Window Genie Franchise review: Dick Stieren, Omaha, Nebraska
Burger King franchise veteran finds success with Window Genie franchise
Although Dick Stieren never formally taught in schools, his University of Nebraska education degree has come in handy throughout his professional life, helping him coach people to higher levels of success. He started with Burger King in 1973 as an assistant manager and ultimately became Director of Operations in Omaha, managing 30 franchise restaurants. “My job was to make sure the franchisees were complying with Burger King standards. I loved it. I got to see both sides of it, and I learned a lot about the small-business side of the business.”
Dick eventually wanted decided to stop traveling so he would have more time for a growing family, so he became a Burger King franchisee himself and earned a reputation for rescuing failing restaurants. Eventually though, during a change in leadership at the company, Dick decided to try something else. Enter Window Genie.
Dick started his company in late 2013 and is very excited about his prospects. His wife, Mary, is a pastoral minister in a large Catholic church in West Omaha. The couple have four grown children: Greg, 32, an architect; twins Rachel and Stacy, 26, the former an occupational therapist in a school district outside Kansas City and the latter a resident pediatrician at Denver Mercy; and Derek, 24, who majored in international studies, business and Spanish at the University of Nebraska and is joining his father in the business. When Dick isn’t busy building his Window Genie empire, the self-described “news junkie” plays bridge online and is looking forward to the arrival of his first grandchild in February.
How did you find out about Window Genie? Burger King was great to me but they’ve evolved and changed, and I didn’t like it as well as I used to. I had started looking at franchises and narrowed it down to 13-14, then narrowed it down to 2-3, then narrowed it to Window Genie. I very briefly considered restaurants. They were a fallback but never my first choice. I wanted something where I could control my own destiny and apply my skills and be successful. I live in Omaha and Warren Buffet is here, and he never invests in something he doesn’t understand. When I started looking at these franchises, I thought, is it something easy to understand? In the restaurant business, if it snows and people don’t come to Burger King that day, they don’t eat twice the next day to make up for it. I was looking for something where if the weather dampens your business, the demand is built up it doesn’t go away. I was looking for a business that was renewable, not overly complicated and very successful. Plus I talked to the founder, Rik Nonelle. I’d met James McLemore, the founder of Burger King. I’d met Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. Rik had that same charisma and drive. He was a young guy with a vision and a passion — he reminds me of Steve Jobs. Marry that with the clear, concise FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document) and the business model, and for me, this was a win-win situation.
I went to Des Moines and spent the day with [franchisee] Jason Hatch. The Window Genie experience was something I could do for a long time, and I knew I would enjoy it. It was better than I expected. One other thing that attracted to me was Windows for Wishes, their pay-it-back program. They are also very focused on the Wounded Warrior Project and veterans of our country.
Do you perform any of the services yourself? Minimally, but yes. I see my main function as primarily an estimator. The day I spent with Jason Hatch, we made seven or eight stops, did a window-tinting estimate and a couple of window cleaning estimates. We stopped in the city on a contract for power washing a parking garage downtown. In between, he stopped and did a window cleaning on a condo because his techs were in trucks across town and it fit into his route. We moved on to a couple more bids. Then he gets the proposals together. It was all talking to people. You’re talking about window cleaning but you’re building relationships.
Tell me about your employees. My first employee is Wade Jensen. He retired from the Marine Corps after 21 years. He was looking to re-enter the workforce and looking for a mentor to help him understand small business. I put my flag up after 9/11 and it’s never come down. I intend to hire as many veterans as I can.
My son is coming back in December and he will join me in the business. I hope I can hire at least a couple of more technicians as things thaw out here.
What services do you plan to offer? Window films, snow removal as we develop our customer base, window cleaning inside and out, gutter cleaning, power washing, roof cleaning and siding cleaning.
What was the training experience like? We went out to Cincinnati to corporate headquarters. In the back they have four walls with all different types of windows inside. You start learning the correct techniques — some are proprietary — and we spent quite a bit of time on ladders learning how to open and close all the different types of windows, and cleaning them. We spent a good amount of time applying film, either security or tinting. We spent a lot of time on marketing, learning how to manage our customer base and manage our scheduling. We talked about how to build the business. That’s phase one of the training. They send reps out to your location and spend a week with you in the field. The other thing they’ve just added is a launch coach, a franchisee who just sold his Window Genie franchise to his technicians. He will pop in and say “How can I help you?” and “Here’s the mistakes I made.” That’s the cherry on top of the sundae.
One of the things they talked about in training is that they do not encourage you to take just any job. They talked about how there are jobs you don’t want to do because it doesn’t make sense for you. That is very refreshing. They could encourage you to discount like crazy and get a job and move on, but that’s not a long-term model for success. That’s the difference between a sprint and a marathon. I’ve brought a lot of franchisees into systems in the past, and patience is a bigger virtue than anyone could imagine.
How important is it to have window-cleaning or other home services experience before joining Window Genie? When I was Director of Operations for Burger King in Omaha, I did the windows at the restaurants, partially because there weren’t any cleaners who did a good job. Invariably at every store, people would walk up to me and say, “Could you come over and do the windows at my house?” You’ve got to watch what’s going on around you and make your investments accordingly. There’s a demand for this service that’s not being filled. That resonated in my head when I came back and was looking for something to do.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Window Genie? I have 130,000 households in this market, in 23 ZIP codes. I have parts of Omaha, Douglas County, Washington County and Sarpy County. We have one major brand here, Fish, and they focus primarily on high-rise and commercial. Our focus is residential. The sky’s the limit. There’s plenty of work. There are franchisees with 10-11 techs and 7-8 trucks. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving dinner — there’s more on the table than you could possibly eat.
What attracts customers to Window Genie rather than its competitors? Most companies don’t offer all the services we do. If somebody calls me and asks for a window estimate, I can point out all the ancillary services we offer. When I’m cleaning windows on the south side of a house, I know it’s awfully warm in here and can look at the damage the sun is doing to your chair. We have a solution for that [window films]. There are a lot of opportunities to upsell. Squeegee Squad does window cleaning and that’s it; Fish does commercial, end of story. There are all kinds of mom-and-pops who show up in a pickup truck wearing jeans with a hole in them. They think if they show up with a squeegee and a bucket of soap, they’re in business. We show up in uniforms with a photo ID badge and a background check. The level of professionalism is not matched by anybody.
Learn more about Window Genie
Window Genie franchisees need a net worth of $150,000 and liquid assets of $40,000. Our 20 years of experience have helped us carve a solid niche in the home services market, and we have few national competitors. We added 50 units last year, bringing us to a total of 196 Window Genie franchises across the country.
If you’re interested in learning more about our simple, scaleable business model, please fill out the form at right. We’d love to start a conversation with you!