If you live in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, the Okanagan Valley, Edmonton or Sudbury, you may have noticed a growing number of gorillas on your streets over the past year. Okay, not actual gorillas. But after seeing Gorilla Property Services’ staff decked out in their trademark monkey-chest shirts, you’d be forgiven for looking twice.
And really, those second looks are exactly what CEO Mark Amery wants when people come across the commercial and residential property maintenance company he started in Vancouver more than four years ago. “We want people to remember us,” he says. “When we show up to a job site, it’s not some guy in an unmarked truck, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. We have the gorilla vehicles, the shirts, the lawn signs. Kids love it, and people wave and laugh. So it creates a fun atmosphere, and that’s a big thing that sets us apart from our competitors.”
Another big thing that sets the company apart is its rate of growth. Gorilla Property Services just started franchising in May 2016 with the opening of its second location in Vancouver, and already it has added four more franchises. By the end of 2017, Amery hopes to triple that number.
The concept: all-in-one gorillas
Some property maintenance companies claim to be the fastest pressure washers out there, or experts at graffiti removal, but Gorilla Property Services is all about providing a full range of options to its customers, whether that be a one-time service or recurring ones throughout the year. Its seven specialty services include gutter cleaning, graffiti removal and prevention, pressure washing, roof cleaning and moss removal, snow clearing and salting, window cleaning, and property maintenance.
Though the company is relatively new, those services are anything but for Amery. Since graduating from high school more than 20 years ago, he’s worked in the pest control and property maintenance industries, and he even launched his own pest control and property maintenance company in the mid-2000s. That company was so successful that he sold it when he was 36 years old. He thought he’d retire, but he was wrong. “I have five little girls under 13, so staying at home was kind of driving me insane,” he says with a laugh.
Amery launched Gorilla Property Services in November 2012 in Vancouver, always with the intention to franchise it. “I was always fascinated by franchises and how growth comes that way,” he says. “So from day one, we started tailoring it towards that, and then after three years, the growth was there. We were doubling and tripling in revenue each year, and we had worked out all the tweaks.”
The franchisees: hands-on, looking to grow
One of the tweaks they had to work out when they started franchising was how to go about marketing the opportunity to potential franchisees. After trying a few different options, Amery and his start-up team found that using the Canadian Franchise Association’s resources – particularly its trade shows – works the best. One reason being that that those resources allow them to focus their search on the right type of franchisees. “It’s not designed to sell to an investor who’s going to buy 20 units,” says Amery. “That’s not what we’re about.”
Instead, they’re about finding individuals who may have some property maintenance or hands-on experience, and who aren’t afraid to throw on a monkey hat and get their hands dirty. In other words, not necessarily the suit-and-tie type. Amery says they’re also looking for franchisees who want to start with one franchise, but are interested in others, too.
One franchisee they didn’t have to look hard for was Andres Morin, who had worked with Amery in Vancouver for two years before starting the Sudbury/North Bay franchise in September 2016. The benefits of being a franchisee within this system have been many, he says. “For one, it’s fairly easy to manage a small business like this, and it gives you the opportunity to make a good living. Also, business has been really good, and this is a company that’s growing really, really fast.”
Other benefits are the profit margins, which Amery says are 70 to 80 per cent, and the start-up fee, which is $40,000 and includes the franchise fee, equipment, training, clerical and marketing services, and even vehicle wrapping. That fee also includes the Gorilla Call Centre service, which takes calls, inquiries, emails, and leads for all territories and sends them to franchisees. Plus, because the company is just hitting its stride, new franchisees practically have their pick of territories across the country.
The support: all-inclusive, 24/7
Once Amery and his team find the right franchisee, they send them to the Gorilla headquarters in Vancouver for a 10-day training session that can be extended if the new gorilla needs further training. There they learn everything from the sales process and safety procedures to customer service and accounting, and even how to strategically park the vehicles.
Then it’s off to another two-day training session, this time with the “online Gorilla,” to learn everything about the online app that franchisees use to virtually run the business and do everything from order clothing to price a job.
That app also plays a role in the ongoing support that Amery’s team provides once gorillas are out in the wilds of their own territory. “Say they have a question about a window or gutter,” says Amery. “They can just hit the Skype button and it goes right to the office or another technician, and they can get an answer. And it’s instant. It’s not ask a question, get an answer a week later. It’s ask a question, get an answer right then.”
Franchisee Andres Morin has found that support – particularly Amery’s – to be a godsend during his first year. “Mark is just awesome. He calls or emails every week to see how things are going. If I need supplies, for example, I will send him a few pictures and he will suggest some price ranges. And if I call him and he is in a meeting or something, he will call me right after.”
That support is available 24/7, with franchisees able to call 1-844-GORILLA any time for anything they need.
The future: 100 units in Canada and beyond
If five franchises in a year wasn’t a good indication of Gorilla Property Services’ bright future, how about the plan for 2017, which is to launch 12 additional franchises by the end of the year? Based on the rate of growth so far, Amery thinks they’ll easily hit that number by mid-summer. Then, their eyes will look to expansion throughout Canada in 2018 and, in 2019, to that great ape of a market south of the border.
Within 10 years, Amery hopes to have at least 100 franchises in the system. Perhaps some of Gorilla’s franchisees will also become franchisees of Amery’s next venture – a pest control company – which may have launched by the time you read this. “I want to offer that to the franchisees who are here right now. It’ll almost be like an add-on, and because everything is pretty much the mirror image of Gorilla — the layout, the app — it’ll be a good piggybacking.”
So what does Amery think will be key to realizing his bold hopes for the company? “Just keeping doing what we’re doing: supporting the franchisees, making sure they’re happy, and servicing our customers the best ways we know how. Because if you don’t service your customers right, somebody else will.”
By Jordan Whitehouse