By Kristi Del Grande
July 11, 2011
As many businesses and franchises struggled through the recession Boston-based residential cleaning service franchise MaidPro has come out ahead. Thanks to newly instituted efficiency programs, the company has seen significant improvements in several aspects of their business from a decrease in miles driven to an increase in productivity.
The Franchise Hound speaks with MaidPro Founder and CEO Mark Kushinsky about his company and how some little changes can make a huge impact.
Franchise Hound: Why start a cleaning company? It seems like there are so many of them available today.Mark Kushinsky: I had been managing a retail store but wanted to have my own business. I was always looking at new opportunities. After hiring a residential cleaning company that did a terrible job at my house I started jotting notes down on the back of a napkin. It really seemed like the right business to get into.
I opened MaidPro with the intent of not having it in a few years, so I really wasn’t thinking about franchising. At a networking event I met a few franchisees of other residential cleaning companies. We were discussing some of the training videos and software that MaidPro had developed and I realized that we had far better systems than some of these national franchisors were giving to their franchisees. I figured that we could franchise and probably do it better. We started franchising in 1997.
FH: What challenges did you encounter when you initially opened MaidPro?MK: I already had experience managing people so that wasn’t as difficult as it could have otherwise been. And getting the customers wasn’t an issue because there seemed to be a big need for cleaning services where we were located. My challenge was juggling all the details of running a growing business and clientele. When you’re dealing with 200-300 recurring clients all with different needs and schedules it becomes nearly impossible to organize without some type of software. So, we developed software to handle our needs.
FH: I understand that you have instituted some new cost-saving as well as environmentally-friendly ideas into the business.MK: We have. And it’s amazing how a few small changes can have such a large trickle-down effect on the rest of our business. Initially we wanted to address rising gas prices. We knew that just by purchasing more efficient cars we wouldn’t be impacting things that dramatically, so we focused on reducing the number of miles driven.
We developed a software application (called GreenRouting) that would scan new clients to find the closest neighbor. If someone in your development was getting their home cleaned on a Thursday then we would offer you a Thursday cleaning as well. Customers seemed very receptive to it and we dramatically decreased the distance from cleaning to cleaning. On the day of cleaning we were also able to route cleanings to shorten drive times.
We strive to keep the teams in certain zones by marketing to neighborhoods one at a time. That would keep our new client calls closer together and would keep our territory structured. Where our offices are located within a territory also plays a big role in distance driven. With all of our changes we were able to reduce the number of miles driven by 50%.
From making all of the efficiency improvements a lot of other things happened that we weren’t expecting. Our employees could do an extra job a day from shrinking drive time. So we were able to pay them more. It has reduced employee turnover by 20%. Our staff is less frustrated with less windshield time (time behind the wheel). And our job satisfaction started improving. On the business end of things we’ve been able to increase the number of cleanings we can do. It resulted in a big “A-ha” moment for us: The more efficient and environmentally-friendly that you could make the business the more ways it will help other elements of your business in the long-run.
FH: What are your long-term goals for MaidPro?MK: We want to help clean as many people’s home s in North America as we can and do it through our franchising network.
FH: Who is the ideal MaidPro franchisee? MK: Very few of our franchisees have run a cleaning service in the past. In fact, less than 10% have had prior cleaning experience. We have a lot of professionals who have come to us to open a business. We’ve taken care of most of the organizational aspects with our software and technologies, so I would say the most important characteristic needed in a MaidPro franchisee is someone that manages others well – someone that can manage employees and has a genuine concern about helping others.
FH: There are a lot of cleaning services in existence. What puts MaidPro ahead of the competition?MK: Our technical prowess; it has allowed us to attract the most entrepreneurial franchisees. We try to be very franchisee-friendly and allow them to keep their entrepreneurial spirit. We don’t restrict as much as others franchises might. And because we’re so franchisee-friendly, we tend to get a more entrepreneurial franchisee that enjoys the business more which, in turn, helps us to be more successful.
And, I like to say that the proof is in the pudding. MaidPro is the only large residential cleaning service franchisor to grow through all the years of the recession. All of our financials are audited and made public – so when you look at 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 you can see that we’re the only residential cleaning service to grow in all four years.
FH: What are the average start-up costs for a MaidPro franchise?MK: A Select market costs between $18,700 and $38,200 including the franchise fee. An Enterprise market costs between $71,600 and $103,900. The difference is the size of the market and the aggressiveness in which you’re planning to tackle the territory.
FH: What advice would you give to someone looking to open a franchise?MK: Know from the start whether or not you would make a good franchisee. Are you going to follow the systems of the franchise? If you’re going to do your due diligence and put all of the work into opening a franchise then you should be ready to follow the system into which you buy. Many people buy into a franchise to create their own business. They don’t take the time to sit back and really consider if they would fit into the system in the first place.
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