We're expanding our Face of Franchising series to include interviews! Here we speak with Kevin Drudge, Vice President of Franchise Development for AdvantaClean. Below he tells us about the origins of AdvantaClean, what sets it apart, the light environmental service market, what the company looks for in a franchisee, and its significant plans for growth in the near future.
First off, how long have you been with the company?
Two years in November.
Tell us about the background of AdvantaClean.
The company was originally founded in 1994 by our CEO, Jeff Dudan, in south FL in the wake of hurricane Andrew and operated initially as an insurance restoration contractor. While working as an approved vendor for insurance companies allowed for a satisfactory business, Jeff knew there were greater opportunities that AdvantaClean could service. Rather than chasing insurance companies like the other companies in the industry, Jeff changed the focus of the company towards the light environmental services market. The company moved away from restoration, fire damage, reconstruction and being tied down to the insurance companies. By the early 2000’s, the light environmental market had gained significant momentum as energy efficient construction methods that had been utilized since the 1970’s were discovered to facilitate indoor air quality problems, such as mold growth, contamination and other environmental issues. Being on the forefront of the industry, Jeff led AdvantaClean to quickly become a leader in the light environmental services market.
With a dual focus on residential and commercial properties, AdvantaClean began servicing more and more customers with light environmental service problems. As the company grew, the need for efficiency and centralization within the business model grew as well. To meet the need, Jeff and his team centralized all customer service and integrated the multiple AdvantaClean offices in the southeast onto an internet-based operating platform. The low-overhead, high-margin light environmental service business model was born. In 2008, the AdvantaClean franchise business model was made available to the general public and quickly has grown to over 185 territories operating today.
What makes AdvantaClean stand out amongst its competitors?
First, AdvantaClean is not a restoration business. One of the biggest differences between us and your typical restoration company is that most of the competition is used to processing claims for insurance companies, not identifying issues created by non-covered building failures and catastrophes, and solving them accordingly. Our franchisees are more specialists in lighter end services and not performing any restoration, remodeling or fire damage work. The restoration competitors are really more like general contractors. We actually get work from the restoration companies who will sub-contract our franchisees to handle smaller mold and duct cleaning jobs.
One of the keys to AdvantaClean differentiating itself from the competition is our focus on providing a best in class customer experience. We are professional, branded, and courteous and use an educational sales process with our customers. Most people haven’t experienced these types of issues before, so that level of service starts with our national call center that handles all calls for our local franchisees for service. They are highly trained and managed college graduates, direct employees of the company (not outsourced), and are professional knowledgeable of our industry. Anyone calling in gets a live person 24-7-365 who schedules the appointment and gets the franchisee to the door. Our owners just have to show up and win the job, and do so without using scare tactics or taking over the customer’s property, making them feel worse about a difficult situation to begin with. We then work with customers every step of the way to make sure they know what we’re doing and how we are going to help them solve their problem.
How would you describe the light environmental service market right now?
The light environmental service market is highly fragmented, but experiencing tremendous growth. Through AdvantaClean’s unique blend of services we are able to tap into four multi-billion dollar industries:
- Insurance Restoration Industry – with our water damage service
- Environmental service Industry – with our mold removal service
- Indoor Air Quality Industry – with our dryer vent and duct cleaning services
- HVAC maintenance/Energy Efficiency Industry – with our new HVAC Coil restoration & tower cleaning services
What factors are influencing the market growth?
The industry is being affected positively because of the large number of buildings and properties that have been built over the past 40 years. In order to keep up with demand and consumer buying decisions, building construction methods have evolved with all kinds of issues happening in buildings and properties related to poor construction methodology, lower grade building materials and more recently, energy efficiency in mind. The side effect has created a host of indoor environmental issues that are affecting people’s health.
