What’s it like to work in a franchise business? Bill Grant of Merry Maids in Inverness tells all…
After a career that has included ski instructor and retail outlet owner, Bill Grant 47 who is married to Catriona and has two young sons, bought his Merry Maids business in January 2008 and will be celebrating his seventh year of trading this year. Business is booming for Bill who currently employs 13 staff, has 180 clients spread over two territories and has seen an 20% increase on profit, every year, for the last 5 years. We asked Bill what the reality of working in a franchise business is like. From his office in north of Scotland, Bill says:
‘I arrive at the office by 8am at the same time as my supervisor and head cleaner Joanna. The first job of the day is to make sure everything is ready for the cleaning teams who’ll start arriving from 8.30am. We make sure all their bottles of cleaning products are topped up, that their cloths are clean and dry from the previous night’s laundering, that the job sheets are laid-out, the keys to our clients’ homes are removed from the safe and, most importantly, that all the vacuum cleaners are working properly.
‘Once the cleaning teams have left it’s time to hit the desk. My first job is checking emails, the bank account, inputting new clients into the database and returning enquiry phone calls. We moved to a telephone answering service recently to make sure all enquiry calls are answered quickly and efficiently; an unanswered call could be a client lost so it’s vital we get it right every time. Before I return a call, I’ll have done a quick check of other properties we clean nearby so I can say ‘yes we are in your area every Tuesday, shall I come over to have a chat about it?
‘Once the top line tasks are done it’s time to start working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business and this is the part where being part of a large franchise really comes into its own. Our marketing team at head office are very proactive and I’ve been working closely with them to develop a bespoke marketing plan for my business. On their advice I’ve had a vehicle wrapped in the Merry Maids branding which brings in approximately 12 enquiry calls per week. One of the best marketing moves I’ve ever made. We also do lot of leafleting, sponsorship and have recently started advertising on a major local roundabout which seems to be doing well.
The team at head office send all franchisees a six month marketing plan twice a year, full of great ideas of how to market our businesses; I choose which ones I think are right for my business then go online to our Merry Maids central website and order the marketing collateral, be it a flyer, hanger, reward card or gift which will automatically be printed with all my business details and delivered to my office. I find this so much easier than when I ran my own business, having to constantly come up with ideas then get them designed and printed. It’s truly one of the best parts about being part of a large franchise organisation. I also buy all our cleaning products online through head office; it’s great knowing we benefit from the franchisor’s huge buying power, getting products that have been specifically designed for Merry Maids cleaners at unbeatable prices.
At some point in the day I may give Pamela, our Brand Operations Manager at head office a ring. Pamela is there for all franchisees to call on if we need advice on anything from scheduling customers and quotes to guidance on day-to-day businesses matters. It gives me a great feeling of comfort to know such experienced people are at the end of the phone should I need advice. They also have a full HR department which is helpful if I’m experiencing issues with a member of staff.
My day ends at about 6pm once all the teams have returned, the cloths have been washed and hung out to dry and it’s time to go home to my wife and two sons where we might discuss our next skiing trip to the Cairngorm mountains which are only an hour away.
Would I recommend buying a franchise business? Absolutely, I’m actually recommending a friend of mine buy a Merry Maids territory nearby at the moment.
What advice would I give to someone looking to buy a franchise? Visit the franchise, ask difficult questions, go home and then ask more difficult questions. Don’t just believe the leaflets.