College Pro has been operating since 1971, originating in Canada before expanding to the US (College Pro sec. 2). Since then, they have developed more than 100,000 painting and window cleaning crews that have operated in 28 states and seven provinces. Originally strictly a painting company, operating under the name College Pro Painters, they merged with window cleaning company Action Window Cleaners to become College Pro in 2010. The company is now the largest house painting and window cleaning service on the continent, and defines their business purpose as "together, realizing potentials" (College Pro sec. 2).
This assignment examines the organizational challenges experienced in College Pro, focusing on challenges and problems they experienced in managing operations and resources, perceived causes of these issues, potential solutions, benefits and other impacts, difficulty in implementation, and what was learned from completing the project.
College Pro, as a LLC, creates situations where franchise managers effectively invest in painting kits to make money for the company. They scout universities and regional youth attempting to find people that seem to be capable of making them the most money, get them to sign contracts for approximately $4,000 investments in painting materials, and assure them that they will earn more than enough money to cover that and labor costs (so long as they can at least match the average trends for painting houses in the region). Their franchise model is commonly known to be used across a range of major organizations, and College Pro provides a great deal of autonomy as they work to guide and encourage franchise managers and their crews to secure as many jobs as possible. The required investment and autonomy can be intimidating to some and encouraging to others. It has made it possible for teenagers to function as entrepreneurs, and to work with pride as they effectively 'run their own business' (while still having guidelines for ongoing business success with the requirement to use the company name).
Rod Villanueva is an example of a former franchisee that is a model for College Pro's promise that dedicated entrepreneurs can earn plenty to pay the company back for the investment and labor costs. He was a 19-year-old who worked in Ohio in 2006. Rod had looked forward to working for the company, considering it to be a great business opportunity and learning experience as he worked to prepare himself for a future career at Kent State University (Filus 1). College Pro managers had divided the state into 10 franchises to be managed by individual managers, with these managers then responsible for however many crews and crew members required to complete however many jobs they were able to secure. Rod was hired to be in charge of a franchise spanning Akron and the nearby areas of Munroe Falls, Stow, Tallmadge, and Cuyahoga Falls. Although the company profits from selling business kits to franchise managers to use under their name, they can still afford to be selective when they receive a high volume of applicants, which was the case when Rod applied to the position. A total of 80 applicants had been reduced to six people believed to be the most capable of generating revenue, and Rod and the nine others selected to manage the 10 Ohio franchises were trained in the winter prior to the business season of 2006. Six of the 10 franchise managers had been hired from Kent State, but four of them decided that they would not be able to handle the challenge that lie ahead of them when they began to work in the spring. Rod claimed that he was able to endure the challenge because he was fully aware of 'what he was getting into,' and his willingness to work 50 to 70 hours per week that spanned through the weekends. As the franchise managers quit, Rod was able to secure jobs from their areas, and earned approximately 25 percent of all revenue. From these earnings, he was required to pay overhead, but was already near his goal of $120,000 for the summer with $72,000 scheduled only weeks after he began to paint (Filus 1).
College Pro collects on royalties for all jobs booked in addition to the kits they sell to the franchise managers, and this model combined with their collegiate image has been used successfully in their expansion out of Canada across the US. Novice franchise managers profit an average of $7,000 to $8,000 per season, and advanced franchise managers can earn as high as $45,000 and beyond per season (Filus 1). Franchise managers work with one year contracts and begin to collect royalties as jobs are initiated (IBRS 1).
The company's basic model for franchising may be an effective and efficient model for generating revenue while minimizing liability, but it has given rise to a range of operational and organizational challenges. Some of these have been documented in literature, and some of these have been experienced by the author personally. This loose organizational structure and limited liabilities of managers are the main issues that are targeted in this case, as they give rise to disorganization and difficulties in managing effective franchises and jobs throughout the painting season. The following section describes these issues and their related impacts in detail.
Description of Problem
College Pro's franchises suffer from general disorganization, a lack of structure, and a lack of certainty of jobs throughout the summer. In some cases, workers even experience a lack of certainty of payment, as franchise managers often have to wait until several jobs have passed before they have enough excess funds to begin paying for the labor (in addition to the costs they have incurred in their positions). While a search of the literature did not reveal work that has examined this particular problem, it was experienced by the author during two summers of work with the company, and it also appeared to be common in other areas through a quick Google search. This report focuses on the author's experiences and what has been documented in literature, and while these documented problems have not been uncertainty of jobs or payment, they are nonetheless problems that stem from the extent of autonomy provided to inexperienced franchise managers in the company's ongoing franchise business model.
