Meet the Team: President of J & J’s Creative Colors International, Inc. Based in Mokena, IL
Kelli Bollman was on her way to becoming a teacher when she fell in love with the family business. After 27 years, she is now leading the charge and excited to be working with a dedicated team of self-starters!
You’ve been with Creative Colors since you were 18. Was this your first job? Actually, it wasn’t. Mom and Dad started the company and were running the business out of our house back then. At the time, I was going to college part-time to become a teacher and was working part-time in a retail clothing store. My true goal was to teach, but I was offered a management position at the retail shop and decided to go for it! Unfortunately, I showed up for the first day of work and the person who I would have replaced had decided not to leave, which left me without work.
And, that’s what led you to Creative Colors? Partly. At about the same time, one of Mom and Dad’s technicians was involved in a serious car crash that meant she would be unable to work for a while. I was home, so I kept hearing Mom worry about how she would be able to provide repair and restoration services to these extra clients. I figured I’d help her out, so I went through the training. It worked out well because the woman who had been in the car crash came along with me on jobs. I’d drive and do the repairs. She would share her knowledge and act as a mentor. By the time she was back on her feet, I had developed my own customer base and that’s when my career with Creative Colors really started to take off.
What was it like working with family? It was great! Of course, at the time, I was a teenager and there was definitely no calling in sick to work!
You’ve been with J & J’s Creative Colors for a while now. Do you have other long-standing team members? We do. There are two people who have been with us since 1986 and a good chunk have been here over 10 years. It’s a good job if you put the right effort into it. If you are motivated and focused on keeping customers happy, you get to set your own hours, you are mobile throughout the day and it’s never monotonous.
As you think about hiring new team members, what are some of the attributes that you are looking for? Work ethic is huge in this job! You have to be a self-starter because there’s no one to tell you that you have to do A, B, C, D all day long. You have to go out and find your own customers and really learn the business. Often, when I interview someone, I’ll ask if they had a job during their high school years. I find that level of commitment is a good indicator of a potential employee’s motivation.
What about those who are new franchise owners? What do you think they need to become successful? Again, they have to be a self-starter. I’m pretty honest in talking with people who are considering the franchise. It’s not easy. It becomes easy once you are a veteran and you have customers who like you and you’re earning good money, but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes perseverance and can be challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding once you get there!
Can you talk about the training and support that a new franchisee would receive? The support here is phenomenal. Part of the reason for this is because it is a technical business. Beyond learning about business ownership and how to find customers, new franchisees must learn how to do the repairs. It’s rigorous training! As they are getting started, we also try to get them introduced to a “big brother” type who can mentor them as they are developing their business.
What about team spirit? Is there much of that happening? That defines the whole franchise system! It’s where the strength comes in because you aren’t just building your own system. Everyone is working together to get better. We do have an annual convention where we get a chance to network and we often reach out to one another to get technical help too.
How about plans for the future? Where do you see J & J’s Creative Colors? I’d love to see us double our sales. My goal is to hire people to take over some of the work that I’m currently doing so that I can focus on developing the business in new segments.
And, what about the future for Creative Colors International overall? We’re in a huge growth mode, so we’re spending a ton of time supporting new franchisees these days. I’d like to be able to bring in more seasoned staff here too so that we can continue to grow, focusing on supporting the franchisees, training and new products.
Last question. Why repair or restore instead of replacing? Well, that depends. Certainly, it’s more cost-effective to repair something than it is to replace something, but there are other reasons. Often, things are of sentimental value to people, so they simply can’t be replaced. For me, personally, it’s because I’m just not a wasteful person, so I would always rather fix something: It’s better for the environment.