Merry Maids franchise becomes a family affair

Merry Maids Stafford franchise owners Ian and Barbara Roberts are hoping to be named British Franchise Association/HSBC Franchisee of the Year 2012, when the winners are announced on October 4

Husband and wife team Ian and Barbara Roberts have seen their Merry Maids franchise go from strength to strength in the 16 years since they launched their Stafford franchise, and hope that being named Franchisee of the Year will be the icing on the cake.

Ian and Barbara decided to start their own business when they found it difficult to find a cleaner for their own house.

Ian explains: “Having researched the market, Barbara discovered Merry Maids and was encouraged by the level of support available from the franchisor, ServiceMaster, especially as she had no experience of owning and running a business.”

Barbara launched the franchise from the couple’s garage and used their back bedroom as an office. Their client base swiftly grew and after just 12 months, their success allowed them to invest in a second territory.

When Ian was made redundant he joined Barbara full-time, managing the satellite business.

“We quickly grew our second territory, just as I was invited back into the corporate sector,” says Ian. “At this point, it was rewarding to see one of her maids take up the reins to manage the business for several years.

“In 2010, I once again found myself faced with redundancy; however the sudden retirement of the Manager, due to ill-health, meant I was managing the business overnight. It quickly became clear there was potential for business growth, and, with the help of a great team of Merry Maids professionals and a lot of hard work, our business grew substantially in 2011-12.”

This year saw the couple joined by their daughter, who has rapidly assumed day-to-day responsibility and opened up new opportunities to grow the business further.

“One of the biggest factors to our success has been our staff,” says Ian. “They are also our biggest investment as they deliver the service to our customers. We want them to feel proud of their achievements and we acknowledge them with the accolades we receive. We invest time in training, and 2012 has seen the beginning of a re-training programme for our staff to both maintain and improve on our already high standards.

“We also reward length of service on an annual basis, with service pins to instil a sense of pride and loyalty among our team. In an industry that traditionally has had very high levels of staff turnover, we’re rewarded with staff who’ve been with us for seven years and more.

“In analysing our business’s success, there are several areas which stand out. These are particular to franchising, especially in the service sector and we work hard to apply them consistently and thoroughly. We follow the franchise model, we offer a service – delivered by people – so we train our people. As a franchise, we enjoy the sharing of experience with other Merry Maids franchise owners, and our experience allows us to impart knowledge and mentor younger businesses.”

While Ian and Barbara have won several Merry Maids awards, their nomination as finalists in the bfa/HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards 2012 represents perhaps the greatest recognition so far for their business.

Ian concludes: “We are proud to be finalists and are thrilled to recognise the efforts of our team which have brought us to this position. Our success has validated our choice of a fantastic franchisor to support us in our business venture. We would not have made it without the great support of ServiceMaster.”

Written by Fraser McKay