Home Sweet Business: Expanding the reach of Premium Service Brands
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Home Sweet Business: Expanding the reach of Premium Service Brands

Home Sweet Business: Expanding the reach of Premium Service Brands

Paul Flick launched 360° Painting in 2006 and steered the brand to become a top painting franchise that today has more than 136 locations. But he didn’t stop there.

As CEO of Premium Service Brands, he now oversees a portfolio of nine brands, including ProLift Garage Doors, Maid Right, Kitchen Wise & Closet Wise, Window Gang, Rubbish Works Junk Removal, The Grout Medic, House Doctors, and RooterMan. The company also includes Extraordinary Brands, a boutique fitness franchise with five locations.

Premium Service Brands, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, has more than 1,200 locations across the country. In 2022 alone, it secured agreements for 92 franchise units.

“Our robust infrastructure, characterized by comprehensive training modules and a dedicated marketing division, positions us favorably to integrate new brands and propel them towards market leadership,” Flick says.

It’s not all business for Flick. Under his leadership, Premium Service Brands has undertaken numerous philanthropic initiatives. A prime example is the nonprofit Kids-Lift, which aims to provide impoverished children with access to necessities, such as food, educational materials, and clothing.

“Every child possesses inherent potential and boundless possibilities,” Flick says. “Our mission is to foster the dreams and ambitions of the youth in the communities where we operate. It’s my goal to leave this world a little better than when I came into it.”

Flick is a leader dedicated to superior customer service, innovation, and meaningful community involvement.

Name: Paul Flick
Title: CEO
Company: Premium Service Brands, which franchises 9 home services brands, and Extraordinary Brands, a boutique fitness franchise.
Units: Premium Service Brands has 1,200 locations, and Extraordinary Brands has 5 locations. 
Age: 55
Years in franchising: 17
Years in current position: 17

LEADERSHIP

What is your role as CEO? I set the vision for the company. It’s my job to surround myself with the best employees and support them as they do their jobs. I chart the company’s vision and ensure it is executed on the right timeline.

How has Covid-19 affected the way you have led your brand? Initially, we went into a lockdown that was put in place by the governor of Virginia, forcing all our employees to work remotely. I do not prefer working remotely. I like to walk down the hall and sit with my employees. We were back in the office in June, so we were only out for two or three months. Covid helped the home services industry. People were at home and spending money on their homes.

Describe your leadership style. I’m a very hands-off leader. I do not believe in micromanaging people. I believe in finding the best people, communicating the role I want to see accomplished, and getting out of the way so they can do their job.

What has inspired your leadership style? I believe in hiring good people, and I don’t micromanage them. If I didn’t believe they could do the job well, I wouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

What is your biggest leadership challenge? Sometimes I’m too hands-off. I empower my employees to a fault. I allow people to make decisions that are the best for the company. Occasionally, the results might not be where they should be, or there’s a problem, and I don’t find out about it soon enough.

How do you transmit your culture from your office to frontline employees? In terms of our franchise partners, we engage them electronically through email. We also have regional meetings and webinars they can attend and our national convention. We’ve set up peer groups facilitated by business coaches. Our franchisees can pick and choose how they want to connect. I also have an open-door policy. Everyone knows I’ll get back to them and set up a call.

How can a CEO help their CMO develop and grow? I’m fortunate that our CMO is well-established in the franchise industry. He served as CMO at Floor Coverings International and eventually became CMO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. When we were hiring Mark Montini, I told him I wanted him to do what we needed to bring this company and lead generation to the next level, and I’m committed to backing his strategy. Anytime he needs something, he gets it regardless of the investment. I’m allowing him to develop his plan with his fingerprints on it. It will have to be adopted and executed by the franchise partners.

Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: an MBA school or OTJ? Given that I was a straight-D student, I’d say on-the-job training. I’ve always been someone who has learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned by experiencing a lot of different things. 

Are tough decisions best taken by one person? How do you make tough decisions? The tough decision comes down to one person, the CEO. But I think it would be arrogant and narcissistic to decide on your own. If there’s a tough decision that needs to be made, I’m collaborating with the people who are affected by the decision. Then, I’ll be empowered with more information to make the best call.

Do you want to be liked or respected? Respected. I don’t care if I’m liked. Being respected is a far greater title than being liked.

Advice to CEO wannabes: My advice is to be open-minded. Allow others to participate and collaborate in creating the vision of the company. Do not be arrogant. Be humble. Every employee matters regardless of their title or pay. Everyone needs to feel welcome as an integral part of the company. Don’t change who you are because the paychecks get bigger. People will get behind you if you’re respected.

MANAGEMENT

What does your management team look like? I’m comfortable knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and I strive to hire to my weaknesses. I hire people who complement me to shore up my shortcomings. Our chief operating officer is technology-driven and detail-oriented. I am not. I try to look for people who are the opposite of me to ensure we cover all our bases. Our chief financial officer is a seasoned financial expert who brought a whole skill set that I don’t have and assembled a team to get the job done. Our chief marketing officer also operates differently than I do. He is very siloed in the organization.

How does your management team help you lead? My management team is awesome at understanding the priority short-term and long-term goals for the company. They execute flawlessly, and they are dedicated to helping us achieve our vision.

Favorite management gurus: Do you read management books? I’m not a fan of reading for pleasure, but I do enjoy reading about chief executives who lead their companies, such as Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Holdings Inc., or Wayne Huizenga Sr., founder of AutoNation and Waste Management Inc. It’s inspiring to read about individuals who built a thriving company from scratch.

