With a thriving economy and all three of its brands experiencing tremendous year-over-year sales growth, Service Brands International (SBI) is on their way to a record year. To drive that growth, the newly structured franchise development department at SBI has set a lofty, but attainable goal.
“We have a plan in place to add 100 franchise locations across all three of our brands in 2015,” said V.P. of Franchise Development, Steve Lajiness, during an interview from the company’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI.
So far, the company is off to a good start, adding 22 new franchisees in the first quarter. “Typically we would be looking for 25 new businesses per quarter,” Lajiness said. “The first quarter is usually the slowest for development. We are confident we will reach our goal of 100 franchisees by year end.”
Part of what could be attracting new franchisees to the Service Brands family is the effort the company has put into its recruitment, which includes enhanced and improved franchise development sites.
“All three brands: Mr. Handyman, ProTect Painters and Molly Maid, have built new franchise development sites,” Lajiness said. The department has also implemented a new SBI website that gives an overview of SBI’s overall culture. In addition, there are state-of-the art virtual brochures for each brand, a new marketing plan in place, and SBI continues to offer a lucrative referral program to its existing franchisees.
SBI uses a combination of internal placements through online inquiries, web listings, and other non-broker- leads, as well as through consultant groups who are working with potential franchisees.
“In an effort to ensure Service Brands has the strongest pool of candidates possible to make the company better as a whole, we really focused a lot of time and effort during this year’s first quarter on developing these systems to enhance the ability to attract stronger candidates,” Lajiness said.
Residential cleaning service Molly Maid started franchising in 1979, when the brand was founded in Canada. Now located in Ann Arbor at the SBI headquarters, it serves as home-base to all things Molly Maid—development, training, marketing, IT, and operations for its 250+ franchisees in over 450 U.S. territories.
“Typical Molly Maid franchisees are people who want to get out of the corporate rat race and go into business for themselves,” said Meg Roberts, Molly Maid President.
“One thing that attracts potential franchisees to Molly Maid is the type of brand recognition that has made its name synonymous with the entire industry,” she explained. “People say ‘I need a Molly Maid’ like you would say ‘I need a Kleenex’ when you’re talking about facial tissue.”
With plenty of competition in the industry, Molly Maid relies on its 30+ years of brand name recognition, and the trust they have built by performing millions of cleans each year. “We’re cleaning rooms that your best
friend doesn’t even go into,” Roberts said. “Clients willingly give the keys of their home to Molly Maid employees because it’s a name they have full confidence in.” Roberts said there is a need for the Molly Maid service now more than ever because the dynamic of the family has changed.
“Typically, families used to have a single breadwinner and a stay at home mom”, she said. “Now, a lot of families have two working parents, plus houses are larger than they used to be. People just don’t have time to clean because they are so busy.”
Molly Maid still has 200+ territories available. Roberts listed Phoenix, New York and Philadelphia as major centers where franchisees can set up shop, but also mentioned mid-market places like a Madison, WI, Baton Rouge, LA or Birmingham, AL where a franchise could easily thrive.
New franchisees get 8-10 weeks of training that is facilitated by Molly Maid Right Start training staff, and is primarily delivered via webinar and teleconferencing. Once complete, trainees travel to Ann Arbor for a week of hands-on training in the office and in the field, followed by a week learning from an operational franchise. For ongoing support, they have continued and reliable access to business development consultants, regional service managers and experts in online and traditional marketing.
Franchisees supply their own cleaning products and vehicles, and all of the employees pull out of the same commercial office location. Having all of their branded vehicles parked in one place during off-hours offers increased brand recognition.
Another Service Brands International brand, Mr. Handyman, has been around since David Lavalle founded it in 1996. SBI purchased it in 2000 and that’s when the business started franchising.
Like the name implies, the company performs major and minor home repairs, such as installing ceiling fans, patching drywall, completing tile work, along with building decks and performing remodeling projects, making them a whole home solution. On the commercial side, many Mr. Handyman franchisees perform work for commercial clients such as retail outlets and restaurants who rely on professional providers.
“People just aren’t as handy as they used to be, so it’s good to have a service like ours that can come in and do those repairs,” said J.B. Sassano, President of Mr. Handyman. “People tend to lack the time and the skills to do many necessary repairs, making Mr. Handyman a lucrative business opportunity.”
Currently, Mr. Handyman operates in 23 states, with new territories being explored daily. “An ideal franchisee for Mr. Handyman would be someone who wants to be active and get out and meet clients and drum up business,” Sassano said. There are franchisees up and down the east coast, through Texas and into California, and the company is eager to add more presence throughout the rest of the country.
“What makes Mr. Handyman different from its competition is the level of professional service they offer,” Sassano said. “This kind of service can be traced back to the comprehensive training programs they offer to new owners.”
