DryLux Restoration, Guardian Restoration Partners
Year of Investment
Home restoration

Brothers Ben and Robert Horne started the Arizona-based restoration company DryLux Restoration when they were still in college, and spent their first couple of years trading off classes and service calls. Two decades later, they’re joining Guardian Restoration Partners, a new platform for water, fire, and mold damage emergency services backed by Alpine Investors. Below, Ben and Robert reflect on DryLux’s early days, why they partnered with Guardian, and what they’re looking forward to as both companies grow.

Alpine: Why did you start DryLux?

Robert: It started as a side job to help us get through college as debt-free as we possibly could; we were planning to go to dental school. We’d worked in the service industry throughout our teenage years—tile, electrical, HVAC, you name it. Then when I was a senior in high school, our older brother John bought a company that did dry-outs for water damage, and I begged him to let me help run it.

Ben: I’m a couple of years older than Robert, and I was on a two-year church mission at that time. I came home around the time he graduated and went on his own mission, so we traded places and I started working for John. But I was also interested in getting into restoration. Robert was, too, so when he came home, we decided to do it together.

When it was time to start applying to dental schools, I stepped away from DryLux, but I missed it. I thought, “Why am I chasing something I think I want instead of continuing to do something I already know I love?” So I quit school and we started putting all our energy into the business.

A: What was challenging about those early days?

Ben: The first few years were a grind. I remember when we were in school we’d wake up at 5 a.m. for class, work until 10 or 11 at night, then do our homework. Now that I’m 40, it sounds exhausting, but at the time, it was exciting. And we’ve never been afraid to work. Our parents always taught us that if we wanted something, we needed to go get it.

Robert: We figured things out as we went. We didn’t have much experience with the business side, and we couldn’t afford an office; we worked out of a truck, trailer, and our apartments. But like Ben said, we knew how to work. And we never gave up.

Ben: Absolutely. Trying to compete with bigger companies and convince plumbers to send us their valued customers—no one was interested at first. We were just kids, and we looked even younger than we were! But we stuck with it. If we weren’t working, we were out talking to potential partners, and we took every rejection as a challenge. I must have contacted our first partner, Mesa Plumbing, four times before they gave us a shot. I’ll never forget that phone call. It gave us the confidence we needed after months of “no”s. It felt like, “Okay, this can work.”

(Left to right) Robert and Ben Horne

A: Why did you decide to partner with Alpine and Guardian?

Ben: What drew us in initially was their focus on people. We’ve always believed if you get that right—the team, the relationships—and you’re ethical, the rest falls into place. We’d been thinking about finding a private equity partner who could help take DryLux to the next level, and we’d actually met a firm that wanted to acquire us. But when we got to the five-yard line, they reduced the offer significantly. We chose to walk away and wish them the best, and I didn’t want to try again at that point. But luckily, Robert said, “Let’s explore it one more time.”

Robert: I think it was meant to be. That experience was an education; it taught us what to look for. And then a former employee introduced us to Alpine. From the first call, they were helpful, they moved quickly—it was impressive how smooth and fast the process was. It took less than three months from that first conversation to close. And they did what they said they were going to do. It was actually a fun experience.

When mistakes happen, we fix them, and we try to treat our customers and employees right. That’s the reason we’ve grown.

A: What do you think sets DryLux apart, and how do your values overlap with Alpine’s?

Robert: I think it’s how much we care about our employees—they’re everything to us. So as Ben mentioned, we really appreciate Alpine’s PeopleFirst approach. The most fulfilling part of this job for me is helping people grow. We’re there to support when they need it, of course, but we want them to make their own decisions and find their own way of doing things. If they have an idea for how to do things differently, that might be better for all of us.

We also try to give people grace. If you’re with us for 10 years, that’s going to include some good times and some bad times. So we try to help our team through their bad times and rejoice in their good times, whether that means progressing within DryLux or going out and starting their own companies.

Ben: We’ve had a lot of employees stick around a long time in an industry that’s notorious for turnover, I think because we’re so invested in them. In service, especially restoration, there’s this attitude that people are replaceable. But we’ve never seen it that way. Our people do hard work, for long hours, and they’re good at it. We couldn’t have gotten to this point without them.

One specific similarity with Alpine is how much we both trust our people. I think that’s part of why the acquisition went so smoothly—when we had a question, our points of contact were able to make judgment calls rather than running everything up the chain. And as Robert said, Alpine does what they say they’re going to do, and we run our business the same way. We’re not perfect. When mistakes happen, we fix them, and we try to treat our customers and employees right. That’s the reason we’ve grown.

A: What’s most exciting to you right now about this new partnership?

Ben: These first couple of months have been really reassuring. The Guardian and Alpine teams are doing a fantastic job, and it’s confirmed for us that we made the right decision. It’s been different from what I expected—I had this misconception that the moment we closed, someone would come in and tell us what to do. But after the first week, I realized they’re actually relying on us to keep doing what we need to do. We’re just going to have help.

The GM search was a good example; they really tried to find people they thought would align with us, and they nailed it. Rob Ryan’s background is in software, not restoration, but he knows how to lead and he shares our values, so he’s fit right in. After two days, it felt like he’d been here for a year.

Robert: Yes; it’s been awesome. We definitely had a say in the hiring of Rob and of Jose, our controller—the Alpine team was clear about the candidates they liked, but also that they weren’t hiring someone without our blessing.

It’s also exciting to be part of Guardian. We were on a call this morning with Dry Kings, another company in the platform that has experience where we don’t and vice versa; we’ve leaned heavily on referral partners and they’ve done more SEO marketing. Now that we’re on the same team, there’s so much we can learn from each other. Those are the kinds of things that will expedite our growth and create new opportunities for our team.

Certain statements about Alpine made by portfolio company executives herein are intended to illustrate Alpine’s business relationship with such persons, including with respect to Alpine’s facilities as a business partner, rather than Alpine’s capabilities or expertise with respect to investment advisory services. Portfolio company executives were not compensated in connection with their participation, although they generally receive compensation and investment opportunities in connection with their portfolio company roles, and in certain cases are also owners of portfolio company securities and/or investors in Alpine-sponsored vehicles. Such compensation and investments subject participants to potential conflicts of interest in making the statements herein. Past performance not indicative of future results. Results may vary materially and adversely. Please see Alpine’s Terms of Use for additional disclaimers.
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