Next Generation in FranchisingSeptember/October 2019

Millenials in Franchising: Following the Family Footsteps

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Did you know that dish soap is a good remedy for soap scum in your bathtub? Or that toothpaste can help whiten grout? Or that the best way to clean a room is to approach it systematically from top to bottom, and then left to right in order to avoid missing anything?

Thirty-three-year-old Véronique Levesque, a Molly Maid cleaning franchise owner in Ottawa, provides tips like these not only to clients, but every other month on regular spots for the local CTV morning news. Not only does this initiative help get her recognized by existing clients and attract new ones, but the profile has likely had some impact on her rise to recognition as the franchise’s top growth leader in Canada for 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The Molly Maid franchise was founded in 1979 in Mississauga, Ontario by nurse Adrienne Stringer (and husband Chris Stringer), who wanted to create a cleaning service delivered by trained and uniformed teams driven by company-branded cars (the now-familiar dark blue ones with pink logos). The business began franchising a year later, and has grown nationally and internationally.

But Levesque probably didn’t need to look up those details on the website to make her franchising decision. Her aunt Louise Crête and her mother Thérèse Levesque were both Molly Maid franchisees before her for 15 years and 14 years, respectively.

Getting started

With the family connection, the decision to enter the franchise was a familiar one. “I knew I wanted to own a business, and looking at franchises, Molly Maid was the best option, knowing how they support their franchisees, knowing the process, and knowing how the brand is known,” says Levesque, adding that her aunt and mother had raved about the franchise support.

After waiting for a franchise to become available (the territory she wanted was initially occupied), Levesque started her business in September 2009, serving the Central and South territories in Ottawa. While she purchased from an existing owner so the brand was already present in the area, Levesque saw much more potential for increasing the brand’s profile. She began to advertise aggressively, with weekly flyer drops, mall shows, and those TV spots, as well as advertising online through Google ads.

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Support and services

Already she could see why her family had recommended the franchise for its support: the system helped her land the TV spots (and continue to provide support with tips and accessories), they provide flyer design and drops (she just needs to set a budget), and they arrange for the Google ads, including figuring out the search engine optimization tactics and what approach will work for her area. Today she’s grown the franchise from her initial two teams to 10 teams (team members operate in teams of two).

Clients sign up for the cleaning services on a weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly basis, as well as for one-time blitzes like spring cleans and moving in/out cleans. Levesque’s clientele is mostly residential because she runs her business Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. That predictability was another bonus for Levesque. “That was one of the things that really appealed to me, the daytime hours, so I can provide that for my team,” she says.

Advice for millennials and more

In terms of advice, Levesque says that sharing information and seeking help during challenging moments is something that she recommends to newcomers. “It could be the minimum wage increase, a big challenge that we’ve experienced in 2018, or staffing challenges or how to deal with a customer concern. I’ve always had the support of the franchise, even if it was just to talk,” she says.

Levesque says that being a younger franchisee (she purchased her franchise when she was 24 years old) can be a challenge, too, because she needed to help people see that they could take her seriously. “People did look at me and say, ‘I don’t know if I can trust in you.’ I had to work really hard at gaining customers’ trust, as well as some of the team members,” she recalls.

How did she do it? “By showing them that I am capable. I’ve proven over the years to customers and staff that I’m committed by being there, being attentive, doing estimates, meeting customers, and doing a lot of one on one,” says Levesque.

Today, Levesque has grown to the point that she’s working on her business rather than in it, managing her teams and scheduling appointments. Her future plans include once again aiming for that growth leader distinction and developing the clientele in her territories.

By Suzanne Bowness