Alan Hansen's first job was in Japan, where he worked in the semiconductor industry.
Today, Hansen, owner of Re-Bath of Northern Nevada, finds many parallels to learning to speak Japanese and running Re-Bath.
When learning Japanese, Hansen carried a notebook everywhere he went. When he heard words he didn't know, he wrote them down. Later, he looked them up in his Japanese-to-English dictionary and used those words in conversation the following day.
When he first started Re-Bath, Hansen worked daily with a plumber and took notes about building codes, plumbing and the requirements for installing bathrooms. When speaking with customers in the following days, he would try to use that information.
He says there is a big learning curve from working with silicon components as a project manager to owning a bathroom remodeling company.
"When you are a business owner, you are responsible for 100 percent of it," he says. "When you have a job with a boss and work for a company that has different departments, you are responsible for doing your narrow job completely and accurately and well. When you are a business owner, everybody's job has to be done completely and accurately and you can't just trust that to anybody.
"You have to hire really good people. For me, the biggest learning curve was learning to hire people who were better at their job than I was."
Hansen, 39, has been a Re-Bath owner for four years. He purchased the franchise rights to Re-Bath in Cedar City, Utah, and two years ago he sold that company and purchased the Re-Bath franchise in Reno with business partner Michael Laub. The two also own a Re-Bath franchise in Spokane, Wash.
The northern Nevada franchise recently received Re-Bath's Best Franchise Operation award for the second consecutive year, beating out more than 200 nationwide Re-Bath franchises to win the award.
The award recognizes the franchise that has demonstrated superior excellence in sales, marketing, quality installations and customer satisfaction.
"We're extremely pleased with the northern Nevada franchise," says Dave Sanders, president of Re-Bath LLC. "They have achieved success in every facet of their operation. In the current difficult economic environment, the northern Nevada territory has thrived."
Hansen manages a staff of 15 in the 4,000-square-foot Reno office at 5580 Mill St., and an additional nine employees in the smaller Spokane location.
The economic downturn that rocked construction and remodeling companies throughout the Truckee Meadows provided the impetus for expansion to Washington. Hansen and Laub purchased the operation in 2008 as most companies were shrinking payrolls.
"We thought it would be a good time because even in a downturn people still need to fix their bathrooms," Hansen says. "We wanted to have a bit more opportunity for a bigger market."
The expansion proved fruitful: When business in Reno slowed during the last two quarters of 2008, it was ramping up in Spokane. Hansen says this spring the two offices have done almost twice as much business as all of 2008.
"It created a nice balance," he says.
Hansen expects Re-Bath of Northern Nevada and Re-Bath of Spokane will do $6 million to $7 million in business this year, and he predicts the companies will bring in between $10 million and $12 million in 2010.
Hansen says making the switch from technology to Re-Bath owner was one of the most-fun things he's ever done. He enjoys the one-on-one with homeowners and the immediate delivery of a product as opposed to the lengthy lead times spent developing products and extensive meetings with corporate executives.
"I never felt like I made a difference in an individual's life," he says. "The thing I like about Re-Bath is that we are right with the customers, making a big difference in their lives."
Hansen and his wife of 15 years, Yvette, were foster parents for 10 years. In that time the couple took in 30 children, including their daughter Jessica, who they adopted when she was 3. The couple also has two sons, James and Nicholas.