A Q&A with Mr. Rooter's New President, Mary Kennedy Thompson

Mr. Rooter won’t be changing its corporate name, but there’s definitely no “Mr.” running the show at the head office. Last October,Mary Kennedy Thompsonbecame president of Mr. Rooter.

Mr. Rooter placed sixth last year in our 2006 Pipe Trades Giants, an annual ranking of the country’s largest plumbing and piping contractors. The company reported total revenue of $225.33 million for fiscal year 2005. At 88 percent, most of the company’s sales come from plumbing, followed by 8 percent for hydronics and 7 percent for septic systems.

Service makes up 91 percent of the company’s work with the remaining 9 percent from retrofit work. More than three-quarters of the activity is from the residential market with the rest coming from the commercial market.

Thompson knows both sides of the franchise business. She became a franchisee of Cookies by Design in 1994 and later joined the corporate offices, eventually becoming president. Thompson succeeds Mike Bidwell, who will service as chief operating officer of The Dwyer Group, parent company of Mr. Rooter and five other service-related franchises.


Mary Kennedy Thompson, President Mr. Rooter

Q: Give us a quick rundown of the Mr. Rooter business.

A: Mr. Rooter® has approximately 300 locations worldwide with approximately 220 locations in the United States and Canada. Financially, Mr. Rooter has grown approximately 14 percent per year over the last 10 years.

Q: What parts of the country do you consider there still to be room to grow?

A: There are opportunities in all regions of the country, but the most opportunity for Mr. Rooter growth is primarily in the eastern two-thirds of the United States as well as in large parts of Canada.

Q: Who do you consider to be an ideal candidate to become a Mr. Rooter franchisee?

A: There are many candidates we see here at Mr. Rooter who make good franchisees. Our ideal candidate is someone currently operating a plumbing service business who is progressive, customer-driven, and looking for an established system to follow in growing his or her business. They need to be passionate about customer service and business.

Q: Are any of your franchisees business-minded people who just want to get into business for themselves regardless of any plumbing experience?

A: We have had some good experience with people who have business backgrounds outside the plumbing industry. However, those candidates to date have been limited to purchasing existing Mr. Rooter businesses because of licensing regulations that vary from state to state. Our franchisees are predominantly from the plumbing service business. We have also had success with people from plumbing new construction or remodeling backgrounds.

Q: What do you consider to be the primary, ongoing services that Mr. Rooter offers its franchisees?

A: Our primary focus is to provide complete service for the residential customer and secondarily for the commercial customers. To accomplish that, we have to provide our franchisees with an established system of delivering these services.

Providing that information to our franchisees comes largely from education. You name it and we probably do it. We offer national conferences; regional training; ongoing support; networking opportunities; and financial and management training workshops.

We also have specialized consultants to help our franchisees grow their businesses and we have successful franchisees who are mentors to others to help them get to the next level.

Q: What are some of your ideas for Mr. Rooter now that you are running operations?

A: Mr. Rooter has a very strong step-by-step process for providing all aspects of plumbing service to our customer. A strong brand is built one customer experience at a time. That makes the technicians - who are out there every day on the front lines - and not just our franchise owners essential to our growth. Our plan is to provide training on every level for our franchisees and technicians in creating outstanding customer experiences.

Q: You’ve been a franchisee yourself. From an executive’s viewpoint, how has the franchising business overall changed in the time you’ve been in it?

A: In the last 13 years, I have seen franchisors grow to more fully understand that franchising is about relationships. I’ve also witnessed franchisors develop a better appreciation that the success of the franchisor is dependant on the success of the franchisee.

Those franchisors who are working with their franchisees in helping them grow both the top and bottom line in their businesses are seeing renewed growth and energy in their brand. In the past few years, I have seen more time and energy spent on creating and providing tools for franchisees to use in growing their businesses. I have also experienced more collaboration between franchising companies in how to best serve franchisees in meeting their business goals.