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Turning 20 and Growing Strong
AdvantaClean moves forward with customer service, technical competence


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Some companies are works in progress. The best ones make money while making progress.

Even after 20 years, AdvantaClean is surely an example of the latter.

The company was created in suburban Orlando, Fla. in 1994 as a contractor specializing in emergency loss mitigation and structural repair to homes and buildings, capitalizing on experience its founding partners had gained two years earlier in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.

Over the subsequent two decades, it’s developed and launched a franchise model, entered working arrangements with 100 franchisees operating 175 businesses and transitioned into a leading provider of light environmental services for residential, commercial, institutional and governmental properties.

And based on recognition gained along the way – AdvantaClean was listed among both Franchise Business Review’s top opportunities and Entrepreneur magazine’s “Franchise 500” for 2014, and was tabbed as a top low-cost proposition by the Fox Small Business Center in 2011 – people have noticed.

“AdvantaClean helps franchisees get started fast,” said Bill Bradley, owner of America’s Best Franchises LLC. “And their approach to marketing puts them in a completely different category from the typical cleaning woman or maid service.”

The initial franchises were sell-offs of the original roster of company-owned stories between 2006 and 2008, before the first start-up location opened in 2009. Franchise No. 50 sold in 2011 and the network total doubled to 100 just a year later, establishing a growth rate CEO Jeff Dudan aims to extend.

“We’ve consistently added around 20 or 25 franchisees and 40 or so territories a year, and we certainly want to continue to develop that. We’ve got plenty of room to grow in the U.S. alone,” he said. “We’re starting to talk somewhat about international expansion, and at some point that might be something we look at, too.”

The company grew from its Florida roots to a five-acre site in Huntersville, N.C. and its headquarters are now part of a sprawling 22,000-square-foot campus that also has executive training facilities, a continuing education center and a simulation environment for technical instruction.

No existing franchises are based outside the continental U.S., but some services are provided in Hawaii, as well as both Puerto Rico and Canada.

Functions like the answering of incoming calls and coordination of local marketing, as well as others pertaining to daily business operations are centralized, which eliminates any immediate need for a physical location or an administrative staff for each franchised location.

Actual on-site work is performed out of company trucks – labeled corporately as “service units” or “mobile business units” – that are staffed with one or two technicians. The franchise territories typically equal a local population of 250,000 to 300,000, so franchises that begin with one or two trucks will swell to three or four while growing their technician workforce up to six or eight.

In that expanded case, one or two of the service units would be reserved exclusively for the emergency water removal element of the business, while the remaining trucks and technicians would handle the everyday scheduled mold removal, and air duct/vent/coil cleaning services.

Prospective franchisees can sign on for a single territory or purchase a three-territory package and subsequently grow the operation to whatever size they choose.

“Anybody can come in, they can take multiple territories and ultimately scale the business as large as they want,” said Kevin Drudge, AdvantaClean’s vice president of franchise development. “It’s a broad mix. We have guys operating as many as six. We’re certainly open for and welcoming to expansion for the ones who can demonstrate success.”

Each of the core services are offered to both residential and commercial customers, and because three of those services – water removal, mold removal and duct/vent cleaning – are typically event-driven rather than appointment-driven, those calls tend to cluster around situations like weather emergencies or real estate transactions. Meanwhile, the coil cleaning side is typically fueled by businesses looking for restoration of HVAC systems for energy-saving purposes.

The residential side tends to make up a large majority of the overall business for a franchise at the outset, Drudge said, though the split narrows closer to 60/40 as the operation matures and more robust commercial water removal capabilities are added. The ultimate objective, he said, is to get things closer to a 50/50 ratio.

“It’s hard to line up a direct head-to-head competitor with us because the way we put our offering together. It’s a little bit unique. Most companies don’t have the offering mix that we have,” said Dudan, who cited the national call center staffed by “high-end college graduate-type people” as a vital differentiator. “That first customer contact is something we do really well. And we have the ability to acquire customers to the brand because of that responsiveness and immediate resolution.

“We’re a very value driver organization. Our guys are typically people that have a high sociability.”

Financial requirements include an investment between $204,300 and $218,300, a minimum net worth of $200,000 and at least $75,000 in available liquid cash. Veterans qualify for a $2,500 discount off the $45,000 franchise fee, and renewable agreements run for 10 years with a 10 percent royalty fee.

The ideal candidate, Drudge said, is “someone who can do the people piece of it very well” while dealing with customers, employees and prospective networking contacts – home inspectors, real estate agents, insurance agents, builders, etc. – who ultimately can funnel work in their direction. “It isn’t hardcore selling,” he said, “but it is relational and it is people oriented.”

Certain areas of the country are more amenable to certain AdvantaClean services because of specific levels of rain, humidity or other geographic/weather factors, but the full menu of offerings “works everywhere,” Drudge said, gives ample opportunity to the most efficient franchise operators.

The bottom line success, however, isn’t solely limited to the bottom line.

“We’re looking to grow at our current course and speed,” Dudan said. “But we try to do well by doing good. Those are the things that I get excited about, how many lives are we going to be able to impact positively.”


WHO: AdvantaClean
Light environmental services provider – emergency water removal, mold removal, air duct cleaning, etc. – for residential, commercial, institutional and governmental properties

WHERE: Headquarters in Huntersville, N.C.; 100 franchisees operating 175 businesses in 30 states

WEBSITE: www.AdvantaClean.com

Short URL: http://www.businessworld-magazine.com/?p=3609

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