While some businesses thrived through the pandemic, particularly those based around a remote element, for a franchise like Molly Maid, which is all about going into people’s homes, it could have been a difficult period.
But Molly Maid president and chairman, Kevin Hipkins is proud of the way the whole firm responded to the challenge, developing a system of cleaning procedures which it has trademarked as HomeSafe that has been instrumental in capturing the huge growth being experienced in the cleaning sector.
“HomeSafe was a game changer in providing reassurance to our staff and customers that we could safely clean homes and has become a key competitive advantage,” explains Hipkins. In fact, he regards it as perhaps the firm’s greatest success story and a vital component of its longevity in a sector as competitive as domestic cleaning. “I think this has as much to do with the fact that the industry is so large and growing, especially after the pandemic and Brexit. But if you have a strong brand, great systems and care about your franchisees, competition doesn’t really matter.” As he also states: “If you can’t make sure your people can safely do their job you won’t have a business.”
Hipkins believes people are the most important aspect of any franchise business. And he has been working with those people for nearly 30 years now. He explains how he got involved: “A Canadian couple, Adrienne and Chris Stringer, were living in the US and read about the well-off in Manhattan who couldn’t find house cleaners and they decided when they moved back to Toronto they would start a cleaning company. Little did they know their idea would pretty much spawn an industry. I had developed some training courses for their Canadian Franchisees in the early 1990s and came to know Jim MacKenzie who was the real force behind Molly Maid. After some personnel changes, Jim offered me a job as Director Franchise Support. “I am a people person and I especially love working with entrepreneurial people. Business owners have a built-in mindset of getting better - whether its better results, a better system or a better process, and you feed off of this.
This mindset keeps things exciting. “If you enjoy the challenge and excitement of interacting with lots of different people and personalities, whether staff or customers, then you will do great at Molly Maid. Our job is to provide the right systems, tools and environment for them to succeed and to have their back when things don’t go to plan. Molly Maid is like a very big family. We watch out for each other, support each other and care about each other. This drives so much of what we do.”
Bossing the bosses
Thinking like a franchisee is the secret of being a good franchisor, believes Hipkins. They are, he says, quite self-assured and like to set their own goals and work out how to achieve them. That’s a large part of why they want to run their own business in the first place. Knowing that goes a long way in developing a successful working relationship with them.
Provide the right systems, processes and support for your franchisees to succeed and then focus all of your energy on helping them seems to be the Molly Maid ethos.
Changes brought about by Brexit and the pandemic have been the catalyst for some positive upheaval in the sector, according to Hipkins, which has seen opportunities created and taken.
“Thousands of cash-in-hand cleaners have left the industry, either because they didn’t get paid through the lockdowns or they have gone back to their home country, but all of the customers they were cleaning still want their home cleaned. The result is that our industry and business is booming. In my 30 years in the industry and working with Franchisees in Canada, the US and here in the UK, I have never seen anything like this.”
For those many newcomers joining the Molly Maid family, he has this advice: “Do your research so you know two very important things – the business model, including the sales and profit forecasts, and how well known the brand is. Don’t settle for second best with either.”
Maintaining standards are at the heart of most successful businesses and/or franchises and that’s part of the reason why Molly Maid has become a fixture in the Elite Franchise 100 - a status that Hipkins acknowledges as a valuable accolade or if we want to cut to the chase - the cast-iron blue riband of quality assurance that it is. “Being included with some of the best franchisors and industry leading brands in the country is a huge accomplishment and something that we aim for each year. It’s a powerful statement when your brand is associated in such a well-respected ranking and fits with advice that we give to all new franchise owners not to just take our word for it.”
After four decades in business, more than 450 franchisees worldwide and an annual turnover of £220m, it speaks for itself.