Case Study: ServiceMaster Clean franchise provides ideal path to fulfil long-held ambitions

By 2017, husband and dad of two Chris Blewitt was ready for a new challenge. He’d worked for 25 years in operations for well-known brands such as Twinings and KP Snacks, and had experienced the highs and lows that come with management careers in manufacturing.

“I’d always wanted to have my own business,” explains Chris, “but the risk always felt too great: leaving a good job when I had a young family to support didn’t feel sensible. Even when I was made redundant a couple of times, the focus was always on getting a ‘secure’ job again.”

Chris continues: “With hindsight, I think some of my resistance came from the fact that I had only considered going it alone with an independent venture, imagining I’d come up with the next big idea to take to market – I thought that’s what was needed to launch my own business.”

“That big idea of course never materialised but as I entered my 50s and the kids were growing up and beginning to stand on their own two feet, the urge to become my own boss became stronger again.”

“I didn’t want to just sit it out in my current career and wait until retirement – that wasn’t who I was at all. I still had a lot of ambition and wanted to achieve more than I had.”

Why franchising

Chris started to explore options for opening his own business and by October 2017 he’d been on a sharp learning curve with franchising. “I could see that a franchise would allow me to become my own boss but would provide a ready-made business,” he explains.

“I’d almost invested in a franchise that summer until an accountant friend of mine pointed out some potential downsides to that particular business. I then made the decision not to pursue it. I felt really disappointed as I was all fired up to run my own business!”

“I realised that I needed to really do my research so that I could fully understand franchising, and to explore franchises in a variety of different sectors so that I could make the right decisions. I knew that The National Franchise Exhibition was the place to do this, so I went for both days to make the best possible use of everything available there.”

Chris had a target list of exhibitors to approach at the event– “all sorts of businesses” across many sectors – and he also attended some of the free seminars. “The Q&A session in which a panel of existing franchisees shared their experiences was especially useful,” he says.

It was at the exhibition that Chris first met with ServiceMaster. Initially focusing on a domestic cleaning franchise, through his conversations with the team at the stand, his attention turned to the contract services and office cleaning offered by ServiceMaster Clean.

“It seemed more scalable and in line with where I wanted to go with my own business,” comments Chris.

Next steps

After the event, Chris kept his resolve to thoroughly research a final short-list of franchise brands, spending time at head offices across the UK to understand each business fully. This included ServiceMaster Clean. Chris says:

“In the end my heart said that ServiceMaster Clean was the right franchise for me. My head had already come to that conclusion, but I needed my heart to feel the same!”

“Everything added up for me, from the low cost of entry to the long-established brand and, crucially a team of people I felt I could work with.”

Chris agreed a territory with ServiceMaster and got the wheels in motion to set up his new business, from registering his company to opening a business bank account.

Training and support

Chris then attended a two-week franchisee training academy at the brand’s head office in Leicester. The classroom training covered all aspects of running the cleaning business: sales and marketing, operations, HR, costing and quoting for jobs, quality control and order management.

“I stayed at a local hotel from the Monday to Friday each week and key ServiceMaster staff also stayed there,” says Chris. “The opportunity to spend time with members of the franchise team and other franchisees which was as valuable as the structured training.”

While Chris was on the training course, his wife and daughter scoped out possible premises from which to run the new business. “We’ve got space in a lovely serviced office block run by the local council,” he says, “which is a really cost-effective option if you prefer not to run the business from home.”

Once everything was set up and ready to go, Chris took the chance to make some visits to already operational franchisees to get some final insights before launch.

“It’s a major advantage of taking on a franchise instead of going it alone in business,” says Chris. “You have a pool of like-minded people who are already running the same business – who better to learn from?”

In the spring of 2018, ServiceMaster ran a launch campaign for Chris’ new business – ServiceMaster Clean Durham & Teesside. This included marketing via direct mail and telesales. “That generated some initial clients and we’ve built up from there – week on week our client list grows.”

Life as a ServiceMaster franchisee

Chris’ territory is large, covering an area from Northumberland to Teesside with his home county of Co. Durham in between.

Chris’ daughter helped with the initial set up of the office in Consett, Co. Durham and now works part time on the business taking care of administrative tasks. The business employs 40 staff now and Chris enjoys the support of a part-time supervisor to keep everything running smoothly. Chris’ time is largely spent going out and securing new business, as well as doing operational work himself. He says:

“I’m master of my own time now; I optimise my diary so that when I’m in an area I’ll try to visit several client sites, as well as tying in some new business meetings.”

“I also get plenty of time local to my home. In my previous career I was used to commuting an hour to work – now it’s seven minutes because I could choose where to base myself.”

“I’ve sampled all the benefits of the lifestyle you can have as your own boss. I can do what I want when I want. There is plenty of work to do, but I can run my days as it suits me – the flexibility is huge and is an aspect which makes this a life changing experience.”

“ServiceMaster provide you with all the information you need and all the guidance, but this is my business and franchisees are free to run their operations to suit them.”

“You’re not set sales targets and you’re in charge of how you work, but there is plenty of support there when you want it, both from head office and fellow franchisees.”

Looking to the future

Chris feels that the franchise has exceeded his expectations so far and has allowed him to fulfil his aspiration of being boss of his own successful business – a business which doesn’t put a ceiling on his ambition.

“When you’re an employee working for someone else it’s often very hard to see the correlation between what you’re putting in and what you’re actually achieving, but when it’s your own business you see the results of your efforts – and it’s very motivating to do more!”

“I’ve already got a substantial business going in under two years. Based on how well 2019 went, if this year follows suit then I should have a very decent business in a relatively short space of time. But I want to continue to push on and grow – it’s not in my nature to stop!”

“With the ServiceMaster brand growing in recognition and my efforts with my franchise paying off, I can’t see an end in sight for the growth of my business!”

If you would like to find out more about franchising and ServiceMaster Clean, plus a host of other brands, come to The National Franchise Exhibition on 13 & 14 March at Birmingham’s NEC. Book your free tickets here.

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