By Michael Murphy-Brown
I’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys a good challenge. I think flexibility, a positive attitude, and the drive to keep on pushing can take a person far in life. So, when I got the chance to buy an existing LeakPro franchise in my hometown of Vancouver, B.C., in January 2013, I leapt at the opportunity to put my skills to the test.
Playing to win
As I was growing up, I moved through a few different ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. For a long time, I wanted to be a football star. After playing community football for the Renfrew Trojans, I ended up playing semipro for the Bellingham Bulldogs in the United States for about five years, although by that time it wasn’t a career goal anymore. Since I love food, I went to Emily Carr University in Vancouver to try to become a chef.
Eventually, though, I realized that wasn’t going to be the right fit for me, since I’d developed a skin allergy to raw vegetables. In the next chapter of my life, I struck out on my own, opening a gym in Richmond, B.C. I loved owning and running that business—I’m big into fitness, and meeting new people and helping them with their challenges as well as seeing them overcome various physical issues gave me a great sense of accomplishment. Then, on August 1, 2012, my landlord initiated the demolition clause on our agreement and destroyed the building. After that, I couldn’t find another property of the same size, and I had to let the business go.
When I lost the gym, I lost $70,000 in less than a day. It would have been easy to get bogged down and give up, but I really believe the key to success is taking challenges and running with them. You can’t ever back down.
I kept on going, working at a hardware store for a while after that. Then—about five years ago, in 2013—I met Jim Grant, who was then the owner of two LeakPro franchises. He took me on as a subcontractor for the lower mainland, and I did about six months of training with him while I was still working at my day job. He had me come watch him work and do some of the regular tasks so
I could understand the process and how the business was run.
Right away, I liked the look of the company. The way LeakPro is structured now and the way it was initially built by the franchisor, John Allen, caught my eye from the get-go. The company’s history and reputation spoke well to it, and I liked the fact John had established a North American company from just an idea. What really appealed to me was the structure, the backing from head office, and the fact it is a high-demand service business with low overhead (due to being mobile). The automotive industry is also a wonderful industry to challenge yourself with—the people and culture you encounter working in this business are so diverse, and every day, newer and more complex models are built.
It also didn’t hurt that LeakPro seemed to run the automotive industry with very little competition! Its wind, dust, and water leak detection and repair services rely on ultrasonic sound technology that really sets the company apart. It has an excellent reputation amongst car dealerships. I knew by joining the franchise system, I’d have freedom to do what was necessary to grow the business, but also be able to benefit from its reputation. The company was already up and running, which appealed to me a lot more than having to grow a business from scratch.
After I’d trained with Jim for about half a year, he told John Allen about me and said I might be interested in taking over the franchise. John gave me a call, and we talked about the future and what I wanted to do with the business, as well as my experiences and my education. Then, I signed a confidentiality agreement and set a start date (January 1, 2015). The rest was history!
Getting up to speed
From day one, I’ve loved the challenge of using my sales experience to make the business grow the way I want it and at the pace I want it to. Taking over from Jim, I immediately recognized a lot of potential. As a more mature guy who had run the business for more than 18 years, he was pretty content with the way he had it, but I’m young and eager, and I saw growth, so I went after it. (Jim is still involved as my trainer, though, and I’m grateful for it—he offers a lot of really valuable insight and a wealth of knowledge.)
I took the business from $197,000 in revenue in 2016 to more than $560,000 in 2017, mostly by just going out and doing sales calls. If I had a slow day, I’d make it a busy one by doing cold calls, follow-ups, and more follow-ups—pretty much just being a pest! It took about two months of being persistent before I saw growth, but it was worth it. This year, I project more than $700,000 in revenue.
After starting with the Vancouver and lower mainland franchises, I took over Vancouver Island in 2018. The island was a challenge, because dealers there tended to rely on their own personnel to identify and repair issues. What helped me gain business was running with the LeakPro name and the reputation it’s built up over the past 21 years. My persistence paid off—first, we started servicing three dealerships, then four, then six.
I also made sure to meet with the service managers and general managers at all the dealerships on Vancouver Island. I felt it was important to let them know why we were there: to support them. If a dealership located on the Island can’t get a water leak or wind noise fixed, for example, the next step normally involves shipping the vehicle over to the mainland, which increases overhead and takes up manpower. It also means the customer has to sign a waiver allowing the vehicle to go further than a routine 10-km (6-mi) test drive. Having those conversations brought a lot of confidence to the dealerships that we’re here to help them, not just to make them spend more money.