Goffstown business looks to set precedent
By ASHLEY SMITH
When Jack Child started his business in 2005, he had a simple goal: clean up a notoriously dirty industry.
Child, who lives in Amherst, was looking to start a franchise, and figured driveway paving was one of the only service industries without a reputable national brand.
So he drew upon his skills as a former military officer and commercial airline pilot, deciding to bring some much needed order to an industry fraught with a reputation for scams.
“The industry has long been abused,” said Child, also referring to the recent paving scams that have made headlines in Nashua. “The weaknesses seemed to present an opportunity.”
Four years after starting Black Dawg, Child's idea has taken off: He has sold six franchises since 2005 in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Child started the first franchise in Nashua, but has since moved the “world headquarters” to Goffstown to accommodate growth. He's out of the day-to-day operations now, and is handling marketing and growth efforts for the franchise. His plan is to expand throughout New England and the Midwest.
Child says his approach to the business was different from the start. He was looking for order – reliable people who showed up on time, clean and recognizable trucks and neat, uniformed employees. He also decided to guarantee his work.
By contrast, the type of pavers recently accused of bilking elderly people in Nashua out of large amounts of money for shoddy work tend to travel far and wide in hopes that they won't be recognized.
But Child admits that part of the success is also because of happenstance – he was looking for a name for the business one night when he happened to look down at his black Labrador puppy, Olive, curled up in his lap. From there, the Black Dawg name was born.
Unexpectedly, Child said he has received a warm reception from dog lovers across New Hampshire who recognize the dog logo on his trucks and feel a connection to the business.
“We have people waving at our crews as they drive down the road. It's an interesting phenomenon,” Child said. “If I had chosen any other name, I don't think you and I would be having this conversation.”
When Child launched Black Dawg in 2005, he had a sole territory serving Greater Nashua and the Merrimack Valley that he operated himself. In 2006, he sold a Seacoast franchise. In 2007, he sold the Nashua territory and started a new one in the Souhegan Valley. That territory eventually sold this time to an established seat coating company, Shattuck Seal Coating, which had been in business in Milford for more than 30 years.
The six Black Dawg franchises now serve dozens of towns in southern New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts and Connecticut.
However, the desire to grow doesn't mean Child will sell a franchise to just anyone. He screens candidates first to make sure they share his business philosophy.
“I'm really picky about who we bring on board with the franchise. I have turned people down,” Child said. “I'm just stuck on reputation. I try really hard to make sure my franchisees share the same mentality.”
Child also has some rules for potential franchisees: Everyone who purchases the naming rights must either adopt a black dog or sponsor one.
Child admits that not every job ends up being perfect, but he says the difference between his company and others is the willingness to fix it.
Recently, a customer had a problem with her driveway because it rained shortly after the job was done, creating a big mess. Child said he not only fixed the damage, but also sent the woman flowers to apologize.
“Thank you so much for the flowers,” the woman wrote in an e-mail afterward. “It was very thoughtful of you and I knew what people said about you was true and you definitely have a wonderful reputation in this town.”