Home Maintenance: More Than Just Marigolds

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With more people delegating cleaning, gardening and home maintenance to others, there are real business opportunities to be had – and you don’t need to put on the Marigolds!

From Civvy Street #45 (March 2014), Words: Paul F. Cockburn

Home is where the heart is, so they say, but any home requires a certain amount of ongoing work to keep it safe and snug. According to a report published by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in 2011, UK consumers spend around £27 billion a year on home improvements, maintenance and repairs, covering “a wide range of internal and external services such as plumbing, kitchens and bathrooms, decorating, roofing and guttering”.

Not everyone wants to do this kind of work themselves; nor is everyone in a position (whether in terms of skills, or ability) to do so. While this may be bad news for the nation’s DIY stores, it’s good news for you, as it shows there are a host of business opportunities out there. (Indeed, that same OFT report estimated that at least 148,000 businesses are operating in the UK’s home improvements and repairs market.)

Home maintenance is the basis for a significant proportion of franchises in the UK. At least some of these will have an obvious appeal if you’ve had a trades background in the Armed Forces; but don’t think that you’ll have to automatically put on the marigolds when it comes to home cleaning; you might be best suited to running – rather than doing – the business.

TRADE SECRETS

Former Royal Navy technician, Paul Cordingley spent 14 years sailing the world in frigates, but today you’ll find him in his van driving around the west Midlands, helping ensure that customers don’t asphyxiate or electrocute themselves with unsafe or incorrectly installed gas and electrical equipment. Leaving the Navy around 10 years ago, Paul was anxious to be his own boss, but wanted to use his existing technical expertise.

He was also attracted to the levels of business support that franchising offered, so visited a franchise exhibition. “I returned with four carrier bags full of stuff,” he explains, “but only gas-elec Safety Inspection seemed to tick all the boxes. My Navy experience of working on everything from hydraulics and air conditioning to electronics and gas turbines gave me plenty of qualifications and a really good basic knowledge to bring to the gas-elec franchise.”

gas-elec franchisees conduct safety checks on household appliances, chiefly in the buoyant and growing lettings market. This has helped Paul’s business grow despite a difficult economic landscape. “Overall the recession hasn’t affected me as the lettings market is one sector that is growing, as is completing safety inspections on properties that are re-possessed prior to being re-let,” he says. “And as 70% of the 15 to 25 gas appliances that fail safety inspections each month are gas fires, I believe my future with gas-elec will be going from strength to strength.”

PEOPLE SKILLS

It’s not just people with obvious trades skills who are leaving the Armed Forces, though. Chances are you’ll have the kind of ‘people skills’ that franchisors in the home maintenance and repair sectors are crying out for. Just ask Pam Bader OBE.

She’s the CEO of Molly Maid, the UK’s leading domestic cleaning company, and, when it comes to their franchisees, she’s looking for managers. “The business is all about people, both customers and staff,” she explains. “The ability to confidently deal with people of all backgrounds is a big asset as our franchisees will be dealing with them daily.

“Everything else can be taught – business systems, operations, how to manage the day-to-day details – but people skills is not something that can be easily found,” she adds. “It’s important to us that our franchise owners are not shy and retiring; when you run your own business, you need to be the face of the business. A professional appearance and a willingness to drive the business forwards are key skills. And not forgetting common sense, of course!”

Pam accepts that some Service-leavers might overlook the potential of a Molly Maid franchise. “Sometimes, I think they assume that it’s a small business that our franchisees run,” she says, “but we have a huge range in our network. Our top franchisees take thousands of pounds per week and can earn £70-80,000 per year. A business of that size requires very professional management; you’re likely to have more than 30 staff and hundreds of customers. It’s a challenge.”

THE NEXT STEP

Pam believes that Molly Maid can be an ideal business for Service-leavers looking for a fresh challenge. “We have a system and brand established over many, many years and we know how to train people to quickly build a robust franchise based on repeat business,” she adds. “All our eggs aren’t in one basket or one big contract, and cash-flow isn’t an issue as people pay at the time of a clean.

“Sometimes, perhaps, Service-leavers don’t immediately realise that the personal courage they have demonstrated in the Forces is just as important to succeed with franchises like ours, and that it can offer them the right opportunity to develop their own business and be in charge of their own destiny,” she says. “In my experience, their eagerness to learn new systems and adapt to them is present in abundance and it’s something that is a huge part of business success.

“You’re not just wearing one hat as a business owner,” she insists. “You might be dealing with customer care one minute and purchasing the next. It requires a keenness to learn to adapt and those are skills we’ve seen in our own franchisees with a Military background. The ability to think on your feet is something else we see time and again. Allied to tenacity, a strong work ethic and the boundless energy needed to succeed as a franchisee, that’s an enviable skill set that is much in demand in the sector.”

MORE:

BRITISH FRANCHISE ASSOCIATION – 01235 820470, www.thebfa.org

GAS-ELEC (FRANCHISING) – 0800 015 2030, http://gas-elec.co.uk/Franchise-Opportunities.html

MOLLY MAID (FRANCHISING) – 0800 500 950, www.mollymaid.co.uk/franchise-opportunities/free-information-pack.aspx