Dzikowski (3) described problems franchise managers faced across Connecticut following their advertising, as they had not been advised to follow local zoning legislation before advertising for the company across the state with numerous signs. Zoning officials were forced to remove 'scores' of roadside signs as a result of this, and numerous signs placed in yards following job completions were also removed for violating the zoning codes (Dzikowski 3). The company had reportedly been informed of the nature of the law, which applies similarly in many areas across the country, but had continued to allow franchise managers to place the signs anyway, worsening from the previous year (Dzikowski 3). Dzikowski (3) reported that franchise managers were attempting to optimize their sales by virtually any means as they attempted to place the signs at virtually every intersection, in owner's yards without their permission, and even on city government property despite never having been contracted to paint the town hall. Officials in the town explained that if contractors of all types were allowed to place signs at every intersection or house they had worked at, the town would be full of signs, and that the inexperienced managers were acting in an overzealous manner. When told to stop the previous year, managers reportedly claimed that they would, and it was unclear whether their actions were a result of disorganization, communication problems, or outright disregard. Attempts to contact the companies since then were unsuccessful, and while complainers were only able to reach regional offices when calling the numbers, it took written letters of complaint to the local office to get the company to remove signs themselves. Meanwhile, numerous companies had complained of the unfairness, forcing zoning officials to assert that they will take more aggressive actions in the future (Dzikowski 3).
More recently, in another area, there was another example of the potential chaos resulting from College Pro's loose organizational structure, relevant communications issues, and methods of operation. The company failed to provide required lead hazard information to over 40 home owners in New England, resulting in a major fine. The home owners lived in homes that still had paint applied prior to 1978, when lead was still generally an ingredient of paints, and the paint jobs required scraping of the old paint before the application of the new paint. The scraping of the old paint is considered hazardous due to the lead content, requiring informing the home owners of the danger per government regulations (specifically the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Pre-Renovation Rule), and the company failed to provide this information in at least 41 cases. The company was required to pay a $7,200 fine and invest an additional $65,000 in replacing or restoring 79 windows found to be potentially hazardous (HW 3).
The author's personal experiences with and observations of the company involved similar violations and serious issues with the employees. Two summers were spent working with the company as a 'job site manager,' which is essentially a crew foreman with extended responsibilities (such as information logging and safety obligations). Females are known to be fairly common as employees in the company and field, unlike other labor fields such as framing, and the treatment of them and the college image seem to be the best things about the company. Signs were not placed at every intersection, but they were commonly placed on government property across the city, and many homes had signs placed in the yard by the franchise manager. The franchise manager was different each year, and the combination of their efforts and their boundaries within the area led to each of them ultimately being in debt to College Pro. Both of them had difficulties paying the job site manager and crew members, leading to delayed initial payments in each season. Google searches of the topics suggested that this was not uncommon. In both summers, the painting crews had been reduced to two additional painters in addition to the author within one or two months, to the author as a lone painter by the end of the season, and the crew was out of jobs by the end of the season. These facts in themselves would be more understandable if the franchise managers did not ultimately sink themselves into debt to the company in both seasons, but these results and the way the company profited reflected poorly to the lower level employees. Perhaps the company feels that such situations are not particularly concerning, so long as such complications do not reflect poorly to the customers, but these organizational issues are definitely areas that can and should be addressed through some means. The following describes a study designed to record trends and perspectives regarding organizational management concepts, applications, and potentials in the company, providing a framework for recommendations and approaches to addressing the problem.
Data was collected through the application of two commonly known and used instruments in qualitative research, the survey questionnaire and interview. The survey questionnaire was strategically designed to be administered to franchise managers, addressing operations strategy, process control, capacity management, and lean operations. The interview had a semi-structured format, providing a template while reserving the freedom to ask follow-up questions as deemed beneficial to the study, and was conducted with a regional manager. Sampling was performed simply through contacting accessible franchise managers via email, informing them of the nature of the study and willingness to participate. A total of four franchise managers were contacted, and three were willing to provide information. Meanwhile, the company was contacted regarding a regional manager's participation, and one regional manager was willing to provide information via telephone for the research.
The same survey was emailed to all three former franchise managers. The first question asked them what adjustments they believed were required in upper management in terms of operations strategy (to address the commonly known problems of franchise manager sales and general disarray in the actual painting operations levels of the company). The second question then asked them to provide any recommendations they had for process controls at any level of the company.
The third question asked if College Pro seems to already have the capacity to provide more of an organizational framework for their regional managers to manage franchises and jobs with their existing resources, or if they would require some major change to gain the revenue required for such investments. The fourth question asked if the franchise managers felt that the operations were already sufficiently lean, or if more resource cuts could be made to free room for investing in additional organization and managerial involvements. Lastly, the former franchise managers were asked to provide any additional input they had regarding the problems experienced by the company as outlined in the previous section (they were informed of the issues in the articles and the details of the author's experiences).
