Spruce up your life with a cleaning franchise

Cleaning and maintenance franchise opportunities have always enjoyed great popularity as they provide services that will never go out of fashion.

The recession may have hit some businesses harder than others, but cleaning and maintenance will always be an important part of everyone’s lives whether it’s for the home or the workplace.

In the UK, the cleaning industry brings in billions of pounds a year and, to cope with this demand, there are now a large variety of different franchise opportunities in this sector, with the main ones being domestic cleaning and commercial cleaning.

Anne Blee, Marketing Director at Ovenclean, explains: “Cleaning and maintenance franchises have the advantage of providing repeat services to regular customers, so delivering a more predictable income with fewer peaks and troughs, rather than offering one-off, ad-hoc or seasonal services.”

When investigating a franchise opportunity, you should not only look at a brand’s track record and how strong its ongoing marketing support is, but also look carefully at market size and market potential.

“Virtually every business and household needs cleaning and maintenance, but in some specific service areas the marketplace is already very well served by a large number of competing providers,” adds Anne. “What sets Ovenclean apart in this respect is a very large domestic oven cleaning marketplace, which is virtually untapped.

“Recent national research found that over 22 per cent of people interviewed didn’t even know that professional oven cleaning services existed, while among those who were aware of the service, twice the number recognised the Ovenclean brand name over the next best known competitor, and 100 per cent of those who had used Ovenclean before said that they rated the service as excellent, would use it again and would recommend Ovenclean to others.”

The domestic cleaning market is a major player in the UK’s franchise industry and, according to a recent MORI poll commissioned by Molly Maid, is currently worth over £1.6 billion pounds with more than 1.5 million (six per cent) of British households being amenable to or employing some sort of help in the home.

“There are more households where both partners are at work and as a result they have no time to do the cleaning,” says Pam Bader, OBE, Chief Executive at Molly Maid.

“Our market is more resilient because unlike a lot of other sectors it is a service that people will always want as dust never stops falling! Having a professional maid service has become an affordable necessity and because time is now such a precious commodity it is seen as offering real value.”

However, with such a burgeoning market there will be lots of franchise offerings, so conducting lots of research is vital. Remember, customers will be reluctant to buy a cleaning service from a company that they have never heard of.

“A strong brand makes for a strong business and trusting customers who will pay a premium for a brand name with an excellent image or reputation,” adds Pam.

Going hand in hand with the strong brand, the franchisor will usually have been established in the UK for a long time.

“This is important because the longer they have been operating,” Pam emphasises, “the more experience they have gained and the more expert guidance you will get and the more secure you will feel.”

Also crucial when choosing a franchise is that the investor should feel comfortable with those who will be providing the support on a daily basis for the duration of the franchise.

“The franchise owner should be looking for a culture and an organisation that suits them,” explains Pam. “It’s very important that they get on with the people in the central office and they feel that they can work with them on a daily basis.”

Marcelle Ingrouille, Head of Franchising at ServiceMaster which includes the Merry Maids and TruGreen brands, agrees with Pam’s advice, while adding: “They should look into what support and services are provided by the franchisor, both initially and ongoing. For example they should find out what training and marketing is available such as corporate deals for advertising, professional products and equipment.”

Marcelle also advises that prospective franchise owners should be aware of the different types of fee structures a franchisor may offer and what this means for them.

“This may be a fixed monthly rate or a percentage based on the turnover,” she explains. “It is important that a new franchise owner understands what each of these means and what is required of them in their chosen franchise.”

If you think that to become a franchise owner of a cleaning and maintenance opportunity needs previous experience and means spending at least the next five years with a mop in one hand and a duster in the other, think again.

“No previous experience is usually necessary,” says Anne Blee. “The beauty of most cleaning and maintenance services is that they are practical and straightforward to operate.

“However, what you will need is a determination to work hard, the self-discipline to organise your time effectively and, particularly where you are dealing with householders, strong people skills.

“A friendly smile and a courteous attitude is as important as a good service when it comes to securing repeat business and new customers through word-of-mouth recommendation.”

Marcelle Ingrouille agrees: “We look for individuals who will develop and manage their own business rather than actually doing the cleaning themselves.

“A background in management, business and people skills is an advantage, however, Merry Maids franchise owners need to be motivated with a proactive attitude. Ultimately, it is that ‘I care’ and ‘I can do’ approach that we look for. Merry Maids franchise owners understanding the importance of quality of service and having a commitment to following the system is a vital attribute to being a successful Merry Maids franchise owner.”

Pam Bader, of Molly Maid, adds: “Molly Maid franchise owners are not expected to carry out the cleaning because we are a management franchise and the role of a Molly Maid franchise owner is to employ staff who carry out the cleaning service within an exclusive area.”

Cleaning and maintenance business opportunities often have low overheads, as you will operate from home and won’t need to buy lots of stock means that if you invest in this kind of franchise – and follow the franchisor’s business model – you can usually run at a profit faster than other opportunities and have relatively few cashflow problems.

Once successfully established, there are no limits to how large a franchise owner may want to expand their cleaning and maintenance business.

Anne Blee explains: “Most cleaning and maintenance services are often mobile, vehicle-based operations, which means they tend to be more affordable, with low overheads and high flexibility, as well as being scaleable. Franchise owners can start as a single ‘man and a van’ operator but have the opportunity, should they wish, to build their business into a multi-vehicle management franchise.”

Many cleaning franchises have such success stories in their network, with Pam Bader giving just one example: “Our biggest franchise has a sales turnover in excess of £660,000, has 14 Molly Maid cars and over 30 staff and the business continues to grow from strength to strength and has set a high standard for others in the network to aspire to.”

Reported by Fraser McKay