What makes you say, “Yes, now that’s why I do what I do!”? For me, it’s seeing our staff enjoy the culture we’ve created. On the other side is seeing the franchise partners hit their financial and lifestyle goals. There’s no greater satisfaction than being at a convention and having one of our franchisees tell me partnering with Premium Service Brands to pursue entrepreneurship was the best decision they’ve ever made. It’s great to hear when people discover work-life balance and hit their goals.

OPERATIONS

What trends are you seeing with consumer spending habits in your stores? The pandemic outbreak presented many challenges for small businesses. But after the initial weeks, quarantining at home proved to be a boon for the home services industry. Working remotely and curtailing travel spending prompted people to reinvest in their homes and make repairs they had put on the back burner. Now, we’re seeing some economic headwinds. Higher interest rates and the return of travel take away from disposable income. I expect to see economic headwinds for the next couple of years, but we’re still growing year over year. Home values are up, and so we’re seeing positive growth.

How is the economy driving consumer behavior in your system? Consumers are more nervous than they were a couple years ago. With interest rates going up, whether rates are higher for cars, homes, or credit card balances, it leads to less disposable income. Customers are feeling the pinch.

What are you expecting from your market in the next 12 months? I would predict it to be very consistent. We’re getting back to the trends leading up to Covid with slow and steady growth. I think we’ll see positive year-over-year growth.

Are your franchisees bullish or bearish about growth and adding additional units? I think it’s 50-50. Some want to stay in their lane and continue to operate one unit. These folks are hitting their financial goals and don’t want to take on additional risk. But then we’ve got other franchise partners who are stacking brands. Brand stacking is when you buy one territory and then add additional brands on top of it. When it comes to brand stacking, customer acquisition costs can drastically decrease because you’re offering complementary services to the same customer. Lately, there has been more interest in brand stacking than adding new locations of the same brand.

Are commodity/supply costs any cause for concern in your system? Supply cost was a concern during Covid, especially with our 360° Painting and ProLift Garage Doors brands. We still have significant inflation, but supply problems are no longer a concern. The price of materials shot up during the pandemic, and it hasn’t gone down for us or consumers yet.

In what ways are political/global issues impacting the market and your brand? As a U.S.-based business, domestic issues are more concerning than global issues. I think whenever there’s uncertainty, such as political unrest around elections, higher interest rates, or high inflation, it causes problems. When consumers are worried, they slow down their discretionary spending, which can hamper our business.

PERSONAL

What time do you like to be at your desk? I’m working at my home office by 4 a.m., and I try to arrive at our headquarters by 8:30 a.m. after I drop the kids off at school.

Exercise in the morning? Wine with lunch? I enjoy starting my day by exercising, but I fractured my back in February, so I’m still healing, and my physical activity is limited. On the weekend, it’s nice to have a balance between entertaining friends and spending time with family. I don’t make it a habit to have wine with lunch, but I do enjoy a glass of red wine at the end of a long workday.

Do you socialize with your team after work/outside the office? No. We host a variety of corporate events I enjoy attending. I love to celebrate my team’s accomplishments and life milestones at work, but I don’t socialize with my co-workers outside the office.

What technology do you take on the road? I always have my iPad, laptop, and phone when I’m out of the office.

How do you relax/balance life and work? Although my wife doesn’t always agree, I do a great job balancing work and life. I need work in my life. It drives me. But I try to have a balance, and I look forward to spending more time on life and less time on work within the next few years. A nice glass of red wine always helps bring closure to my workday.

Favorite vacation destinations: I love visiting Italy. Another favorite spot to travel as a family is our beach house on Bald Head Island in North Carolina. The beach is a place where we can decompress and enjoy spending time together as a family.

Favorite occasions to send employees notes: We celebrate milestone events like anniversaries, birthdays, and new babies. I need to get better at sending employees notes, particularly when they’ve accomplished a goal on the job.

Favorite company product/service: My favorite company will always be 360° Painting. That’s the brand that started it all.

BOTTOM LINE

What are your long-term goals for the company? Under my stewardship, I’d love to see Premium Service Brands reach $1 billion in system-wide revenue with 15 different franchise brands under our umbrella.

How has the economy changed your goals for your company? Our businesses made great strides after the pandemic outbreak. Now that travel has resumed and people are heading back to the office, we’re experiencing some economic headwinds. We are returning to predictable, steady growth.

Where can capital be found these days? Finding capital is always a challenge. It’s always harder to get money when you need it versus when you don’t. Securing capital depends on what stage your business is in. If you’re a medium-sized company with a positive EBITDA, you can rely on private equity. If you’re in the infancy stage of a business or an emerging brand, you’re probably still begging, borrowing, and struggling to get capital.

How do you measure success? I’m trying to leave this world a little bit better than when I came into it. I measure success by the ability of my employees and our franchise partners to continue to grow the business, which enables me to spend more time doing philanthropic work. Having time to contribute to charitable causes and our non-profit, Kids-Lift, is important to me.

What has been your greatest success? My greatest success story is my children. Anne is 15 years old, and my son, Edward, is 14. Being a dad is the best title I’ve ever held. As time goes on, having children who still want to spend time with me is a true testament to my success.

Any regrets? I have zero regrets. I look at anything that some might consider a regret as a learning experience. What can we expect from your company in the next 12 to 18 months? I think the big thing we’re rolling out in the next months is NESTO, our customer loyalty platform. It’s going to be a huge initiative. Continue to do new acquisitions. We have the infrastructure to scale, and we just have to find the right ones.

Published: December 31st, 2023

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