The regional manager was asked four questions, three prepared questions and a final follow-up question regarding any additional input or advice. The first question they were asked was whether they believed College Pro intentionally neglected to provide internal organizational support and guidance to maximize profits from students sunk into debt to the company. The second question was if they believed that the company could profit more from investing in developing organizational structure and support. The third question asked them why, if not due to operational issues that need to be addressed, they felt the problems in literature and experienced by the author had occurred. Lastly, the manager was asked if they had any additional recommendations to address the problems and organizational issues.
Results, Analysis, Operational Methods, and Recommendations
In response to the questionnaire, the three former franchise managers generally agreed that College Pro has been experiencing major problems that require substantial changes in organizational operations. In response to the first question, asking what adjustments in upper management seemed to be required, the first franchise manager stated that upper management should be more involved with the projects as they continue through the summer, rather than reducing their involvement following the initial training and startup processes. They said that the manager had been difficult to reach even for advice, and commonly brushed them off when asked for advice beyond the general recommendation to be aggressive in making 'cold sales' or following leads. The respondent wrote that upper management should function like a traditional management level of a traditional labor-based company, and not like the management of a telemarketing or car sales team that treats its franchise managers like telemarketers or car salesmen who are paid on commission. The second former franchise manager responding agreed with the first one, arguing that the upper management treated the franchise managers like commodities that were obligated to make sales for them. The second respondent also felt that operations strategy should be redesigned so that the company has a hierarchy that is more traditional for a labor rather than sales-based company, and to treat the sales processes as a shared responsibility of the company (with each level having its own role). This manager thought that if the company remodeled its operations so that it had contractors, subcontractors, and crew members for each territory, it could still rely on contractors for sales while having a more solid infrastructure for communications and coordination. The respondent felt that these changes would provide a solid operations model that would not have given rise to the issues the author experienced or the issues that have been documented in literature. The third respondent felt that the company could operate better if the selection and training processes were more involved, and had more of an emphasis on ensuring people were capable of competing with major painting companies to generate enough sales to last through the season. They did not recommend that the operations structure be remodeled, but felt that the company seemed to have too high of an emphasis on selling its name and products to the franchise managers, and also felt that it was more efficient to let them fend for themselves in attempt to pay off their debts. This respondent even stated that perhaps using debt to the company as a motivator was legitimately effective and more efficient than deeper involvement and support throughout the season.
In response to the second question, the first franchise manager recommended that the training and startup processes are more involved, and that they work harder to ensure that the former franchise managers have the information they need to match successes of previous years or similar locations. They also recommended that the regional managers be more available for discussion and guidance throughout the season. The second former franchise manager agreed, recommending that the levels of support and guidance increase as franchise managers are given access to more information that could help them. The third former franchise manager thought that the company should consider not hiring franchise managers for certain areas some years if candidates that do not seem capable of booking jobs for the full season, and to then provide (or divide) the 'turf' to other nearby franchise managers. The 'turf' could then be available to a franchise manager of the region the following year.
In response to the third question, asking if College Pro seems to already have the capacity to provide more of an organizational framework for their regional managers to be more available to franchise managers, none of the former franchise managers surveyed felt that they do. The first two former managers acknowledged that the company seems to follow the basic framework for operating as franchising, providing tools to franchise managers who have the responsibilities of maintaining the business, but thought that they were provided with much less information and resources than the franchise managers of mainstream franchises (i.e. restaurants). They felt that the company would have to invest a substantial amount into processes (and potentially additional managers) to establish the organizational framework that would be required to monitor and address problems more effectively. The third former franchise manager stated that almost the entire company would have to be remodeled to avoid the problems of the franchise system, or else the company would have to hire a new type of employee to work with the franchise managers to help them address the range of problematic issues they commonly experience.
Regarding the lean operations addressed in the fourth question, all former franchise managers agreed that the operations were already optimized for resource efficiency, and that there was not any practical room for further cuts that could then be used to invest in additional support. This was a 'cut and dry' aspect of the data collection, and the participants did not provide any further comment.
The managers did not provide any informative commentary in response to the fifth questionnaire item, which asked them to provide any additional input that they felt was relevant to the work. One of the former managers stated that despite the organizational and operational issues, there are legitimate risks in operating a franchise, but the company should at least be clearer about common problems experienced by people in their position.
