A Husband-and-Wife Team Converted Their Family Business to a Franchise to Make More Time for Family

Jon and Kari Murdock knew it would take years to scale on their own, and Mr. Rooter's franchise model helped them grow.

This story appears in the September 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Jon and Kari Murdock wanted to expand their plumbing business but weren't sure what to do next. The Kalispell, Mont.–based couple opened their company in 2015 as an independent operation — so when Mr. Rooter reached out at the beginning of 2020, inviting them to convert it into a Mr. Rooter and join its 200-plus North American locations, the Murdocks were conflicted. They decided the franchise aligned with their values, but giving up their business's branding and identity was tough. Ultimately, though, they made a decision based on their family: They knew it would take years to scale on their own and felt Mr. Rooter had the right model to help them grow. Becoming a franchisee would give them more time with their two daughters. Here, Kari explains how the transition went.

Courtesy of Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Was there something specific about Mr. Rooter that sold you on converting the family business into a franchise?

Hearing about Mr. Rooter's customer focus and the values they have for their company really struck both Jon and me. That was very important to us — having integrity and being honest. We wouldn't have done it had those values not been part of the package, and we really focus on that when we talk to people in the community. It's still us. The name changed, but the values didn't.

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What were your concerns about growing the business independently?

Scaling up was a big challenge. There were a lot of trial-­and-error type things we would have to work through if we did it on our own. We felt like going with a proven model would be a better way to make sure we weren't wasting time and money in growing our business. We work with a representative to develop a marketing plan and a budget. We got a new software system that helps us with our scheduling and invoicing. If we hire people in between the live training, there are online modules that explain our values and every step of our process.

What was the most difficult thing about transitioning?

It may sound silly, but the name change and losing our logo was the hardest step for us. It was so personal, having our name on the business. We'd hired a marketer and spent a lot of time developing our logo. But the most important consideration in the long run was for us to have a family life outside of the business, and the franchise really helps us do that. When it was a family business, we were on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Related: What to Know to Run a Successful Family Business

What goals do you guys have for the future?

Our immediate goal is to find another journeyman plumber who wants to learn with us. We were told when we were first looking at the franchise that if you are required to be on-site for the business to run, you don't have a business — you have a job. That was a big aha! for us. So our ultimate goal is to own a business we can step back from and still have it run efficiently.

What are some of the pros and cons of being a franchisee versus being an independent small-business owner?

The biggest pro for us is the community and the support we get — not just from the company but from the other franchise owners. When you're a small-business owner, you're working hard for yourself, and at times it can feel a little bit lonely or isolated. Now we make better-informed decisions, but they're still our decisions to make.

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