a showroom available for their customers. We now have 37 storefronts and 16 showrooms around the country.

Edwards: The trend toward storefronts is getting bigger every month. Our Orlando franchise is a good example. I personally helped them set up their storefront and showroom, and it’s beautiful.


D&AS: Since you began, you have refined certain elements of your Yellow Pages ads. What are some changes that you’ve made in your ads?

Dudley: We don’t use the Craftsman logo anymore. We only use authorized logos with written approval.


D&AS: What about statements like “Rated #1….” “Best Selection,” “Lowest Prices,” “Lifetime Warranty,” Service Within an Hour,” etc.?

Dudley: We checked our records, and to the best of our knowledge, we have never used “Rated #1,” “Best Selection,” “Lowest Prices,” or “Service Within an Hour” in our ads.

We still use “Lifetime Warranty” in our ads today, and we do honor this warranty 100 percent. We have a whole page that defines it. It essentially means “as long as you own your home.”


D&AS: Do you permit PDS franchises to use non-Precision company names for their business? Do you have a policy on the use of alias company names?

Wellbeloved: We do not allow our franchises to use any non-Precision company names in advertisements or in their businesses. Our franchise agreement specifically states that using alias company names is not permitted in our organization.

Our franchises must operate and advertise the business as Precision Door Service and not as anything else. That’s been in the franchise agreement since early 2000.


D&AS: How has your Yellow Pages strategy changed over the last few years?

Dudley: We now have a national advertising agency that handles all advertising for us and our franchises. They are experts in Yellow Pages advertising, and they help us maintain a consistent professional image nationwide.


D&AS: If a door company becomes a PDS franchise, how much less would they pay for a full-page Yellow Pages ad (as part of a “national account”) than if they were just a local non-franchise company?

Boyter: Ad rates for national accounts are typically around 15 percent off the local rate. Our ad agency always tries to match the local price if they are showing a higher one.

Wellbeloved: I should clarify that we do not try to convert other door companies. We develop our own franchises. If we want to get into a market, we need to teach them how to do the door business.

Boyter: Certain existing franchisees tend to be resistant to using our entire system of uniforms, trucks, phone systems, Yellow Pages ads, etc. To ensure compliance with the business model, we do annual compliance inspections that are reported to the corporate office. We send a certified letter to make any change necessary and include a time frame in which to comply.


FRANCHISE ISSUES

D&AS: Some PDS franchises have attracted negative reports from the Better Business Bureau. What do you do when that happens?

Boyter: When that happens, we require that the franchisee resolve the problem within 24 hours. If the complaint is not handled properly, the franchisee is in default. That means that we can take the market back if necessary. We encourage all franchises to be members of their local Better Business Bureau.


D&AS: Do you encourage franchises to hold membership in the International Door Association (IDA) and ascribe to their Code of Ethics?

Edwards: Yes. An IDA representative will be attending our annual convention in October to enroll as many of our franchises as possible. We have also incorporated the IDA membership brochure on our intranet for the convenience of our franchisees.


D&AS: Do you encourage your franchises to pay technicians by commission or by salary?

Edwards: Some of our technicians are commissioned, some are hourly, and some are salary. I don’t advise either way, as long as the franchise operates under our business model and complies with our company regulations. We do not permit subcontracting, period. This compliance information is in our operations manual.

Some people are finding that hourly is better than commissioned because it tends to reduce callbacks. The technician realizes that he’s not making any money on callbacks.

Paying a commission does encourage them to sell more, but he must sell only what the customer needs. A commission also motivates that technician to look at every component on that door and make sure that door is fixed 100 percent for that customer.

I want that complete door and operator system checked from one end to the other. I want the door fixed perfect. It’s up to the owner to make sure that the technician is selling only what the customer needs. But it’s hard to monitor.

Boyter: You’re always at the mercy of the technicians on any given job. You don’t always know what they’re doing.


TRAINING

D&AS: I have received complaints from other dealers who say that a Precision tech actually did a lousy job of repairing a garage door. What are you doing to properly train your technicians?

