By tapping into a global cultural shift toward environmentally friendly services, Russ Weldon is creating new opportunity, both for himself and for hundreds of others
Across franchising there are thousands who label themselves as “serial entrepreneurs.” You’ve probably met one of them. Maybe you are one. Most of these self-proclaimed opportunists have great individual success stories to back those claims up.
But, few ever reach the impactful entrepreneurial plateau that Russ Weldon has.
Weldon’s journey in franchising began when he was still a teenager. That’s when he tried, unsuccessfully, to convince his parents to let him drop out of high school to start a distribution business. Instead, he continued his education, then pursued business opportunities in wholesale direct sales, including experience in the emerging consumer electronics industry.
His biggest entrepreneurial step forward, however, came in 1988, when he launched The Car Phone Store, which would later become Wireless Zone, a nearly 400-unit retail franchise focused on the growing mobile phone industry. After selling Wireless Zone in 2012, Weldon began looking for his next opportunity.
That’s when the idea for Green Home Solutions took shape.
"I wanted to create another opportunity on the ground floor of an emerging, but also commercially marketable space,” Weldon said. “Pest control caught my attention. But, I was troubled when I saw the harsh chemicals being used to treat and control pests. So, I began researching opportunities to convert those treatments to all-natural, environmentally safe chemicals. I knew that there would be a massive market if we could create an environmentally friendly service business. So, I set out to do that by recreating what we did with our business model in wireless technology.”
Weldon saw clearly, well before most others, that the green products and services industry had a major upside—and that it was poised to rapidly grow as a popular option with consumers. But, what he ended up creating at Green Home Solutions became much more than just a successful business in an emerging category. It has true, long-term impact on not just the company or its franchisees, but on the planet as well.
“The work we are doing is designed to help save the planet. We’re doing something that our kids and our grandkids will benefit from while also making life more comfortable for people, pets and nature. We can really change someone's quality of life for the better,” Weldon said.
Through Weldon’s vision, Green Home Solutions has carved a unique niche, not just in franchising, but within the eco-friendly segment as well.
“One mistake people often make in business is that they get into business because they like it,” Weldon said. “Maybe they like pets, so they get into a business that’s beneficial to pets. That’s all well and good. But, it still needs to be built on the right base. I want to be in business because it’s a good business. When the wireless business was in its infancy, I was told I couldn’t have a business selling only cell phones. That concept didn’t exist, so people couldn’t see why I would pursue it. I went against the grain and proved them wrong.”
Green Home Solutions is now charting a similar course with Weldon at the helm.
“I saw the market of green being a growing market,” he said. “I am moderately green, but kids today are much more green. Our grandchildren will be even greener than that. It’s a trend, and where there are trends, there are strong business opportunities. That shaped my focus. I recognized that we couldn’t be everything green to everyone everywhere, so I decided to focus on the home market. What we look to do is sell solutions, just like the name says. It is far easier to sell a solution to problem. For mold problems, people want a remedy that is safe and effective. They want it to be low cost. They want it to be fast. These are things that they search for before they make a decision, and that’s exactly what we strive to provide.”
Weldon has also focused on building Green Home Solutions into a forward leaning business that is solution oriented. It’s why the brand places a high value on skilled workers who are paid well and highly trained. It’s also why Weldon pushed to keep Green Home Solutions franchise investment low, with an initial investment that ranges from $45,675 to $76,250, in order to position the brand for rapid growth.
“Our investment is low, our startup is fast, and we are growing rapidly because of it,” Weldon said. “Environmentally friendly remediation is a billion-dollar business, particularly in the category of indoor air quality and mold. We spend about 75 percent of our lives indoors, eating, sleeping, working and relaxing, and that environment is often toxic to our health because there are thousands of chemicals in our carpets, fibers, building materials, curtains, glass and insulation. That’s exacerbated by allergies. We solve that problem for them in a healthy, sustainable way.”
By doing so, Weldon and Green Home Solutions are creating critical brand milestones.
“When you build a business from the ground up, you have to work through it, evolving, changing, processing, changing that process and bringing on new people to help you grow. What many people don’t understand about franchising is that the franchisor needs a large segment to support its weight. Franchisors have costs in development, personnel and marketing that can be exaggerated in the beginning. You simply can’t charge franchisees enough money up front to pay for that. So, you have a build the system up to get enough franchisees to climb up to a profitable enterprise. You’re looking for steady growth. When you grow too fast and irresponsibly, that’s when you fail. Controlled, scalable ascent is what you’re looking for.”
Five years into operations, Green Home Solutions now has 60 strong franchisees operating about 130 units, and it continues to add new services like mold mitigation and air quality services. Now, the brand is focused on adding even more driven, entrepreneurial minded franchisees who share Weldon’s passion for service and business growth.
And, Weldon has a unique approach to help find them.
“We don’t try to pick winners,” he said. “We try to pick people who are systematic performers. There is a category of person we run into who is difficult in franchising: those want to re-drive the system. They want to reboot, modify, shortcut, and develop their own processes. That doesn’t work. A friend of mine in franchising once said: we’re like Betty Crocker. If you follow the instructions, you’ll get a cake out of it in the end, and chances are, it will probably be pretty good. But, if you change the milk, the eggs, and how long you bake it, don’t blame Betty when it doesn’t turn out well. If you follow the program, you get results. I want people who are willing to work with the existing method. We can always improve it, so, of course, we’re open to good suggestions, but we need people who create their own opportunities within the proven system we’ve perfected, not ones who go their own route.”
It’s one reason why Weldon firmly believes that Green Home Solutions presents a unique franchise opportunity.
“There’s not a lot of people doing what we’re doing,” he said. “There’s a huge market here. This is a solution-based business that’s as green as possible and our products are safe and effective. People can make money with us and they can grow because we’re young enough now, with great territories available. When you get in on the ground level, you get a unique growth opportunity through multi-unit development. Even more important: we deal in potential, and we’ve got heart. My title is Chief Cultural Officer for a very specific reason, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”
As part of that responsibility, Weldon sees his role as that of a parent to his franchisees, helping to impart wisdom and knowledge to help them succeed, but also allowing them to create their own opportunities.
“Real success and culture within our companies, both past and present, came from those who are self-reliant. Our greatest millionaire franchisees needed the least amount of help. They did it on their own. We didn’t give it to them. They earned it. It was their success. We are always there for our franchisees, like any good parent should be. And our culture matches that. Cultures are like wills. If you don’t have a will and you die, the government has one for you. Culture is the same way. Every business has culture. And, if you aren’t driving it, then you get one by accident. Poorly run companies don’t create their own culture. The best companies do,” Weldon said.
Through Weldon’s leadership, Green Home Solutions is well positioned to take advantage of a strong culture. Paired with proven support systems, a low initial investment and rapid startup, the brand has big plans for 2018 and beyond.
“I understand the responsibility we have to continue innovating in a wide variety of categories,” Weldon said. “We are constantly working to improve. We need to be on it. We need to be there first and always have best stuff. My vision for Green Home Solutions is that we lead the way in environmentally responsible products and services, not just for our customers, but for the planet we all live on. The more we grow, the more good we can do for the communities we serve.”