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Women in Franchising: Managing the Men in Kilts

crop1By Peter Saunders
For the Vancouver-based franchisor Men In Kilts—a window cleaning, power washing and gutter cleaning business currently in expansion mode—the woman who wears the pants is CEO and partner Tressa Wood. Formerly vice-president (VP) of operations for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Wood approached Men in Kilts’ founders in 2009 and was quickly recruited for her franchising expertise.

On her experience:
I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and worked in the hospitality sector while studying business administration at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). I went on to manage operations for Harbour Cruises & Events.

In 2003, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? hired me as a business development coach to support its franchisees. Based on Granville Island, I soon became director of field operations, which involved a lot of travelling and hiring. It was fun and exciting, as we were opening 10 franchises a month! I became VP of operations in 2006 and led the growth of the company’s franchise advisory council (FAC).

The system expanded from 40 franchises to more than 350 in three countries. It was a great experience, but exhausting. When I got pregnant in 2008, I decided to leave the company on good terms.

When I saw an article on Men In Kilts, the brand really caught my attention. I contacted the founders, Nicholas Brand and Brent Hohlweg. We hit it off and I came on in late 2009 as CEO and partner. While franchising had been their goal since 2006, the process had not really started yet.

MenInKilts_Kilt_Crew_WorkingOn developing the system:
We started a central call centre and developed our training, pricing, software and website. In March 2010, we brought on our first franchisees in the Fraser Valley, at a reduced fee, to help us test the business. We needed diligent financial reporting to make us feel confident in further expansion. I’m very focused on numbers and data.

We rebranded the Men In Kilts logo, brought in a new tartan pattern and even redesigned the trucks. This past spring was when we really ramped up. Our first U.S. franchise opened in mid-April in Seattle, Wash.

Our early-day franchisees have wanted to try new things and contribute to our strategy. They’re motivated to build a business, willing to learn and ready to engage people. They’re not the type of people who need to be micromanaged or want to be told exactly what to do. They’re more entrepreneurial.

There’s a huge opportunity in major Canadian cities for an exterior building maintenance franchise at the national level. We’ll offer different services in different regions, depending on the local climate. Most places aren’t as rainy as Vancouver!

On moving forward:
I love it, this is my favourite job so far. I was attracted to the brand and now I’m doing something fun, where I know what I can bring to the table. I’m applying what I’ve learned to legal, strategic and public relations (PR) areas.

Also, while I have lots of responsibility, this position offers me more flexibility with my kids, which is especially important for the first few years before they’re in school full-time. We don’t have many employees, so I mostly work from home and then visit our corporate office a few times a week. This way, I can work whenever I want—even if that ends up being 9 p.m. or 2 a.m.

It’s a great fit. With our current plan, Men In Kilts’ growth will be perfectly timed to how my own life develops.

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