I had the pleasure of interviewing Carmelo Marsala.
Carmelo Marsala is the founder and president of Spray-Net; a home improvement franchise with 43 locations.
Carmelo is a double patent holder, was named the 2015 Air Miles Young entrepreneur of the year as well as the 2016 top young franchisor in the world at the International Franchise Association’s NextGen in Franchising Global Competition. Spray-Net ranked 34th on the 2016 annual PROFIT 500, the definitive ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, with five-year revenue growth of 2,355% and became the fastest growing consumer services company in Canada in 2017.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
Thank you! Well to be honest I wasn’t really able to ever keep a job very long and I did the minimum required to succeed in University (reflected by my grades haha) so it seemed like my options were limited. I was always very opinionated and fascinated with finding ways to do things “better” and marveled at when businesses just “got it right”. I thought then if I could just “get it right” it would work and that gave me the confidence to start. I realized later that the reason why only so few get it right is because it’s much harder than it looks!
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re finally doing exterior painting right. Just like not all humans will react the same to all diets, not all homes and days are made equal. These two factors made for a broken exterior painting industry. Only one size fits all products existed to paint the outside of homes and you’d better hope the weather that day was within the limited parameters specified by the paint manufacture or you’d get bad results. This not only limited the surfaces you could paint but also was a surefire way to ensure you’d have to redo it. In a factory, all kinds of surfaces are painted and essentially last “forever” because the chemistry is specific to the surface being painted and the environment is controlled. We took the same approach and created specifically tailored paint formulations per surface and we actually adjust them to the weather that day to ensure a like-new factory finish and long-term durability. We actually hold two patents on our unique process!
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We have been working on a proprietary software for the last 3 years in an effort to not only automate many parts of our workflow but collect a lot of data along the way. With all of this data we are working on many ways to use machine learning and prescriptive analytics to help our franchisees optimize their businesses and give them more time to do what they do best; engage their team and customers!
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Reading is the only thing that calms me down so it’s difficult to choose a favorite but one of the first books that I read that lead me to franchising was Michael Gerber’s “The e-myth revisited”. In the 3rd year of the business we had grown from me and 1 team member to over 30 and my day to day become unsustainable and I needed a solution. The E-myth inspired me to start documenting what was in my head, create processes and ultimately scale the business through franchising.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. You are NOT invincible. When things are going well we get these delusions that we are unstoppable and that we “got this”. As your business grows, the book “What got you here, won’t get you there,” by Malcolm Gladwell applies and I think the title explains it all.
2. Take care of your mental health. One of the most rudimentary laws of physics is “what goes up, must come down” (well on Earth at least) and we very rarely talk about the dark side of entrepreneurship. The highs are high but the lows can be very low and can be very dangerous if you’re not careful.
3. Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with the right people. As entrepreneurs we’re very adept at recognizing our strengths and think we have more than we do but often get blindsided by the things we really suck at. I often overlook tiny details because I can’t be bothered by them but they’re important and someone has to take care of them. Things don’t happen on their own.
4. Think about the future. Failing to plan is planning to fail and if you don’t have a clear vision in place, things get messy. It’s hard to keep people motivated if their future isn’t clear. They want to know where they’re headed and although when you’re deep in the day to day it’s difficult to plan because you’re just trying to stay alive, it’s vital! That’s like saying you don’t have time to go to the gym; make the time!
5. Make sure you only hire people you like. Sometimes it was painful to go to work just because I didn’t necessarily get along with certain people and they also feel it. It’s hard enough working endless hours so make sure that they’re spent with people you like!
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Definitely Elon Musk. I just finished reading his biography by Ashlee Vance and I definitely see eye to eye with his way of thinking about business. I think business is about creating new ways of doing things and you can only do that by pushing the boundaries of what science and business have established as the “norm” or what’s possible. Although we’re not doing it with rockets, we’re doing it with paint and I related tremendously with many parts of the book!
— Published on June 27, 2018