The needs-based aspect of these services is also helping the industry flourish. These issues are popping up everywhere across residential and commercial properties and when they occur they cannot be neglected. If you think about the most recent downturn in our economy in 2008, finances, real estate and the economy in general plummeted. Foreclosures and commercial property vacancies were at an all-time high and still remain high. This has created more opportunity across these industries for these types of services. And these trends in building, construction and the issues they are causing are not changing anytime soon and certainly aren’t affected by downturns in the economy as a result. Properties are one of the largest investments people make and they pay to protect those investments.
AdvantaClean recognized this new market emerging to service property damage and indoor air quality issues that typically aren’t covered by insurance. AdvantaClean is capitalizing on this large market largely by ourselves, with no other company focused on the full extent of what we offer. We are professional problem solvers to common indoor air quality and light environmental issues inside homes and buildings typically not covered by insurance. Most of the major competitors are almost exclusively focused on insurance restoration services.
Describe a person who would fit in well with the AdvantaClean franchise system.
The ideal franchise owner is someone who can hire, develop and manage people to work on the production side of the business. They are comfortable in a customer facing environment since this business deals with both residential and commercial customers. They are also able to get out and network in their local communities to execute our 90-Day Plan and develop key B2B referral relationships.
We have all different walks of life that do this from accountants, IT, sales, marketing, lawyers, politicians, Harvard MBA’s, senior Executives, engineers and even entrepreneurs and current and former business owners. This business is a fit for anyone who is people oriented and cares about making a difference in people’s lives within the communities they serve.
How long does the start-up process typically take?
It’s a quick process because the business is home-based to start and we walk them through all of the steps necessary to get them open quickly. From signing the franchise agreements to opening is typically a 30-90 day process. The length of time depends on someone’s personal situation and how much time they have to devote to the pre-opening process. If relocation or employment transition is involved it can take a little longer and contractually they have 180 days to open from when they sign the franchise agreements.
What kind of support should an incoming franchisee expect from AdvantaClean during the start-up period?
I like to call it unconditional support. Extensive initial training, ongoing support including business coaching and technical support.
What does it consist of?
Extensive initial training:
- Executive Training (1 week)
- Technical Training (1 week)
- Sandler Sales Training (8 weeks - local program in their market)
Ongoing coaching and training
- Launch coaching – they have a dedicated Coach until they sustain $20,000/month (sustain = 3 months in a row). Working with them until they can demonstrate they can run the business successfully and hit the benchmark. 1 on 1 weekly coaching calls to help them.
- Growth coaching – after hitting the benchmark we have defined growth strategies to help them build their business through the various phases of its development. Growth coaches take over to help with how to hire, delegate, free them up for business development and get out of production, when to purchase equipment, additional vehicles, etc...
- Peer-to-peer coaching – weekly calls with peers with both the launch and growth groups of franchisees focused on discussing best practices and processing issues within their business.
- On-demand support from Home Office for technical support and business management
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to an incoming franchisee?
Don’t be tied down to production and hire capable technical employees who can do the work day-to-day and take on additional responsibilities with estimating and business development to free the franchise owner up to focus on managing and overseeing production and equally important on business development.
A large part of AdvantaClean’s business development strategy is our 90-Day Plan. This plan is a B2B strategy that focuses the owners on generating local referral relationships across nine different communities that are people and businesses in and around properties and buildings that would come across a need for our services. These relationships constitute repeat business for the franchise and represent the largest part of the marketing effort. Owners need to be free to go out and establish these relationships and maintain them going forward. With no one focused on this, the business won’t grow.
What’s next for AdvantaClean in terms of expansion?
We are targeting significant growth in the network. The entire US at the current territory size of 250,000 in population would amount to approximately 600 territories once fully sold. We are currently at approximately 185 open territories in just our first five years of franchising. We would like double our size within the next five years and hopefully fill out the US within 10 years.
As far as new products or services, we are always looking for additional ways we can grow incremental revenue in the franchisees business. Whether it is a new product or service, our focus is on anything related to keeping buildings and homes clean, healthy, safe and efficient.
Thanks to Kevin for speaking with us! To learn even more about AdvantaClean, please visit its profile page.