Leading cleaning and restoration company launches a new expansion plan
Steamatic has been a leader in the cleaning business since 1968, with patented cleaning methods that are still used by the industry, today. Now, after close to five decades as a respected name in the restoration and cleaning industry, Steamatic is embracing the transformation of its organization and entering a new era of growth.
Today, Steamatic is an international leader in water damage and fire and smoke restoration, serving residential and commercial clients in 24 countries around the world. Steamatic continues to offer a wide variety of cleaning services, including carpet and rug cleaning, air duct cleaning, furniture and drapery cleaning, and hard surface cleaning, including hardwood, tile and grout. Over the last several decades, the company has also added a complete portfolio of disaster and emergency restoration services including: wind damage restoration due to hurricanes and tornados, mold remediation, dehumidification, art restoration, electronics restoration, odor control, corrosion control, contents restoration & document recovery.
Steve Willis is the current president of Steamatic and Bill Helton is its new Director of Franchise Development. The two executives explain how the company has lately begun to re-focus its energy on franchise growth after a period of dormancy. According to Willis, Steamatic was “not aggressively in a growth mode.” Willis was with the company for 13 years but left it some time ago. He came back about three years ago to re-invigorate Steamatic and kick start its expansion and growth.
Helton talks about Willis’ mandate: “Steve has been putting in the infrastructure and the processes – everything that Steamatic has needed to be truly ‘replicatable,’ which is what you need for a franchise system. We did not want to start awarding franchises again until we had all those systems in place. It’s taken a couple of years, but now that we’ve got the processes and the system in place, we’re focused on recruiting franchise owners.”
Currently, Steamatic has about 65 franchises in the U.S., totaling over 250 territories. Many of these franchisees are multiple-territory owners. This year, Willis and Helton would like to bring in five or six new owners and another 10 to 15 in 2016.
Perhaps, to some, those numbers would not seem terribly aggressive, but Helton stresses that the company is aiming for controlled growth and has “no interest, whatsoever, in putting a flag on the map just to say that we have a franchise in this location.” He explains further, “We want to make sure that our candidates share our core values and that they are adequately capitalized. We want them to be set up for success. If we aren’t comfortable that we can position them for success, we won’t award the franchise. We consider it a partnership and we’re looking for good fits. It may be a great opportunity but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great fit. It has to be both.”
What kind of franchisee is the team looking for? Helton replies, “We’re looking for relationship builders. That’s the key part of our network. People who can build relationships with insurance agents, insurance adjusters, property managers – these are the key people who provide us business. So the background of our owners is varied. We’ll have some who have experience in accounting or engineering and we’ll have some who are contractors. Many of them come to us with absolutely no experience in this industry, at all — and that’s okay, because we have a pretty significant training program that they go through, earning key industry certifications. Our training program is designed to allow them to ramp up quickly and start building their territory.”
Helton explains the training process for new franchisees: “Our training truly sets us apart – two weeks of training in-house, and then they have an option to spend another week shadowing our corporately- owned franchise. Following that, we go out to their location for a week, 30 days later we’re back out there for another week, and 30 days after that, we make a third visit. So we do three site visits within the first 60-75 days. I don’t believe there’s another franchisor in the industry that does anything even remotely close to that. We want to help our owners get ramped up very, very quickly. The only way they can do that is if they’re comfortable going out and meeting people, and our support team helps them do that.” The Steamatic training is free for a franchise and its staff for life. “We are happy to absorb the expense of training someone – a marketing person, or technician – so they learn how to do it the Steamatic way,” says Helton.
A Steamatic franchise is built on a hub and spoke model, meaning that there are a number of different revenue streams available to a franchisee. The key spokes generally include water and fire restoration, with mold remediation as a close second, according to Willis. Other spokes of the wheel include an array of residential, commercial and industrial cleaning and restoration services. Helton elaborates: “In the past we have had owners who have chosen to focus in selected services. As our new candidates begin to come on board, we’re looking for owners who want to diversify and handle all of these different revenue streams. Now they’re not going to do them all right from the beginning. As the business matures, they’ll start adding on some of the other services that are available.”
In addition to its comprehensive training regimen, Helton outlines other advantages of becoming a Steamatic franchisee. One, of course, is the company’s wide range of services: “We don’t just do the water mitigation; there are other services we can provide to homes and businesses. Any time an insurance adjuster can just deal with one vendor, versus three or four, that’s a huge advantage. Also, our territories are larger than the average restoration franchise territory, and the royalties our owners pay are much lower than with most other restoration companies.”
Willis adds yet another company perk, “If someone is awarded a territory that territory goes off the map and is no longer available. We’re not interested in having Steamatic owners compete against other Steamatic owners. Our network is sort of like a family. They’ll work side by side. We don’t want to compete against anybody who’s wearing the same shirt as us.”
Willis is convinced that the time is right for a company expansion and that Steamatic has prepared itself by putting together a management team with a deep background in the industry. “I think we’re very unique from everyone else because we built an executive team that has ‘in-the-trenches’ industry experience,” he says. “We’re not just a bunch of executives from Wall Street. We came up through the ranks. We’ve run operations. We’ve been in the field, and we have current relationships that bring business to the Steamatic system. I don’t know of any other company that has that at the executive level.”
He continues: “One thing that’s also setting us apart and where we have really made huge investments in the last few months is technology. I think the future of our business and the industry is really driven by technology. We can’t suck water out of a carpet any better, we can’t necessarily get to the job site any faster, but we can improve how we communicate with the insurance carrier – the data we can provide them, the speed with which we can get a claim closed – and that’s all through the use of technology. We’re going to mobile platforms, so with the use of a tablet or other mobile device, we can provide photos and real-time information to the insurance carrier from the loss site.”
While Helton and Willis are out recruiting new franchisees, those individuals, as well as insurance carriers, are beginning to reach out to Steamatic because of the company’s reputation and its technological innovations. In fact, Steamatic has awarded three new franchises in the past 30 days. And even though the restoration industry is likely to remain very competitive, Helton points out that with an estimated 50,000 water damage claims filed every single day in the U.S., “there’s plenty of work to go around.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Steamatic Inc.
WHAT: International carpet, air duct, grout cleaning, and fire and water damage restoration company
WHERE: Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas