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Crafting Convenience: The Evolution of Screenmobile with Scott Walker

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Crafting Convenience: The Evolution of Screenmobile with Scott Walker

In this engaging interview, we have the pleasure of conversing with Scott Walker, the co-founder and brand president of Screenmobile. With over four decades in the industry, Screenmobile stands as a testament to innovation and customer-centric service in the realm of window screens, screen doors, and porch services.

Scott Walker shares the inspiring story behind the inception of Screenmobile, revealing the entrepreneurial spirit and strategic thinking that propelled the company from a local service to a national leader. His insights provide a rare glimpse into the challenges, successes, and future aspirations of a business that has redefined convenience and quality in the skilled trades sector.

Scott Walker

Origins and Industry Insights

SBS – What inspired you to start Screenmobile, and how did you identify the need for mobile screen repair services?

Scott – I came from the franchisee world. My brother, my father, and I started Screenmobile at a garage in Glendora, and we had another business — we bought a franchise called House Doctor. We were operating that and found there was a need for screens. So, we fell into a niche not being filled — doing screens on-site.

At the time, we were working with the franchise, but we just felt we weren’t aligned in expectations and what we thought we would get as far as training and support. We always thought we would do things differently if we started our own franchise. That has been the foundation for Screenmobile. We look at franchisees and how we support and train them to ensure we’re aligned in expectations from the beginning.

Both Monty Jr. and I became service technicians. We were from the side of the tracks that if it was broken, it stayed broken unless you fixed it. We learned how to repair and fix things at a very young age, so it was relatively easy for us to get into the House Doctor franchise. We were young service technicians, and my dad was a little older, so he had business experience. It was a combination of an older gentleman who had a little bit more, I call them wounds of life, and then some younger guys who can go out and make screens, hustle, and work with their hands well. That combination was part of our success.

My dad has since retired and passed away. Now, 40 years later, my brother and I are still running the company. Soon, we will both be at that stage in our lives where we’ll be retiring, but we have built a great foundation.

Succession and Future Plans

SBS – Are you thinking of passing the business down to your children if you have them?

Scott – Back in February of last year, we realized that Screenmobile was growing beyond our capacity, so we found a great organization to join, and we sold the company to Authority Brands and their team. That has been a great transition.

At the same time, we had a company-owned store, which went to my nephew Austin, my son Dylan, and my son-in-law Ben. They’re running the company-owned store or their franchise now, and they are also buying the neighboring franchise, which will close in probably two weeks.

Triumphing Over Challenges

SBS – What were some challenges that you faced and successfully overcame?

Scott – Well, we found that nobody was taking the screen issue (which is usually a cumbersome, clunky problem for homeowners) and making it easy. We identified that if we do it at the job site and take our shop to the homeowner, we can do it in one trip. It’s easy and convenient for them. If we do run into any problems, we can fix it right there. The success that we found is the cornerstone of Screenmobile — making it easy. We were convenient at a fair price and sold good-quality products.

In the early days, we didn’t think through some of the training or business setup and foundation that we’ll need 40 years later. There are a lot of wounds that you’ve gone through, a lot of things you have experienced. One of the challenges we faced was getting the name “Screenmobile” registered. I don’t think that, in today’s environment, we could get that name registered.

SBS – Why? 

Scott – When we started 40 years ago, there was no such thing as a mobile phone. Now, what happens a lot is that the term “Screenmobile” gets associated with just their normal writing of sentences on a mobile phone with touch screen capacity, so there’s confusion out there. That’s why I don’t know if we could register it today. Interestingly, we did get it registered, but with the change in society and technology that came out, it gets a little confusing. But we’re thankful for that. That was one of the hurdles we had to get over.

The other thing is there are so many different screening products out there, so we had to work well with vendors to ensure we picked good quality vendors that could supply our franchisees. That’s a continual process. We have a good foundation of vendors, but we’re always looking for additional ones.

Shipping was also a challenge. Some of our stuff is big, so we had to figure out shipping issues — how and where to ship things.

Also, there was no place to learn how to do screens. We came into the screening world knowing nothing about the screen and had to learn it ourselves.

Evolving Training and Education

SBS – Is it easier for the employees to get that training and education nowadays?

Scott – We now have a Screen School where we teach people how to work Screenmobile, but we also do the technical parts. They have to train for a couple of weeks and then for 13 weeks after that, but it usually takes a couple of years for people to learn all the different products.

