Thursday, August 21, 2008, The Detroit News, Local Spotlight
Air-duct firm opens doors to franchising
Utica company has perfected a business model that will be offered throughout U.S.
Karen Dybis / Special to The Detroit News
As it approaches its 40th anniversary, Utica-based Safety King is looking to expand by franchising its business model throughout Michigan and the United States.
Known locally for its red trucks, the air-duct cleaning company hopes to have more than 50 franchises within the next two years, said founder and President Michael S. Palazzolo.
The new franchises will go under the name DuctPro International. Safety King will still operate around Metro Detroit as an arm of the DuctPro company, said operations manager Michael J. Palazzolo.
“It’s a natural evolution,” said Palazzolo, who also is the founder’s son and the brains behind Safety King’s decision to franchise. “For years, we’ve been training people, handling the marketing and selling equipment. … All of the pieces finally fell into place.”
An ideal franchisee is someone who is mechanically inclined and has a penchant for customer service, Michael S. Palazzolo said. The initial franchise fee is $25,000 and there is a $50,000 territory fee for an exclusive territory of 250,000 households.
Franchisees also will receive training at the company’s headquarters, customized marketing and sales programs and the use of the DuctPro brand, including its 800-number in each franchise market.
To jumpstart the franchising program, DuctPro is offering potential franchisees discounts of up to 35 percent for veterans as well as people who have been downsized by the automotive industry.
Michael S. Palazzolo founded Safety King in 1969. He was working for a heating and cooling company that did air-duct cleaning on the side, and he saw the potential to open a business that focused solely on duct work.
People clean their ducts for a variety of reasons, Michael S. Palazzolo said. Older houses tend to need it because the ducts can accumulate dust, dirt and other debris. Newer homes often need duct cleaning to remove any construction materials in the ducts, such as drywall dust and the like.
Safety King quickly set itself apart from the competition, using unique techniques like a small camera to show homeowners and commercial clients a video of what it looks like inside their ducts before and after a cleaning.
“If you’re coughing and sneezing, your ducts could be the reason,” Michael S. Palazzolo said.
While its service may be more expensive than its rivals, Michael S. Palazzolo said that Safety King trucks have better suction power than most. Also, their employees are certified through the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, the Duct Cleaners Network and the Indoor Air Quality Association. DuctPro’s future franchisees also will be certified through these same associations, Michael J. Palazzolo said.
Safety King and DuctPro also offer other services, including dryer-vent cleaning, air duct inspections and airduct sanitizer treatments.
“Our company goes to great lengths to keep people and their homes safe,” Michael S. Palazzolo said.
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
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