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Franchise Hope: How PuroClean Built A Recession Resistant Business Around Community Expertise

What if your franchise owners weren't just business owners, but community superheroes?

Imagine how that would change the way they worked each day. Think about the relentless customer service experience such a mindset would deliver.

“Our teams literally strap on their uniforms and save the day no matter what time and day it is.”

Those were the words of Bud Summers, Executive Vice President of Operations & Training at PuroClean.

As one of the fastest-growing property damage remediation franchises catering to commercial and residential customers, PuroClean locations provide water damage remediation, flood water removal, fire and smoke damage remediation, mold removal, and biohazard cleanup.

And in the wake of the global pandemic, they also perform sanitation. Lots of it.

We wanted to learn from their franchise development team and find out how an industry like restoration is well-positioned to thrive, not only during an economic crisis, but also amidst a public health outbreak. We’ll explore many of the successful strategies that have kept PuroClean climbing in the past several years.

Gaining Ground With New Leaders

Since PuroClean was acquired by Mark Davis and Frank Torre in 2015, their brand has seen a steady unit growth of twenty percent. What’s more, new leadership injected a lot of life into the brand with a focus on creating opportunities to improve franchise owner support.

In 2017, they expanded their training capabilities beyond the constraints of their facility by launching the PuroClean Online Academy

Leveraging the power of technology, they have trained over 1,250 students and issued more than 1,900 online certificates.

“Employees could be sitting in the passenger seat of a PuroClean vehicle, expanding their knowledge base during downtime, allowing them to add more value to customers,” commented Bud. “That kind of tool has become a powerful environment in which to learn. Not only for franchise owners, but everyone in the network, like insurance providers and other partners. They’re engaged with a high level of continuing education credits so they can maintain their various licenses.”

Overall, PuroClean’s culture shift under the new management is a servant leadership model.

“Franchise owners first. We are one team, and the door is always open,” said Tim Courtney, Vice President of Franchise Development. “We don’t just put butts in seats and send them on their way, we’ve shifted to an awarding model. We don’t sell franchises, we award them. From a franchise development perspective, that mindset has led us to grow in revenue as franchise owners are becoming more profitable, opening more units, and fewer units are shutting down.”

Indeed, not all superheroes wear capes. Some of them wear personal protective equipment.

Creating Value Across The Restoration Ecosystem

In the spirit of servant leadership, PuroClean teams have been using the pandemic to be of greater and broader service. Take one look at their social accounts, and you’ll see pictures of franchisees cleaning the interior of cars of healthcare professionals. That way, the moment these essential workers come out of the hospital, they have a clean vehicle to get into. The same goes for police vehicles, which PuroClean teams have helped sanitize during long shifts.

Even before the shelter in place order went live around the nation, PuroClean was going into individual insurance agencies to clean device screens and create safer environments for them to work.

A lot of that work has been no charge because PuroClean believes in creating a value-added product and service offerings for every member of their business ecosystem: clients, vendors, suppliers, partners, employers, followers, owners, investors, or anyone else connected to the franchise brand.

Summers explained how they work very hard to make sure they represent clearly what an individual product or cleaning solution will do. “There’s no magic wand, we can’t walk into a building and say, okay, we’re good now. We focus on educating people. Here’s the service, here’s what it does for you, and here’s a monitoring plan.”

Proactive and Prolific Communication With Franchise Owners

How else is PuroClean managing during the economic and health crisis? Every day, there is a virtual call with the entire PuroClean network. That way teams can unify, act and adapt accordingly to what’s going on from a public health perspective. Sometimes these calls are only seven minutes, other times an hour.

But according to Bud, the leaders are being proactive and prolific to constantly give franchisees everything they need to perform the best service within their communities. PuroClean corporate executives often join these calls too, not only for updates on operations but more importantly, for encouragement. “Restoration is a relationship business, and we have to put that knowledge in bite-size bits,” he said.

PuroClean told us how these calls are a daily reminder to franchise owners that the biggest thing they provide to customers is peace of mind during a difficult time. It always starts with education, honesty, and communication.

For example, if an office has water damage, a restoration team can’t just set up shop and come back in three days. The desire of the customer is to be informed and feel like they have an advocate. PuroClean assures their team fulfills that role beyond cleaning.

Why Franchise Owners Keep Opening Locations

It’s no secret that this franchise is a profitable commercial opportunity. Recent numbers from company data show that the top ten percent of PuroClean franchise owners averaged annual gross sales of over two million. Entrepreneur has even featured them multiple times on their coveted top franchises list, suggesting that the restoration industry remains steadfast amid the financial crisis.

But what makes this kind of franchise so recession-resistant? Tim broke it down for us.

“If gas goes to twenty dollars, or if you’re confined to your home, property damage still happens.

And if you hold a mortgage, you’re obligated to get it fixed. Most of our jobs come from third-party payers such as insurance companies. There’s almost always a claim around it. The core of our business is water, fire and smoke, mold work, and nonobvious biohazards like crime scene cleanup, sewage, and so on. It’s all covered under insurance. Even in a down economy, that business still holds steady.”

Interestingly, two of the three top insurance companies have not seen downtick since coronavirus, Tim told us. Some have even increased, since families are home using appliances and water more during the quarantine, leading to a higher volume of claims.

But from a candidate perspective, PuroClean owners not only want the benefit of commerce, but also community contribution. Tim explained how they might initially come in the door seeing a way to make money in a recession-resistant business with their franchise model, but the reason they ultimately fill out the application and sign on is because of the opportunity to make a material difference in the lives of their neighbors. Franchise owners are restoration specialists from a functional perspective, but they’re also community experts. Restoring people’s property and giving them comfort makes them deeply satisfied.

“We see it on every franchise application. Money gets them in the door, but impact keeps them in the room,” Tim said.

In down economic times, franchising, in general, does very well. Particularly when there are downsizings at companies, lots of corporate executives who are laid off are resetting, rewinding, looking at their life, and looking at new business opportunities. Ideally, ones that offer them autonomy and opportunity to leave a legacy behind. It’s no wonder franchises like PuroClean are seeing record lead volume right now. Tim reports their March leads were the highest on record YoY. Clearly, the business finds a way to thrive, even in the wake of COVID-19.

Human Crisis Requires Human Service

Despite living in the age of social distancing, one of the things humanity wants more than anything at this point in history is to feel safe. And so, when a business can solve that problem, by making a home or a business space safe again, that’s a profoundly valuable relationship. It’s creating comfort.

Summers summarized it best at the end of our conversation.

“With almost any restoration job, there are two things people say. Either this is the first time it’s ever happened to them, or this couldn’t have happened to them at a worse time.”

PuroClean’s solution to this very human problem is very human service. Their franchise owners, as known as community superheroes, are still out there every day restoring people’s property and rebuilding their lives.

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