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Franchise Interview
Interview Date:  7/3/2008
Interview with Colin Bishop - Executive VP of Franchise Development - The Maids Home Services

Q:  This is Jack Burris with Franchise Works.  We’re with Colin Bishop with The Maids Home Services.  Colin, great to have you on.

A: Colin Bishop:  I appreciate being here, Jack.

Q:  Colin, you have a great concept.  Tell me a little bit about how your company got started.

A: Colin Bishop:  The Maids concept was started in the mid-‘70s, we owned a large janitorial or commercial cleaning company, and, throughout a number of years, we would always have our larger clients ask us to send some people over to clean their wife’s house or their house.  And every time we did that, we always lost money.
We had the janitorial side down to a science and very successful, but the residential was not the same.  We did this for a number of years and were just intrigued with it.  I think there were some changes in the economy, one being more women entering the workforce.  The duel income household was really ramping up in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Seeing what the future would hold for that, we started testing a concept, and it was how could we build a profitable residential cleaning service and then possibly franchise it.

We spent almost an entire year, I think 1979, on testing different concepts, really one-person teams to six person teams.  We always ended up with that four-person crew that we use today as the most efficient and most profitable.  And that’s how we started.

We started in Omaha, Nebraska.  The franchising part of the business really started in 1980, and we’ve been going strong since.  And we’re approaching our 30th year in business coming up here.

Q:  Well, that’s great.  I was going to say you’ve been in business for almost 30 years, so it’s definitely a tried and true business model.

A: Colin Bishop:  It is.

Q:  Now, I’m sure you have a ton of people interested in purchasing a Maids franchise.  What do you think the single best reason you can give someone to invest in your business is?

A: Colin Bishop:  When people are doing their due diligence on different industries, what gets us excited and really anybody that’s doing this type of business is the growth and earning potential in this service sector.

Our industry is still a young industry.  When we started in ’79, there really were no organized services out there, and today it’s fractured.  There’s just a lot of opportunity there.

I think the other part of it is the lifestyle that our model brings.  We’re in a high growth sector, but we work Monday through Friday, no weekends and holidays, and it really provides lifestyle, quality of life for our franchise partners.

Q: FranchiseWorks.comFranchise ownership isn’t for everyone.  What qualities do you look for in one of your ideal candidates?

A: Colin Bishop:  Great question.  People that have strong business management background and people skills.  We are in the people business.  We deal with certainly our staff and customers every day, and so those skill sets are important.

We look for people who desire to have great earning potential.  We want people that are looking for building wealth and equity in a business, and so that’s another piece that we look for.

And also, back to the lifestyle again, you know, the Monday through Friday just allows a better quality of life and provides a better lifestyle.

Q:  Tell me a little bit about the first few weeks and months of becoming a new franchisee.  There are so many different things to focus on.  Where do you really tell new franchisees to focus their energy?

A: Colin Bishop:  Well, that will start really on the on-boarding process where they will go through pre-training, which is about eight weeks of training in their hometown, daily contact and effort with one of our business coaches on the other end.  It’s really a setup and educational phase that we need the experience when they actually come to corporate training for 10 days, that that experience is positive.

So, it really starts with our foundation program from that point on.  We have things really tied to their start-up.  It is when they get back; they’ve already really hired their staff before they’ve come to training.  They’re doing additional training with the newer people that are there, and the marketing literally hits the week they’re back.  So, they can flip the switch and start the business.

Those next few months, there’s a lot of handholding and really going back over training.  We absolutely visit their business during that timeframe.  As they’re growing, you know, the support changes because the phases of business are gonna be different from a start-up to year one to five to 10.  But, that first year is critical about really executing everything the right way, and we have such excellent training program and support programs in place, that first year generally goes pretty easy.

Q:  I know you mentioned that you do visit the franchisee at their location within the first few months.  It’s definitely something that a seasoned franchisor learned over time. What are some of the other great support features that you offer to some of your franchisees?

A: Colin Bishop:  Each franchise partner in our system will be assigned a personal certified business coach that really works with them throughout their time, in this system.  And their job is to really work with the franchise partner on their business plan, their development strategy, and then every other issue that’s going on in their business, whether that is marketing, whether it is HR.  It’s every aspect of the business, they are one-on-one there. 

In addition to that, I have about 60 people at our corporate headquarters in the various departments that talk to franchisees every day.  It is what we do, that I think is the biggest support feature that we have, that ongoing contact and ongoing partnership with our franchisees.

Q:  Definitely.  So, from what I’m hearing, it’s much more of a partnership in business versus, “Hey, here’s your franchise opportunity, and good luck.”