Where it took us 40 years, we can get somebody up and running with the systems and the knowledge of the products relatively quickly. When they get into the franchise, one of the things they have to realize is they’re trading time for money. It’s even more of an issue in our industry because you can’t just go out and learn screens. Yeah, you can learn how to put in window screens. That’s no big deal. However, there are so many other advanced products. To make some real money, you do need some training. We set up Screen School, and we have vendors we have relationships with that also do training.

Adaptive Business Models

SBS – How did you adapt your business model to stay ahead in such a competitive industry? What business model worked best for you and why?

Scott – Our business model was different when we started. In retrospect, when we started, there were probably already 4,000 screening companies in the United States. It was a pickup and delivery service, glass shops, Home Depot, Lowe’s, a local lumber yard, etc. So, screens were already being made in the US.

We came in and asked, “How can we make it easier?” To stay ahead of our competition and be competitive, we’re always reflecting upon how we do business and if we are easy to do business with. We’ve made it a priority to ensure we’re easy to do business with. Focusing on that and providing that five-star customer service to our customers just kills our competition.

In the screening industry, it’s so typical that it’s either an afterthought or an alternative product (like in the glass industry). Well, we’re making it a primary product. We bring it to the forefront, and we specialize in it. We have been doing that for 40 years. That’s one of the niches that we have. We’re mobile, we come to the doorstep, and we do it on the site.

Our business model made us deadly. If you call a regular screen company, they’ll show up, take the measurements, return three weeks later, and put in the screens for you. We’ll show up to the site, measure, manufacture, install, and be done. So, our competition never gets the chance even to go out there.

Just think about it: Any homeowner having somebody come and provide service at home either has to schedule a time to be there, take off work, and then take off work again for them to go and put the product back in.

Well, what happens if we come to the house? Most of the time, the screens are on the outside, so if we can get access to the screens, we’ll usually just call the customer at work, send them a picture of what we want to do, and they’ll approve it, and we’ll do it. We’ll send them a picture and email them an invoice when we’re finished. They can give us a credit card and pay; they don’t even have to be home.

Sometimes, we have to order products we don’t carry or can’t carry on our equipment. In those cases, one of our manufacturers makes that product and then sends it to us, and then we can install it.

Growth Strategies

SBS – You started as a local service but now have over 120 franchises. What kind of strategies did you employ to grow your business? 

Scott – I’ll explain our number one strategy in the beginning. I can’t say we did this 100% of the time, but we found that if we can get somebody to believe in the way we do business and if they can not only believe in us but mirror that, then we have a successful business partner. So, one of our strategies was to pick the right franchisee.

Now, it’s the same thing. It’s not a matter of just investing in a screen build. No, it takes a lot of work to run these, so we want to align with these people in what they want to build and how they want to grow, and we want to make sure that their expectations and our expectations are in alignment (which comes back to being a franchisee first). We strive to make sure we’re clear with expectations so they know exactly what they’re getting into, and we know what we’re getting into. We must be very transparent and open in making sure that we have a discussion of expectations. Sometimes, life happens, and things change, and you have to recognize that. But when you start, it’s really important if you can get your expectations aligned. 

As a franchise, we are asking people to invest in our system. If we compare it to baseball, when you start as a business owner on your own, you have to start from home plate and go all the way and see if you can score a home run. Well, by us teaching you everything that we know, you’re starting at third base, so it’s a lot faster and a lot less risk to get a home run. Our focus and strategy is constantly educating, training, and improving our franchisees as business owners, not only from a service technician standpoint.

Training Program and Quality Assurance

SBS – Since you have your own training program, can you explain more about that training structure, how it works, and how long it lasts? Also, how do you ensure the consistent quality across all your franchises?

Scott – Our training program is two weeks at screen school and 13 weeks afterward. Two weeks of training will teach them how to work the operating system, our expectations, the brand standards, and how to make screens. It’s a ten-day program. We spend eight hours a day working with these guys. There’s a lot of information that we have to cover, and we know that at the end of ten days they have knowledge, but they don’t have skills yet.

It takes them some time to build their skills and learn from on-the-job training. That’s where we came up with our 13-week fast start program. After they leave that 10-day school, we meet with them at least once a week. Sometimes, we’re talking to new franchisees multiple times every day as we train, teach, educate, and guide them.

We have found that we can change the trajectory of a franchisee if we can lean into them heavily in their startup stage and then get them going in the right direction. It makes a world of difference in the success of their business. We’re teaching our franchise business coaches to be better business coaches. We’re learning (especially from the Authority Brands team) how to support our franchise even better and what we need to do with our franchisees to help them improve the success of their business. That’s one of the benefits of joining the Authority Brands team.

