An eco-friendly solution: How Mike Kennedy co-founded a home ventilation company turning over $12 million

Home ventilation isn’t a sector the ordinary person often associates with entrepreneurialism, but that’s where Mike Kennedy has made his mark. Ventis is a home ventilation company that has tapped into consumer desire to find environmentally friendly solutions.

Kennedy co-founded the company in March 2011 with his brother Dave and long-time friend Blair Milnes. The three friends had been working for the same company in the ventilation sector for 10 years when they decided to take a year off to work on their own business idea.

Kennedy says their motivation was to create a “new category of product” which wasn’t well-known in Australia: Eco-friendly ventilation, although similar products had been popular in Europe for a number of years. The trio decided to design their own ventilation system and spent 2010 raising capital while developing a business plan.

Ventis sold its first ventilation system on March 9, 2011. Since then, its systems have been installed in over 4,000 homes, while the business has become a franchise employing a total of 150 staff. In its first year, it turned over $3 million and has since quadrupled its turnover to approximately $12 million. SmartCompany spoke to Kennedy about the decision to become a franchise, the dynamics of business partnerships and rapid growth.

Name: Mike Kennedy

Company: Ventis

Location: Brookvale, NSW

Morning

Kennedy says the start of his day is “child-focused”.

“I’ve got two kids, so I start a bit earlier and my wife tends to pick up the children.

“I tend to get to the office by 8:30am and we run three sales meetings each week. On alternating Thursdays, we’ll either have a conference call with all the franchisees or have a staff management meeting for the head office,” he says.

Kennedy says he works as the sales manager, with leads and interest generated by offering people a free quote.

“I oversee sales, lead generation and an appointment setting team,” he says.

Daily life

Kennedy says initial growth was generated through cold calling and door-knocking. While this still remains a major sales strategy, exhibitions and television advertising (helped by an endorsement from rugby legend George Gregan) now also generate interest.

“We don’t have a business without leads. We have a multi-pronged approach to sales, door-to-door makes up 70% of the leads currently, but this will reduce over time as our [brand] awareness grows in this category.

“TV now accounts for 10-15% of our interest and we also do home show events where, basically, we set up a stand for people who are interested in improving their home,” he says.

“The art of selling” is a passion. Kennedy often visits the franchise offices and also runs week-long training courses, which encompass product and sales training.

“Part of our success is that we can replicate what we do from office to office. We have internal administrative processes – CRM and ERP systems.”

Kennedy says establishing company wide, replicable systems are important, while acknowledging a need for systems to be agile and changeable, particularly in a fast-growing business.

This article continues on page 2.

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