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A National Legacy

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Desert Sun

A National Legacy

Staff reports

The Desert Sun

Twenty-five years ago, Monty Walker and his sons opened up a shop to sell and fix screens.

Today the Thousand Palms company has grown to have 98 franchised locations in 23 states and is the largest mobile screening company in the nation.

Scott Walker, Monty's eldest son, is now the company's president and chief executive and spends much of time developing the franchise arm of the business.

Scott lives in Palm Desert with his wife, Nancy, and their children, Chelsea, 18; Dillon, 16, and Trevor, 14.

He recently sat down with The Desert Sun to discuss how Screenmobile has grown its business.

What is the core of your business?

Answer: The core of our business is quality window and door screens. We are a mobile screening company. We'll come out to the house and provide a convenient and comfortable service on what can be a disruptive home improvement project. We measure, manufacture and install all at one time. We are door covering experts.

What is your strategy to grow your business?

Our business strategy is actually very simple. We acknowledge that the only way we survive out here in the desert is from customers. And so our business strategy is to get and keep customers and offer then a quality service to the point that they will not just refer us but they will recommend us to others. Our whole strategy then is to provide a level of service that will get that recommendation. We have 10 touch points that are important to our customers and if we can achieve each one of those, then we should get a recommendation from our customers. We aren't the cheapest, but we offer the best value for the dollar.

We also have 98 franchise relationships from Hawaii to Vermont. We train them here and they must maintain operational standards and use our marketing materials. Our operations department helps them grow their businesses.

How do you recruit and retain employees?

Of everything, that is the most challenging thing of running the business in the desert. We pay them well and offer them benefits and we work within a team environment. We also do a lot of training to ensure that their deficiencies are not obstacles but opportunities. We also incentivize them with commissions and the whole team will get bonuses based on performance. We try to make certain that they know they are valued. Most of our employees stay with us for a while. I've had some employees here for eight to 10 years. Two of my previous employees actually bought franchises and are doing fairly well.

How do you cope with the seasonality of your business?

You clearly have to adjust for it. We encourage people to take vacations during the summer and not to take vacations during our busy time from October through May. Twenty years ago we just shut down during the summer. But now we switch our products in the summer to more sun screen and energy-saving products. And we also work with apartment owners, contractors and property managers who have issues during the summer in preparation for the upcoming season. We also work with the hotels and time-shares.

What is your advice on growing a small business?

Focus on your business, acknowledge your competition but don't focus on them. If you are in a service business you should always be making sure you are looking at your business through the eyes of your customers.

How do you juggle your personal life with the demands of your business?

I have three jobs. I have the Screenmobile, which takes up a majority of my time. I have my family life and I have my church life. So I juggle three all the time. It's a discipline. When I come home at night after work I really have to turn it off. It's probably one of the most difficult thing to just turn it off so you can give your full attention to your wife and children. In my life, it's God first, and He takes care of everything. My wife is second, my kids are third and then my business. If I trust God for what He has given me to manage - this business - my belief is that He will honor that and bless the business.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in business?

Trust your gut instinct. That means that even though something looks good from the outside but your inner voice is telling you to be cautious, listen because when I didn't and it came back to bite me.

How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?

There are a lot of good screening companies out here in the desert, but we are a full-service mobile screening company that also has a store so that we can get the customer who would like us to come to their home to provide the service but others who would rather come into a store to see the products. But the major thing that sets us apart is throughout our organization we emphasize that the customer pays for everything and if we don't treat our customers correctly, somebody else will. I let our employees know that I don't pay them, our customers pay them. It is the acquisition and retention of customers who return often and who will recommend us to others that is the key.


Glance: Screenmobile

Business Name: The Screenmobile Corp.
Type of business: Premium screening products and service
Owner: Scott Walker
Years in business: 25
Number of employees: 12
Address: 72050 Corporate Way, Thousand Palms
Telephone: 343-3500
Days and Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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