A: Colin Bishop:  It has to be that way, and that’s I think why we have an exceptional culture not only within our company headquarters, but as well as in the franchise system, because we do really view this as a partnership. We’re mutually dependent on each other for success.  Another example, we have a sale center that the franchisees can use at any time, and it provides 70, you know, six hours of service, so people can use that full-time or part-time.

But, that first year starting up, there is a lot going on, and they can offload that function to our sale center and not have to go through a learning curve in that process.  And the ramp-up times are much faster. 

Our sale center’s closing at about 58 percent of the calls that come in we convert to business, and that usually does not happen if the franchisee’s doing it on their own, at least in the beginning.

Q:  That’s great. Competition is always an issue.  What really separates The Maids Home Services from other franchise systems?

A: Colin Bishop:  We have several models that we offer to a potential franchise partner.  I’ll start there.  One is an exclusive market.  It’s a community that has the ability to hold one large franchise with no other ones in our market, and so, we have a program for that.

We have a program for urban development, where we’re really cleaning vertically.  There’s a lot of wealth in the income and the demographic that we’re looking for in those areas. 

And then, we have more of an executive model, for someone that wants multiple operations.  We have some very large franchisees.  They even have crossed states in multiple cities.  And so, we have kind of an area development program for someone that wants to scale to a much larger size.  I mean, I think that is absolutely differentiation. 

I think where we focus on training and the technology that we bring in to this business is another one.  The National Sales Center, we have so many franchisees using that if not part-time, but full-time, and it’s a great benefit for them.  The number of support staff that we have at corporate, there is no company in our industry that has that number of support staff.  And so, we really invest in that for their success, as well as ours.

Q:  Oh, that’s great. And along those same lines, how do your franchisees win local business over some of the other franchise companies in their area?

A: Colin Bishop:  Our brand promise is nobody out cleans The Maids, and we have an exceptional model that has very high quality service, is what we provide to the consumer.  And that is a differentiation, but we go quality because we can retain people longer if we’re doing that service. That’s a number one. 

We also have our Healthy Touch Cleaning System, and no one’s really adopted either the healthy touch or the quality position in the market.  That really is a great trigger for people when they’re looking for service.

I think the last piece would be the additional home services that we offer.  We don’t just come in and provide normal vacuuming, dusting, kitchens, bathrooms.  We also offer a whole host of additional services like carpet cleaning, window washing, walls, garages.  You name it, we can take care of it.  And that’s something our competition typically does not do.

Q:  Like all franchise systems, I’m sure you have some owners that hit the ball out of the park and others take a little bit longer to get up and going.  What do you do for a struggling franchisee to really help them turn that corner and become successful?

A: Colin Bishop: There would be an early action plan if someone is going off the system or faltering, and that action plan would vary based on what the issue is, but there would be a team of people on that, myself included, again, depending on what the issues are.

But, our core value is exceptional commitment to franchisee success.  And when a candidate calls and validates with our system, that’s what they’ll hear is, are the things that we do for them not only as they’re growing, but in any situation that they’re in.

Q:  Not everybody can be 100 percent successful, but it sounds like, through the Maids partnership, you do everything you can to assist.

A: Colin Bishop:  Well, it is important.  Peoples' livelihoods are at stake, and we take that very seriously.  And again, that absolutely will validate throughout our system.

Q:  Where do you see The Maids Franchise going over the next few years?

A: Colin Bishop:  We spent last year in a strategic planning mode, and, we’re still at double-digit growth this year.  We have really excited franchisees in what’s happening out there, and we’re going to continue that.

We’re investing a lot of capital into development.  Our mission is really to own the industry.  What we need to do is have the coverage across the United States and Canada, and that’s really our focus is development, not only with new franchise partners but organically as well.  All of the initiatives that we have in place come back to that direction.

Q:  Now, I know that, as everyone has seen recently, that the market is a little bit shaky, especially with the upcoming election.  How do you think this type of economic environment is affecting your franchisees’ businesses?

A: Colin Bishop:  Well, there is no doubt that different areas are affected differently, but, we are not seeing huge drops.  We are lower percentage-wise than we were last year, but again still double digit.  In over 30 years, we’ve been through two economic down times.  And I’m not sure if we’re in a recession or not, but--like this before, and we’ve always grown, maybe not as fast, but we’ve always had growth months.  And I don’t want to say it’s recession proof, but the--you know, once people have outsourced the service, very few want to go back and do it again.

Q:  Do you have any final words or encouraging advice for somebody that might be on the fence thinking about The Maids Home Services?

A: Colin Bishop:  You know, we have an exciting business, and the potential is huge.  I think the process would be to get in and talk to some franchisees and ask them hard questions about the business, and ask them hard questions about the franchisor, us, and really take a look at the opportunity, because there is a great opportunity there.