Community outreach is an important part of Chris Drucquer’s efforts to turn a successful two-location CertaPro Painters business into an engine for helping others.
By J.P. Carroll
The third CertaPro Painters franchisee in the company’s history, Chris Drucquer has provided professional painting services to residents in Philadelphia since 1991. With two locations in Narberth and Bryn Mawr, Drucquer has made philanthropy a core value of the business.
Drucquer got his start as a waiter at his family’s restaurant, the Stockton Inn in Stockton, N.J., while attending the University of Pennsylvania. Drucquer wanted to take a shot at running and even owning a business, so he got involved with College Pro Painters, a sister company of CertaPro under the FirstService Brands parent. “My freshman year, I got a letter in the mail. It said: ‘Don’t get a job this summer, get a business.’ I had a great job set up, but this was intriguing to me,” Drucquer explained. He went through the College Pro Painters program and ran a successful small business grossing $85,000 with $18,000 in net using 12 painters he hired. “What a rush! I continued with College Pro until I graduated the University of Pennsylvania,” he said, representing the beginning of Drucquer’s ties to Oaks, Pa.-based CertaPro Painters.
The Philadelphia-area businessman bought the third CertaPro ever sold with the goal of growing into “a $500,000 business, and do everything but paint. I got there within five years — this was 25 years ago — and started to grow to the $650/$750K level.” Despite early success with the CertaPro brand, Drucquer ran into trouble with a downturn in the economy and the realization he had “too much overhead — I was starting to day dream of $2 million and $3 million and spend like I was already there!” All of this happened during the process of a divorce from his first wife that involved four children, with the youngest being a two-year-old. “My world collapsed around me [and] my business crashed to half its size,” Drucquer explained.
A year went by, and Drucquer got in touch with his then-General Manager Mike Stone (now CertaPro President), and said, “I’m ready for my comeback.” Since then, Drucquer has averaged 40 percent growth a year for four straight years to get well over $2 million, with sights set on $5 million by 2020. Drucquer’s success in turning the business around were recognized with a listing among the fastest-growing businesses by the Philadelphia 100, the Wharton Small Business Development Center, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Drucquer’s pursuit of improvement extends beyond the bottom line, as the CertaPro franchisee has been instrumental in supporting several Philadelphia-based community programs for years. This includes an annual coat drive that collected more than 1,000 jackets for needy recipients in 2013, a book drive that donated more than 4,700 books to underprivileged kids, sponsorship of a Homes for our Troops 5K, and hosting a series of events for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia attended by CertaPro’s mascot, Bristles, that have raised more than $100,000.
The winter coat drive is a source of pride for Drucquer. “We had great success collecting several coats and donating them to Impact Services in the ‘Heart of Kensington’ in Philadelphia,” he said. Word spread about the winter coat drive and early success led to other franchisees joining in, Drucquer continued, “then led to radio public service announcements, two spots on the news, and now over 6,500 coats collected!” Clearly, he has managed to find that doing well and giving back go hand in hand. “Many of our clients mention that they like working with us because of our philanthropy. We are able to attract the best people [to work with us] partly because of what we stand for.”
Giving back is a priority for Drucquer both now and well into the future. “At some point you start to consider your legacy,” he said. “The more you think this way, the more giving back makes sense. Who doesn't want to be known as a pillar of the community?” Community service “is great for your heart, and also good business,” he added, with the sincerity of someone who clearly lives by his own mantra.
As he looks to the future, Drucquer is optimistic that the next generation of entrepreneurs will continue to make community outreach and important component of any business they run or own. “All generations embrace giving back, but it seems the Millennials are particularly charitable,” Drucquer observed. Treating others the way you want to be treated is an explicit value. “Being better leaders has become a huge focus within CertaPro Painters, and within our franchise. We have found that living the Golden Rule has been a very simple but powerful way to grow other leaders,” he said.
The skilled entrepreneur has made finding a healthy work-life balance that eludes so many businessmen, a personal priority. “Franchising has provided an exceptional income, while still allowing me flexibility to spend quality time with my family,” which involves seven children between ages 10 and 17 in a blended family. The CertaPro franchisee has even found ways to showcase the values of hard work when he takes “two or three of the kids” to the annual conference. “They’ve now all been to Palm Springs,” Drucquer said. The conference is “a chance to show them what a great company looks like and introduce them to high-caliber business people. I hope this leaves a mark on them,” he continued.
Franchising is the best of both worlds, according to Drucquer. It allows for a great deal of independence because “I own my own business and control my own destiny, and I’m rewarded by hard work in many ways — but I’m not alone.” Drucquer also recognizes the benefits of being part of a larger organization since, “I can pull from other’s great ideas in the system, and rely on the corporate office to do all the heavy lifting with marketing programs, employee training and development, etc.”
J.P. Carroll is an Editorial Intern at the International Franchise Association.