The regional manager was, in comparison, brief with his verbal responses. In response to the first question, asking if he believed College Pro intentionally neglected to provide internal organizational support and guidance, he stated that they simply have a franchise model that applicants are fully aware of before they are even offered a job with the company. When asked if the franchise model was selected for profit maximization, he said 'yes and no,' reiterating that the franchise model is common while the company does not take any action to mislead or deceive applicants regarding business potential. When asked if they believe the company could profit more from making additional investments in developing organizational support and structure, he stated that it might be possible, but that the company believes that it has already achieved a good balance of profitability and responsibility. When asked for their opinions regarding the problems experienced by the author and those reported in literature, they stated that these were isolated incidents that occurred as a result of negligence, and are not examples of College Pro's organizational structure giving rise to any particular types of problems that could not be experienced at a comparable rate at any other company. When asked if they had any recommendations to avoid such problems in the future, they stated that they did not have any specific advice that would not apply to any other employee that they would recommend work to avoid problems and errors in their line of work.
Considering this, it seems that the minimum changes for the company should be in training and support, as there are no issues with service design, inventory, or the leanness of operations. As the author does not have a means of actually implementing recommendations for addressing problems, only recommendations targeting problematic areas can be made.
Potential operational methods to solve the problem are extending the training to report on recent trends, successful strategies used by franchise managers that have experienced common difficulties, and overcoming some of the potentially negative outcomes of challenging situations (i.e. paying employees). Additionally, the company is recommended to consider making the franchise territories larger in the events of either insufficiently qualified applicants in a region or a trend (three years) of inability to fill the season with bookings. Moreover, the company is recommended to extend regional manager responsibilities to involve more check-ins and availability to provide support to franchise managers as needed, including communications regarding compliance and needs to minimize problems. Lastly, the company is recommended to provide more details to franchise manager applicants, making them more aware of the common problems in the position while giving them a better idea of what they are 'getting into.'
Regarding potential benefits, potential difficulties, and actual impacts, the actual implementation of the methods recommended above would work to prevent and reduce the incidence of common problems in the company. Increased communications and awareness would work to minimize cases of negligence and error as operations are conducted in the city, and increased support would minimize issues within the franchises. Dividing the territories as recommended would also minimize mishaps while optimizing outcomes. All of these would work to improve outcomes for the franchise managers, which should in turn improve company profits. The only difficulties in implementing the recommendations are rejection of management and resistance to change, but these would all certainly be reasons why they will continue to not be implemented. College Pro has been operating and successfully selling franchise rights and paint products, and considering the nature of its ongoing operations and feedback from the franchise manager, it seems to consider this as an ideal business model.
Summary and Conclusions
As described in the previous section regarding operational outcomes and benefits, College Pro is recommended to make investments to improve information awareness, training, and franchise territory divisions to help optimize sales from franchises. It appears that the company feels that it is financially impractical to bother with such developments, using debts to the company as its own motivator, but perhaps more persuasion and public recommendations for change will lead to these kinds of further development.
Regarding what has been learned, the author learned more about the practical applications and relevance of organizational management and operations in 'real world' situations, and gained experience collecting and analyzing information through empirical research in the field. The author also learned more about College Pro's operations and perceptions of business, and it seems that it would take more disgruntled franchise managers and community members for the company to have sufficient motivation to shift from its cost-efficient and seemingly effective operational design. The issue with College Pro seems to be as much of an ethical neglect and carelessness issue as a true demand to optimize operations for outcome or reputation.
In conclusion, this assignment examined organizational challenges experienced by College Pro, discussing challenges and problems experienced in managing operations and resources, perceived causes of these issues, potential solutions, benefits and other impacts, difficulty in implementation, and what was learned from completing the project. College Pro, as a LLC, give aspiring franchise managers opportunities invest in painting kits to earn money under the company's name. They provide a great deal of autonomy as they work to guide and encourage franchise managers and their crews to secure as many jobs as possible. While the required investment and autonomy can be intimidating to some and encouraging to others, regional managers have been unresponsive to several issues experienced within the franchises. The company helps students to work with pride as they effectively 'run their own business' under the company name, but job site managers, crew members, and community members commonly find themselves to be misled by a prospect of a stable organization with consistent business, good communication, and timely payments. Already a very lean organization that functions under just-in-time principles, upper management likely could not be more efficient, but the recommended improvements would help the business reputation of the company at a minimum.
College Pro. "About Us." 2016. 9 Mar. 2016.
Dzikowski, D. "These signs of spring anger zoning enforcement officers." Fairfield County Business Journal 35.18 (1996): 3.
Filus, S. "Leading paint crew pays off." Akron Beacon Journal 16 June (2006): 1.
Hazardous Waste (HW). "New England Painting Company Fined for Failure to Notify about Lead Hazards." Hazardous Waste/Superfund Alert 34.15 (2012): 3.
Heizer, J. and B. Render. Principles of Operations Management. New York, NY: Prentice Hall, 2011.
Idaho Business Review Staff (IBRS). "Volunteers from Boise franchises of College Pro Painters to paint Good Samaritan Home." Idaho Business Review 14 May (2007): 1.
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