Edwards: We’ve heard similar reports. But we also hear many more reports of our guys doing a great job. We get a large volume of report cards from happy customers who say their door has never sounded so good before.

We’ve completely redesigned our training. We used to hire a guy, send him out to school for two weeks, and then put him in the truck with somebody for a week. And we were getting the problems you’re talking about.

Boyter: We now put them on the truck with an experienced technician for 60 to 90 days, and then they go to two weeks of our training. And when they come back from training, they have to ride back on the truck again until they get the go-ahead from that experienced technician. Every PDS technician is required to be trained at our facility.


D&AS: Could you describe your training facilities?

Dudley: Our training facility in Akron is equipped with six operating door systems and 20 additional openers (of various brands) for students to disassemble and reassemble. We have a classroom for test-taking and discussing customer service skills. There is one computer used by Dale Fuller, our instructor.


REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

D&AS: The industry now has many ex-PDS employees who have started their own operations, and some are using deceptive business practices. How should an honest dealer compete with these operations?

Edwards: Practice product branding and excellent customer service. Establish set standards and abide by them. Eventually, these business owners will run themselves out of business.


D&AS: Some manufacturers have declined to sell product to Precision because of perceptions of a bad reputation. Do you feel that you’re now turning that around?

Edwards: Absolutely. I know we’ve had problems in the past. In December of 2002, I said I could clean up Precision Door within 12 months. But I’m still working on it. It doesn’t happen overnight.

The industry now recognizes Precision Door Service as a well-grounded company that is here to stay. I think we’ve educated the industry about bad garage door parts, and they realize that the customer does need the better parts that we offer.

Dudley: I think manufacturers recognize that we do honor our warranties. Overall, we have very satisfied customers. I get all our report cards from customers, and as a whole, they love our service.

Edwards: We wouldn’t be growing if we weren’t doing something right. During our last regional meetings, 47 franchises were purchased by existing franchisees. If they didn’t like what we are doing, they wouldn’t have bought another franchise.

We’re getting better and better as each week goes along. I’m proud of this company and the direction we’re heading. And that’s why I wanted you to come here and visit us.


Do you have an opinion about something in this story? To respond, send an E-mail to daseditor@dasma.com.


Sidebar:

Precision Door Service
A Chronology

1986 Brian Tindall of Titusville, Fla., begins working in the garage door business, working for his brother, Ed, at Tindall Door Service in the Daytona and Titusville areas.

1987 Tindall starts his own garage door service and installation company in Titusville. He names the company Precision Door Service.

1989 Tindall partners with Dean Wilkinson to open another door company in nearby Merritt Island, Fla.

1992 Tindall sets up another door company in West Palm Beach, Fla., with David Dubois, a Yellow Pages sales rep. Tindall soon realizes the potential benefits of large Yellow Pages ads and focusing exclusively on garage door repair work.

1997 Tindall begins discussions with five other South Florida door companies about developing an agreement to work together as Garage Door Services. This “GDS Partnership” soon dissolves.

1998 Brian Tindall invites 20 garage door companies to a meeting in Atlanta to discuss franchising. Of the 20, 13 companies accept the concept and become the first franchisees.

1999 The franchise business is formally established as Precision Door Service. Charlotte, N.C., is selected for the first corporate office and training facility. Graduates earn a GDS (Garage Door Services) patch.

2000 In June 2000, Brian Tindall steps down as president. Ed Krolak of Phoenix, Ariz., is hired as president, and the corporate offices and training center move to the Phoenix area.

2001 In March 2001, Brian Tindall resumes his role as president, and headquarters and the training center move to rented facilities in Brevard County, Fla., (Rockledge) to Tindall’s home area.

2004 The training center is moved to a central location in Akron, Ohio, where Dale Fuller, training manager, holds a PDS franchise.

2005 The company buys its own building in Titusville, Fla., still in Brevard County.

2006 Daniel Edwards, a franchisee since 1999 and vice president since 2002, becomes president.

2006 Precision Door Service grows to 71 franchises in 35 states. The firm plans to grow to 100 franchises in 2007.