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Flat revenue challenges cleaners


Cleaning houses and businesses isn’t sexy, but with nearly $10 billion in sales across the top 16 franchised brands in the space, it’s still lucrative. The nearly flat sales growth, however, shows there is some stiff competition.

The largest source of competition comes not from the franchised brands, but from mom and pop operations on both the commercial and consumer side.

“Clearly the competitors that we go against are the price competitors, the independents, who are not organized and don’t have an organized or legitimate business. That’s the biggest competitor in our world,” said Colin Bishop, president and CEO of The Maids, who said customers sign on for organization that independent companies often lack.

“Our customers buy safety and security and the relationship with an organized service, that is very valuable for them. You have to be insured, you have to be bonded, we have keys to 85 percent of the homes we service. The first thing we sell is safety and service.”

While most brands would admit it’s not a technologically driven business, the tools they use are still a big step up from what the typical consumer or the majority of mom and pop operators or in-house janitorial crews can afford. Things like air purification and advanced dirt-catching filters are a major selling point for the franchised brands, especially for allergy and asthma sufferers.

Without competing on price, or wildly disruptive tools of the trade, differentiation among the top brands can be tricky. Differentiation comes for the customer via service. The Maids has invested in consumer-facing technology, giving customers the ability to communicate via email, phone or text messaging.

Jan-Pro sets itself apart from mom and pop competition with branded services, uniforms, employee badges as well. But where it separates from the rest of the top brands is via a master-franchising model. The brand empowers franchisees—mostly from the corporate world—with training to scale to a large organization. The model allows for the master franchisees to bring on hard-working but capital-squeezed small-business owners for as little as $950 down.

“If we can help them grow, give them tools to be successful then we’ll all be successful,” said Jan-Pro President Eddie Curry.

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