Recently, Eden Exchange spoke with Damien Boehm who is the Founder and Owner of Urban Clean, a unique franchising business specialising in commercial cleaning. Damien discusses how the business has grown its brand, its history, why the business is superseding all expectations and what franchisee opportunities are available.
Eden Exchange: Thanks for speaking with us, Damien. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the story behind the beginnings of Urban Clean? What is your professional background and experience?
Damien Boehm: Urban Clean started as a side business for me. I was focused on my property business when I started Urban Clean. In 2009, I was developing townhouses and unit projects after years of working in commercial property development. I was looking at creating a business that produced regular monthly cashflow. I had quickly built and sold a cleaning business some years prior, so had already experienced first-hand the potential to quickly build revenue in a cleaning business.
Around 2013, the business started to gain momentum. We had developed a proven business model and the market was responding well to innovations we were introducing in our service. We were one of the first cleaning companies in Australia to develop a commercial cleaning App that tracked cleaning in real time with real time notifications to clients. Around this time, we made the decision to franchise the business. In July 2014 the business was made ready for franchising and we recruited our first franchise partner in September that year. Since then we have recruited over 70 franchise partners across Australia.
Eden Exchange: What exactly is Urban Clean? How does it work and how does it fit into the Australian commercial cleaning sector?
Damien Boehm: Urban Clean specialises in regular after-hours commercial cleaning. Our typical clients are small to medium size offices, medical centres, gyms and educational facilities. We have designed our service specifically around our target market and focus on the most loyal and profitable segment of the market.
We only do commercial cleaning. Commercial cleaning clients are looking for a very different kind of service and degree of professionalism than what’s expected in a home cleaning service. Home cleaning service providers tend to struggle to secure commercial clients as their service has not been designed to meet the needs and requirements of this market.
Commercial cleaning has a number of advantages over domestic cleaning that many people find very attractive. First of all, unlike domestic cleaning it’s not a discretionary spend. A business over of a certain size has no option but to get a cleaning service. This makes commercial cleaning very recession-proof. It’s also regular. Month in, month out, businesses spend money on regular cleaning services. Dust never takes a break. The other big advantage is that the cleaning happens after hours. There is no need to quit your day job to get started.
One of the things we say to a lot of people looking at getting started in this industry is be careful what you wish for. A lot of new comers want big contracts, not realizing that this is rarely where you’ll find any profit. We are very selective about what large contracts and tenders we quote on for this reason.
We’ve made sure to design the service specifically around the most profitable markets in commercial cleaning. In these markets, cleaning outcomes rate highly and clients have budgets that allow for a premium service. Customers will pay extra if they’re confident their needs will be met. And their needs are not just about cleaning. They’re looking for transparency, communication, security and a strong professional partnership. Price will be on their list of
criteria. But if you target the correct market segment, it won’t be the number 1 criteria.
Eden Exchange: How does Urban Clean differ from its competitors in the industry? How does it compete and what makes it such an attractive franchise?
Damien Boehm: Our model is very different from what’s typically seen in the sector. From day one, I knew that there was huge potential in the commercial cleaning sector. Of all industries, commercial cleaning is one industry that’s been stuck in a decades long paradigm that makes little sense in today’s market.
Typically, a commercial cleaning company operates with sub-contractors or staff that answer to a supervisor or main contractor who is the main point of contact with the customer.
This is incredibly frustrating for clients. They struggle to communicate effectively with the cleaners. Simple messages rarely get communicated properly. The cleaning staff or contractors get fixated more on the minimum required in the cleaning schedule than what the customer really wants. Sometimes no one even knows who turns up to clean or what they do when they get there. All this translates to a poor customer experience.
We discovered that the market was crying out for a service that not only provided a consistent good quality clean and ensured important cleaning items got done, but one that provided a client with security, transparency, clear communication, and a sense of partnership.
Our business model is unique compared to most commercial cleaning franchise systems. We don’t simply provide our franchise partners cleaning jobs. They are educated on all aspects of their business, from client relationships, delivery of the service, and even business development. We often say to people looking at the opportunity that we are not looking for cleaners. First and foremost, we’re looking for business owners.
