Niche Franchise Differentiates Itself from Competition, Success Ensues
By focusing on speed in an industry known for making people wait, one San Antonio-based franchise is making a favorable impression with clients.
Started in 2008, Fastest Labs provides drug, alcohol and DNA/paternity testing for clients.
“Primarily, we are business to business where we take care of pre-employment, random and post-accident testing for companies,” founder and CEO Dave Claflin said during a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, TX.
Although the bulk of their business is for companies, the company also performs tests for private use, as well as court-mandated tests. Fastest Labs can conduct tests via urine, saliva, hair and fingernails.
Franchising since 2010, Fastest Labs currently has 21 franchises with the majority of those in Texas. But the company also has a presence in New Jersey, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Colorado and Wisconsin and will soon be opening locations in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Indiana.
Claflin said there are locations available across the country and Fastest Labs tries to target metropolitan areas that are big enough to support a professional sports team.
“Anywhere that has an NFL franchise seems to be good fit for us because they are large metropolitan areas with a lot of well-established companies that need drug testing services,” he explained.
Fastest Labs tends to attract people in the 48 – 55 age group who have a sales and customer service background, Claflin said, and who have left corporate America to open a business.
Potential franchisees need not have any medical background, he noted, and, in fact, the company actually prefers they have no medical background.
As none of the testing that Fastest Labs does is considered to be medical diagnostic testing, that means the company can easily train and certify its franchisees for drug and alcohol testing, plus the DNA/paternity testing. Certification is good for five years and allows franchisees to in turn train any employees they hire.
“We give them all the training they need to do the types of testing that we do,” Claflin said.
One last trait the company looks for in franchisees is a willingness to be involved in the business. Fastest Labs only accepts owner/operator franchisees, eschewing investor-only franchisees.
The X Factor
Claflin said he started Fastest Labs after seeing a need for speed in the drug testing industry and speeding up the process has been the X factor that sets the company apart from its competition.
Until Fastest Labs opened, he noted, most people would have to go to a medical facility for a drug screen. At medical facilities people who are there for drug tests are low priority and often end up waiting a long time.
Since Fastest Labs are not medical facilities and they’re only doing a simple drug screen, they can have people in and out within minutes.
“We’re able to see people who come in within five minutes instead of the one to two hour wait like at a medical facility,” the CEO explained.
That speed extends to reporting the test results, too. Because Fastest Labs use instant testing kits that give them results within minutes in most cases, they can have test results reported back to the employer or whoever else ordered the test before the test subject has even left the parking lot.
And, along with speed, Fastest Labs also offers affordability because they can charge less than a medical facility.
Some drug testing—like that done for court—require the testing be done in a laboratory rather than by an instant testing kit like Fastest Labs uses. In those cases, the test samples are still collected at Fastest Labs, but are sent to a laboratory via FedEx for overnight processing.
Any drug tests performed at Fastest Labs that come up positive also must be forwarded to a laboratory for confirmation testing, Claflin said.
New franchisees come to San Antonio for a week where they get all their necessary certifications for the testing involved.
“They come in on a Sunday and they leave on the following Friday afternoon after graduation,” Claflin noted.
Some of the training is federally mandated, and some of it is lab-required. But, beyond the training for the testing the company does, it also teaches franchisees about the company’s business operations, how to sell the service, how to use the Fastest Labs marketing, service clients, collect on invoices, report results to clients and even how to enter it all into Quickbooks.
Fastest Labs helps franchisees pick a great location, but ultimately the new franchisee gets to decide on where their business will ultimately be located, the CEO noted, because we want them to be happy with their new office.
“We provide a full color floor plan layout so all of the locations have the same look and feel that our clients have come to enjoy at a Fastest Labs clinic”, said Claflin.
Along with training, Fastest Labs provides ongoing support and business coaching to franchisees with monthly conference calls and an annual general meeting in October that features ongoing education and awards.
Vice President of franchise support, Matt Curiel, checks in with new franchisees on a daily basis for the first six weeks they are open and then still provides as much support as needed after that.
“Ongoing coaching and support is a big deal to us,” Claflin said.
Entrepreneurs looking for a niche business that has perfected the art of setting itself apart from its competition should look into Fastest Labs, especially if their city has a professional sports team. But the business is not just appropriate for major sports team cities; it is set up to work in any city with 100,000 people and at least 7,500 businesses.
Fastest Labs runs thorough demographics to ensure there is a viable market before a territory is awarded.
“We made a decision that we are not just selling franchises,” said Claflin. “We award franchises to folks that have the vision and drive for what we do, not just the ability to buy one. We want to make sure that a potential franchisee is a good match for us and that we are a good match for them because we plan on working together for a long time.”