Plugging The Leak In Home Service Franchising
Perhaps the biggest reason for home service franchises not having taken off in South Africa as they have elsewhere in the world is a lack of regulation and enforcement, explains Brendan Reynolds, executive director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa.
Reynolds says that while South Africa has a legal framework that covers plumbing, there is no enforcement in the country. “This effectively means that anyone, whether qualified or not, can call themselves a plumber and do plumbing work, with no consequence,” he says. “The Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) is making big strides in correcting this situation, but it remains a huge challenge.”
The Drain Surgeon’s group general manager, Louis Minnaar, suggests that one reason plumbing franchises have not yet exploded onto the local market is simply that the bar to enter is set too high. “Some franchisors ask a lot in terms of fees, which for a one-man operation is just not viable. We have kept our costs as low as possible, and our key sales pitch is to target these small businesses with the message that once the owner retires, will they still have a brand to pass on?”
The idea, Minnaar continues, is for existing plumbers or entrepreneurs to invest in a brand like The Drain Surgeon because it will improve the resale value of their business. It is also worth mentioning that one doesn’t have to be a plumber to purchase a franchise – the owner can always employ a qualified plumber and an assistant.
“We have registered over 120 trademarks under the Surgeon Group’s umbrella, including Pool, Garden, Irrigation and Electro Surgeon,” adds Minnaar. “So technically, a single investor could combine five or six services under a single umbrella. For me, this proves that the sky is the limit for home services franchising.”
Reynolds adds that he has a sneaking suspicion that the time is ripe for franchising in the plumbing industry. “There are a few companies that have built up really good brand equity, which they could start leveraging. The work that the PIRB is doing is also starting to take effect in managing the unqualified ‘plumbers’, creating more opportunities for careful investors,” he concludes.