We do provide new franchise partners with an initial client base. However, this is treated as their education and introduction to running and operating a successful cleaning business. They, of course, learn how to clean well and effectively, but that’s not all there is to a successful cleaning company. They learn how to train staff, ensure consistent delivery, as well as communicate and build strong profitable relationships with their clients.
Franchisees even learn how to grow their business organically through referrals and through our unique method of direct marketing. We understand there can be a jump from being an employee to a successful business owner. We’ve provided a step-by-step system we call our Be Your Boss Program to give a franchisee all the tools required to make this transition a successful one.
One of the advantages of commercial cleaning is that the cleaning happens after hours. Because of this there is no need for new franchise partners to give up their day jobs. This takes a lot of risk out of starting a new business.
Eden Exchange: Urban Clean has grown and multiplied substantially in the last year. What is your growth strategy and where are you focusing your new franchises?
Damien Boehm: A lot of our growth strategy has been about designing and delivering an exceptional service that fills a true need in the marketplace. A big part of the attractiveness of the business to new franchise partners is always going to be determined by how well the business actually works and makes money. It comes down to the ability of the system to win and keep profitable cleaning contracts. Our job then is to show and support new partners in operating a system that’s proven to work.
Our growth is largely a testament to how well the business works. It’s very compelling to listen to how well franchise partners do and learn of their successes. Some franchise partners are happy just to look after a small number of clients and have a profitable side income. Other franchise partners are growing their business by leaps and bounds. It very inspiring and humbling to hear of their business growth and success.
For us as a system our focus is on extending our national footprint. We already have a good presence in Melbourne and Brisbane and a growing presence in Sydney. We’d like also to see more franchisees and Regional partners join us in the other states such as SA and WA.
Eden Exchange: Do you have any goals to expand the business internationally?
Damien Boehm: Our growth has attracted the attention of investors and potential international partners. We have plans to expand the system into NZ, UK and the US. We have already been approached by a number of people who are looking at licensing the business in non-English speaking markets.
Eden Exchange: What is Urban Clean’s next step in development?
Damien Boehm: We have already past the early critical years of developing a business model and franchise system. Much of our focus now is on refining a model that’s already got runs on board and proven to work.
We are currently rolling out improvements in our App including more functionality that increases customer engagement. We’re always looking for ways to improve our training, our customer experience and the value we provide both for end user clients and franchise partners who join the business. A franchise system can never rest on its laurels.
Continual improvement must be the mantra of any successful organisation.
Eden Exchange: What major industry trends operate in your sector that franchise operators need to be aware of? How will you capitalise on these trends?
Damien Boehm: Franchising has changed significantly over the last decade. And the changes are positive. There is increased transparency and much greater awareness that a franchise system will succeed or fail according to the degree it gives value to end-user customers. Customers are a privilege and not a right in any business. And the privilege of doing business with them needs to be won and earned.
The gig economy is a growing trend. More and more Australians are looking to get into their own business for the sake of income security as much as they are for the potential to earn more money. Because franchising offers a proven business model it will always be attractive to people getting into business especially for the first time.
Franchises that offer flexibility, income security and a proven model with successful franchise partners will capitalise on these trends.
Eden Exchange: What milestones are you facing as a small business franchise and what obstacles has Urban clean overcome to get where you are today?
Damien Boehm: It took some time to develop a system that others could use to build their very own successful commercial cleaning business. Many years. A lot of money. And there were plenty of challenges along the way.
Operating a cleaning business and operating a franchise system are two completely different things. It’s not uncommon to see commercial cleaning franchises try to operate their franchise system as if it was a cleaning business. Instead of cleaning staff or contractors they use franchisees.
Our system is a complete departure from this model. One thing that surprises many people who meet our franchise partners is just how entrepreneurial many of them are. The initial cleaning contracts we give them is considered a starting-point not an end-point for their business.
Our system caters for people who just want an additional part-time income that they can earn after hours as well as the more ambitious who want a growing commercial cleaning business. The funny thing is I talk to some people who operate an independent cleaning business for maybe 10 years earning a few hundred thousand dollars. They are shocked when they learn our franchise partners are growing the business much faster rate with less than 1 year experience in the industry.
I get great satisfaction that we’ve been able to create a system that lets so many people achieve their dreams. I get a real kick out of hearing how they surprise themselves with how well they’re doing in business.
Eden Exchange: Where do you see the business in the next financial year? Do you foresee any developments on the horizon?
