Cleaning businesses have grown steadily in popularity with many people now outsourcing this vital function. “Cleaning services and occupational health and safety franchises are experiencing high growth due to the pandemic,” says independent franchise consultant Anita du Toit. “Service-based franchises offering essential services tend to weather economic storms better than most sectors as they are considered necessary rather than nice-to-haves. However, extreme lockdown conditions and protocols required for COVID-19 compliance have given this category a massive boost.”
In many ways, cleaning businesses make perfect franchises because they: are affordable with low barriers to entry have low overheads provide repeat business have strong branding and marketing material offer comprehensive training offer an opportunity to work from home operate during family-friendly office hours.
“In addition, cleaning and occupational health and safety are categories with defined standards in place, especially for health and safety in the workplace,” says du Toit. “These businesses usually have specific standards of operation to ensure that they deliver consistently and that services are standardised. They also often have well-developed branding and proven business systems, which are crucial for franchised businesses. Any potential franchisee should verify that these requirements are met before signing up with such a franchise. Franchise buyers must also insist on receiving a copy of the disclosure document of the franchise to consider together with the franchise agreement before committing to any type of franchise.”
Few regulatory requirements
Businesses offering COVID-19 cleaning services do not currently have to conform to any uniform standards in terms of what should be treated, when, how and with what products. It is only fumigation services that must be approved by both the local authority and Department of Health.
“There are no specific regulations on cleaning in general or sanitisation specifically for COVID-19 in South Africa,” says registered occupational hygienist and vice president of the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Harold Gaze. “The only authorised accreditation body is the South African National Accreditation System, which has not yet accredited any organisation in the cleaning and hygiene industry. To obtain a form of recognition, some cleaning companies have been certified under ISO 14000 or ISO 9000, but neither offers certificates specific to cleaning. Although not required by law, some cleaning companies opt for an Approved Inspection Authority to certify that the premises are fit for reoccupation.”
Mopping up the market
When Kleenbin entered the market in 1997, it was the first service in South Africa to design its own mobile, trailer-based bin-cleaning facility. “The business model is based on two simple premises: garbage bins are breeding grounds for bacteria and foul smells; and every area has a municipal waste collection day on which occupants must put their black bins outside their property,” says Matthew Munro, marketing manager for Kleenbin. “Nobody enjoys cleaning their refuse bins, so a service that offers a hygienic, complete sanitisation service without requiring the client to do anything – as their bins are out in the street on bin day anyway – is attractive to most property occupants.”
With its simple premise and easily replicated formula, Kleenbin franchisees can easily set up their own business in a new area. “Franchisees pay R253 000 upfront, which buys them guidelines and marketing collateral, computer hardware and software, and a Kleenbin trailer, cleaning materials and consumables,” says Munro. “We currently have more than 60 franchisees in South Africa and have just opened our first international franchise in Texas. We are looking for new franchisees, especially as our client base expanded by more than 10 per cent in the period May to August this year. We feel extremely blessed that we were able to keep going and grow through these difficult times.”
Founded in 1978 and franchised in 1984, The Specialists is a cleaning, hygiene and pest-control company with 70 franchisees in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and eSwatini. “We are always on the lookout for successful entrepreneurs with a passion for servicing customers and growing our customer base,” says managing director, Veran Kathan. “We are expanding our footprint in Africa, with specific opportunities available in Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya. There are also franchises for sale in South Africa, costing between R1-million and R3-million, plus a joining fee of R150 000.”
Lockdown has brought The Specialists many new customers. “Our biggest growth has been in the corporate, SME and government segments,” says Kathan. “In response to the pandemic, we have also expanded our range of services to include disinfection, deep cleaning and sanitisation.”
Service Master entered the pest-control industry in Durban in 1964 and franchised its business in 1985. “We are thrilled that so many of our original franchisees are still going strong today,” says Susan Steyn, national development manager, Service Master SA. “Each of our 11 franchises – with three more opening soon – has a large territory to service to enable them to operate a viable and successful business with room for growth.”
Service Master is currently expanding with a special discounted offer for new franchisees. “We are waiving our usual once-off branch purchase/buy-in cost, so a starter pack costs just R46 000 including VAT,” says Steyn. “This low initial outlay covers all the equipment, chemicals, marketing materials, software and training needed to start operating, making a franchise affordable for entrepreneurs looking to join. We work hard to ensure new franchisees succeed, supported by a network of other Service Master franchise holders and a franchisor with extensive hands-on experience. Our low monthly franchise fees, which only start from month six, mean that franchisees can quickly see a return on their investment.”
Monthly service contracts are the bread and butter of the business and offer the highest profit margins. “Pest control services are a need, not a want,” says Steyn, “and are often required in municipal bylaws as an essential service. Once contracted, it’s easier to add services like window cleaning and microbial fogging.”