Is there such a thing as a low-cost franchise? For most of us, that’s an oxymoron.
Let’s compare the average cost of the most visible cleaning franchises. (as of this writing)
The lowest end of these established cleaning franchises is $18,000. Wow. Well, you might say, they say they’ll provide you with everything you need to start your cleaning business, right out of the box. This is true. And yet, when you look into it, that promise doesn’t actually mean squat nowadays. This is the information age, the day of the Internet. More on that later. First, let’s analyze the services that these franchises offer.
What do the franchises offer for these exorbitant fees?
Business Management Software.
You can manage your entire cleaning business using the free and simple-to-learn tools that Google offers, such as documents, spreadsheets and templates. If you choose to invest in an iPhone or iPad, you can find all sorts of useful business-management apps that cost less than $10 each. I have a friend who owns and operates a coffee shop. He places all of his over-the-counter orders on his iPad, using an app that cost him about the same as a cappucino: $5.
I would assume that this would include things such as - cleaning procedures and techniques, workflow methodologies, managing crews and hiring practices. These are important skills to learn and implement. Bear in mind that training in these specific skills were more costly and more difficult to find in the days before the Internet. Anyone interested in learning this sort of training probably would have had to attend classes at a community college and take a two-year course in building maintenance. Let’s be clear. There was a time when buying a franchise was the best or most useful way to start a cleaning business...in 1985. But access to the information superhighway has changed all that. Now there are better and more efficient ways to learn how to start your business.
Website and email services.
The Clean Up Now System gives you your very own professional cleaning business website and includes social media integration. You will not find a better deal with a franchise.
Email? Sign up for a free gmail account, or use the email account
that will come with your domain name. By now, most of us can manage to
set up an email account without paying someone else to do it for us.
Process your payments.
You can do that with a free PayPal account and put the button on your website. Payment goes directly into your bank account. Billing? Purchase an iPad for $600 and load it with business apps that cover all your needs: billing, scheduling, payment processing, bid sheets, and accounting. No exaggeration. You can run your whole business on an iPad. Add in all the other things you can do with your iPad and that’s $600 well-spent. With an iPad or iPhone, you can replace 70% of the things a cleaning franchise promises it will do for you.
Regional Service Managers.
Why would this be of any use? I don’t know about you, but I love bureaucracy. I just cannot get enough of it. Yes, I would like to add several extra people to deal with regarding my business. Could you please add someone who knows next-to-nothing about the specifics of my cleaning business, people who can put me on hold while they give generic “cleaning franchise” advice and babble on while I am left wasting my good working hours?
Written materials, audio and video tapes, CDs, webinars and e-newsletters. These are necessary resources and hopefully they are brilliantly done. There is no way for us to know, because no one outside of the franchise gets to look at and verify these resources. The Clean Up Now System offers all these at a fraction of the cost!
Again, that was a huge benefit 25 years ago during the mail-order days, not so huge ten years ago, and today? Today it sounds completely silly. Why? Because you can get all the marketing materials you need right online for a fraction of the portion of your franchise fee that is allocated for those materials. You can make your own marketing materials through interactive online builders. Have your office assistant make them for you. Your marketing materials will only cost you in the hundreds annually, not in the thousands. That’s what it would cost to have a franchise mail them to you as part of their deal. Print your materials at home, then take them to the nearest FedEx Office for inexpensive, professional-quality copies. This process will only take you a couple of hours, and will save you thousands of dollars.
Technical and administrative support.
Also known as a office assistant. You can hire one right from Craigslist or put an ad in your newspaper to hire one - in the early days that person will be you. Heck, these days you can hire a VA who lives anywhere in the world and works online. Why use one that is managing 20 cleaning franchises in your region. Would you not prefer to have your own employee that only focuses on you?
Timely industry and technology trends.
Yawn. Come on, who reads that stuff? If you wish, you can actually catch up on all the cleaning business trends over the past fifty years all in one evening. Do something useful instead, like watch football or DWTS.
Cleaning franchises succeed due to one crucial principle: Your fear of failure! This is really the only thing the big franchise companies can claim. They can relieve your fear and reduce your anxiety before you even start. Go to any of their websites. You’ll discover that their pitch focuses precisely on that. Then consider that relieving your fear and anxiety actually moves you no closer to getting started in your new business. You will still have to make that first contact, take that first call, do that first job, deal with that very first client complaint. None of the firsts are removed. No one but you can remove them. They are simply reinterpreted to make you feel better before you start, which is after you have signed the cleaning business start up franchise contract for thousands of dollars. P.T. Barnum would be proud.
But do clients prefer a cleaning franchise?
Some do, but the truth is just as many detest them. More than one-third of the cleaning clients I had came to me directly following bad experiences with a nationwide cleaner service. Among their issues: no shows, personal items stolen, dealing with different cleaning people every week, furniture, carpets and drapes ruined with bleach, shoddy work, and more. If this surprises you just bear in mind that with a franchise the focus is not on quality, it is on scale. A grand scale that you are forced to replicate in order to make the cost worthwhile. It’s about how many jobs you can get and afford to lose. It’s not about how many quality jobs can you sustain and maintain for years, which results in quality work, and quality working relationships, which are the heart of any good business. More about that later.
What have we learned about the reality of low cost cleaning franchises? That the low cost way to go is not to go with a cleaning franchise. Most of the services that were their exclusive territories fifteen years ago are available to you through smarter, more efficient services at a fraction of the cost. That is evolution, and it seems to have skipped right past the big cleaning franchises.
Here’s the thing. Companies that were once relevant but have slipped out of touch depend on peoples’ ignorance and fear of failure to keep their business model afloat. But in the day of the Clean Up Now System, there is no reason to be ignorant or afraid.
Do franchises ever make sense?
Yes, if you are opening a business along the lines of a car repair shop, you should go with a franchise. A car repair shop is a very complicated and expensive, risky business to start and run. But a cleaning business is not complicated, risky or expensive. Even so, there are far more single-owner car repair shops than there are franchises. Franchises only exist to cater to a certain personality type.
I will not even get into the controversies surrounding most franchises. Suffice it to say many of them do not deliver what they promise.