Damien Boehm:We are looking at expanding the footprint that we’ve already established.
We’ll also be working closely with Regional partners who are looking at setting up the system in new areas in Australia and New Zealand.
Eden Exchange: How does Urban Clean generate revenue? What are the main expenses for running a franchise and how much of the business is profit for the franchisee?
Damien Boehm: An Urban Clean business generates revenue from regular contracted cleaning services. Depending on the size of a client’s business and their cleaning requirements the service can be daily, bi-weekly or weekly. This is generally a fixed monthly price.
The biggest component in cleaning is time. Insurances, equipment and chemical will make up only a very small percentage of the revenue. A franchisee can expect to make $35-60 gross per hour cleaning.
A Regional Branch’s model is somewhat different to a Service Franchise. A Regional Branch can employ cleaners to service cleaning contracts, but their main income is generated by setting up new Franchise Partners in their business including winning an initial value of cleaning contracts for them. They also earn a percentage of all cleaning contract revenue in their region for supporting Franchise Partners.
Eden Exchange: Does Urban Cleans customer base feature predominantly in one sector? Say medical facilities, manufacturing or corporate office? Who are Urban Cleans customers and how do their businesses fit with the Urban Clean business model?
Damien Boehm: Over 65% of our business is cleaning corporate offices. The rest of the business comprises cleaning medical facilities, gyms, and educational facilities.
Although we clean some smaller and larger buildings, our sweet spot is clients with billing of between $1,500-$2,500 per month. Depending on the size of the site, this could involve a 3 time weekly or 5 x weekly service of 1 to 2 hours cleaning a night.
Eden Exchange: Your business model is advertised as being designed to create wealth for the franchisees…how is this achievable and how is this maintainable?
Damien Boehm: Making money in this business is simple. It’s about winning profitable cleaning contracts, then keeping them. If you can’t win contracts you have no business at all. If they’re not profitable you won’t make money. And if you can’t keep them, it doesn’t matter how many you win.
We’ve created a system that’s focused entirely on the profitable segment of the market. The service has also been designed entirely with the view of meeting the needs of this target market. The business has been developed on 3 key principles; a predicable quantity of profitable cleaning contracts, consistent delivery of service, and strong client relationships. Franchisees who follow the system see incredible success.
Franchise Partners can choose to invest in more contracts or alternatively learn how to win them themselves. So, there’s really no limit to the potential earning of a franchise business. The market is huge with billions of dollars spent every year on commercial cleaning.
Eden Exchange: What type of professional best suits your business model and what personality traits work best towards success in the business?
Damien Boehm:We have service franchisees from all backgrounds. We have franchisees who are engineers, architects, truck drivers, couriers as well as those with a cleaning background.
Cleaning can be learnt. So, can the other parts of the business. First and foremost, we look for someone who’s passionate about customer service and who wants to learn and follow a proven system.
A Regional Branch suits someone who’s already owned a business previously, who has a background in sales and management. A Regional Branch will appeal to people who want to take on a coaching and mentoring role to new business owners.
Eden Exchange: As the Owner of the franchise what advice do you have for anyone looking to join the Urban Clean team and become a franchisee?
Damien Boehm: I think it was said best by Joseph, one of our Franchise Partners, at our last conference, when he said this business is not about us, it’s about the client who pays the cleaning bill. Without them, there’s no reason for any of us to be in business.
If you’re passionate about customer service and building a partnership with your cleaning clients, then you’re 80% of the way there. The other 20% is the system and support you use to help you achieve your goals.
Eden Exchange: Thank you for your time Damien. It has been a pleasure.
Since franchising the business in 2014, over 80 franchisees have joined Urban Clean. Urban Clean has established a national footprint and cleans offices, gyms and medical centres throughout Australia.
An Urban Clean business targets the profitable segment of the commercial cleaning market. The service is designed directly around this target market and uses industry only technology and systems to deliver on customers’ unique needs. Our sales system to secure new cleaning contracts is unique and second to none in the industry.
The commercial cleaning industry is huge. Billions of dollars get spent every year, to keep businesses clean. A commercial cleaning business is a truly great way to earn flexible extra income after hours.
We invite you to explore this exciting opportunity. The Urban Clean team look forward to meeting you in person in the near future.
Click here to enquire now.