A part of our culture is innovation and always learning. It’s not only for our franchisees but for us as well. That’s what we require from our franchisees — to be a learner. For 13 weeks, we will have phone calls, videos, Zooms, and all kinds of education. You must make that part of your culture and your business model. Attend regional meetings, conventions, and vendor fairs. Attend trainings and be a learner. That has been a success for our franchisees. They do not always get a huge amount of knowledge and information from a convention, but it’s based upon an attitude and trying to get some nuggets they can take back. Our goal is to ensure they will leave being a better business owner.

Marketing Evolution

SBS – What has been your marketing and customer acquisition approach for Screenmobile? How much has that marketing approach changed?

Scott – I’ll tell you a story real quick. About ten years ago, I was at a vendor training. Even though I’m running the company, I still go out in the field, visit franchisees, and attend vendor trainings. It’s just good to be out and about and learn something. At that vendor training, there was a gentleman from an SEO company. He did digital technology and digital marketing, and he’s a pretty smart guy.

After the session, I said, “Thanks for your presentation. I appreciate it,” and told him who I was and what I was doing. He says, “I got a question for you.” I said, “What’s that?” He says, “How well do you guys do business?” I said, “Why do you ask that?” He says, “Because if I do my work, you’ll get plenty of phone calls. But if you’re just going to upset customers with how you operate, then let’s not do business together.”

I thought that was insightful because I agree completely. Forty years ago, there was no Internet. There were yellow pages, newspapers, radio, TV, coupons, and grassroots marketing. The philosophy of taking care of your customers has not changed, even though the acquisition of the customer has changed.

The important thing is to have to have a digital presence. One of the ways we ensure that our franchisees have a digital presence is by having companies help us establish a digital footprint along with their website. Then, of course, we will market in some way digitally (Facebook, pay-per-click, Yelp, etc.). There’s also guerrilla marketing, which in our business is a successful way to get the people to know who we are.

Digitally, you could put a front print out there, but you still have to do the right things. You still have to answer the phone with a live voice. You still have to show up on time. You still have to do what you say. You have to charge a fair price. You have to know what you’re doing. We’ve changed digitally because we have to be in that industry.

But the second part of marketing is if you spend $50 or $20 or $10 to get a lead and upset that customer because of how you do business, that just costs you a lot of money. It’s more than the $10, and it’s more than that customer. It’s the referrals and the repeats.

It’s really interesting and there’s all kinds of different tactics we can use. We like grassroots marketing because it’s touchy-feely, and many of our products are touchy-feely, too. We like home shows, door hangers, yard signs, fairs, and home and garden shows.

We’ve got plenty of different ways to market and spend the money to get leads, but we’re pressing upon the franchisee to make sure they do business right and are easy to do business with. Since we’re such a niche, it’s such a specialty service, and it’s so convenient to get referrals and recommendations if you do your job well and are great to do business with.

Our marketing tactics are really about operating your business. We can figure out how to spend the money, but what’s more important is making sure that you’re providing a constant five-star customer experience. We tell our franchisees that people buy from people — so be those they want to buy from. 

Embracing Customer Feedback

SBS – How important is customer feedback for you, and how did you incorporate it into your business to improve? 

Scott – It’s been important for us to get Google reviews and five-star reviews, and we now have a system we’re using to make sure that we’re helping our customers give us five-star reviews. However, we don’t only want five-star reviews on our owners but also on their technicians — the people who are actually in the field. You find out how well your business is doing by how your guys in the field are getting customer responses. We always tell our franchise owners to read those reviews because your customers will tell you if your service techs are doing well, and if you’re not getting reviews on a particular service tech, you need to ask yourself why. 

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

SBS – What advice would you give someone who wants to start in a similar niche? 

Scott – Make sure that what you’re getting into fits who you are. If you are a people person, then get into a people business. If you don’t like people, don’t get into the home services business. You will hire people like you and they will represent you. If you’re an introvert and you don’t like people, you’re going to hire introverts that don’t like people and you’re not going to do well in the industry. Make sure whatever business you go into fits you and your personality.

If you want a business with passive income, then do rental properties. If you want a business because you love food, do restaurants. If you love working on computers, maybe do a phone company repairing phone screen business. But if you like working on somebody’s homes and improving their property or livelihood, get into a business that fits your abilities and talents and your desire to help. 

Whatever you’re going to do, make sure that you can have a sense of accomplishment and pride that you did a good job when you leave. That’s really what drives you. I made a customer happy, I made their life better, I improved their house, and I made some money off of it. But more than anything, that was fun. I had a good time, and they had a good time. I can feed my family, and it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I’m just going around helping people every day. 


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Crafting Convenience: The Evolution of Screenmobile with Scott Walker