The “Right Start” training begins with the new business managers from the home office. It lasts four to six weeks, and is a pre-opening program designed to help franchisees start their business off on the right foot. The next step is a week of training at the home office, which covers every aspect of running a franchise, from setting up the business to a adopting a comprehensive marketing program designed for ongoing success. Trainees then get to work in the field with current Mr. Handyman owners. This allows new franchisees to see established businesses in practice.
Franchisees have access to proprietary business management and scheduling software, on-site training, ongoing support from the Mr. Handyman home office’s operations team, marketing department, and IT staff, plus access to online, video, and print materials that offer advice, ideas, and help franchisees with skill-building.
In addition to that, they have access to a network of fellow franchisees they can reach online anytime to share ideas and support.
The third brand that belongs to the Service Brands International family is ProTect Painters, which was founded in 1994 and began franchising in 1995. ProTect Painters is a residential and commercial painting company specializing in interior and exterior painting projects. What new franchisees soon find out however is that painting is only part of the ProTect Painter’s story.
“The heart of it isn’t the painting; it’s the service to the consumer,” said Chris Ring, President of ProTect Painters. “ProTect Painters has been able to systemize the customer service experience as it relates to the consumer, including how the company is found, and how franchisees use their personal skills to provide consumers with a better experience than most others in the painting industry.”
ProTect Painters is in a unique situation to take advantage of the customer service side of the painting franchise market.
Painting contractors — regardless of how good their actual painting work is — often get poor reputations for their customer service. That’s where ProTect Painters comes into play, providing a stellar experience for the client.
“People don’t get their houses or businesses painted every day or every week, so it’s a big deal when they do,” Ring said. “They want the experience to be as pleasant as possible.” The franchisee is free to focus on the customer because they hire a subcontractor to come in and perform the actual painting work. This means the owner is completely focused on taking care of the customer. ProTect Painters has a comprehensive system in place to train franchisees on how to vet subcontractors and ensure they have all the necessary skills, trustworthiness, and licenses in place to work on behalf of their franchise.
The company has 70 franchisees who own 82 locations across the country. According to Ring, the ideal franchisee for ProTect Painters is someone who has entrepreneurial spirit, proven leadership and management skills, along with sales skills. “They should be customer service and detail oriented with exceptional communication and interpersonal skills,” he said, “So they can communicate easily with clients and deliver an exceptional customer service experience every day.”
Franchisees will not need to hire any employees, save for maybe some administrative support staff as they grow, so ProTect Painters is a low investment when it comes to overhead. “Running a painting business allows franchisees to have a lot of flexibility in their lives,” said Ring. “They can work their own hours, work out of their home, or be on the road and on the go while running the business.” Retired executives are often drawn to ProTect Painters as a franchise opportunity.
“People who love a lot of variety, love the business,” Ring said. “Painting also provides a lot of job satisfaction because people get to see the results immediately. Once the subcontractor is done painting the house or business, the franchisee gets to see immediately how much better it looks and gets to experience the customer satisfaction that comes along with that.”
ProTect Painters has sites available across the country. The states with the most franchises in operation are Florida, Texas, Minnesota and Massachusetts, with room for growth in those states and everywhere else. There aren’t any major metropolitan areas that are sold out yet, and there are close to 700 available territories across the country. “The need for a service like ProTect Painters is obvious,” Ring said. “Virtually everything gets painted, and the company is helping home and business owners protect the largest investment they’ll ever have.”
The training and support ProTect Painters offers its franchisees is an ongoing process. “Usually, when they (franchisee) come to the company, they don’t know anything about painting, which is fine,” Ring said. “In fact, the company almost prefers that because they want franchisees to focus on the customer service aspect of the business and let the painters worry about the painting.” Franchisees are trained in every aspect of running a business and specifically running a painting business, including how to estimate a job price, everything about contract law and dispute resolutions. They also learn the finer points of marketing, like helping them to understand the best marketing avenues to pursue in their local market. The home-office hosts franchisees’ websites and runs the lead conversion program that helps customers find them.
ProTect Painters also teaches its franchisees what Ring calls financial literacy. Trainees learn about margins, profitability, break even analysis, and the general nuts and bolts of running a business. Regional sales managers work individually with franchisees on a weekly basis to connect with them and help them achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. The company also conducts field visits in the franchisees’ territory on a frequent basis.
About 98% of franchisees run their ProTect Painters business out of their homes, and because it’s 100% web-based, all of their systems can be run from a phone or a tablet. “The company makes a conscious effort to try to stay up to date with today’s technology,” Ring said, “so franchisees can be efficient with their time.”
“We’re part life coach, part technical coach as it’s related to the actual painting itself, and we’re also a business coach,” Ring said. “We’re here to help them run successful businesses. That’s really the heart of what we do in franchising. We’re entrepreneurs who help other entrepreneurs be successful.”
The year of growth
Backed by efforts to attract the best franchising candidates possible, Service Brands International is forging ahead with its lofty plans for franchise expansion. Already on pace to reach its target, the company with its three brands: Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman and ProTect Painters, is set to make 2015 the year of 100 sales.