The Maids Franchise Startup Failure
Business Management Demands
As we performed due diligence and talked with several current franchise owners, it became apparent that daily management demands would definitely be significant especially during the early portion of start up. For us, every day was a surprise package. We anticipated challenges with getting eight to nine dollars per hour employees to work overtime on a consistent basis, so we made the decision to open using two teams. Additional manpower costs were involved but this approach provided some "protection" against several employees being absent at the same time. Getting the employees to simply use their minds is an almost insurmountable task. Significant time was spent doing things like bringing supplies or equipment to a team where the team leader should have easily predicted the need.
Each day begins with printing route sheets which provides information to team leaders about their work schedule for the day. A short meeting was conducted in the office with the two team leaders during which the route sheet contents were discussed insuring that they were aware of any specific needs . Once the teams left the office, we began doing the typical things associated with operating a business such as entering information into QuickBooks, filing information, recruiting new employees and marketing activities. As I reflect on old requirements for operating the business, it seems surprising that our workdays were so full and so long. In retrospect I believe that the demands were a direct result of the uncaring attitude of the employees. Marlene went to great lengths to demonstrate support for employees by providing praise through posting comments throughout the office supplied by customers, greeting each employee when they arrive for the workday and being at the office to say goodbye to them at the end of the day. The last function was delegated to the field manager when one was in place. Since someone needs to be present when the last team completes their workday, leaving the office at 7 PM or later was commonplace. Operating a business where management demands involves working 12 hours per day five days per week is an unacceptable situation in my opinion.
Since we opened a franchise in a totally unrelated field during 2006 which continues to operate very successfully while in a stand alone mode, we felt that it was reasonable to expect the same situation with The Maids franchise long term. After reaching the point where shutdown was a foregone conclusion, I was talking with a franchise owner who opened his business approximately 5 years ago while attempting to sell one of our 5 cars. We talked several times over a period of about one month and I observed that he was spending full time working on the business. After this level of devotion became apparent, I asked him one day how he viewed his decision to invest in the franchise. He said "I guess if I were going to do it again I would make the same decision but I am not certain". This situation was much like ours. After a successful career in the business world, he invested well over $400,000 in his current endeavor. He said that during the second year there were numerous times when he wanted to quit but had so much money in the business that he simply could not allow himself the luxury. Since he spoke longingly about reaching the profitability point which would enable hiring a field manager, I've concluded that his current return on investment is less than stellar.
There are individuals who own The Maids franchises in remote locations and some who own multiple locations so it is obviously possible to reach the point where the business can function in "stand alone mode". This is strictly my personal opinion, but I believe all people in those situations started their business at least 7 to 10 years ago, reached a point of profitability enabling hiring of exempt supervision and somehow identified appropriate employees for those positions. Put another way, on the basis of our experience in the Houston area I do not think that reaching the point of being able to delegate management of the business to others can be achieved in less than 10 years.
When we opened our other business, we worked many 10 hour days, six or seven days per week but the difference was tasks performed were enjoyable. If there is a way to make performing vacuum cleaner repairs, washing and drying cleaning cloths, performing vacuum cleaner maintenance, delivering supplies to teams in the field and talking to customers (that no one could satisfy) enjoyable, we were not able to identify the required approach. I concluded that we were selling a "commodity" where the customer doesn't care about anything but price no matter how much effort is put into convincing them that the service we deliver was of adequate quality to justify the difference in price. We encountered customers who were determined to find a way to obtain a discount on the work performed. There were situations where I personally returned to a home with a team to resolve deficiencies only to have the homeowner described shortcomings after the second team effort. In one case the homeowner said that the countertops and his toilet had not been properly cleaned. When I explained that I had placed my hand on the counter in question and knew from personal experience that it had been properly cleaned, he acted as if he never heard me speak. Finally I said what will make you happy"? His response was, if we received a $100 refund I would be happy. In this situation the decision isn't an easy one. By refunding the requested amount to the customer, the job becomes a money losing proposition but refusing will almost certainly result in a negative posting on the Internet.
As we approached the end, Marlene made a comment which seemed to capture the essence of our situation when she said "it sucks all the joy out of life". Is any return on investment worth that kind of penalty? In my opinion the answer is "no".
Summary of experience
The Saga - Detailed Account Of Franchise Startup Failure
Is Molly Maids Equivalent To The Maids?
Demands of Managing Operation
Hourly Manpower Problems
Professional Manpower Difficulties - Field Managers
Franchises Do Not Fail - They Just "Go Away"
Need Money - Find An Angel
Selling The Business
Owner QualificationsSuccess Motivation