1851 Franchise sat down with Iric Wexler, Chief Development Officer at The Cleaning Authority, to talk about his experience in the franchise industry
When The Cleaning Authority was founded in the suburbs of Washington, DC in 1977, the company’s mission was to provide full-house cleaning services to the Baltimore-Washington Metro area. In 1989, the company was purchased and began broadening its territory before ultimately adopting a franchise model in 1996. Now the environment-friendly cleaning brand has over 215 locations across North America and is still growing.
Since 2003, Iric Wexler has been at the forefront of The Cleaning Authority’s expansion efforts. Wexler talked to 1851 Franchise about why more brands should focus on unit economics and how a good franchise model is like a well-built car.
1851: How did you get into franchising?
Wexler: I got a job at a restaurant after college, and I happened to be working for a franchisee. I had no idea what franchising was but I became curious about it. Eventually, I developed my own plan for a business that I thought could be franchised. The idea had a direct-mail component, which is something that The Cleaning Authority has always done. I had a friend who knew the founders of The Cleaning Authority, so he put me in touch with them to get some guidance. We hit it off on a personal level, so we kept up a relationship, and over time, I became fascinated with their business model. That was in 2002, and in 2003, they brought me on board to work in development. I’ve been with them ever since.
1851: What do you love about franchising?
Wexler: When it’s done right, there’s this amazing synergy between the franchisor and the franchisee. Ideally, the franchisor has a strong business model, which the franchisee can take and apply using their own experience and savvy. It’s a beautiful thing when it all comes together.
That’s why I feel that franchisors should always be prepared to evolve with their franchisees. Franchisees are in the best position to innovate with the model, and a good franchisor knows how to aggregate and systemize those innovations.
“Evolve” is the key word. Franchisees should understand that the model exists for a reason, and you can’t run the business without it, but over time, a good franchisee may notice room for incremental improvements.
1851: What do you wish would change in franchising?
Wexler: I suspect this is something that won’t change anytime soon, but my biggest frustration with the industry is the emphasis on unit-count. Franchisees are small businesses, not chains, but even people within the industry forget that.
So many franchises measure success by unit, which is a really bad indicator, in my opinion. We’d rather see fewer franchisees finding greater revenue than more franchisees finding less revenue.
1851: What makes a great franchisee?
Wexler: The best franchisees strike a balance between a full understanding and appreciation of the franchise model and the ability to run a business on their own. The franchisee should always be applying the model, but they’ve got to be able to roll with any changes and handle any anomalies that occur, and that requires a strong mind for business and leadership. No matter how good the model is, you can’t lean on it exclusively.
I think of it like a car. The franchisor has built this really strong vehicle, and we can show you how to drive it, we can even hold the throttle, but the franchisee has to have the stamina and instincts to drive it and drive it well.
1851: What’s the most important thing that drives a prospective franchisee to sign up?
Wexler: Ultimately it comes down to unit economics and whether or not the prospect will be able to achieve their goals with the model. But there’s also an emotional aspect. They know they’ll need to be personally fulfilled, and that’s partly about the brand and partly about the lifestyle the model affords. The Cleaning Authority is a Monday-through-Friday business, so we emphasize to our prospects that they can still have a full life outside of work. We want our franchisees to work hard, but we’re cleaning houses, not saving lives. Our franchisees don’t need to feel the pressure of being on call 24/7.