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3 Tips for Navigating Business Ownership in an Unfamiliar Industry

4 Mins read

Taking the leap to owning a business can be daunting – even more so when it’s an industry you’re unfamiliar with, but this shouldn’t stop you from pursing your entrepreneurial dreams. There’s a way to approach this that allows for maximum retention of information and new skills while gaining gradual stability as an expert of the trade so that you’re set up for long-term success.

My husband, Leroy, and I knew nothing about carpet cleaning before segueing into business ownership as Chem-Dry franchisees. I had worked as a waitress and served as a children’s pastor, while my husband was the lead singer in a heavy-metal band. As our family began to grow, we knew it was time to pursue our lifelong dream of business ownership to support our family. Today, we co-own and operate Chem-Dry in Montgomery County Ohio, providing us the income we need and a strong work-life balance.

We became owners in 2018 and our goal for the first year in business was simple: survival. In 2019, we began to lean into the business, refine best practices, and implement key strategies to drive results – we saw huge improvement and ended the year with 24% growth. While there have certainly been ups and downs, we learned several key takeaways over the past four years, now up 37% growth, that have been essential in helping us navigate business ownership in an unfamiliar territory.

The below insight is meant to help guide entrepreneurs interested in pursuing business in an unfamiliar territory and take the leap to set themselves up for long-term success.

Become a Part of the Team First & Lean on Industry Experts for a Clear Path to Growth

Knowing how to manage a business is one thing to learn, but learning the ins and outs of the specific trade is a whole new set of skills that your future team will expect you to know as the leader – start there.

Sometimes the best way to learn how to navigate a new industry is to gain experience – boots on the ground – in various roles of the trade. This will not only provide basic education and understanding, but give you an appreciation of the type of work you’ll expect your team to execute.

Before becoming a Chem-Dry franchisee, Leroy began his journey with the brand in 2016 as a team member. He devoted time to learning about the equipment, the team, the operations, etc. rather than jumping into the trade as the head of the business. This proved immensely valuable in finding success in the first year of business ownership.

Additionally, during the learning process, it is crucial to surround yourself with the right people.

Networking becomes essential – especially in finding contacts and building relationships to guide you through the initial phase of business ownership. From there, you’ll be able to expand on not only the nuances of running the day-to-day of your business, but become more engrained in the industry as a whole.

As a new business owner, it can be hard to ask others for help rather than facing challenges alone and persevering at being your own boss. When you have no experience in an industry, however, leaning on other industry experts will not only help you get started, but it will also allow your business to continue improving each year.

We were quick to seek out fellow Chem-Dry owners for advice with online systems, marketing and advertising strategies, and more. One fellow franchisee in particular has continued to mentor us each year, and even sold us a truck mount in our second year of business to help grow our total truck count and further expand our consumer reach.

Experienced business owners in your new trade will be tremendous assets – lean in.

Establish a Different Goal for Each Year and Commit to it

While it is important to have a long-term vision for your business, be sure to set year-by-year goals to help make your vision more attainable.

For us, that looked like:

  • Year One: Survival
  • Year Two: Grow
  • Year Three: Refine operations
  • Year Four: Build our team and expand our reach
  • Year Five: Refine the vision.

With each year, you’ll be able to hone in on specifics to achieve your goal – whether they be small like buying a new van or modernizing advertising strategies – celebrate each win, because it will build momentum to achieving the next goal.

Committing to each of the themes laid out for each year will drive consistency in both delivering a premium-quality service and in maximizing growth potential for the year ahead.

Invest in your Employees

 You cannot be an expert in all areas, but a well-composed team will be essential to your longevity.

Step one is to determine what your strongest skills are, and step two is to hire the right team to complement your skills.

While complementary skills are important, it is equally important that your team shares the same goals and vision for the business. This will create team synergy and build and environment of trust, collaboration, and innovation.

Our policy is simple: Be firm, but kind. Be generous, gracious, and positive.

We’ve established a strong tenure of team members over the years. By prioritizing their wants, needs, and professional development, they’ve helped play a significant role in growing the business. Remember, people will work harder when they love the people they work for.

Erin Hamp and her husband, Leroy, are the owners of Chem-Dry in Greater Dayton, Ohio. Leroy a heavy metal bandmate and Erin a former children’s pastor, the Hamps were strangers to the carpet and upholstery cleaning industry when they started their entrepreneurial journey in 2017 as co-owners before fully owning the business in January of 2018. Their process in the first year and the past four years in business left them with key takeaways for continuing to learn the tricks of the trade and drive results that have led to year-over-year growth and strong performance. If you are interested in becoming a Chem-Dry franchisee, you can visit

Navigating business stock image by Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock

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